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There’s always a lot to process after major elections, but when it comes to the openly nonreligious and explicitly atheist candidates on the 2022 ballots for state or federal office, we know quite a bit as the results continue rolling in.

With help from the Freethought Equality Fund PAC and the Center for Freethought Equality—both of which are affiliated with the American Humanist Association—OnlySky was able to track the candidates who declared their nonreligiosity. They use a variety of labels to describe themselves, but these are all people who don’t subscribe to organized religion.

Why do this at all? Because there’s a longstanding belief that atheists are unelectable in the United States. After all, only 60% of Americans say they would vote for a well-qualified atheist even if that person was from their own party, and there’s only one openly Humanist member of Congress (Rep. Jared Huffman).

Here are some of the biggest takeaways:

Members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus are on track to keep their seats

There are 16 current members of the Freethought Caucus, which is dedicated to protecting church/state separation, supporting science and reason-based policies, and fighting anti-atheist discrimination.

Rep. Jerry McNerney retired and Rep. Carolyn Maloney lost a primary to fellow Democrat Rep. Jerry Nadler after redistricting, but of the remaining 14 members, no one has lost. (Two races have not been called but both members are comfortably ahead as of this writing.) Even Rep. Jared Huffman of California, the only openly non-theistic member of Congress, had a cakewalk in his third race since coming out as a Humanist in 2017.

Bottom line: Being openly nonreligious doesn’t appear to be a make-or-break issue in these major races. All the more reason for other members of Congress to come out now. Those who come from safe districts, where they’re virtually guaranteed re-election, are in even better positions to join the Caucus.

Huffman even referenced the popularity of secular representatives in a post-election tweet:

There are at least 16 nonreligious state senators.

This is a jump from 10 just two years ago. While they use different labels to describe themselves, these legislators show that you can represent people of faith even when you don’t believe in a Higher Power yourself.

Sen. Juan Mendez (AZ)
Sen. Stanley Chang (HI)
Geoff Schroeder
(ID)
Pinny Beebe-Center (ME)
Sen. William Brownsberger (MA)
Sen. Jeff Irwin (MI)
Sen. Jen McEwen (MN)
Sen. Megan Hunt (NE)
Sen. Andrew Zwicker (NJ) (wasn’t on the ballot)
Sen. William Peter Soules (NM) (wasn’t on the ballot)
Sen. Julie Mayfield (NC)
Nate Blouin (UT)
Rep. Rebecca White (VT)
Sen. Dick McCormack (VT)
Sen. Melissa Agard (WI) (wasn’t on the ballot)
Sen. Kelda Roys (WI) (wasn’t on the ballot)

You can see from the list that the senators include challengers, former state representatives, and incumbents whose open nonreligiosity wasn’t a dealbreaker for voters.

There are at least 54 nonreligious state representatives

With several races yet to be called, this is heading toward a record number of nonreligious State House members.

Jennifer Longdon (AZ)
Rep. Melody Hernandez (AZ)
Rep. Athena Salman (AZ)
Alex Lee (CA)
Rep. Karen McCormick (CO)
Stephanie Vigil (CO)
Jennifer Parenti (CO)
Rep. Brianna Titone (CO)
Rep. Chris Kennedy (CO)
Rep. Judy Amabile (CO)
Rep. Cathy Kipp (CO)
Rep. Joshua Elliott (CT)
Rep. Roland J. Lemar (CT)
Rep. Paul Baumbach (DE)
Rep. Eric Morrison (DE)
Rep. Anna Eskamani (FL)
Elinor Levin (IA)
Rep. Lynne Williams (ME)
Rep. Lois Reckitt (ME)
Brooke Grossman (MD)
Rep. Julie Palakovich Carr (MD)
Rep. David Moon (MD)
Rep. Jim Hawkins (MA)
Rep. Tram Nguyen (MA)
Joey Andrews (MI)
Rep. Mike Freiberg (MI)
Bob Carter (MT)
Rep. Rochelle Nguyen (NV)
Rep. Howard Watts III (NV)
Carry Spier (NH)
Rep. Sherry Dutzy (NH)
Wendy Thomas (NH)
Rep. Amanda Bouldin (NH)
Rep. Kat McGhee (NH)
Rep. Jacqueline Chretien (NH)
Rep. Ellen Read (NH)
Rep. Harvey Epstein (NY)
Rep. Pam Marsh (OR)
Rep. Julie Fahey (OR)
Courtney Neron (OR)
Zach Hudson (OR)
Emily Kinkead (PA)
Mark Rozzi (PA)
Robert Ziegler (PA)
Rep. Chris Rabb (PA)
Rep. Jon Rosenthal (TX)
Rep. Ashlee Matthews (UT)
Rep. Robin Scheu (VT)
Rep. Kathleen James (VT)
Mike Rice (VT)
Rep. Barbara Rachelson (VT)
Monique Priestley (VT)
Rep. Strom Peterson (WA)
Rep. Francesca Hong (WI)

As you can see, there’s a mix of incumbents and challengers, including in several red states.

There is now one openly nonreligious Republican in state or federal elected office

Geoff Schroeder, a newly elected state senator in Idaho, is a Republican atheist—and everything I just wrote should make your jaw drop. As Schroeder told me earlier this year, though, he’s been an old-school Republican for a long time now.

He comes from an area where anyone interested in politics would basically have to be a Republican to have a chance of winning any race. He rejects the more extreme wing of his party but says he doesn’t personally encounter the MAGA cultist types on a regular basis. The Republicans he knows are moderates who want to take care of roads and schools, not engage in “culture war” battles.

We’ll see what happens when he has the chance to vote on these matters.

Not every atheist in office necessarily deserves your support.

Nothing I’ve said here is necessarily an endorsement of any of these candidates. As with any other officials, they need to be judged on their records. There’s symbolic importance to elected officials being openly nonreligious, but it doesn’t automatically make them better legislators or more progressive politicians. As I’ve said before, I would love the chance to criticize atheist politicians for their votes. Up to this point, however, there hasn’t been much of a range of nonreligious politicians. That may finally change this time around.


To put all this in perspective, before 2016, there were only 5 elected officials at the state level who were openly nonreligious, according to the Center for Freethought Equality. After this week, if results remain on track, that number could be over 70.

“As the humanist and atheist community continues to grow and becomes more engaged in the electoral arena, including serving in public office, our nation’s public policies will reflect the values of our community to prioritize social, economic, and environmental justice using evidence-based solutions. Building political power for the humanist and atheist community will establish a more equitable and sustainable future for America,” said Nadya Dutchin, executive director of the Center for Freethought Equality. Dutchin continued, “Our open participation will also increase the visibility of humanists and atheists and help remove the lingering bias that still exists against our community.”

(Thanks to readers Krista and Lance for helping me track all the races. Portions of this article were published earlier. This post is being updated as results come in.)

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.