I'm not trying to take political sides, but here are some comments by Austin Cline about McCain's attitude toward atheists.
Atheists are the most despised minority in America; this is demonstrated most clearly by the fact that more people would be willing to vote for any other minority - Muslim, gay, female - than vote for an atheist for president. This discrimination is fueled by bigoted prejudices about atheists' values and morality, and you can tell a lot about a person's character based on whether they promote or oppose this bigotry.
Sadly, John McCain is on record as supporting anti-atheist bigotry. According to John McCain, the most important thing which voters must take into consideration is whether a candidate will carry on "in the Judeo-Christian principled tradition."
Has the candidates’ personal faith become too big an issue in the presidential race? Questions about that are very legitimate.... And it's also appropriate for me at certain points in the conversation to say, look, that's sort of a private matter between me and my Creator.... But I think the number one issue people should make [in the] selection of the President of the United States is, 'Will this person carry on in the Judeo Christian principled tradition that has made this nation the greatest experiment in the history of mankind?'" Source: Beliefnet,
What, exactly, does "carry on in the Judeo-Christian principled tradition" even mean? It sounds like a phrase that was designed by marketing experts to hit all the right emotional buttons among Christians without saying anything substantive enough to be considered meaningful.
Just for the sake of comparison, let's look at some of the issues which evidently rank lower on the list of important questions for John McCain:
· Is the candidate honest or a liar?
· Is the candidate sane or completely crazy?
· Is the candidate the least bit competent or a total dunce?
· Is the candidate experienced and professional, or a dilettante?
· Is the candidate bigoted, racist, or otherwise prejudiced?
· Will this candidate be cynically manipulative or a straight talker?
· Will this candidate work for the best interests of the people or a few cronies?
· Will this candidate use lies to lead us into an unnecessary war?
· Will this candidate subvert the Constitution and help create a surveillance, police state?
And what of Americans who aren't Christian or Jewish — does John McCain think that they are qualified to be president? Beliefnet only asked about Muslims and while McCain allowed for the possibility that he could support a Muslim candidate, he reiterated that "since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles.... personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith." Apparently he realized later just how bigoted that is and contacted Beliefnet later to say: “I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values.”
Apparently that wasn't quite enough backtracking, so his campaign released a "clarification":
The senator did not intend to assert that members of one religious faith or another have a greater claim to American citizenship over another. Read in context, his interview with beliefnet makes clear that people of all faiths are entitled to all the rights protected by the Constitution, including the right to practice their religion freely. In the interview he also observed that the values protected by the Constitution, by which he meant values such as respect for human life and dignity, are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all he intended to say to the question, America is a Christian nation, and it is hardly a controversial claim. Source: Huffington Post
If John McCain only intended to say that "America is a Christian Nation," why did he say so many other and separate things? Besides, it is very controversial to say that "America is a Christian Nation." First, there is a big question as to what specifically he means — merely that most Americans are Christian, or rather than America exists as a nation to further Christian interests, Christian beliefs, Christian traditions, Christian institutions, etc.? Based on his other statements, it sounds like he means the latter and that is most definitely controversial — not to mention flat-out wrong, theocratic, and bigoted.
I do not think that John McCain would give the same consideration towards atheists, freethinkers, or even many non-Christian religious systems. I don't think we'll be hearing McCain say that he would vote for an atheist, a Buddhist, a freethinker, a Hindu, or just about anyone else — I honestly suspect that he only grudgingly included Muslims in his club out of political expediency. John McCain's opposition to nonbelievers as president is no less bigoted than being opposed to Jews, Catholics, blacks, or Latinos as president.