Do you have a religious litmus test?

by Robert

Unless you recently awoke from hibernation, if you’re American, you’re probably aware there’s an election coming up pretty soon.  As a result, you’ve likely given at least some thought to whom you’ll vote for and why.  As for myself, I live in a part of the country where the election of a particular candidate is pretty much already a foregone conclusion, but that hasn’t prevented me from indulging the voter impulse and contemplating how I would vote too.

One of the considerations I struggle with is to what extent do I consider a candidate’s religious views – or lack thereof.  As an atheist, I’m inclined to look upon atheist politicians more favorably than those who seemingly wear religion on their sleeves.  Yet, suppose the former holds positions I for the most part disagree with, while the latter expresses policy preferences broadly in alignment with my own?  Whom do I choose?

I, like probably most atheists, would hold my nose while voting for the religious candidate.  The reason is that, on balance, I see the atheist candidate with the disagreeable positions as more likely harmful to my own well-being and that of the country’s.  God-belief isn’t much concerned with pressing issues like the economy, health care, debt, and Social Security, so the candidates’ religious views just don’t rise all that high on the scale of importance.

Where I see the candidates as nearly equal with respect to my own political views, I’m more likely to seriously consider a candidate’s religious views, but it would be among a host of other influences.  For example, I view single party control of the executive and legislative branches as generally something to be avoided, so the candidate of the “party in power” is less likely to get my vote.

In sum, a candidate’s broader economic and political viewpoint trumps religious belief in my book.  I say this as a committed atheist.  What about my opposite, the True Believer?  Would they agree?

The likelihood is that they wouldn’t, according to a 2007 Gallup poll.  A slim majority – but a majority nonetheless – would not vote for a generally well-qualified atheist for president, even if it was their own party’s nominee.  The picture changes when you break it down by political outlook, with only about a third of conservatives voting for an atheist, compared to two-thirds for liberals and about half for moderates.  The figures should be taken with a grain of salt, however.  For instance, 80% of conservatives ended up voting for the candidate who was 72 years of age in the 2008 presidential election (McCain), though only 63% of them reported they would in the poll.

As I noted above, none of this cogitating will produce any practical action since I don’t have the choices in this election others have.  But what about you?  Are religious views important in your decision to vote for a particular candidate?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

KShep October 24, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I could go along with your argument, but there’s one big glaring problem: there is almost no chance that the religious candidate, as opposed to the atheist candidate, would have views that line up with mine, or support positions I support. It’s just not in their nature, I’m afraid, to think like atheists do. I mean, theoretically it COULD happen, but I just don’t see it as very likely.

I can’t even imagine finding an out atheist running for office on a platform of oppression of minorities, denial of basic rights, cutting social programs, support of the military-industrial complex, tax cuts for billionaires, etc.

Let alone finding a devout religious candidate who is the exact opposite.

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Eric October 27, 2010 at 1:52 am

Christopher Hitchens?

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Brian M October 28, 2010 at 11:21 am

Well, Hitchens’ main problem is he started wetting his pants vis a vis the dark dusky hoards of Muslims bringing Shariah to your suburb right here right now. Can’t say he believes in a lot of the other stuff, though???? Maybe I’ve misread him.

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Eddie November 3, 2010 at 10:20 am

Undoubtedly, you are much more politically inclined than I am. I will try to support whoever is in office. I like to give that person a chance to implement his ideas and judge accordingly, whether or not it has helped the country in the manner in which he said it would. Does that mean I’m more inclined to lock the door after the thief has already done his dire deed? Probably, but as I said, I’m not all that politically inclined.
Would I vote for a religious candidate? Well, you touched upon probably the one thing I watch closest of all. I am conservative at heart, so I chose the Republican party years ago when I began voting. However, I don’t like the way they, on the face, cater to Christianity, while behind closed doors renounce what they say publically. I became exasperated with Bush. For the first time in my life I voted straight Democratic and against the Republican candidate that I probably most respected of all those I voted for in the past.
I don’t know all the issues, but I know some things—just like you don’t know all the Christian issues, but you base your honest opinion according to the knowledge you do possess.
Would I vote for an honest atheist over a religious candidate? Yes, or I would like to think I would. I would especially vote for an honest atheist over anyone who came out of the Bush administration. Notice I am saying “honest” for atheist and not for the religious. What I mean by that is, if the atheist is anti-religion as opposed to being apt to consider the point of view of those who have faith in God, then I don’t consider him “honest”. He or she would be biased against the religious point of view, but he is elected to represent all—honestly. If such a case would occur against a religious candidate whom I believe is misrepresenting his faith, I would throw my vote away and vote Independent—I have done that, by the way; that is, I voted independent when I couldn’t support either main candidate, not meaning to say either was an atheist.
Well, that’s it. I think I addressed what you were curious about, though what I would do probably wouldn’t meet your high political standards, but please remember—I’m not politically inclined. :-)

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the sub/dude February 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm

… and free to go to Hell, too. God bless you with much discernment, brudda.

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