Not Saussure

March 15, 2007

Irreligous minorities in US Politics

Filed under: Politics, Religion, usa — notsaussure @ 10:33 pm

Some time ago I commented on the Gallop finding that 53% of Americans reckon they wouldn’t vote for an atheist as President.   While I still doubt how much you can read into that figure, since I find it impossible to believe that 53% of Americans would, when it came down to it, refuse to vote for someone with whose politics they agreed, purely on the grounds he didn’t believe in God, I must say I was a bit surprised to learn, via Andrew Sullivan, that only one member of Congress (Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.)) is prepared to admit to being an unbeliever.   He admitted this shocking fact in a survey, conducted by the Secular Coalition for America, intended to discover the highest-ranking elected official in the US prepared to come out of the closet as an

atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States.

Even then, as The Economist comments, he’s a pretty religious-ish sort of atheist; he told The Washington Post (fourth item down)

“I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.”

so he’s still a member of a church, even if he doesn’t believe in God. According to The Washington Post, the deputy historian of the House of Representatives says that although other members of Congress have, in the past, professed themselves to be ‘free-thinkers’,

“As far as I know, Representative Stark is the first self-proclaimed non-theist,”

Other than the courageous Rep Stark, only three other elected officials were prepared to admit their lack of belief, and — without any disrespect — they hardly move in the highest corridors of power; they’re

Terry S. Doran, president of the School Board in Berkeley, Calif.; Nancy Glista on the School Committee in Franklin, Maine; and Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from Arlington, Mass.

According to the Washington Post,

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) is the first Muslim in Congress. Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) are the first Buddhists.

and I find it hard to credit there are more Buddhists than atheists or agnostics in the Congress, so I can’t imagine the results are in any way representative of American politicians’ true views (politicians being disingenuous about what they believe — surely not?) .

Were such a survey conducted here, one imagines that iit would elicit a similarly sparse response, but on the perfectly good grounds that ‘It’s none of your business’. There, I fear, it’s probably more because the politicians are worried about what their constituents might make of their atheism.

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