Video above: Presidential contender Marco Rubio responds to atheist’s question
When a self-described atheist asked Marco Rubio this week how a candidate who spends so much time talking about religious liberty and “pandering” to evangelical voters could possibly represent him, Rubio delivered one of the most articulate responses a Republican politician ever has to such a question.
Rubio remains well below business mogul Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz in most polling, both nationally and in early-voting states. But with some of the GOP’s large base of evangelics questioning the sincerity of Trump’s faith, Rubio’s responses to questions like this could compel them to give his candidacy another look.
Check out the exchange in the video above. A transcript of his remarks is below.
Alabama’s primary is set to take place March 1st.
I’m an atheist voter. I represent millions of atheists and non-theists around the country. We’re one of the fastest growing voting blocs. You said earlier you want to stand up for religious freedom, and all of that. My question is, for atheist voters who are looking for somebody who will uphold their rights as Americans and not pander to a certain religious group… how do you plan on upholding our rights?… There are talks in our community about you running as pastor-in-chief, rather than commander-in-chief, so I’m curious to get your thoughts.
Well, first of all as I said during my speech, you have a right to believe whatever you want. You have a right to believe in nothing at all, you most certainly have that right. By the way, I’m a Christian. I can’t force you to be a Christian. Christianity is a free gift. We Christians believe that salvation is a free gift that has to be willfully accepted. You can’t force it on people. So you have a right to believe whatever you want, and I congratulate you on believing whatever you want.
I’m gonna share my faith, especially when I’m asked, because my faith influences who I am and every aspect of my life.
First of all… If you don’t believe the Judeo-Christian values influenced America, then you don’t know history… This nation was founded on the principle that our rights come from our Creator. If there’s no creator then where did your rights come from? And so, that’s why it’s important for us to understand that. And we’re going to protect the rights of Americans to continue to believe that.
We’re also gonna have a country where no one is forced to violate their conscience. Which means no one is gonna force you to believe in God, but no one is going to force me to stop talking about God. I’m not going to force you to pray, I not going to force you to go to church, I’m not going to espouse beliefs that you don’t have. But no one is going to take away my right and your right to live out the teachings of your faith, no one, when I’m President.
And I want to be very clear about something. Not only am I a Christian and not only am I influence by my faith, but it is the single greatest influence in my life. And from that I’ll never hide, and I’ll tell you why. Because I know if I’m lucky, I get to live to be 85 or 90, depending on what life expectancy becomes with all this new medicine. But I’m more interested in eternity and the ability to live forever with my Creator, that you don’t believe in but I do and that’s what I aspire to more than anything else.
That’s why I believe the most important job I have is the job of a father and a husband, more important than even the Presidency. Because I only have a handful of years to teach and instruct my children with the right values. Not just to allow them to succeed in life but, more importantly, to be able to accept the gift of eternity. I believe that God, our Creator became a man and he came down to earth and lived among us — suffered like a man would — emotions, physical suffering, emotional suffering, pain, illness, sickness, sadness. And then he died. And he died to remove the sins that we couldn’t remove up to that point. They could only be covered, but they couldn’t be removed. And as a result I now have the free gift or the opportunity to live forever with my Creator. And I believe that passionately and it influences every aspect of my life.
And I respect very much your willingness to stand up and ask that question because I know you’re in a small minority of people here that share that view that you have. But you have a right to it and that’s what makes us such a great country.
I would say this though, you shouldn’t be worried about my faith influencing me. In fact, I think you should hope my faith influences me. Here’s why: you know what my faith teaches me? My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to care for the less fortunate. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation to love my neighbor. My faith teaches me that I have an obligation for those who are hungry, to help try and feed them — for those who are naked, to help clothe them. My faith teaches me that I need to minister to those in prison. My faith teaches me that if I want to serve Jesus, I have to serve each other. And I think that you should hope that influences me. I know it’s made this a greater country.