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When Will We Have More Open Atheists in Congress?

by Roy Speckhardt, 1/14/2013

The religious makeup of the Congress sworn in January 3 is virtually unchanged from the infamously gridlocked 112th Congress. There are 482 Christians, 33 Jews, 3 Buddhists, 2 Muslims, 1 Hindu, 1 Unitarian Universalist, and 1 open religiously unaffiliated member.

These numbers show that Congress, which is supposed to represent all Americans, is not representative of the country's diversity. Even though nearly 20 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, there is only one openly religiously unaffiliated representative and the only member of the 112th Congress who identifies as an atheist just lost his reelection bid. And while there are many senators and representatives that are friendly to the nonreligious community, we need more than just allies to speak up for us in Congress. Meanwhile, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Mormons are all over-represented.

Why haven't more open atheists or humanists served in past sessions of Congress? The two dozen or more suspected nontheist members of Congress are reticent to come out for a whole host of reasons that begin with concerns about being reelected, but also include worries about the reactions from friends and family in a country that has been notoriously more religious than other Western countries.  

To read the rest of the Huffington Post article by American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt, click here.