A non-courted minority in the presidential elections: the non-believers.

Mosilager once said before sailing away to Zambia:" Isn't it interesting that an atheist as less chance to be elected president than a member of any main religious groups in the US today?".
I was a bit surprised by the statement but polls confirmed that notion.

On Saturday night, we went out to see Bill Maher perform his stand-up comedy act in the heart of the heartlands (Indianapolis) to a surprising near-capacity crowd.

Maher did not let the location that night influence the tone of his show and during his colorful act, he called for the US non-believers crowd to quite being such pansies and let their voices be heard.

Ironically, the same day, the leader of the largest evangelical church in the US, Rick Warren was able to secure both McCain and Obama on the same night and ask them the same set of questions ( although it seems that since McCain was questioned later, he was able to prepare for the questions after hearing Obama's interviews. It does not seem like fair procedure to me but apparently a "cone of silence" originally planned for McCain during Obama's turn failed to be set up).

Many people have argued the question of faith in politics , separation of Church and State and what not. I am certainly not qualified to discuss this question in depth but I am intrigued enough to look around a bit as to why being an atheist would be such a turn-off to voters in the US and would that hold true in most of the world as well.
[For complete disclosure's sake, I am currently reading both the New Testament and Dawkins' the" God Delusion", a good formula to grow a split-personality disorder].

The Economist wrote an in-depth piece about atheists in the US, pointing out than 30 million people claim to have no religion in 2001. A sizable group that "failed to organize and wield any influence " in politics although the percentage of people who would refuse to vote for an otherwise qualified atheist is down to 53% in 2005.

As for the rest of the world, here is a (dated) list of 50 countries with the highest proportion of atheists.

Scandinavian nations are at the top of the list which does not include any African nations.
in Madagascar, traditional beliefs (50%)*, Christianity (45%) and Islam (7%) account for 99% of the population. A Council regrouping the principal Churches of Madagascar (FFKM) has been historically very involved into the political life of Madagascar.

Yet, there were more openly "secular"presidents in Madagascar's history that in the US history (Thomas Jefferson being the only known atheist American president).

So again, why is openly showing its faith a sine qua non for "electability" ? And how does one correlate the candidates' faiths with the ability to govern a country ?

I imagine there are no quick easy answer to that question although I assume that the history of the founding fathers escaping religious persecution has got to be a factor.

Please understand that those questions are born from the desire to comprehend the decision-making process of the common elector during the elections from an outsider's perspective.

Both Obama and McCain seem to relish the opportunity to speak in front of the Evangelical audience. The question to me is, if those 30 million US atheists were to get organized, would they ever have the chance to hold the same influence as Rick Warren ?

* For clarification, many people in Madagascar conbine both traditional malagasy beliefs and a monotheist religion, hence the more than 100% final tally. Thanks to Jillian for giving me a chance to explain that.
** I tried to add disqus last night and it did not sit well with the template. So the comment section is closed until I can retrieve my old template...argghhhh.
*** Comment section is fixed....problem was with blogger, not disqus. Many apologies.


  1. Yay, I can comment now! Love the new layout.

    Everything I was going to say I ended up putting into my VwV post, but basically, the more I learn about the rest of the world, the more shocked I am that this religious stuff is still going on in the US. In Canada, it's a non-issue, an aside. "Conservative" there doesn't mean "religious nut" the way it has come to in the US.

    As an atheist voter myself, I feel frustrated by Obama's pandering to the conservafreaks (McCain's no longer surprises me). Fortunately, I feel pretty certain that Obama himself isn't really all that religious to begin with...

  2. Hey Jillian,

    I am with you on being a bit disappointed with Obama's permanent reference to his faith.
    Faith to me is a personal journey and ought to not be displayed in public appearance.
    Obama's appeal to me was that a cognitive conversation would take place but I guess the other side would not let it happen, I guess.

  3. Wow... was just about to get you the God delusion, it's a brilliant book. I have never understood why people will give each other the hardest of times over myths created thousands of years ago.

    Dawkins makes a similar point to Maher about the non-religious not being influential, goes into it in a bit more detail.