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. Conartist

    Sure you can run for office as an atheist, but don't count on future debates to be about anything constructive that impacts the country's welfare. Its a free country with many unadvertised consequences.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
  2. Maya

    In fact, non-believers have a greater potential to be a public servant than any Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Their holy scriptures command that their highest loyalty should be to God. As long as their highest loyalty is to God, it cannot possibly be to their country or countrymen.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
  3. diraphe

    We all come into this world na k ed and an atheist; and we are all atheist when we die (decomposing brains don't hold 'beliefs' or have 'faith')
    Some of us just end up getting brainwashed at some point in between

    April 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • diraphe

      Oh yes because things like Ji ha ds, crusades, and inquisitions are just so nurturing

      April 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Larry

      Can I pray that the world someday grows past the need for religion? Can I pray that churches start paying their fair share of taxes and lose their tax exempt status, especially considering the amount of profit many churches make? Can I pray that religions such a Catholicism allow the men of their church to engage in the full human experience, including marrying a woman and having children (if that's what they want) ?

      April 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  5. Patrick

    If 2 candidates are running for the same office, and they have mostly the same in terms of stances, history, etc, but one is a Christian and one is an Atheist, then maybe the Atheist voters will vote 50/50 for each candidate, because religion is not an issue. But the Christians will vote 100% for the Christian, because they feel that it is an issue and don't understand Atheism.

    Unfortunately, intelligence is not a requirement to vote.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • ef


      April 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  6. Justin H

    "No respectable atheist would walk around with something in his pocket that says 'In God We Trust'".

    This statement is filled with ignorance. I don't walk around with cash in my pocket because I support the motto "In God We Trust". I carry cash because it is the primary method for transacting business. I carry cash because I live in a country that does not give me the option of using currency which does not say "In God We Trust".

    April 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Is it just me or are the arguments of the "faith heads" getting more off the wall?

      April 10, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Patrick

      Yes, that's what happens when rule by majority becomes oppression of minority. I don't think that was the Founding Father's intention.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • diraphe

      By that guys logic no respectable atheist would read Greek mythology either. These theists sure think they are 'God's gift' now don't they, how arrogant.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • hermitman

      I'm an atheist, and I'd much rather the money say "In God We Trust" over "In God You Must Believe."

      April 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • List of X

      my credit card does not say that

      April 10, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
  7. Reality

    The Creed of the Non-Believers : (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)


    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

    April 10, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  8. Here Comes The Sun

    The real question is "Can a religiously-deluded person properly execute the responsibilities of a high official in a secular democracy?" Even the conservatives thought the answer was "no", and Santorum flees the sunlight back into his tomb.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
  9. The_Mick

    Benjamin Franklin did fine as postmaster general of Pennsylvania, George Washington did fine as president of the USA and they were clearly non-believers.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Reynolds Rap Music

      Just sayin sure seems to be getting crazier by the minute. I think the Easter thing drove her over the edge in a BIG way!

      April 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • Reynolds Rap Music

      Wrong place. Sorry. That made no sense there whatsoever.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  10. erin

    U.S. Consitution, Article 6:
    "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

    It doesn't matter what these CNN talking heads or any of the commenters on here THINK. It's the law.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Since when does the far right wing religious care about laws that prohibit them from doing something.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  11. Brother Maynard

    Things I've been thinking about:
    Exodus 9:12
    "But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and just as the LORD had predicted to Moses, Pharaoh refused to listen."
    IF the LORD influences an individual with out his knowledge how can that person have 'free will' ?
    Additionally, is the prediciton to Moses stated above really a prediction? I mean he set up the conditions knowning that he was going to harden the heart of Pharoh.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • rhea3

      Reading the book, it sounds to me as if Jehovah "hardened Pharaoh's heart" so he could show off some more with the plagues, ending up with killing all the Egyptians' first-born children. A mass-murderer is not somebody I'm going to worship.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  12. Ryan

    What difference does it make if a "non-believer" or "agnostic" head of state is in office, but does a good job. Saying "I'm Christian" is a shortcut for people to believe they are a good person. Its like taking diet pills instead of exercising. you know what makes you a good person? being a good person, simple as that.

    April 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      Yes, you're perfectly right! A good person is a good person no matter who or what he/she/it is.


      We all know that the at least 80%+ of the earth's populace thouhgt, knew and agreed that non-believing espesially ATHEISM is nothign but a PIECE of CRAP!

      April 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • captain sayin is not healthy for Christianity and other thiests

      Insulting athiests converts them to Christ. Good work athiesm is crap. You will bring many to God's kingdom.

      April 10, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • william j cunning

      jesus is the only way to heaven were you wanna go when you die amen

      April 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • @youignantdotcom

      "jesus is the only way to heaven were you wanna go when you die amen"

      According to a bunch of fallible humans. #youignant

      April 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Dan

      I wonder what Atheismiscrap got on his/her SAT's?

      April 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Lexagon

      "We all know that the at least 80%+ of the earth's populace thouhgt, knew and agreed that non-believing espesially ATHEISM is nothign but a PIECE of CRAP!"

      That's cool. You're a cool guy. Can I be more like you?


      April 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      @Crap head: you do realize that throughout history, if you take all the people who have lived, there have been FAR more atheists than Christians. Atheism actually is the ONLY logical conclusion one can make. Read a book, maybe the bible, then come and tell me how great your religion is.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  13. Sam Yaza

    Why not we already had a Pagan President you know Reagan......da.mn that actually makes us look bad

    plus Christ principals are not fit to follow

    Luke 14:26
    New International Version (NIV)

    26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

    April 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Kevin

      As usual, people completely misunderstand that verse as they misunderstand a lot of the Bible. All you need to know about the Bible is that Jesus preached love of EVERYONE. Anyone that preaches hate in the name of Christ is a hatemonger and false prophet.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Snow

      how many ways can you misunderstand a phrase like "such a person cannot be my disciple"?? Besides, if god is out there to help protect man's soul, why not make it clearer? why be so cryptic that every other man makes a totally different meaning out of it? is it so hard for the all powerful god to say, "Don't do XYZ.. I don't like it" or "Don't do PQR.. its bad"

      April 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Primewonk

      @Kevin – I guess the bible means what it says it means, except for when you need to spin it so that it means something completely different. You must have one of those super duper double top secret magic decoder rings that let's you decide what the proper spin is?

      April 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Ryan

      the whole thing is "spin" get a clue

      April 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      "is it so hard for the all powerful god to say, "Don't do XYZ.. I don't like it" or "Don't do PQR.. its bad"

      Nope, it wasn't that hard. Only that God knows His people have the brains of humans coz He was the one creating them. Unlike atheists who came from ugly apes who have half quark size brains that need to be sp.oonfeed.

      April 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Smite Them


      Then your god is:
      - a very crappy creator
      - a very crappy caretaker
      - a very crappy communicator

      April 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      But why? what make you said that? He doesn't like CRAPS that's why he had forsaken all non-believers especially ATHEISTS.

      April 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Brother Maynard

      AC sez:
      "Nope, it wasn't that hard. Only that God knows His people have the brains of humans coz He was the one creating them. Unlike atheists who came from ugly apes who have half quark size brains that need to be sp.oonfeed."

      Wow ... actually an interesting hypothesis ( NOT a theory ... look up the differnce ). So you are saying that belivers ( his people ) were created by god, and athiests evolved. Only one problem, I used to be a believer and now I'm an atheist. So I started being created in his image, and ending by evolution?

      April 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Snow

      "God knows His people have the brains of humans coz He was the one creating them"'

      Really? if your all powerful god created the brains, could he not have done a better job? if he did not give a better mind for his prized "perfect" creations (human, of course), what soft of "all-powerful" god is he then? or are you saying that your god is not all powerful? what kind of a god is he then?

      April 10, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Smite Them

      " he had forsaken all non-believers especially ATHEISTS."

      Ah, so he's a slacker and a quitter too... how special.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Answer

      Smite Them

      " he had forsaken all non-believers especially ATHEISTS."

      Ah, so he's a slacker and a quitter too... how special.

      Quite hilarious! Sounds like god is a handicap. XD

      April 10, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  14. penny thought

    This country, being based on the "moral principles of Christianity", should continue to run as conceived. ANYONE who will uphold those principles, is eligible. If an atheist or Muslim chooses to run, they are given an oath to uphold those principles whether they "believe" them or not. It's not a rule of Christian people. It's the rule of Christian principles.

    April 10, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • sam

      So you believe that this country was founded on christian principals, and that atheists and muslims don't have them?

      April 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Could you explain to us what Article VI, Section 3, of the US Consti.tuition means? And explain Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli means.

      Also, my country is set up as republic with reprentational democracy. Please point out where this is discussed in your bible.

      In my country, we have freedom of religion. In your bible, god commands that you kill those who don't worship him.

      In my country we have 3 separate but equal branches of government. Where is this in your bible?

      In my country we have freedom of assembly, again, where is this in your bible?

      April 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • sam stone

      penny: it should run as conceived? good. there is a cute 15 year old black girl down the street that i would like to go all thomas jefferson on. after all, the founders were slaveowners, no?

      April 11, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • sam stone

      i wonder how much she would cost

      April 11, 2012 at 5:18 am |
  15. Queen Lattice

    public servants SHOULD BE non-believers. the public would be better for it!

    April 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Many are, especially in the sciences.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  16. A. Lincoln

    This is right up there with whether or not a gay person can love and serve his country in the military. People that care so much about what others choose to beieve or not to believe are missing the whole point and really need to get a more productive life. Religious bigotry is no different than racism. By the way......I'm sure that a lot of so called Christians spent their one Sunday a year in church this past weekend. I have to say, organized religion does seem to be very good at producing hippocracy and violence.

    April 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  17. TAK

    I can't wait to live in a world where we will instead ask "Can a believer be a public servant?"

    April 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  18. Sybaris

    Uh well, 2/3's of the world doesn't believe in christianity and they are doing alright so yes, it is probably even better to have non-christians as public servants.

    April 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • william j cunning

      think about your soul where do you wanna spend eternity

      April 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • @youignantdotcom

      "think about your soul where do you wanna spend eternity"

      Think about other ways to convert people other than fear mongering...it works on kids, but not on free thinking adults

      April 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • AGuest9

      Let's rephrase: Think about a non-existent organ which still won't exist after you die.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
    • sam stone

      william: spend a lot of time on your knee begging for salvation? when you get to "heaven", you get to do it FOREVER. take kneepads and breath mints to hide the spirit of the lord from your breath

      April 11, 2012 at 5:21 am |
  19. Urafkntool

    Of course a public servant can be a non-believer. Look at the Dumbocrats, for example. They're all more interested in white genocide, cultural and racial marxism, and socialism to actually believe in anything.

    April 10, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • joe

      You are using "and" too much, in your statement. Usually, after insulting people for their lack of intelligence, you need to take due care to make sure you don't come across as "Dumb".

      April 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • sam

      Still a boring troll.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  20. Gregory Adamson

    I live in the hub state of the "bible belt" and know from experience that this part of the country goes by a different set of rules that other parts of the USA. So if the Bible Belt requires one to be religious in order to become a public servant, maybe other parts of America do not. To answewr the question I think you have to consider geography.

    April 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
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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.