Welcome to this week’s edition of Mothers of Intention. This week I moved from it’s regular Wednesday spot so I could participate in the Iraq War Anniversary blogswarm.
I’d like to welcome the amazing Julie from mothergoosemouse to Mothers of Intention this week. Julie, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here today!
In the interest of full disclosure up front, I’m a registered Republican and an atheist. Yes, you read that right.
It’s appropriate that this post falls on Good Friday. In 1997, on Good Friday, my supervisor grilled me for forty-five minutes, asking how I could possibly be a moral person since I was an atheist. We were both Air Force officers, and the discussion took place in our work area within earshot of everyone else in our branch.
Inappropriate, yes. Unexpected, no.
According to About.com’s section on Agnosticism and Atheism, a 1999 Gallup poll was taken to assess American’s attitudes toward voting for “a generally well-qualified person for president” on the basis of some characteristic. The percentage of respondents who would NOT vote for a candidate in each classification are below:
More people would refuse to vote for an atheist candidate than a Muslim or homosexual candidate.
To appreciate that comparison, consider how Barack Obama has denied rumors that he is a Muslim. Consider the vehement bipartisan objections to same-sex civil unions. Given the political fervor that these two characteristics stir up, apparently atheism is even more incendiary.
The field of presidential contenders has included candidates from four of the above classifications: Black, Baptist, Woman, and Mormon. Although all of the Republican contenders were white males, it’s somewhat surprising that a Mormon hung on to a position in the top three, given the poll figures above. But even in the Democratic party, where the remaining contenders are an African-American man and a white woman, it seems unlikely that an otherwise well-qualified atheist could become the party nominee. And even if that happened, with 48% of people refusing to vote for an atheist, it would be nearly impossible for an atheist to be elected President.
Why do so many Americans object to the idea of atheism? Does religion have a rightful place in political discussion, beyond our right to freedom of religion?
I expect that the substance of most people’s objection to atheism is that much of our country’s founding documents refer to a creator, and that the United States was colonized by people with religious motivations. The majority of our population are believers on one level or another. Even our money – used by atheists too – states “In God We Trust.” Religion, in its best form, brings people together – but in doing so, it can push others away.
Given the personal and private nature of religion, as well as the fact that existence of a deity – any deity and the stories behind it – cannot be verified, I fail to see where it has a place in public policy. Likewise, I fail to see how my personal beliefs could have any bearing on my moral standing. If I’m a law-abiding citizen, what difference does it make whether I’m a believer?
But it’s this idea that religion does have a rightful place in public policy discussions that leads people – believers and non-believers, Democrats and Republicans alike – to object to a candidate on the basis of his or her religion. If we could let go of that premise, leave religious beliefs out of all policy discussions and legislative actions, a candidate’s religion could eventually cease to be an issue at all.
In the meantime, I’ll keep spending my “In God We Trust” dollars and be glad that I don’t aspire to run for political office. Because in America, anyone can grow up to be President – except an atheist.
In addition to writing at mothergoosemouse, you can also find Julie talking about her political ideas at The Parental is Political. And as if that’s not enough (!), she’s also one of the women behind Parent Bloggers Network and Cool Mom Picks!
Stay tuned for next Wednesday’s edition of Mothers of Intention!
And I’m over at BlogHer today, thinking some more about the recession no one wants to call a recession.