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Where Are the Atheists in Congress?

yeah this could go here or P&CE, but I think it will get less rude answers here

Pew study came out yesterday with the whole religious breakdown of congress, comparing what's there now to what was there last year.

It is choc full of all kinds of fun charts and graphs to geek out on (which is why I got so distracted I never got around to posting this yesterday when I first read it).  Bottom line, though - in switching from liberal to conservative control there was basically NO real change in the makeup of it.  A couple more Catholics replaced a few Protestants, that's about it.

Then today I read this and decided it was something to discuss after all.

"In all but thirteen states—in the West and Northeast—the "unaffiliated" are no more (and mostly less) than 20 percent of the population. What's more, a large majority of Americans—61 percent, including 15 percent of self-identified atheists and agnostics—say that it is important for members of Congress to have strong religious beliefs. If this preference is even moderately intense, the skeptic who wants to be a senator will have an incredibly difficult time finding an electorate to fit her minority beliefs, even in states with a higher-than-average population of "unaffiliated" people.
Is this a form of the "closet," as Andrew Sullivan describes? Perhaps. Non-belief is definitely an obstacle for an aspiring politician, and there really isn't any benefit in "coming out" as an atheist or agnostic. The United States is still too religious for that to be viable in anywhere but the most liberal enclaves, where non-belief is acceptable. Yes, the population of "unaffiliated" people is growing, but the strong cultural legacy of religious belief might keep that from translating into greater openness for less religious candidates. But we'll see."

Why is it that, even as one party clings to the call of "diversity" while another is written off (incorrectly or not) as the party of the religious right, the party in control has virtually zero impact on the religious makeup of the elected representatives that are "supposed" to represent everyone?  (nevermind the serious lack of other world religons).  The study clarifies that there is one single congressman who identifies as an atheistic Unitarian Universalist, so he's one of the ones counted in the "other faiths" category where they include Unitarians.  Where is the equal representation here?  And how do we change it?

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 5:58 PM on Jan. 6, 2011 in Religious Debate

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (30)
  • Well 8 people either said other faith or refused to name. Anyone of of them could be Atheist.

    Answer by mommy_of_two388 at 6:00 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • I see 16 that fall in the "all others" group - perhaps that's where you will find your Atheists.

    Answer by scout_mom at 6:15 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • Well all we can do is open eyes and show people we are not as bad as some people think. Look at the uproar everytime someone gets a hold of something they think proves Obama is not christian. Or the uproar over the woman that use to practice "witch craft" in high school.

    Answer by Alanaplus3 at 6:16 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • Actually it does day 58 is unspecified/other There could be more then we really think

    Answer by mommy_of_two388 at 6:17 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • perhaps that's where you will find your Atheists.

    No, if you read all the fine print in the study, they only indicate one person who could be categorized as atheist, and that's the Unitarian. It's possible that the 6 who refuse to respond (all incumbents) could ALL be atheists, but even if they were, still not remotely representative.

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 6:18 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • You ask and you get no rude responses because you are not answering NP.

    I think you're on to something anon.

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:18 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • It has been said  Atheists are highly intelligent and usually very honest so maybe Atheists cannot stomach a job where being a moron and lying all the time is necessary for survival. lol


    Answer by Anonymous at 6:20 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • Actually it does day 58 is unspecified/other There could be more then we really think

    No, those are all Christians - it's one of the sub-categories under Protestant. The only non-Christian categories are the ones from Jewish on down (which are mostly lumped into one group on the chart)

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 6:21 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • In the closet?

    Seriously, I'm sure a lot of people profess a faith because it increases their odds of winning an election. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are devout or actual true believers. A self-report of religious beliefs is pretty vague. I know if you ask my mom she calls herself a Christian, though she also says she 'doesn't know if she believes in God' and she hasn't been to church in thirty years. She's probably closer to agnostic than Christian, but doesn't self-identify that way.

    Answer by Freela at 6:46 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

  • Just to add- I'm not saying that a large proportion of the self-professed Christians are lying... I'm just saying that if it's hard to be elected as an atheist, a lot of people may just not mention that fact, kwim? So we can't necessarily rely on a statement of faith to tell us where people actually stand belief-wise.

    Answer by Freela at 6:48 PM on Jan. 6, 2011

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