Can An Atheist Ever Become President?

For now, the answer is no

Ryan Fan
6 min readAug 31, 2022


Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

A friend told me he struggles with his faith and doesn’t believe in God anymore. He’s an atheist. But he said this to me privately and said he’d never say this publicly. Why? Because he’s involved in politics and may want to run for office one day. And the biggest death sentence for a politician in America today is saying “I don’t believe in God” (his words, not mine).

I listened to a recent episode of the Ezra Klein podcast, where journalist Jane Coaston interviewed Russell Moore, the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today. Most of the podcast was about the politicization of the Evangelical church, and especially how Trump-y some churches have become, which is driving many pastors to quit.

It was a very disheartening but interesting listen, but what stuck with me was an anecdote about a friend who didn’t believe in God and didn’t like the Baptist church particularly. But he asked Moore what local church he could go to that wasn’t “too Baptist.” When Moore asked why he wanted to go to a Baptist church given his previous statements, his friend said something along the lines of “I’m trying to run for office, and this is the South.”

America is still a majority Christian country

It’s a calculating statement, but it’s not wrong either. A look at the religious identification of Congress is even more striking. As of early 2021, 88% of Congress identifies as Christian. 6% identify as Jewish. Only 3.4% of Congress said they didn’t know their religion, or just refused to answer the Pew Research Center poll.

I’m Christian, but I respect people’s beliefs. We are not a theocracy, although a lot of people would push back against that statement for good reason due to recent Supreme Court decisions. But it would be incredibly foolish to not acknowledge that being an atheist would be a disadvantage running for office in virtually every part of America. People have a right to believe what they want to believe — but in a lot of places in America, being an atheist is an instant death sentence to your political ambitions.

This is a majority Christian country, even if those identifying as Christian are declining. In 2020, 65% of Americans identify as



Ryan Fan

Believer, Baltimore City IEP Chair, and 2:39 marathon runner. Diehard fan of “The Wire.” Support me by becoming a Medium member: