Woodrow Wilson, whom he describes as the most religious of the four:
"Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised."Theodore Roosevelt:
"Thank Heaven I sat at the feet of Darwin and Huxley."William Howard Taft:
"I do not believe in the divinity of Christ," he wrote in an 1899 letter, "and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe."
"I don't know of any crime that the oppressors and their hirelings have not proven by the Bible."
Niose argues that secularism was the position of most politicians, Democratic, Republican and other until the rise of the Moral Majority in the late 1970s. They, he writes, have skewed politics back into the idea of the US being a Christian nation. In contrast to the 1912 candidates he offers some quotes from 2012 Republican hopefuls.
"Today, a full-century after the era of Roosevelt and Wilson, we routinely see presidential candidates assure voters that they are doubtful of the theory of evolution, pandering to a large segment of the electorate that believes the world is just a few thousand years old. Rick Perry, for example . . . lucidly conveys America's intellectual decline by expressing his views on evolution this way: "God may have done it in the blink of the eye or he may have done it over this long period of time, I don't know." Evolution "is a theory that's out there," Perry explained, but it "has some gaps in it." The Texas chief executive is by no means an anomaly, as other major political figures, such as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Mike Huckabee, have made a point of emphasizing their refusal to accept evolution theory, and even former president George W. Bush favored teaching creationism, disguised as so-called intelligent design, in public schools."Niose is arguing in the book that, in fact, a significant portion of the US population does not believe in a diety, but they have not identified themselves as secular. Thus statistics suggest that the US is a much more religious nation than it really is. This includes the 20% that answer "none" or "don't know" when asked what religion they are. It also includes those people who do not practice a religion or believe in a religion, may still identify with the religion they grew up with, and might say "Catholic" or "Methodist" if asked.
He points out that just 15% of the US population would be 50 million people, which would be more than the combined total of Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims.
His goal is to get secular Americans to identify as such to demonstrate a) that the US is NOT a Christian nation, as argued by the religious right, and that there are many secular Americans, and b) to get make secular Americans a potent political force to counter the power of the religious right. Secular Americans aren't out to attack other religions, but to stand up for their own rights and to prevent the fervently religious from using government to enforce their own religious beliefs on others.
I'm only about a third of the way into the book, but I thought I'd share this much for now. It's a topic that I wrote about last November when my attention was caught by the tornado survivor who responded on national television to Wolf Blitzer's question about thanking the Lord for surviving, by saying, after a pause, "Well, actually, I'm an atheist." I realized how prejudiced the US is against atheism when I found myself surprised that they hadn't cut that part out of the broadcast.
David Niose is identified as the President of the American Humanist Association.