An open letter to all American politicians


I am a citizen of the United States and have voted regularly my entire life; my role as a citizen is important to me. In my role as an active citizen I pay careful attention to what politicians say -and what they do not say- as they are campaigning and also while they are in office.

Though this exchange between Robert Sherman of the American Atheists and George Bush [senior] -then Vice President- occurred in 1987, it remains implicitly the view of many politicians:

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?
Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?
Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.
Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?
Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

I can remember precious few speeches by a local, state or national politicians that did not end with the statement, “God bless America” (or some permutation thereof).

Here are some facts.

Though definitive data does not exist, solid evidence indicates that in the United States, nonbelievers outnumber African-Americans, gays, Jews, Muslims, and many other significant social categories. Estimates put the number of people claiming no religion at nearly 45 million. By any metric, nonbelievers are a significant portion of the voting public.

Here are some additional facts from my own research from a large sample of self-proclaimed atheists.

First, the respondents in my survey (n = 8204) were overwhelmingly liberal with 82% indicating that they were liberal or very liberal. As a side note, these numbers are fairly consistent cross-culturally; atheists worldwide appear to be liberal.)

Given these numbers and the fact that US politics appear currently to be tilting somewhat left of middle, this is a fact of which you should be both aware and concerned.

Secondly, when asked how they felt when god or prayer was invoked in a public gathering (such as a political speech), 82% reported they felt at least some discomfort, with 18% -nearly a fifth- indicating they felt great discomfort.

Here is my question.

Will you consider omitting or at least amending in some way your habitual “God bless America” at the end of your speeches? Better yet, can you explicitly address and reject the sentiment of (then) Vice President George Bush and embrace atheists as being citizens and even patriots? By doing so you would make a significant portion of those hearing your words feel more accepted and validated.

Thanks for listening.

Yours in nonbelief,


PS While you're at it, can you address two Cold War remnants, namely "In God We Trust" on our money and "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance? Both are clearly a breach of the separation of church and state provision.

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Comment by Alethias on June 12, 2009 at 4:11pm
The question has surfaced repeatedly if the conversation between Rob Sherman and then vice-president George H.W. Bush actually occurred. Rob Sherman has procurred evidence from the Bush Presidential Library that validates it:

This proves to me beyond any reasonable doubt that this conversation occured.

I agree with the sentiment that Theists should not let their personal sentiments concerning religion sway their decisions on public policy. I don't see the harm in occasional expressions of personal sentiment.

But at the same time, If I became a public politician and made the tagline on all my speeches "imagine no religion", I'm sure that there would be a huge uproar and furor. I probably should avoid public politics, hehe. Since such an expression of personal sentiment wouldn't be allowed for me, an equivalent "God Bless America", is probably equally bad. Ah Well.
Comment by tom arcaro on June 5, 2009 at 6:53pm

Thanks for the thoughtful response/addition. I agree with you completely.
Comment by tom arcaro on June 4, 2009 at 7:07pm
Ramen, bro.
Comment by Billy Deaton on June 4, 2009 at 6:07pm
Totally agree, and while they're at it, might want to do something about this.

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