An Atheist President in 2008
Posted: 19 July 2006 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Lately, I’ve been thinking that I would never again vote for a presidential candidate or any political office for that matter if that person was of a particular ‘faith’ be it, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever.

I feel particularly strong about this.

In the past, I’ve voted Democrat because I thought they were the lesser of the two evils and this no longer sits well with me.

It’s time that we rise up (as Sam Harris writes about) and demand that our leaders use their minds and not their faiths when making decisions that affect our private and civic lives.

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Posted: 19 July 2006 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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An Atheist President in 2008

Lately, I’ve been thinking that I would never again vote for a presidential candidate or any political office for that matter if that person was of a particular ‘faith’ be it, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever.

I feel particularly strong about this.

In the past, I’ve voted Democrat because I thought they were the lesser of the two evils and this no longer sits well with me.

It’s time that we rise up (as Sam Harris writes about) and demand that our leaders use their minds and not their faiths when making decisions that affect our private and civic lives.

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Posted: 19 July 2006 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Re: An Atheist President in 2008

[quote author=“alexdiaz”]Lately, I’ve been thinking that I would never again vote for a presidential candidate or any political office for that matter if that person was of a particular ‘faith’ be it, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, whatever.

I feel particularly strong about this.

In the past, I’ve voted Democrat because I thought they were the lesser of the two evils and this no longer sits well with me.

It’s time that we rise up (as Sam Harris writes about) and demand that our leaders use their minds and not their faiths when making decisions that affect our private and civic lives.

I tell you Alex, this is a difficult issue. My immediate response to “Atheist president in 2008” is, “Not a chance.”

One can always hold out for the perfect candidate, but as we used to say in philosophy class, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” By hoping for perfection you may end up with a worse overall outcome than by choosing the better of two lesser candidates.

For example, is Gore an atheist? Not at all. But I’d prefer him miles over our current president, and have no doubt that the world would have been a better place with Gore in office, Christianity or no.

OTOH one clear mission of places like the CFI is to push towards a day when we can have an atheist president without problems—as Spain now has a president who refuses to go to Mass with the Pope ... clearly this is a better outcome, other things equal.

That said, even atheism is no guarantee of good policies. Mao and Stalin were atheists. So to my eyes the atheism itself is less important than a judicious and centrist stance about religion, with a high wall between church and state and a wide secular space for government and the population. And of course a full embrace of democracy!

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Posted: 19 July 2006 03:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I’m with Doug on this one although my heart is with you, Alex. Although perfectionist politics may be admirable, it’s almost a sure shot to failure within the field of politics. Politics is inherantly about compromising ideals between the entire population. However, throw propaganda into the mix and you’ve got a pretty good picture of our current situation.

An athiest politician misses the boat on both counts. So what do we do? Well.. first ignore the faulty premise that a religious person is inherantly evil or even incapable of leading our country. I’ll support any man, religion or no, that properly demonstrates the ability to promote science and scientific reason in our society. At least that’s a start!

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Posted: 20 July 2006 06:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes, certainly I wouldn’t take any old atheist but I do look forward to the day, as Sam points out in his book ,that we look upon leaders who have suspended ‘critical thinking’ in regards to their faith in a God or some other savior and put them in their place with those who believe in Elvis and UFOs.

The problem I have and today is a perfect example are these religious democrats in my area who voted FOR the Stem Cell bill but FOR an amendment which would leave in place a giant cross on public land in my city.

They pick and choose their votes based upon the prevailing majority and I have a real problem with that.

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Posted: 20 July 2006 09:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“alexdiaz”]
They pick and choose their votes based upon the prevailing majority and I have a real problem with that.

Yes, this is one of the real hazards in a democracy ...

And I mean that only partly tongue-in-cheek.

If you want an atheist president, the surest route is to have a largely atheist country ... or at least a country in which atheism is looked upon as acceptable and decent, which as of yet it is not in the US. Sad fact.

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Posted: 21 July 2006 04:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I think we have already had at least a couple atheist presidents. Is it just a more recent phenominon, a product of our war against the ‘godless communists’, that a religious test has become a necessary for election to federal office?

Even though ‘God’ shows up in the speech transcripts of many (if not all) presidents, I think God was used by many of them as a rhetorical tool to speak to a predominantly theistic population.

I’d be curious to hear speculation from the board on presidents that you think may have been atheists (ie atheist or agnostic - I’m wary of the distinction).

[quote author=“James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr., April 1, 1774”]Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.

[quote author=“Thomas Jefferson, in 1787”]
Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

                         

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Posted: 21 July 2006 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Interesting points Riley, but from the little I have managed to read on this subject, I believe that Madison and Jefferson were more accurately described as “Deists” ... that is, people who believed in god but weren’t Christians; who believed that god created the universe but little else. Both were opposed to much of what ‘established religion’ stood for. They believed it created bondage. In this, they were mainly thinking of the old religion of the European Continent: Catholicism.

(I could be wrong about Madison).

FWIW I think Ben Franklin and John Adams were Deists as well, and Washington did not go to church very often ...

The most radical of all our ‘founding fathers’, of course, was Tom Paine, whose Age of Reason I would suggest as necessary reading for everyone. However, for all his radicalism, and all the trouble he got himself into with other early Americans, he was no atheist. He was a very staunch Deist ...

All that said, the difference between a Deist and an atheist is practically one of semantics.

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Posted: 21 July 2006 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][. . . ] they were mainly thinking of the old religion of the European Continent: Catholicism.

although Catholicism was certainly on their minds for historical reasons, I think more threatening to them at the time was religion in the form of orthodox trinitarian protestant christianity, sects of which dominiated the states in the eighteenth & nineteenth century.

The most interesting thing I find about these quotes from early presidents is the thought of how demonized they would have been if these statements had been made in todays theocratic political atmosphere.

Here’s another quote from the not as distant past:
[quote author=“William Howard Taft, U.S. President”]I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.

Taft was not an atheist either . . . but this statement is worthy of note. and how marginalized he would have been if he uttered such a statement today.

[quote author=“dougsmith”]All that said, the difference between a Deist and an atheist is practically one of semantics.

Yeah, that’s what I think too. Because the Deist/‘Nature’s God’/Spinoza theistic view is steadfast in its reliance on reason and natural causes as the ultimate arbitors of truth, it’s for all practical purposes an agnostic world view.

another interesting fact (?): Brasil’s President Fernando Henrique Cardoso is openly atheist (I think).

So why can’t we elect one? . . . are we really so narrow minded?

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Posted: 22 July 2006 02:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“Riley”]although Catholicism was certainly on their minds for historical reasons, I think more threatening to them at the time was religion in the form of orthodox trinitarian protestant christianity, sects of which dominiated the states in the eighteenth & nineteenth century.

Well, they saw themselves as constructing a new country based on values of the enlightenment, which they did see as directly opposed to the Divine Right of Kings and the oppression of the Catholic Church and Papacy. When it came to explicating the roots of their philosophical viewpoint, they were often very expressly anti-Catholic, except of course that they did believe in freedom of religion.

Excellent quote from Taft.

FYI I think the present president of Spain (Jos Luis Zapatero) and its vice president (Mar’a Teresa Fern?ndez de la Vega) are both agnostics, and may well be atheists. At any rate both decided not to attend the Pope’s mass when he came to Spain a few weeks ago.

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Posted: 22 July 2006 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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In the 30’s and 40’s Catholics were the demonized minority, Papists. The candidacy of Al Smith failed in large measure because of that. (and the fact that his lieutenant FDR didn’t provide much aid in New York.)
Then Kennedy was elected. I think he won because of his youth, his looks, his charisma, his speaking ability, his father, and his young wife. His catholicism didn’t matter.
An Atheist can get elected if he or she has the sort of persona and charisma, that Kennedy had. A candidate’s atheism can be turned in his favor as something that prevents the sort of silly irrational thinking that might cause a president who has the nuclear trigger in his hands to use it in in favor of Israel, for example, “because he thinks god told him to”
Atheism, agnosticism, deism can be advantageous but we don’t have the candidate who can use it.
Jim

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Posted: 22 July 2006 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I think that charisma is vary important to the USA
voters, sadly.  Not that it isn’t somewhat important.
G. W. Bush was descibed as the regular guy that you can
have a beer with.  Now the differents between me and
those people descibing him that way is: I have had many
beers with many people, while never asking to having one
with anyone like him; and they were pobably thinking of
beers like Bud, Miller, and Pabst Blue Ribbon, while I’m
thinking of Samuel Adams, Heineken, and (ahhh) Guinness.

I doubt that G. W. Bush got voted for his acheviements.
So, I think that voting for the president is mostly a
popularity contest, at least for the right-wing.

I think that rumors about being simply non-religious can
hurt a person’s chance of winning the vote.  And I think
that despite the Constitution Article. VI. saying, “... no
religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification
to any Office or public Trust under the United States”
[National Achives], that many citizens (right-wing and
left-wing) don’t care to restrict their knowledge about
the person’s religious values as they prepare to vote.
So there is, effectively, a religious test for office, the
voters test your religion even if the US Congress dosen’t.
So if a humanist runs for any office, I think it will
partially depend on their charisma, their ability to sway
the popular poltical values of the day, swaying them to
more important topics than their non-religious stance.

http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/constitution_transcript.html

  - steve s.

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Posted: 27 July 2006 10:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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[quote author=“Arkaro”] I’ll support any man, religion or no, that properly demonstrates the ability to promote science and scientific reason in our society.

I hope by “man” you mean person… smile

[quote author=“jump_in_the_pit”] and they were pobably thinking of
beers like Bud, Miller, and Pabst Blue Ribbon, while I’m
thinking of Samuel Adams, Heineken, and (ahhh) Guinness.

(ahhh) Pabst…so refreshing in its tastelessness…  PBR has a special place in my heart.

I noticed that, besides the propensity of freethinking types to drink, that they tend towards non-domestic beers: Heineken, Guinness, stuff I’ve never heard of.  Or, if drinking domestic, the beers are either microbrews or Sam Adams.  Beer snobbery.  (I prefer either Yuengling or Guinness myself…ok, back to the topic.)

I think Gore is likely an atheist.  I heard tell at a conference several years ago from a guy who is best friends with a girl who used to room with Gore’s daughter at college :D that he is, in fact, an atheist, but realizes that public knowledge of the fact would irrevocably damage his political career.  Perhaps we’ll find out many years from now.

I agree that atheism is not the most important issue for a candidate.  And there are many, many minority groups I’d love to see more represented in higher office, although I don’t think their minority status would make them necessarily better.

It is true, especially in the Senate, that the large majority of voters might not think of themselves as best represented by, say, a black woman, or a gay atheist.  So if the Senate is composed of two reps from each state, and each state picks members generally from the majority (and majority-supported) demographics, then ending up with a body that is almost entirely white and male is no surprise.

Here are some fun Congress demographics which say, for example, that “85% of Congress is male and 15% is female,” and possibly more interestingly, “in the entire list of religious demographics the most underrepresented is non-religious or religiously unspecified people. They represent less than one percent of Congress as a whole, compared to 15% of the US population.”  The article also says that Liechtenstein didn’t allow women to vote until 1984!  And we thought the US was behind the times…

Debbie

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Posted: 28 July 2006 02:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Boy - That’s good to hear Deb, even a supposition that a mainline candidate is an atheist is heartwarming.

Of course Clinton must be one too - otherwise he go to hell for what he did wouldn’t he?
raspberry LOL  :!:

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