Imagine atheist politicians

As an atheist, I just about always vote for political candidates who say they believe in God. Not because I’m impressed by their professed god beliefs, but because I have no other choice—unless I cast a write-in vote. Of course, in reality atheist politicians have received hundreds of thousands of votes, though their constituents likely didn’t know they were voting for closet atheists. Currently, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Cal) is the only uncloseted atheist in Congress, but I’m hoping we will see many more such courageous and honest politicians in the years to come.

I generally vote for candidates whose views on important issues seem closest to mine. These candidates give sound, evidence-based reasons for their positions, without a need to invoke a deity. I am aware that these candidates belong to a religious denomination, because they view such membership as a requirement for public office. However, I draw the line at voting for a politician who claims a god told him or her to run for office or what position to take on an issue. I just won’t vote for someone who seems loony to me.

I wish everyone would judge candidates on their political positions, and not on their professed religious beliefs. But that might be a dream of mine more difficult to achieve than the dreams of Martin Luther King. Those who won’t under any circumstance vote for an “immoral” atheist, or whatever pejorative adjective precedes the A-word, are letting their blind faith and stereotyping get in the way of common sense.

America is the most religious Western democracy in the world, with the overwhelming majority believing in a personal God. By contrast, only 24% in Denmark and 16% in Sweden are believers. Americans pride themselves on our high quality of life. However, taking into account measures of income, health, freedom, unemployment, climate, political stability, life-satisfaction, and gender equality, countries like Denmark and Sweden (but not America) rank in the top 10. Moral imperatives of most religions include caring for the sick, elderly, poor and infirm; practicing mercy, charity and goodwill toward others; fostering generosity, honesty and communal concern. Statistics show that these are best put into practice in the most nonreligious nations in the world today.( Religious countries (and Bible Belt states) also have much higher rates of violent crime and teen pregnancy than more secular countries. I wonder what would happen if we elected more secular politicians.

I look forward to seeing Ricky Gervais’ new show, Afterlife, which features an atheist. I hope it will call attention to a much-underrated movie directed by and starring Ricky Gervais in 2010. The Invention of Lying is about a culture in which nobody can lie. There is not even a word for “lie” or for “truth.” Then one person develops the ability to lie. With the best of intentions, our liar-hero, Mark, tries to comfort his dying mother by telling her that she will be going to a wonderful afterlife. Naturally, she and others believe him. Soon everyone is begging for information about this afterlife. He then tells the world there is a Man in the Sky who is responsible for everything, and they will be happy up there with him after death. When asked if the Man in the Sky is also responsible for cancer, Mark has to grapple with theodicy, the question no monotheistic religion has been able to answer: Why is there evil in a world created by an all-powerful and benevolent god? The movie’s theme was that Man in the Sky religion is possible only in a world where it’s possible to lie.

To add to John Lennon’s “Imagine no religion,” imagine a world where politicians don’t lie. More realistically, I’d just as soon imagine an American electorate that doesn’t much care about the private religious views of elected officials, and politicians don’t make them part of their public campaigns.

About Herb Silverman

Herb Silverman is Founder and President of the Secular Coalition for America, and founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry in Charleston, South Carolina. He was founder and faculty advisor to the College of Charleston student Atheist/Humanist Alliance. He is a board member of the American Humanist Association as well as a Humanist Celebrant, advisory board member of the Secular Student Alliance, and member of the Advisory Council of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He has served on the boards of the Atheist Alliance and the Humanist Institute. He has written for "On Faith" at the Washington Post and for the Huffington Post. He has spoken at a number of conferences and written articles for many freethought publications. He has appeared in a number of debates on topics like: Can we be moral without God? Does God exist? Is America a Christian nation? He has also debated at the Oxford Union in Oxford, England on the topic: Does American Religion Undermine American Values? Here is information on his recent book, Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt

  • rick b

    I have a question for all you Atheists. I promise I am not here to debate and wont stay wasting your time.

    I am a Christian and I meet on line an atheist and you can read for yourself everything I am asking about at this site if you so desire.

    Anyway my question is this.
    An atheist going by the moniker CD-host is trying to tell me he is an Atheist, he does not believe in God or any gods for all that it matter. Yet he study all religions and said if he really wanted to he would choose Mormonism over all out their, yet he is simply to lazy to lazy to practice so he chooses not to. Then he defends Mormonism with more passion than the Mormons due.

    Maybe it's just me, But I have never meet an Atheist who claims God does not exist and then goes onto defend a religion with more passion than the members of that religion do.

    What are your thoughts as an Atheist on this subject? Do you think he really is an atheist? do you think he has some sort of agenda? or just any thoughts in General, Thnaks. Rick b

  • Herb Silverman

    A good lawyer who gathers relevant evidence and studies a case carefully can probably argue both sides better than a lazy lawyer. Surveys have shown that atheists know the bible better than most believers, so I'm not surprised that some atheists also can better argue both sides than believers. Some atheists might argue that one religion is better than another. However, by definition, no atheists believe in the existence of any gods.

  • rick b

    I am not one of those Christians that does not know the Bible. I know it really well and can defend my faith to the point most atheists wont talk to me because I show them stuff they cannot fight against.

    But I understand the issue of lawyers as you were saying, I guess better wording my question, it would be like this. If Atheists dont believe in any gods, why would an atheist bother defending one religion at all?

    Why would you take the time to study two different religions, then go to a website and stand up for one religion and defend it to the point that your acting like you are part of that religion, and you defend it with more passion and conviction than the people who even study that religion.

    It seems to me, that would be like You as an atheist studying the Bible, then going to another atheists website and defending the Bible and standing up for the Christians against fellow atheists and defending the Bible with more passion and conviction than the Christians themselves. Why would you do that? That was my question, why an Atheist would bother doing that. Rick

  • Bradley Bowen

    Rick B said…
    Then he defends Mormonism with more passion than the Mormons due.

    Maybe it's just me, But I have never meet an Atheist who claims God does not exist and then goes onto defend a religion with more passion than the members of that religion do.
    I don't know why CD-host is defending Mormonism, but I can tell you why I might do so.

    The supernatural claims of Mormonism are as supportable or are even more supportable than the supernatural claims of Evangelical and Catholic Christianity. But Evangelical and Catholic Christians are able to see the flaws in Mormon supernatural claims more easily than they can see the same weaknesses in their own analogous beliefs.

    If I could get an Evangelical or Catholic Christian to raise some good objections to the claims of Mormonism, I would then take those objections, turn them around, and point them back at similar supernatural beliefs of Evangelical and Catholic Christians.

    If I were to defend Mormonism, it would be to help an Evangelical or Catholic Christian to come to see the logical inconsistency between their rejection of Mormonism and their acceptance of orthodox Christian beliefs.

  • Herb Silverman

    As far as atheists defending the Bible, I've said that it contains some wisdom. Thomas Jefferson referred to those nuggets as "Diamonds in a dunghill." I also defend the wisdom contained in Aesop's fables. Fortunately, nobody takes those talking animal stories literally.

  • rick b

    I'm so glad you mentioned the Bible having wisdom, Because it does. Proverbs says, The Fool Hath said in His heart, their is no God. Thats wisdom.

    Then since you mentioned Aesop's fables, let me tell you a fable I really enjoy.

    Their were these groups of people called fools, They said in their hearts, lets tell people that some bolt of lightning struck some poisons gas and as a result some single cell creatures arose. We have life coming from Non-life and we have zero evidence of this. But we will tell everyone that it is true.

    Then if anyone asks, we will say that we know that it is true even though we cannot prove it. Then we will tell people that these little single cell creatures got a scratch that turned into a good mutation.

    But after many good mutations we got life like us. But then now we cannot explain why these mutations now no longer produce good things and only will kill us now.

    And we will make sure anyone who denies these teachings will be fired from their jobs and we will make fun of them. And we will write blogs and websites wasting what little time we have with our lives to poke fun at people for not believing what we believe. Yep Thats a great fable if I ever heard one.