Barrett Brown, author of Flock of Dodos, alerted me to the fact that Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia, one of the most hardcore religious righters in Congress, is being challenged in this year’s election by the rarest of American creatures — an openly atheist political candidate. He writes about the race in the Faster Times.
Forbes is the most outspoken proponent of America as an officially Christian nation in Congress. Several times he’s submitted a resolution in the House declaring America to be a Christian nation. Those resolutions are chock full of lies and falsehoods. He’s even submitted a resolution asking the House to declare the Bible to be “God’s word.”
Forbes is, of course, up for re-election this November, and it would be an easy enough thing for anyone who prefers truth over falsehood and consistency over confusion to support any opponent merely by default. Happily, one need not do so, as the opponent in question is Wynne LeGrow, a retired doctor who has shown from the outset a willingness to place his own principles over expediency, and who may thus be expected to do so as an officeholder. At the beginning of his campaign, LeGrow made a decision that damaged his chance to win but kept his integrity in tact: he announced to voters that he is an atheist.
There are probably a great many atheists and agnostics in Congress at any given moment, and most of those probably managed to attain such an office only by keeping their religious opinions secret; polls routinely show that atheists are mistrusted more than any other group, including Muslims. Pete Stark of California is a rare exception, having been up front about his atheism from the very beginning and having since proved his integrity and competence to those who believe that atheists are inherently devoid of both. If LeGrow wins this race – and he has a very good chance, as the district is not particularly conservative and in fact went for Obama in 2008 – it will demonstrate to the nation and the world that Stark is not a fluke, that good candidates can indeed be elected in this country without sharing any of the religious beliefs held by most of their constituents.
Of course, LeGrow’s atheism has become central to Forbes’ efforts to dissuade voters from supporting him. Nonetheless, LeGrow has managed to win over many of those whom the attacks were meant to persuade.
I doubt LeGrow is going to win, though I haven’t seen any polling in the race. An openly atheist candidate being elected in Virginia would be a truly historic event, though. I’m rooting for him just on those grounds.