Down in Virginia’s 4th congressional district, Republican incumbent U.S. Representative Randy Forbes is being challenged by Democrat Wynne LeGrow. Plenty of Democrats are challenging Republican incumbents in Congress this year, of course. What makes LeGrow particularly newsworthy is that he is the only openly atheist Democrat to have his party’s nomination to challenge a sitting Republican in Congress.
LeGrow states his atheism directly: “I am a non-believer.” LeGrow states his lack of belief in divine beings as a matter of honesty, and as a matter of distinction from Congressman Forbes, who strongly advocates for the conversion of the United States into a Christian theocracy rather than the secular democracy it is.
However, LeGrow doesn’t ask for people to vote for him because of his non-belief. Neither does he expect people to vote against him because of his lack of Christian identity. He writes,
“I chose to practice medicine because I felt that helping others would give my life meaning and it did. I treated many very sick patients over the years. In times of crisis, none of them ever asked me about my religious beliefs.
Doubt and skepticism are part of human nature. Many people who consider themselves religious admit to having occasional doubts about their beliefs. The politically expedient solution to this problem would be to admit that we have had doubts but finally conclude that we believe. What if, however, after looking at the entire picture we are more comfortable with the doubts than the belief? If it is acceptable to have doubts, is it not then acceptable to be a nonbeliever?”
Wynne LeGrow may be giving voters in his district too much credit if he truly expects his atheism not to affect their decision. However, he’s doing the right thing by adopting this stance. LeGrow’s personal beliefs about religion aren’t particularly relevant to the work of the United States House of Representatives. LeGrow isn’t asking to be elected Bishop. As U.S. Representative, he would not have any religious duties.
What we ought to be paying attention to are LeGrow’s political proposals: Health care with a strong public option, confronting climate change and saying no to the expansion of offshore drilling, and increased investment in education. These responsible positions make Wynne LeGrow a good choice for Congress.
LeGrow’s guesses about what happens after death don’t matter. If there is any afterlife, the jurisdiction of Congress doesn’t reach there.