Sunday, April 15, 2012
Could We Elect an Atheist As President?
Could We Elect an Atheist As President?
Can you imagine the people of the United States of America electing someone President who was a non believer? Someone who openly admitted to NOT believe that Jesus Christ was Lord God Almighty?
Well, of course, they could, couldn't they?
Don't hold your breath...
Intellectually, I know an Atheist could fulfill the duties of the office of President of the United States. There are no requirements, such as "special" religious duties listed in the Constitution. In fact, Article Six expressly states that, "...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." That seems to take care of any official roadblock preventing an Atheist from at least running for office. The hurdle that remains, of course, is how the voting public feels about such an eventuality. Which at least for the first two-hundred plus years of our Country, isn't very keen on the idea.
There have been Presidents who were not devout worshipers. Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln claimed a belief in the Almighty, yet did not claim membership into a certain sect of Christianity. The same can be said of William Howard Taft and our current President, Barack Obama. All were accused of being Atheists during their campaigns. James Madison and James Monroe were hardly devout worshipers. Madison especially recorded his thoughts on the dangers of religion playing too prominent a role in the Federal Government. Madison said, "...Freedom arises from the multiplicity of sects, which pervades America and which is the best and only security for religious liberty in any society. For where there is such a variety of sects, there cannot be a majority of any one sect to oppress and persecute the rest."
While there seemed to be a tolerance for a lack of religious fervor in our early years as a Republic, in the last several decades, that tolerance has dwindled. Especially since the not so secret liaisons between the Evangelical movement and the Republican Party of the early 1980's, the matter of a candidates' faith has indeed become a required component of his credentials. Its not enough to possess advanced education. Its not enough to possess years of experience in the Military or business. At some point in the election process, the candidates faith is brought front and center for inspection.
With the advances in media and technology-the worthiness of a candidates faith is evaluated on a national scale. 24/7 cable news channels loop video clips of juicy quotes that have been enunciated in a stump speech, debate or press release. I have to think the very same Founding Fathers the recent GOP field loved to mention so often, would find many of these public displays of faith a bit unpleasant. A bit unseemly. A bit arranged for our benefit.
Suppose there are two men running for President. One a self described Christian who very publicly makes it known for all to see how MUCH he believes. The other candidate either says he's an Atheist or simply "no comment" to any question regarding his beliefs. If everything else is equal, its understood that the Christian would win in a landslide, yes? What if everything isn't equal? What if various past sins and misconduct are revealed of the Christian? Would that be enough to see a significant percentage of people change their votes and support the Atheist? Who knows?
If an Atheist won election, how would he be sworn into office, if not on a Bible? In the history of the United States, there's only been one President-Theodore Roosevelt-who was not sworn into office with the use of the Bible. The Atheist POTUS would follow the rest of the usual swearing in ceremony sans Bible. They could also avoid the use of the word I "swear" by substituting I " affirm" as Franklin Pierce did when he was sworn in. There's no official mandate that a newly elected president use a Bible or swear to "God" anywhere in the process. Article Two, Section One of the Constitution lays out the exact oath a new President is to be sworn into office with:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
You notice what isn't in there? The "so help me God" part that many Presidents have added...as was their right to do. Or not to do.
Its difficult for me to conceive of a Non Christian candidate for President let alone one that denied the existence of a Creator. Since George Washington was sworn into office, there's been no Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist or Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Presidents elected. Mitt Romney appears on track to be the first Mormon to receive a major party nomination later this year in Tampa, Florida during the Republican Convention.
On the other hand, when polled, voters often indicate non religious factors as most important selecting their candidate. In a 2007 AP-IPSOS Poll found 55% of those surveyed said honesty, integrity and other character issues are most important compared to policy choices or other factors. Ironic, given how much time and money candidates spend trying to show off their faith bonafides, isn't it?
At the end of the day, I look for intelligence, character and policy direction when it comes to choosing who to vote for. I need to feel like the candidate has the mental capacity for the job. I look for character to see if he has the strength to go against the grain and sacrifice personal political power to help the Country. I also look heavily at policy choices.
Example: I think Mitt Romney is plenty intelligent to perform the duties of the POTUS. He loses me quickly when it comes to character as its been shown over and over again that he's changed his policy positions. Sometimes its just good sense to change direction when new information is made available. Too many times Romney has, in my opinion, switched how he felt on an issue based on how the political winds were blowing. Most political experts agree the next election will be mostly about the economy, which isn't going to be a slam dunk for Mr. Obama. That said, several years ago, Governor Romney pushed through landmark, pragmatic changes in how the citizens of Massachusetts were able to obtain health insurance. While no system is prefect and there are cost issues in Massachusetts, the program is a success. Almost every person in that State is covered. President Obama used Romney's plan as a blueprint for the Affordable Care Act in 2008. Romney has said he will repeal "Obamacare" as soon as he enters office. To the character question, I would've so respected Gov. Romney if, in spite of the hailstorm of criticism from his fellow GOP candidates, he'd stood up on day one and announced, "I must disagree with my fellow Republicans on the matter of the Affordable Care Act. While I may not agree with some of the details in the plan, the overall goal is a worthy one and one that I will continue to work hard to enhance and improve as we go along. A Country as great as the USA shouldn't see any of its citizens going without adequate health care. I disagree with President Obama on most other issues and will be voicing my differences with him for all to hear...but as far as health care reform goes...he's done the right things..."
I'll bet a large sum of money that such a posture would've served him quite well with the undecided independent voters. It shows honesty, character and a willingness to not follow the pack. Obviously, he's gone a different route...one that he may regret come November.
Its a very small percent of voters who select their candidate based on mostly religion. More often its a pocket-book issue, the economy, their employment status, etc. But make no mistake, the religion thing is sort of a "pre-qualifier" to gain admittance into the fray. You might possess the character, integrity, honesty, etc. in large quantities but I fear that is such a person also indicated no belief in God, it would prevent them from any serious contention.
Which is a sin, if you ask me.