Hey, let's put an atheist on the Supreme Court

I ran this idea past fellow atheist S.E. Cupp on Twitter and she responded … coolly, alas.

Dude. It’s time.

Having an atheist justice, however, would not primarily be a matter of identity politics and some sort of equal representation. Rather, a nonbeliever justice would be a mighty blow in favor of the secular principles of “reason and freedom” of which Jefferson spoke.

Heaven knows we could use some more of that stuff. Religion plays far too influential a role in our political and civic life as is. I personally don’t care what sort of superstition makes you sleep better at night, but I think we would all benefit if you left it behind closed doors and kept it as far away as possible from public policy. How about a policy of don’t ask, don’t tell?

We’ve got quite a way to go to get even close to the stark separationism that is constitutionally enshrined but far too often ignored. We’ve recently been humiliated by a spate of local school boards dominated by fundamentalist Christians, undermining the teaching of science and inching us back into the shadows of ignorance.

Er, an atheist justice absolutely would be a matter of identity politics, and a bizarre one for two reasons. First, after Stevens quits, the Court will consist of six Catholics and two Jews. In a country where half the population is Protestant, good luck selling the public on the idea that it’s the godless who are underrepresented on the bench. Second, I’d pay cash money to see The One stand up at the podium in the Rose Garden and make the case to voters that the Supreme Court’s big shortcoming is that it’s not hard enough on religion. That’s a surefire winner with the midterms approaching, no? “Let me be clear: We’re going to take down creationism.” 100 seats or bust!

Here’s the real issue: Wouldn’t the author’s agenda be served just as well by sticking a liberal of whatever faith on the Court, as will surely end up happening? You’ll get the same results as you would with Richard Dawkins writing opinions, except you won’t have to go through the headache of a confirmation hearing filled with questions like, “Judge, what exactly is your view of the resurrection?” Exit question: Given the political heat simmering over the oil spill and the near-miss in Times Square, how long will it be before Obama tries to regain control of the news cycle by naming his pick to replace Stevens? Over/under is 24 hours.

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