Jimmy Carter appeared on The Joy Behar Show Wednesday night and she spoke with him about religion (at the 5:58 mark):
Behar: Yes. Let me ask you about religion for a second because when you were president, I know that you were a very, very religious person, a good Christian, et cetera. You never really wore your religion on your sleeve and I always admired that about you.
Nowadays it seems that people are putting their religion — I was watching an interview the other night with Sharron Angle from Nevada, and the reporter asked her about God in her life, and then Christine O`Donnell, that one from Delaware, same thing. What is it about the religious right that they feel the need to parade their religion before the American people?
Carter: Well, I guess that was a comedy show. I don`t really know, you know.
Behar: That is a comedy show, you`re right.
Carter: I believed then and now in a complete separation of church and state. I never permitted, for instance, religious services to be held in the White House as all of my predecessors had done, both Democrats and Republicans had brought in, say, Billy Graham to conduct services on Sunday morning.
Behar: That`s right.
Carter: I never did do things like that. But nowadays, it`s true. I think one thing that has happened — it began, by the way, when I was in the White House — was the rise of the so-called moral majority and emerging of the very conservative religious activists on the one hand with very conservative members of the Republican Party. So now there`s kind of a marriage between those religious groups and one political party. And I didn`t have that problem to address either.
Behar: Do you think an atheist could ever be president in this country?
Carter: Well, I think so. It depends on what —
Carter: — how they dealt with the issues. If they would have laid the campaign premise out of scorning other people`s religion, no, but if they said they`re a deep thinker, they believe in human rights and things like that, there`s a chance. But it would be very difficult.
Behar: It would be very difficult. I have to respectfully disagree with you there. I don`t think it could ever happen. But you know, maybe you know more than I do. I think you do.
I wish I had Carter’s optimism.
I think he’s right on one point, though — the only way I can see an atheist getting elected to higher office is if his/her beliefs were only an afterthought, something the candidate rarely (if ever) brought up.
How wonderful would it be to hear a candidate say, “Yes, I am an atheist, and there’s nothing wrong with that”?
We got a long way to go.
(Thanks to Steven for the link)