Hnn | HNN Articles

Barney Frank Comes Out Again, This Time as an Atheist

 

Former Massachusetts Congressmember Barney Frank “comes out” as an atheist on Bill Maher’s show. But why now? Sam Mauceri talks about the secular community’s reaction to the news.


Polish up your copies of the God Delusion and start singing the Bill Nye The Science Guy theme—we’ve got another atheist to welcome aboard the secular train! It’s exciting when someone well-known comes out as humanist, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise nontheist, especially when that person is someone as influential and important as former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank.

Barney Frank made a recent appearance on the Real Time with Bill Maher to talk about his life after Congress. When Maher joked, “You could come on this show, and sit next to a pot-smoking atheist, and it wouldn’t bother you…”, without missing a beat, Frank gestured between himself and Maher and asked, “Which pot-smoking atheist were you talking about?” The audience applauded, and Frank continued to express his regret that he could not go on to “have my husband Jim hold the Constitution, not the Bible, and affirm, not swear, that I was gonna be a wonderful Senator.”

While Frank is perhaps not the most surprising person to come out as atheist, the timing is certainly strange. After the chuckles subsided from Frank’s humorous way of disclosing his nontheism, a big question on nontheists’ minds was, “But why did it take so long?” And more specifically, “Why did Frank choose to disclose his atheism after his time in public office?”

Good questions. As it stands, Congress currently has no publicly atheist, agnostic, humanist, or otherwise identified non-theist members. That’s right: Out of 535 voting members of Congress, zero. The only out atheist in entire history of the U.S. Congress was California Representative Pete Stark, the AHA’s 2008 Humanist of the Year. While there was much speculation regarding Arizona Representative Kyrsten Sinema, who is notable for being the first openly bisexual member of Congress, Sinema has vaguely evaded any nontheistic label.

Straightforwardly, atheists need more positive representation in Congress. Atheists are still a widely hated group, especially when it comes to politics. A 2012 Gallup poll showed that most voters would sooner pick a Muslim or LGBT person for president than an atheist. Barney Frank, often referred to as a “trailblazer,” would have been an ideal candidate for the title of 2nd Out Atheist Congress Member. After all, his career survived his coming out as gay in 1987, when being gay was far less accepted than it is today. Frank, as a long-time Congressmember, had the power to influence opinions and create change, and coming out as atheist in office probably would not have hurt him in progressive Massachusetts.

Don’t get me wrong: Frank’s disclosure of his atheism is big, important news. We need more intelligent, outspoken people who are in the public eye to represent us. However, atheists can face particularly trying experiences and hardships, and coming out as anything contrary to the norm can be difficult and strange. Salon.com recognized Frank’s coming out and called it a “triumph.” But wouldn’t Barney Frank’s atheism have been so much more of a triumph for nontheists if it had happened just last year?


Sam Mauceri, Communications InternSam Mauceri is the Summer 2013 Communications Intern for the American Humanist Association. She is a rising senior at the University of Maryland pursuing double degrees in Theatre and Arabic Studies.

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

A fascinating article by activist Amanda Scott

1 hours ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association commissioned the Seidewitz Group to conduct a...

3 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Christianity and Humanism compared. . .

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday everyone!!! More comics at: http://hmn.st/1wOZhEE

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

On June 19, 2014, Amanda Scott testified before the Mobile, Alabama, County Com...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

This is a 5-minute video of students and parents gathered on the football field...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Caption this photo taken at the 2014 World Humanist Congress in Oxford, England...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

This video shows how some religious people react to homosexuality. When you put...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

The newest issue of the Humanist Magazine is out! Take a look! Clay Farris Naff...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Jackson Public School District has agreed to cease including religious activ...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Dave Niose, Legal Director of the AHLC, has been featured on CBS46 in Atlanta, G...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Humanist Hour Podcast #113 out now! Jeremy Chappell talks about the “spiritu...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

This morning, the American Humanist Association issued a press release regarding...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Why are some of the poorest regions in America also the most religious? A new st...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Listen up D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Humanists! Want to meet local free-thinke...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

While vandalism may not be the technique I would use to express my views, some...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

In his new Huffington Post article, Roy Speckhardt discusses prejudice and the k...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Sonja Eggerickx, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

We just got a nice donation from the AmazonSmile Foundation thanks to people lik...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association stands up for the rights of teachers of minori...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

AHA Legislative Associate Matthew Bulger responds to some recent comments by U.S...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

We need more nontheistic politicians in the United States!

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday!! Here is a wonderful poem from Dan Moran. Check It Out!

11 days ago

American Humanist Association

Well, I am not so sure how common this dilemma is, but it is interesting anyway!

11 days ago