Now that Congressman Pete Stark has been "outed" as a non-Christian (although he's being described commonly by others as an "atheist," he's described himself as a "Unitarian who does not believe in a Supreme Being" - a difference which is perhaps nothing more than semantic subtlety), people on both sides of the theistic/atheistic debate are taking the opportunity to weigh in.
Sam Harris offered this in an op-ed today:
Pete Stark, a California Democrat, appears to be the first congressman in U.S. history to acknowledge that he doesn't believe in God. In a country in which 83% of the population thinks that the Bible is the literal or "inspired" word of the creator of the universe, this took political courage.
Of course, one can imagine that Cicero's handlers in the 1st century BC lost some sleep when he likened the traditional accounts of the Greco-Roman gods to the "dreams of madmen" and to the "insane mythology of Egypt."
Mythology is where all gods go to die, and it seems that Stark has secured a place in American history simply by admitting that a fresh grave should be dug for the God of Abraham — the jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran. Stark is the first of our leaders to display a level of intellectual honesty befitting a consul of ancient Rome. Bravo.
Let us hope that Stark's candor inspires others in our government to admit their doubts about God. Indeed, it is time we broke this spell en masse. Every one of the world's "great" religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong. Every scientific domain — from cosmology to psychology to economics — has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of Scripture.
And the Christian Seniors Association (a favorite of stodgy grandparents everywhere) offered their reaction:
According to Christianity Today, Congressman Pete Stark (D-California) became the first member of Congress to deny the existence of God. "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."
“It is sad but not surprising that the current Congress has produced this historic first – one of its members has denied God,” said CSA Executive Director James Lafferty. “The liberals in Congress want to throttle any school child who bows his or her head in prayer, but they want to establish a right for liberals to bash Christians and berate God around the clock.
“It is time for religious members of Congress to push back. A simple declaration of a belief in God by members of Congress on the House floor will be greatly informative for the American people. Members who wish to expand could use the ‘special orders’ portion of the House calendar to elaborate but a simple “I believe in God” will suffice.
“We have long recognized that all of this hot air about ‘separation of church and state’ has been a veiled effort to intimidate and silence religious voices in public policy matters.
“If the liberal House leadership refuses to recognize lawmakers who want to affirm their belief in God, then we suggest they add it to the end of floor speeches on other matters.
“Congressman Stark’s statement is a very sad benchmark for America. It could be the moment which defines the decline of our country or it could be the spark which marks an important day.
That would be the day that religious Americans stood-up to the liberal bullies who are so determined to use the power of government to silence prayer and every other religious expression of free speech.
“This is a fight which is destined to be fought in America and we think it should begin today.”
It strikes me as somewhat over reactive to respond to the admission of negative belief by a single congressman with a demand that the Christian members of Congress use the mechanisms of government to officially declare their positive belief. It seems somewhat reminiscent of the eagerness of celebrities to publicly declare their heterosexuality as homosexuality has gradually become more accepted, and homosexual celebrities have made known (or have been made known) their orientation. As the majority worldview, I wouldn't think that Christians would need to have so much anxiety about asserting their presence in any sector of public life, but perhaps this is a sign that they recognize that their idealogical dominance is beginning to slip away.