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Monday, September 27, 2010

Politics and Atheism

I have tried to steer clear of politics because this blog's raison d'être is to detail why I am no longer an Evangelical Christian and, frankly, politics had nothing to do with my de-conversion. Many of my readers are probably left of center politically as that that seems to be the case with most atheists. I don't think there is, or that there needs to be, any direct correlation between one's disbelief in god(s) and one's political stance. Yet, some atheist bloggers seem to assume that to be atheist means that one is also a political liberal.

I classify myself as a libertarian, although I don't necessarily agree with every plank of the Libertarian Party platform . I believe in fiscal conservatism but not social conservatism. I think smaller government, lower taxes, and fewer regulations are desirable.

I have discovered that I am not alone. Here are some notable non-believers whose political views are quite similar to mine:

Thomas Jefferson
Ayn Rand
George Will
Christopher Hitchens

Here are some conservative atheist groups on the internet:

Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League

The Atheist Conservative

The Secular Right

The Conservative Humanist Association

The Secular Conservative

Here is an excellent article by Heather McDonald, entitled, "Not all conservatives have a direct line to God, and they don't want one, either," in The Chicago Sun-Times of September 3, 2006. She argues that one does not need to believe in God in order to believe in conservative values and in reality the marriage between religion and conservatism , as exemplified by the religious right,  is destructive to conservative values.

So, if you are a political liberal, I respect your views but please don't make those views a test of "atheist orthodoxy." There is room for us to disagree on political matters while agreeing that there is no reason to believe in god(s).


  1. Great article by Heather McDonald. I've been wondering if there are so many Christians that it truly is a plus, for say, Christine O'Donnell, that she is one. When they see videos of her speaking about her faith in the past, it warms them.

    For me, it puts me off. Why? Because I've seen the lack of questioning, the easy acceptance of what they are told, etc. among Christians. It makes me picture someone in Washington saying, "Well, I prayed about this, and God wants me to..."-and the Christians would find that comforting. I'd be scared to death of what the person might think God told them to do next!

    I, too, am in a position of still being fairly conservative fiscally-speaking, but becoming more liberal on social issues. So sometimes I'm onboard with the conservative candidate, but their praying, God speaking to them, their considering the Bible an authority, their believing in end times stuff really, really bothers me.

    So, are there more agnostic/atheist conservatives or more religious conservatives?

  2. Lynn, There are definitely many more religious conservatives. But for them the main issues are "social conservatism", i.e., opposition to gay marriage, abortion, stem-cell research, etc. For the fiscally conservative, the main issues are related to the size of gov't and the level of spending and taxing. Unfortunately, the social conservatives have taken over the Republican party so I cannot support most of their candidates. There are some fiscally conservative democrats but not many. Frankly, I would like to see all of the politicians in Washington voted out and lets start over with a fresh slate (and with term limits). However, that is unlikely to happen.

  3. I'm always amazed at how often people leave Christianity because it conflicts with reason, but then reflexively adopt such illogical views as the efficacy of big government, handgun bans as a means of reducing crime, welfare as a vehicle for elevating the poor, price controls, federal involvement in education, etc. It's all stuff easily shown to be false, irrational and damaging to society ... yet they gulp it all down with gusto.

    I suspect they do it just because they know the leftist ideology galls James Dobson/Pat Robertson & Co., and that makes it highly attractive.

  4. I didn't know George Will was a non-believer, but I'm not surprised if such is the case. I was on the Buchanan campaign's e-mail list in 1996, and I got an e-mail talking about George Will mocking Pat Buchanan for not believing in evolution.

  5. I always liked George Will and Pat Buchanan. Buchanan's auto-biography is great.

    Hacksaw Duck, I'm with you-how could people think the church or the government can run their lives and take good care of them-they're both scary! Do I trust the church? No. Do I trust government? No.

  6. Robert Price is another atheist conservative, though (not related to political ideology) I profoundly disagree with him on his borderline Jesus Myth position.

    Personally, I'm probably going to find myself at odds with nearly everyone else on one thing or another, because I'm still managing my own internal struggle over exactly what my political position is going to be. There is an unavoidable dichotomy between my affinity for fiscal conservatism (and the inevitably connected personal financial liberty) and my deep revulsion for human suffering, which I find myself sympathetic to any means of effectively reducing or eliminating it where that is possible. You can see the dilemma here. As I look at these issues one at a time and try to apply my own guesstimate as to whether the reduction in human suffering can be done in such a way as to exceed the benefit of maximizing personal liberties (totally subjective thing, I admit), I do find myself with an assortment of positions that would make me appear to be blatantly inconsistent and maybe bordering on multiple personality disorder. I don't yet have a solution to this nor do I have an easily explained framework for explaining how I arrive at my conclusions, and I hope to have this figured out at some point.

    Short answer, though, is that I completely agree that there need not be a political prerequisite that must accompany atheism.

  7. I found this post rather intriguing. In the US I have to be considered a social and fiscal liberal. However while my social liberalism is non-negotiable (you're not going to convince me to treat homosexuals as second class citizens no matter how you try).

    My fiscal liberality is far less so. For me fiscal liberalism or conservatism is not a matter of right and wrong, rather a matter of a means to an end. By which I mean that I'd rather see greater individual freedom, lower taxes and smaller government -- just not at the price of social justice and equality.

    This is what led to my intrigue. Given that I suspect most atheists are in broad agreement on the social side, how much less divided are we on the fiscal side?

    Or to put it another way. Of t religious dogma could be taken out of politics, would the conversation be less divisive and acrimonious? I would like to think so.

  8. Derek, don't be so sure the left's fiscal policy isn't a moral issue. The redistribution of wealth means that the state must, by force, take money from the person who earned it and give it to someone who didn't earn it. That's immoral from the outset.

    With this mechanism in place, politicians buy votes based on doled-out goodies. The recipients tend to become dependent and the politicians entrench themselves in office. It's a corrupt way to run a government. (But it looks soooo compassionate.)

  9. Hi Lynn. I liked Right from the Beginning too.

  10. Ken,

    I find the same thing on my blog. When I write on religion and my past I find most everyone says Amen. However, when I write about my left leaning political and environmental views I hear a lot fewer amens. I must always remember this.


  11. Thanks for this brief side excursion, Ken. It's nice to know a bit more of your broader philosophy, and to hear from others as well. To throw in my 2 cents, I identify a lot with both Chris Jones and Derek.

    I don't think I have a philosophy that fits either major party or anything else such as libertarian, which I see as nice in theory but unworkable in reality, and evidenced by its very few elected officials. (And apparently in the South it is sometimes... not at all in your case, Ken... associated with racism--perhaps a marriage of convenience.)

    As to fiscal conservatism, that IS important; and capitalism itself is not evil or bad, but it, and its industries and corporations DO need society-wide regulations for many things, because there are society-wide effects... market or "good will" forces alone do not adequately guide and restrain it. And the way our many states are structured and need relative uniformity on many things, only the federal gov't (unfortunately) can play the role, as I see it. But yes, keep it as small as possible!

  12. Derek,

    You said: if religious dogma could be taken out of politics, would the conversation be less divisive and acrimonious? I think so. I think the religious right with nutcases like Christie O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, and others poisons the discussion. I am in favor of helping the unfortunate too but the gov't does such a poor job at anything it attempts, I hesitate to give them the responsiblity. For example, on health care. I think all people should have health care and I don't even mind it being funded through taxation but the gov't has proven that it can't run anything efficiently. Medicare is about to bankrupt us and a lot of it is due to fraud and unnecessary procedures being covered.See this report. Of course the defense budget is the other big black hole that our money goes in. We need to pull troops out of most foreign countries and cut our expenditures significantly in this area. Finally, the deficit is killing us. Just the interest on the debt is the third largest expenditure in the budget. This is unsustainable. We are mortgaging our children's grandchildren's future and enslaving them to debt. The unfortunate thing is that no politician who wants to deal seriously with these issues can get elected or stay elected. It is a political landmine.

  13. Ken, here are some staunch atheists with the similar political views as yours:

    Mark Humphrys:

    Edmund Standing:

    Amy Akon:

  14. I agree with your positions Ken, Duck and others. I am socially libertarian re gay marriage, women's rights etc. but fiscally conservative. I get into trouble with discussions on the Canadian Humanist board because most of them are left wing to the extreme- they are almost communist, or "Trots". They tend to think that all the wealth should be distributed equally through government interference. I have worked a lot with street people and welfare recipients and throwing money at them is not the answer.