If you follow my blog, you probably know by now that I tend to lean liberally. And if you follow some of the work I’ve done outside of my blog, you also might know that although I lean liberally, I am not opposed to hearing and discussing different viewpoints.
I’ve written several times about the “war on Christianity” and the fact that we shouldn’t be shutting out an entire population of people solely based on the fact that they identify as Christian. To make immediate assumptions about any large group of people is not progressive or open-minded whatsoever.
Similarly, there seems to be an assumption not only that most Christians are extremist right-wingers, but also that most right-wingers are Christians. Again, when we delve further, we find that this just isn’t true.
So when I was contacted by Lauren Ell from Republican Atheists about an interview, the opportunity certainly caught my eye. Lauren kindly gave me the chance to interview her and learn more about the Republican atheist movement. Here I’d like to highlight a few of her thoughts on her organization as well as some controversial topics related to the intersection of politics and religion.
*To clarify, I am not aligning myself with atheism or any religious belief either way. I am a huge believer in fair and open-minded discussion with people who have reasonable and interesting views, even if they differ from your own. It could be argued that such a thing might really help solve some of our political turmoil as a country…
Anywho, moving forward!
OSB: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, where you are now, family life, how you came to identify as atheist and what draws you to lean Republican. What values do you appreciate most about the party?
Lauren Ell: I am born and raised near Palm Springs, CA. I have been living in Sweden since April 2016 with my Swedish partner who is an engineer.
I came to identify as atheist when I was 18 years old after becoming weary of the pressures that religion and the concept of a higher spirit had on my life.
What I was drawn to most about the Republican Party is how it focuses on core issues that I believe are a concern not only for the United States, but for every country: the economy, commerce, foreign affairs, etc.
OSB: How did you come to get involved with the Republican Atheist movement? Tell me about where the organization got its start.
Lauren Ell: In late 2015, I began voicing my conservative views in various Southern California atheist Facebook groups. In many cases, I was met with hostility from members. The administrator of one group even called me “a problem” and banned me.
I began asking if there were any conservative atheist groups and was surprised to learn that there were none. I decided to launch Republican Atheists to connect with others who thought similarly as me. I also wanted to build awareness of people who are atheist and secular and are registered Republican or have conservative views.
I am glad to have Robert M. Price, Ph.D., noted author and speaker, as a board member. Republican Atheists is also connected with Raul D. Empaire, a correspondent on Venezuela.
OSB: What are some of the biggest challenges Republican Atheists faces?
Lauren Ell: This is not surprising – the biggest challenge Republican Atheists has is people making assumptions about the organization’s views and therefore rejecting us and not asking questions. Atheists see the word “Republican” and are turned off, and Republicans see the word “atheist” and are turned off.
People tend to think they understand our political and social ideologies based on the labels. I have to step up my creative communication methods to initiate engagement.
OSB: Does your organization have any kind of unified stance on the current administration?
Lauren Ell: As an organization, Republican Atheists currently does not have official stances on the platform of the Trump administration. Our primary goal is to simply build awareness of members of the secular community being registered Republicans; however, you are welcome to message me or Robert M. Price for our specific views on the policies the Trump administration has put forth.
OSB: What does your organization view as its biggest goal in the coming years? Any smaller goals?
Lauren Ell: A long-term goal for Republican Atheists is to give a new face to atheism. We would like Americans to understand that not all atheists are focused on dismantling religion and that we do not identify with a political party strictly on the premise of religion.
Short-term goals include doing more speaking engagements, connecting with more organizations and obtaining a source of funding.
OSB: What’s your stance on separation of church and state? Do you agree that the oft-assumed notion that all Republicans are Christian has hurt the Republican Party in the past and/or continues to do so?
Lauren Ell: We support separation of church and state but not at the levels that some atheist groups do.
We tend to focus on broader issues such as public education, healthcare, government funding, etc. Issues such as the state of Kentucky introducing Christian-focused curriculum in public schools, an Islamic institute dictating what publishers can publish about the history of Islam in textbooks and doctors choosing which patients to work with on the basis of religious belief.
I agree that the notion that “all Republicans are Christian” hurts the Republican Party. Personally speaking, I never took interest in the Republican Party after I turned 18 because the concept that Republicans only focus on religion was drilled into my head.
Now I am disappointed that I did not take interest sooner because I may have been more politically involved by now. Republican Atheists makes an effort to enlighten others that not every registered Republican is necessarily religious.
OSB: Feel free to tell OSB readers anything else about yourself, your organization and your party that you think might be of interest to them!
Lauren Ell: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share more about myself and Republican Atheists with you. Most publications opt to not feature us because they make assumptions about our ideologies, which is unfortunate because we do bring a lot of interesting conversation to the table.
We are open to participating in webinars, podcasts and speaking engagements.