Imagine If All the Candidates Were Atheists? Dave Habecker

By Dave Habecker

Mitt Romney will say that once a candidate declares a belief in God, the religion discussion is over. If we are one nation, under God” and every candidate is courting the fundamentalist vote, maybe religion is where the discussion should start. Do you, Candidate #1, believe that Homo sapiens walked with dinosaurs? Are you expecting an imminent end of times and the arrival of Jesus and/or Mohammed? Does your God take an active role in your decisions, and does he/she talk to you?

How is it that the prerequisite for being president is declaring a belief in spirits, ghosts and the supernatural, but we can’t question the sincerity, extremes or sanity of that belief? Maybe it’s proper, in this age of enlightenment, that a presidential debate include questioning a candidate’s belief in evolution, because amazingly, some don’t! (Evolution gives us intelligence; religion gives us ignorance.) Why do all candidates say they are believers, and why do most Americans blindly continue to accept this nonsense?

If some of our early colonies were arguably founded on a fundamental belief in God, they were also founded on a fundamental belief in slavery, and a fundamental belief in the subordination of women. But our secular nation was later and ultimately founded on a fundamental belief in a separation of church and state. Many of our original fundamental beliefs have been discarded, but through the self-promotion of religious organizations and self-serving support of government, the God thing not only thrives, but has become downright scary.

In fact, we have moved beyond fundamental belief. By adding “under God” to the pledge, making “In God We Trust” the national motto, and embracing the ecumenical unity of churches, our government has established Christianity as the de facto national religion. We even have a “national cathedral”!

The courts have tried to disguise our established religion by saying that any use of or reference to the word “God” is merely a historical reference or a form of “ceremonial deism.” It would be historically justified then to add “under white men” to the pledge and call it ceremonial racism/patriarchy. The only difference between “under white men” and “under God” is the number of people offended.

The Supreme Court has stated that official acknowledgments of the nation’s religious history and enduring religious character do not violate the Establishment Clause, and in fact says any notion like that is farfetched. But on the other hand, some on the high court have asserted on five different occasions that “we” are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a “Supreme Being.”

Of course, the Supreme Court has no right to assert that we are a religious people, any more than it has the right to assert that we are a white people, straight people, or married people! “Equal Justice Under Law” is the only thing it should be asserting. In the eyes of the Court, we should all be the same. The Court certainly shouldn’t be protecting a national religion on a flimsy historical argument. Besides, how will the Supreme Court know when and if “we” are no long religious or religious enough? Will the Supreme Being tell them?

Back to Mitt Romney: To fully appreciate the Mormon religion would require a study of upstate New York history. This history would tell of evangelical movements, visions, counterfeiting, and other chicanery, such as divining the location of lost treasure by looking through a stone hidden in a hat, Joseph Smith being visited by the angel Moroni, then finding and translating the buried Book of Mormon. It is a story best told in an episode of South Park. It’s unbelievable, but then again, aren’t most religious stories?

If Mitt Romney has to defend his belief in Mormonism, then a Catholic should have to defend the Inquisition. All Christians should have to explain the Book of Revelation and why they anticipate the day when burning all the blasphemers in the lake of fire and brimstone becomes a spectator sport.

It’s obvious why politicians won’t discuss the details of their religion, but still we allow religious influence to pervert our political process. Our political leaders are so afraid of religious organizations that they have lost all sense of reason and our country is suffering the consequences. A strongly adhered-to separation of church and state is in everybody’s best interests. Maybe a politician’s capacity to govern is more important than whether he or she has been “born again.”

Imagine this: All the candidates say they are atheists! The conversation about religion would be over and we could get on with debating governance, fairness, compassion, and abilities. If you agree with what a military officer said about Pat Tillman’s family, “Atheists don’t believe in anything,” try this on: Americans are so wrapped up in their own religious fervor that they can’t see the significance of an atheist giving his life for his country!

David Habecker served for more than 12 years as a member of the Board of Trustees of Estes Park, Colo., until being recalled for not reciting the religious Pledge of Allegiance. He and the Freedom From Religion Foundation are now suing the township, with representation by Foundation member and attorney Robert R. Tiernan. Habecker graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology and has lived in Estes Park since the 1970s. He designs residential buildings and runs a small hotel with his wife, Susan. They have two grown children. He is a member of the Foundation.

Note: “The opinions of the U.S. Courts are documented in the briefs of the U.S. Attorney General’s office opposing my ongoing case against the pledge.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation