Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

Why should open atheism preclude elected office?

Posted by on Sep. 15, 2013 at 5:39 PM
  • 92 Replies
Why should open atheism preclude elected office?



By David Niose on September 14, 2013 - 5:59am


Probably because my writing and activities frequently involve taking stands on issues of public policy, from time to time I am asked whether I would consider running for political office. Such inquiries provide me with an opportunity to get a good laugh, because I usually respond with something like this:

“I’m not so sure I have the ideal resume for elected office. I currently serve as president of a group that advocates for atheists (the Secular Coalition for America). Before that, I served two terms as president of another atheist-humanist advocacy group (the American Humanist Association). Moreover, I've also written a book called Nonbeliever Nation. And to top it all off, I’m lead counsel in a lawsuit that challenges the ‘under God’ wording of the Pledge of Allegiance!”

My questioner usually gets my point quickly, and is already laughing before I cap off this statement with a question of my own: “Does that look like the resume of a viable candidate for election?”

After we both enjoy this little chuckle, we’ll move the conversation toward more realistic topics.

As I relayed this story to one young person recently, however, I received a different response. She smiled slightly, but then her face immediately became serious again and she asked another question: “Why should any of those things disqualify you from running for office?”

I could see that her question was sincere, that she wanted an answer. Forced to consider it, I realized that I had never taken the analysis beyond the joking stage. Indeed, why should a person be seen as unfit for elected office merely because he or she has advocated visibly on behalf of the secular demographic?

Objectively speaking, it’s not as if atheists are an embarrassing segment of society, some strange cult with bizarre beliefs and rituals. Over ninety percent of the National Academy of Sciences holds atheist or agnostic views – is this a source of shame? Social problems do not correlate to secular individuals or societies, and in fact they often correlate negatively (with lower rates among secular populations) – so why should advocacy on behalf of seculars disqualify anyone from office?

It's noteworthy that most atheist activism has little to do with trying to dispel other religious beliefs, but instead merely seeks to push back against anti-atheist prejudice and to oppose the intrusion of religion into government. It's hard to see why this would be political poison. Advocacy on behalf of racial minorities, women, or gays and lesbians would never disqualify a candidacy, but for some reason we seem to see it as toxic in the context of secular advocacy.

It occurred to me that even I – one who is deeply immersed in the culture wars – carry around outdated assumptions about atheism and politics. My new friend, perhaps lacking the baggage of old-fashioned thinking, could see the issue more clearly. Even the perceived political blasphemy of challenging the Pledge of Allegiance is, in the final analysis, an act in defense of patriotism, not a rejection of it. After all, is there something unpatriotic about wanting your nation's patriotic exercise to be inclusive of all good citizens? Shouldn’t any patriotic exercise – especially one conducted daily in public schools for purposes of defining patriotism and loyalty for children – be nondiscriminatory?

If voters can’t see that seculars deserve respect – if they would reject an open atheist candidate merely because they perceive the secular demographic as being that undesirable – then surely we need a public discussion of these issues. It is troubling, for example, that a respected member of Congress such as Barney Frank could only come out as an atheist after leaving office, even though he had come out as gay three decades ago!

For the voting public to reject an atheist candidate outright, even one who ardently advocates on behalf of the seculars, is nothing less than bigoted. Moreover, if we're wondering why rational and progressive public policy is so sadly lacking in this country, one could wonder whether it has something to do with the lack of openly atheist and agnostic elected officials. The willingness to accept secular candidates can be seen as a sign of an enlightened, intelligent electorate, just as the irrational bias against them says the opposite. This is especially true when we consider that candidates routinely get elected in much of the country while proudly rejecting science and proclaiming a belief that the world is only a few thousand years old. In other words, voters get the public policy they deserve.

Just for the record, this shouldn’t be construed as a declaration of my candidacy for any office, but it certainly has caused me to rethink my punch line. Maybe my resume isn’t such a disqualifier after all?

Dave on Twitter: @ahadave

Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans, is available here.

Facebook page: Nonbeliever Nation

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201309/why-should-open-atheism-preclude-elected-office?quicktabs_5=0
by on Sep. 15, 2013 at 5:39 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Sep. 15, 2013 at 5:43 PM
3 moms liked this

Good point made in the question the person asked this man.

Being an Atheist should not be any type of dis-qualifier for any elected office. Some may feel having an Atheist in 'power' would bring down our country.  Take a look around...............Christians, and others, are managing that one already.

momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Sep. 15, 2013 at 5:48 PM

It shouldn't be a disqualifier, but it is.  (I wish it wasn't so.)  And aren't there still laws in some states prohibiting atheists from holding office?  Too many people still think an atheist can't be moral or trustworthy.  

I think there are quite a few atheists in politics, but they are in the closet.  

yourspecialkid
by Platinum Member on Sep. 15, 2013 at 5:49 PM
3 moms liked this

 I have no objections to any faith/no faith as an office holder.  I do object to anyone that openly trounces the first amendment.

 

TCgirlatheart
by TC on Sep. 15, 2013 at 5:51 PM

It certainly shouldn't disqualify, or deem a candidate as unfit, but unfortunately many people vote for what's familiar.

Many also vote party lines and view wedge issues as their deciding factors, rather than looking at the bigger picture and the facts of how a candidate has worked in their community and/or voted on legislation.  

~"Free the child's potential, and you will transform both the child and the world."

Dr. Maria Montessori~

AdrianneHill
by Platinum Member on Sep. 15, 2013 at 6:05 PM
I always wondered why it mattered. I guess people believed that if there was not a supernatural diety guarding the promises made and deals brokered, elected officials wouldn't be too afraid of hell to break campaign promises. Americans wouldn't know how to handle politicians who couldn't be trusted
stringtheory
by Gold Member on Sep. 16, 2013 at 8:19 AM
Bump.
romalove
by Roma on Sep. 16, 2013 at 8:22 AM
1 mom liked this


Quoting AdrianneHill:

I always wondered why it mattered. I guess people believed that if there was not a supernatural diety guarding the promises made and deals brokered, elected officials wouldn't be too afraid of hell to break campaign promises. Americans wouldn't know how to handle politicians who couldn't be trusted

It's because people do not trust atheists.

At least, I should say, many religious people do not trust atheists.

They find their moral and value code, their ethics, to come from their religion and faith and can't imagine someone lacking those things would also not be lacking a moral and value code as well as ethics.

It's sad.

ForeverLawst
by Member on Sep. 16, 2013 at 8:27 AM
1 mom liked this

I'd vote for him in a heartbeat.. We need to get religion out of politics. 

SunshneDaydream
by Silver Member on Sep. 16, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Sadly, I think this answers his question right here.  The fact that these types of people routinely get elected speaks to the fact that there are just too many conservative, backwards-thinking religious people in many parts of the country to even consider voting for an atheist.  But again, it all depends on where the particular candidate is running.  Many parts of the country would have no problem with atheist, and I honestly don't understand why there don't seem to be more running in those areas. 

Quoting stringtheory:

 candidates routinely get elected in much of the country while proudly rejecting science and proclaiming a belief that the world is only a few thousand years old. In other words, voters get the public policy they deserve.

SunshneDaydream
by Silver Member on Sep. 16, 2013 at 9:48 AM
5 moms liked this

But ironically, most of these religious politicians STILL break promises, lie to their constituents, and act in countless other sinful ways, like having affairs and sexting penis pictures.  Politicians can't be trusted whether they are religious or not, but people still cling to this need for them to believe in God.  It's utterly ridiculous. 

Quoting AdrianneHill:

I always wondered why it mattered. I guess people believed that if there was not a supernatural diety guarding the promises made and deals brokered, elected officials wouldn't be too afraid of hell to break campaign promises. Americans wouldn't know how to handle politicians who couldn't be trusted


Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)