I am delighted by the news that, finally, we have a member of Congress — Rep. Pete Stark of California — who admits to being an atheist. Not only that, he’s a Unitarian Universalist! It’s like having found a long-lost relative who unexpectedly shares many of my views and is in a position of power to boot.
It’s tough being an American who doesn’t believe in a higher power. I’ve encountered many situations in which I haven’t been comfortable sharing my lack of belief, due to the overwhelming prejudices and stereotypes regarding atheists. Keep in mind that we have openly gay members of Congress, but no one until now has been willing to come out of the atheism closet. I hope this is just a first step toward greater tolerance of all beliefs and lack of beliefs.
Here are some excerpts from the ABC News report:
The American Humanist Association applauded Rep. Pete Stark for publicly acknowledging he does not believe in a supreme being. The declaration, it said, makes him the highest-ranking elected official and first congressman to proclaim to be an atheist. The organization took out an ad in Tuesday’s Washington Post, congratulating the California Democrat for his stance.
“With Stark’s courageous public announcement of his nontheism, it is our hope that he will become an inspiration for others who have hidden their conclusions for far too long,” executive director Roy Speckhardt said in a statement.
Stark’s beliefs garnered attention after the Secular Coalition for America offered a $1,000 prize to the person who could identify the “highest level atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States.”
… Stark, whose district is in the San Francisco Bay-area town of Fremont, confirmed his belief in a statement to The Associated Press late Monday. He said he was “a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.”…
Unitarian Universalism describes itself as creedless, allowing members to shape their beliefs based on personal experience rather than an authoritative statement of religious belief. Some members believe in God, but not all do.