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Pete Stark

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The atheist everyone has been talking about this week is Pete Stark. He was elected to the House of Representatives on January 3rd, 1973. He has been very popular throughout the 33 years that he has been in office and he has been voted the most liberal politician for two consecutive years and is overall one of the House’s most progressive voters.

On March 12th, he announced that he was a “non-religious person.” He declares himself a

“Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services.”

This is nothing short of spectacular. He has broken the unspoken rule that to be a politician in the United States, a person must profess a belief in god. Hopefully, Stark’s courageous action will prompt many other members of congress to “come out of the other closet.”

With acceptance of atheism in politics at a dismal low of 45%, (among otherwise well-qualified candidates, lower than many previously vilified groups such as gays [55%], thrice divorced people [67%], and Mormons [72%]) the objectivity of the American electorate is in serious question. Stark’s bold announcement may be a strong catalyst for changing these backward attitudes.

Stark was born November 11th, 1931 in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He received his bachelors degree in general engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1953 and a masters in business administration from the Haas School of Business in 1960. He served in the United States Air Force, and was a bank executive in Oakland, before entering the House. Stark ran against Congressman George Paul Miller in 1972. He claimed Miller had been in office 27 years and had lost touch with the people.

Stark has been in office 33 years and was recently reelected to a term that ends in 2009. Within the House, he has been a ranking member of the Banking and Currency Committee and Powerful Ways and Means Committee.

He is known to have a longstanding interest in health care issues and has been critical of the fate of the uninsured under the current administration. In addition, Stark was one of the most vocal Congresspersons who spoke out against the war in Iraq. In fact, he said (sarcastically) that if the “United States goes to war, then it should not be without a draft.” This was to prove the point that many young lives would be lost in a new war.

Along with John Conyers, in April 2006 Stark brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The case was ultimately dismissed.

Stark is an advocate for peace. He also supports increasing the availability of health care, revitalizing the economy, and protecting the environment.

It’s about time atheists had a representative in office. With an estimated 10-15% of the population being atheist/agnostic, wouldn’t it make sense for at least 10-15% of the House of Representatives to reflect those views? That would be 53-54 atheists in congress. Wouldn’t you think that every 10th U.S. president might be an atheist if he was otherwise qualified? Since hardly any confessed atheists hold elected office, for them our democracy truly has become the tyranny of the majority.


Comments (3 comments)

Heather Annastasia Siladi / March 15th, 2007, 2:15 pm / #1

The world would be a better place if 10-15% of our leaders were atheist or agnostic.

I know that atheists are just as likely as anyone to be power-grubbing politicians, but I think they’re less likely to be manipulated or intimidated into going along with the herd because it takes brains and guts to be an atheist in our society.

BlackSun / March 16th, 2007, 10:14 am / #2

Heather, good point. I don’t think atheists are immune to their human nature. But I do think they start from a better default position: they are looking at the world as it is, and not basing their decisions and morality on arbitrary scripture. Also, since they don’t have a biased view of their particular religion, they are more likely to treat all people of all religions fairly–which is to say, according to the constitution, to make no law “protecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Christians who call America a ‘Christian Nation” are already violating this principle. People who take their oath of office on a bible are already violating this principle.

An atheist who takes an oath of office would be swearing on his/her own conscience. Which is what all Christians are doing in reality, but they make a big show of respecting the bible because it’s basically required.

just say no to christ / March 26th, 2007, 7:11 am / #3

Well, that was a breath of fresh air. Thanks for posting the article Laurence.

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