Religious Beliefs in the House of Representatives


If the House of Representatives is actually supposed to represent the American public when it comes to religion, it’s not working very well. Buzzfeed has a map and a report on the religious views of the current House and the numbers are pretty much what one would expect:

There are 31 religions represented in the House, including 26 different sects of Christianity. Catholics make up the largest group with 136 members, followed by Baptists with 66 members, Methodists with 45 members, Anglicans/Episcopalians with 35 members, Presbyterians with 28 members, and Jews with 22 members. There is only one atheist.

The majority of Catholics and Jews are Democrats, and the majority of Anglicans/Episcopalians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Mormons. and Presbyterians are Republican. Among religions with more than more than five seats, Jews are the most partisan; 21 of the 22 Jews are Democrats. Mormons are the second most partisan; seven of the eight Mormons are Republicans.

I’m sure more than one are atheists, but in the current climate they can’t really admit that. So they go through the motions and write down some mainline Christian denomination on the forms because that’s the politically safe thing to do. One of the primary goals of this entire movement is to change that reality, to break down the negative stereotypes and increase public acceptance of atheists. When we reach the point where the question of one’s religion is viewed as completely irrelevant, we will have succeeded.

Comments

  1. Ryan Jean says

    Gretchen, don’t forget Pete Stark. He was the first openly-atheist member of Congress, having admitted it publicly in 2007. He didn’t get voted out until last year’s elections. (His opponent used his atheism as a point against him in the race.)

  2. says

    I didn’t forget him. I was saying that in addition to Stark, whom Ed mentioned, we have one congressman who didn’t declare atheism until he left office.

  3. Ryan Jean says

    While Ed has mentioned Pete Stark a number of times, neither Ed nor you mentioned him here (prior to my comment) — nor is he the atheist on the buzzfeed list. The list has one Unitarian (Ami Bera, D-Calif) and one None (Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz). I presume they’re probably talking about Sinema, who actually refuses to use the term atheist, but it doesn’t say explicitly which one they mean. Pete Stark is therefore both no longer in congress and also a known atheist, so at a minimum it is two ex-congressmen, not one.

    (He also gets points in my book for having announced it while in office, and still held his seat for almost six years after that.)

  4. Ben P says

    They’re all liars. Many of them on this issue, among the others.

    I think it’s perfectly fair to point that for many Jews, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Lutherans and Methodists and even Baptists and Prebyterians to some extent, it is entirely possible to be “socially religious.”

    For Jews that may is observing high holy days, being associated with a synagogue and not much else. For Christians it often means slightly more church attendance, but Christians who are Christians from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. CHurch is a social club involving some singing and professing certain beliefs and not much else.

    Mormons and the evangelical denominations tend to be more demanding of their members and requiring their members hew to the party line on their religion. When was the last time you heard of the methodist church threatening someone over their political positions?

    Catholics are sort of an odd middle ground. There are many “cultural catholics,” but the churches authoritative hirearchy and conservative leadership mean they can threaten consequences to those who don’t hew the party line.

  5. petemoulton says

    I have the pleasure of being represented by Ms Sinema, and, while she doesn’t explicitly cop to being an atheist, she’s about as godless as they come. Part of her difficulty is that this is Arizona, after all, and her newly-created district is hotly contested. No sense in giving any teabagger challenger any kind of edge. As an added distraction, she’s also openly bisexual, and the MSM made a lot bigger deal out of that than her (lack of) religion, both during and after last November’s election.

  6. says

    While Ed has mentioned Pete Stark a number of times, neither Ed nor you mentioned him here (prior to my comment)

    I did in my link. And I’m guessing Stark is the “one atheist” mentioned by Buzzfeed, actually– or I hope it is, since “none” and “atheist” are not necessarily the same thing. But you’re right that if that is who they meant, they got their facts wrong since he is no longer serving.

  7. says

    Ed says:

    When we reach the point where the question of one’s religion is viewed as completely irrelevant, we will have succeeded.

    I must respectfully disagree. If a candidate has strong religious beliefs, which will inform his or her actions in office, then I do and always will want to know about it. Especially if they are of the fundamentalist or wackaloon variety. (Yes, I know: not necessarily mutually exclusive categories.)

    What I hope to see is that we reach the point where such strong religious beliefs actually count against the candidate in most voters’ opinions – the opposite of what we have now. THEN we will have succeeded.

  8. lofgren says

    If the House of Representatives is actually supposed to represent the American public when it comes to religion, it’s not working very well.

    Sure, IF the House was supposed to represent the American public when it comes to religion, it wouldn’t be working very well. But it’s not, so the dependent clause is pretty much moot. Representatives represent their districts, not “the American public.” How many of these districts are majority atheist? How many are majority other religions? I would guess that they are almost all majority some Christian denomination, with only a few being majority Jewish or Muslim and none or almost none majority atheist.

  9. mildlymagnificent says

    “Unrepresentative swill”?

    I very much doubt the USA is ready for a Paul Keating in their hallowed halls of Congress.

    They might understand unrepresentative swill even though they’d disapprove of it, but I doubt they’d ever get their heads around “All tip and no iceberg” or “… like being flogged with a warm lettuce leaf”.

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