the last acceptable religious prejudice?

Sully quotes this report:

The greatest disparity between the religious makeup of Congress and the people it represents is in the percentage of the unaffiliated — those who describe their religion as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” Only six members of the 112th Congress (about 1%) do not specify a religious affiliation and none say they are unaffiliated. By contrast, about one-sixth (16%) of U.S. adults are not affiliated with any particular faith.

and notes:

This group has also been growing very strongly - but the public political culture closets it.

I'm not sure that this is really an example of "closeting" unless one assumes that there are members of Congress who are "unaffiliated" (I really dislike that term, BTW) in their hearts but profess otherwise for any variety of reasons (family, social pressure, or their political careers). I would guess that this is the case for a handful, but probably not many.

But if we take the members' responses at face value, this seems to me a simple function of majoritarian politics. Religious minority groups that are represented at all among the members tend to be somewhat geographically concentrated, meaning that while they are minorities nationally, they may be less so locally. This is clearly true for Mormons (Utah), and probably to some extent for Orthodox and Jewish people as well (urban districts.)

Atheists are pretty well-distributed geographically. I don't think most of the other 83.9% of the American public are consciously against atheists holding office...but the minority of them that do care, care about it a LOT. And with numbers that disparate, that's really all it takes to keep professing atheists out of the halls of congress, for now.


RW said...

I wouldn't call this an acceptable prejudice against atheists and agnostics, I'd call it outright prejudice. Prejudice is prejudice.

This isn't a dyed-in-the-wool thing either. Can you see a Jehovah's Witness / River Brethren being President today? The religious right would have a fit. But then that would mean they'd have to forget about Dwight Eisenhower.

Unitarians aren't even considered Christian by some of the staunch bigots in the popular American version of Christianity. But both of the Adams, Fillmore and Taft were thus.

While Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson had no official "affiliation." Lincoln and Jefferson referenced the Bible but Johnson never said a word. This is not to say anything about those Presidents who listed an "affiliation" but didn't practice anything at all.

And then you'll get the Christian asshole who'll want to know what an atheist is supposed to take an oath on.

Pierce refused the word "swear" as against the Bible. Nixon and Hoover, being Quakers should have simply agreed to faithfully execute as we're not supposed to take oaths and are even excused in a court of law. Teddy Roosevelt didn't use a Bible in 1901 and was married in a Unitarian church. JQ Adams used a law book.

Imagine if any of that took place now? BLASPHEMY! There are websites I can point you to that made a huge deal about that Muslim Rep. taking an oath on the Qu'ran, as well as ones saying Obama NEVER took the oath at all.

So imagine what atheists and agnostics are up against. I swear I'm waiting to work for the first person who says that's their "affiliation" just on principle.

No, it's bigotry. Plain and simple. And runs even into the ranks of Christians to each other.

I'm sick of religious patriotism. Fuck their warrior God.


Gino said...

i'm waiting for the number of muslim office holders to equal the number of jew office holders.

Brian said...

When Christopher Hitchens became a US citizen, he held a copy of Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom. I think a copy of the US Constitution would also be a very appropriate thing for people assuming office to "swear on".

I don't know why anyone would want someone to swear an oath on a document in which they did not fervently believe, in any case. That would seem to undermine the solemnity of the oath.

Me, I'd probably use "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

JJones said...

President Dwight Eisenhower was reared as a Jehovah's Witness. The following Eisenhower Biography webpage explains why there are no JWs in today's Congress:


The following SUMMARIES OF NEARLY 1500 JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CRIMINAL and CIVIL COURT CASES will provide the BEST and MOST ACCURATE info about Jehovah's Witnesses, their beliefs, and how they ACTUALLY practice such day to day.

The following website summarizes over 900 court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witness Parents, including 400 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children, as well as nearly 400 CRIMINAL cases -- most involving MURDERS:



The following website summarizes over 500 lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against their Employers, incidents involving problem JW Employees, and other secret JW "history" court cases:



Brian said...

I had no idea about Ike's religious background. Perhaps because in mid-century America (at least I'm told) one's personal religious convictions were generally considered to be, you know, personal.

At any rate, I consider him one of the better presidents in the 20th century. And regardless of his background, he clearly didn't have any trouble swearing allegiance to and faithfully serving the evil American government.

It is funny to me how much the whole religion in public life has changed just in my lifetime, and how easily people (generally conservatives) have such selective memory about it. Such as how that lousy liberal Carter never shut about his (I believe genuine) faith, and St. Reagan hardly ever went to church.

Ron Bailey wrote a good piece in Reason a couple of years back about the cycles of religiousity in American life, and proposed that we are at the end of the 4th(?) Great Awakening and entering an era of secularism. The implication being, of course, that it won't be a permanent shift...

Or as they say on BSG, "All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again..."