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Why Is Atheism a Bigger Obstacle to Political Office Than Mormonism?

Although it's Republicans who are primarily making the charge that atheists are un-American, Democrats aren't exactly lining up to defend non-believers.

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Romney's speech has been compared to a famous 1960 speech by John F. Kennedy about the role of religious tolerance in America, but the similarities were only superficial. President Kennedy spoke of church-state separation as one of America's greatest ideals and vowed that religious doctrine should never dictate public policy.

Romney took a different tack, arguing that we should write religious doctrines into law, but only doctrines shared by a sufficiently large number of American believers. As I wrote at the time, Romney "doesn't truly want a candidate's religious beliefs to be considered irrelevant. He's just pleading for the circle of religious bigotry toward outsiders expanded slightly to include him -- so that he can be in the inside, hurling barbs at those who believe differently, rather than on the outside..."

As proof of this, Romney said in the same speech that "freedom requires religion" -- which means, as the Christian blogger Slacktivist pointed out, that atheists and nonbelievers must be the enemies of freedom. This is a shameful path for a member of a historically despised and misunderstood group to tread: in effect, telling the majority, "You shouldn't hate us! Let's join forces and work together so we can both hate that other group of people, over there. They're the evil ones!"

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