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Atheists and Politics

I read in the paper today that in the state of Texas, where I reside,  the state constitution prohibits people who do not believe in God from holding public office.  Unbelievable!   Of course I realize that the electorate is biased against atheists and agnostics, but I had no idea that an American state could legally discriminate against a candidate based on his/her lack of faith.

I’m new to the free-thought movement, so maybe some of you readers can help me out here.  Is this the last frontier in the expansion in human rights?   How can Americans be more bothered by a hypothetical candidate’s lack of faith than by Mitt Romney’s whacked-out Mormonism?

I found it rather hilarious the other day when a prominent Evangelical pastor made headlines by calling Mormonism a cult.   That’s the pot calling the kettle black.  How can people argue over imaginary things?  I should know since I used to do it.  But it seems so mystifying to me now.

Americans today say that they would be far more likely to vote for a Muslim,  a Hindu or a Buddhist than they would for an atheist.    How do we turn the tide?

The ironic thing is that American Christians are even more restrictive and narrow-minded than their tradition requires them to be.  In the 1600’s Martin Luther saw no correlation between ruler’s religion and his ability to rule.   He is alleged to have said, “I’d rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a stupid Christian.”   I’m not sticking up for Luther or anything, but at least on this point he seems a little more open-minded than many 21st American Christians.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. October 20, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Many people equate atheists to devil worshipers. I’ve had more than a few people share that sentiment with me when I used “atheist” to describe my position on religion and god.

  2. Jessica
    October 20, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    I can’t believe that after 18 years in the ministry, you can sit there and imply such offensive things about Christians. You’re now part of the “free-thought” movement? Give me a break. You mean to tell me that in your 18 years in the ministry you were never free thinking or that you didn’t come across Christians who could believe in Christ and also be free thinkers? Somehow every Christian you came across was simply a zombie spouting off whatever their pastor told them without any reflection or thought on their part?

    The more I read this blog the more I realize that I think it’s all made up. I don’t see how someone could be a part of a congregation, become involved in the members’ lives as much as a pastor does over 18 years, and then say such things about those types of people. I pray that one day your heart will be unhardened and you will see the hypocrisy in the things you’re saying in this blog. You think the “movement” you left was closed-minded and hateful, but the “movement” you’re now joining is no different. Intellectual superiority complexes instead of faith.

    • JC Denton
      October 25, 2011 at 5:44 pm

      Jessica,

      I think you misunderstand the definition of “freethought”. The Wikipedia entry for Freethought defines it as “a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas.”

      This worldview is diametrically opposed to the traditional Christian view that beliefs and opinions *should* be based upon scriptures (i.e. dogmas) and/or church traditions, and NOT based on reason.

      Take a look at what it says throughout the Bible. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding”. Many passages praising blind obedience to the Lord and submission to authority, yet not a single one praising intelligence, logic, or reason.

      Not to say that one can’t be a Christian and a freethinkiner. It would just be very, very unlikely, and would require the adoption of views in direct violation of those ordained by the Bible, in some cases directly by Jesus himself.

  3. Joy
    October 20, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    A great number of people are afraid of or feel threatened by skeptics, atheists, agnostics, free-thinkers, etc. See Jessica’s post. People like Jessica think we’re immoral, hard-hearted hypocrites. How can you be a leader without religious morality? How can you raise children without religious morality? How can you have morality without religion? Without the fear of eternal damnation, how are you not raping and murdering people right and left??

    People like Jessica make it very difficult for those of us who are skeptical or downright non-believers to come out of the proverbial closet. To be vilified for no longer believing is pretty much the norm for a huge number of non-believers. Those non-believers who get out without rancor are few and far between. People who you thought loved you unconditionally suddenly have all of these conditions to their love. And they so conveniently forget that “only god can judge”. So much for Christ’s love, eh?

  4. Jessica
    October 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I never said athiests are immoral. I said that he’s trading one form of judgment for another. He’s leaving a body of believers that he feels is hypocritical and closed-minded to join one that is equally hypocritical and closed-minded. While many Christians may judge based on their faith in Christ, athiests seem to judge based on their faith in their intellectual superiority.

    And not everyone is like this. Joy seems to lump all Christians together and think they all believe the same things and judge non-believers in the same way. That’s not true at all. I happen to know many moral athiests and many “immoral” Christians. I just find it interesting that a pastor who spent his entire life with Christians can generalize about those people this way. I’m sure that he came across free-thinking and non-judgmental Christians throughout his career and to deny that and make blanket statements that say otherwise is so hypocritical that I am questioning the authenticity of this blog. Or that he’s just putting that stuff out there to appeal to the many Christian-bashing athiests to drum up blog hits.

    I would respect him leaving the church in a way that also shows respect for those that he has spent his life with. I don’t know his experiences and what would cause him to have such negative feelings about the Church in general, but I do know that he cannot speak for all Christians. If he wants to leave the church and explore other things, it’s his right. He can just find a way to do it without implying that all Christians are stupid zombies that sit around hyprocritically judging people without using any critical thinking skills.

  5. Andrew
    October 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    “The ironic thing is that American Christians are even more restrictive and narrow-minded than their tradition requires them to be.”

    Christianity in America has an extreme reactionary bent. Long ago, the legend says, we were righteous and pure and honest, but now we are irreligious, lost, falling apart.

    The 18th and 19th Century were anything but pure, however. This Edenic view of America must by necessity ignore slavery, the Civil War, the endless wars against Indians, the Trail of Tears, and so on.

  6. JC Denton
    October 21, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    The local Fox affiliate in my hometown of Houston did a news segment on this very subject last year. Here is a link to the article (video segment on left):

    http://www.myfoxhouston.com/dpp/news/politics/100209-texas-constitution-governor

    The article makes a good point by referring to the recently published research which “found no difference between atheists and believers when it comes to moral judgment.” However, I would go a step further and point out that:

    -The US prison population is approximately 80% Christian, roughly the same as the overall population. It is also approximately 1% atheist, which by some measures is 1/10th the percentage of atheists in the overall population.

    -The divorce rates in the United States are significantly higher among Christians than atheists or agnostics. And divorce is highest among the most conservative, most fundamentalist Christians (those who claim to oppose divorce the most). And these findings were according to a study by a pro-Christian organization (The Barna Group).

    -The murder and crime rates are highest in the most-Christian states in America, and lowest in the least-Christian states in America. By a significant margin.

    -The most atheistic countries in the world (where the citizens are atheistic by choice, not because religioun is outlawed) have the highest standards of living in the world. They have the least crime, least corruption, highest education levels, highest life satisfaction ratings, and longest life spans. Newsweek did an article on the “Top 100 Countries In the World” last year, and the top 10 countries were overwhelmingly represented by countries with very little religiosity (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, etc). The United States (one of the most relgious nations in the developed world) ranked 20th.

  7. October 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    The preacher who called Mormonism a cult has far too much power for a person of such limited education. Also, don’t most states have statutes against clerics voicing political opinions and swaying voters from the pulpit?

  8. Alan
    March 11, 2012 at 6:50 am

    In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Torcaso v. Watkins that state governments, like the federal government, cannot put religious restrictions on whether someone can hold public office. That ruling invalidated parts of many state constitutions, including the part you mention of the Texas constitution. The Texas government, however, didn’t bother to modify their constitution because they thought they had better things to do. If this ever becomes an issue (as it did in North Carolina when Cecil Bothwell became an atheist city council member in 2009), the atheists clearly have the law on their side and will be able to assume public office.

    I just found your blog yesterday, and so far, it is very interesting. Thank you for sharing your story!

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