It's unlikely that any of the politicians who represent you or political candidates who want to represent you are atheists. Most voters they represent are also not atheists, so it's understandable if they frequently pander to religious beliefs and especially to Christianity, but none of that is an excuse or justification for anti-atheist bigotry. If you have a problem with voting for people who object to your existence or equality (and you should!), you need to learn what they really believe. Discovering what your representatives think about atheists, secularism, and church/state separation is worth some effort.
1. Ask Your Representatives About Atheism, Secularism, Church/State Separation
The first and most obvious thing to do is simply contact them and ask. If you write a blog, you can even say that you want to do an interview, though it will help if your blog focuses on local or political issues. You should prepare some carefully worded questions in advance: How do you feel about the place of atheists in society and government? Do you believe religion or theism are necessary for morality
? Do you think the government should expect people to pledge allegiance to one nation, "under God"
? Do you believe that civil laws should be secular in nature
or should instead conform to God's laws? How strict do you think the separation of church & state
should be? Having a few follow-up questions in mind might help.
2. Go To Public Meetings and Ask QuestionsMany politicians conduct public meetings with the people they represent and you should try to attend as many as you can. Study in advance whatever issues are scheduled or likely to come up and be prepared with some questions or comments which deal with those issues but which also are clearly from a secular, atheistic perspective. This might not be easy, but you should try because one of the goals here is to make yourself known as an informed, interested, and involved voter who can formulate intelligent opinions and who is capable of swaying the opinions of others. You want your political representatives to take you seriously and remember you in the future as someone who should perhaps be listened to when they hear from you again.
3. Talk to Campaign and Office StaffGovernment is far too complex for individual politicians to handle very well so many, especially at higher levels, can have large staffs to help them do their job. These advisors and assistants can have a tremendous influence both on the issues which are prioritized and how those issues are framed. This means you need to learn if key advisors lean more towards anti-atheist bigotry or pro-equality. Consider, as an analogy, a politician whose key advisors that are openly gay or racial minorities vs. one whose key advisors are closeted gays, no gays, or racist whites. What would such situations tell you about the real beliefs of that politician and what they are really like behind closed doors?
4. Talk to All Local Candidates and PoliticiansIt's undeniable that some politicians will be more open to atheists while others will be more hostile. While you may be able to predict this with a high degree of accuracy in advance, you should still try to speak to everyone. First, you never know when someone might surprise you. Second, it may help to at least try to be even-handed and fair in your approach. Finally, at the very least it may be useful to have the responses of someone openly hostile to atheists to use as a point of comparison with the others you talk to. If someone is so hostile that the refuse to even talk to you, then you should make a point of reporting on that as well. The more information you have, the more informed your own choices will be.
5. Organize Local Atheists to Contact Local Politicians
It's not sufficient if you're the only atheist talking to local politicians. It will help if you can organize other local atheists to help you. First, some politicians might not answer all of your questions to you, but multiple people asking questions might get more information over time. Second, it may make a difference
when a politician sees regular communications from a variety of atheists. It's one thing to hear statistics about how many nonbelievers and secularists are in America, but quite another to hear from different atheists a couple of times every week. This sends the message that there are atheists out there who are watching, who are engaged, and whose votes will be determined by how a candidate treats them.
6. Throw a Godless Voters' Fundraising EventThe lifeblood of politics is money: every politician needs funds to get elected and they never seem to have enough. This means that they need very good reasons to turn down free donations, or even donations that require they turn up at a fundraiser for an evening. If you can collect enough atheists and secularists, you could throw a fundraiser for one or more local politicians. You may learn a lot about these politicians by their reactions to the invitations and whether they are willing to take you money at all, much less be associated with you publicly. Don't hide your activities; publicize them and see how other local citizens and well as local politicians react. Do they embrace you, or treat you like the plague?
7. Publicize Your Activities to Attract Support & AttentionYou shouldn't hide anything that you're doing. The fact that you are seeking out politicians and political candidates to evaluate their feelings on atheism, secularism, and church/state separation will be very helpful to nonbelievers and will hopefully encourage at least a few to step forward and help. Atheists are diverse, dispersed, and tough to organize. Anything which attracts attention and gives atheists something positive to focus on will be an improvement over what they currently have. You may also get some support from religious believers who are concerned about church/state separation, even if anti-atheist bigotry isn't something that they've ever given much thought to.
8. Document Everything & Write About Your Experiences
You should make an effort to document everything you do and everything you learn from the politicians you talk to. If possible, have someone with you to write down what is said so you can concentrate on asking questions. The more detailed your documentation, the easier it will be for you to recognize and explore patterns in behavior or language. Documentation will also allow you to support any allegations or conclusions you make if you are challenged later on. You should find ways to share you research with others — it won't do much good to keep it all to yourself, right? Even if it's just a matter of posting regular updates to a blog
on local politics, you'll help other atheists make better decisions when it's time to vote.