Former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich doesn't understand Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. During a stop in New Hampshire last week, Kasich entered a bookstore. After picking up a copy of one of the Harry Potter books, the Ohio governor more typically known for his sunny disposition wondered aloud about Radcliffe's religious affiliations.
"You know that Daniel Radcliffe has declared himself an atheist?" he said, according to the Concord Monitor. "I'm serious. What a weird thing. Why would a guy who has had all that success just, I mean, what the hell is wrong with him?"
Radcliffe has yet to publicly respond to Kasich's comments, but during a 2009 interview with The Telegraph, he expressed concerns about being disliked because of his beliefs.
"I'm an atheist, but I'm very relaxed about it," he told the publication, later joking, "There we go, Dan, that's half of America that's not going to see the next Harry Potter film on the back of that comment."
Kasich's words in the bookstore, though shocking to some, are actually not unusual. Atheists are frequently disparaged by politicians and have become one of the least represented and most disdained groups in America.
What Kasich should know, though, is that Ohio is home to more religiously unaffiliated voters than Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Mormons combined. In other words, he just insulted thousands of his own constituents. 3.1 percent of American adults consider themselves atheists, according to Pew. And that's not counting an additional four percent of Americans who say they are agnostic.
Perhaps most bizarre was Kasich's presumption that Radcliffe's evident success meant he couldn't be an atheist. Someone should ask if he's heard of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet and Richard Dawkins.
In response to Kasich's comments, American Atheists president David Silverman challenged Kasich to meet with atheist constituents in his home state.
"I challenge you to sit down with a group of your atheist constituents," Silverman wrote. "Talk to us about what we want from our government. Ask us why we're atheists and what it means to us. You name the time and place and I'll make it happen."
An open and honest conversation between Kasich and Ohio atheists would be a great first step to fostering understanding and mending broken fences. After all, in the real world, there's no magic to help you bring communities together when they're at risk of being driven further apart.
There's just taking the time and making it clear that you're willing to listen.
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