There may be no atheists in foxholes, but there are in congress
Rep. Pete Stark, D-CA, a 75 year old who's represented his suburban San Franscisco district for the past thirty-four years recently acknowledged that he's, "a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being".
Normally, that simple statement would be the kiss of death to a politician, but Stark continues to enjoy support from his district.
Stark, 75, said he was shocked by the volume of letters, phone calls and e-mails since March 12, when he acknowledged his ''nontheism'' in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America.
Stark calls himself ''a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.'' He was the only member of the 535-person Congress willing to say he or she was an atheist.
The coalition was offering a $1,000 prize to the person who could identify the ''highest level atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States.'' The group wanted to highlight the difficulty politicians have declaring they don't believe in God, and organizers expected no one from Congress to come forward.
Stark, a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he's received more than 500 responses since March 12; about 25 were negative. On Tuesday, the American Humanist Association took out an ad in The Washington Post supporting Stark.
Constituent Chuck Cannon of Concord compared Stark to civil rights leader Rosa Parks, praising him for bucking the trend of politicians who emphasize their religious faith and faithfulness.
I find Stark's honesty in coming forward and acknowledging his beliefs refreshing, and a positive sign that despite many indications to the contrary in the area of religious freedom, the country may be making progress. The fact that a Muslim was elected to congress last year also inspires hope that the American people are not as close-minded as they often appear on matters of religion and government.
As politicians are sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, I find it hard to make a case that someone who happens to not have a belief in a surpreme being or who doesn't adhere to an established religion can't be fully capable of doing just that. As a matter of fact, a person who wouldn't be under undue pressure to either please those representing a certain sect of a religion or have his or her judgement affected by a peculiar religious belief would in many ways be a superior candidate to "support and defend" the foundation document of our government.
Too often, and in particularly in the Bush era, those with fundementalist or "Christian right" affiliations have shown themselves not only willing, but eager to tamper with the constitution and law and show a rather shabby disdain for the core institutions of government, openly proclaiming their belief that their particular interpretation of "God's law" supercedes the law and constitution of our nation.
I consider this to be the threat to the constitution that it clearly is, and it's not in the best interests of the country or it's citizens.
Until this historic moment, no politicians would dare acknowledge their lack of belief in a higher power, assuming, likely correctly, that it would be a kiss of death. As far as I know, no one to this day has ever been elected to high office who was openly atheistic.
The fact of the matter is that there have likely been hundreds and hundreds of elected officials who either were atheists or agostics, but they, being politicians, knew better than to admit it, and instead kept up the charade of religious belief for political survival.
So... I'm curious. Is there any rational reason why someone who is an atheist or agnostic could not be a perfectly good representitive of his or her constituents?
Why would professing belief in a particular religious faith be an absolute requirement for protecting and defending the constitution of the United States?
Or is an atheist or agnostic perfectly able to be a moral and ethical representive in government?