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hell freezes over: there’s an atheist in Congress
Posted: 06 March 2007 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]
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http://www.secular.org/news/contest_preview_070305.html

[quote:4542080b31]For Immediate Release
Contact: Lori Lipman Brown, (202) 299-1091
March 5, 2006

On Monday, March 12, the Secular Coalition for America will make history by announcing the name of the first openly nontheistic member of Congress.

Elected officials who do not hold a god-belief are a rarity and only a few nontheist politicians have been open about their beliefs. Perhaps the best-known was Robert G. Ingersoll, called the Great Agnostic. He was a famous orator and gave the nomination speech at the 1884 Republican Presidential Convention for James G. Blaine. Influential Illinois Republicans wanted Ingersoll to run for Governor, but on the condition that he conceal his agnosticism. Ingersoll refused, and he never held elected office.

As put forward in law by the U.S. Constitution, "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." However, in practice politicians are compelled to expound on their religiosity, forcing nontheists to keep quiet about their beliefs or opt out of pursuing public office.

With next Monday’s historic announcement, the Secular Coalition for America hopes additional elected officials will self-identify as nontheists and establish that a god-belief is not a necessary prerequisite for public service.

This announcement is the result of a contest sponsored by the Coalition. For more information read the original contest release.[/quote:4542080b31]

Well hot damn, I thought I’d never see the day.

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Posted: 06 March 2007 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Wow! Question is if he/she can keep his/her seat after “coming out” ...

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Posted: 06 March 2007 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t understand. If the person is already elected, and is openly nontheistic, what would be there to announce? If no one knows who it is, then the person was obviously not openly nontheistic???

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Posted: 06 March 2007 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A friend who had gone to TAM told me about this over the weekend. As for the above post, they are not out yet, but soon will be.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Would the member of the congress announce that he/she is a nontheist as opposed to an atheist? Since the word atheist seems so unpopular in the US, maybe a ” nontheist” is the way to go. I never liked the name “bright”, sounds a bit arrogant to me.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“Metaphor”]I don’t understand. If the person is already elected, and is openly nontheistic, what would be there to announce? If no one knows who it is, then the person was obviously not openly nontheistic???Follow the link and check out the “original contest release”.

The Secular Coalition for America will award one thousand dollars ($1,000) to the person who identifies the highest level atheist, humanist, freethinker or other nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States of America.*

It looks like they’re planning to “out” him or her whether he wants to come out or not!  :(

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Posted: 07 March 2007 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I got the same impression from the link. I hope that’s not the case. I personally don’t like the involuntary outing approach to raising the profile of atheism (or any social/political minority, for that matter).

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Posted: 07 March 2007 07:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Yup, unfortunately there are true believers and fanatics everywhere, including in the ranks of atheists and (maybe) agnostics.

Occam

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Posted: 07 March 2007 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I also agree that “outing” someone for being atheist, or whatever, against their wishes seems to me a very low blow. I can understand it—barely—if the person is behaving in an explicitly hypocritical way. (E.g., Ted Haggard). But otherwise I would argue against it.

And in this case it’s particularly odd, since it would be so easy for the congressperson to deny. And then what good would come of it?

But that said, the release says they are announcing “the first openly nontheistic member of Congress”. If the congressperson is open about it, then it can’t be “outing” in the traditional sense.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 02:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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However, I got the impression that they were offering $1,000 for evidence of other government officials who were atheists or agnostics.  That’s what advocatus and I were referring to.

Occam

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Posted: 13 March 2007 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The Secular Coalition for America will award one thousand dollars ($1,000) to the person who identifies the highest level atheist, humanist, freethinker or other nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States of America.

Read this carefully.  It doesn’t sound like the person identified has to give his/her permission, and that means outing to me.

And while Stark identifies himself as a Unitarian and doesn’t believe in a god, he’s probably going to have to grit his teeth because the unitarian-UNIVERSALISTS have quietly been taken over by the Universalists who, while theologically liberal, DO believe in a supreme being. 

Occam

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Posted: 14 March 2007 01:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/la-na-atheist13mar13,1,452202.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo

Stark, who has served in Congress since 1973 and chairs the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, clarified his views in an e-mail statement.

“When the Secular Coalition asked me to complete a survey on my religious beliefs, I indicated I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being,” Stark said. “Like our nation’s founders, I strongly support the separation of church and state. 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.”

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Posted: 14 March 2007 02:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Well, good for him.

:D

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Posted: 15 March 2007 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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To answer Ikonoclast’s question: 
In the fourth century the Christian church had two factions.  One believed in the trinity and the other that Jesus and Mary, while wonderful, were not part of God.  They were called Unitarians.  At the Council of Nicea it came to a vote and the Trinitarians won.  Those Unitarians who didn’t convert were excommunicated.

For many centuries the Unitarians were an underground religion.  They finally began to become known in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  As a persecuted group they tended to attract all sorts of other splinter types.

By the eighteenth and nineteenth century many of them were deists.  They were very liberal, active and accepting, socially and politically.  In the early twentieth century many of them had moved toward agnosticism and atheism. In the early thirties a number of more radical Unitarian ministers and some scientists, etc. formed the American Humanist Association and wrote Humanist Manifesto I.  It still contained some references to god.

By the fifties many called themselves a Unitarian Society to avoid the word, “church.”  Others used it in the hope they wouldn’t lose tax exempt status.  Agnostics and atheists were prevalent, and the denomination was growing rapidly.

The Universalists had split from the Methodists in the nineteenth century because they couldn’t accept the idea that God would damn people (that is, Universal salvation).  They had much property and endowments, but they were shrinking in the fifties.  They suggested a merger since they both had very liberal social agendas.

Unfortunately, greed outweighed good sense, and the Unitarians agreed.  Since then the Universalists have slowly taken over the administration and the Unitarian-Universalist denomination is sinking back into theism.

As an aside, in the seventies and eighties the AHA published Humanist Manifestos II and III.  These deleted all references to any god.  Paul Kurtz was the main author.  I don’t know the politics after this, but he left the AHA and formed the Secular Humanists.

I’m sure my memory is fallible since I left the UUA some time ago, so others may want to correct minor errors.

Occam

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Posted: 23 March 2007 03:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I apologize if I got the wrong idea from reading the contest release.  Having said that, isn’t this something of an anti-climax?  An “historic announcement” that one member of Congress is a Unitarian?  Ho-hum!

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Posted: 23 March 2007 03:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]Unfortunately, greed outweighed good sense, and the Unitarians agreed.  Since then the Universalists have slowly taken over the administration and the Unitarian-Universalist denomination is sinking back into theism.

Occam

Sinking back to theism?  It’s worse than that here.  We have only one U.U. in this town.  Thing is, it’s full of mostly Pagans- you know Wiccans and other groups not accepted in other churches.  What is funny is that a very small group of Humanists still meet there once a month on Tuesday evenings.  I’m scratching my head on all it, because it’s not the U.U. I know, but I’ve been asked to attend the Sunday service.  I don’t know.  1. I’m not hip to listening to a Bible lesson or a sermon.  2.  I haven’t gone to any church in a long time and when I went, it was Episcopalian, which insidently now has everyone from Humanists to Conservatives.  You see how that’s going.  rolleyes

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