Most Americans want a religious president. In fact, for the majority of Americans, being religious is not only a desirable quality in an American president, but a requirement of the job. Being non-religious, then, is generally seen as an undesirable quality that automatically renders one unfit for the American presidency.
I object to this general tendency among Americans. Being non-religious is a desirable quality in an American president, and here's why.
Religion tends to demand one's highest allegiance. This is especially true of Christianity, which is still the most prevalent religion in America. Accordingly, a religious American president is very likely to pledge his or her highest allegiance to his or her religion, which means that his or her allegiance to religion will probably trump any allegiance that he or she has to America.
This can't happen with a non-religious president. Since a non-religious president will adhere to no religion, his or her allegiance to America will never be trumped by a higher allegiance to a religion.
When on the job, a non-religious president will never cater first and foremost to the alleged wants of any supernatural deity, or to the demands of any religious institution, rather than making his or her first priority the rights, liberties, opportunities and well-being of the American people.
In contrast to a religious president, there's no chance of a non-religious president subordinating American political values to religious ideology. A non-religious president will never place the mandates of a religion, or any prospect of personal reward for piety and punishment for impiety offered by a religion, above the promotion of American political values.
A non-religious president will never be driven by religious devotion to disrespect the political value of church-state separation that's clearly enshrined in the Bill of Rights. A non-religious president will never trample over the political value of equality by discriminating against American citizens out of religious devotion. A non-religious president will never deny American citizens their rights and liberties in the name of any religion.
Put concisely: with a non-religious president, American citizens don't need to worry about the very real danger of religious conviction interfering with the purely secular responsibilities associated with holding the highest office in America.
Now I'm not saying that a non-religious president will always get things right, or that such a president will always know how to strike the correct balance between the competing claims of the American people. I'm not even saying that a non-religious president is always preferable to a religious one, or that a non-religious president will necessarily do a better job of carrying out the secular responsibilities of the American presidency.
What I'm saying is that non-religiosity is desirable in an American president because when the president is non-religious, there's no chance of personal religious conviction interfering with the performance of his or her job as a champion of American political values.
So instead of asking our presidential candidates about their religious beliefs with the expectation that they'd better have something in this regard or else they aren't fit to run our country, let's turn things around. Let's start asking them the following:
"Do you hold any religious beliefs? If so, how are you going to make sure that they don't interfere with your ability to run this country appropriately? How are you going to ensure that they don't interfere with your ability to promote American political values? How can we trust in your ability to put your religious convictions aside when on the job in order to carry out the purely secular responsibilities of the American president?"