Most people don’t realize this, but at least two candidates for the President of the United States are atheists. It’s true, but the sad part is that none of the major candidates are atheists… that we know of.
Every presidential election year hundreds, maybe even thousands of people actually run for President. However, they almost never make it on the ballot. This year, there are at least two atheists on that list and I recently talked with them about their candidacies.
I asked Presidential candidate, Zoltan Istvan, why he is running for President of the United States:
“Despite many candidates running for the presidency, none seem to be promoting the field of science and technology. But when you think about the things that have really affected our lives in the last 25 years, they are almost all based on science and technology. So I was hoping to fill the gap in the 2016 presidential elections; I was hoping to be ‘the science candidate.’”
Istvan is serious about his run and has gotten a great deal of media coverage. I asked him whether he was actively campaigning and if so, how?
“I am actively campaign every day. This is a full time run for the presidency, and my family is behind me. I of course won’t win this time, but I have my sights set on 2024 and beyond. Much of my work right now on my campaign is with media, and we’ve been lucky to have had coverage all across the board, from front page of the BBC to Fox News Channel to interviews with the Financial Times. But I also recently took a national bus tour and crossed the country, giving speeches and sharing my atheism and transhumanism goals with everyone I met. I wrote extensively about those experiences for my columns at Vice and The Huffington Post.”
I also wanted to know if he was going to vote for himself or vote for one of the major candidates running. This was his answer:
“I’ve gone on the record saying I’d vote Democrat if I was going to vote. And I still probably will do that, regardless who the Democratic nominee is. I support a liberal and libertarian set of values. I support creating more equality in America, and defending those that are needy. I support science and the right to do with your body what you want. I support reason and freedom from religious influence. I support legalization of drugs and the disarming of all nuclear weapons. I support a Universal Basic Income. Most importantly, I support using science and technology to improve people’s health and the standard of life. One main goal of my presidency would be to change our country’s military industrial complex into a science industrial complex.”
What I think is great about someone like Zoltan Istvan, running for President is that he is out there on his “Immortality Bus Tour.” He is talking about these issues with people who might not think about these things and he is promoting atheism and science in the process.
Istvan also told me that he is planning on putting together a television show styled similarly to the Daily Show, which will be called, “The Antichrist Show.” It will poke fun at religion and focus on new advances in science and technology.
Another atheist candidate running for President is David Mills, author of, “Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism.” Mills has, “thus far avoided the political mistake that has doomed presidential campaigns in the past,” by “avoiding the campaign error of peaking too early.”
Mills tells me that, “New Hampshire recently held a forum for unknown presidential candidates,” and that he was not invited. However he jokingly asserts that this can only mean one thing, “I’m now considered a top-tier candidate.”
I also asked him why he is running and if he is planning on voting for a candidate other than himself in the election.
“I’m running to provide White House interns more personal access to the President.”
I couldn’t help but laugh especially because I know he is only half joking.
“Don’t laugh at your future president. Remember, I can order the IRS to audit your taxes. And you’ve just lost your chances to be appointed to the Supreme Court. You were on my short list.”
I’m hoping he will reconsider me for that position sometime down the road in an alternative atheist universe. I’m at least glad that I made the short list. As far as who Mills is planning on voting for:
“I’m 57 and have voted a straight Democratic ticket in the past 16 elections. I’ve never once voted for a Republican. I’ll be voting for Bernie in the primary.”
The interesting this is that being an atheist was once considered political suicide and yet a new PEW Research survey released today shows that might no longer be the case. While Republican Donald Trump claims to be religious, only 30% of Americans seem to be buying it and yet he is at the top of the Republican polls. The rest of the Republican candidates don’t seem all that religious to the American people either. Only 68% of Americans believe Ben Carson is “very religious” or “somewhat religious.” That’s Ben Carson!!! The guy with “Gifted Hands” from God.
According to PEW, Ted Cruz only got 65%. It should be noted that his father is a preacher and he has been considered the Religious Right candidate and yet many Americans don’t believe he is all that religious.
On the Democratic side, slightly more than half of Americans don’t believe Hillary Clinton is “very religious” or “somewhat religious.” Only 48% believe she is even though she has invoked “God” here and there on the campaign trail.
Senator Bernie Sanders is Jewish and yet only 40% believe he is religious. To be honest, I’m not sure I believe he is religious. Sanders just may be an atheist. He is certainly one of the most secular of the major candidates. Granted, he is no Zoltan Istvan or David Mills, but he also doesn’t seem to invoke any deities or offer any meaningless prayers.
So, while openly atheist candidates are currently relegated to political obscurity, these numbers from PEW are certainly encouraging. We may be quickly approaching the point when religious belief is no longer a “must have” for candidates and hopefully, it won’t be long after that, when people start to view religious belief as a negative for elected officials.
- Interview: ‘The Transhumanist Wager’ author Zoltan Istvan (examiner.com)
- Interview: Larry Decker – New SCA Executive Director
- A Secular Presidential Forum? (dangeroustalk.net)
- Atheist comedian runs for state senate (examiner.com)
- Interview: Atheist running for congress, James Woods (examiner.com)