Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Godless Morals

Representative Pete Stark from California is the first member of congress to admit not believing in a supreme being:

"When the Secular Coalition asked me to complete a survey on my religious beliefs, I indicated I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being," Stark said. "Like our nation's founders, I strongly support the separation of church and state. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services."
And a recent poll indicates that people would rather vote for a gay person before voting for an atheist:

A half-century ago, significant numbers of Americans told the Gallup Poll they wouldn't vote for a "generally well-qualified person" for president if the candidate were Catholic (24%), Jewish (28%), female (41%), black (53%) or an atheist (75%).

In a USA Today/Gallup Poll taken March 2-4, that resistance had plummeted but not vanished. Now, 10% say they wouldn't vote for a woman or Hispanic, and just 5% say they wouldn't vote for a black, Jew or Catholic.

There is more opposition to voting for a 72-year-old (40% rule that out), a gay person (42%) or an atheist (48%). The poll's margin of error varies by group.

A question struck me as I read these two stories. Do that many people think that someone without religious beliefs can't be trusted? That's alarming. In my experience religious people are the least trustworthy people I've encountered:
  1. Christians have supported the Bush crime family as it's crushed the backs of the poor, something Jesus clearly would have frowned on.
  2. Christians are the ones who want to stand outside the funerals of Iraq's fallen soldiers with "Matthew Sheppard burns in hell signs."
  3. Christians leaders have some, um, moral issues.

I know my list is Christian-centric; they're the ones I've had the most first-hand experience with. It's baffling to me that someone would assume that choosing to focus on what's here rather than what's behind what's here would make one untrustworthy. Yes, I know about traditions and about the pragmatic aspects of religion (community, law, etc). But, do people need religion to know that murder is bad? Do they need religion to know that hating someone based on an inherited trait is wrong? Actually, religion hasn't really helped with that one, has it? If we're riding our hopes for good behaviour on religion, the ride will continue to be a scary, unbuckled one.