The Ides of March is not a great movie, but it has its moments of liberal porn, where we see presidential candidate George Clooney saying things that we wish liberal candidates knew how to say. Here is how he responds in a debate to his opponent’s charge that he isn’t a practicing Christian:
I’m not a Christian. I’m not an Atheist. I’m not Jewish. I’m not Muslim. My religion, what I believe in, is called the Constitution of United States of America.
(This is a rehearsed talking point — we see his aide Ryan Gosling reciting it during a sound check before the debate.)
Good enough, I suppose. But could a presidential really get away with not being a Christian — or worse, being a self-proclaimed atheist? I mentioned in a comment that Richard Dawkins believes we should judge candidates on their religious beliefs, like the bizarre mythology of Mormonism. But of course this isn’t likely to happen. Evangelicals may grumble about Romney, but the mainstream media — and liberals — will both sing from the same hymnal: a person’s religious beliefs are a private matter. Even if those private beliefs are arrant nonsense. But what about a candidate’s lack of religious beliefs?
Of course, the problem isn’t likely to come up, because virtually every American politician professes some level of religious belief. Wikipedia’s interesting article about Discrimination against atheists notes that only one member of Congress — Pete Stark of California — has “come out” as a nonbeliever. Since the percentage of nonbelievers in Congress is far below that of comparably educated groups, these politicians are probably either self-selecting (atheists don’t even bother going into politics) or lying about their beliefs.
With good reason. This article states that 52% of Americans wouldn’t vote for a well-qualified atheist to be president — more than those who wouldn’t vote for a Muslim. The study reported on here puts the number at 45%. According to the study, atheists are considered about as trustworthy as rapists. Interestingly, atheists also tend to trust religious people more than other atheists. One of the comments on the article sums up the problem nicely (the spelling is in the original):
The reason people won’t trust an athiest is plain and simple: Athiests have no moral foundation for what they believe in because they do not believe in anything. How can you have faith in someone who has no faith to stand for.
Better to believe in the truth of the Book of Mormon than to believe in science.