Atheists Bashing on the National Stage

A brief break from Prop 8 for something that jumped to my attention. A republican candidate for congress, Michael Stopa, told The Sun Chronicle that he thinks atheists are anti-American.
Michael Stopa... said he is convinced Obama is an atheist...

Stopa, a Harvard University physicist, said he has no proof for his claim, but says Obama has the radical anti-American views of an atheist.

"I have no specific evidence, but I think he's sympathetic to anybody who is opposed to America and American values," Stopa said.
Can you imagine if a politician said something similar about another minority? "Obama has the radical anti-American views of a Jew/Hispanic/etc." Say something similar to another group and the media would be all over it after a single news cycle. He would be held accountable for his bigoted remarks, and his party would be trying to distance themselves from his campaign.

If you have deconverted from Christianity or another religion, or if you were raised without attending church or temple, Michael Stopa believes that you are not a true American. If you have close friends or relatives who are not religious, Michael Stopa is accusing them of being opposed to American values.

I went to Michael Stopa's campaign site and left him a brief message.
Contrary to your claims in the Sun Chronicle, atheists are not "opposed to America and American values." I am a proud American and I cherish the civil liberties and religious liberty that my country guarantees. I suggest that you apologize for this hateful and ignorant remark.
If you are not religious or are friendly to those who are, I hope that you will also send him a message. And please, spread the word to everyone you know, especially if you happen to known anyone in Massachusetts. Maybe we can let people Mike Stopa and others know that it is not okay to shout "unamerican" at the 16% of our country that isn't religious.

In search of reason,



  1. I took you up on your request. My email to him (know that I was sleepy when I wrote it, so grammar might be a bit iffy.):

    I don't expect you to comprehend this concept right away, but the fact that you can make blatantly anti-atheist comments publicly, with no risk to your political campaign whatsoever is sick and backwards. I understand that we are taking important steps in recognizing minorities in this country, and granting all US citizens equal rights, but there is a minority of nonreligious people in this country that goes entirely ignored in that effort.

    I know it seems counter-intuitive, I know it may feel like because most people are religious in some way that we have a common ground and that the few people who aren't don't matter, but know that some day people will look back and recognize your words as the words of a truly foolish and ignorant individual.

    Just know, that socially speaking, you're holding us back.

  2. I fired off an email to his campaign site also, and made sure to post this information to my wall on Facebook to get the word out. Here's my own reply to him:

    To say that Atheists are inherently un-American is ridiculous. Your callous comment in the Sun Chronicle is hurtful to nearly 16% of the United States population. A person's religion or lack thereof is no basis to judge their patriotism! I love my country and the freedoms it provides, just as much as those I know to be Wiccan, or Catholic, or Buddhist, or Norse. The one thing that binds us together is the love of our country, and the fact that we are free to practice any religion we like, or not, if we are so inclined. You should apologize for this hateful and bigoted remark publicly.

  3. I received a response from Mike Stopa this morning clarifying his remark and citing misrepresentation. He said he was making a clarification on his campaign web site.


  4. He said the same to me as well. I will be happy to make an update to my post when I see the clarification. So far I have been unable to find one though, and Stopa's team has not yet answered me as to where it is or when it might be on his site.

    At best his comments are reckless politicking. When asked what he thought President Obama's religion was Stopa didn't stop after saying he thought that the President was an atheist, he took a cheap political shot as well.

    As a result, even if he never meant what the Sun Tribune attributed to him, he is still being irresponsible because his cheap shot creates the implied association between "atheist" and "anti-American," perpetuating a false and negative stereotype about a minority.

  5. The full text of Michael Stopa's email response:

    Dear Mike,

    You are mistaken.

    I said (i) that I believe that President Obama is an atheist and (ii) that I believe that President Obama supports what I view as anti-American voices. I never suggested that those two were related. To the extent that it appeared that way I was misrepresented.

    The paper said that I said that Obama had the radical anti-American views of an atheist. That is a gross mis-representation of what I said.

    I have no ill will or prejudice of any kind toward atheists. Forgive the cliche: some of my best friends are atheists.

    I will place a clarifying remark on my web page regarding this.

    Criticize me for my views, if you will. This is not one of them.

    -Mike Stopa

    My impressions of it are

    - Informal and unprofessional compared to other candidates and congressmen I have corresponded with. I gave him my full name in my message and addressed it to Mr. Stopa, and he replied with my first name.

    - Has a defensive and unapologetic tone. He says that the paper misrepresented him, but offers no apology (in his place I would be apologizing even if I hadn't said it).

    - No promise to contact the Sun Tribune to get a correction. A clarification on his campaign site is a good step, doing both would be better.

    - Should both an apology and a correction / clarification be forthcoming I would be willing to forgive him for the unfortunate choice of words. But I never forgive someone for using cliches ;)

  6. I think emails would have more impact if they were to newspapers in his district rather than to his campaign. His workers will just delete them.

    Also it should be noted in the emails to the editor of those papers that non-religious people are fast growing voter block. The last survey showed nearly 20% of all Americans self-identify as "non-religious".

    The best way to get a voting block fired up and pissed off is to call them "un-American".


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