Asheville, NC Atheist Runs for City Council Seat; Opponents Use His Beliefs Against Him October 31, 2009

Asheville, NC Atheist Runs for City Council Seat; Opponents Use His Beliefs Against Him

There will come a point where so many atheist candidates are running for public office that we won’t be able to keep up with all of them.

We’re not there yet.

Cecil Bothwell is running for a seat on the City Council in Asheville, North Carolina.

He’s described as a “writer, environmentalist, builder, war protestor, gadfly”… and atheist.

As a journalist, Bothwell often focused on former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford, and takes much credit for Medford’s prosecution as part of an illegal gambling ring.

Writings on Medford led to death threats, Bothwell said, and the stuff of one book. In another book, “The Prince of War,” he targets Graham, saying the world-famous evangelist from Montreat was using access to U.S. presidents to push a theocratic agenda.

Bothwell’s political opponents fired back with a mailed-out flier pointing to statements Bothwell made about his own atheism. Bothwell said they’re not wrong. His spiritual beliefs focus on “the golden rule” as opposed to a deity, he said.

As for the mailer, he said it’s helped book sales. “My campaign is offering either of the two books…for a donation of 25 bucks. We’re throwing the books at them.”

What “mailed-out flier” are they talking about? Check it out — it’s fantastic:

Bothwell Mailer

To quote Bothwell’s own writing:

“I suppose that I should also acknowledge that I will find myself labeled as Satan’s helper, instrument, vehicle and a whole lot more upon publication of this work. So, for the record, I don’t believe in supernatural beings of any stripe… It seems to me that belief in gods has caused a whole lot more problems than it has solved… I don’t believe in any of the religious stories of the origin of the universe and I don’t look to priests for my moral answers.”

That attack mailer was paid for out by “Common Sense in government, Cecil Cantrell, Treasurer.” I’m not sure who that is, but the mailer is backfiring.

Ironically, it ends with this lovely quotation:

We need levelheaded common sense leaders on city council, not a radical extremist.

Which is why we should be supporting atheist candidates who have a strong, progressive agenda.

I don’t know whether Bothwell is the best candidate or not in this race, but a look at his platform suggests he is a levelheaded, common sense sort of guy. I wouldn’t vote for him only because of his atheism, but you have to admire any atheist who is willing to run for public office without shying away from that label.

Bothwell’s response about following the “Golden Rule” is precisely what we ought to be hearing from future atheist candidates — not a denial of their atheism, but the idea that they can indeed be good without a god.

It’s not too late to donate to his campaign. The election is only days away…

(via American Atheists)

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  • Tom

    I live in Asheville, I had no idea this was going on. So much for being an active citizen… I’ll have to see what I can do to support this fella

  • littlejohn

    Recovering copy editor here: Whoever called him a “protestor” needs spelling lessons.

  • Another attack mailer arrived today, Saturday. This one calls me a “self-proclaimed ‘Satan’s helper’ instrument.”

    This in reference to the quote above. Like I said, I knew I’d be labeled that way.

    Thanks to all you Friendly Atheist fans who have contributed today. I really appreciate the support for the campaign as the sleaze machine revs up. Tuesday will tell the tale.

  • Toni

    If any place in NC can pull this off, Asheville would be my second guess; the first being (of course) Chapel Hill. I still want out of this state.

  • Matt D

    for Cecil,

    good luck mate, fellow atheists all over the world are pulling for you. Stand tall and proud.

    Hemant, please keep us up to date on the result(of course you will).

  • Matt O

    Frankly who cares. He is not running for city preacher is he?

    I go to church every Sunday, but I don’t care if he does or not. I only care that he won’t raise my taxes.

  • “self-proclaimed ‘Satan’s helper’ instrument.”

    We can assume that Cecil never said this, of course, because atheists don’t believe in god and therefore don’t believe in the mythical satan either (I say this for the believers that may be reading that still don’t get this). This is definitely a label constructed by a Christian, and fraudulently put into Cecil’s mouth, which brings me to my point. Why is it that even with the command from their fictional god that “thou shall not lie” Christian are constantly lying?! Not what Jebus would do now is it?

    Cecil, I put in a donation for you this morning and you have my best wishes for the election. I know you didn’t mean to make your campaign about your non-believe, but still, thank you for being another voice for us non-believers.

  • fnorgby

    As much as I’d be against voting against someone because they’re an atheist, I’d of course be against voting for them for that reason alone, and being from out of state, don’t know enough about the local issues… Let me say this much: I wish you all the success you deserve.

    That being said, I’d like to chide you politely for the comment about religion being the cause of problems. It’s not helpful. It’s exactly the thing that anti-atheists are looking for to support their bigotry — but if it were an accurate comment it wouldn’t bother me.

    It should be clear from any sober reading of world history that people are capable of very bad things (if you’ll pardon the trite generalization). Groups with power of any kind act in the name of that power for many reasons, not least of which is the claim to legitimacy it gives them.

    But the acts themselves are almost always political in nature, not religious. It’s just a lot easier to sell your war using religious language.

    Anyway, good luck to you.

  • It’s a good thing he’s not running for state office. From the NC State Constitution:

    Sec. 8. Disqualifications of office. The following persons shall be disqualified for office:

    First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.

    From what I can find there doesn’t seem to be an amendment that nullifies this. Can we please get some separation of church and state here?

  • Stephen P

    @Kevin: Perhaps it would be a good thing if he did run for state office, so that he would then have standing to challenge this article. If NC tries to enforce it, I really can’t see SCOTUS voting anything other than unanimously to strike it down.

  • Richard Wade

    In 1961, Supreme Court case Torcaso v. Watkins determined all such stipulations in all state constitutions and in all local laws to be unconstitutional.

    Most of them are still in the several state constitutions because those parts can’t be deleted or nullified without proper state legislative action. Cowardly and bigoted politicians don’t want to be seen “voting against God” in order to clean up their outdated constitutions. So every time a state constitution is reprinted for public distribution, those clauses and sections are still there, but we’re supposed to all wink and nod and assure each other that they’re dead parts. The result is that those illegal stipulations are ignored in print but in effect they are still practiced by tolerating bigoted campaign tactics.

    It’s a separation of church and state in theory only.

  • muggle

    Good luck, Cecil! And I’m glad you’re being frank and open about it. I still think that’s the best way to go for an Atheist candidate for anything instead of treating it like a dirty secret that (obviously by way of this nasty flier) will be outed by your opponent anyway.

    But I’m curious… Was that part about utility bills being open for your neighbor’s viewing a lie or the truth? Because, personally, I’d be against that kind of invasion of privacy and, if everyone were as green as me, it’d be a nonissue. (I’m not glorifying myself; it honestly has more to due with lack of finances, except my decision early in life to ride the bus rather than drive most everywhere, which was a combination of both ecology and economy, than it does conscience but still…)

    Obviously, I’m doubting the truth of that because of their dirty tatics. If I lived there, I’d call your campaign headquarters and ask. And I’ll be frank and open with you, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker with me because the opposition is someone who’d stoop this disturbingly low.

  • benjdm

    I’d like to chide you politely for the comment about religion being the cause of problems…It’s just a lot easier to sell your war using religious language.

    The claim is that religion causes a lot of problems – not that all problems would go away if religion went away and not that all problems are caused by religion. As such, even you seem to support it. So does the research.

    It’s an accurate statement.

  • Anonymouse

    AVL shoutout! We live here, too! We haven’t received this in the mail thus far.

  • Ben

    I donated $10. Please keep us appraised of this race, Hemant!

  • I know cecil Bothewell but did not know he was atheist. I would vote for him but live outside the city limits. I did endorse him in a letter to the editor because I think he might help gay righets and/or contreception funding, either of which would reduce fertility thus massively helping the environment. Bothwell understands overpopulation and the importance of municipal contraception to the planet. I think I know Cecil Cantrell too if he is the guy I’m thinking of with a show on URTV Asheville.

  • But I’m curious… Was that part about utility bills being open for your neighbor’s viewing a lie or the truth?

    Sorry for the lag time, have been busy.

    My proposal is to adopt a plan used by utilities in California which informs rate payers of the AVERAGE bill of their neighbors with the same size homes. It has been found that people cut their use by about 2 percent per year, simply because they want to do better than their neighbors.

  • Atheist or not … Why must you tell the people that you are an atheist candidate. One does not do that in politics,what your beliefs are and how you and the world was created is your inner issue and not how you should portray yourself to others. What is important, is where your morals and values stand; and only this is the making of a good person.

  • Lianna Costantino

    I am an agnostic Pagan, and I support you all the way, Mr. Bothwell!

  • Lianna Costantino

    Sadly, what “trinity” says should be true but it is not. And it is always Christian politicians trying to entangle church and state and yelling from the rooftops that they are Christian and then going about not behaving very Christ-like.

  • Cthulhu

    Trinity it would be nice if what you said was true because then you wouldn’t have politicians flashing around saying that they are Christians when they run for office. Not only that, but many of the GOP candidates think that by stating they are Christian and believe in the bible they not only will get votes, but are also morally superior to those that they are running against. If you have heard the rhetoric lately then you know that they are preaching that they need to take “their” country back. Whatever “their” country is.

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