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Presidency: When will we break the God barrier?

It seems I have no hope of being elected to high office in this country. It took me a while to accept the truth, but I guess I was so hyped about the “power of change” message of this last election that my judgment was clouded. What makes me different from most of the governors and senators and president of these United States is that I don’t believe in a higher being. Because of this, I have committed political suicide.

There seems to be an overriding belief that if you don’t believe in God, you lack a sense of morality. And this belief persists despite the many atrocities that have been committed in God’s name.

Religious beliefs should hold no place in politics. In the election of 1960, there were strong objections towards then-Sen. John F. Kennedy’s religious beliefs. As a Catholic, some thought he’d value the Pope more than the American people. In the election of 2008, President Barack Obama’s religious beliefs came under scrutiny as some Republicans lambasted him as a Muslim. At one town hall event for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a woman described Obama as an “Arab.” McCain cut her off, calling Obama as a “decent family man,” as if he couldn’t be both.

Every president except Kennedy has been Protestant, or so the story goes. But a conveniently and commonly ignored fact of American history is the debate over the religious beliefs of our founding fathers. It is commonly said we were founded a Christian nation, but Thomas Jefferson, the primary pen of the Declaration of Independence, was one of organized religion’s harshest critics. “Priests…dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight,” he wrote. Even Abraham Lincoln never formally joined any church. Yet if these beliefs were more publicized, these men we hold in such high esteem could have never been elected in our America.

Change may have come to Washington in the form of a new president in January, but not so much in the Capitol’s religious makeup. Congress continues to be dominated by Protestants who make up 54.7 percent. Catholics account for 30.1 percent, and Jews for 8.4 percent of the current Congress. There are few Muslims and only one publicly confirmed nonbeliever, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.).

But is it any surprise that so many Americans would be hostile toward those with differing beliefs? A report last year found only 45 percent of the country would vote for a nonbeliever.

There should not be this open animosity toward those who hold beliefs that differ from the majority. Belief in God does not make you a better person, nor does it guarantee happiness. If anything, religious beliefs cloud judgment and hinder progress. These issues shouldn’t be left off the table either. All too often we are willing to debate political philosophies, but not religious philosophies. The values that guide our officials’ way of life should be argued.

However, there is some hope for the future. Despite the fact that Stark has openly admitted his lack of belief, he was elected to his 19th term this past November.

Justin Snow is a sophomore history major. He can be reached at snowdbk@gmail.com.

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