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.

39 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.

  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.

  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. 🙂

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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

  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.

  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

  14. I really enjoyed reading this. I have just recently become interested in politics and I am an atheist. I was curious about how atheists with fiscally conservative views felt, so it led me here. Social issues seem to be a focal point of politics, and a majority of what is considered the conservative viewpoints are backed solely by religion. It seems like there should be a 4 party system that divides social and fiscal left and right.

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