Herb Silverman's and Mark Sanford's SINS

Image by Marty Stone via Flickr

My friend and President of the Secular Coalition For America, Herb Silverman, has written a great article for the Washington Post’s On Faith website.

Herb lives in South Carolina, and you may have noticed his governor, Mark Sanford, and his Argentinian “soul mate” have been in the news lately. What you may not know, is that Herb ran for governor in 1990. Although he didn’t win, he was successful in getting South Carolina’s law prohibiting atheists to serve in office overturned.

Here’s some excerpts for Herb’s article, “My Sin When I Ran for Governor of South Carolina.”

During my 1990 campaign for governor, I was probably asked about “God” more than all other candidates for all other offices combined. I had to explain to countless citizens how this candidate without a prayer could still have an ethical and moral base. They understood how people of faith could sin, and then feel remorse and ask God’s forgiveness, but they assumed that someone godless would have no reason to act morally. Also along the way, I heard from many fellow South Carolinians who thought they were the only ones with such beliefs. As a result, we decided to form a secular humanist community, which continues to thrive and grow.

One of Governor Sanford’s press conference apologies was “to people of faith across South Carolina, or for that matter, across the nation,…” Implicit in his apology, and insulting to nontheists, is that people of faith are expected to be more moral than people without faith. What seems clear to me is that politicians who continually proclaim their faith are likely to be more hypocritical than those who don’t.

My favorite bit is Herb’s response to a mega-church pastor he was debating. Here’s that part:

Since the issue at hand is adultery, I can’t help but remember one public debate I had a few years ago with a fundamentalist minister from a South Carolina mega-church on the topic, “Can We Be Moral Without God?” In a portion where we asked each other questions, I asked him how his behavior toward people would change if he stopped believing in God. He said, “I’ve been attracted to other women, but I didn’t act on it because I knew how much it would hurt Jesus.” I responded, “I’ve also been attracted to other women, but I didn’t act on it because I knew how much it would hurt my wife Sharon.”

Isn’t that great? I’m going to use that one myself.

The pastor’s statement, reminds me of a Thanksgiving I hosted at my house. Instead of praying I asked each family member to share something for which they were thankful. It started with some jokes, but became quite touching. That is, until we came to the most religious person at the table.  This person, thanked God repeatedly for all the great things He had done. Never once did he thank his wife for putting up with him during all all the years of marriage. He didn’t thank his children for loving him. Nothing. He and Jesus were all that mattered. The rest of us were just lucky to be along for the ride.

Brother Richard

Oh, and another thing. I will give a dollar to someone who can take a picture of Herb in anything other than a t-shirt.

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