(03-17) 14:35 PDT NEWARK -- Atheism might be the last political taboo, but it doesn't seem to have hurt Rep. Pete Stark in his East Bay district.
In town hall meetings in Newark and San Leandro today, the 35-year congressional veteran received only cheers and applause when a speaker brought up a survey this week that named Stark as the highest-ranking politician in America who was willing to admit he doesn't believe in God.
Stark waved away any suggestion that he was being courageous when he described himself to the Secular Coalition for America, an association of atheist and humanist groups, as "a Unitarian who does not believe in a Supreme Being.''
"It's not courageous to make a simple statement about personal beliefs,'' he told about 70 people at the San Leandro City Hall. "What is courageous is to stand up in Congress and say, 'Let's tax the rich and give the money to poor kids.' Now that's courageous.''
Since the survey results were released, Stark has been bombarded by letters, phone calls and e-mails, and almost all thanked him for making his position public.