Time for an Atheist Candidate

Mar 22, 2016

Photo credit: CNBC

By Herb Silverman

I recently wrote about the professed religious views of presidential candidates. I asked my favorite candidate, Bernie Sanders, at a public forum in South Carolina, if he would acknowledge being an atheist. Sanders, who almost always gives direct answers to questions, said, “Not gonna happen.” At least he didn’t lie about his religious beliefs, as many candidates do.

The most surprising and disappointing reaction to my attempt to “out” Bernie Sanders came from other atheists who support Sanders. They also assume that this Jewish socialist is an atheist, but they think he should stay in the closet.

Here are a few of the comments I heard: “You should know better than to think an open atheist could ever be elected president. Bernie does not want to commit political suicide by acknowledging he is an atheist. Bernie should wait to get elected, and then say he is an atheist. People who want political power better not reveal little quirks that would alienate a great majority of voters. Most religious Americans don’t believe in evolution, so they certainly wouldn’t vote for an atheist. This country is not yet ready to elect an atheist to high office.”

If these critics are correct that the country is not yet ready to elect an acknowledged atheist, then how can we change “not yet ready” to “ready?” If we do nothing, the country will never be ready. Our country was once not willing to elect African-Americans, women, gays, and other minority groups. The model for atheists is more similar to that of gays because African-Americans and women could never be closeted. Attitudes toward gays changed rapidly when people realized that their friends, neighbors, family members, and even famous people are gay. And so it can be for atheists. Here are two attitude-changing national organizations that aim to end the secrecy.

Openly Secular: Its purpose is to provide support and encouragement for atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other nonreligious people who feel they can’t be open about who they are. They provide resources to help secular people live full, honest, and open lives. Their goal is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance of the secular community. Their website contains dozens of short videos made by ordinary and extraordinary people from all backgrounds in all walks of life, describing why they became openly secular. Here is mine.

Freethought Equality Fund: This is a Political Action Committee (PAC) dedicated to expanding voter choices by backing the candidacy of open nontheists. The PAC supports candidates who want to protect the separation of religion and government and defend the civil liberties of secular Americans. The PAC also aims to dispel the bigoted notion that atheists are immoral and lack values. It is the first such PAC with a paid staff. (Disclosure: I’m an unpaid advisory board member.)

Both Openly Secular and the Freethought Equality Fund think the country is ready to elect nonreligious candidates. More than 20 percent of Americans now claim no religious identity, and the percentage is even higher among young people. Nonreligious Americans are one of the largest minorities in the United States, but you’d never know it because they have lacked political power. Interestingly, Congressman Barney Frank publicly came out as gay in 1987, but didn’t come out as an atheist until he left office.


Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/herb-silverman/time-for-an-atheist-candidate_b_9517948.html

17 comments on “Time for an Atheist Candidate

  • You asked, “how can we change “not yet ready” to “ready?”

    For starters, you might acknowledge the fact that “socialist” governments, primarily Germany and the USSR, managed to kill about 100 million people across Europe and Asia in the 20th century. Second, you might recall that the former USSR was also considered secular, at least on paper. Those two points, especially when combined, will frighten religious people who remember the last century …and rightly so regarding socialism.

    If you want an atheist candidate, as many of us do, then I’d suggest finding a moderate with a little common sense …and an anti-socialist.



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  • +holysmokes There is a difference between socialism and communism. Within socialism, there is also Democratic socialism and social democrat, the last of which is already implemented heavily in Europe. Especially in scandinavian countries. After looking at candidates of the current election, Bernie Sanders, while he is Jewish, believes churches should be taxed, believes in separation of church and state, and when asked about his religion, basically answered with his ‘morality’. I’ve heard he identifies as a secular Jew, so he’s basically a closet atheist, yet he beat every republican candidate in general election polls, and recently passed clinton nationwide despite her name recognition. He also has a pretty decent track record, and walked with martin luther king, fought for gay rights, and womens rights, and was against both the intervention in Iraq and Libya. Pretty good choice if you ask me, although I’m from Britain, so I can’t vote. Make sure this guy beats clinton though.



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  • holysmokes #1
    Mar 25, 2016 at 10:38 am

    One of the problems with the perpetual barrage of nutty propaganda produced by the media in the US, is that it attaches derogatory connotations to words and produces misconceptions about political issues in order to create a disinformed public.

    For starters, you might acknowledge the fact that “socialist” governments, primarily Germany and the USSR, managed to kill about 100 million people across Europe and Asia in the 20th century.

    These were not “socialist governments”!
    The German/Italian/Spanish, “National Socialists” were fascists wearing socialist badges!

    The USSR was ruled Marxist/Leninist, Communists!

    None of these bear any resemblance to modern democratic socialist parties in Europe!

    The sad fact is, that Americans are manipulated by their media to regularly shoot themselves in the foot! – As in the howls against ObamaCare, even though Americans pay about twice as much as most OECD countries for medical services and still get a poorer service!

    https://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2011/04/26/cost-of-health-care-by-country-national-geographic/



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  • Communism is simply a stronger form of socialism. Any time you take money from one person against their wishes and give it to another, you are creating problems. For example: I am certain that I can do a better job of spending my hard-earned paycheck than the government can. Socialism also hurts ingenuity. If I know that no matter how hard I try, the government will still take most of my money, why should I strive to succeed? After all, the government will still sustain me right?

    The bottom line is that you will not see an “out-of-the-closet atheist/socialist winning a presidential election in our lifetimes. Like it or not, in order to have a realistic chance of winning, it must be a left-leaning conservative, or a right leaning liberal. Aka …middle of the road.



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  • holysmokes #4
    Mar 26, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Communism is simply a stronger form of socialism.

    Communism as illustrated in real governments, has been a centralist dictatorship which purported to serve the people equally, but has had privileged elites, just like other forms of government.
    When the USSR fell apart, it did not take long for the powerful elite within the communist system, to emerge as powerful capitalist oligarchs!

    Any time you take money from one person against their wishes and give it to another, you are creating problems.

    This shows a perception engendered by the US media.
    All developed states take money to organise public enterprises; – Roads, drains, water-supply gas, electricity, public health!
    Those which do not take sufficient, or distribute it unevenly, have patches of private affluence in a sea of public squalor.

    For example: I am certain that I can do a better job of spending my hard-earned paycheck than the government can.

    Again this is an American media misconception!
    Your pay-cheque, is what you are given by the ruling powers, after they have taken their cut or paid for the overheads of business enterprises.

    Socialism also hurts ingenuity.

    Yeah! In the US a publicly funded NASA and air-force, “really stifles invention and enterprise” in awarding publicly funded development contracts??????? (Perhaps not!)

    The real world evidence, that indicates a socialist or capitalist system monopoly, stifles enterprise and ingenuity. A mixed system of publicly owned or managed transport, utility, and health systems, with private enterprise operating under publicly regulated standards of finance and safety, works best for its citizens. – providing that ideologues, theocrats and criminals, can be kept out of seats of power where they produce perversions of mechanisms to serve personal greed and nutty agendas.

    If I know that no matter how hard I try, the government will still take most of my money, why should I strive to succeed?

    The question is who takes the lion’s share of the wealth produced by the community or nation?
    The government which if honest and socialist will make long term investments in public services for the even handed benefit of the people.

    Elitist, greedy, or corrupt individuals, will seek to manipulate laws, to open up opportunities for themselves and their associates, to be allowed to exploit the population for short-term profit, – for a minority to live in luxury, while public services and most of the community, are impoverished.

    After all, the government will still sustain me right?

    In democratic socialist states, the government will provide short-term safety-nets to protect from misfortune, and try to ensure high levels of education, to offer long-term employment opportunities for using and developing the skills, which support good standards of life for their citizens.

    In strongly opportunist, states (and corrupt puppet colonies,) there are pockets of wealth, with (despised) shanty-towns, or impoverished, neglected (ghettoes?), and repressed communities around them!
    In such communities, rip-offs are the name of the game, with few opportunities to take advantage of any citizen’s misfortune, rarely missed!



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  • George #5
    Mar 26, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    The problem with socialism is you run out of other people’s money.

    This is usually a claim made by money grabbing elites, who think all money is theirs!

    http://www.hks.harvard.edu/news-events/publications/impact-newsletter/archives/summer-2013/the-costs-of-the-iraq-and-afghanistan-wars
    ( I don’t think that G.W. Bush, was a socialist, when he squandered around 4 to 6 $trillion of borrowed money on silly wars, or that the US taxpayers will feel the benefit of “socialist public services” while they repay this debt!)

    The problem with “free-market capitalism”, is that other people run off with your money, in whatever scam or rip-off they can come up with!



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  • @holysmokes #4:

    The bottom line is that you will not see an “out-of-the-closet atheist/socialist winning a presidential election in our lifetimes. Like it or not, in order to have a realistic chance of winning, it must be a left-leaning conservative, or a right leaning liberal.

    So are you of the view that a presidential candidate who said wealthy Americans should sell their possessions and give the proceeds to the poor might garner votes from a few left-leaning atheists, but wouldn’t stand a chance with US Christians?



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  • holysmokes #4
    Mar 26, 2016 at 10:25 am

    For example: I am certain that I can do a better job of spending my hard-earned paycheck than the government can.

    I realise that this is what the US media, – (sponsored by the medical services and insurance industries), tell you to flatter your ego!

    However, when we look at actual figures for medical services (as linked @#3), the notion, that individual US citizens can negotiate a better deal with big-pharma, hospitals, doctors, medical service corporations, and insurance companies, than the national universal health-care services in other OECD countries, this is pure fantasy!
    US citizens pay twice as much for poorer medical services, – unless they are ultra rich with masses of money to throw around for the very best at even higher prices!

    Having said that, you could be right in that under-trained, undermanned, and underfunded, US bureaucracies, set up by Republican politicians whose campaigns were sponsored by big-pharma, the corporate medical industry, and insurance industries, could well spend your money worse than you could personally, but they would also spend it worse than their OECD competitors who regulate services in social democratic countries!



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  • My personal political views on socialism aside, mainstream American will not vote for a combination socialist/atheist. It will never suceed. I would love to see an open non-believer in the white house, however this couintry does not like socialism. Yes, I personally think it is a piss-poor way to run a country, and yes I can give a multitude of reasons why, however the primary question is how to succeed in electing an athiest president.

    Historically people who like socialism are young and have little material wealth in their lives. Older people, who have accumulated wealth, own a home, payed off college loans etc, are far less likely to jump on that band-wagon. That is simply the way it is. If you want to get an athiest president, it will require tactics that stand a chance.



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  • holysmokes #10
    Mar 27, 2016 at 7:22 am

    My personal political views on socialism aside,

    The US problem is that most Americans only know the strawman socialism regularly denigrated in the all dominant right-wing US media.

    mainstream American will not vote for a combination socialist/atheist.

    Mainstream America will not vote for any candidate who represents the interests of the general public, as long as political candidates and ruling parties are the puppets of corporate sponsors who call the tune on policies!

    It will never suceed. I would love to see an open non-believer in the white house,

    Until the US public in numbers seek out and support candidates who honestly represent their interests, there is little chance! (Trump is a laughing stock in Europe!)

    however this couintry does not like socialism.

    Any action on anything to benefit the ordinary citizens, from ObamaCare to job security and regulating bankers, is disparaged as “Socialism” by the corporate propagandists who manipulate the populations of most states to shoot themselves in the foot!!



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  • Marco, I am not sure that I understand you question. Whether an atheist is left or right leaning is irrelevant to me. Vote your conscious, and I will always defend your right to do so. All I am saying is if you want an atheist candidate, then she/he needs to be middle of the road ideologically. This is where you will find the vast majority of Americans. Asking Americans to vote for someone like Bernie Sanders …a guy who’s ideology helped kill over 100 million people in the 20th century, will simply never fly.



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  • Alan4,discussion, all I can tell you is that I have never seen a so-called socialist country survive without getting corrupted in the long run. When you take away a person’s right to succeed, like the Soviet Union did, you cause a cascade effect that eventually brings the whole thing down. Anyhow, as luck would have it, a friend just posted this link on Facebook. I get the impression that you like a good debate, so take a peek at the article and the comments below. I doubt it will change your mind, however it does have a few good points. https://www.aei.org/publication/why-socialism-always-fails/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=PerryWhysocialismalwaysfails



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  • Trump is a laughing stock in Europe

    I’d be laughing too, but I remembered Charlie Chaplin in “The Great Dictator”. Silly haircut, silly moustache, buffoon.

    Somehow I don’t find Trump funny any more.



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  • holysmokes #13
    Mar 28, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Alan4,discussion, all I can tell you is that I have never seen a so-called socialist country survive without getting corrupted in the long run.

    Like the link you have posted, you continue to conflate democratic socialism, with communism!
    As far as corruption goes, isn’t the USA top of the slush-fund league, in manipulating politics, arming and funding revolutions, and trading with third-world countries?

    When you take away a person’s right to succeed, like the Soviet Union did, you cause a cascade effect that eventually brings the whole thing down

    The Soviet Union was communist!

    @ your link – 1. Socialism is the Big Lie of the twentieth century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.

    This is just asserted nonsense, of the sort of propagandist ill-informed opinions put about in the right-wing media.
    The evidence in most socialist countries refutes these claims.

    http://blog.peerform.com/top-ten-most-socialist-countries-in-the-world/
    Below, you will see some of the most socialistic nations in the world today:

    China
    Denmark
    Finland
    Netherlands
    Canada
    Sweden
    Norway
    Ireland
    New Zealand
    Belgium

    Despite popular myths, there is very little connection between economic performance and welfare expenditure. Many of the countries on this list are proof of that, such as Denmark and Finland. Even though both countries are more socialistic than America, the workforce remains stronger.

    @ your link – In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may show early signs of success. But any accomplishments quickly fade as the fundamental deficiencies of central planning emerge.

    Given the 1929 and 2007 crashes directly resulting from deregulated capitalist banking, sub-prime lending, Madoff, etc. and lack of planning. This is comical!
    The US has states regularly approaching default and shut-down, due to the failure to even to plan and approve budgets in good time!



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  • Alan4discussion , What does the second “S” in USSR stand for? If you choose not to consider the old Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam etc. socialist countries, that is your choice. There is an extremely fine line between communism and socialism. Governments can and have jumped that line numerous times. The 20th century saw over 100 million people die as a result of governments taking too much control over people’s lives. Capitalism, despite its many flaws, is still far preferable to socialism for myself and millions like me. No matter how badly I want to see an atheist presidential candidate, I will not vote for one if he/she is also a socialist. I think it is important to realize, (and most Americans apparently do not), that the USA is first and foremost, a republic. The founders of this nation went out of their way to create a republic as opposed to a democracy. Too many have forgotten the difference and that is a genuine shame. Anyhow, I am glad you liked the link.



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  • holysmokes #16
    Mar 29, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Alan4discussion , What does the second “S” in USSR stand for? If you choose not to consider the old Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam etc. socialist countries, that is your choice. There is an extremely fine line between communism and socialism.

    That is true!
    In reality there is a continuity from democratic socialists in an electable group of parties, right through to one party communist states.

    That does not mean the two cannot be quite different!
    Unlike one party communist regimes you mention, The balance of democratic socialists’ representative numbers, change with elections at national and European levels in a mix with other political parties.

    The Socialist heads of state below are from mainstream democratic countries.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_of_European_Socialists#European_Council
    The PES has eight out of the 28 heads of State or Government that attend the PES summits in preparation for the European Council:



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