Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010: Atheists in Public Office

In 2010, we will see that no substantive progress has been made in cracking the wall that keeps atheists out of public office.

This is because no substantive work is being done towards that end, and is foolish to expect that it will happen by magic or as a gift from some supernatural entity looking down and bestowing blessings on the atheist community. It is an end that will only come from hard work. However, no work is being done towards that end.

Just to be clear, I do not think that anybody should be elected to public office because he is an atheist. Some people who call themselves atheists are . . . well . . . rather frightening.

However, am I really supposed to believe that, in this country, there is only one atheist qualified to hold public office at the national level, and none qualified to sit in a state legislature or as governor of any state?

The campaign to change the way that people think about atheists would not be a campaign to get people elected to public office because they are atheists. It would be a campaign to remove the barriers that keep people out of office because they are atheists.

Such a campaign would have to include substantive protests against the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Motto. Those protests need a new focus.

If the focus continues to be on the separation of church and state, then we can expect the effect of the next 40 years to be substantively the same as the effect of the last 40 years. It's a losing battle. This tactic has been turned into a rallying cry against the Constitution and the idea of separation of church and state that poses a real threat of tearing down that wall.

Support for the separation of church and state is weakening, and anything that is built on that foundation is likely to collapse with it.

The tactic should shift to focus on discrimination itself. "How dare you begin any civic ceremony with a statement that equates a lack of support for a nation under God with succession, tyranny, and injustice?

It is not enough to refuse to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. This act merely brands the person who performs it as anti-American and worthy of contempt. Remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance, and you are unfit to hold public office. The message is simple. Its effect is discriminatory.

It actually reinforces the message that the Pledge, with the words 'under God' is designed to deliver - the message that only those who believe in God are to be counted as true and loyal Americans.

It is necessary to actively protest the Pledge of Allegiance as discriminatory.

The Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office. Yet, the Pledge of Allegiance itself – the willingness to support a nation under God – is a de facto religious test for public office in almost all parts of the country.

It is necessary to actively protest the Pledge of Allegiance as hate-speech as written, because that is precisely what it is. It equates a lack of support for a nation under God with succession, tyranny, and injustice. We are supposed to hate succession, tyranny, and injustice. Therefore, the lesson that we are to draw from the Pledge of Allegiance is that we are also supposed to hate those who do not support a nation under God.

It is also necessary to protect the national motto, 'In God We Trust' as hate speech. For all practical purposes, what it says is that, "If you do not trust in God, you are not one of us." It is an instruction, direct from the U.S. government to all of its citizens, to consider anybody who does not trust in God as an outsider.

"If you trust in God, you are one of us. If you do not trust in God, you are one of them."

There is an unfortunate tendency for people to abuse the concept of hate speech. To some theists, the phrase, "I am an atheist" spoken within earshot of others counts as hate speech. The very fact that somebody actually states, "I do not think your God exists" is considered an attack on their religion - an attack that they seek to condemn and to silence by calling it hate speech.

However, the fact that this term is so widely abused does not imply that NOTHING legitimately counts as hate-speech.

I define hate-speech as any speech that blatantly and unjustly labels a particular group of people as worthy of hate. "I do not think your God exists" is not hate speech. If it were, than any statement of disagreement - any time a person says, "No, I think you are mistaken" - would have to be condemned as hate speech.

However, equating a lack of support for a nation under God with succession, tyranny, and injustice qualifies as hate speech.

Telling the people of the United States that a person has to trust in God to count as one of us, and a person who does not trust in God is to be thought of as one of them qualifies as hate speech.

As long as hate is our national motto, and children are encouraged to promise (pledge) to practice hate in our schools, and as long as civic ceremonies begin with a message of hate, the barrier between atheists and public office will remain substantially intact.

36 comments:

Transplanted Lawyer said...

I absolutely disagree. If an (open) atheist proposes to be elected to public office, actively protesting against the Pledge of Allegiance is an excellent tactic for ensuring that an otherwise-electable athiest receives the same gentle treatment from the voters that other atheists have.

The policy proposal should be much, much milder: make the 'under god' clause optional. It is already so, as a practical matter, in a forum like a court where the oath against perjury is typically administered with a reference to the divine as a "default" but few, if any, people have a problem with a request to omit the reference because of an individual objection. That is how getting God out of the Pledge should start, and it will be a gradual process.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

transplanted lawyer

You are absolutely correct.

In fact, the best way for an otherwise qualified atheist to get elected is to go to church, support the Pledge as written, and condemn atheists any time the subject comes up in conversation - associating atheism with the holocaust and Stalin's purges for example.

Technically, I was not talking about the candidate making these protests. I was talking about the rest of us non-candidates making these protests. Politicians are locked into a requirement to create their coalition of 51% of those who vote. It is up to the rest of us to make it possible to form a coalition of 51% that does not include discrimination against atheists.

Last, to make 'under God' option is still to make it optional to equate atheism with sucession, tyranny, and injustice.

I have proposed and fully support an option for a Pledge in which a person may voluntarily add at teh end, "So help me God" or whatever affirmation that expresses the individual's beliefs. I can see no moral objection against such an option.

profe said...

The pledge is simply not hate speech.

It was written in a time and place and by people that shared the same religious beliefs. The very fact that it doesn't say "under Christ" or similar references to their specific doctrine shows you how tolerant they were trying to be universal by saying "under God". I do agree that today it should be changed and has no place, but to call it hate speech is just wrong.

I also do prefer your "so help me God" at the end to "under God" in the middle, but essentially, there is hardly any difference.

Also please consider that Athiests, as a group, could have a tendancy to not want to run in public office. The fact that there are so few of them in office is not proof that it is made hard for them to get in. Now, if you knew of Athiests that would want to run for office except for such things as The Pledge, then you would obvously have a point.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

It was written in a time and place and by people that shared the same religious beliefs. The very fact that it doesn't say "under Christ" or similar references to their specific doctrine shows you how tolerant they were trying to be universal by saying "under God".

Under God was added in the 1950s as an act of the cold war. Its purpose was to promote public hostility towards 'atheist' communism. Its purpose was to keep 'atheist' communists out of public office. As with most bigotry, it cast its net far too wide and captured within it not only 'atheist' communists but all atheists. It's function is to keep all atheists out of public office and to reserve those seats in government exclusively for those who support 'one nation under God'.

I also do prefer your "so help me God" at the end to "under God" in the middle, but essentially, there is hardly any difference.

The difference is the same as the difference between, "I like broccoli" and "anybody who does not eat broccoli deserves our condemnation." I see this as a significant difference.

The pledge, as written, states that those who do not support a nation under God deserves the same condemnation as those who would support succession, tyranny, and injustice.

Also please consider that Athiests, as a group, could have a tendancy to not want to run in public office.

Also consider the possibility that atheists do not want to run for public office because they know that it is not an option for them. Instead, they turn their attention to areas where they will not be bashing their heads up against a wall - such as science.

The opportunities that are available to us have a significant influence on what we choose to want.

The fact remains, a substantial portion of the voting population reports that they would never vote for an atheist. If people were neutral with respect to atheist politicians, and we had these same results, your theory might have some weight. However, the current public hostility towards atheist politicians, fed as it is through the Pledge and the Motto, deprives atheists of an opportunity - whether they wish to accept it or not.

profe said...

I guess I need to brush up on my history, good point. However, I'm pretty sure that originally, so help me God was there, even though it must have been removed before the 1950's. This is important, under God being a reinstitution of an old part of the pledge. This gives the phrase a referential quality, refering to the Union's inception as a place not threatened by communism. Again, probably added by those who shared religious beliefs, and was meant to include all of those they considered under God, even American Athiests.

However, do you really think that believing people today who say "under God" think about it's meaning in your terms at all? I'd expect that they would also consider an Athiest to be "under God", just sharing different beliefs. To an Athiest, being referred to as under God may be offensive, but it is surely not an act of hatred.

I still think "so help me God," while being more personal, is essentially very similar. One who says so help me god would consider the nation to be under God, it's expressing the same belief in different words.

And you are right, there may be strong social walls preventing Athiests from office (in terms of citizns not wanting to elect them) but the only governmental barrier are the Pledge and the Motto, which, while they may offend Athiests and everyone who understands the
importance of separation of church and state, it is merely an offence, and not a true barrier (like the social barrier)

Transplanted Lawyer said...

Profe, Alonzo is correct to note that the original Pledge contained no reference to God at all. It also was not a creation of the Founding Fathers but rather of the post-Civil War era, so it does not recall the Union's "inception" but at best its "preservation." But "under God" was grafted in to the Pledge -- a novel addition to it and not a reinstatement of a previous version -- during the Eisenhower Administration.

Now, you are correct that there are no formal or legal impediments to atheists holding high office; they are social. Alonzo and I may disagree on the best way for those walls to come down, but we do agree that social prejudice against atheists must be driven from society, that such prejudice must be made as shameful as (for instance) prejudice against people of Jewish or African ancestry. I hope that you're with us in pursuing that goal.

Cecil Bothwell said...

It's remarkably easy to NOT SAY "under god" when reciting the pledge.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

However, do you really think that believing people today who say "under God" think about it's meaning in your terms at all?

Of course I do.

More importantly, it what children think when they are taught these words. The Pledge identifies four great 'un-Americanisms' - atheism, sucession, tyranny, and injustice.

If you think that the Pledge is not meant to indoctrinate children against atheism, then you must also think it was not meant to indoctrinate children against secession, tyranny, and injustice. On the other hand, if you take the Pledge as stating that no good American will support secession, tyranny, and injustice, then you must also take the Pledge as stating that no good American will support atheism.

To an Athiest, being referred to as under God may be offensive, but it is surely not an act of hatred.

Not at all. I think they are mistaken. They think I am mistaken. However, there is nothing denigrating in saying, "You are under God."

However, there is something significantly denigrating in saying, "You are as un-American as any person who supports secession, tyranny, or injustice." That is a derogatory statement and it is for that reason it should be proved true or condemned.

I still think "so help me God," while being more personal, is essentially very similar. One who says so help me god would consider the nation to be under God, it's expressing the same belief in different words.

Again, it is not the belief that we are 'under God' that is the issue. It is the prescription that equates atheism with secession, tyranny, and injustice that is the issue.

'so help me God' does not equate atheism with secession, tyranny, and injustice.

It is merely an offence, and not a true barrier (like the social barrier)

Effectively, the Pledge states that she should be as unwilling to support a politican who does not favor a nation under God as she should be in voting against a supporter of succession, tyranny, or injustice. It reflects and supports the social barriers that keep atheists out of office because it embodies the message that anybody who does not support a nation 'under God' is as unfit for public office as one who supports sucession, tyranny, or injustice.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Cecil Bothwell

It would also be remarkably easy not to say the words, "one nation, without blacks".

Yet, the fact that this is an easy thing NOT to say does not change the fact that a Pledge that has these words and that many people do say can be condemned for embodying bigotry and prejudice against blacks.

Nor would it be a huge stretch of the imagination to suggest that such a pledge might prove to be a barrier against blacks obtaining public office or even the respect the their fellow citizens in a country that had such an oath.

faithlessgod said...

Profe said:"Also please consider that Athiests, as a group, could have a tendancy to not want to run in public office. The fact that there are so few of them in office is not proof that it is made hard for them to get in."

My first response was what an incredibly poor argument. Still it is worth addressing, I suppose.

As for data well in the UK over 110 MPs (more than 1/6 of all MPs) are members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group

Indeed why on earth should the feature of having atheism as part of one's world view make one less inclined to participate ion the democratic process, no reason that I can think of.

Further history has shown many of the most important innovations that have given us our modern liberal democracies were often originally developed by such thinkers.

'nuff said

Cecil Bothwell said...

Of course, while we're discussing the Pledge of Allegiance it is well to note two historical items:

1. The pledge was created by a flag salesman to boost sales of American flags.
2. The words "under God" were added in the 1950s, during the Red Scare era, presumably to differentiate our idolatrous love of a flag from the godless communists' love of collective farms.

Profe said...

Ah, Alonzo, I think I've identified where we truly disagree. You see "under God" as being part of a list of equally equated descriptions, and I see it more as a side comment. I suspect that we may not ever agree because we are simply reading the statement differently.

I see "under God" as being something along the lines of "a great nation". Sort of like saying, "one nation with God on its side, that is indivisible with liberty and justice for all. This would mean that the pledge identifies three unamericanisms, while mentioning that we are all under God.

"Profe said:"Also please consider that Athiests, as a group, could have a tendancy to not want to run in public office. The fact that there are so few of them in office is not proof that it is made hard for them to get in."

My first response was what an incredibly poor argument. Still it is worth addressing, I suppose.

As for data well in the UK over 110 MPs (more than 1/6 of all MPs) are members of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group

Indeed why on earth should the feature of having atheism as part of one's world view make one less inclined to participate ion the democratic process, no reason that I can think of.

Further history has shown many of the most important innovations that have given us our modern liberal democracies were often originally developed by such thinkers."


As for this, I simply meant that the absence of Athiests is not proof that they are being held back from office. I think there is certainly other evidence that (you could argue) proves this, but the absence of Athiests from official positions does not.

There are a disproportional number of Jewish Nobel Prize winners. Is this because they have a bias towards Jews? Could be, but it is certainly not proof.

profe said...

Just to be clear, I was in no way implying that the Nobel committee does favor Jews.

Eneasz said...

Just to be clear, I was in no way implying that the Nobel committee does favor Jews.

I doubt anyone took it that way. :)

This is illustrative of the point though. You said something which you felt might be mistaken by someone as a racist statement, and quickly clarified that's not how you meant it. But when something is said that is very easily seen (sometimes correctly) as anti-atheist, people are quick to say "stop whining" instead of "that's not how I meant it".

I would certainly be much less critical of the pledge if they added the line "Just to be clear, we are in no way implying that the atheists are un-american" to it.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

You see "under God" as being part of a list of equally equated descriptions, and I see it more as a side comment.

There is absolutely nothing in Pledge to indicate that 'under God' is to be taken in any way different than 'indivisible' or 'with liberty and justice for all'.

One could make just as much sense in saying that 'with liberty' is 'nothing but a side comment' that does not in any way attempt to denigrate tyranny or cast it in an unfavorable light.

Once could say it, but it would be nonsense.

I suspect that we may not ever agree because we are simply reading the statement differently.

It does not matter how you or I read it. It matters the attitudes that it plants in others - particularly young children.

Tell me that a kid in grade school is supposed to hear the Pledge of Allegiance and say, "Oh, yes, there is a clear and obvious difference between what the Pledge says about those who do not believe in God, and what it says about those who would rebel like the South did in the civil war, or establish tyranny, or treat others unjustly."

Again, the suggestion is absurd.

John Doe said...

Whiiiine. Alonzo reminds me of the scene in "Platoon" where Sgt. Barnes talks about Sgt. Elias: "There's the way things ought to be, and the way things are." Life isn't "fair." Those in the minority aren't treated "fairly." You can accept that reality, and deal with it, or you can be an agitator and get kicked to curb. To get elected, you need a majority. You already got two strikes against you being an atheist. You can take a third strike, by asserting all kinds of whiney so-called rights, such as the right not to have us call this "One Nation, Under God", or you can let it slide off your back like water off a duck. I think I can see how you are gonna handle it. Good luck wid dat.

I wouldn't rule out voting for an atheist, but I would rule out somebody who is a dick and fights battles that aren't worth fighting.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

By that logic, John, there should be no Jewish people in office, no Black people in office, and no homosexuals in office. But there are people of each minority group who have gained high public office (Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Barney Frank, respectively).

I'm okay with you saying that this is "one nation, under God" if that's how you feel. All I ask is that you not compel me to say it, too. In your mind does that make me a "dick" ineligible for your support for public office.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

The John Doe concept of morality.

"Quit you wining and get to the back of the bus, boy. Life isn't fair. Get used to it."

supersage400 said...

In my high school, nobody even knows what they're saying when they repeat the pledge every morning. They couldn't care less about any of it because they don't take it seriously. It doesn't make a difference whether or not "under God" is there for them. But this, I think, is largely because there's not much atheist intolerance where I live. If I lived in, say, Texas or Kentucky, where people care about that sort of thing, I can see why this would be a huge problem. On principle, I agree wholeheartedly that "under God" is something that shouldn't be there.

John Doe said...

Oh, LOOK! Now Alonzo's little pet peeve is the equivalent of segregation. Hard to argue with that--you win. No, wait, except it isn't even close.

I have no problems with "One nation, under God" because if you ungodly heathen were in the vast majority you would cram your beliefs down my throat, too. Why do I say that? Because when in a very small minority, you still want what makes you feel uncomfortable to be the principal that all of the rest of us have to cater to. Your poor widdle peelings trump everybody else's desires. Sorry your feelings are hurt, but deal with it, is all I'm saying. Your post sounded like it was written by a little juvenile to this jaded old man.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

if you ungodly heathen were in the vast majority you would cram your beliefs down my throat, too.

This is a common argument used down through the ages to justify discrimination of all sorts.

"We are justified in treating this minority group unjustly because, if they were the majority and we were the minority, they would treat us unjustly."

It can be applied to blacks, catholics, Jews, the Irish, hispanics . . . anybody.

It is, indeed, the universal defense of the bigot.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Your poor widdle peelings trump everybody else's desires.

I have not talked about feelings.

I have talked about a cultural barrier that filters atheists and others who do not support 'one nation under God' from holding public office.

Your attempt to reframe the issue is fundamentally dishonest - displaying an overall lack of interest in truth that is substantially comaparable to your overall lack of interest in justice or fairness.

Transplanted Lawyer said...

Alonzo, it's obvious at this point that John Doe is a troll and he is uninterested in actually exchanging ideas in any meaningful way. Don't feed the troll.

Calvin said...

Might I suggest that John's not treating Alonzo's arguments with respect because he knows Alonzo has a proven record of dishonesty?

supersage400 said...

^ Even if Alonzo had said record of dishonesty (which I don't see any reason to think is the case), does that justify John Doe's disrespect? I've always been told that two wrongs don't make a right.

John Doe said...

Alonzo, you didn't mention your "feelings" but they come dripping through in your positions. OK, we all get that you are an atheist. But it is sorta like being a queer. You don't have to go around telling us what you do in the bedroom. By refusing to stand, you make a mountain out of a molehill. Ever think of just not mouthing those two EVIL words, "under God"? Nobody has to know.

And "In God We Trust" is hate speech? Jumping to such conclusions is why I called your reasoning juvenile. "Mommy, Jimmy called me a freckle face!" "So?" "I don't liiiiiiiike it!" (Alonzo's mommy probably said, "Ok, Jimmy, don't call Alonzo a freckle face." What she should have said is "Alonzo, sticks and stones... so deal with it and quit acting like a child.")

My point is that acting juvenile is not the way to get elected, or to win friends and and influence people. There are a lot of things that I don't like about society, or customs, or certain holidays. I don't go around protesting them and making an ass of myself. Two maxims in life you should learn: Don't sweat the small stuff. Everything is small stuff.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

I am not interested in "respect" for arguments.

An argument is to be criticized by showing either that it has a false preference, or that it contains an invalid deductive inference or weak inductive inference from the premises to the conclusion.

Any objections made to an argument by criticizing the person who made the argument represents the logical fallacy argumentum ad hominem.

It is a type of demagoguery used by people who are more interested in scoring rhetorical points than in determining the actual quality of the argument used in a debate.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Ever think of just not mouthing those two EVIL words, "under God"? Nobody has to know.

I answered that option in addressing another comment. If there was a Pledge of Allegiance to "one nation without any blacks", it is absurd to argue that the statement is not racist because black people have the option not to say them.

Also, the phrase "under God" does not represent two evil words. The evil comes from the context that says that those who do not support one nation under God deserve the same lack of respect one should give to those who do not support a nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

words are neither good nor evil. People are good or evil. One form that evil can take is an eagerness to unjustly denigrate whole groups of individuals and to teach children they are lesser beings (deserving the same condemnation as those who support rebellion, tyranny, or injustice) without good reason to do so.

And "In God We Trust" is hate speech? Jumping to such conclusions is why I called your reasoning juvenile.

I explained my reasoning in the post above. Hate speech seeks to unjustly denigrate whole groups of people. Declaring that a person is not good enough to be considered one of "us" unless they "trust in God" is clearly denigrates those who do not trust in God by saying they are not good enough to be counted as one of "us".

My point is that acting juvenile is not the way to get elected, or to win friends and and influence people.

Actually, I would disagree with that. It seems to have worked out quite well for a lot of people currently holding public office.

supersage400 said...

Of course whether it is done with respect or not, if an argument is dismantled, it is simply false. If we're going to talk about how to treat others, however, I think respect is certainly worth showing in most if not all cases. I don't see how it can be said that disrespect to one person is justifiable on the grounds that that person did something wrong themselves.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Mottos are clearly prescriptive, not merely descriptive.

The Marine motto Semper Fidelis does not say, "Well, most Marines happen to be faithful to their comrades in armes but it is okay if any given Marine is not."

It says, "If you are not faithful to your comrades in arms, you do not deserve to call yourself a Marine."

Similarly, a national motto of In God We Trust does not say, "Well, most Americans happen to trust in God but it is okay if you do not."

It says, "If you do not trust in God, you do not deserve to call yourself one of us (an American)."

Mottos are used to denigrate and brand as worthy of condemnation those who do not meet the conditions established by that motto.

The national motto, then, is used to denigrate those who do not trust in God.

Or, perhaps somebody can tell me why the national motto is different from every other motto.

John Doe said...

You have not constructed an argument for why we should not have the words "under God" in the pledge. You just don't like it. You have this illogical belief that those words somehow express "that those who do not support one nation under God deserve the same lack of respect one should give to those who do not support a nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

You are just reading waaaay too much into it. The majority has decided that indeed, this is one nation, under God. You don't have a right not to have your feelings hurt over your own interpretation of what they mean. Besides that you are simply wrong. I'm part of that majority, and I certainly am not saying atheists are bad people, or that they aren't worthy of being elected, and neither is the majority of America. Rather, they are saying this is a big enough tent such that even those who don't believe in God are still part of this nation "under God."

I GET IT. You are offended because of how you perceive the words to be meant. I'm saying you are wrong. And also that you are making a big deal out of nothing. That is your right, but you don't have the right to have the vast majority cow down and change just because you don't like it. Nothing in the Constitution says Alphonzo gets to determine, based on what happens to be perceived as offensive to him, what is in the Pledge or our national motto.

What you really are doing is trying to be a militant, sort of as certain blacks sometimes do, when they go about searching for reasons to feel offended, seeking racism that isn't there and acting all offended by perceived slights that were not meant to be taken as slights.

Certainly, there is prejudice in America against blacks and atheists, but people who go out of there way to make mountains out of molehills of every little perceived slight do not further their--if their cause is persuading people to see what they perceive to be the truth.

They do however further their cause if it is just to be contrary and to get attention, and to cause controversy. Which is your cause?

Eneasz said...

Hi John Doe. I just wanted to say thanks for your latest post. It actually contributed to the discussion and was interesting. Hopefully more of your future comments will be like this one and not like the dozen before it.

John Doe said...

I appreciate that Eneasz. I get carried away easily and often. Aside from the mean delivery, if you follow my comments to this post, they all are saying essentially the same thing, just the first few were in an unkind manner. Nobody gets their mind changed by someone who is acting like a dick while trying to do it.

Brian said...

Alonzo misrepresents both the magnitude and essence of the problem implied by his statistic of only one out atheist in public office.

The problem is primarily not how people think about atheists. The problem is how people think about how people think about atheists.

Imagine the following voter. In the race for the House of Representatives he thinking of voting for Barney Frank, an openly gay politician with a 100% NARAL rating and an advocate of legalized drugs. He knows Frank once paid a man to have sex with him, hired him as a staffer, wrote letters on his behalf to a parole board, and then had him live in his home, from which the man began a prostitution ring. The voter is fine with Frank's liberal Judaism. However, upon learning of Frank's atheism, he decides to change his vote. (This includes not voting instead of voting and voting for an opponent instead of not voting).

Now, take it a step further. Imagine tens of thousands of such people...in a single district in Massachusetts.

I agree that atheism may be an obstacle, as being an unpreferred race or gender might be, but it would be ludicrous to pretend it is near an absolute bar. People already frequently vote for candidates they have many reservations about.

The majority of congressional seats in America are safe, and many of those are held by Democrats. I don't believe that a candidate in the general election would be held back in most of those by atheism.

Many safe seats are held by Republicans, and it is hard to know how many would be deep red under a Republican atheist because the more Republican an area is, the more likely it is to have a strong religious presence.

Being an atheist may be a significant obstacle for a Republican seeking to excite his base. However, consider the 2008 primary election, when conservatives nominated the only candidate endorsed by the N.Y. Times - to conservatives that is akin to being endorsed by the devil himself - because they considered him their best chance to win. People are partisan.

The dynamic undercutting an extreme application of the idea that the problem is "...the way that people think about atheists..." is that the more fundamentalist someone is, the more likely it is his vote is already set Republican. The less fundamentalist someone is, the less of a problem there is in how they think about atheists.

Democrats seem to suffer from self consciousness, as if they have to prove themselves tough. I believe this accounts for many of their actions regarding the death penalty, drugs, issues of national security, and so forth. Religion seems to fit this pattern perfectly. Democrats are more ostentatiously religious than Republicans, and this stems from insecurity: individuals pretend to be more religious than they are and/or the party selects overmuch for religiosity.

Since this is not necessary, they are like Pronghorn Antelopes evolved to elude predators that no longer exist. In any case, religious Republicans are already partisans ready to vote for atheists if they must.

Getting an atheist nominated under one of the major parties is what is required to get an atheist elected. Atheists buying into the conventional wisdom that an out atheist can't be elected may be the main reason so few are. I don't blame the general electorate, which is not presented with out atheist candidates. Efforts should be undertaken to support atheists at lower levels of politics.

Creating controversy over the pledge would be right even if there were only one atheist in America. However, it probably increases the liability of being an atheist and makes it harder for an out atheist to be nominated. It might be an effective strategy were your conclusion true that there was widespread dismissal of atheists as citizens that needed to be cracked, rather than moderate prejudice that is one factor of how people judge others. (Once again, the influence of the most prejudiced people is substantially limited to one party's nomination process.)

John Doe said...

Brian, I'd vote for an atheist with a strong and proven track record of supporting conservative values over a person who just went to church in order to gain a political base at Rev. Wright's church. Most "Christian" Republicans are phoney, any way. I view politicians as Lincoln viewed Grant. "I can't spare this man [Grant]. He FIGHTS."

Maybe many other Christians do not feel the same way as I do. But it works both ways. I believe there is as much bias against Christians by Atheists as vice versa.

Anonymous said...

I came across this blog while performing research for a paper on the influence of religion in the government. Around the age when most children start to become conscious of themselves, I are realized I didn't believe in a god. I was still in school when it became optional to say “under god.” When I omitted those two words from the pledge I became an outsider for that moment. I have a naturally booming voice. When I didn’t say “under god” the people around me looked at me as if I had done something wrong. The pledge is said in unison. By not saying “under god” I felt un-American and an outsider to my peers. I have talked to others who have shared similar experiences. Having “under god” made optional actually makes it easier to feel disconnected and making it mandatory would just make the pledge have no meaning.