In the United States of America you have to search really hard to find politicians who can successfully win a campaign without having a religious affiliation on their resume. Pete Stark (D-CA) became the first openly atheist U.S. Congressman when he made his convictions known in 2007, but one congressman from California’s stanchly liberal 13th district falls flat of giving the atheist community proportional representation in Congress. American religious demographics aren’t likely to be progressive enough to allow for an atheist to lead the country such as Australia’s Prime Minister Julian Gillard for a long time, especially in an atmosphere where the current president is repeatedly accused in ignorant circles as secretly possibly being a Muslim as if that were a horrible thing to be.
With atheists all over America cringing at the religious statements being made by Republican candidates in the first of the recent Republican Presidential Debates, this is a good chance to highlight exactly what turns off atheist voters in terms of intolerance and bigotry displayed in the people who might make it to the 2012 ballot.
On same sex marriage:
– Ron Paul said,” The federal government shouldn’t be involved. I wouldn’t support an amendment. But let me suggest — one of the ways to solve this ongoing debate about marriage, look up in the dictionary. We know what marriage is all about. But then, get the government out of it. Why doesn’t it go to the church? And why doesn’t it to go to the individuals? I don’t think government should give us a license to get married. It should be in the church.” (CNN.com)
As an atheist I have to wonder why my ability to marry someone should be determined by a church. If some of the more fundamentalist ministers in America had their way, Atheism might be just as much of a marriage no-no as homosexuality, open marriages, or living together before marriage. Also, why not include mosques, synagogues, Wiccan covens, and satanic temples in the conversation instead of just the majority religion?
On the separation of church and state:
– Tim Pawlenty said,” Well, the protections between the separation of church and state were designed to protect people of faith from government, not government from people of faith. This is a country that in our founding documents says we’re a nation that’s founded under God, and the privileges and blessings at that we have are from our creator. They’re not from our member of Congress. They’re not from our county commissioner.” (CNN.com)
I disagree with Governor Pawlenty’s stance because if government isn’t protected from the influence of religion it is the minority religions (along with atheists) that run the very real risk of being oppressed by the social values of the dominant religious institutions of the country. The separation of church and state protects minority religious positions from discrimination by limiting the ability for majority religions to control government policies.
Also including a respect for the use of faith in leadership and decision making when asked about the separation of church and state were Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. For most atheists this is not the kind of quality we are looking for when we vote. Quickly following this was Herman Cain’s backpedaling and clarifications on why he said he’d feel uncomfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet in a previous interview, along with Newt Gingrich stoking the fires of Islamophobia with a story about a failed car bomber who told a judge he lied when he swore an oath to the United States during naturalization. The cheers from the crowd as Gingrich spun the fear of people infiltrating the government with anti-U.S. sentiments were chilling to me as I realized that the one group the American Christian majority is afraid of more than Muslims is atheists, and we could be next on the menu for the fear mongering tour.