South Africa's Judicial Services Commission (JSC) held interviews on Monday for the appointment of new judges to the country's various High Courts. One applicant caused a stir when he declared, during his interview, that he is an atheist. Torquil Paterson, a senior advocate from the Grahamstown Bar Council, informed the panel that he left the priesthood for the law because he concluded that there was no God.
It's not often that you hear of people openly admitting their unbelief, and I think it takes guts. But I would like to ask the question (also asked here): does it really matter if an atheist becomes a judge? Are there any disadvantages that you can think of by letting an atheist preside over cases in a court of law? Would it be a problem, for example, to let an unbeliever - who would be responsible for making far-reaching and highly influential decisions that might affect us all - sit on the highest court in the land, such as the Constitutional Court in South Africa or the Supreme Court in the United States?