Will We Ever Have an Athiest President?

At tonight’s debate, Senator and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris turned to Vice President Mike Pence, outrage simmering behind her (impeccably painted, not that it matters-matters) eyes, and said: “Joe Biden and I are both people of faith and it’s insulting to suggest that we would knock anyone for their faith.” The issue at hand was Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s religiosity, and the Senator’s alleged “attacks” on Barrett’s beliefs. It’s been reported that the conservative judicial nominee belonged to a religious group called People of Praise, a Christian community in which women were referred to as “handmaids” up until pretty recently. Yeah, so, um.

I don’t believe in God. And I don’t mind, really, that all the Presidents in our country’s history, and certainly in my lifetime, have been openly religious (and entirely Christian), and that “God bless America” is a phrase constantly invoked at the end of most political speeches. But I do mind (and I’m pretty tired of) the fact that faith is a prerequisite for a viable political career in 2020 America.

Unlike those who purport to be “pro” “life,” like Pence and Barrett, and so seek to impose their religious beliefs onto my body, I am happy for everyone to enjoy the freedoms of observing and worshipping whomever and however they want—so long as it doesn’t come at the persecution of others. Religion is a comfort, and if you need it, have at it. Believe in whatever you’d like! It’s a free country, right? But it’s also a country in which the separation of church and state, that ol’ chestnut, is law. And yet, in the year 2020, politicians still pay lip service to the concept while also taking great pains to reassure voters that they are decent, God-fearing people just like them. I don’t get it.

I mean, I do get it, intellectually. To some, being a person of faith means you’re humble, it means you recognize that there are powers greater than you; if you attend church, it means you value community. It’s a shorthand, a quick way to say “I have morals, thank you for asking.” At least, that’s what we’ve all decided.

Forget that the percentage of Americans who say they are absolutely certain in their belief in God has gradually decreased in recent years, or that in 2018, church membership in the United States reached 50%, an all-time low.

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