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Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

Do you think there will be an openly atheist US president in the next 20 years?

Asked by Russell_D_SpacePoet (6449points) November 11th, 2010

As wrapped up in religion as the U.S. is, I wonder if I’ll see an atheist pres. in my lifetime. Let alone in the next 20 years.

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93 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

I’m betting that there will be a gay one before there is an atheist one. Therefore…no, probably not.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@iamthemob Well, you are probably right. Maybe he/she could be gay and atheist. 2 birds with one stone.

ETpro's avatar

Thomas Jefferson was the first, in my opinion. He may not have bragged of being an atheist, but his approach to deism suggests to me that he inwardly had concluded that there is no watchmaker God. When America will become secular enough for another man of Jefferson’s nature to win election, I don’t know. I doubt I will live to see it.

Nially_Bob's avatar

Given the religious nature of the US culture I doubt it. Even in particularly secular countries it’s not common for a leader to be openly atheist as it makes it less likely that the religious portion of the population will support them. Though in these countries ones religious beliefs is also less likely to be raised in a discussion with a potential leader which likely contributes to the seeming lack of “openness”.

Judging by the recent developments of each realm of social equality in the US i’m inclined to believe that the next waterstone will be the first female US President.

Smashley's avatar

I hope so since, in my interpretation, a person who isn’t an atheist has no business running a country.

downtide's avatar

No, and I don’t think there will be a gay one either. A woman first.

talljasperman's avatar

@downtide how about a lesbian atheist woman?

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@Smashley I agree. Many politicians nowadays use religion as a re-election tool.

iamthemob's avatar

@Smashley – why is that?

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@downtide You are probably right. I believe a woman will be elected president in within the next three elections.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

No way. ”...a new study out this month finds that Americans are not fond of atheists and trust them less than they do other groups.” ABC News
I agree with @downtide.

syz's avatar

Oh, I hope so. But probably not.

Cruiser's avatar

I think we will have an openly atheist candidate for President who will clearly be the best man for the job but because of the religious right will never get elected.

CaptainHarley's avatar

No, that’s not going to happen.

meiosis's avatar

I find it hard to imagine, given the prominence religion has in American politics.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

Not on my watch.

iamthemob's avatar

@ChocolateReigns – what are the reasons for stopping it?

crisw's avatar

Not in the next twenty year, no. Considering the surveys that show the vast majority of Americans won’t vote for an atheist, we have a long way to go.

crazyivan's avatar

Cultural values shift quickly at times and it seems that we are in the midst of two complimentary trends: One sees atheism on the rise and vocal atheism reaching unprecedented levels. The other is an increasing loss of cultural respect for religion and religious institutions. It has become increasingly acceptable, for example, to make jokes at the expense of religion.

While I seriously doubt that we will see an openly atheist president in 20 years, I would have said in 1988 that I seriously doubt I’d see a black president in the next 20 years. I would not be surprised if we started to see the stigma of atheism in politics diminish greatly. We are in the middle of a sweeping cultural change and every day the old guard diminishes while the new one takes over.

Times, they are a-changin’

CMaz2's avatar

No.
Like it or not.
Religion being the backbone to all society.

In a imperfect world, a fall guy is needed.
That being god.

sounds like a @chazmaz answer

Smashley's avatar

@iamthemob – I happen to believe that a president should use their best judgement to do what is best for the people of the country. If a person truly believes a religion, they do not have good judgement.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@iamthemob Because a leader needs to realize that even if they’re on the top in their country, there is someone they have to answer to – God. That’s just my opinion. So I would not vote for an atheist, and I would campaign very hard for the right guy (which I was doing a bit of this last election with a group called Generation Joshua. I plan on leading teams doing this in a couple years.)

iamthemob's avatar

@Smashley – that’s a drastic overgeneralization. I would think that there are numerous counter-examples. I would put forward Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr.., and Deitrich Bonhoeffer forward as an initial group of the religious who have had a profound effect on moving society forward.

iamthemob's avatar

@ChocolateReigns – A leader does need to realize that – but to say it should be God is to turn them into a leader not of the people, but for a God. The leader does need to know that there is a power beyond him or her – and that is the people the leader has been elected to represent.

Thinking that he or she is answerable to a God instead of the people isn’t a Democracy – it’s a Theocracy.

perg's avatar

@ChocolateReigns What if the atheist was clearly the most qualified to run the nation, and the “right guy” was a moron or a crook?

We agree completely on one point, though: that the idea of a monotheistic Super Daddy in the sky is “just [your] opinion.”

Smashley's avatar

@iamthemob – Overgeneralization? Obviously. I really didn’t feel like writing more. I suppose a better way of putting it would be that an elected official has a mandate to make tough decisions on behalf of the people. The job requires the highest levels of critical thinking and information analysis and a person who can be convinced of the crazy shit in any religious doctrine either does not have high functioning critical thinking skills, or they refuse to apply them to certain situations. Either way, I don’t consider them the best person for the job.

And (shudder) there will actually be some theistic leaders who will pervert democracies into theocracies, perhaps unintentionally, only because it’s what their warped minds actually tell them is in everyone’s best interests.

perg's avatar

@iamthemob Hey, I asked a simple question and stated a fact.

iamthemob's avatar

@Smashley – That’s a false dilemma if I ever say one.

Just because someone believes in god doesn’t mean that they will put that before their duty to the people. If you believe that to be a necessity then you’re demonstrating how belief in god isn’t a necessary prerequisite to refusing to apply any high functioning critical thinking skills in certain situations.

crazyivan's avatar

I would not vote for an atheist…

Now, if you replaced atheist with a particular religion, our culture would call you a bigot. Don’t get me wrong, people are free to vote as they choose and if somebody didn’t vote for a person because of their race, religion or whatever it still counts the same, but it is a decision based on prejudice.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@perg and @iamthemob
Well, part of what this group I’m in, called Generation Joshua, what it does is finding actually good people who are in politics that should be elected, and we do all we can to get them elected. So I wouldn’t be helping who’s a “moron or a crook”.

Leaders also need to realize that unless God wants something to happen, it’s not going to happen!

@smashley – there will actually be some theistic leaders who will pervert democracies into theocracies, perhaps unintentionally, only because it’s what their warped minds actually tell them is in everyone’s best interests.

True. There are some people that look like they’re good, but then they show that they’ve got some twisted opinions and that they’ll do some stupid stuff in the name of “religion” that originally got them elected. We have to be careful about that.

iamthemob's avatar

@ChocolateReigns – If the person is intelligent, reasonable, and looking out for the best interests of the poeple – what does it matter if they understand that nothing will happen unless god wants it to? There’s nothing to do to stop it, after all.

The problem is that when you say “unless God wants something to happen,” I wonder if you’d feel the same way if the candidate was Muslim?

perg's avatar

@ChocolateReigns See, you are basing your leader’s qualifications on a premise that I think is bogus: That there is a god who “wants” things to happen. While I believe there is a higher… something that mandates, however passively, that we should live morally, I don’t think it takes any shape we would recognize as a sentient being (or beings). It could be something spiritual, or nothing more than a code of behavior that is based on logic and our mutual desire to survive.

So if your leader bases his or her actions on the notion that there’s someone else driving the car and that he or she must answer first to that being, I believe that leader is unqualified to lead me – because that person is basing his or her actions on something I consider a fantasy. And I support @iamthemob‘s point about leaders of other faiths. Why should your faith or theirs be behind decisions that are made on my behalf when I don’t buy into either creed?

perg's avatar

I should clarify that I fully respect @ChocolateReigns’ or anyone else’s right to believe in whatever deity or deities she or they please. I respect that, and hope for a similar respect for my position. But I don’t think membership or belief in any faith is a qualification for serving in a civil office, and I am leery of candidates who express an intent to make decisions on civic policy based on a dogma that I believe has no basis in fact.

Smashley's avatar

@iamthemob – burn… so in the interest of scoring a minor point: you made a typo! So THERE!

No, I did not say it was a necessity. I know you were dying to pull out some haughty wordplay, but you misread my statement.

iamthemob's avatar

@Smashley burn burn. ;-) that typo was actually HILARIOUS…that may have been Freudian…

I qualified the statement just in case that wasn’t the situation…it’s just that when you say that a religious person is assumed not to apply critical thinking to their religious life, you’re locking a concept of religion down so that it cannot evolve, and also making a counterproductive assumption about the person’s ability contrary to (in the example) evidence to the contrary.

crisw's avatar

@ChocolateReigns

I looked up Generation Joshua. It looks like it is an arm of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The platform of Generation Joshua isn’t stated explicitly anywhere on the website; just key phrases like “The Sanctity of Life” (presumably anti-abortion) and “The Traditional Family” (presumably anti-gay marriage.)

As far as what kinds of political candidates it’s encouraging young people to support (this is an organization for teens not yet old enough to vote)- this should give you some idea:
“Generation Joshua wants America to be a perpetual city on a hill, a beacon of biblical hope to the world around us. We seek to inspire every one of our members with faith in God and a hope of what America can become as we equip Christian citizens and leaders to impact our nation for Christ and for His glory. ”

Sorry, but that smells ike a theocracy to me.

It should be mentioned that the parent association HSLDA is against the teaching of evolution, mandatory vaccinations, mental health screening, the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, etc. etc.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@crisw Yeah! I’m glad you looked it up. If you don’t like it, I guess that’s all right. But I’ll do anything I can to help get people I believe will be good for the country elected.

iamthemob's avatar

@ChocolateReigns – the problem that I have (I looked at the site as well) is not that I wouldn’t want someone who stated they were Christian in a position of leadership. It’s simply that it should not be the agenda of any group to put people of one religion into office.

The Constitution mandates a separation of church and state, and this appears to want to subvert that. Religious leaders have their sphere of leadership in religion. A Democracy needs to be free of religious agendas.

Do you see how the mission of this group could be profoundly offensive in that way?

crazyivan's avatar

@ChocolateReigns Good to know that @crisw has your permission to not like a group that openly advocates dumbing down our educational system to bring it in line with their supersitions…

crisw's avatar

@ChocolateReigns

I don’t think that banning abortion, stopping gay marriage, or establishing a Christian theocracy are things that are good for our country.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@iamthemob Separation of church and state is one thing. I don’t want somebody governing what I do in church or anywhere else based on my opinion or religious views (unless it’s something really wrong, of course.) It’s when they start saying you can’t do anything the least bit associated with church that gets on my nerves. An extreme example is kids not being able to wrap their secret santa gifts at school in red and green wrapping paper because it’s associated with Christmas.

wundayatta's avatar

Not in twenty years. The surge of religiosity in the US will not die down in 20 years. People base their votes partly on the economy and partly on character. Belief is seen as an important part of character. I don’t think people will be able to see past atheism to understand the character of a candidate.

I hope I’m wrong about this.

iamthemob's avatar

@ChocolateReigns – I think the separation can end up defeating the purpose of freedom of religion in odd ways as well…you’re totally right to be frustrated by that.

However, the very goal of the group is as follows:

*******************************************************************************************************
Our goal at Generation Joshua is to cultivate leaders and to equip them to use their beliefs to influence the political process. All of our programs either challenge youth to strengthen their beliefs, or give youth the opportunity to put their beliefs into action. We know that not every person is called to enter the political arena, but every person should be a leader who is willing to stand up for what is right, where ever they are called to serve. To that end, Generation Joshua exists.

Generation Joshua wants America to be a perpetual city on a hill, a beacon of biblical hope to the world around us. We seek to inspire every one of our members with faith in God and a hope of what America can become as we equip Christian citizens and leaders to impact our nation for Christ and for His glory.
*******************************************************************************************************

Therefore, Generation Joshua has the primary purpose of influencing the political process in order to ensure that the U.S. is doing what God believes it should.

That’s very, very, VERY different than wanting to be able to express your religion – that’s outright stating that you want your religion to be in the political position of power to serve as an example tot he rest of the world.

Now do you see how frightening that sounds to anyone else?

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@iamthemob I kind of see how someone with different opinions that myself would be kind of frightened or offended by what the site says. But that doesn’t change the fact that I want to elect people who will give God their glory.

iamthemob's avatar

@ChocolateReigns – Leaders who will give God their glory are meant for the church setting, though.

There doesn’t seem to be a way for you to do this, and at the same time have respect for other religions and their freedom in this country.

In the end, we would end up with a theocracy or an ideological-nationalistic government. The only two other times that we have seen a powerful conflation of the church and the state in the 20th century and now is in the Nazi party as well as the Middle Eastern countries under Sharia law.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Most of the founders of the USA were men of faith, yet they seem to have done a fairly credible job.

crisw's avatar

@CaptainHarley

Their “faith” was of a far different stripe than the fundamentalists who seek political power today. It was far close to (and in some cases definitely was) deism.

crisw's avatar

@ChocolateReigns

Do you understand that there are a great many people in the US who are not Christians?

Do you understand that many, many people will be personally and grievously harmed should your agenda become reality?

Do you understand that foisting your personal religious views on other people who do not believe them is a tremendous violation of the rights of those people?

Do you understand what “separation of church and state” really means and why it’s important?

One of the great benefits of the public schooling you’re missing is that it actually exposes you to different points of view, rather than shielding you from them.

iamthemob's avatar

@CaptainHarley – As I’ve stated, the issue isn’t so much that men or women of faith take office. But when the agenda is to get men or women of YOUR faith in office… well… it seems that the only real religious political threat that I’m seeing isn’t the one that you seem to be afraid of.

cockswain's avatar

is it OK to say gaytheist?

perg's avatar

@cockswain Does that mean you don’t believe in gays?

cockswain's avatar

no, I was thinking gay atheist, getting two birds stoned at once. Eh. Dumb joke. They can’t all be winners.

cockswain's avatar

on reflection, that might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever posted on this site. Please disregard. Been a hectic day.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@crisw

So your issue isn’t with all christians then? What sort of christians do you find acceptable?

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

Nice try. I don’t vote for people because they claim to be any particular faith. I vote for people who seem to be of good character, who have a solid list of accomplishments which can be transferred to governmental administration, who have a solid track record as leaders, who use their heads for something other than a hat-rack, and who seem to have the best interests of the Country at heart.

iamthemob's avatar

@cockswain – I’m actually loving the concept of gaytheism

@CaptainHarley

I feel like if you’d read through the thread, you’d have seen that the comment regarding the campaign agenda was in regards to @ChocolateReigns’ reference to Generation Joshua. So…I don’t know what you think I was trying for…

CaptainHarley's avatar

Dude! It was a side issue about choosing people for public office based on their religion. Surely you remember that?

iamthemob's avatar

Yes. and @ChocolateReigns was claiming that she was actively campaigning to make that happen. That’s where i start to find it problematic.

And that’s what I was describing in my post.

CaptainHarley's avatar

And I was simply sharing what my own views are on that. : )

iamthemob's avatar

But then how was what I said a “Nice try”?

CaptainHarley's avatar

Um… gratuitus tongue-slippage? : D

crisw's avatar

@CaptainHarley

“What sort of christians do you find acceptable?”

Those who do not try to force their beliefs on others through the legislature or through any other methods.

Paradox's avatar

No, there will not be an openly atheist president in the next 20 years. Maybe in 50 years but I’m not even sure of that. Maybe an agnostic or deist president is possible.

crazyivan's avatar

@ChocolateReigns I’d love to see a link about the whole “kids can’t wrap their secret santa gifts in green and red wrapping paper” claim. Until I do I have to assume that it’s one of the (many) trumped up, nonsensical, baseless, untrue claims made by Christians to paint atheists in a bad light. The whole “war on Christmas” thing is a bit of a joke. Listening to the 80% act like they’re being persecuted amuses the heck out of me.

If you can prove that any place in the universe has the green and red wrapping paper rule, though, I will retract my statement in full.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@crisw

Do you apply the same standard to all religions?

CaptainHarley's avatar

LOL! And how would you know if I did? ( And since when is your nick “crisw?” ) : P

iamthemob's avatar

I do not represent @crisw – only myself. However, I think it’s only fair for you to ask that question if you can demonstrate that you yourself apply the same standards for other religions in the legal and political forum as you do your own.

CaptainHarley's avatar

@iamthemob

And again I ask, how would you knoe if I did?

iamthemob's avatar

I wouldn’t. But you’d know if you did. Although I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt on that one.

CaptainHarley's avatar

You have such a complimentary nature. : )

iamthemob's avatar

I just wish such nature would get me an answer to the question.

crisw's avatar

@CaptainHarley

“Do you apply the same standard to all religions?”

Yes. Although we have not defined “acceptable.”

I still think that all religious beliefs are factually unsupported and, in many cases, silly. I still think that those beliefs do not deserve any type of privileged stratus over any other beliefs. But, if someone holds a belief but doesn’t use it to harm anyone,or try and convert or proselytize to anyone. then I am not going to go out of my way to attack it.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, why not. A moderate atheist who also sees value and wisdom in religion and is tolerant about all tolerant forms of religions.

There are many German politicians who are atheists. We also have a Muslim woman who is a secretary in one of our states.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cem_Özdemir

is a Muslim and the co-leader of the German Green Party.

crisw's avatar

@mattbrowne

“Yes, why not.”

Maybe in Germany! I don’t think the US is nearly as forward-thinking…

Brian1946's avatar

@mattbrowne

I wonder why Germany was able to progress so quickly from a Nazi state 65 years ago to where it is now, while the US still seems to be stuck in a revolving door with the value systems of the Puritans from 400 years ago.

cockswain's avatar

Maybe Germans have placed a higher value on education?

crazyivan's avatar

@cockswain I think you hit it on the head. Keep in mind that we might wind up being the last nation on earth to be governed by a woman as well.

cockswain's avatar

Uh oh, looks like I just suggested a more educated country would be more accepting of atheism. Hope no one freaks out.

crazyivan's avatar

I don’t know how anyone else will interpret it, but I took from it the notion that a more educated society is more accepting of diversity in general.

cockswain's avatar

I agree with that 100%, but I’m the choir.

iamthemob's avatar

@cockswain is in a lot of wicked smart choirs.

cockswain's avatar

—LOL! I probably say that several times a month—

Pepshort's avatar

Never. Atheism is a ‘non-prophet’ endeavor ;)

mattbrowne's avatar

@crisw – I think most Americans are very forward thinking. Many significant discoveries and inventions still come from America. Germany has one advantage: the ultra-conservative movement is extremely small. Perhaps 1 or 2% of the politicians and voters. Most conservatives over here are quite moderate compared to the US. But it is true, the growing ultra-conservative movement in the US is a serious threat. The US might not be the number one innovation machine in the world at some point in the near future. Unless the moderate conservatives can contain the problem and keep the ultra conservatives in check. They are not doing enough. And the liberals can’t fix this alone. They need the intellectual conservatives.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Brian1946 – Because the shock was too great. All cities were in ruins. How could the country of Einstein, Kant, Goethe and Bach be the source of the holocaust? What can be done so something like this never ever happens again? Well, as teenagers we all learn the shocking truth. Nothing gets left out. Pictures like this are literally burned into our memories

http://lamarzulli.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/holocaust-3.jpg

It took till 2006 before Germans rediscovered their flag (hosting the soccer world cup). Before this, private use was considered politically incorrect by most people. I’m not kidding. Only city halls and other official public buildings made use of the flag.

mattbrowne's avatar

@cockswain – Another factor why atheism is more acceptable over here is the reunification. The majority of East Germans are atheists, although it was the East German Protestants who played the key role in bringing down the Berlin Wall. One of our heroes is

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Fuehrer

and he inspired thousands of atheists as well, who visited his church regularly. Fuehrer even placed a sign outside his church saying that everybody is welcome including atheists. He said people do not have to believe in God, when they want to attend church. Some people find peace inside a church without believing in God. I think many Christians in Germany agree with this view. There is almost no hate mongering against atheists over here.

cockswain's avatar

Do you find the name Christian Fuehrer at least slightly amusing?

mattbrowne's avatar

@cockswain – Yeah, it’s kind of ironic. But Fuehrer (Führer) is a normal German word, used also in words like Lokfuehrer (locomotive driver) or Bergfuehrer (mountain guide). The really bad connotation arises in this combination: “Der Fuehrer”. Without “Der” it’s okay.

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