Atheism in Politics


History will remember the 2008 Presidential race for many different reasons, but none less so than the sheer amount of prejudice and stereotypes that were broken. Undoubtedly, the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have given many, many people a hope that was previously unexpected. During the final concession speech that Hillary Clinton made, she made a particularly poignant statement: that the most remarkable part of both Obama and her own campaigns is that now it is so very UNremarkable that a black man and a woman can have a serious shot at the highest office in our country.

What about other glass ceilings that have yet to be broken in politics, however? After all, Obama and Clinton have opened the floodgates for future candidates, but what is next? Until JFK, Catholics were shunned from the public eye; afterward, they were perfectly fine. Bill Richardson is one of the most successful Hispanic political figures and has done much for that minority as well, but what about another cultural subgroup; one that I am a part of – what about atheists?

An Atheist politician is, frankly, an oxymoron in our society. It just doesn’t happen. It’s too politically damaging to admit that you don’t believe in a higher power, as ridiculous as that may seem to some. The fact is that people simply will not vote for an atheist. Replace the word “atheist” with another subgroup like “Jew” or “Asian” and you’ve got a racial uproar, however, no one seems to mind about atheism.

Is this not absurd?

Should our country not be able to move past something that the Founding Fathers themselves tried to minimize in the very document that decides how our country is SUPPOSED to run itself?

Thomas Jefferson, one of the most intelligent men of his era, coined the phrase “separation of church and state”, but its principles are woven throughout the fibers and binding of our great nation. Why, then, are we unable to separate matters that deal solely in the realm of church and religion from those that govern our cities, states, and nation?

Why does atheism NOT exist in Washington?

I was only slightly encouraged to find out that there was, in fact, ONE elected representative in Washington, Pete Stark, that states that he does not believe in a supreme being, but even he won’t declare himself atheist or agnostic – he’s a United Unitarian.

That, sadly, smacks of cowardice.

I understand that the majority of this nation IS religious. I’m fine with that. I’m fine with religious people being in politics. I’ll gladly vote for a Christian if he can separate his religion from his duty to the nation, just as I’d gladly vote for a Muslim or Hindu or a person belonging to ANY religion so long as he/she does not allow it to affect his work. All that I want and ask is that people do the same for atheists.

With atheism undergoing a slight Renaissance under the guidance of authors like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, perhaps it is a possibility for the future. I think, though, for any true progress to occur, a charismatic non-believer will have to come on the scene and show that atheists are people too and that we’re not monstrous devils after all.

Politics and civil rights are two things that many people are passionate about, so when they so closely intertwine like this, it is an unavoidable annoyance and problem for many.

Perhaps in my lifetime, I will see atheism revealed as a topic and an acceptable belief and mindset, just as homosexuality has become relatively accepted after centuries of bigotry, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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