Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Ethical Atheist Politician - Building a Political Foundation

The Ethical Atheist Politician - Establishing a Foundation

My fifth project this year is to look at the life of an ethical atheist politician.

I know that very few (if any) readers intend to actually become ethical atheist politicians. (I would hope that it is the last these three elements that is missing, that there is an interest in the first element, and that the middle element will at least be considered.)

However, we all have an interest in quality leadership. Eight years of Bush Jr. has shown us the high cost of poor leadership - in terms of lives and limbs lost (American and foreign), wealth squandered, and families thrown out of their jobs and homes.

On this regard, please note that there is nothing about being an atheist that uniquely qualifies a person for public office. However, there is nothing about being an atheist that disqualifies that person either - though many people think there is. The focus on the atheist politician in this series simply acknowledges the need to challenge the practice of denying atheists a seat at the table where the rules are being made or decided upon. If there shall be an ethical atheist sitting at the table, what would that ethical atheist look like? And how can we make that happen?

In yesterday's post I covered the first objective for the ethical atheist politician - getting one's name on the ballot. This requires that there be an infrastructure in place that has the resources necessary to reach that objective.

I also pointed out, for the sake of those who want to put effort into promoting better leadership, that one can create the organization and put it to work without actually having a candidate to support. One of the tasks to be taken up by the group that sets up this infrastructure would be to look for qualified candidates to receive that aid.

Any atheist or secular club can take up this project. It involves assigning some portion of the club to an elections committee. That committee, then, takes on the task of:

(1) Researching ballot-access legislation for the area, assembling it, and making it easily available to members of the organization.

(2) Establishing a list of potential contributors - not only of dollars, but of labor.

(3) Raise money to support the work of the committee.

(4) Create a database of important contacts - community leaders who are known by members of the committee so that the committee can serve as a point of contact between a potential candidate and those leaders.

(5) Search the community for potential ethical atheist politicians.

Included in this last task would be the job of determining if any existing politicians qualify as deserving the support that the committee has to offer. This might include a project of creating a survey and giving it to candidates who have already qualified for the ballot to determine their views on atheists in this country.

The survey would include such things as asking whether the candidate agrees or disagrees with the following statements: "There are no atheists in foxholes," "A person who does not believe in God cannot inspire those under him or her to bravery," "We need to have a person of faith lead the country." (Mitt Romney, 2007)" or "Freedom requires religion." (Mitt Romney, 2008)".

Such a survey might ask, "If you discover that an otherwise well qualified potential nominee for a judgeship was an atheist, how would this affect your willingness to support that nominee?"

Surveys such as this are not only used to determine the opinions of a candidate, but to educate the candidate on issues the candidate might not otherwise have encountered. For example, "The Pledge of Allegiance says that a loyal American supports a nation under God, while the motto says that a loyal American supports, 'In God We Trust'. Do you think that an atheist can be a loyal American?"

This should be done with the help of a professional surveyer. Atheist and secular organizations tend to have strong ties to academic institutions, which should allow the organization to draw on those resources apply their knowledge to the task at hand.

These and similar efforts would help to establish a foundation for the ethical atheist candidate, as soon as one comes along. While the fact that there is an organization in place that is willing to provide this type of assistance, and who has laid the foundation locally to support such a candidate, should increase the chances that such a candidate will come along to support.

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