It’s Depressing Being a Conservative Atheist

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.

37 thoughts on “It’s Depressing Being a Conservative Atheist

  1. Yeah I feel pretty much exactly the way you do as a "conservative atheist" myself. I usually use the term libertarian but my analysis of our current political situation is that Republicans are, by far, the lesser of two evils.

    It really seems like there is a need for irrationality in the human psyche – and the liberal mindset fills that hole for atheists just as well as any religion.

    1. I don't refer to myself as a libertarian because I have massive problems with a lot of libertarian policies, although granted, so-called "libertarians" range from reasonable people to batshit wingnut crazies. It's just that the most vocal among them tend to fall into the last category. I am a conservative in the truest sense of the word. It's just unfortunate that "conservative" has become synonymous with "religious fanatic" in the minds of many.

      You're right, finding people who are not irrational in some sense is difficult. I just want to find a group of people who are intelligent, rational and have the ability to think through their position without resorting to hyper-emotionalism and woo. Aren't we supposed to be better than that?

  2. The post would be easier to respond to if it wasn't filled with so many stereotypes and worldview-affirming misunderstandings about liberals. It starts to sound rather ranty. From what I've seen, liberal atheists (I consider myself a moderate liberal) have the biggest problem with social conservatism and conservative foreign policy. We also see modern Republicans as being really underhanded in their tactics and often scientifically ignorant. Libertarianism isn't well-liked, but moderate fiscal conservatives are significantly more tolerable than any of the aforementioned groups. And, no, despite Republican characterizations, liberals are not about giving money to Welfare Queens (very, very little money actually goes to welfare), although fiscal conservatives like to imagine all kinds of bad uses for their tax dollars so they can feel better about minimal taxes. It's kind of like how a Republican Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) recently (and inaccurately) said that abortions are "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does" – it gives them a sense of grievance, a justification for removing funding, and it's hugely inaccurate (hence my statement about underhanded tactics). I also disagree with your characterization of Republicans as basically being neo-cons (what? southern democrats replaced the entire "real" Republican party like invasion of the body snatchers?)

    I also don't see how "knowing your neighbors" has anything to do with liberalism.

    "it means opening their minds to other ideas and that’s just not in the liberal mindset." Actually, the liberal mindset is very open to new ideas – probably too open and too willing to compromise, which is in contrast to conservatives, who come across as intransigent. Liberal atheists are less open than your typical liberals, but in much more of a "don't have your minds so open than your brains fall out" sort of way. Saying liberals aren't open to new ideas is just kind of strange given that the criticism is actually much truer of conservatives.

    1. You'll note I said many times "in my experience", I wasn't attempting to stereotype anyone, I was simply relating experiences with individuals and small groups. You cannot stereotype any large group, although I note that you tried to do the same thing above with Republicans.

      The liberal mindset is so open to other ideas that I think their brains fell out. They want change for the sake of change, not because it's necessary but because it's possible. The whole point of actual conservatism, which tends to get mischaracterized, is that we save the things that work. There are many things that work, things that ought to be preserved and encouraged, at least until we find something that works better. If you can't demonstrate a significant improvement between the way things have been done all along and the way you want to do it in the future, why should we change?

      And yes, by and large the leadership of the modern Republican party is made up of disenfranchised southern Democrats. You have to remember that the general population are dangerously politically ignorant. They don't know what their political party stands for, what it's tenets are, nor do they bother to think about it much. They're Republicans because their parents were Republicans and their grandparents were Republicans and damn it, they're not going to change for anyone. A lot of those who are politically savvy have simply walked away from the Republicans and turned to parties like the Libertarians, which has had a tremendous upsurge in recent decades. The problem with the Libertarians is they have their own wingnut ideas, a lot of them have taken fiscal conservatism almost to the point of anarchy. Many of them don't want small government, they want no government. No thanks.

      The core of actual conservatism, as opposed to the neo-cons that you describe above, is responsibility. Personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, taking care of and providing for yourself and not holding your hand out for Big Brother to give you money. Entitlements have gone berserk today, everyone thinks someone owes them something. It's just not true. The government has to leave people the hell alone, except in cases of public safety and equality, and keep it's hands out of everyone's wallets. Welfare is supposed to be a means to catch someone when they fall and put them back on their self-sufficient feet. It was never intended to be a lifetime entitlement for people who have never held a job in their lives. In the city I work in, they estimate that 70% of the population receives some sort of government assistance. 70%! That's absurd! Unfortunately, in the new, liberal America, sucking on the government teat has become the norm. That's just not acceptable to me. It's a failure of individuals to take responsibility for themselves because they are not forced to do so. Everyone has an excuse why they just can't be bothered to go out and get a job and pay their own way. Sorry, I'm just not interested in excuses. The crappy economy notwithstanding, these people weren't taking care of themselves before the economy tanked, they won't be after it recovers either. They're too busy puckering.

  3. If how you describe a conservative are truly what conservatives value, then I have indeed found myself transitioning from raving liberal to level-headed conservative as I've had more life experience, and especially recently.

    Right now, the part about safe, tight-knit communities where folks know each other is especially relevant, and recent events have made that all the more true. Although a crippling social anxiety makes that excessively difficult for me, after my house was robbed a few days ago, I've made a few efforts to get to know my own neighbors and intend to make many more. I came to the realization that empowered and united communities are the first line of defense against criminals and other threats. Why fear criminals when you're watching your neighbors' backs and they yours?

    Another interesting point is that of funding the irresponsible lifestyles of others. I used to think that maybe that was a little overly judgmental, but it's true. Why should I think that I had it so easy, that I was somehow "privileged," when the only thing that makes me different from any other Joe on the street is that I assert control over my own life and take responsibility for my actions? Fuck that noise, get a damn job.

    Very good post. :)

    1. I can't tell you if that's what "conservatives" value, but it certainly is what I value and what I would think that most actual conservatives, as opposed to the religious wingnuts that have adopted the label, would value. Certainly I would think that involved communities, where everyone is watching each other's backs, are important, but to have such things, you have to have commonalities. If you feel nothing in common with the people around you, why should you care what happens to them? This is the poison that multiculturalism has brought to us. When there are no common expectations, no common views, no common culture, then how can we have a common interest?

      And yes, I agree with you, get a job. I'm fine with helping people out of a hole, even one they dug for themselves, but if they're not willing to give up the shovel, then screw 'em. Take some responsibility for your own actions and don't come crying to me when you're an idiot and keep doing idiotic things. The last thing we need as a society are people who weigh us down, like an anchor around our necks, because they're too lazy or too stupid to do something to better their own lives.

      1. I never understood multiculturalism… Why should people want to be tourists in their own home? Besides, diversity is all around us! Go into any big city and you'll find these awesome cultures and subcultures all over. It was that way long before these suburban eunuchs came along and tried to force their own brand of "diversity" down our throats.

        The result? Diversity quotas! Problem solved.

  4. "American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority." — Richard Hofstadter, _The Paranoid Style in American Politics_

    Odd choice for a hero, especially for an atheist likely to be the subject of scapegoating. Most people lay the blame for the final corruption of the American political process at Nixon's feet – and forget that Goldwater is who Nixon probably learned most from.

    _

  5. I have long considered myself to be an atheist conservative. I am pro gay marriage, for example, but beyond that and science, my affiliation and interaction with the left is non-existant, and a no-go zone for me. I almost exclusively vote politically for the right-leaning party, even if they are against gay marriage. I just simply cannot imagine ever falling into the socialist, left side of politics and ideology.

    1. I agree with you, but I'm conservative in a traditional sense, not in the modern "neo-con" sense. Traditional conservatism would have nothing against gay marriage because traditional conservatism has nothing to do with religion. It has to do with keeping the government out of people's private lives, out of their bedrooms, and as non-intrusive as possible.

      Unfortunately, there are no parties today that espouse traditional conservatism.

  6. Wow, finding this blog is really refreshing. It seems we are a small minority of people that aren't religious and aren't at odds with logic.

    Atheist conservatives seem to be an oxymoron for both sides. Religious folks don't understand us because we have moral compasses that don't come from a higher power, and atheists don't understand how it's possible to be fiscally responsible and compassionate simultaneously. If both sides would just take one step further they would get it.

    Like most of the other people on here, I will usually vote Republican even though I don't share 100% of the candidate's values – because they are the lesser evil. Anyone who understands that socialism is NOT the answer has a better understanding of someone who uses relabeled Marxist policies.

    Thanks for the post, I'll be back for sure!

  7. I'm also a conservative atheist. But I think you will also find a diversity of opinions among conservative atheists.
    For instance I am pro-life, and I have come across other pro-life conservative atheists as well (even a liberal atheist who was pro-life once). But I am also for same-sex marriage but there are a few conservative atheists against it.

    1. To be honest, there are some atheists who fall into roughly "conservative" boxes but I find their reasons for being "conservative" are not based on rational evaluation, logic, reason, etc. In other words, these people who may have used critical thinking to become atheists didn't likewise use critical thinking to become conservatives. I expect people to be able to produce demonstrable evidence and a well-reasoned argument for the positions they take and very few, on the left or on the right, can do so. The only argument I've seen against same-sex marriage, for instance, is "it's icky!" I also think a lot of people have fallen for the redefinition of "conservative" delivered to us by the religious right and that's why they refuse to call themselves conservatives.

      Who knows.

      1. Lately, I have recommited myself to the Conservative Republican Party. I need to research more on that and Neo-Conservativism. I do research out on line and reason my positions. I am not real sure where I fall between conservative and neo-conservative and all this. Barry Goldwater had plusses and minuses. He could be very socially liberal but for all the right reasons. Right after I came out as an Atheist I wrongly temporarally dropped conservative and republican lables for a similar reason as you have said, and went with Independant Moderate, but that is just not working any more. I am continuing to research on line all of my positions. The first half of my life I was deeply involved with the Christian Right, and the Republican Party. Most of that stuff can be argued along secular lines, it does not necessarally have anything to do with God or the Bible. I may or may not hold to Universal Natural Law, Epicurun and Aristotlian values???

        1. The problem is, there really isn't a conservative Republican Party these days, it's made up of religious-wingnut liberals who fled the Democrats back in the 60s and 70s over issues like civil rights and abortion and made it a point to take over the Republican Party, which they did starting with Reagan. They are fiscally liberal and socially insanely right-wing.

          We need a fiscally conservative and socially moderate party in this country.

          What kind of thing do you think that can be argued along secular lines, I'm curious?

    2. There are indeed a few Conservative Atheist against Gay Marraige, and other issues from the radical gay left agenda. I happen to be one of them. I have found a few of them on line. Actually, compared to where I came from, then I am in the middle on gay issues, but most people would consider me far right. I am on the middle for abortion as well, my views are very similar to Romney's. There are a few atheists who hold some similar values as Christian Evangelicals, we just do not believe in God or Spirit any more. We still promote moral values. We still agree with Epicurus and Aristotle half the time. Gay Marraige by itself would not be such an issue, it is all the extra tape dangling off of it, and additional issues related to it. There are even gays against the radical gay movement. I have a gay friend. I have no problem with him and I wish him the best of luck- housing, jobs, relationships, etc.

      1. I've run into some anti-gay atheists before, I just don't see where they have any better argument against it than the religious do. Once you reject the will of imaginary friends in the sky, it seems rather difficult to continue to reject equality for all. There are no additional issues or extra tape dangling off of gay marriage. They are people, they deserve the same rights that everyone else does. What have they asked for in addition to equality?

  8. The founders of Neoconservatism were Jewish ex-Trotskyite followers of the University of Chicago guru, Leo Strauss, who was himself a student of Trotsky. Disenfranchised Southern Democrats did not found Neoconservatism. They are dupes.

    When these folks saw that our Neo-Marxist Academy (a thing they liked) was growing pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel (a thing they did not like), they decided to rebrand themselves as jingoistic American patriots, in order to use the gullible Zionist Evangelicals as their footsoldiers. Re-shaping the Middle East for the good of Israel, using the blood and treasure of Americans was their objective. They have largely succeeded. The war in Iraq is the prime example; and yet they are still with us, as Romney's foreign policy team is comprised of Bush-era Neoconservative superstars, who want to get Romney elected so that the U.S. will wage war on Iran.

    And an irony is that the Tea Party– a Libertarian movement inspired by Ron Paul in 2008– is now the Neo-Neoconservative party. The Neoconservatives, with the help of our Leftist media, hijacked the Libertarian Tea Party (which was a backlash against the Neoconservative takeover of the Republican Party) and replaced the non-interventionist Ron Paul with the likes of Sarah Pailn, who was hand-picked by none other than Bill Kristol, the son of the founder of Neoconservatism, Irving Kristol.

    Goldwater's father was also Jewish.

  9. As a conservative atheist myself find plenty of scientific justification to not support gay marriage. We can have laws that ban pedophilia, bestiality and plural marriages and I just do not see much of a difference with homosexuality. Granting special privileges for people to allow them to indulge in what this birth defect does to their sexual attraction is something I do not feel is worth while.

    1. Children and animals cannot enter into a legal contract, that's why we ban child marriage and animal marriage. Further, homosexuality is no more a birth defect than having blue eyes. It's no wonder you don't support it, it's clear that you don't understand the facts.

    2. I used to feel the same as you did about gay marriage, but there is no evidence that homosexuality is, in fact, a birth defect. Accordingly, I have changed my stance.

      1. Who, besides the religious, think that homosexuality is a birth defect? It's a relatively common trait in many advanced animal species. It's no more a birth defect than having blue eyes is a birth defect.

  10. “Once we get past the “religion is for idiots” bit that we all agree on, we have little left to discuss”

    Maybe part of the problem is the hatred in your own heart. It’s never justified to insult someone based on what they believe. Not only is it cruel, it only polarizes people in their beliefs.

    Religion doesn’t bother me much but I can respect the thought that “religion is idiotic”. But that is much different from saying “religion is for idiots.” To paraphrase Jesus Christ, love the religious, hate the religion.

    1. Sure it is. There's this little thing called "reality", perhaps you've heard of it? Any belief, and this isn't just a matter of religious belief, that falls outside of reality is wrong. This isn't about hating the religious, this is about correcting the religious and holding them, like everyone else, personally responsible for the crap they allow to fester in their heads. Holding any false belief and refusing to critically examine any belief at all is irrational and irrationality is one of the worst things mankind has going for it right now.

  11. I could not agree with you more! I find MOST Atheists are just as apt to DENY ANY facts which disagree with some view (normally unsubstantuatled by facrt or logic) they hold as the far right Christians are on things like Evolution and Homosexuals.

    Sadly, I find MOST Atheists ONLY critical thinking skills and logic on the subject of there being one or more gods. On ANY other subject, they are just as programmed as are the very religious. The only difference is MOST Atheists have PRORGAMMED themselves.

    I always ask Liberals just WHY if being a Liberal is so great, then WHY are there SO MANY FORMER LIBERALS and SO very FEW Former Conseratives?

    And this FACT is PROVEN by the MANY Books and Blogs written by FORMER Liberals while there is a Dearth of them written some supposed “former” Conseratives.

    Thanks for your time!

    Neil

    1. You have to remember that atheism refers only to lack of belief in gods, there's no guarantee that they will be rational or intellectual about anything. I think this is a human problem more than a religious or political problem, but it's something that we need to address and we need to fix.

      As far as there being a lot of former liberals, I think I should just refer you to the old saying "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." People tend to move from liberal to conservative as they mature, meaning there are a lot more ex-liberals than there are ex-conservatives. Today, I don't think there are a lot of conservatives period, as much as I hate to say it, it seems that everyone has their hands out and that time in American politics may be past.

  12. As someone who is moderately conservative, I appreciate the blog. There don't seem to be many of us out there. As someone new to the movement, one of the things that troubles me about some "leaders" (I use this term loosely, as atheism doesn't really have leaders, and some of the so-called leaders are absolute assholes), is that they attach their liberal beliefs as something that goes hand-in-hand with atheism, which is absurd. I am a "dictionary atheist" (I despise this term as well), and prefer to keep it that way. Some seem to think that atheism naturally leads to other things (dare I say, atheism "plus" other issues), which is patently wrong. Atheism leads to nothing, and is derived from nothing (including skepticism). When these leaders co-mingle these sets of beliefs under the guise of atheism, it can be disenfranchising for those who are passionate about the cause of atheism, but do not share other beliefs that "must" be held, in order to be part of the group. It's ridiculous.

    1. Most of the atheist "leaders" are self-appointed, there is a horrible problem in the atheist community with competing cults of personality. You're right that in reality, atheism leads to nothing, it has no goals, it has no tenets, it has no holy, or unholy, books, you cannot get to any position from atheism because once you add anything to atheism, you're no longer talking about atheism, you're talking about something else. There isn't a "cause" of atheism, that would be secularism, something entirely different. I get just as sick of watching people trying to duct-tape other ideas, from feminism to humanism, etc. to atheism. It doesn't work and I wish they'd knock it off. If you want to be feminist or humanist or whatever, fine. Just keep your "isms" separate.

  13. "We want equality of opportunity, unlike the liberals who want equality of outcome. " This would seem to be a false dichotomy. Even an emphasis on outcome need not entail equal standing as a goal. As often as not it is damage control. And the narrative that blames others for needing money is simply tiresome. Conservative or neo-conservative, it is disingenuous in the extreme. Fiscal conservatism need not be predicated on such arguments. It shouldn't be.
    My recent post The Village of Wainwright, Alaska

    1. Yet it isn't a false dichotomy. One side wants equal opportunity for all, where the people who work the hardest will rise to the top, regardless of gender, race, orientation, etc. That should have nothing whatsoever to do with who succeeds and who fails. The other side can only measure success by looking at the end result and insisting that if it doesn't match, by quota, the initial state, then there is some kind of racism or sexism or whatever going on. The problem is, there isn't anything going on, it's natural self-selection. It shouldn't matter if the end result is 80% white or 80% black, 80% male or 80% female, so long as the individuals in question are personally responsible for their own success or failure and that it's not imposed on them from the outside, that's all that ought to matter.

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