The emerging 2008 presidential race has spawned a myriad of candidates spanning gender, racial, and religious lines. The question of whether or not you would vote for someone of a particular minority group has probably never been so relevant. However, a new Gallup Poll shows that on a whole we are becoming a reasonably tolerant populace. 94% would vote for a Black person, 88% for a woman, but only 57% for someone over 72 (sorry Mr. McCain). Note that at the absolute bottom of the list are atheists. Only 45% would vote for one, ranking atheists a full 10 points under homosexuals.

I’ve said before that atheists are a largely unrecognized oppressed minority, and this would seem to support that position. Regardless, the comparative ranking to other minorities is striking in a new way. What makes atheists so threatening? Is it simple ignorance? Maybe, but I suspect not. I think the difference is that all the minority categorizations on the list say something about the candidate, but only atheism says something about the voter.

If I’m a thrice divorced 75 year old Catholic Hispanic homosexual woman, those labels reflect something I am or choices I’ve made. They say nothing about you. By supporting me, there’s no inherent admission (or even inclination) that your manhood, your Jewish faith, your stable marriage, or your Asian heritage are wrong. But I think atheism is different.

As an atheist, I can accept your belief in God. I may not believe that God actually exists in reality, but I can believe that the idea of God is very real to you. And further, that this belief is appropriate and healthy for you. Your belief is a good thing for you. I do not require that you be wrong or crazy to keep my world view in tact.

However, as a theist, it is not nearly so easy to reconcile atheism. Theology says that God does exist in a very real, albeit intangible, way. Further, most western theologies (especially Christianity) teach that those not of the faith are either unaware (in need of education and conversion) or oppositional (in need of being culled from the flock). So whom would a theist vote for, the ignoramus or the heretic?

I think other religions are easier for theists to accept than atheism. This is especially true among Christians, Jews, Mormons, and Muslims. They all share books of the bible, certain mythologies, many philosophies, the same God, and even some of the same prophets. They are flavor variations, more similar than not. But you can’t stretch faith around atheism – pretty much by definition. Atheists may be unexposed to the Word, they may be wrong, misguided, or nuts. But they can’t be right. Their position is definitionally untenable in the theistic world view.

I think it is this world view dichotomy which will make atheists one of the hardest minorities to accept. If I’m straight, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong for you to be gay. But if I’m a theist, it does make it wrong for you to be an atheist. I’m not sure how we get past that. To that end, I’ll encourage any readers who are theists and who have come to a way to reconcile atheists without contradicting their faith to share that reasoning with the blog.

One thought on “If You Don’t Love God, You Can’t Be Our President

  1. Your blog is very interesting. You seem to be attempting to be the next Dave Barry but your arrogance and elitist attitude gets in the way – Barry is unassuming and clever and …well, you need some work.

    Take for example your comment about atheists being “an oppressed minority”. That’s splendid as we all know how desperately we need another oppressed minority in this Country.

    Actually, we are kindred spirits … I am an oppressed minority too. I believe we should declare war on France – after all, they are snotty and obnoxious, they wouldn’t let us fly over their airspace when we kicked Kaddafi’s ass in the 1980’s and Jacques Chirac is Socialist. So I was about to run for President when I read a Nielsen poll that indicated less than 1% of the population would vote for me if I favored the invasion of France.

    That’s it … I am oppressed! I am a victim!

    My “anti-France” group is an oppressed minority and we deserve special compensation from Uncle Sam. If we can’t use millions of dollars to bomb France back to the Stone Age, we can spend the money re-educating people about tolerance and how they have to treat me (and the many others who believe those frogs must die) with respect and reverence … and as a serious candidate. Perhaps I should win the election by default because of this injustice – that would be the politically correct thing to happen.

    Oh but wait … perhaps well over 99% of the population isn’t going to vote for me because they don’t agree with me. Perhaps they believe the idea of arbitrarily bombing France is an unwise option. They don’t oppress me for having the opinion (they don’t prosecute me, kill me, keep me from procreating, etc..) but they won’t elect me President because they too have a choice and have the freedom to have their own opinion.

    So, perhaps well over 50% of the population of the United States believes atheists have made an unwise choice (not as egregious as bombing France but unwise nonetheless) and therefore would not want them for their President. Nothing more and nothing less.

    By the way, I am also balding. Do I get special treatment for that? I am “follicly challenged” and I need government support (i.e. “money”)

    For God’s sake man …. Calm down! As Sgt. Hulka (played by Warren Oates) said to “Psycho” Soyer (played by Conrad Dunn) in the movie Stripes …

    “Lighten up Francis”

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