Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Religious Test for Public Office

This is clip from a recent Real Time Episode with Bill Maher and he makes some interesting (and funny) comments during his "New Rules" segment.

Maher points out that the Constitution forbids any religious test to be passed in order to run for office and agrees that anyone, regardless of their religion, should have the right to run for public office.

He then makes the very true statement that voters have the right, however, to use the religious beliefs of candidates into consideration when casting their votes. Here the gist of his "test" (paraphrased, of course):

1) if you believe in judgment day, I have to seriously question your judgement.
2) if you believe you're in a long-term relationship with an all-powerful space-daddy, who will, after you die, party with your ghost forever, you can't have my vote even for Miss Hawaiian Tropic. I can't trust you with the levers of government because there's an electrical fire going on in your head.
3) maybe a president that didn't believe our soldiers were going to heaven might be a little less willing to get them killed.

He goes on to poke fun at Mitt Romney's magical underwear and Mormonism, which he likens to "Scientology without the celebrities."

His jokes and jibes aside, he made a very interesting point: non-believers are a minority (about 20% of the American public), but a bigger minority that blacks, jews, gays, NRA members, teachers, or seniors -all demographics that politicians are actively seeking approval of.

I think its time that we non-believers and rationalists show creative methods of demonstrating to politicians that our vote is one that can have an effect. The question is when you are faced with a candidate pool in which all members are religious nutters or at least pander to the religious, how do you decide for whom to vote? Not voting can have an effect, but in an election where getting the right candidate may have long-term effects on Supreme Court nominations and subsequent decisions, not voting -even for a religious candidate- can have a detrimental effect on the cause of non-believers.

Related Links

  • Stark's atheist views break political taboo [SF]

  • Gallup Poll on voting choices []

  • Religion, voting and the campaign [Pew Research Center]

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