No matter the year or the election, we voters have to listen to candidates pandering to special interests, but who are these people, and what makes them so special?
When we hear the voice of the anti-gun control lobby it is sometimes difficult to remember that National Rifle Association members make up only around 1.5% of the United States population, or that the LGBT community, ubiquitous in our cultural life, represents a mere 4%. And, Israel is such a hot-button issue in national elections that it seems remarkable that only around 2% of Americans are Jewish. So, in 2012, why are the 15% of the population who have no religion — atheists, agnostics, et al — disenfranchised when it comes to picking our leader?
Who do the 15% have to turn to? Who do those who want rational discourse in their politics get to pick as their leader when we have a Protestant and a Mormon running for the highest office in the land, and, whoever wins, a Catholic a heart beat away from the Oval Office? Wouldn’t it be nice, if just for once, we could vote for someone who doesn’t have to pretend to believe in fairy tales to be Commander-in-Chief of this great nation?
But, and it is hard to escape this, of the two viable candidates, there is a lesser evil.
President Obama may be a Christian, but his religious convictions certainly seem convenient. His father was an atheist; not, as some people would believe, a Muslim. The young Obama realized that the road to success as an African-American politician is through the black church, which he didn't come to until his twenties. He may well hold some Christian-friendly beliefs, but it’s apparent that his most devout beliefs are secular and pragmatic in nature. His ‘evolving’ opinion on gay marriage has been clearly political and his refusal to impose his views on anyone else with regards to abortion is a clear indicator of where his head is at. Then, there was the cynical and ceremonial, throwing of Jeremiah Wright under the bus during the 2008 campaign. If that wasn't enough, President Obama has personally been overseeing the assassination of terrorist suspects through drone strikes. Thou shall not kill? Well, not so much.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, used his religion to avoid the draft in Vietnam. Instead of serving he spent his tour sashaying around Paris, France as a Mormon missionary At the time, it is worth noting, the Church of the Latter Day Saints was officially a racist organization that did not allow people of color into the priesthood. During his five year campaign for the presidency, Romney has clearly come out against LGBT rights and has also stated, on numerous occasions, that he wants to see the end of Roe v. Wade. Some were puzzled by Romney’s attack on PBS and Big Bird. Why would he be concerned about such an insignificant amount of federal funding? The answer is clear when we see he is pandering to creationists. It's not Sesame Street that he has a problem with, but NOVA — the science show that not only airs documentaries on evolution, but, also put so-called Intelligent Design on trial.
Ultimately, Obama is no saint, and probably no true believer either, but in either case he doesn’t force-feed his fairy tales to the American public. Conversely, Romney is a Latter Day Saint, and it would seem a true believer, who is more than willing to take a patriarchal view on women’s health, a less than compassionate view on homosexuality, and a bizarre view of American history that gives Jesus a starring role. The founder of Romney's church, Joseph Smith, a convicted con-artist, said that Jesus came to what is now the United States and gave a sermon to Native Americans sometime after he allegedly rose from the dead.
Atheists, agnostics, and others of no religion who are true to their own philosophy have to look at these two candidates and ask themselves who most represents their values. Is it the Christian of political convenience who will not impose his religion on others, and maintain a wall of separation between church and state; or is it the Mormon in the magic underwear who will make women second class citizens within four years? The choice seems pretty clear.