In the United States, religion takes such a place in society that atheism has become a real political movement with its lobbies, its demands and, more recently, its representatives in Congress. The second of three texts today with the portrait of Ronald Reagan Junior, son of the former president and figure of an increasingly marginal phenomenon among our neighbors to the South.
Ronald Reagan Junior is one of the best known figures of the atheist cause in the United States. In an ad that airs on television these days, the ex-president’s son smirks “he’s not afraid to burn in hell.”
“Hello, I am Ron Reagan, an assumed atheist, and I am alarmed by the intrusions of religion into our government,” he says in the sober advertisement.
How could the son of one of the most conservative presidents in modern American history end up there? A bit by chance, answer the Duty the main interested party.
“It started about 40 years ago, when my father was elected president. The New York Times Asked me in an interview if I was going to be in politics too. You know, I had been asked this question all my life, and I used to answer that it was not for me, that I did not like politics … But there, I still had an answer better to give. I told them that I was not interested and that anyway, I could never be elected because I am not a believer. “
As he hoped, this argument closed the topic. But it also caused a scandal. “The response has been incredible. It made everyone angry. I have received indignant letters from some friends. They wanted to know why I said that, what I was looking for … This is the first time I realized how much people really care about other people’s beliefs. I found it interesting. “
Born in 1958, Ronald Reagan is the youngest of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, who also had a daughter, the other two Reagan children being from a previous marriage.
Son of president
Ron was 22 when his father was elected president, but was only 8 when Ronald Reagan Sr. was first elected governor of California. In period family photos, the couple often pose alone with the little boy he was, with the other children already grown up.
It was at this time that he came to the conclusion that God did not exist. “By age 10, I had already moved away from most Christian beliefs,” he says. “Then, when I was 12, I told my parents that I wouldn’t go to church with them anymore because that would be hypocritical. After all, if they were right about God, he himself would know that I was faking it! “
Now we end up with a Donald Trump who is obviously not a believer, but who went to seek the vote of the evangelists
Where did these early convictions come from? Perhaps from his passion for prehistory. He remembers that his mother was not sure what to say to him when he wanted to know if Adam and Eve were “cavemen”. Then Santa Claus didn’t help. “When you are little, your parents tell you that there is a Santa Claus in the North, that he has a big white beard and that he knows if you have been nice or not during the year. It makes you think of God a lot! And then you find out that it doesn’t exist. “
Little of his father’s reaction to his rejection of the Church. But one thing is certain, Ronald Reagan Sr. was not the type to meddle in other people’s faith. “He was a pious man, but he never made the mistake of many politicians who use their faith for political gain,” he said at his funeral in 2004. “He It is true that after being the victim of an attempted murder, he came to think that God had spared him to do good. But he accepted it as a responsibility, not as a mandate. “
Opposition to Donald Trump
Although he is a notorious Democrat, Ron Reagan insists his father would have disapproved of what the Republican Party has become, even before Trump’s accession.
“My father signed a law authorizing abortion, he raised taxes after having reduced them, gave amnesty to 3 million immigrants,” he reported on Bill Maher’s show in 2015. “And when a hole formed in the ozone layer above the South Pole […], he didn’t decide it was a Leftist plot to deprive us of cold beer and he acted! “
He concedes, however, that it was also during his father’s time that Republicans began to engage with evangelical lobbies. “The party wanted to woo the evangelist vote, and it was pretty simple to do: my father was a Christian, he could tell he was on their side. “
Then it got out of hand. “Now we end up with a Donald Trump who is clearly not a believer, but who has sought the vote of the evangelists. Why ? Because he hates or pretends to hate the same people as them: all those progressives who want to allow homosexuals to marry, have black friends, want to deprive them of their white privileges and threaten their way of life, etc. He says ironically.
Ron Reagan has no tongue in his pocket and handles the sarcastic comment with obvious pleasure. He is occasionally invited to television sets to comment on politics, notably on MSNBC. He even had his own show, the Ron Reagan Show, before Air America Media went bankrupt. He divides his life between Seattle and Italy with his second wife.
Despite his numerous public interventions on atheism, he does not consider himself an “activist”. After its release in the Times, he has become “the atheist who has a famous father,” he recounts amused. “After that, I could hint at it, I was going to ask the question again and I was going to confirm it. Then finally, the Freedom From Religion Foundation [FFRF] heard about it and asked me to make the announcement. “
It was 2014, and the ad is still circulating, but still eliciting strong reactions. During the debate at the Democratic convention, commentators even said that she stole the show from the debate itself by sparking a surge of positive comments on the Twitter platform. Conversely, some TV stations are still censoring the passage where Mr. Reagan says he is not afraid to burn in hell.
For the FFRF, its contribution is invaluable, especially since celebrities who dare to publicly call themselves atheists are very rare in the United States. “For the son of a very conservative president to advertise a controversial group like ours openly presenting himself as an atheist had a big educational impact. It has shown the nation that these kinds of people exist, that they are normal, ”says FFRF co-director Annie Laurie Gaylor.
“This publicity was a big blow to us,” she adds. “He started from a short 30-second clip and took it a lot further with his personality. It was he who added the phrase “a self-confident atheist who is not afraid to burn in hell”. “
Who is he talking to with this message? “I would like this to be heard by atheists who are still ‘in the closet.’ It would probably be the most useful thing. So that people are less afraid to take responsibility. I am not trying to convert anyone to atheism or to distance believers from their faith. It’s something they have to do on their own. “
But beyond that, it’s his way of defending science. “What doesn’t bother me the most is what effect religion has on stem cell research, for example. People can believe whatever they want, but when it comes into public space and affects everyone’s life, you have a problem. “