Atheism / Politics · March 12, 2007

Non-believers are without proportional representation in Congress

Announced this morning by the Secular Coalition of America, there is one member of Congress who does not self-identify with religion. From the Coalition web site:

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America ( ). Rep. Stark is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is Chair of the Health Subcommittee.

Although the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, the Coalition’s research reveals that Rep. Stark is the first open nontheist in the history of the Congress.

In addition to Rep. Stark only three other elected officials agreed to do so: Terry S. Doran, president of the School Board in Berkeley, Calif.; Nancy Glista on the School Committee in Franklin, Maine; and Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from Arlington, Mass.

Wow. Only one congress person has identified as being non-religious. That’s okay, right? I mean according to Christians, non-believers are a minority and should just quit whining.

According to the CUNY Graduate Center’s “American Religious Identification Survey” preformed in 2001, 14.1% of the American population self-identified as Atheist, Agnostic, or having no religion. I understand that some conservative groups have protested that number because after all, the survey was preformed by a (presumably liberal) college.

But according to the CIA World Factbook, 10% of the American population has no religion. Certainly that’s not the 14.1% of the CUNY study, but it is still a significant number. There are about 300 million Americans, and depending on which estimate you believe there must be between 30 million and 42 million nonbelievers.

There are currently 435 Representatives in the House. If non-believing Americans were proportionally represented then 44 to 61 would be non-believers. Instead there is only one – or at least only one who will admit it.

I wonder what a breakdown of a truly representative House of Representatives would look like? How many members would be a racial minority, how many would be gay, or single parents?

Hmm. I like Rep. Stark’s position on issues too. I wonder what it would be like to live in Alameda?