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Joy Behar Asks Miss America: Would You Vote For An Atheist?

Posted on January 29 2011 11:00 pm
Walter Hudson is a political commentator and co-founder of Minnesota's North Star Tea Party Patriots, a statewide educational organization. He runs a blog entitled Fightin Words. He also contributes to True North, a hub of Minnesotan conservative commentary. Follow his work via Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
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Would the wrong answer have cost her the crown?

17-year-old Miss Nebraska, Teresa Scanlan, won the 2011 Miss America Crown(…)

Pageant judge Joy Behar asked the contestant whether she would vote for an atheist.

“Yes,” she answered.

She’s not old enough to vote yet, but when Scanlan is of age, her vote will be based on political policies, not on religion.

Scanlan’s response is in keeping with the ongoing results of an online poll at the website God Discussion, a site which deems itself “a place for seekers who do not want to go to church.” At the time of this writing, of 323 respondents, 93% agree with Scanlan. A mere 5% have said they would not vote for an atheist, with only 2% unsure.

Surely, this is not a scientific poll. However, there are more reliable statistics which prompted the question.

One of the fastest growing ‘religious’ groups in America is the non-religious, which makes up at least 13% of the population. Among younger people, the percentage is even higher, at 35-40%.

This group is poorly represented in Congress, where the majority of members claim that they are Protestant, followed by Catholic as the second highest faith claimed by Congress members. Congress has only one atheist, Rep. Peter Stark of California.

How about it? Would you vote for an atheist? Such hypothetical questions are of limited practical use, since there are many factors which affect our regard for a real candidate. However, it is still interesting to consider what affect a candidate’s professed atheism might have upon our vote if all else were equal.

I must admit, I am among the 5% who, in this hypothetical context, would not vote for an atheist. There is a very practical and wholly irreligious reason.

The belief that there is no God removes the source of natural rights cited in the Declaration of Independence. While it is possible for an atheist to still affirm these rights, their inability to acknowledge a divine source removes the essential authority upon which those rights are based. In other words, if you do not believe there is a God whose act of creation established the natural law, any affirmation of that law is merely your opinion. It carries no more weight than the next guy who believes his arbitrarily defined social class is inherently superior.

Again, we’re talking about a hypothetical situation where all else is equal. Surely, if my choice were between a professing believer who is also a socialist and an atheist Tea Party candidate, I would vote for the latter.

Behar’s question of Ms. Scanlan was no doubt intent upon crafting another Carrie Prejean moment. Religious tests ought not be applied in order to qualify for candidacy, and that would have been the likely meme to come out of the “scandal” had Scanlan went the other way. However, it is entirely appropriate to take religious profession, along with a thousand other subtle and overt factors, into your individual deliberation at the polls. What we think about God and the nature of man is intimately tied to what we think about how man ought to be governed. A candidate’s profession of faith or disbelief is therefore relevant to our consideration.

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