14 March 2010

Atheist first, liberal second

Part of the reason I've been trying to shift the emphasis of this blog to areas other than politics is that I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the way the political conflicts within our country are defined. There are those conservatives who demonize everybody on the left, and I've had plenty to say about that. But across-the-board vilification of conservatives disquiets me too. The right wing is far from homogenous. There is a large contingent of religio-fascists, radicals, and crazies, but there are also many who don't fall into those categories.

Let me make one thing clear. I am first and foremost an atheist -- being a liberal comes in a very distant second to that. The present- day right wing's theocratic efforts to incorporate religious taboos into secular law leave me no choice but to stand with the left, but the right does not intrinsically have to be dominated by such tendencies. A secular conservatism that returned to the spirit of Goldwater would be a quite different matter. I'd still disagree with it, but it wouldn't be something crazy, not a threat to fundamental American values. As I've said before, debates about the proper size and role of government, about the best strategies for national defense, about how we can deal most effectively with global warming, etc. are debates that we need to have. Conservative viewpoints on those issues are not delusional or hateful, merely different. We need a political force to represent them. We don't need a political force representing reality-denial, hatred, and religious fanaticism. Today the latter element has the upper hand within the right. That's what must change.

Indeed, there are some issues -- notably support for the secular and democratic society of Israel against the medieval, religion-suffocated Islamic countries which seek to undermine or destroy it -- where the moderate right has a better stand than the left.

What I hate (and believe me, hate is the right word) is people like this. Not everybody who's right-of-center.


Blogger One Fly said...

Agreed but when those conservative viewpoints use creationism or some other flawed logic then that leaves very little room for discussion.

As far as the priorities I think it's a tossup for me between the two. And I'm not giving up anything on either of them.

14 March, 2010 16:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Creationism is the ultimate example of the religio-centrism and reality-denial I'm talking about. Global-warming denialism is similar.

People who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old are dangerously detached from reality. People who oppose health-care reform or higher taxes on the rich merely disagree with me. There's a difference. That's my point.

14 March, 2010 17:09  
Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Goldwater was a member of the John Birch Society until he was advised to resign when he started his bid for the presidency. And remember his quote:

"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

If it didn't cost him the election, it certainly hurt his chances.

Otherwise, I couldn't agree more with your point of view. Maybe not the atheism so much, but only because what I am has yet to be determined. A lot of mental conflict here.

14 March, 2010 18:24  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

His being a member of the JBS is disturbing, but sometimes people join organizations without being in full agreement with everything they stand for. Think how many leftists of a certain age went through a phase of joining this or that Communist group.

Taking the quote you cite literally, I actually find nothing to criticize in it. I would happily describe myself as an "extremist" in the defense of liberty against religion. And I admire his statement that every good conservative should kick Falwell in the ass. How many of today's Republicans would dare say such a thing? Well, maybe there are a few (I know one conservative blogger who supports gay marriage, for example).

As for that mental conflict, I sympathize and I don't want to pressure you, but I would encourage you to read our best -- Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Hirsi Ali (I think you may have already read her?) -- you may find there the clarification you need, to escape the myths that can have such a strong grip on the mind.

14 March, 2010 20:09  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I'm in much agreement with you on this. I have a link to a rightwing blog on PE that's titled:

The Unreligious Right

You may want to check it out.

I think I've read just about all of Dawkins' books, Harris', Hitchens' as well.

I've been admonished not to call myself an "atheist" since we cannot prove god does not exist. I go with "nontheist," no belief in gods. That doesn't deny anything.

I also recommend The Atheist Camel blog. Quite good.

15 March, 2010 09:10  
Blogger TomCat said...

Don't get me wrong, Infidel. I have nothing against conservatism, per se. The political spectrum has skewed so far to the right that today's liberals are more conservative than moderate conservatives in the 1960s.

Today's Republicans are not conservatives. They are a mix of corporatists, theocrats, and plutocrats, with a generous helping of wing-nuts thrown in.

15 March, 2010 09:36  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw, thanks for the links. (I bet all camels are atheists anyway.)

I'd put deities in the same category as unicorns -- one can't absolutely prove the non-existence of either one, but in both cases it's too unlikely to be worth spending any mental energy on. I've no trouble calling myself an atheist (on both gods and unicorns).

TomCat: I'd agree with you about most of the leadership. (I guess I'd classify Bachmann as a plutocrat in the sense that she seems to be out in orbit around Pluto most of the time.) Some of the ordinary rank-and-file conservatives whose blogs I read seem to be pretty reasonable people, though.

15 March, 2010 10:26  
Blogger dotlizard said...

I was quite political for a bit, but have become more than a little disillusioned by the whole process. I don't want to criticize the current administration for not solving everything immediately, but I definitely feel a little let down by the concessions made to the corporate interests (and yes, I did just watch Capitalism, a Love Story, but I was disillusioned before that too).

I think the most urgent political area right now is just what you mentioned, the attacks on the separation of church and state, mainly by creationist lunatics. This is an area that I believe it's important to speak out against, and I think it can make a difference. I know that the active and supportive atheist / free-thought community enabled me to finally "come out", and it's my hope that by contributing to this discussion myself I can help others open up as well.

I find it encouraging when I post links to anti-theist articles and get responses from people who don't ordinarily discuss such things. For me, that was a first step, expressing agreement with things I wasn't comfortable talking about directly.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic about all that, but, that's ok. I am not optimistic about too much these days, so it's good to have little things like that :)

15 March, 2010 20:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

GL: it's my hope that by contributing to this discussion myself I can help others open up as well.

I do believe this is an important role we can play. Hitchens and Maher have mentioned going to places all over the US and drawing crowds, even in small towns -- and every person in the crowd had always thought they were the only atheist in town and is amazed to find out how many others there are, right there in their own town.

There are also people who aren't ready to give up religion completely but aren't committed to it either -- see the last paragraph of TNLib's comment, for example. Some people find the arguments for religion convincing because they haven't seen the refutations of them. Some people don't really believe but have too strong a sense of emotional connection to a religion (or to other people who are still religious, as far as they know) to completely cut free of it. A vigorous atheist presence on the internet can help people like that.

Politics can accomplish important things, but it's too prone to dogmatism, sweeping generalizations, and histrionics (as much from bloggers as from politicians). As you know, I find the world of technology much more promising. I've always said the most important single thing Obama has done in office was to get rid of Bush's reestrictions on stem-cell research funding -- getting politics out of the way of technology, basically.

Personally I'm very optimistic for the future. It's important not to get so wrapped up in details that one misses the overall trend. From 2000 to 2009 atheists and agnostics went from 8% of the US population to 15%. The biggest test of the creationists' efforts to break down the wall of separation was Kitzmiller v. Dover, and they lost big. The fight for gay rights and gay marriage is basically a fight to uproot a set of religious taboos from civil law, and it keeps moving forward, slowly but surely. The religionists are losing the war, and they know it. That's why they're getting more and more agitated and, in some cases, violent. But that won't stop them from losing.

16 March, 2010 04:22  
Anonymous NickM said...

Hey Infidel!

You're telling me!

I want reasonable debate.

On a related subject...

read this please:


Now there is a lot in that story that is objectionable, untrue, idiotic or plain rabble rousing but I'm tired so I'l mnetion just one thing.

Do you honestly think the "Polish feminist group" were really advertising to save women money rather than their lives? The NHS is far from ideal but it sure beats the hell out of a back-street quack in Poland or anywhere else.

But there is much else to fisk in that. Front page splash on the Express today.

PS My sister-in-law lives in Poland and despite her British Citizenship gets Polish doctoring. It cuts both ways. That is why it's called a reciprocal agreement.

16 March, 2010 16:55  
Anonymous NickM said...

You are right to be optomistic Infidel.

The USA is full of the non-religion that dare not speak it's name.

It's also full of "reformed" religions that don't rattle on about idiocy and lecture on sexual "morality" but want a good look into your bedroom (and then thirty seconds in the bathroom) first.

And then don't go on TBN and ask the poor for $20 to help pay for their next $3000 suit.

16 March, 2010 17:05  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Nick: "the non-religion that dare not speak it's name" is a good way of putting it. There are even Christians who are exasperated with groups like "Repent Amarillo". Our hard-line Christians are so hard-line they alienate the moderates, who don't want people peeking in their bedrooms either.

(At the moment, any fanatic who peeked into my bedroom would primarily be at risk of severe boredom, unfortunately.)

We are at the beginning of the death throes of religion, I'm convinced. Technology and the spirit of the times inexorably work against it.

16 March, 2010 17:16  
Blogger TomCat said...

I guess I'd classify Bachmann as a plutocrat in the sense that she seems to be out in orbit around Pluto most of the time.

Gee. I had he classified as a wing-nut. ;-)

17 March, 2010 08:55  

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