We are a small minority of nonbelievers within a country that is positively rippling with religious fervor. We value reason, science, and facts, but we often struggle to find leaders and representatives who weigh those values over those of faith and irrationality. We tend to be humanistic and tolerant, open to debate and questioning, while we are among the least liked, least trusted, and least tolerated by our neighbors. In such an environment it is extremely difficult to find a seat at the political table, let alone advance an agenda or put forward a candidate for office. Happily, President Obama has made a point of rhetorically including the nonreligious in recent speeches, but it is in the midst of a political situation that labels atheists as untouchables, as evidenced in the closing weeks of the North Carolina Senate race in which one candidate accused the other of befriending nonbelievers, only to have the other candidate repudiate the charge--and the nonbelievers as well.
To get a little idealistic for a moment, perhaps the U.S.'s best bet in mitigating the threat posed by any religious extremism, wherever it may arise, is to emphasize our own secular, nonreligious foundations and to wear them on our sleeve, showcasing a civilization in which fulfillment and happiness can be found in the freedom to choose one's own path; that the fruits of the Enlightenment are still available to all of humanity.