The secret to getting elected? A proclamation of faith and a libel suit!

“In the 2008 North Carolina senate race, incumbent Elizabeth Dole accused her Democratic opponent Kay Hagen of being an atheist. This last ditch effort, however, failed to persuade votes to abandon Hagen, the contest’s eventual winner. Like the residents in the union’s others states, North Carolinians simply could not conceive of a nonreligious public figure and simply scoffed at the allegation. Hagen quickly responded with a proclamation of faith and a libel suit. She then charged Dole of wilfully breaking the ninth commandment (thou shalt not bear false witness). Few people considered the fact that unbelief is not a crime, and despite what former presidents have uttered [i.e. George Bush Snr.], atheism is not implicitly unpatriotic. In eighteenth-century New England, women confessed to cavorting with the devil in order to avoid execution on charges of witchcraft; in twentieth-century America, charges and counter-charges of “communist” destroyed careers and ruined lives. With the rise of the Christian Right in the post-Cold War world, the accusation of atheism holds the same power as these earlier scare tactics in its ability to send public figures scrambling for religious cover. Despite a shared past filled with the good words and deeds of nonbelievers, Americans cling to a myth of unimpeachable religio[sity] from the first colony to the “end times.” To question the veracity of this myth is tantamount to resigning from public life. Those who do not heed this advice, such as Thomas Morton, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Robert Ingersoll, find themselves in the dustbin of history.”

Cady, Daniel. 2010. Freethinkers and Hell Raisers: The Brief History of American Atheism and Secularism. In Atheism and Secularity – Volume 1: Issues, Concepts and Definitions, ed. Phil Zuckerman, 229-249. Santa Barbara: Praeger, p. 247.

And this from a country with the following in Article VI of its constitution?

Article VI: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (my italics)”

Cited in Fitzgerald, Timothy, 2007. Discourse on Civility and Barbarity: A Critical History of Religion and Related Categories. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 284.

“No religious test” my arse!


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About Chris

Scholar of religion/nonreligion... PhD Student (Lancaster University), blogger, singer, actor, thinker... Northern Irish living in Scotland. Co-founder of The Religious Studies Project. Director at the NSRN. Baritone masquerading as a tenor. Vegetarian for no particular reason.

3 responses to “The secret to getting elected? A proclamation of faith and a libel suit!”

  1. jonolan says :

    I, for one among many, would never vote for an Atheist – unless, and that then possibly, their opponent was a Muslim.

    Atheists have nothing to hold them to their oaths and, hence, can never be trusted. They also have no valid place within America since they can never be of America – though we must tolerate their existence here per constitutional mandate.

    • Elle says :

      Jonolan, would you then say that all atheists are predisposed to lie and cheat? From my experience I haven’t noticed that religious people are more likely to keep promises. I see your point that atheists don’t have an all-powerful being to fear retribution from, but I have witnessed moral atheists and immoral Christians. When our culture is inevitably made up of several moral viewpoints, why does the absence of a deity make a person more likely to be dishonest than someone who’s God wants something different from yours?

      Also – if America is the Land of the Free, where the Founding Fathers fled to to escape religious persecution, why must everyone adhere to the norm prescribed by the dominant – and not even the most numerous – religious group in order to be accepted as a patriot? Would you assert that the 75,000,000 people who do not identify as Christian in America are second class citizens?

      Would would be your stance on electing someone with a more alternative religious view – say a New Age religion, or a personally altered version of a Christian denomination’s beliefs?

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