This isn’t a letter-to-the-editor.
It’s an opinion piece by Beverly McPhail, appearing in the Houston Chronicle.
How often do you see writing like this accepted for publication in your local newspaper?
Some days it seems as if candidates are running for the nation’s office of first cleric rather than commander in chief. It is ironic that believing in invisible beings and hearing their voices is viewed as a qualification for an office in the West Wing when traditionally it qualified one for a room in a psychiatric ward. However, the majority of Americans seem to want a candidate who believes in God as well as America.
We atheists are a small and misunderstood minority. Only 3 percent to 9 percent of Americans report that they do not believe in God. Professor Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi‘s review of psychological studies reveals that atheists are less authoritarian and suggestible than religious believers, less dogmatic, less prejudiced, more tolerant of others, law-abiding, compassionate, conscientious, highly intelligent and well educated.
Some religiously inclined mistakenly believe that atheists are amoral. However, we atheists tend to subscribe to the highest moral principles and do so without being motivated by fear of hell or hope of heaven.
In some cases, the number of people that have no religious affiliation or are atheist/agnostic is much higher.
What would be the benefits to having an atheist president?
One benefit of having a president who is atheist would be that policies would be adopted or rejected due to science and reason rather than a religious creed that may not represent the beliefs of all Americans. Issues such as stem cell research, evolution and gay marriage would be considered on their merits and in accordance with the Constitution rather than human interpretations of religious texts.
Another benefit of having an atheist president is that bloodshed could be less likely. Some of the most brutal episodes in world history, including the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch burnings, genocides and bombings by Christian and Islamic fundamentalists, have been conducted in the name of God. Other countries might well be more trusting of our motives if religious subtexts were absent.
If religious tests were no longer required for public office and more atheists were elected, believers could focus more on their traditional realm of feeding the hungry and clothing the poor. The faithful could seek spiritual enlightenment rather than elected office.
There must be a downside, though:
A disadvantage, however, is that journalists and voters would have to focus on substantive policy positions held by candidates rather than their professed beliefs. No longer could a voter hold up a Christian Bible, as one questioner did at a recent Republican debate, and ask if candidates believed every word in the book. Perhaps candidates would have to pledge, instead, that they have read and believe every word in the Constitution.
McPhail’s email address is at the bottom of the article. I’m sure she’d appreciate some words of thanks.