Being a member of an oppressed minority -- atheists -- I'm totally on board with physicist Lawrence Krauss' call to put one of us on the Supreme Court, now that Antonin Scalia's death has created a vacancy.
Three per cent of Americans say that they are atheists—which means that there are more atheists than Jews in the United States. An additional four per cent declare themselves agnostic; as George Smith noted in his classic book “Atheism: The Case Against God,” agnostics are, for practical purposes, atheists, since they cannot declare that they believe in a divine creator. Even so, not a single candidate for major political office or Supreme Court Justice has “come out” declaring his or her non-belief.
From a judicial perspective, an atheist Justice would be an asset. In controversial cases about same-sex marriage, say, or access to abortion or birth control, he or she would be less likely to get mired in religion-based moral quandaries.
...the appointment of an atheist Justice would send a meaningful message: it would affirm that legal arguments are secular, and that they are based on a secular document, the Constitution, which was written during the founding of a secular democracy.
Our country's founders intended the United States to be an Empire of Reason, not of Faith. I wrote about this in "Naturalism needs to rule public policy debates."
What is the common ground on which we all can stand during our debates and discussions about what is best for us?
What evidence and facts can be brought into attempts to reason our way to some sort of consensus on complex controversial issues?
The answer to both questions is Nature and Nature’s Laws. Everybody lives in the same natural world. We all breathe the same air, drink the same water, walk on the same Earth, gaze into the same sky.
Yes, humans also hold a wide variety of ideas about what, if anything, might lie beyond the physicality of this universe.
But those hypothesized supernatural conceptions divide us, while the actuality of science, and the understanding that flows from reasoned consideration of what is known to be real — that unites us.
Such was the unparalleled vision of our nation’s founders.
An additional rationale for adding an atheist to the Supreme Court is that the percentage of non-believers in God's existence almost certainly is much higher than the 7% cited by Krauss.
I say this because we need to distinguish between (1) people who merely say they believe in God, and (2) people who actually act like they believe in God.
After all, if we want to figure out how many people truly believe in the efficacy of seat belts, we wouldn't simply ask them; we'd rely on studies that measure actual seat belt use.
In his book, "Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World," David Silverman speaks about the hypocrisy of people who profess a belief in God, but don't act in accord with their supposed beliefs. This makes them atheists for all practical purposes.
Silverman notes several examples of political figures who engage in "lying, coveting, and adultery -- all commandments being broken over and over," then writes:
It may be distasteful, but we must admit it -- these pandering hypocrites in Congress (and in churches) who talk as if they believe in a god but act as if they don't'are probably atheists, lying about their beliefs for their personal benefit.
In this world, there are good theists and bad theists, and there are good atheists and bad atheists, but some of the worst atheists, the ones who feign peity for personal gain, are running religion and politics.
Also, the United States Supreme Court. A Mother Jones piece about what Antonin Scalia said about homosexuality starts off with this.
Justice Antonin Scalia has written that "it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings." Judging by the things he has said in court or written in his legal opinions about gays and lesbians, he doesn't really mean it.
So likely Scalia was a closeted atheist, maybe even to himself. (People can lie to themselves just as persuasively as they lie to others.)
Might as well replace him with an atheist committed to secular fairness and reason, then. That person would have a higher standard of morality than Scalia, guaranteed.