Q&A: James Woods, Blind, Atheist Congressional Candidate
|Congressional Candidate James Woods.|
It's not exactly common for a congressional candidate to openly embrace his lack of religious belief, but Democrat James Woods has done just that.
Sometimes Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is called the only atheist in Congress, and although she was sworn in on the Constitution instead of the Bible, she rejects being labeled as an atheist. Woods, who's looking to take on Republican Congressman Matt Salmon in CD-5, the district next to Sinema's, has no problem labeling his beliefs.
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New Times had a Q&A session with Woods, a political newcomer who's currently the only Democrat who's filed to run in the Republican-heavy CD-5:
New Times: Tell us about yourself. (That's not even a question.)
Woods: My life started out a lot like everyone else's. I grew up in the East Valley. I was always curious and interested in computers, so I worked toward a career in the tech industry. I figured I'd have a pretty regular life.
Then, a month before my 27th birthday, I was working as a contractor for a company that didn't offer me any health benefits and I ended up getting really sick. I was hospitalized for MRSA--a life-threatening infection that's resistant to antibiotics. It almost killed me. While I was in the hospital, my vision started to get dim on a Monday. By Friday, I never saw anything again. The doctors had to cut out part of my collar bone and amputate most of my toes. I went into organ failure and ended up on dialysis. I survived, but I spent two years in and out of hospitals while I recovered. And my family and I needed help. Without Social Security Disability, Nutrition Assistance and Medicaid/Medicare, I wouldn't have made it. I would have died.
I've been fortunate in my life to have incredible support. I had a dedicated and talented medical team. I have a supportive family. I live in a country where our government invests in people like me--people who want to contribute, but who hit roadblocks. When I finally got my new kidney in January and was able to get off dialysis, I decided it was time to give back. So I'm running for Congress.
|The Freedom From Religion Foundation featured Woods on this billboard that was posted in Apache Junction in 2011.|
Woods: The polling on this is disappointing. Gallup reported in 2012 that 43% of voters in the United States would not vote for an atheist candidate. Regardless of qualifications, atheism is a dealbreaker. The only way to change this is to start introducing voters to atheists. Religion is really married to morality in the minds of the American public and people are unfamiliar with the many beautiful, powerful ethical systems practiced by atheists. Personally, I'm a Humanist, which means that I believe in the dignity and worth of human beings. I believe we should treat one another with respect. I believe we live in an extraordinarily big universe where life is rare and precious and should be protected. I believe in the creative power of the human mind to solve problems and improve the world around us. And I believe these values are the kind we all want to see more of in our elected officials.