September 22, 2007

Pete Stark (D-CA): Humanist of the Year

California Congressman and atheist, Pete Stark, was honored on Thursday with the annual Humanist of the Year award from Harvard's humanist chaplaincy. Although I found it odd that he downplayed the bigotry atheist face from believers, I applaud his candid admission that expressions of religiosity by politicians tends to be about politics rather than superstition.

According to The Boston Globe, Stark responded to a question about atheists being demonized by saying, "I have no evidence that they [nonbelievers] are 'demonized.' I think there may be a certain arrogance of certainty among some people . . . but I've never run across those who have been nasty about it." It sounds like he has been fortunate. Maybe Congressmen have it better than the rest of us.

Stark expressed optimism that the influence of religion is waning. "I think as we mature . . . you're going to find people taking a less strident or literal position on religion."

When asked about 21 other US representatives who identified themselves as atheists but asked the Secular Coalition for America not to disclose their identities, Stark said, "We're all cowards. We all want to get reelected." What sets him apart is his constituency. An atheist can retain office in his California district far easier than in many other parts of the country.

According to The Globe,
Politicians invoking the Bible and faith, he said, do so because of politics, not religious conviction. He told of the time that a Democratic colleague omitted the reference to God while saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as liberal as they come, "gave him what-for" because, in Stark's opinion, she was worried about losing votes among religious Americans.
WE HAVE 22 ATHEISTS IN CONGRESS! Sorry, but I'm excited. Pete Stark is not the only one - there are 21 others!

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