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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Atheist in the House By Michael Weiss

today's blogs: The latest chatter in cyberspace.

Atheist in the House
By Michael Weiss

Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 5:28 PM ET

Bloggers celebrate the first openly atheist congressman, worry that YouTube will be all Lonelygirl videos and no *Daily Show* clips, and wonder what makes us laugh.

*Atheist in the House*: California Democratic Rep. Pete Stark has publicly acknowledged his atheism, making him the first congressman in American history to do so.

Stark's announcement came after the Secular Coalition for America offered a $1,000 to anyone who could point to the "highest level atheist, agnostic,humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States."

Hugh Kramer at leftist *MyDD* pens an open letter to Stark: "I am not in your district and I do not know much about you personally or where you stand politically but it does not matter. I feel that you represent me in a way that my own congressman never has because I, like you, am a freethinker and a nontheist. In an environment where polls show that Americans without a god-belief are more distrusted than any other minority and that the majority of our countrymen would not vote for an atheist even if he or she were the most qualified for office, it takes a great deal of courage to take a public stance on this issue of conscience."

Environmentally conscious *Tod Brilliant*writes: "Now, let me ask the perhaps obvious follow-up question: Who do you value as a leader more highly - a person who makes decisions based on rationalism and the desire to do right by his or her fellow humans simply for the sake of doing right OR a person whose decisions are governed by the fear of eternal suffering in a lake of molten lava?"

Liberal Pastor Dan at *Street Prophets* magnanimously argues that atheists "deserve representation, and they deserve to be able to speak freely about their beliefs or not-beliefs. Unless we're going to toss 10% of the population out of office, then, it's an unqualified good for somebody like Stark to 'come out' … At best, my own United Church of Christ represents less than 1% of the population. With ten members of Congress'
split between the two houses, we're over-represented."

And Rob Boston at *The Wall of Separation*, the blog of Americans United for a Separation of Church and State, writes:

"The U.S. Congress is increasingly diverse. This is a good thing because it means that this body more accurately reflects the great diversity of our nation. This year, there are Buddhists in the ranks, as well as the first Muslim member. Stark is probably not the first non-believer in the House — he's just the first to admit it."

Read more about Stark's announcement.