Are we ready for an atheist as President?

On this President's Day, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle got me to thinking about Presidents - Mostly crusty, older mainline Protestants or evangelicals, right? Well OK... we've had two Quakers, one Jehovah's Witness, and one Catholic, but for the most part all men of faith. And I don't think that anyone doubts that a Jew or a Mormon could get elected President. I mean Joe Lieberman was on Al Gore's ticket and Mitt Romney (a Mormon) is discussed as a likely presidential contender in 2008.

But what about an atheist? Atheists are perhaps the most underrepresented quasi-religious segment of the electorate, and why? Discrimination, though not overt. Americans simply prefer to elect the god-fearing over the godless. As the Chronicle notes:
You can be elected as an openly gay politician in this country, but you can't be elected as an openly atheistic one...

Lori Lipman Brown, Lobbyist, Secular Coalition
Now, I'm an agnostic, but I'd put myself in the same group. In fact, I'd venture that a Muslim has a greater chance of being elected President in this country than an avowed atheist or agnostic. What do the rest of you think?


Five years ago, I would have said an atheist or agnostic wouldn't have had a chance, but I'm not so sure now. I think the extremists have turned a number of people away from religion and religious people. If the right person ran for office based on values like morality, charity, truthfulness, etc., I think he/she would have a chance without having to drag religion into it.

BTW, who was the Jehovah's Witness? Just curious.
BTW, who was the Jehovah's Witness? Just curious.

Dwight Eisenhower. If I remember correctly, he was raised a Jehovah's Witness and remained one until early in his first term (at the time a very well-kept secret), when he was re-baptized into the...Presbyterian (?) church.
So he could knock on doors canvassing for votes AND conversion???? How efficient!
there really isn't so much religious feeling here as in the US. i would guess the main religion here to be a sort of wishy washy agnosticism
I'm Catholic and I'd vote for an atheist or agnostic candidate in a heartbeat. Of course, my parish priest, any number of bishops and the Pope himself would condemn me to the fires of Hell for all eternity for that... but eh... who cares? I'm sure Heaven ain't all what they make it out to be anyway.
As an unofficial representative (and agnostic pariah) of the middle part of the country, let me assure you that no atheist could be elected to the presidency at this time. The Bible Belt inhabitants wouldn't stand for that. Now, if the atheist associated himself (because I don't believe a woman can be elected at this time, either) with a group such as the Unitarian Universalists, he might have a better chance. An avowed atheist and agnostic, though? No way. It wasn't too many years ago that the senior Shrub said atheists weren't even citizens, if I recall correctly.

I don't think a Muslim could be elected President, either. Not right now. Hopefully, that will change soon.
Hey, I've been enjoying your blog so much today, I hope you don't mind if I put you on my blogroll.
Perhaps you need a Buddhist over there?

Great blog btw..
The Christian right would vote for a Satanist before they'd vote for an Atheist. At least a Satanist believe there is a God.
JulianB, welcome and please "roll" away. I think you're right about Bush Sr. As I recall it was a television interview during the 88 campaign. He said something like atheists weren't really citizens and couldn't be patriotic.

Dimitri, thanks. Not sure 'bout a buddhist. Could a godly country such as this really elect someone from a religion that disavows that it's central figure is a god? :-)
The Christian right would vote for a Satanist before they'd vote for an Atheist. At least a Satanist believe there is a God.

Lew, they may get their chance, is "The Impaler" (aka Jonathon Sharkey) still planning to run for governor in Minnesota?
julianb, I'm with you — no way an atheist can get elected. Or a Muslim. Sharkey the Implaler would get elected before either of them.
I don't think an atheist could get elected, but I wouldn't mind seeing it happen. I think spirituality is a private thing, and it shouldn't be used to promote someone's political agenda. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinions and their own morals. We don't need the government legislating that stuff to advance their politics.

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