Non-Religious Congressman Pete Stark at Harvard

California congressman Pete Stark spoke at Harvard a couple nights ago, his first remarks about his non-belief since the Secular Coalition for America‘s contest. He received the Humanist of the Year award from Harvard’s humanist chaplaincy:

HarvardStark

In the picture, Stark (right) shakes the hand of SCA’s president, Herb Silverman.

The Boston Globe has a summary article of the event, where Stark made a number of remarks saying that religion on the Hill was more politics than faith (shocking, I know). He also underestimated how atheists are treated by their religious colleagues:

“I have no evidence that they [nonbelievers] are ‘demonized,’ ” Stark said in response to a questioner who had used that word. “I think there may be a certain arrogance of certainty among some people . . . but I’ve never run across those who have been nasty about it.”

The answer brought one man to the microphone who said that religious people had told him “what their God plans to do with me when I die.”

“That sounds pretty nasty to me,” the man said.

But the 75-year-old Stark reminisced about some Christians in his youth being forbidden from playing cards on Sunday. Such doctrinaire rules have been replaced by a more thoughtful approach today, he said. “I think as we mature . . . you’re going to find people taking a less strident or literal position on religion.”

“Every time you turn around and someone comes up and says, ‘Do you love Jesus?’ [I say] ‘I don’t know, but everything I’ve heard about him is fine,’ ” replied Stark. “We’re all cowards. We all want to get reelected.”

And there are many others in Stark’s non-religious shoes who lack his courage:

A representative of the Secular Coalition for America told Stark that he had interviewed 21 US representatives who said they were nonbelievers but were unwilling to go public with that. “Something is intimidating those people,” he said.

The article correctly suggests that Stark has an advantage coming from a California district that supports his non-theism. Most other US representatives don’t have that good fortune.

But seriously… 21 others! A total of 22 out of 435 congresspeople are not religious! It’s not even close to representing atheists in the general population (between 10-20%, depending on which survey you look at), but it’s a start… and maybe one day we’ll reach a Tipping Point and our elected officials will come out and be honest about what they really (don’t) believe.

(via Atheist Revolution)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Greg Epstein[/tags]

  • Mriana

    Stark should come to S.W. Missouri if he thinks Christians aren’t nasty. They can get really bad here. :(

  • Maria

    I guess it really does depend where you go. He’s from CA where everyone is pretty liberal. Christians are so bad here either. It really does seem to depend on location……

  • Mriana

    Harvard is liberal too. Like I said, he should come down here. I think he’d change his mind in a heartbeat.

  • athenebelle

    @Mriana

    You’re in Missouri? So am I. Currently living in Cape Girardeau and (sadly) in a district that is thoroughly Republican and (a sad claim to fame) the home of Rush Limbaugh. I would agree with you. You definitely have to SHOW them that God doesn’t exist (I’m Christian but my husband is definitely non-theist) for them to agree with you and many of knee-jerk reactions to atheists.

    @Hemant but not about the topic per-se

    I suggested that my Sunday School class read your book as part of a book club to see what someone coming to our church that is not religious would think about us and they balked at it because of the title. I think it’s mainly a knee-jerk reaction but those are sometimes the worst to me.

  • Mriana

    :lol: Is it that obvious where I’m from, athenebelle? Spfd. HQ of the A of G. Just north of the Baldknobbers. Theys all knows God creata de world and it’s six hone-derd years ol’. The only intelligent people are on MSU campus and sometimes I wonder about that CCC. :roll: I want to change all their little chaulk fish on the sidewalk in to evolved fish. :lol:

    Obviously you understand what all I have to tolerate until I explode.

  • Richard Wade

    But seriously… 21 others! A total of 22 out of 435 congresspeople are not religious! It’s not even close to representing atheists in the general population (between 10-20%, depending on which survey you look at), but it’s a start… and maybe one day we’ll reach a Tipping Point and our elected officials will come out and be honest about what they really (don’t) believe.

    Don’t hold your breath. The tipping point that matters is the number of non-religious or at least tolerant people in the congressperson’s constituencies. If even 100% of them were closet atheists, they won’t get honest about it until the majority of the people in their districts are okay with that. Not likely in this century.

    Let’s see if Stark and the mysterious 21 others oppose legislation that undermines church-state separation or gives inappropriate advantages to George the Usurper’s favored religious special interests. What counts is how they vote, not what personal stances they reveal.

  • Maria

    I guess it really does depend where you go. He’s from CA where everyone is pretty liberal. Christians are so bad here either. It really does seem to depend on location……

    whoops, I meant to say Christians aren’t so bad here where I live either, it’s pretty liberal……..

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    Thanks for the H/T, Hemant. This story still has me smiling. Isn’t it nice to have some positive news every once in awhile?

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Non-Theist Congressman Pete Stark at Harvard (Video)

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Non-Theistic Congressman Pete Stark at Harvard (Video)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X