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‘I prefer non-religious’: why so few US politicians come out as atheists

The 2020 presidential election has produced the most diverse field of candidates in history. There are women, people of color and an openly gay man. There are billionaires, socialists and a self-help guru. The Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’ view of religion is not particularly clear but there are no known atheists.

Non-believers remain few and far between in American politics. In Congress, the only one to publicly “come out” as such is Jared Huffman, a Democrat representing California’s second district and a leading proponent of impeachment of Donald Trump.

Huffman announced in late 2017 that he is a humanist, not an atheist. In an interview at his Capitol Hill office, he characterized himself as “non-religious, humanist, spiritual albeit without any particular dogma. I’m a spiritual drifter. ‘Seeker’ would be a perfectly good word, too.”

Asked how he would define spiritual, Huffman said: “I’m interested in the morality and values that hold us together, the things that through time have really been the foundations of many religions, but I just see so much in organized religion that doesn’t work for me that I can’t really find a fit there.”

Huffman, 55, has no desire to emulate militants such as Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. […]

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