Do We Have an Atheist Senator?!

A couple months ago, I wrote about how, if atheists couldn’t get elected to public office, perhaps they could be appointed.

It seems that may have already happened.


Ted Kaufman (pictured above) is now the junior Senator from Delaware, replacing Vice President Joe Biden..

The New York Times hints at his potentially non-religious viewpoint:

In a Senate dominated by lawyers and career public servants, Mr. Kaufman, who holds an undergraduate degree from Duke and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School, is one of only two engineers. (The other is Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island.)

What he calls his “humanistic” way of thinking he attributes largely to his Irish Catholic mother, a teacher, and his father, a secular Jew, a social worker and his hero.

Alex Pareene at Gawker analyzes that paragraph:

See, “humanist” is a code-word. Like “lifelong bachelor.” “Secular Jew” is not code, that really just means straight-up atheist. But still! Ted himself can’t admit to it straight up!

As far as I can find, the 69-year-old Kaufman has never publicly said he doesn’t believe in God. Until he does so, his status as a closeted “Humanist” doesn’t do anything for us.

Even if he were to come out as a non-theist — and I hope he does — he says that he will remain in the Senate only for two years, at which point he will step aside and let a special election decide who will finish up the final four years of Biden’s current term.

We have one non-theist in the House — Pete Stark (D-CA). It would be nice to have one in the Senate, too… Stark is the only Congressperson in my lifetime who has been elected even when voters knew he was an atheist.

We have to poke many more holes in that glass ceiling before it breaks.

If, indeed, Kaufman doesn’t believe in God, he would be doing the millions of Americans who agree with him a huge favor by saying as much during the short time he’ll be a Senator.

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  • If he is an atheist, yes, it would be better for us if he came out, but maybe not a terribly big deal…it will help to get more people used to the idea that an atheist can hold office and not have horns sprout from their heads or eat babies, but the real test will come from avowed atheists running, losing, running, losing, and much later, winning. But did I mention losing first? I elaborate further on this here.

  • Eliza

    I thought at first the photo was John Cleese…

  • llewelly

    I thought at first the photo was John Cleese…

    Keep your mouth shut, fool. If the wingnuts hear that, they’ll realize his Hawaiian birth certificate is faked.

  • Admitting to atheism would be likely to ruin almost anyone’s political career and is very risky.

  • Nancy

    It’s also great that he’s an engineer, and obviously very intelligent. I hope he is an effective senator! Gotta look for him on CSPAN-2.

  • It’d be nice if he came out and said “athiest,” but I’ll take “humanist” any day 🙂

    I mean, as long as he is making decisions based on reason and not dogma or ideology, that is really what matters.

  • Sweet!

  • Erik

    If, indeed, Kaufman doesn’t believe in God, he would be doing the millions of Americans who agree with him a huge favor by saying as much during the short time he’ll be a Senator.

    Here’s hoping he can say so and *not* have just a “short time” as a Senator, and actually be re-elected to the seat.

  • Mriana

    I don’t know Stark seems to have done alright with admitting he is a non-theist who attends the UU. It wasn’t exactly the end of his career. Maybe we will get lucky and Kaufman will say non-theist, humanist, or atheist. He’s 69 y.o. What does he really have to lose? If I was almost 70, I wouldn’t care what anyone thinks. 😆

  • Mike

    I don’t really care that he is atheist (although it is nice). I’m just glad we have an engineer in the senate.

  • I’ll have to agree!