I read a lot of atheist blogs and forums. I try to limit myself, at least in the blogs, to things that focus primarily on religion, or attacks thereon. Why? Because I find myself in serious disagreement with virtually all atheists when the topic turns to politics. I am a conservative, in the truest sense of the word, most atheists are dyed-in-the-wool liberals. With very few exceptions, most political and fiscal topics you can bring up, I’m going to have serious issues with liberal atheists.
Unfortunately, most of the blogs do wander into politics on a regular basis, perhaps none so often as PZ Myers’ Pharyngula. And you know something? As much as I respect PZ as a scientist, as a political commentator, I find him to be a complete dick. He wouldn’t care, of course, nor would I suggest he has no right to hold whatever political beliefs he has. I just can’t agree with the majority of them, especially when he’s gone on record calling some conservative atheists reprehensible human beings for their beliefs.
See, there is a difference between conservatism and neo-conservatism that most liberals are either ignorant of, or purposely ignore. “Conservative” is a term that has been co-opted by the neo-cons, simply because they think that by calling themselves “conservative”, no one will look deeply enough to find that they are not. The sad bit is that atheists should see this, considering how the term “atheist” has been co-opted and misused by the religious, but no… they are blinded by their philosophical biases.
Most conservative atheists are conservative in the tradition of Barry Goldwater, who, while an Episcopalian, was very, very critical of religion on political life. “I don’t have any respect for the Religious Right. There is no place in this country for practicing religion in politics. That goes for Falwell, Robertson and all the rest of these political preachers. They are a detriment to the country.” He was also extremely critical of allowing the religious right to get any kind of foothold in the Republican Party. “If they succeed in establishing religion as a basic Republican Party tenet, they could do us in.” In fact, that’s just what they did and I can lay that directly at the feet of Ronald Reagan. Reagan didn’t really buy into all that religious nonsense but he certainly knew that if he could play the part and use the political clout of the newly minted religious right, he could use that power to get things done. However, by allowing them power to begin with, even if it was a purely political move, he put them in position for later Republican presidents who did take religion seriously and would move to solidify religious control over the party.
What people like PZ don’t understand and I think refuse to acknowledge is that the core of the “neo-conservative” movement are actually disenfranchised Southern Democrats who abandoned the party in the 60s and 70s over issues like civil rights and abortion. These people are still fiscal liberals, they’re just hard-right religious socially. It’s just easier to focus on the soft targets like the religious right wingnuts and assume that everyone is just like them. Facing people like me, where religion is entirely not an issue, where a consistent, actual conservative position is key, is a much harder pill to swallow. In fact, I think that liberals who only focus on the far right really haven’t thought much about their own positions, nor done any more critical, logical thought about it than the religious idiots have. I see far too much emotionalism and mental masturbating in both sides and interestingly enough, they tend to attack each other for it, while ignoring the same thing in their own camps.
Unfortunately for me and many other conservative atheists, it really makes us out of place and disenfranchised with regard to most of the atheist “establishment”. Once we get past the “religion is for idiots” bit that we all agree on, we have little left to discuss. Outside of a few commonalities, such as gay marriage and abortion rights, conservative atheists are from Mars and liberal atheists are from Venus. There is a reason for this, of course. Most liberals tend to be the young, college crowd, or those who spend a lot of time around them. They are people who, IMO, have little life experience and thus just don’t know better yet. However, as most people grow up, their ideas shift toward conservatism. As the old saying goes, “Any 20 year-old who isn’t a liberal doesn’t have a heart, and any 40 year-old who isn’t a conservative doesn’t have a brain.” Lots of these people came up at a time when being an atheist was more socially acceptable, thus resulting in socially liberal atheists. For those of us who came up before, who lived through our “liberal stage” and got better. We got jobs, gained job skills, got promoted into management, etc. We got married, bought homes and had kids. We care about the safety of our communities and the future of our children. We make enough money to be comfortable and we don’t want anyone taking that away from us to fund the irresponsible lifestyles of others. We expect everyone to be responsible for themselves. We want equality of opportunity, unlike the liberals who want equality of outcome. That’s why, for the most part, we support gay marriage, equality in the workplace for all, etc. With no religious mind poison to make us hate those who are different, we don’t bother.
We’re also not looking for the “good old days” as many liberals like to paint us. There were no good old days. Every era had problems. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some good elements that we shouldn’t hold onto until something better comes along. Tradition shouldn’t be for the sake of tradition, it should be because it works, because it makes society a better place. Some things like respect for the law, basic respect for others, their safety, rights and property, is something we simply shouldn’t ever give up, but in the modern world, largely we have and that’s been at the behest of liberals. We’ve lost communities who held commonalities, simply because liberals push “multicutural” nonsense. The idea that everyone is different and therefore there should be no standards is absurd. I’m not saying only white, conservative Christians should live in one area and black, liberal Muslims in another, but without some commonality, what impetus does one person have to care about their neighbor? We’ve lost that in many areas, where everyone is so self-involved, so politically correct, that no matter what happens, so long as it doesn’t directly impact them, nobody gives a damn what happens next door or down the street or on the other side of town. Mind you own business, don’t help anyone else out, don’t ask for help, but damn it, hold your hand out so the government can give you free stuff. It’s the liberal way and it’s absurd.
Growing up, my parents were friends with all the people who lived around us. In every direction, up and down the street, they knew people. Today, my mother knows nobody. The only reason she knows the name of her next door neighbor is because she used to pay him to mow her lawn every week. It’s not a neighborhood, it’s a bunch of people living in close proximity to each other. That’s not the kind of world I want to leave to my children and their children, but that’s what’s come of the liberalization of America. It’s sad.
There is a place for conservatism, real conservatism, in atheism, but I doubt it will ever be a very large place. Atheism as a community is a young, male-dominated, white-dominated, liberal-dominated world. There is lots of talk about “reaching out” to others, but they don’t really mean it because it means opening their minds to other ideas and that’s just not in the liberal mindset.
And that’s why the growing number of conservative atheists will remain on the outside, looking in and why atheism, as a movement, will likely never succeed on it’s own, it will only grow as a consequence of a natural deconversion of society.