Saturday, November 10, 2012
CAN AN ATHEIST BE ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE USA?
The Honolulu Star Advertiser today published a New York Times article on faith and Congress, which featured new Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who becomes the only Buddhist in her chamber, and new Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who becomes the only Hindu in the U.S. Congress. Reflective of true faith, though, is Senator Hirono, who calls herself a non-practicing Buddhist. Gabbard's belief is a bit complicated, for her mother is Hindu and father Catholic. Congresswoman Gabbard says, "My attempts to work for the welfare of others and the planet is the core of my spiritual practice."
My second book, SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity included a chapter on religion that delved into atheism. Some interesting facts:
- In the U.S. Senate:
- 13% are Jewish (1.7% of the population)
- 6% Mormon (1.4% of population)
- 1% Buddhist (0.7% of population)
- 0% Muslim (0.6% of population)
- 0% Non affiliated (16% of population)
A key indication is that there is no atheist in the U.S. Senate. The Pew Forum reported that the 112th (former) Congress had no atheist in either chamber. Not correct, for Congressman Pete Stark came out, but only when he indicated he would not again run for office.
However, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) was just confirmed to have won a seat in the House of Representatives. She is bisexual, for LBGT (lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgendered) equality and a nontheist. This is not quite atheist, and a general term for one who doesn't believe in a God.
There has, of course, been no atheist POTUS. However, with the arrival of a new movie entitled Lincoln, it is is of interest to note that his closest acquaintance, William Herndon, described Lincoln as "at times, an atheist."
Are there closet atheists in national elected office? Of course. Gallup thinks 3.4% of Americans are gay. To analogize, take the matter of not being heterosexual in the entertainment industry. Actors and broadcasters worry some about how this matter will affect their popularity, but Ellen Degeneres declared in 1997 and has thrived. Recently, too, Jim Parsons (left, The Big Bang Theory), Anderson Cooper (CNN), Don Lemon (CNN) and Rachel Maddow (right, MSNBC). Famous leaders in the past include Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart. Augustus Caesar, Peter the Great, Montezuma II and Dag Hammerskjold.
So the logic goes that there must be a few non-believers who are afraid (or smart enough) to publicize their religious proclivities. The Secular Coalition of America indicated that there were 22 secret atheists in the U.S. Congress in 2008 and 27 last year.
In a Gallup poll this year, 54% said they would vote for a well qualified atheist into the Oval Office. However, 68% of the same group said they would vote for a gay/lesbian and 58% for a Muslim. Last year the atheist figure was 50%. From SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:
In a 2007 Gallup poll asking Americans how they would vote on the presidency with candidates having the following religious faith:
o Catholic 95%
o Black 94%
o Jewish 92%
o Woman 88%
o Mormon 72%
o Atheist 45%
Thus, the trend is obvious.
In similar vein, the American Enterprise Institute (a Republican think tank) reported that 43% would NOT vote for a well-qualified atheist. Compare this to black (4%), woman (5%), and Catholic (6%), and atheists have a long way to go.
Thus my contention that today an atheist could not be elected president of the United States (POTUS). Someday in the future, almost surely, but that 43% resistance has to drop to less than 10% for a non-religious person to be electable as POTUS.