Non-Believers are Tarred and Feathered for Having Their Own Carrots and Sticks

Someone who attended the inauguration is reporting that a group of people actually booed when Obama mentioned non-believers as part of a list of religious groups ("Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus . . . and [even] non-believers"). It's not surprising at all, considering the amount of god talk at the ceremony, including a speech by Rick Warren, the "Our Father," and even a benediction. If this were a Republican inauguration, people would never stop talking about it as a clear violation of the Separation of Church and State. In fact, if that wasn't an official establishment of religion, I'm not sure what is. But I digress -- hypocrisy is nothing new, so I shouldn't be surprised.

Anyway, The Economist blogs about the poor representation of the "Non-Believer" in our federal government:
A survey from 2001 (discussed here) found 30m Americans claiming "no religion". About 10% of the population (almost certainly more now), yet there has not only never been an unbelieving president. There is one congressman (Pete Stark of California) out of 535 willing to publicly declare his non-belief in God. So, if you're counting, that's 10% of the population with .2% of the power. Compare Mormons (1.7% of the population, 2.6% of Congress) or Jews (1.7% of the population, 8.4% of Congress), according to this. There are even two Buddhists, two Muslims and a Quaker.
I've often lamented the political peer pressure of religion, in which you are basically making yourself unelectable if you express a lack of belief in a god. I have to imagine there are far many more non-believers in Congress who have to publicly lie about their true beliefs, so that's somewhat comforting, but it's a shame that they have to be closeted.

The reason for this unfortunate circumstance, in my opinion, is that the vast majority of religious folks believe that "morality" can only be derived from divine scripture (or some other unprovably-inspired literature), and so a non-believer categorically cannot have a "morality." What's to stop an atheist from ordering a mass-murder, for example, if he doesn't think that he'll receive some sort of punishment from on high?

In contrast, I believe that the moral code of an atheist is often actually stronger than that of a believer. Why? Because most of us don't need supernatural carrots and sticks to be kind and operate in an ethical manner. We have our own carrots and sticks: reason and empathy. Personally, I would be embarrassed to require rules and regulations from someone else in order to know what to do to be a good person, and especially ashamed to need some kind of threat, like Hell, hanging over my head to keep me from doing bad things.

In fact, needing religion for moral instruction implies that, left to your own devices and exempt from metaphysical extortion, you would want to do the wrong things. And without the remaining non-divine deterrents of ostracism or criminal justice, you might actually do the wrong things with impunity.