Atheist politicians may run the UK, but they remain closeted in the US

Aug 26, 2014

By Brian Pellot


During a visit here four years ago, Maggie Ardiente of the American Humanist Association bragged to her British counterparts about the one atheist in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Pete Stark of California.

Her host, the chief executive of the British Humanist Association, indulged her for a moment before mentioning that the U.K.’ s All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group was 150 members strong, most of them elected atheists.

Earlier this month, Ardiente conceded at the World Humanist Congress meeting in Oxford: “We’re really behind when it comes to humanism in politics.”

After Stark, a Democrat, lost his House seat in 2012, the number of openly atheist politicians in U.S. Congress slipped back to zero.

But just because they’re not out does not mean there are no atheists in the halls of Congress. “We already know of 24 members of Congress who have told us privately that they don’t believe in God, but they won’t come out, of course, and if we tried to out them they would deny it,” Ardiente said.

18 comments on “Atheist politicians may run the UK, but they remain closeted in the US

  • Yes America the so called land of the free, unless you don’t believe in god then you have no freedom. But at the same time there’s so many good atheist groups and individuals in America that hopefully this crime against freedom of speech will be a thing of the past.

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  • The absolute essence of the problem is the religious lie that all morality and moral authority is due to them.

    The main task, in the US at least, is that outlined by Sean Faircloth. Atheist’s are as moral as any. They may well have the edge, perhaps having a clearer and less biased view of harms in the world.

    My strategy has become that of distinguishing the morality of different faiths. What goes for RC morality is often deeply scummy. RC adherents often greatly exceed the Magisterium in their morality. Quakers more often put most to shame. Religiosity is no guarantee of morality.

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  • 3
    Light Wave says:

    It pays to be above religious prejudices in a democracy like Britain….we’ve seen enough bloody sectarianism on the streets to make religious divides very real and Political claims to be representing one side are at a risk of retribution from the other….so we had to rise above the ‘divide and conquer’ mentality of religion and free think for an all inclusive humanity that now inhabit UK, Its very old fashioned now to think of religion as any paragon of virtue…UK and especially Scotland love their radical dissidents and freedom fighters …America need to grow the balls it professes to have…

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  • 4
    Katy Cordeth says:

    I think it’s kinda sweet that anybody still thinks politicians ‘run’ the U.S. or the UK. These guys, whether atheist or not, are every bit as symbolic as the Queen of England. They exist to give us the illusion we’re living in a democracy and our vote actually matters. Why do you think American presidents spend so much time playing golf? Or why David Cameron has a permatan? It isn’t sunbeds. There was a European country, I forget which one and I’m in a rush to shoot off, that was without a government for about a year, and it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to that country’s fortunes. Politicians do what they’re told by… well, I’ll give you a clue: It rhymes with Schmilitary Industrial Complex.

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  • 5
    Light Wave says:

    I’ve never quite worked out if the military (superiority) complex are actually religious or they just play the cloak and dagger game when they operate their puppet politicians… in fact they are all inter related, often inbred and conjoined – UK, USA and even they who must not be named (recently murdered thousands) those leaders have no place equating religion with compassion – after standing by and watching their first world lapdog massacre its third world neighbour …….religion banking corporate military royalty government have I left any out ? who are all the viperous heads of the toxic larvae

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  • 6
    SomersetJohn says:

    I wonder how much of the difference between America and the U.K. is due to the vicious and long running sectarian conflicts suffered here in the past, and which even now have echoes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. To the best of my knowledge the U.S.A. has not suffered such divisiveness on the religious front. Religious accommodation has not been forced on Americans as a necessity for survival, as it has in the U.K., and indeed on Europe who suffered the incredible destructive maelstrom that was the 30 years war.
    Frightening thought, without those religious wars we might be just like America now.

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  • Katy Cordeth:

    Politicians do what they’re told by… well, I’ll give you a clue: It rhymes with Schmilitary Industrial Complex.

    Or a shorter term would be “capitalist class” ? Of whom some 85 individuals own about 1/2 of the world’s wealth, the other half being owned by some 7 billion people, only a very few of whom are “rich”. Even the likes of the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, are struggling to keep their place in the Premier League of the elite capitalists. How the Beckhams and the Bransons must worry about their next gas bill(s) ! And these are the very people who own and control the world’s media, where the “risk takers” and “wealth creators”, (hah !), are extolled, and are never described as, the parasites who live on the labour of many others, by virtue of their ownership and the profits their enterprises make, they are.

    Godless or otherwise, these people have a tight grip on public opinion, – and of course they have their tame politicians, economists, university professors, journalists, yea, even scientists, etc in their payrolls.

    Need it be said that this same group of privileged owners, are also the most “unpatriotic”, if necessary, in making the next investment choice. Witness the Chinese capitalists “investing” in the cheap labour in many parts of Africa to mine minerals and other industries. No doubt African politicians are cheaper to buy than European or US ones. And goodness knows how many local religions there are in Africa !

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  • Katy Cordeth:

    There was a European country, I forget which one and I’m in a rush to shoot off, that was without a government for about a year, and it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to that country’s fortunes.

    Belgium, I believe.

    But how about Somalia ? That makes the Russian gangster economy look like minnows in comparison. There again the Russians have larger numbers on their side. Roman Abramovich for example, whose miserable yacht with its missile defence system that could take out the whole fleet of Somali pirates, is now only second best in the world ! Jeez that must grate with Roman, especially as Chelsea F C didn’t win the League or the Champions Cup ! Life can be very cruel sometimes !

    Onion tears only from me.

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  • PM for Katy,

    Please click on the word “yacht” in the message above, or below. I know you love the Daily Mail, so just another chance to read it !


    Yes the designers of the new site have been too bloody clever to think about making links stand out among the other text. Indeed I am reminded of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where those who finally repopulate the Earth are the hair stylists and the telephone cleaners. But one thing I have worked out is not to use the “reply” button. Just copy what you want to reply to and then post. Also rubbing two sticks together can cause a flame !

    Back to my yachting magazine.

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  • Possibly, or possibly a confusion between what is power and what is control.

    Take the Queen of England for example. If the British ended the monarchy tomorrow all the income from the royal lands, a sizable sum, would revert back to the royal family. The difference between power and control in Britain.

    A US senator may take your money today and put you in a club fed tomorrow.

    Money can not always get power but power can always get money.

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  • 11
    old-toy-boy says:

    I know this is slightly off topic but …

    … before mentioning that the U.K.’ s All Party Parliamentary Humanist
    Group was 150 members strong, most of them elected atheists.

    I would have loved to seen her face just at that point.

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  • 12
    Katy Cordeth says:

    In reply to Light Wave

    I’ve never quite worked out if the military (superiority) complex are actually religious or they just play the cloak and dagger game when they operate their puppet politicians… in fact they are all inter related, often inbred and conjoined – UK, USA and even they who must not be named (recently murdered thousands) those leaders have no place equating religion with compassion – after standing by and watching their first world lapdog massacre its third world neighbour …….religion banking corporate military royalty government have I left any out ? who are all the viperous heads of the toxic larvae

    I doubt very much if the viperous heads of these organisations whoever they might be are religious at all. Rupert Murdoch may have had his daughter baptized on the banks of the Jordan back in 2011 but that was pure megalomania on the Dirty Digger’s part. If he believes in him at all, Murdoch probably regards the Almighty as a seat filler, someone keeping the Throne of Heaven warm until he arrives to take his rightful place as ruler of the cosmos.

    Perhaps the term Military-Industrial-Ecclesiastical Complex would be more accurate. The clergy’s role historically was to prevent commoners from rebelling against the aristocracy whom they vastly outnumbered, hence the stress placed on biblical verses informing the starving, mud-covered proles that they would inherit the earth so long as they didn’t get any ideas about rising above their station in life, whereas the toffs in the castle who dined on roast venison and turducken every day and didn’t spend their nights huddled next to each other and the family pig so as not to freeze to death wouldn’t get a look in on the day of judgement because of some celestial decree about camels and needles. “It’s right here in the Bible, you scum. Put down your pitchforks and makeshift battering rams and set aside any thoughts about storming the castle. You do want to go to Heaven, don’t you?”

    In the modern U.S. the Church still plays this role, but instead of defending aristos and royalty from revolution it protects big business. In the Middle Ages Christians waged a crusade against a rival religious ideology, ostensibly in service of the Lord but really to increase the wealth of the Church and expand the Christian trading empire. A few hundred years later communism, the anti-religion, became the enemy and atheistic communists the boogeyman. Godlessness and communism were synonymous, mirroring the synonymic nature of godliness and capitalism. Nothing changes. Those reds hiding under American beds were in league with Satan. The myth persists even today that although atheists tend to believe in neither God nor Satan we still hate one and like to play tonsil hockey with t’other.

    Communism no longer represents a threat so new threats had to be invented. The current favorite is Islam. Granted Islamism—as opposed to Islam, which is no more inherently evil in nature than Christianity—is pretty scary, with militant Muslim groups presenting an actual imperilment, unlike their fur hat-wearing vodka-quaffing forbears from the 1940s through the 80s, to collective human happiness and safety thanks to backing from wealthy Middle-Eastern royals who became powerful and rich from money the West gave them because God decided to put our oil under their land and who use the youngest branch of the Abrahamic religion and its clergy to maintain power by convincing the, er, unswinish multitudes that the West is Satan so these starving sand-covered proles won’t turn their attention to the toffs in the big silk tents who drive around in Rolls Royces and stuff their fat faces with roasted goat and sheep’s eyes every night but will transfer their own justifiable rage to a part of the world which you sort of feel deserves it and I’m getting a headache.

    Where was I. Oh yeah, the clergy and its role in protecting capitalism in the United States. As well as the Muslim boogeyman, a homegrown version is required. Muslims, unlike communists, tend to be identifiable by appearance alone. The color of their skin, the fastidious praying schedule, the wives’ fashion sense, make them stand out like a painful pollex. This is helpful. Life would be simpler if burglars really did go around in monochromatic stripy tops and Lone Ranger masks carrying bags marked ‘Swag’. If you live in one of the red states though, chances are you will get to the end of your life never having seen a Mohammedan in the flesh; those people live in TVland and in scary Youtube clips, you just don’t see them at Walmart or Chick-fil-A. Muslims do not for the most part represent an existential threat.

    What else. Well, yes, you have to watch out for black teenagers who will try and smash your skull in with a bag of multicolored candies as soon as look at you. But your house is a veritable armory, one which makes a typical gun store look like a branch of the ACLU. And chances are you wouldn’t be arrested even if you did decide to ventilate one of these kids with your Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm if he knocked on your door and tried to sell you some Eagle Scout cookies to fund his group’s trip to Yellowstone Park. You’re justified in feeling pretty relaxed my friend.

    This will not stand. A non-fearful American populace represents a clear and present danger to big business. Conflict must be fomented.

    Enter, from stage right, the Gays. And from stage left, Women’s Rights. And am I mistaken or is that a little bulge on the front of Women’s Rights’ Elie Saab gown? Do you know I think it is. This is going to be all over the gossip pages tomorrow, Tom. And is that asbestos falling from the stage ceiling? Oh no, it’s… I do believe it’s meant to be snow. Yes it is because here comes Santa Claus himself, and for some reason he’s decked out like John Rambo. It’s almost as if he’s heading off to war, Tom.

    In the absence of an actual corporeal enemy on one’s front doorstep, threats must be invented. Marriage equality isn’t about gay people claiming the same privilege heterosexuals enjoy as their birthright. No, it’s an attack on Christianity and the very fabric of American life itself. Planned parenthood clinics don’t exist to safeguard women’s health; they’re baby killing factories. Even when women are ‘raped’, how do we know it isn’t part of God’s infinitely complex divine plan and He wants the product of these ‘rapes’ brought into the world? The ‘rape’ itself may have been a blessing in disguise. Feminism is an attack on the church. And Santa. Santa? Oh no, oh no you don’t you libtard scum. You want people to wish each other a “Happy holiday” at this sacred time of the year instead of the greeting spoken by the triumvirate of emissaries from the ancient biblical land of Orientare when they visited the newborn savior and his manager on December the 25th of whatever year it was?

    What is happening people?! We are under attack! We need to circle the wagons right this instant. I am officially terrified. So terrified in fact by the assault on my church, my country, my very way of life that I completely forgot the company I work for is about to farm out my telemarketing job to someone in New Delhi unless I take a massive pay cut and promise not to join a union, my HMO is refusing to pay for the surgery my kid needs, and my private pension fund has been looted which means I’ll have to continue working until I drop down dead. Thank you my church for keeping me focused on the important stuff. You couldn’t by any change give me a loan, considering I’ve been tithing to you for the past thirty five yea… What… what’s that? Yes, yes, you’re quite correct, that isn’t the American way. As you say, that’s socialism. I’m sorry I even… Yes of course I’ll leave church property if that’s what you wan… No, please don’t excommunicate me, I’ll scrape up the money to continue my donations somehow. You’re hurting…my…arm.

    Aaand… scene.

    I don’t even think the titans of industry who rule the world are necessarily evil. It’s the master they serve who calls the shots. Unlike Jehovah, Mammon seems quite real. His rules make sense anyway. Not ethical sense; practical, Darwinian sense. Even if Mammon isn’t real, he might as well be. There’s no bollocks from him about not coveting your neighbor’s ox; he doesn’t even care if you screw the guy’s wife while he’s out at work. Thou shalt not kill? Pfft Thou shalt better bloody kill if there’s money in it.

    Once you start worshiping him proper he begins to demand bigger and bigger sacrifices. All the scandals about dumping toxic waste in third world countries and opening sweat shops where tiny fingers can do the delicate stitching we insist we must have on our clothing, and farming out the manufacture of our nice shiny computer tablets and cell phones which make us feel we’re living in the future to companies in China that work their employees until they commit suicide (a billion Chinamen, so plenty more where that came from) rather than spend another 18-hour shift staring at circuit boards, are just capitalism being taken to its logical conclusion. Western companies make use of these dark satanic mills of the 21st Century because we the consumer demand inexpensive product as our birthright, just as we demand to be able to fill up the tank of our gas guzzling behemoth of a motor vehicle or fly off to foreign climes without it hitting us too hard in the wagepacket.

    The journalists who expose these things are the real villains of the piece, just as campaigners like William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury were the villains of the 18th and 19th century for helping to do away with slavery from the Colonies and from the slums of the North of England. Mammon doesn’t give a flying f#ck about human misery; he thrives on it in fact.

    This I think is the real reason conservatives in the U.S. and to a lesser extent the UK, although mainly the U.S., are so scared of atheism, particularly in their politicians (and you thought I was way off-topic). If you get rid of the god they purport to worship, gentle Jesus meek and mild, a guy who just about screams he’s a socialist humanitarian at you and by following him you’re an ethical human being; if you prove that the scriptures are full of holes and history doesn’t support any of the events they regard as, um, gospel, you’re taking away the salve to their conscience. You’re pulling back the curtain with your sharp little Cairn Terrier teeth and showing them the face of the god they actually worship. Actually I very much doubt that Mammon looks anything like the avuncular Frank Morgan. I can see Richard as Toto though for some weird reason.

    It’s long been a mystery to me, as I imagine it has to others here, how conservatives managed to stake claim to Jesus; how this sandal-wearing, turn-the-other-cheek, let-him-who-is-without-sin-cast-the-first-stone humanist became the property of some of the least humane, most morally repugnant individuals in the world. People like Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and Ann Widdecombe and Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair and George W. These are the last people in the world the Jesus of the Bible would want to spend time with. Why do you think they typically live so long? There was practically nothing left of Fred Phelps but dust when he died; there wasn’t any liquid left in him. I reckon It wasn’t Pastor Fred who was clinging to life as much as it was Jesus pulling some strings with his dad to put off for as long as possible having to meet him. As least Jesus’ torment up on the cross only lasted a few days. The poor bastard has to spend eternity with some of the dumbest most hate-filled racist homophobic mouth breathers ever to make their sorry way down a birth canal.

    It’s probably important to draw a distinction between the true believers and those ones who only pay lip service to Christianity in order to advance. When George W. Bush and Tony Blair were president and prime minister of their respective nations it was generally believed Bush was the bible-thumping zealot in that relationship and Blair the non-religious rational one. As Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell famously said, “We don’t do God.” Since leaving office it’s become clear that Blair is more devout than his former master, undergoing conversion to Catholicism and seeming to take his faith quite seriously. Bush only became born again when it was time to groom him for a shot at the White House and there was the problem of his coke-snorting drink-driving past which had to be put behind him. Of the Fox News pundits, Rush and Glenn are showmen, Coulter and Hannity are crazy and angry, O’Reilly is self-loathing, and Palin is just flat-out stupid. Of the bunch, Hannity seems the most sincere in his beliefs. The Tea Party is scary because at the grass roots level it is made up of true believers, and it’s from this level that it pools its candidates. These people don’t think gay marriage is wrong and Sandra Fluke is a jezebel because it’s politically expedient for them to do so; they actually believe the rubbish they spout. They’re warriors for Jesus, every bit as determined to refashion America into a 1st Century Christian theocracy as their overseas IS counterparts are to establish a middle-eastern caliphate that rules over the entirety of that part of the planet.

    Okay, finishing up before I put anyone reading this into a coma proper.

    Christianity is the thing that binds America together and allows its citizenry to live in this perpetual fugue state in which they are the good guys. The U.S. likes to think of itself as the sheriff of the world; the reluctant good guy, not wanting to fight but prepared to strap on the gunbelt one last time in order to maintain the peace. Nonsense of course, but credible to a populace conditioned to believe it has on its side the blue-eyed, square-jawed Jesus H Christ, the guy who stood up to evil and became a martyr for his troubles. American cinema is replete with stories in which the good guy loses his life after saving the day. Think Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, Shane, or Even Turner and Hooch. These movies are often chock full with none-too-subtle religious symbolism. Sometimes the main character even returns to life after being killed: Robocop and E.T. The Extraterrestrial come instantly to mind although I’m sure there are others… Carrie! No, that one doesn’t serve my argument. Or maybe it does. The point is death followed by spiritual resurrection is so much a part of the American national collective consciousness that of course atheists are going to be feared and mistrusted and the last people you want in elected office. Christianity exists so people can convince themselves they’re not selfish bastards. Atheism strips this protection away. Kill Jesus and you kill America.

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  • Religion has always been a useful tool of oppression for the rulers. In Russia, Putin and the Orthodox Church are cosying up to each other. In Britain PM Cameron tells us that Britain is built on “Christian values”, whatever they might be, – stoning adulterers, killing witches, executing those who pick up sticks on the Sabbath ? In the USA, where Obama appears about as good a Christian as Cameron does here, religion has eked out its own salvation industry. No longer tied to the state, as in Europe, religion cries havoc and lets loose the dogs of holy free enterprise in the quest to save souls and make bucks.

    Pie in the sky, but in the meantime, know your place, and be humble !

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  • 15
    suffolkthinker says:

    Actually this is a myth – the Crown Estates were established as public property several years ago and are not owned by the person of the monarch and court rulings have also made it clear the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall are similar with the incomes going to the Queen and Prince of Wales respectively with the consent of Parliament.

    If we abolished the Monarch there would be devil in the detail in how we did it, but the most likely result would be in the Windsors being wealthy but not even in the top 20 of richest families in the country.

    Have a look at the work being done by the campaigning group Republic.

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  • 16
    suffolkthinker says:

    There is a big difference between a failed system of government (Somalia) and no “government” in the sense of no group of people trying to change things and interfere in the day to day operation of the people.

    Belgium’s experience shows that actually we do have too much politics and too much meddling from “the government”. Without it, the law courts still functioned, the apparatus of state still worked and people got on with their lives. If armed groups tried to seize property with gun as happens in Somalia the police would have still reacted.

    Incidentally Belgium has a constitution based on the French principle of Laïcité – an aggressively secular view that not only separates church and state but actively prevents church interference in the activities of the state. Without their “Government” there was still that solid prevention of the religious imposing their views on others.

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  • Religious repression at it’s best. If you speak out at work, there is a good chance you won’t work there anymore.
    If you speak out in your neighborhood, you won’t be trusted.
    The only way this will ever stop is through attrition. Sorry, I know that’s grim.

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  • 18
    Light Wave says:

    Wow Take a breath Katy and take a bow….. yeah I kinda meant what you said……The Media are the other corrupt viperous head of the propaganda machine but you covered that in depth….cheers

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