In God we trust: why Americans won’t vote in an atheist president

Source: The Guardian

By 

The notion that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is considering a run for president in 2020 seemed fanciful until the final days of last year, when he posted a message (on Facebook, naturally) that read: “Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from Priscilla, Max, Beast and me,” referring to his wife, his daughter and his dog. A generic festive message from a CEO, you might think. But then a commenter reminded Zuckerberg that he had long identified as an atheist. What had changed? The answer was swift: “I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.”

This statement, more even than his proposed voyage around all 50 states or his much-hailed visits to key, first-in-the-nation states such as Iowa, suggested that the tech wizard was eyeing the White House. For Zuckerberg was tacitly acknowledging one of the golden rules of US politics: Americans won’t vote for an atheist for president.

That maxim has been reinforced by a new study, which shows that people across the world are prepared to think the worst of atheists, believing that those without faith are more capable of immoral behaviour than those who have it.

The man behind the study, Will Gervais of the University of Kentucky, told the Times he had been prompted to research the topic by data that suggested US voters are less willing to elect an atheist than any other category of candidate, including gay or Muslim. Gervais said he suspects that voters consider belief in God essential for morality and deem atheists “moral wildcards” who lack restraint and are capable of anything, including “kicking puppies, cheating at cards, light cannibalism”.

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