Beliefnet’s Executive Editor Elizabeth Sams conducted an exclusive interview with former president Jimmy Carter. According to the article, Carter has taught a Sunday Bible study class at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia for the past 25 years.
There were a couple questions relating to state/church separation and atheism, though, that garnered some interesting responses:
Given your life-long involvement with questions of church & state, do you think the current administration has brought too much, or not enough Christianity into government?
I think the current Administration has departed from two or three things that I was taught as a child. One is we worship the Prince of Peace, not preemptive war.
And no other President before has ever espoused publicly a policy of going to war unless our own security was directly threatened, not because we just wanted to overthrow a regime or because we thought that that country that we are attacking militarily might some day in the future hurt us. That’s one thing from which we have departed.
And I don’t think there’s any doubt that this Administration has also injected the religious aspect of using say public funds in an unprecedented way. And those funds, quite often, have gone heavily towards Christian churches and they’ve even gone to Christian churches that only accept as employees or only accept sources of their benevolence who are Christians.
So, I think that, in some ways, that has been a departure. And some of the public statements that have been made from our top officials have also clearly indicated a strong preference for Christianity at the expense perhaps of other faiths. So, that is a departure from historic precedents that had been established by previous Presidents.
Can you picture a good President who had no faith?
Yes, I can. I think there can be a President, a good President, who doesn’t have a commitment to a particular faith but would try to exemplify basic moral values and to honor meticulously the historic commitments of our nation through our Constitution and laws, that would promote human rights and justice and peace, equality of treatment, the alleviation of suffering.
So, there could very well be a President who had no faith that could be a good governor of our country.
Whether that person could be elected if he or she professed to be an atheist would be another very serious question. And I doubt that that would be possible, at least in the foreseeable future.
I completely agree. I hope that changes and atheists do become more electable to the general public in the near future. But when Christians like Carter say accurate, positive things about the non-religious (in this case, that we could have those values without religion), it certainly helps our case.
Read the full interview here.
(Thanks to Brett for the link!)
[tags]atheist, atheism, Beliefnet, Elizabeth Sams, Jimmy Carter, Bible, Maranatha Baptist Church, Georgia, Plains, Christianity, Christian, church, Constitution[/tags]