Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

If nominated, I will not run . . .

If elected, I will not serve. Actually, I don't have to worry about it, I'm ineligible for political office in the United States.

It's not because I inhaled -- politicians are now expected to say that, along with the announcement of their candidacy. I'm not gay, I don't have a criminal record, I haven't evaded taxes, and I've never employed an illegal alien.

Nope, the reason I can't run for office is that I'm an atheist.

Candidates are required to discuss their "deep faith," the "centrality of religious belief" to their lives, and to utter little prayers, in every speech. They must be photographed conspicuously attending church every Sunday. A large majority of Americans tell pollsters that atheists are not qualified to hold office.

Now what the hell is this all about? In the first place, whatever religion your member of Congress adheres to, chances are it isn't yours. And if yours is the one true religion, then your representative is just as wrong as I am.

When it comes to making policy, it's pretty obvious that publicly proclaiming your piety, and even being pious in private, doesn't cause a politician to do what's right. After all, if you're like most Americans right now, you think that politicians have been leading the country in the wrong direction -- even though they spend half their breath talking about how God tells them what to do.

I don't go door to door telling you what to believe, or press tracts into your hands at the subway station, or insist on reciting the writings of Richard Dawkins or Paul Kurtz before every high school football game.

If God tells George W. Bush and Joe Lieberman what to do, then God is responsible for their mistakes. I take responsibility for my own. Evidently, Americans think that's a moral failing.

Your religion is your own business, it's not the business of the general public or the government. And that ought to be true for politicians as well.

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