The Humanist Hour #124: James Woods, Too Sensible to Be Electable

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In this episode, Bo Bennett speaks with James Woods, an openly-atheist congressional candidate for Arizona’s 5th district. Though he lost in the November 4 general election, his trailblazing campaign helped pave the way for other openly secular candidates in the future.

Read about James Woods (in his own words):

I’ve lived in Arizona my whole life. I was born in the Arizona East Valley and raised by good-hearted working class parents. My dad is one of my best friends and supporters. We lost my mom to cancer in 2002, but I think she would be proud of how close and strong our family has remained. I graduated from Dobson High in ‘97 and went to Mesa Community College, working toward a career in the tech industry. I wanted the kind of job where I could support myself and a family, but also contribute to the quality of life in Arizona by developing technology-based solutions to the problems our state faces.

A month before my 27th birthday, I was hospitalized for a rare illness that nearly killed me. I didn’t have health coverage. I survived organ failure and amputations. While my medical team fought to keep me alive, my vision started fading. On a Monday I told the doctor that things were starting to look dim, and by Friday I never saw again. I ended up on dialysis and even spent time in hospice. I would not be alive today without all the people who invested in me. You invested in me through your contributions to government programs like Medicaid, Social Security Disability and Nutrition Assistance. My dad invested in me and became my caregiver. And someone I never met gave me a new chance at a healthy life through organ donation. After all of that generosity and support, it’s time for me to start giving back.

Last February I received a new kidney, and from my hospital bed in Phoenix I signed the paperwork to run for the US Congress in Arizona’s CD5. After my long struggle to get the health care I needed and the losses I experienced when I couldn’t get it, I knew I had an opportunity to start advocating for change. There is a damaging disparity between the decision-makers in Washington and the people who have to live with the decisions they make. We deserve representatives who know what it’s like to face hard times and what’s needed to overcome them. I can provide that representation. I have already overcome some tough odds, and I believe it’s time to overcome the conservative ideology that hurts the most vulnerable among us.