April 9th, 2012
08:38 AM ET

Can a public servant be a non-believer?

(CNN)– Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, and Ralph Reed, discuss on State of the Union with Candy Crowley whether a public servant can declare be a "non-believer." Their answers may surprise you.

For more on State of the Union with Candy Crowley and the debate over religion and politics here.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Belief • Church and state • Politics • TV-State of the Union

soundoff (426 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Avoid fake Jesus posts it refused to post proofs of its lies

      April 10, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~`Prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! ~,~ ;-P

      April 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Jesus

      "Avoid fake Jesus posts it refused to post proofs of its lies"

      More lies and desperation, keep proving my post correct.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  2. Ting

    Can a public servant be a non believer?

    Technically yes. Realistically no. Politicians have to believe in gods, witches, vampires, or whatever the masses currently believe in. Or they have to fake it, which is what most of them do.

    April 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  3. Eric G

    Ok, I announce my candidacy.

    April 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  4. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    I am an openly professed nonbeliever who worked for the federal government for over 30 years before I retired. In all that time I was never given a problem about it, even from firm believers. Everywhere I worked, there was a standard of professional behavior that did not allow religious harassment. From reports I have read in the media, that may not be the case in some local or county governments.

    April 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Ah, but were you elected by the public?

      April 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  5. George

    The premise of the question is that we require our political representatives to believe in irrational things. Maybe that is true, but it sure is a funny way of running a country!

    April 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  6. Nii

    Atheists sometimes sound like Muslims when confrontin Xtianity. The individual n maybe unrelated crime of a Christian shows how bad all Xtians are? Tone down. I believe u know better than that!

    April 10, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • lunchbreaker

      Did you just insult Muslims?

      April 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • K

      Did you just try to form a sentence?

      April 10, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • sam

      Did you just accidentally the whole thing?

      April 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • sam stone

      Nii: You are punk, and a hypocrite.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:24 am |
  7. AtheismIsCrap

    They can run but they should hide.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • captain sayin is not healthy for Christianity and other thiests

      Calling athiesm crap is a good way to turn athiests to Christ.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Primewonk

      I think it's safe to assume that you are just another ignorant îdiot sockpuppet troll.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • captain sayin is not healthy for Christianity and other thiests

      Just illustrating the self defeating nature of Christians insulting non-believers. People claiming to be Christians doing nothing but engaging in behavior guaranteeing they will never convert anyone to Christ.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Roger Ramjet

      The irony is that the original poster is probably 4 ' 2 " in all directions, and barely has the strength to lift his Big Mac.

      Christians threatening violence – ah, just hilarious! No hypocrisy there!

      April 10, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      "Calling athiesm crap is a good way to turn athiests to Christ."

      Maybe not, but it's the most appropriate way to call them.

      "I think it's safe to assume that you are just another ignorant îdiot sockpuppet troll."

      It's more safe to assume that you are just another genius who makes copy and pasting a valid argument. You STEER!

      "People claiming to be Christians doing nothing but engaging in behavior guaranteeing they will never convert anyone to Christ."

      Know what? You can BURN your ugly ASS forever in hell and I could careless about it, HONEST!

      "Christians threatening violence"

      So, that's how you deciphered my post. Well, I really couldn't blame you, that's only how far your half quark brain could grasp.

      So, anyone could blame me calling atheism a PIECE of CRAP?

      April 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Robert Brown

      "So, anyone could blame me calling atheism a PIECE of CRAP?"

      By your entire post you have given everyone proof the religious people are a piece of crap, proving the atheists right.

      April 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  8. History Bear

    I'm not an atheist, but I'm not an adherent of ANY 'revealed" or organized religion. I'm a diest-so does that make me inelgible for public servbice. Could have fooled me. 38 years in the public sector in several different jobs and in a variety of locations. Never had my work ethic, honesty or competence questioned. Spelling yes, ability no. So how am I a bad employee if I don't buy into all the mumbo jumbo of organized religion and letting some pompus ass tell me how to live my life?

    April 10, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Were you ever an elected official?

      April 10, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  9. Don Jones

    Ralph Reed is a republican shill. He knows that it is impossible for a person who says that he has no belief in a supernatural being could be elected to public office. A muslim in the US, give me a break, a buddist – a laugher. It will be a major break through for a Mormon(not that I want Romney)

    April 10, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • George

      Actually there are a number of Mormons in the Senate right now, including Harry Reid. I don't believe that any are openly athiest (I believe that most are actual athiests) but there are five who do not list their religious affiliation.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  10. Froggy

    Religious discrimination is alive and well in America. My spouse of 10 years and I are well-educated, with good jobs, and active in our community, our neighborhood, and our extended families. We opted to foster and adopt through our state agency, reasoning that there are many children "here at home" in need of good, safe, loving homes. Because we were honest in the screening process about being non-believers, we were told that only teenagers were available for us to foster – because biological parents of children have a "right" for them to go to Christian foster homes.
    We fostered teens for awhile, hoping the case workers would get to know us and understand that we are good parents, even if we aren't religious parents. We met some great teens – one of whom we are helping through college now – but continued to push for a younger child, as well. Finally, a case worker came right out and stated that international adoption was probably a better idea for "people like us" because their agency was not going to send a small child to a family without the "community support" of a church. Wow.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • umm

      That is so ridiculous and sad.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • deathstalker187

      I think it is a stupid nonrule and I am sorry you are not able to have a foster child. If I had a child and wanted to give him/her up for adoption I would be happy to let you have them. I don't plan on having any more children and if I did I would probably raise them myself but do not give up hope. I am sure one day you will get what you wan't if you keep trying. There are always other options so keep looking. Maybe even try some abortion clinics many women do not want to have there child exterminated but know they do not have the means to take care of them. If they see an add or some kind saying you would like the child and offer financial assistance I believe you have a good chance.

      April 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  11. christina knight

    My apologies I meant to write: "In the future I predict the court will reverse itself on this issue (given the weakness of the the argument on which it based its ruling)". Christina Anne Knight

    April 10, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  12. christina knight

    Finally, something Ralph Reed has said I can agree with. I am stunned. Thanks Ralph. On the other hand I am disappointed with the lack of logic evidenced by Rep. Cleaver in suggesting that atheists can not exist because we carry money in our pockets that has the words "in god we trust". The Supreme Court could have remedied this situation when it had the chance, but it fell back on that old appeal to tradition argument (which could be used to justify virtually anything if taken to its logical extreme). In the future I predict the court will reverse itself on this issue (given the weakness of the t on which based its ruling). Do atheists exist? Yes we do, and did you know that more than 90% of the members comprising the National Academy of Sciences are unbelievers. The question "Can a public servant be a non-believer?" is as offensive and bigotted as if one were to ask whether someone who is Muslim, female, black, gay or disabled could be a public servant. Christina Anne Knight

    April 10, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  13. pritka

    Oh, please...when did a personal belief about the existence of God become a prerequisite to being honorable or ethical? This should not even be a question. A person's religion or non-religion is not and never should be an issue. History has shown us that atrocities are committed in the name of God as well as for personal, political or economic gain often hiding behind a religious purpose. Religious leaders have supported Hitler and Stalin as well as other dictators. Leave us to our own beliefs and stop pushing religion on us at every turn.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • History Bear

      You missed one point, prior to the 20th Century, religion was responsible for MORE deaths from violence than any other cause. Great reply by the way.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • jdoe

      "when did a personal belief about the existence of God become a prerequisite to being honorable or ethical?"

      Unfortunately since forever throughout history.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • umm

      jdoe, that's silly. There have been good, ethical athiests since forever.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
    • Ting


      True but to be accepted, you have to believe in the local imaginary super hero.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • jdoe

      umm: My point was that religion still plays a big factor in politics and government.

      April 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • sam stone

      jdoe: you are a sanctimonious pile of dung.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:29 am |
  14. Bob Bubbles

    Here's a little thought experiment I have begun toying with that explores the idea that any faith has found the truth about anything: Start the world over and allow people to develop with no preconceptions. What are the odds that Christianity, Judaism, or Islam would emerge? Zero, I think, so how can any of them be "correct" about anything? If they were "the truth", they would inevitably reemerge in the identical form, but I think that highly unlikely. How much more obvious can it be that they're all just inventions?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      Is that along the lines of if a person could somehow "know" a religion with no holy book to tell them?

      April 10, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • jdoe

      I disagree. There will always be some people who want an answer for the "meaning of life", and they want it now. Others want to live forever after they die, ideally in comfortable surroundings. The cycle will start again.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • George

      The difference is science. The world is a mysterious place and when you don't know what causes thunder or lightining the idea of placating the gods to be on the safe side makes sense. Now that we have a pretty good handle on how the world works (on the everyday level that most of us care about) I think it would be less likely for a strong religion to arise.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  15. john

    i totally agree with Vino... i was shocked when a churchgoing neighbour of mine, a really decent guy, told me all his good works( he hoped ) would be bonus points and feathers in his cap from the lord. i thought, what a sad commentary of a life.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  16. Nii

    I believe in the doctrine of Communion of Saints which says that the righteous man regardless of religion belongs to God. That said we humans should get people who show ethical behavior and emotional maturity into office. What use is a "so-called" believer who is unrighteous in office?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  17. lunchbreaker

    I am a non-believer and a public servant. Gov't employee, not official. Nothing about religious affiliation on the application.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • sam stone

      same here

      April 11, 2012 at 5:32 am |
  18. clubschadenfreude

    Rep. Cleaver is quite a liar, claiming that there are no real atheists since no "respectable atheist" would walk around with someing with "in god we trust" in their pocket. Sorry, Rep. Cleaver, I have to walk around with that in my pocket since theists like you, decided to put it on money to evidently try to curry favor from your invisible friend and evidently thought that the "commies" back in the 50s would, what? combust if they touched it or saw it? Far too funny and ignorant. I would prefer not to have such nonsense on my money (and per your bible, your god looks like it would prefer it too). Now, if you'd like to work on getting it off, I'd be happy to support you. But I really doubt you'd actually be honorable enough to do that.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Pirate X

      Yup. Kind of like how no "real" Jews would have walked around with silly little stars on their clothes.

      April 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  19. clubschadenfreude

    Of course a non-believer can be a public servant as well as anyone else. Everyone is a nonbeliver of something. Christians don't believe in Islam being true, Hindus don't believe that Christians have it right, and atheists don't believe that any theist has some special magical knowledge. It's about treating people fairly and honestly, which depends on the person not their belief or nonbelief in something that has no evidence to support its existence. I can see where religious belief would make you a hateful bigot and have plenty of examples of that. This would not be good in a public servant.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  20. VinoBianco

    i think atheists can tend to have more of a capacity for being/doing 'good' than a 'believer' since they are driven by an instrinsic desire to do right. they are not doing good because they are answering to a higher power or because they think that's what their god wants, or because they want to be rewarded or get into heaven when they die, or beacause of FEAR that their god would disapprove – they do it simply because it's the right thing to do, and there is something more pure about that. in fact, people often to a lot of wrong and express a lot of hate and intolerance because they think it's what god desires; atheists don't do that.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:59 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.