How many atheists can you name in Congress? Currently, there are no admitted atheists in Congress. Admitting atheism is one of the worse things a politician can do for their career, but things may be changing.
Rep. Barney Frank came out as gay in 1987, but he just admitted he is an atheist in August of 2013. He was more comfortable admitting he was gay than admitting his religious beliefs. Frank is newly retired so that may be why he finally felt comfortable enough to admit being an atheist. He said that during his 26 year career in politics, he avoided using the term atheist. He stated "Atheist is a harsh word. It sounds like a repudiation to people – it sounds aggressive."
In 2007, Rep. Pete Stark became the highest ranking public official and the first member of Congress to ever come out as an atheist. He retired in January of 2013. In 2011, Herb Silverman from the Secular Coalition of America, said "Privately, we know there are 27 other members of Congress that have no belief in God. But we don't 'out' people." Currently the Secular Coalition have identified only 5 open atheists in public office, none which include Congress.
Things may be turning around. In the latest Gallup Poll, 54% of Americans said they would vote for an atheist presidential candidate. While this might not seem much, it is much more than in 1958 when people who would vote for an atheist was 18%. Pope Francis has recently said atheists are not automatically damned to hell. The Pope said "We must meet one another doing good. 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist!' But do good: we will meet one another there." The fastest growing religion in the United States is "nones," which include atheists, agnostics, and people who say their religion is nothing in particular.
While it still may be political suicide to admit atheism, things may be changing. More and more atheists are coming out in a very public way. Recently, atheist billboards were posted around Sacramento, an eight food tall scarlet letter "A" in Chicago's Daley Plaza, and a billboard stating "Who needs Christ during Christmas?" in New York are all bringing light to atheism.