News flash from National Public Radio: There aren’t enough atheists in Congress! This is really a problem and NPR wants to rally the electorate to remedy it. In an article entitled “Non-Religious Americans Remain Far Under-Represented in Congress” NPR bemoaned the lack of unbelievers serving on Capitol Hill.
I’ve got news for NPR—there are plenty of godless heathens in politics. Very few elected officials publicly claim atheism or agnosticism but their actions betray what’s in their hearts. For all of the talk about how rabidly religious Americans are we continue to vote for people who are very secular in their outlooks and in their voting records. There is no pandemic of religious fervor in the United States. We’re ruled by a non-religious elite and we seem unbothered by it—and not just in politics but in culture and education as well. Among those non-religious elite I would certainly count Donald Trump. Perhaps he has certain qualities that are needed at this moment but he’s not a religious man.
I realize that I am treading on thin ice here. There’s an unwritten rule in politics that an elected official’s professed faith should never be questioned—or at least not if you think the person’s religious deception is a bad thing. Barack Obama is a good example of this. The media have spilled plenty of ink “debunking” the supposed myth that the president is not a Christian. Here’s one from Timothy Stanley at CNN. His opening sentence: “One of the strangest right-wing conspiracies is that Barack Obama is not really a Christian.” I think he meant to say “conspiracy theories” but whatever. It’s not a conspiracy or a theory, it’s just Barack Obama telling lies which I’ve noticed he does quite a bit. This is a man who once said that “Sin is being out of alignment with my values.” Seriously? Actually, sin is being out of alignment with God’s values. I can only conclude that Barack Obama is his own higher power.
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Which leads me to my next question—who are these fools who think Obama is a Muslim? That’s ridiculous. Barack Obama is a secular humanist just like the mother who raised him and the absent father he idolized. He joined a church that teaches black victimology while calling it Christianity—and he likely only did that because he had political aspirations.
But the late Christopher Hitchens speculated with some certainty that Barack Obama is an atheist and I don’t recall him being chastised for it. Why? Because Christopher Hitchens was also an atheist and therefore considered Obama’s atheism a plus. Hitchens’s doubts about Obama’s purported religion were somehow acceptable but if you happen to be a Christian who’s sick of seeing President Obama fraudulently sporting your religion on his sleeve, you’re a conspiracy theorist.
So there are actually plenty of non-religious people in politics. Why don’t they identify themselves? There are several reasons, I think. The first is prejudice, which I gather from the NPR article is their preferred explanation. This prejudice is not entirely irrational but it exists nonetheless. While voting for someone because of his race is dumb—and wanting to make history by electing the first black president is exactly that—there may be some legitimate reason not to vote for someone because of his religion or lack thereof. What elected officials believe matters and that’s why it shouldn’t be dismissed as an irrelevant factor in a voter’s calculations. Personally, I would vote for an atheist if I thought he was right on the issues—but that’s me.
This hesitance people have toward voting for atheist candidates is documented. A 2015 Gallup poll found that 58% of Americans said that they would vote for an atheist, which means that 42% would not. It’s hard to win an election when you start 42 points in the hole. The Hillary Clinton campaign infamously capitalized on this attitude to harm her only real primary opponent, Bernie Sanders. In hacked emails released this July, a Clinton surrogate suggested that someone should ask Sanders if he believes in God. The email was quite explicit in expressing the question’s intent: “This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.” I would also add that a candidate’s atheism might hurt him with minority voters, particularly older blacks. If an elderly white guy from Vermont wasn’t foreign enough to them already his lack of religion would make him downright extraterrestrial.
But there are other reasons why more atheist politicians don’t just fess up. One reason is that it inoculates them from accusations of anti-Christian bigotry which is rampant in the jackass party. Take Nancy Pelosi, for example. I consider Pelosi to be an anti-Christian bigot but she’s able to parry the accusation by claiming to be just as Catholic as Catholic can be. This is a woman who never misses an opportunity to mention her Catholicism, sometimes misrepresenting Catholic doctrine to justify her Left Coast policy positions. Nancy Pelosi may have a baptismal certificate but she really worships at the altar of statist liberalism. She should probably just admit it and stop making a mockery of her (and my) religion.
But why would she do that? Then she couldn’t smother criticisms that she despises Christianity. That’s the real reason why she misrepresents herself. It’s not as if San Francisco voters would send her packing if they thought she was an apostate. A 2015 study from the Public Religion Research Institute found San Francisco to be the third least religious city in the country. Only Portland and Seattle had higher proportions of non-believers. Pelosi’s constituents are comfortable with atheism, just as they are comfortable with sodomy on parade down Castro Street. It’s Catholicism that make them squirm—especially its teachings on butt sex. She would pay no penalty at the polls for admitting the obvious fact that she isn’t really Catholic after all. Still she persists with her lies.
The NPR article left me wondering just what’s wrong with too few atheists or, as I think they really meant to say, too many of those darn Christians serving in Congress. Perhaps the answer is in this sentence: “[R]eligion is one of the more invisible areas where legislators in Washington simply aren’t representative of the people they represent.” Oh, I see. So the religious can’t represent the non-religious. Does that work in reverse too? This opens an entirely new can of worms. Can Jews represent Gentiles? How about the other way around? Should a non-Mormon ever be elected from Utah? What gives, NPR?
I guess NPR just wants Congress to “look like America,” to borrow a silly liberal cliché. In order for that to happen, I think we might have to start looking at the Joooos. I have nothing against Jews but it appears that they are by far the most-overrepresented group in Congress. California was until recently represented by two Jewish senators—Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. According to the NPR report, Jews represent 6% of Congress but only 2% of the US population. By the way, Jews also represent a large portion of regular NPR hosts and reporters, who are not at all representative of the US population. Maybe NPR should start looking more like America and give a show to someone who isn’t a coastal liberal elitist for a change. Might I suggest Larry the Cable Guy?
I think it should be noted that the reason why there are so few openly nonreligious members of Congress is because they are representative of their constituents—or at least they pretend to be in order to get elected. While religiously unaffiliated people represent a substantial and growing minority, there are no congressional districts in which they represent a majority. No member of Congress represents the nation as a whole. They represent pieces of the nation and religiously-affiliated people are the majority in all of those pieces. Just as majority black districts almost always elect blacks to represent them, majority religiously-affiliated districts elect self-described believers to represent them. There’s nothing mystical about it and it certainly isn’t nefarious. It’s just the way a republic works.
The religious affiliation of our elected representatives is nothing to fret about. Kvetching about the lack of atheists in Congress is even worse. I’m not losing any sleep over it and neither should you.