I get this newsletter called The West Report from this Political Science professor at Brown University named Darrell M. West. Usually I don't read it. Though he does not say so, from the tenor of his writing Professor West seems to be one of those liberal Democrats who can't be bothered with some of the Democratic Party's minor defects like historically being the party of slavery and racism and having a history of committing war crimes unmatched by any other party currently in power on earth.
But I read the February edition because, while it was a promo for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it had some very interesting poll result on how the American people have changed their opinions over time. He shows that in the 1950's a majority of voters were not willing to vote for atheist, black, Jewish or female candidates. Fully 40% were not willing to vote for a Catholic. More recent polls from the 1990's showed a remarkable change: over 90% of voters said they were willing to vote for a highly-qualified Jewish, catholic, female or black presidential candidate. In reality they probably would not, but at least they know what the right answer is supposed to be. Mormon's fared only slightly worse: 79% were willing to vote for a Mormon, but 21% would not.
Life is still tough on Gay politicians. Only 59% would vote for a gay presidential candidate.
I wish they had asked the Islamic question. That would add some insight. And what about candidates who belong to one of the "new" religions like Scientology?
The big losers, however, are atheists. No matter how good a politician is on policy or competence or charisma, 51% of voters would vote for the other guy (or gal, or transsexual). it would be interesting to put up a gay christian against a straight atheist and see what people thought.
Of course, what people say they are and what they really are may vary a bit, especially when politics is involved. I suspect a number of our past presidents worshiped Mammon (money) or no god at all.
Atheism is not a religion. The label does not tell you anything about what a person believes. I believe in the reality of the natural world. Define god as the natural world, or as an identity with the universe, and I guess you could say I believe in god. But I don't like to say I believe in God because they would think I believe in all sorts of nonsense. I prefer to describe myself by my philosophy, which might be called Realism or Naturalism.
I don't think most people who believe in God are crazy, but I do think that the religious beliefs they subscribe to are crazy. In reality Jesus was not god's only son; Mohammed was not writing down dictation from God; the Buddha was just a rich kid who got very confused for a while. Heck, I think worshiping the Sun as god, or the Earth as a Goddess, is more in touch with reality than trying to elevate a human to be God or even a prophet.
I think the religious sickness that infects U.S. culture is tied closely to hypocrisy and ethical sickness. These same people who won't vote for an atheist presidential candidate are mostly the ones who have no problems invading foreign countries and killing people.
Some of the more famous atheists have given the term a bad reputation. Stalin is a good example. Like I said, knowing that someone does not believe in God or Jesus does not tell you what they believe in, or how ethical they are. They say Baptists read the Bible literally. They say that Baptists predominate in the U.S. military. Yet they don't seem to be able to read one particular sentence literally. It is Exodus Chapter 20, verse 13: "Thou shalt not kill." Apparently that one is open to interpretation. And yes, you can be President if you take that sentence for a metaphor.
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