Should we be happy about this?

So today we learn that Rep. Pete Stark admits to being godless.

There is only one member of Congress who is on record as not holding a god-belief.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Chair of the Health Subcommittee, and member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America.

Although the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, the Coalition’s research reveals that Rep. Stark is the first open nontheist in the history of the Congress. Recent polls show that Americans without a god-belief are, as a group, more distrusted than any other minority in America. Surveys show that the majority of Americans would not vote for an atheist for president even if he or she were the most qualified for the office.

Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, attributes these attitudes to the demonization of people who don’t believe in God. “The truth is,” says Silverman, “the vast majority of us follow the Golden Rule and are as likely to be good citizens, just like Rep. Stark with over 30 years of exemplary public service. The only way to counter the prejudice against nontheists is for more people to publicly identify as nontheists. Rep. Stark shows remarkable courage in being the first member of Congress to do so.”

In November, 2006 the Secular Coalition for America, a national lobby representing the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheists, announced a contest. At the time, few if any elected officials, even at the lowest level, would self-identify as a nontheist. So the Coalition offered $1,000 to the person who could identify the highest level atheist, humanist, freethinker or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States.

In addition to Rep. Stark only three other elected officials agreed to do so: Terry S. Doran, president of the School Board in Berkeley, Calif.; Nancy Glista on the School Committee in Franklin, Maine; and Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from Arlington, Mass.

Surveys vary in the percentage of atheists, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheists in the U.S, with about 10% (30 million people) a fair middle point. “If the number of nontheists in Congress reflected the percentage of nontheists in the population,” Lori Lipman Brown, director of the Secular Coalition, observes, “there would be 53-54 nontheistic Congress members instead of one.”

I’m a bit amused that after Stark, the next highest elected officials who aren’t afraid to admit their unbelief are three (count ’em, three) school board members scattered across the country. Is there active discrimination to exclude non-believers from the democratic process? You know there is.

Oh, and I don’t know a thing about Stark’s politics, other than that he’s a Democrat. Any of his constituents out there who want to let us know if he’s a representative we should be proud of?


  1. #1 grendelkhan
    March 12, 2007

    I hold out hope that people will notice that Rep. Stark isn’t a baby-eater, a serial killer or a Satanist, and perhaps think twice before saying that all atheists are. The gay marriage kerfluffle has done done tremendously good work in humanizing gay people; hopefully nontheists coming out publically will do the same thing. (I do appreciate that Richard Dawkins appears on CNN every so often. Well, at least once.)

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?
    March 12, 2007

    Ah, so I’m “without a god-belief” now. It’s good to keep up with the latest jargon.

    That’s merely supposed to explicitely include the agnostics.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?
    March 12, 2007

    Ah, so I’m “without a god-belief” now. It’s good to keep up with the latest jargon.

    That’s merely supposed to explicitely include the agnostics.

  4. #4 amph
    March 14, 2007

    atheism is the belief that there is NO god.

    I disagree.
    Atheism is not a belief. It is the view that it does not make sense to believe in a God (or anything else) for which any evidence is lacking. According to your definition, Dawkins would not be an atheist since he admits that one cannot completely disprove a supernatural being.
    This is more than semantics, since it reflects the essential difference between rationalism and superstition.

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