my God! an atheist in Congress 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.

12 responses to “my God! an atheist in Congress

  1. I recently acknowledged my atheism. I’m surprised as to the fact that I am now joining a persecuted minority. Interesting.

  2. Finally.

    Now if only we could get an atheist rapper to NOT thank God after winning a Grammy.

    Hi Tiff! 🙂

  3. when I came to live in this country, I was really surprised to see that religion is such an important issue for so many Americans, especially politicians. I should have remembered how this nation was founded, and expect faith to still play a big role. however, this is absolutely not the image that an average viewer of American movies receives.

    I bet it’s not easy to be an atheist in this society, but surprisingly to me, being a non-Protestant, I sometimes get the curious and suspicious looks.

    it’s interesting to see that an atheist person made it to the Congress.

  4. Let’s be fair: He’s already in Congress. I’d like to see somebody come out of the close during an election! Now that will take some guts.

    That said…I’m still happy that I am no longer the only other atheist on the planet!

  5. This was a move of courage on his part. I don’t want tolerance, I desire acceptance. Tolerance to me is a subdued form of hate.

  6. Tolerance to me is hate.

    That’s exactly those liberals are up too!!!

  7. Thank goodness for this! I had actually not heard about this, until now. It is the most refreshing and difibrulating news I have heard in a while.

    In a world where atheists get taunted and persecuted and thrown out of their rental homes for merely not believing, it is nice to know that someone in a high position is comfortable in telling the world this.

  8. I tend to skirt the issue by saying that I believe in (the forces of) nature as my ‘higher power’ and that those parts of nature that we don’t yet understand are His work. Helps me fit in.

    On the other hand, I do openly admit my boredom with and dislike of churchgoing behavior as well as my animosity toward the narrow-mindedness of the Catholic religion in particular. Did you know that there’s a big community of Pagans and Wiccans out there? Talk about a group that tends to lay low.

  9. Yes, well, this is all very fine but what does
    God think?

  10. The coolest thing about the UUs is that you can find Humanists, Atheists, Pagans, Sane Christians, and a myriad of other beliefs in one servce all getting along.

    If this be err and upon me proved, I really got the wrong tattoo.

  11. Sorry I’m so slow in replying to comments… thanks to you all.
    AgnosticAtheist, it is indeed strange to be part of a persecuted minority (or at least a disparaged minority), particularly since it seems to me that we haven’t done anything wrong — we’ve just honestly express an opinion.

    Dave — TOO funny. 😀 And I agree completely. Does God really need to be credited for every CD, every game win, and every job promotion? Why don’t all the people who lost out make comparable statements blaming God for being a jerk and totally overlooking them?

    EuroPosh, we are indeed incredibly focused on religion, which is odd given that we aren’t a religious state. Mostly I’m grateful for the levels of tolerance that we have, which allows so many religious groups to live together without warfare like that seen in other parts of the world.

    Nimbu, I’m afraid we’ve got a long way to go before someone will be able to admit to atheism on the campaign trail. But maybe someday… and in the meantime, it’s great to know we aren’t alone. 🙂

    Tobeme, that’s an interesting view of tolerance, which I hadn’t thought about. I can see your point. And you’re right: acceptance should be the goal. Unfortunately, I think it will be a long time coming.

    Yankee Doodle: Oh, my. I’ve visited your blog, and I’m going to say something that will undoubtedly make you upset: You’re very young to be so full of anger and carved-in-stone opinions. We live in a marvelously diverse country full of all sorts of people with a multitude of opinions and beliefs; I hope you’ll consider keeping your mind and your heart open as you go through life. Some of my very best friends have religious, social, and political beliefs that are vastly different from mine, but I don’t condemn them or consider them “wrong” or “bad”; they have every right to their beliefs. So do you. So do I.

    S — I know what you mean; the announcement was a very refreshing surprise.

    Zsterling, I go to a Unitarian Universalists church that has a sizable Pagan contingent. Interestingly, people coming to their rituals and attending “Paganism 101” classes is one of our best sources of new members in the church. Plus, as DragonWolf says, we have just about every other belief system and background you can think of. I used to try to fit in by just not every mentioning my atheism. Now I’ve decided that if people start talking about atheists like some group of “them,” then I’ll speak up and say that one of the “them” is right here. (I had the same experience the other day regarding tattoos. Members of my Celtic band got talking about tattoos, and how they don’t like them, and how they don’t understand why people get them, and I piped up to point out that I have two and my husband has one. Talk about taking people completely by surprise…)

    Oscarandre, if God would like to submit his/her/its opinion to me in writing (perhaps in flaming letters across the sky), I’ll be glad to take it into consideration. 😉

    DragonWolf, aren’t we a fun, mixed group? One thing’s sure; we’re never dull. 😀

  12. Old Congressman Pete Stark…of 35 years plus in Congress is not only an atheist, but he is just an ‘old fart’ so to speak who wants to piss off the world. He rants and raves at his constituents and is not a nice guy…he’s not a “poster child” that any organization would want to represent them…atheists or otherwise. Check out where he denigrated a constituent who just returned from an overseas deployment to Kosovo…the soldier wrote his congressman (Pete Stark) and got this angry insulting voicemail back. (See the link to the Fox News video below).

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