Thursday, April 26, 2007

Stark Contrasts

Most of you have probably heard about this already, but hopefully it bears repeating. It has long been understood that, for a politician, denying the existence of God is career suicide. An oft-quoted Gallup poll in 1999 revealed that, when asked whether they would vote for an otherwise qualified candidate who happened to be an "X", Americans responded thusly: African American (95%), Catholic (94%), Woman (92%), Jew (92%), Homosexual (59%), Atheist (49%). Granted, all these numbers were up from 1978 levels, but being an atheist was still the surest way to lose support. [source]

In October 2006, the Secular Coalition for America initiated a contest offering $1,000 to anyone who could identify the highest-ranking U.S. elected official who holds no belief in God. The result was the public identification (with his permission, naturally) of Pete Stark, a Democratic U.S. Representative of San Francisco's East Bay, as a non-theistic Unitarian Universalist. A well-respected politician who, at the age of 75, has held his current position since 1973, Pete Stark made a statement that, "Like our nation's founders, I strongly support the separation of church and state. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services."

The roughly 8-10% of the U.S. population that doesn't believe in God was delighted to find that at least 1 of the 535 members in the House and Senate (0.187%) openly shares their views. Of course, others looked less kindly upon this development. The Christian Seniors Association declared it "A sad first in the history of Congress," and issued a press release urging other members of the House of Representatives to state their belief in God at the conclusion of speeches on unrelated matters. Well, you can't please 'em all.

Read more from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Pete Stark's Congressional site.

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