COMMENTARY | Religion plays a big role in politics. Noted polling organization Pew Research just published a report detailing which candidate people are likely to vote for based on religion. A USA Today report suggests Rick Santorum's popularity in South Carolina has been significantly increased by his religious positions on issues and support of the evangelical Christian movement. That's all a shame because America would be better off if only atheists were allowed to hold public office.
Let me start by saying such an arrangement would actually protect Christians. Leaders who are influenced by religious belief often act in ways that support that religion -- sometimes to the detriment of other faiths. While Christianity may hold sway now in the U.S. other religions might someday enjoy a political majority. If that day comes Christians who have advocated for religious leadership will have no defense against the wishes of officeholders from other religions.
Of greater importance, however, is the danger of religious leadership. Theocratic nations restrict freedom and place adherence to religious dogma ahead of real-world issues and common sense. A horrifying example is the practice under Sharia law of punishing rape victims with death for sexual immorality. This even happens in nations where Sharia is not officially used, such as Bangladesh, where a 14-year-old girl was raped by a relative and killed by punitive whipping, according to UPI.
Christian dogma is equally violent. The Bible calls for death as punishment for talking back to parents, breaking the Sabbath, wearing clothes of multiple fabrics, and failing to scream loudly enough when being raped, among many other offenses listed by the Skeptics Annotated Bible. If Christian religious dogma is taken seriously by leaders it could lead to terror and death.
Adherence to religious dogma also distracts from pressing, real-world issues. The Bible calls poverty a holy thing. Mother Teresa called abortion "the greatest destroyer of peace today" in her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech according to the Nobel site. Religious dogma makes adherents want to limit others' rights, dictate social ethics, yet ignore problems like poverty.
Atheist leadership would be focused entirely on the actual civic problems facing the country. It may be the only world view that places real world problems first and America needs that.