America Might Be Ready for an Atheist President

New Republic essay thinks another political taboo is poised to fall

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 11, 2013 5:56 PM CST

(Newser) – A Politico Magazine story sounds a pessimistic note about the prospects for an atheist president, noting that Barney Frank came out as gay 25 years ago but waited until after his political retirement to announce that he was a non-believer. But at the New Republic, Isaac Chotiner finds "surprising reasons for optimism" that the premise is wrong. Look at all the political taboos that have fallen in the last 25 years—pot smoking might once have been a deal-breaker, for example, let alone having a black African father. Plus, more Americans are identifying themselves as non-believers.

An atheist candidate is at least plausible, argues Chotiner. "I agree that there will be challenges, and while it wouldn't be smart to go after someone directly for their atheism, perhaps 'values-based' attacks would have more currency." He also thinks it would have to be an "established" politician to break the barrier. "If, say, John McCain or Hillary Clinton announced that while they respected Christianity and faith, they no longer believed in God, well, I think they could still get elected." So, 2016 or 2020? Probably not, "but I do think that when the moment arises, the American people will show themselves to be surprisingly open-minded." Click for Chotiner's full column.

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