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The First Openly Atheist Congressman

Old 03-14-07, 09:24 PM
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The First Openly Atheist Congressman

From ABCNews.com:
Rep. Stark Applauded for Atheist Outlook

American Humanist Association: Rep. Stark Is Highest-Ranking Official to Declare Atheism

WASHINGTON Mar 13, 2007 (AP)— The American Humanist Association applauded Rep. Pete Stark for publicly acknowledging he does not believe in a supreme being. The declaration, it said, makes him the highest-ranking elected official and first congressman to proclaim to be an atheist. The organization took out an ad in Tuesday's Washington Post, congratulating the California Democrat for his stance.

"With Stark's courageous public announcement of his nontheism, it is our hope that he will become an inspiration for others who have hidden their conclusions for far too long," executive director Roy Speckhardt said in a statement.

Stark's beliefs garnered attention after the Secular Coalition for America offered 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."

Associate director Ron Millar told the Los Angeles Times that the group wanted to highlight the difficulty that politicians have declaring they don't believe in God.

A member of American Atheists California nominated Stark.

"We didn't think we'd have any member of Congress come forward," Millar said.

Stark, whose district is in the San Francisco Bay-area town of Fremont, confirmed his belief in a statement to The Associated Press late Monday. He said he was "a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being."

"I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services," he wrote.

Unitarian Universalism describes itself as creedless, allowing members to shape their beliefs based on personal experience rather than an authoritative statement of religious belief. Some members believe in God, but not all do.

Stark has represented Fremont in Congress since 1973 and chairs the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.
First of all I'd say -- about time. Since atheists make up about 5% of the American public, it stands to reason that there are probably several closeted atheists within the House or Senate.

Secondly, I do recognize that it's a small step. Less than half of Americans polled said that they'd be willing to vote for an atheist for President -- and I actually suspect that the actual number would be much lower when you factor in the anonymity of the voting booth. Still, it is a step -- and one that I suspect several members of this forum would applaud.

So what do you think? Would you vote for someone who was an open atheist? Would you trust them? Will we ever elect an atheist President?
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Old 03-14-07, 09:30 PM
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I would not have a problem but I could not ever see an atheist President.
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Old 03-14-07, 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
I fail to see why this is considered a great advancement.
Umm, I think it means that he's smarter than the drones who think there is a god.
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Old 03-14-07, 10:39 PM
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I, for one, welcome our new godless atheist overlords.
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Old 03-14-07, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Vandelay_Inds
I fail to see why this is considered a great advancement.
The reality is that a decent percentage of Americans -- somewhere between 5% and 16%, depending on who you ask -- define themselves as atheist. We live in a representative democracy -- we have more than sufficient representation by believers of all stripes.

I don't believe that an atheist is automatically smarter or better or more sophisticated than someone who believes -- but I applaud the potential collapse of one more barrier in American politics.
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Old 03-14-07, 11:00 PM
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Some believe that Thomas Jefferson was an atheist.
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Old 03-14-07, 11:02 PM
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Well, at least he won't try to take the oath of office on a Koran...
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Old 03-14-07, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Rockmjd23
Since I'm constantly told that someone's religion shouldn't matter in politics, then someone's lack of religion shouldn't matter either.
Seems like it doesn't matter unless you're a catholic or a mormon.
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Old 03-14-07, 11:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Lunatikk
Some believe that Thomas Jefferson was an atheist.
I don't think so. I think he was pretty clearly a deist. I also think that most people who were deists back then would be atheists today.

Jefferson's political enemies did "accuse" him of being an atheist.
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Old 03-14-07, 11:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Rockmjd23
No, but he'll take it on this:






Troll!







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Old 03-15-07, 12:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Lunatikk
Seems like it doesn't matter unless you're a catholic or a mormon.
There's room in American politics for all manner of religions, be they Baptist, Methodist, or Episcopilian.
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Old 03-15-07, 12:13 AM
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It's not a "great advancement", but it's nice to see a politician be honest about his nonbelief instead of pandering to the majority. Actually, that kind of is a great advancement.

As for voting, I don't pay attention to a candidate's religion or nonreligion unless that individual turns it into an issue. I'd never vote for someone I perceived to be a religious zealot or an antitheist. With regard to President, I'm reminded of the selection process from <i>Contact</i> where the panel doesn't want Earth to be represented by someone who thinks 95% of the population is suffering from a mass delusion. Obviously I'd never vote for a candidate who went that far, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about a regular athiest. I guess it would depend on the individual, but I probably wouldn't care that much. An honest atheist could never get elected President, though, and not specifically because of religion. This country's just never going to elect someone who disagrees with 95% of its population on anything. I think a non-Christian theist has a better chance.

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Old 03-15-07, 12:31 AM
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Amazing he had time to run for congress between all the rapes and murdering.
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Old 03-15-07, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by das Monkey
I'd never vote for someone I perceived to be a religious zealot or an antitheist. With regard to President, I'm reminded of the selection process from <i>Contact</i> where the panel doesn't want Earth to be represented by someone who thinks 95% of the population is suffering from a mass delusion. Obviously I'd never vote for a candidate who went that far, but I'm not sure how I'd feel about a regular athiest. I guess it would depend on the individual, but I probably wouldn't care that much.
I am a bit confused. You said you wouldn't care if a candidate was an atheist, but you would never vote for an antitheist. What exactly is the difference?
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Old 03-15-07, 09:18 AM
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I find it frustrating that people wouldn't "trust" an atheist. What the hell does that mean? Why not? Atheists vote for religious people all the time.
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Old 03-15-07, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by NCMojo
I am a bit confused. You said you wouldn't care if a candidate was an atheist, but you would never vote for an antitheist. What exactly is the difference?
I'm guessing he's using the term "antitheist" to describe someone like Dawkins who openly ridicules the concepts of theism and belief of the supernatural.

I suppose its OK to be an atheist as long as you keep your damn mouth shut about theism.
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Old 03-15-07, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by CRM114
I find it frustrating that people wouldn't "trust" an atheist. What the hell does that mean? Why not? Atheists vote for religious people all the time.
I assume many people believe that you need to have a god in order for you to be fully moral. Dunno, presumably without the risk of an unpleasant afterlife there's no motivation to be a decent human being.
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Old 03-15-07, 09:28 AM
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So long as he/she held American values, I'd have no problem voting for an atheist.

Last edited by Geofferson; 03-15-07 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 03-15-07, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Rockmjd23
Since I'm constantly told that someone's religion shouldn't matter in politics, then someone's lack of religion shouldn't matter either.
Yeah, that's bullshit. Religion matters. I'd be very wary of voting for a Mormon. Same goes for a Scientologist. There are intelligent religious people who believe in religions with thousands of years of history, and then there are Scientologists and Mormons. Since you've got about a 90% chance of believing in some religion if you live in this country, at least pick one that has had most of the crazy leeched out of it over an extended period of time.

Last edited by Tracer Bullet; 03-15-07 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 03-15-07, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by NCMojo
The reality is that a decent percentage of Americans -- somewhere between 5% and 16%, depending on who you ask -- define themselves as atheist. We live in a representative democracy -- we have more than sufficient representation by believers of all stripes.
I'm not sure you understand what representitive Democracy means. Your logic is one step removed from saying we ought to have racial quotas to represent the races. And we need some people who are one legged. Why not some pedophiles? Stamp collectors? holocaust deniers? people who believe Elivs is still alive?

What a representitive "is" doesn't matter to our form of Democracy. What matters is if they represent the views of their constituency or not. And in terms of athiesm, what are their views? Seperation of Church and State? Seems to be well represented already.
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Old 03-15-07, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Lunatikk
Some believe that Thomas Jefferson was an atheist.
Jefferson is an interesting case. A deist, yet he wanted the seal of the United States to depict the Jews leaving Egypt (just as the Americans left Europe).
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Old 03-15-07, 09:35 AM
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I wonder if Stark has changed his views about the military and veterans and their benefits any?
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Old 03-15-07, 09:37 AM
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Since Americans distrust atheists more than any other group (including Muslims), I'd say this is quite an advancement, although given his district, I can't think it would make a difference either way.

I wonder how many atheists who run for office pretend to be religious given the distrust many people have. It's sad that this is necessary.
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Old 03-15-07, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Jason
Well, at least he won't try to take the oath of office on a Koran...
Perhaps he'll use the collected works of Voltaire?
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Old 03-15-07, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Geofferson
Perhaps he'll use the collected works of Voltaire?
Voltaire was a racist and antisemite. Bertrand Russell might be a better pick.
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