Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Coming Out

California Representative Fortney Hillman "Pete" Stark has come out of the closet. Not as a homosexual, but as someone who doesn't believe in a "supreme being." According to this Los Angeles Times piece that showed up in this morning's Seattle Post Intelligencer, Representative Stark is "the first member of Congress — and highest-ranking elected official — to acknowledge publicly that he does not believe in God." He describes himself as "a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being." I don't really know anything about Unitarianism, but it seems to be something other than strictly deistic, almost (but not quite, really) falling into the "spiritual, but not necessarily religious" category, although it doesn't seem to be very dogmatic.

Given the overall American level of distrust (I think that "hostility" is too strong a word) towards those who aren't mainline Christian, this is an interesting position for a politician to take. We'll see, if he runs for re-election, if anyone opposes him primarily based on his nonbelief in God, or seeks to make that a top-tier camapign issue - and how this is linked to the fact that he was voted the most liberal member of Congress for two consecutive years.

It's almost too bad that Representative Stark isn't avowedly non-religious. According to Salman Rushdie, "Somebody who overtly professes not to have religion can't get elected dog catcher in [the United States]." (Reason Magazine, August/September 2005) It would have been interesting, come the next election cycle, to see if he was right.

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