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Harvard Law Professor: Atheists “Can’t Be Trusted” to Hold Public Office

Jan 2, 2020

By Hemant Mehta

I’m not a Harvard law student, much less a Harvard law professor, but Adrian Vermeule is. Which is why it’s all the more disturbing that he seems to believe atheists are incapable of holding public office.

Responding to a Washington Post article about how white evangelicals falsely fear that atheists would strip away their rights given the chance, one person chimed in by saying several states have laws on the books saying atheists can’t hold public office or serve on juries. That’s absolutely true even if all those laws are unenforceable.

The point is that when Christians are in power, they actually have limited atheists’ rights. There’s no analog the other way around.

In response to that point, Vermeule chimed in by saying those states were right to ban atheists from serving in office because atheists “can’t be trusted to keep an oath.”

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5 comments on “Harvard Law Professor: Atheists “Can’t Be Trusted” to Hold Public Office

  • Christians of certain persuasions have long peddled a line of evidence-free science.  Now it appears that they are going into business with evidence-free law, sociology and politics.


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  • Bizarre, isn’t it? How can Adrian Vermeule’s words be interpreted any way OTHER than an admission that the only reason he himself can be trusted is that he fears hellfire? That, without that fear, he couldn’t be relied on to have any scruples whatsoever?

    Maybe he really does believe that. After all, Christianity does teach that we’re all inherently evil and deserving of eternal torment, and that it’s only through Jesus’s sacrificial death and resurrection that believers won’t get what’s coming to ’em.

    What a terrible way for anyone to think about themselves and others! It’s such an unhealthy belief, such an unhealthy and ungenerous way to approach life.


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  • Bizarre, isn’t it? How can Adrian Vermeule’s words be interpreted any way OTHER than an admission that the only reason he himself can be trusted is that he fears hellfire? That, without that fear, he couldn’t be relied on to have any scruples whatsoever?

    It’s worse than that!  As a Catholic he can beg for absolution by confessing to a priest and get full remission of said sins.  So he knows deep down that he can lie and so long as he isn’t hit by a bus before his next confession.


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  • 5
    Cairsley says:

    Let Adrian Vermeule heed the words of his own Savior: “Again, you have heard how it was said to our ancestors, You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you, do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the Evil One.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

    Apparently, Jesus, if he exists, would look as kindly on an honest atheist as on an honest Jew or Christian; and he would consider Mr Vermeule’s use of Old Testament notions of oaths in political propaganda as coming from the Evil One, which we may interpret as morally reprehensible.


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