On Sunday, James Woods, candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Arizona’s 5th Congressional District, hosted an Atheist Media Day to encourage political outreach to secular and humanist communities and to inspire other nontheist political candidates to speak openly about their beliefs or lack thereof.
As an atheist himself, Woods believes the political system that exists today leaves too many underrepresented groups out of the process. “There are a lot of misconceptions about people who don’t believe in God,” said Woods in a press release. “Because of the negative stigma, lawmakers aren’t seeking out atheist constituents and asking how we want to be represented. They’re afraid of the political fallout. But how can you make sure government is serving all Americans if you don’t allow marginalized groups of people to talk about what they need?”
Woods also has a very compelling story to tell along the campaign trail. A little before his twenty-seventh birthday, after years of working in the technology field in Arizona’s East Valley, Woods was hospitalized with a rare bacterial infection that nearly took his life. While in the hospital, he suffered organ failure, had most of his toes to amputated, and went completely blind. (If elected, Woods will be the first blind member of congress in almost 100 years.) He credits government support in the form of disability, Medicare, and other programs for helping to save his life during a two-year recovery and says his decision to run for public office is fueled by a desire to give back.
Woods, who labels himself a progressive Democrat, will challenge Republican Congressman Matt Salmon in a district that voted for Romney and McCain in the last two presidential elections. “We have done a lot of research on underdog campaigns, and while it seems counterintuitive, success in these kinds of races doesn’t happen by moderating or trying to appeal to the values expressed by entrenched incumbents,” James said in an interview. “Successful underdog races are won by candidates who are honest and authentic—and who do things differently.”
Woods recently wrote about how he hopes to bridge the gap with voters who may have reservations about his lack of belief in a higher power:
Many religious people share my values, but maybe haven’t ever been exposed to what Humanists believe. Like many people of faith, Humanists insist that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. We believe life is rare and precious and should be preserved. We believe in reason, compassion, equality and hope. We believe in the creative power of the human mind, and that people have enormous potential to solve problems—especially when we work together. We believe in love and kindness. I want to show people that Humanism inspires people to be good, trustworthy human beings–that we don’t lack morals. We have beautiful, powerful ethical principles.
For more information on James Woods, visit his campaign website at www.jameswoodsforcongress.com.