Friday, March 24, 2017

Athiests have many different political orientations

Over at Crooked Timber, a good post about Trumpism and Religion was followed by mind provoking comments as usual, but this time including one commenter who kept railing that American Athiests "are Libertarians" meaning they are not concerned about economic inequality or positive rights.  There has also been much demonization of Democrats and Liberals (as compared with Leftists) wrt their insufficient concern about economic inequality.  I wrote 3 replies as follows:

  Self-appointed Atheist spokespeople such as Sam Harris can more freely engage in anti-theist rhetoric (and therefore sell more books) precisely if they don’t need to care about working with them in electoral coalitions like the Democratic Party.
If you live in the USA and hope to keep things from getting disastrously worse in the short term with regards to inequality, bigotry, or worse, you pretty much need to be involved with the Democratic Party, despite it having always been a (now somewhat lesser) part of the ruling plutocracy. 
And that describes fairly well my friends here in the red state of Texas, almost all of whom could be described as Atheists, Leftists, Liberals, and Democrats. We’re people who marched with the local Occupy, and yet still voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election (after having vigorously supported Sanders until after the Convention). The Democratic Party is the only big tent that most of us could find remotely tolerable, and 3rd party politics is one step above or below worthless in the modified Madisonian system (there’s a very long shot one of the two parties could be replaced…but it’s a very long shot, and “disciplining” the party has been very difficult under the circumstances of the past 37 years, and not looking like it’s getting better). 
I’ve grown more and more suspicious of people who can only demonize Atheists, Liberals, and Democrats, though many of my friends frequently do demonize liberals and Democrats (but not always). We all need to work together (not that we need to be fully “united”). 
I’ve listened briefly to some of the speeches of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and at first pass she sounds more like a New Dealer than a Libertarian. She had notable concerns about the environment and voted for Democrats. Her organization was called American Atheists (fwiw) though I’m not sure of that organizations left/right orientation on economic policy and the like now. 
But most activists attempt to draw as many as possible into the fold based on the area(s) of their greatest concerns, without trying to filter them out based on other issues. 
For me, the economic policy issues have always been at the top (by which I mean better jobs and less inequality), however I’m beginning to think some kind of greater rationalism would be useful also. In the past, I hadn’t really cared about people’s other beliefs. But taking this broader view looks even more hopeless.
(Second comment)

Atheism or at least anti-clericalism has been the general tendency of the left since the French Revolution. Marx was Atheist and declared Socialism and Communism must be. And so it seems that in most times and places far more leftists were and are Atheist than otherwise. Why should it be different in America?
Now at the same time, Ayn Rand was an atheist, and there has been an Atheist streak in the American Objectivist and Libertarian camps from the beginning. And there has been an Atheist streak among other groups for self-selection reasons, people who believe in Civil Rights for example.
So if you are going to generalize about American Atheists and say they are almost entirely Libertarian, you are also saying something about the relative sizes of these communities.
But why should you be making such generalizations about American Atheists? It would seem to go along with being critical of American Atheists, for one thing, and unfairly so, because there are obviously American Atheists of many stripes.

(Third comment, really just a correction of the first.)

 Humanism (not Rationalism) is what’s needed in facing down a fascist impulse.

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