According to a University of Minnesota study, U. S. Americans have identified atheists as the most mistrusted minority.
From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
A Gallup poll ranked atheists at the very bottom, below Catholics, Jews, blacks, married for the third time, 72 years old and even homosexuals in response to the question: “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be …, would you vote for that person?”
Why don’t Americans trust atheists to be president? Is it because they’re a bunch of Satan worshipers? Surely a few Americans feel that way, absurd as it is. Atheists no more believe in Satan than they think a giant mystical panda created the universe. More likely it’s because voters are concerned that Atheists, without the guidance of a higher power, have no morals of their own.
But does belief in a higher power really mean the candidate shares your morals? Who really has more reliable morals? The person with no moral compass of his own who must refer to a book, even a really great and popular book, to determine right from wrong? The person who doesn’t doesn’t trust his own notion of good or evil but relies upon the interpretation of a religious leader for guidance? Couldn’t we be better served by someone who knows in his heart what is right, good, just and fair and has had the wisdom to analyze his experience and studies to construct a world-view that is consistent. Americans seem to assume that religion gives a person morals, but ask yourself; do you need religion to tell you that pedophilia is abhorrent, (the Bible is ambiguous on the topic) or do you just know it is?
Voting for someone based on his claimed religious beliefs gives you absolutely no idea what he’s likely to do anyway. Religion’s moral compass spins in almost every direction you can imagine. The Ten Commandments neglected to forbid slavery! Is it alright to kill or not? Eye for an eye, but turn the other cheek. Should we be the judge or leave it to God? Should we save unborn life but kill criminals? Moreover, do devout religious people commit fewer crimes or avoid fewer scandals? You can find just about every opinion or behavior supported by religious dogma and worse faith isn’t the slightest guarantee that the believer actually follows the doctrine in any event. I won’t even bore you with the countless examples of the faithful going astray. It’s pretty clear that what one says, particularly what a politician says, doesn’t guarantee how he will act, and religion doesn’t seem to be an effective indicator.
Or maybe not. Imagine a politician who had the courage to describe how his morals come from experience and observation and not from a higher power. Of course, he is committing political suicide, but one thing is sure, he’s the most honest politician you’re likely to ever hear speak.