When Will the Next President Be an Atheist?

Did you know that John Adams once called Thomas Jefferson an ATHEIST as part of his negative campaigning efforts? All these years later, that label still horrifies the good citizens of America and has the potential to ruin a politicians chances of becoming President.

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were massive political opponents? 

Two gentleman who joined forces in their fight for independence were driven apart by political differences. That was AFTER Jefferson served as Adam's Vice President. Suddenly, they were running against each other and thus ensued the birth of negative campaigning. Jefferson even hired the first political hatchet man. Yep! 

Here are some of the political slurs that I've been told they unabashedly hurled at each other.

Adams was called a hideously hermaphroditical character, a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal and a tyrant. Jefferson was labeled the son of a half breed Indian squaw sired by a Virginia mulatto father. Yikes! Even dear old Martha Washington got into the mudslinging when she referred to Jefferson as one of the most detestable of mankind. 

But only Jefferson was labeled an abominable atheist. 

Now, I'm no ardent Jefferson fan, for many reasons, but being an atheist is not one of them. However, just when we think we've made progress, we're reminded that Atheists are still mistrusted, despised and even feared in modern America. It has even been suggested that an atheist is the least likely person that Americans would vote for in a presidential election. 

Is it possible that atheists represent everything about the modern world that Americans dislike or fear? 

In spite of the social progress we've made, atheists are still much maligned. Thankfully references to mixed breeding between Indian squaws and mulattos would finally doom a person to a quick political death. Accusations about hermaphrodites would most likely be deeply frowned upon as well. I say this with some hesitancy because we're always one backwards step away from regressing into outdated social norms.

However, thus far no aspiring politician has dared to profess that they're an atheist first and an American second. 

Not so much as a whisper on the public stage about such scandalous matters. Why? Is it because no atheists have ever run for office? Or is it more likely that anyone with such aspirations are advised to keep it on the down low if they desire a political career?

Might I remind you that our current Vice President, Mike Pence, boldly claimed that he was a Christian, conservative and a republican in that order.  

It's pretty clear that there wasn't enough backlash from that very public proclamation to prevent him from climbing to second in command on the national stage. His freedom to be a Christian,  some would say even a Christian nationalist, went unchallenged and was admired by many. An atheist simply wouldn't be able to garner such support. Not only would far right Christians be horrified, but I contend that those who register as "nones" would be hesitant to offer support. Why? Americans, whether they know or not, remain deeply entrenched in the cultural belief that our country is a Christian nation.

Is it possible that our aversion to atheists is even stronger than it was back in the day when Jefferson and Adams were engaged in a bloody ideological battle?     

Well, how did it turn out for Jefferson and Adams? Jefferson won the election which probably would not happen today in our politically-charged religious climate. I mean really! Can you even imagine the negative campaigning that the religious right would fling into the universe if we had an openly atheist candidate vying for the highest office of the land? It would cause a political meltdown that would reverberate through the halls of religious institutions of every size and description, uniting the fractured, deeply differentiated organizations in a common cause. Even the least religious among us would suddenly find their long forgotten beliefs resurfacing thus providing little to no pushback to the burgeoning righteous indignation of a Christian nation. 

Am I wrong? I hope I'm wrong. 

Teresa Roberts is a myth buster. Her recently published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon.