While the term religion is usually associated with the idea of a supreme being, some Christians have argued that choosing not to believe in God is as much of a religion as Christianity itself. If that is the case, then separation of church and state laws could one day translate into less rights for Christians in America.
One in five Americans now identify themselves as having "no religious affiliation" according to a July poll conducted by the Pew Center for the People and the Press. That number represents 19 percent of Americans and is a far jump from one of the first surveys ever conducted to include a "no affiliation" option.
Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys conducted the first survey in 1990 at a time when only six percent of people said "no affiliation." The growing number is a concern for some Christians, who fear that atheism could turn into a belief system that surpasses the separation of church and state laws.
"The atheists don't want beliefs about God to influence public policy," David Fowler, head of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, told USA Today. "But they do want their own beliefs about God's nonexistence to influence public policy."
With this, Folwer suggests that strict separation of church and state laws will one day develop into a lack of representation and constitutional rights for Christians. While atheism may not be a religion, it still represents a system of beliefs that could restrict Christian beliefs: church and state could come to mean one belief system over the other, which is what many Christians fear most. For some, the lack of God in politics equates to the lack of morals and values.
Thaddeus Schwartz, the leader of Secular Life, a social group for Tennessee-area nonbelievers, says that's not the case.
"I teach my kids the same things that you do about how to treat other people," he told USA. "I simply believe in one less god than you do."