Herb Silverman for U.S. Senate

Courtesy of Herb Silverman In South Carolina, when a U.S. senator resigns, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement … Continued

Courtesy of Herb Silverman

In South Carolina, when a U.S. senator resigns, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement until the next election. Sen. Jim DeMint has opted to leave his post in order to join the Heritage Foundation, and Gov. Nikki Haley, a tea party Republican like the departing DeMint, is looking for his replacement.

My friend, professor Herb Silverman is no stranger to amiably tongue-in-cheek runs for public office (see his lovely autobiography, “Candidate Without a Prayer.” A few years ago he ran for governor of the Palmetto State for the sole purpose of testing the constitutional stipulation of the state that no person could be eligible for the office of governor who denied the existence of “the” Supreme Being (which supreme being, one can’t help asking: Baal?). When asked what would be his first act, in the unlikely event of his being elected, he characteristically replied, “Demand a recount.”

Now Silverman is again seeking high office. He is asking Haley to appoint him senator for the state. Joking he may be, he is actually extremely well qualified. His presence would constitute a significant increase in the average IQ of the Senate, and he is also a man of unusual good humor and goodwill, far outclassing many in that august body.

However, beyond the chuckle of Silverman beating satirist/television host Stephen Colbert as well as established GOP politicians in an informal poll, the real issue – the real purpose of his campaign – is to challenge the presumption that an openly atheist candidate could never successfully run for high public office.

Polls consistently suggest that atheists are the least trusted group in America. This presumably stems from the bizarre prejudice that you need to believe in a (“the”?) supreme being in order to be moral. Really? The illogic behind this is staggering. Are we really so cynical as to think that, without the threat of divine retribution – or without the promise of divine reward – we are unlikely to be good, unlikely to behave generously, altruistically or morally towards our fellow creatures? Herb Silverman is one of the most moral men I have ever met – genuinely and disinterestedly moral, for he expects no celestial payback for his righteousness.

In any case, the remarkable vilification of atheists – who differ from the Christian majority only in respect of a rather esoteric philosophical distinction – contrasts oddly with the fact that people with no religious affiliation (the “Nones”) are the fastest growing segment of the American population, hugely outnumbering religious Jews, Muslims and most Christian denominations. There seems to be an odd mismatch.

It is high time for those Americans who have given up superstition – and all belief in supernatural spooks – to make themselves felt as a strong political force. The “nones” have plausibly been given credit for the re-election of President Obama, while those “nones” who are of a conservative bent seem to offer the best hope for the Republican Party to detox itself of the tea party poison and put the grand back in the “GOP.”

Humor can sometimes offer the best approach to open dialog on sensitive issues, and this was the purpose of Silverman’s write-in campaign. But he also offers a serious strike to the heart of an important issue which America must face: the fact that religious radicals, ignorant of science and all that is best and most cultivated in our civilization, have succeeded in creating a climate of bigotry towards the millions of decent, usually intelligent and well-educated Americans who live their lives peacefully, morally and honestly, without the need for any god.

Richard Dawkins
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  • beatoven

    After Newtown, the believers need to have a re-think. Bad god? A god who does not care? The devil made the worlds when god was not looking?

  • mbeck1

    Dawkins, “………….the bizarre prejudice that you need to believe in a (“the”?) supreme being in order to be moral.”

    What Dawkins doesn’t understand is that not believing in God is the cause of immorality. That’s the only logical explanation I can come up with for why I run around raping and pillaging, doing murder and mayhem. If I really believed in our Lord, Jesus Christ who art in Heaven, having died for our sins, none of my bad behavior would happen. Although I must say, it’s surprising I haven’t been caught. God does work in mysterious ways. Perhaps god is looking out for me. Or I’m one doing his will here on earth. That must be it. I feel much better about myself now.

    Thank you Richard for helping me reach this understanding. You must be god.

  • SimonTemplar

    Why does he not simply make a serious run for office? He has every right to do so. But perhaps it is easier to simply joke about it without making a serious go of it, and then continue to complain that atheists don’t have a snowballs chance in the hades of winning.

    Maybe it is time to put that assumption to the test.

    These “humorous approaches” do not strike a serious blow at anything (Mr. Dawkins assertion to the contrary not withstanding). A write in candidate who does not put himself up against other serious candidates (opening himself up to forums of debate where he must defend his assumptions and positions against challenges from his opponents, or justify his positions and “sell” them to the people for serious consideration) strikes no serious blows whatsoever.

    I say enough of the half hearted, tongue-in-cheek, sympathy ploys. It’s about time to put up or shut up.

  • inreasonitrust

    I too think America is still bias towards atheists. Majority of Americans still are looking for rescue from above unlike atheists who are looking for rescue from within. I believe if Herb goes to senate, it will be fireworks there and good for American’s I.Q.

  • laurelfrost

    Which god are you talking about? Thor? Zeus? Ra? Religion is not a new thing, and was only an evolutionary step. It is time to put away the toys and realize that Santa might not exist.

  • laurelfrost


  • fightinchickin

    Read “Candidate Without a Prayer” (or the relevant part of the article above). Silverman made a “serious go of it” in the 1980s, but was still unable to “put himself up against other serious candidates” since Campbell refused to participate in the gubernatorial debates.

  • veginpost

    Maybe humourous but still one of the best choices Haley could make. So it follows that she will and indeed has made a poor choice. Another radical out of touch neo con who seemingly panders to the religious right to shore up his base.

  • veginpost

    Let’s not be to hard on Santa now. He knows when your asleep.

  • persiflage

    I really think Herb would gather an impressive number of votes in his run for the Senate in 2014, but the machinery of regressive republican politics and the sheer preponderance of hardcore evangelicals in South Carolina would be his undoing and he knows it.

    This after all is the state that nominated Newt Gingrich as the republican presidential candidate. Sad to say, Herb’s honesty about his lack of religious credentials would be his undoing – even among democrats

    Putiting Tim Scott in the Senate hasn’t changed a single thing as regards keeping entrenched GOP obstructionism, tea party politics, and religion in high government – and that was clearly Gov. Haley’s intention in order to please all the right people. Even so, it’s doubtful she will keep her own job in the next election cycle.

    If Herb runs, I’d be obliged to vote in a state election for the first time. You’ve got my vote Herb!