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Atheist President?

June 30, 2010


Australia has an atheist Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.  Has any other democratic country ever had an atheist head of government?

I think that it will be a long time before America has an atheist president.  In the last presidential election, many people couldn’t get past Mitt Romney’s religion and the discussion of Obama’s possible association with Islam is ongoing.  For a country whose constitution specifically forbids the establishment of a religion by the state, many (most?) American voters still expect their President to be a god-fearing Christian.

Which will come first?

A female President or an atheist President?

A Jewish President or an atheist President?

33 Comments leave one →
  1. Scott Down permalink
    June 30, 2010 5:56 pm

    It probably depends how you define “atheist”.

    If, by atheist, you mean someone who doesn’t believe in God, then there have probably been many atheistic heads of state/government in most nations around the world.

    If you mean ‘openly’ atheist, that’s a much different story. I suspect that most American Presidents (including, possibly?, Obama and/or Clinton, to some degree – though likely Bush, it seems) who didn’t ‘believe in God’ simply found it more feasible to pretend that they did. Probably many of them didn’t believe in the value of the Vice President or care if the American Bowling Team did well at international competitions either… but damned if they’d ever admit it.

    Interestingly, probably most Americans who say that they ‘believe in God’ and base part or all of their vote on this don’t actually believe in God either (strictly). They just think they do; they find it a convenient way to shorthand a whole bunch of other beliefs – many of them internally contradictory – that they hold dearly, whether by thought or by accident; or, they recognise the value of safety in numbers, and hold religious doctrine as a simple method of determining insiders and outsiders. People do this for everything: thinking Coke is better than Pepsi, America is better than North Korea, Toyota is better than Ford, etc. It’s profitable to be committed to something bigger than yourself, no matter how illusory that something bigger is. God is no different. Just sometimes your commitment to that thing (however illusory) gets in the way of other peoples’ commitments; then fights break out. Further, being “Christian” or “Jewish” or “Hindu” tells us something about that believer. Being “Atheist” tells us nothing about the Atheist.

    Americans still expect their leaders to claim that they are God-fearing Christians; but that isn’t the same thing as expecting them to be God-fearing Christians.

    I think it’s weird that an ‘admitted’ atheist has been elected Prime Minister, though. I mean – if it’s not enough of an issue to affect voting significantly, how is it enough of an issue to discuss it? (It’s been evidenced that the majority of people don’t care that she’s not religious… So… How is it news that people don’t care?

  2. Michele permalink*
    June 30, 2010 6:17 pm

    She wasn’t elected to be Prime Minister so the real test will come when she leads her party into the next election.

  3. Scott Down permalink
    July 1, 2010 8:39 am

    Oh I see. I thought she’d already been elected. My mistake.

  4. Scott Down permalink
    July 1, 2010 10:43 am

    I’m pretty sure Thomas Jefferson is considered to have been an Atheist. He was POTUS.

    • Liam permalink
      March 4, 2013 4:43 pm

      Thomas Jefferson was a deist not an atheist

  5. Scott Down permalink
    July 1, 2010 10:47 am

    My Bad – it was James Madison who was probably an Atheist… He was also POTUS, tho.

    • Liam permalink
      March 4, 2013 4:45 pm

      Again like Jefferson, Madison was a Deist.

      Deism is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of God.

  6. Michele permalink*
    July 1, 2010 11:02 am

    An “out” atheist or a “closet” atheist?

  7. Scott Down permalink
    July 1, 2010 11:19 am

    I’m not certain, exactly.

    Here’s a link on Jefferson and Religion:

    and Here’s a Link on Madison:

    I’m not so worried about ‘out’ or ‘closet’. None of us are entirely honest – none of us have access to our purest or fullest or truest beliefs. : )

    • Michele permalink*
      July 3, 2010 11:49 pm

      I think that someone who states in public that god does not exist cannot currently be elected President.

      That’s what I mean when I say an “out” atheist.

  8. Scott Down permalink
    July 5, 2010 9:31 am

    I understand – but most Presidential-Candidates say they support things they actually don’t or say they don’t support things that they actually do or misrepresent their priorities to chase the public vote. How is pretending not to be Atheist any different than pretending to favour some corporate tax cut or pretending to care about environmental degradation? Candidates tell the public what the public wants to hear; whoever is closest wins the game. Candidates who actually tell us what they stand for and believe in are generally boring and annoying. Ew.

    Further, Atheists don’t actually think that they’re lying about anything important when they misrepresent their religiosity: if there is no god, then all ‘believers’ are ignorant, crazy, stupid or lying (or some combination of each) – and taking advantage of such people is clearly within the ethical bounds for most people willing to shill themselves for votes.

    TL;DR – if they don’t lie about not being atheist, they’ll probably lie about something much more important.

  9. Michele permalink*
    July 5, 2010 9:53 am

    I’m an atheist and I would be lying if I said otherwise. I also don’t consider ALL religious people to be “ignorant, crazy, stupid, or lying”.

    Basically, we’re right back at my original point that an atheist could not currently be elected President.

  10. Scott Down permalink
    July 6, 2010 9:34 am

    I think that an Atheist could (and may be) currently elected President. I think they’d just lie about being an Atheist, or fail to discuss it.

  11. July 6, 2010 9:46 am

    The probability of an atheist president in the U.S. is slim to none. People here like the idea of faith and belief. An atheist is the opposite of those two things.

  12. July 6, 2010 10:09 am

    An outspoken atheist, anyway.

  13. Scott Down permalink
    July 6, 2010 10:45 am

    Haha. I believe that we’re going in circles.

    Maybe I just don’t understand why an ‘outspoken’ or ‘out’ Atheist President would be necessarily different than an outspoken Baptist or an outspoken Catholic.

    Most politicians will be whatever is convenient; the flavour of the month is irrelevant.

  14. Michele permalink*
    July 6, 2010 11:35 am

    You don’t understand because you don’t live in the US.

    The American public wants its politicians to say “God Bless America” and mean it.

  15. Scott Down permalink
    July 6, 2010 11:44 am

    That…. that is probably fair.

  16. Chris permalink
    July 29, 2010 9:16 am

    How about this controversial idea. Only allow atheist the right of vote. The problem with the world is lack of education and power hungry world leader take advantage of this by manipulating poor ignorant minds to make them think what THEY want them to think. Would you not question the rational of a person who strongly believed that all he ever achieved in life was greatly influenced by the aid he received by his good friend, a six foot tall rabbit named Harry? I would have second thoughts about allowing such a person decide the fate of my country. Now think about the man who believes in God. He devotes his life to a figment of his imagination. Not to different from the rabbit man, is he? And while we’re at it, religious people should not be allowed to be doctors or scientist of any sort. Say what you want, but science and God are NOT compatible. Hence a man of science who believes in God evidently has failed to understand the underlying foundation of his profession and should therefore not be allowed to practice it. Would you trust to be treated by a doctor who can’t tell the difference between cancer and the common cold. And for those who think I’m kidding or being sarcastic, think again. I’m truly frustrated at all the ignorance and hatred brought on by religion.

  17. Scott Down permalink
    July 30, 2010 2:15 pm


    Well. First. I don’t believe that anyone should be allowed to vote – so I’m mostly with you when you say that most people (people who aren’t Atheist) shouldn’t be allowed to vote. But then you lose me when you say that Atheists ought to be allowed to vote. Believing in one rational thing doesn’t make you a more rational person.

    It’s impossible to distinguish among people who are Atheists because they’ve truly determined the evidence before them and come to that conclusion on grounds that… ‘someone’… determines to be rational, and another who simply wants to seem smart and realises that some other people who seem smart happen to be Atheist. Further, who are you calling an ‘Atheist’ for the purposes of your selection. Agnosticism isn’t a readily definable belief – it’s more a lack of a particular belief or an absence of a commitment to one belief or another. There is no inherent structural or foundational premise for agnosticism. Some Agnostics are self-described because while they are aware that a range of choices exist, they don’t commit to any of them (consciously); others are unaware that some people believe in a thing/being called ‘God’, and they don’t believe not because they have made a choice but because they don’t know that a choice is to be made. Do you accept neither, one or both of these kinds of Agnostics to vote in your utopia?

    Atheists have committed themselves, whether ‘rationally’ or not, to the belief that there is no God. Do you (wrongly) presume that all Atheists predicate their Atheism on rational, consistent logic? Even if I were to agree with you that the belief in a god and the valuation of science are inconsistent, and even if I were to agree that this verifies that the religious ought to be precluded from voting (both of which, regardless of whether or not I agree with you, you’ve presented as presumptuously, tactlessly and arrogantly as a Television Evangelist, only with less flair), you haven’t pointed out why those who value science are suitable to vote. Unless you’re a religious person disguising himself as an Atheist to strawman the discussion, your argument itself is proof that Atheists can be just as careless, haughty and vapid as the worst believer.

    Which brings me to my next point: there is no ready way to distinguish believers from Atheists (even if we assume, as you do, that it’s a dichotomous, black and white standpoint – which, you know, it isn’t). Believers would just lie. You might be tempted to point out that their religion would preclude them from lying, but don’t: I would just retort that then only the most fundamentalist, worst and unethical believers would lie, then, and that would be bad.

    As such – I agree with you that all non-Atheists should not be allowed to vote. But, for three reasons, I believe that Atheists should also not be allowed to vote:
    1. We can’t be sure that all Atheists are Atheist for non-religious (purely ‘rational’) reasons;
    2. We can’t define on the spectrum where people become Atheist enough for your purpose to purify the voting public adequately, and, moreover, can’t prove that just because believers are terrible that Atheists are any better; and,
    3. We can’t be sure that people self-identifying themselves as Atheists aren’t lying just to take advantage of the privilege (no longer a right) of voting. We can’t take that chance!

    We should descend into the chaos of anarchy! Why? Because the Religious are Stupid!

  18. Chris permalink
    July 31, 2010 12:29 am

    @Scott Down

    I actually didn’t consider my point of view with that much depth, but I have to totally agree with you. There is no way of knowing that an Atheist’s belief stems from a rational train of thought and, for that matter, whether or not the individual is, in fact, a true Atheist or plainly someone lying. In that case, you are right, no one should have the right to vote.

    Honestly though, I would never actually want it to come to this, having to decide who gets the right to vote and who doesn’t, as I am a fervent believer of freedom, equality and such. I was mainly just ranting on the subject because I am extremely pissed off at people who maintain that the world is merely 5000 years old and that fossils were simply planted on Earth by God in order to amuse the minds of human beings. It’s this kind of archaic thinking and ignorance that’s acting as an obstacle to the advancement of society as a whole.

  19. Scott Down permalink
    July 31, 2010 11:50 pm

    @ Chris:

    Dang it. Now I’m going to have to eat my words.

    Thanks, first of all, for recognising my modest proposal as such. Anything that I said against you I sincerely apologise for and offer that you’re probably the smartest person I’ve ever fought with on the Internet. Forgive me?

    I understand your frustration… I don’t have any advice for you. Maybe just a quick reminder that it’s our differences that makes the world beautiful…?

    Anyway. Hope we’re cool.

    Sincerely (I promise),
    some random guy on the internet

  20. Chris permalink
    August 1, 2010 10:31 pm

    @ Scott Down

    Don’t worry buddy, we’re cool. I keep reading your comment, and realize that I have to better choose my words if I don’t want to be perceived as being just as ignorant as those I’m criticizing.

    Thanks for that.


  21. Scott Down permalink
    August 1, 2010 10:37 pm

    The Internet can be used for good after all!

    Everyone wins this round.

  22. August 5, 2010 6:34 am

    they should be right to vote.

    read the whole argument ^
    very interesting.

    i agree with :

    “I was mainly just ranting on the subject because I am extremely pissed off at people who maintain that the world is merely 5000 years old and that fossils were simply planted on Earth by God in order to amuse the minds of human beings. It’s this kind of archaic thinking and ignorance that’s acting as an obstacle to the advancement of society as a whole.”

    this is like my life story.
    and although i do not belive in a god, i totally understand why people do.

    still, i know that there could be a god, or even 20 gods, or mabey the local grocery store could be my maker. this is because i understand that as much as we think we know, do don’t. its impossible to know the truth.

    for example, you could be reading this post and it might not even exist. your mind just thinks and percieves thats it’s there. who knows, mabey everyone is stationary, and the universe moves around you. mabey you are the only human alive, and every person you see is just in your mind. anything. you could even be a person in a video game, somone is controling.

    [ this is proven, by the psycologycal factor ‘phantom hand’. phantom hand is where you think something is there, just because your brain tells you that you see it, feel it, taste and smell it. here a good example: (true story)

    a woman was working at some factory when she fell and both her legs got caught in a grinding machine. co-workers helped get out, but her legs was twisted and bleeding severely. when they arived at the hospital for emergency surgery, the doctors told her that they MIGHT have to amputate her legs off. might. so there was a 50/50 change she would loose her legs. they put her to sleep and did the surgery.

    when she woke up, she was tierd and staring at the ceiling. she didnt want to see if they had cut her legs off because sitting up would hurt her, so he wiggled her toes and moved her toes around. she got the biggest releif when she did so, and she felt her toes wiggle like they would normaly. moments later the sat up in pain a bit, and saw both her legs had been removed. from that moment, the sensation of her toes wiggling had been removed from her mind forever. at that moment, her mind realised that she DIDNT have any legs, as she visually saw. her mind calculated that if she sees that she has no legs, then she probably doesnt. and with her mind thinking she no longer has legs, she could no longer feel her toes wiggling anymore. ]

    her mind was used to having legs all her life, so there would be no reason that they would be gone, even if you think you “felt ” your toes wiggle. its all in our heads!! thats the point. no matter what, we do not know, if there are gods or not, as it is only our opinion, and if we see things it could only be an illusion.

    this is all due to our mind, and thats how it works.

    anything you see, could be an illusion, as we know that people are skitzophrenic. you might be saying, “well i can tell that i’m not. i function normally.” and unfortunetly im here to be a little bit in your face, and say: uhh no you dont. how do you know if you are functioning normaly in the first place?

    and what is normal anyway? normal always changes. society always changes. being fat 1000 years ago was a good thing, making you seem like you eat alot, letting people know you are wealthy and not poor. todays society focuses on being skinny, regardless if your an average joe or extremely rich.

    so as i think that the world was created by the big bang, there could be a god that created the big bang in the first place, then everything took its place, regardless if it was on porpouse or not.

    in the end, no one will ever know the truth, so regardless if you vote for an atheist for president, it might not really change anything. even if he/she promotes atheism. in the end, we only THINK we know the right answer. we are never 100% sure.

  23. August 5, 2010 6:41 am

    sorry for the shit grammer/spelling. im typing with a new keybored 🙂

  24. Michele permalink*
    August 5, 2010 10:55 am

    How does a new keyboard affect spelling and grammar?

    • Liam permalink
      March 4, 2013 4:49 pm

      Why do the few spelling and grammar errors matter. Shouldn’t you be commenting on the content instead of the packaging.

      Remember no one likes a grammar nazi.

  25. Kamil permalink
    August 13, 2010 2:39 pm

    You’ve never used a different keybored at a library or internet cafe? or even at a friends? you’ve never felt there is a difference in typing and the “feel” of it?”

    im perplexedddddd :s

  26. Michele permalink*
    August 13, 2010 4:01 pm

    Of course there is a difference when typing on a new keyboard. However, all keyboards have “backspace” and “delete” keys for correction of errors. So convenient!

  27. Kamil permalink
    August 28, 2010 10:16 am

    yea but I’m not a professor nor writing a book so it really doesnt matter to me

  28. Ruggero permalink
    January 8, 2012 11:57 pm

    I think the world has seen plenty of atheist presidents. But maybe you meant people who don’t pretend they’re christians.


  1. Atheist President?…Isn’t it time? « Al Bagocius' Blog

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