Blogging: Am I Shooting Myself in the Foot?

Blogging can be painful. Ow!

The more I think about this, the more I want to talk about it.  See, I’ve realized for a while that people who self-identified as conservative atheists, or secular conservatives, or a myriad of other labels, really don’t seem to want to talk about religion.  They are, almost without exception, political bloggers and podcasters.  I don’t think I’ve seen more than a handful of posts from these conservative atheists that have had anything to do with religion, at best I see them advocating separation of church and state, not opposition to religion in general.

In that, I seem to be relatively unique, or at least I haven’t found anyone else who both labels themselves a conservative atheist and who writes primarily about religious subjects.  Now while being unique is supposed to be a good thing, after all, where is anyone going to go for that information except to you, I suppose it only works if your niche isn’t so small as to be virtually non-existent.  That’s what I’m trying to find out.

Of course, while atheism seems to be a liberal club, the fact is that around 20% of self-identified atheists say they hold some conservative views.  Open atheists, as opposed to the simply non-religious, make up about 5% of the population based on the most recent polls.  Just worrying about the United States for the moment, with approximately 350 million people, that means there are about 17.5 million atheists, or 3.5 million conservative atheists out there.  Granted, not all of them may be online, not all of them may be reading blogs, but you’d think there would be someone, wouldn’t you?

I guess the logical question to ask is, are we talking about atheists who happen to be conservatives, or conservatives who happen to be atheists?  Which side of the equation happens to be the dominant trait?  I can only answer for myself, it would be my atheist side, but that may not be the case for others.  In fact, I’m starting to suspect that the majority of people who share those two traits may be conservatives who just so happen to be atheists, but who spend little, if any, time concerning themselves with their lack of religion.  Religion, among conservative atheists, seems to be largely irrelevant, but I think exactly the opposite is true.  Getting rid of religion and the irrational beliefs and mind poisons that accompany it would do a great deal to improve the political situation in this country.  If people gave up ridiculous beliefs of all sorts, learned more about what was going on in their local, state and federal politics, they would elect better representatives, based on actual evidence and information instead of absurd faith, and we’d be better as a society.

To be honest, I can’t figure out why someone who identifies as a conservative atheist or a secular conservative would be so adverse to talking about religion.  I’ve talked to a lot of people who identify that way, who assure me they are adamant atheists, yet they simply will not talk about religion in any way, shape or form.  This has made life a bit miserable in the search for a conservative atheist co-host for the podcast and finding listeners.  I even asked one of these secular conservative bloggers what he thought of the podcast and he said that it was fine, he listened to one episode, but there was too much religion so he wasn’t interested in it.  I just don’t get it.

One of the big things that’s supposed to draw in readers and listeners is to find your voice.  I have mine.  I’ve always had it.  The problem is, it’s a voice that largely has no audience because far too many people seem to be afraid of half of their chosen identity.  Unfortunately, talking about conservatism tends to drive away the atheists and talking about atheism tends to drive away the conservatives.  Apparently, there are some things that you cannot be too unique on or you’ll spend your time talking to yourself and that’s largely the situation I’m in.  I guess I ought to get used to pain in my toes, I’m just shooting myself in the foot.

26 thoughts on “Blogging: Am I Shooting Myself in the Foot?

    1. True, but that's the only conclusion I can come to. I have yet to find another blog out there that is both atheist and conservative that talks primarily about religion. Every other one I've ever found has been completely political and every blogger I've talked to who writes for one of them is against talking about religion in any negative way. Maybe they know their audience better than I do?

        1. Seriously, I don't think there's anything brave about it. Those who won't stand up against injustice are just chicken. Unfortunately, I think there are far more chickens than non-chickens. I'm never going to be one of the chickens.

  1. It seems weird to me, especially since the religious right has polluted the republican party so thoroughly, I would think that conservative atheists might want to look around and start speaking out against religion. Maybe they figure they are better off trying to work with the religious on the things they can agree on, but that seems to be a losing strategy overall.

    As far as building an audience, it's fucking hard. I've been thinking about this a lot myself lately because my numbers are honestly quite pathetic. As you said, it is important to find your voice, separate yourself from the pack and put out a good product. Even if you do those things, there are so many blogs it's hard to get people to consistently read yours out of all of their other options.

    My recent post A Conversation Between Dawkins and a Young Earth Creationist

    1. It seems like the only way to build an audience in the atheist blogosphere is to do what everyone else is doing and I don't want to do that. If I'm just doing the same thing everyone else is doing, what's the point in doing it at all?

        1. I don't even care if it's a big following, I just want to feel like someone, somewhere is listening. I realize I'm doing a lot better than some people, I read accounts of people getting less than 100 hits a day and I'm glad I'm not in that position, but still…

  2. I sometimes wish I had more of a niche. I could start blogging more about my experience with Chrisitan Science, which would make me more unique, but would have less wide appeal. Kinda like your problem.

    From listening to your podcast, I'd say that you aren't as conservative as you make yourself out to be. Likewise Haus, isn't as liberal from your conversations. The liberal and conservative labels have become funhouse stereotypes–maybe you should just stay away from Them. Most popular socially conservative beliefs are grounded in religious thought–and you don't hold those. Fiscally conservative is fine, but this isn't an economics blog…yet.

    1. I am conservative, but most people think that conservative means neo-conservative, which it doesn't. I'm 100% fiscally conservative (and neo-cons are not remotely fiscally conservative) and moderately socially conservative, mostly because the majority of real conservatives moved to the libertarian party and that is more of a moderate party, I have to call myself socially moderate just because of the misconceptions of the neo-cons. I'm really extremely socially conservative, but if you say that, people assume you're a religious wingnut.

      If people really believed that atheists were all literally baby-eating monsters, would you stop using the word atheist because most people misunderstand it, or would you try to educate people on what the word really means? That's the position I'm in, you have people on all sides who are misusing the word "conservative" and I'm going to hold on to it, just like I hold on to the word "atheist" because it accurately describes what I am, whether other people understand that or not.

      1. I tend not to say I'm atheist to mixed company because depending on their definitions, I could be atheist or agnostic. I just say "I don't believe in God." It's impossible to come up with a simple rewording for liberal or conservative because so many beliefs are bundled into those labels. How many of those beliefs must one have to take on the label? If the answer is "all" then I wouldn't say you're conservative. If the answer is just "most" then I suppose you are.

        I'd defend the meaning of atheist as I know it until it hits a critical mass of redefinition–in which case I'd let the new culture have the word and call myself something more colloquially accurate.
        My recent post An Offering from the Opposition

        1. "Conservative" and "liberal" are just general labels as I've said before, they cover a wide variety of possible beliefs, I don't think there are any specific numbers of "correct" beliefs one must have to qualify for either label per se, although I think there are some very general guidelines that one must embrace. I wouldn't see someone who wasn't for fiscal responsibility as a conservative, for instance, which pretty much counts the majority of both Democrats and Republicans out.

  3. Like Hausdorff, I think some of it is that conservative atheists are so used to having to share space with religious conservatives that they are a bit brainwashed about criticizing religion. Out of an abundance of respect for freedom of belief, they don't want to criticize other conservatives, even when the beliefs are causing real harm. I've seen it as a bit of a "catch-22" situation for conservatives, and it might take generational change to really mend the problem.

    I think you also have a problem with liberal biases working against you. While I think many liberals do a pretty decent job of exploring differing views, well, let's be honest….a whole shitload simply don't. Particularly the smug breed of Social Justice Warrior that is so common in the atheist blogosphere these days…..try to tell them that sincere, honest, decent conservatives exist, and you might as well tell them to believe in Santa Claus. So in a crowd that's 80% liberal, there are whole big groups of closed-minded people who will just blow you off without a second thought, despite the fact that you likely share many views and could at the very least provide them with a different perspective to consider. While I think the average godless liberal is likely to be a bit more open-minded than say, an extremely conservative hardcore religious believer, I'm not going to pretend it's guaranteed, especially on political issues.

    I have noticed a certain similarity in your commenters here and the people who sometimes agree with your comments at Atheist Revolution…they tend to be independent thinkers, and not people who are comfortable being "followers". Yes, there are a lot less of us, but it's good company! I also think there is an undercurrent of rationalist conservatives that is slowly growing in America right now. Religious issues and neo-con policies are playing a role in helping libertarianism siphon off some of them, but at some point I think libertarians and reasonable conservatives are going to have to work together. Wouldn't you be willing to work politically alongside libertarian nonbelievers like say, Penn Gillette or Michael Shermer, if it helped curb liberal excesses without pandering to religious nuts?

    1. I'm definitely not a follower of anyone and you don't see me advocating that anyone here follow me. I'm fine working along some sorts of people, but I think that Penn Jillette is a political loon in a lot of ways and frankly, I really don't like substantial swaths of libertarian politics, thus I really wouldn't feel comfortable working alongside them in any way except ending liberal excess or religious nonsense. I couldn't support them being in power at all. That's kind of the problem, there really is nowhere to turn for a real conservative, we are simply not represented in any way, shape or form in this country today. Note, I didn't say conservative atheists, just conservatives. Fiscally, this country is way, way left and socially, it's way insane on both sides. I'm always willing to work with reasonable people but let's be honest, most libertarians aren't all that reasonable, any more than the neo-cons or liberals are.

      1. True, but I've found that without relentless and savvy self-promotion, it's a matter of slim chance and fleeting first impressions in the huge internet universe of today. I had no idea this blog existed until maybe almost two years ago, when I got so sick of FTB whining masquerading as activism that I made a conscious effort to further expand my "atheist" reading by way of favorite blogger's blog rolls. (Thanks, Vjack! Several of your blog roll get some of my attention now.) All the talk of diversity made me crave real intellectual diversity, ie, not only reading within an echo chamber where everybody agrees and fundamentals are never really questioned.

        I struggle with a few issues that might just somewhat apply to you, from what I've observed. (Or maybe not, I'm no mind reader.) I love the interaction and ability to air ideas that blogging provides, and I love debating issues, but constant debate is tiring. It can help you hone ideas but can also prevent full development of ideas, IMO. I have some views and thoughts that are certainly not often aired in liberal atheist circles, that might even be controversial…I know I could probably get blog hits, but is it worth the fallout? If all I get are young smug social justice warriors telling me how wrong I am and not debating or conversing in more or less good faith, it would be neither fun nor educational. I am not always nice. Stupid and obtuse people bug me. Hypocritically or selectively judgmental people bug me. I don't rage at people, but I can't stand fake PC politeness or condescension in the guise "maturity" or "moral high ground". Sometimes I just like to hammer on idiots until they're practically screaming at me. In small doses, it's therapeutic…as a lifestyle, it's deadly. Just how fucking honest do I really want to be?

        Clearly, you aren't mired in these internal conflicts to such a degree as I am. You are a distinct minority in your "community" such as it is, yet you are much more prolific and open than I am. But I do think that you hold back a bit on debate, interaction, and self-promotion. I believe I read one of your "about me" kind of posts where you admitted these tendencies, and that you preferred a more take-it-or-leave it soapbox approach (thus, "Bitchspot"). That's fine, that's already thousands of times more than I've ever done. Your style reminds me a lot of Les Jenkins,, one of my long-time favorites, like you're his conservative counterpart.

        My solution to my dilemmas so far has been to do almost all of my writing on other people's blogs, where I get to express my thoughts in any area or context provided by the blogger. I interact all I want, but through the weird social context of the internet, bear much less responsibility. I've been working on changing this approach,but it has done one thing. My blog, in 8 months, has had only 600+ hits. That's mostly because it's only 4, silly, long-winded personal posts so far. But every time I spend a day or two commenting prolifically elsewhere, I get anywhere from 10 to 30+ hits, and while I know the same ones check back, it happens on almost any blog I comment on. It's small, and I'm working towards expanding this, but it's the interaction that brings them.

        1. While I agree with a lot of what you say, I think there are a lot of people, especially in light of the whole Atheism+ debacle, who only want to hang out in an echo chamber. They don’t want to be challenged by any viewpoint but their own, they only seek out other people who are saying the exact same thing they already believe and when anything they believe is challenged, they go into immediate attack mode and viciously and savagely leap onto the offending blog as though it kicked their cat.

          While I do produce a lot of content here, it’s because I have the ability to crank out lots of words in a very short period of time. I guess when you type 120+ words per minute, that’s not too difficult. As I’ve said before, I generate a ton of drafts every day so that when I have time to sit down and type, I can produce a pile of finished posts in almost no time. Today, for instance, I generated 11 new drafts while my wife and I were listening to podcasts and once done (I can’t type articles distracted), I produced a week’s worth of content in about an hour. That said, my free time to just sit in front of a computer is slim, I usually do a swing through various forums and blogs once in the morning and once in the evening, maybe a half-hour at each sitting. I’ve taken to answering posts on Google+ because Google tells me when they are available (that’s damn handy Google, thanks). Outside of that, I just have no more free time to give and the places where I do the most interacting are forums that generally generate almost no traffic to the blog. Commenting on blogs is great but it depends on having another writer posting something that I find interesting enough to reply to and that doesn’t happen every day. I don’t post on blogs just to get my name out there, but only when I have something worthwhile to say. Frankly, while I see a lot of people posting just to post, I look at it as spam and I deal with enough spam here, I’m certainly not going to push it on anyone else. Maybe that’s my problem, I actually have a conscience and I won’t shamelessly self-promote when I have nothing worthwhile to add to a discussion. It’s a character flaw, sue me.

          I’m going to go take a look at Les Jenkins, you’ve made me curious. Thanks. :)

          Edit: You misspelled the URL, for anyone who wants to go look, here’s the corrected one:

          1. Thanks for the correction! Les deserves better than my horrible typing!

            Online interactions are very much a double-edged sword….it has never been easier to get groups of people who share interests of almost any kind together. It has never been easier to get enough people together for whatever reason you might want to, be it political, social, artistic, just for fun, whatever. But it is as easy as it has ever been to form an echo chamber, to take part in ingroup-outgroup dynamics to a ridiculous degree, and in many cases, unlike with real life, to hide from oneself the fact that it's happening.

            I try not to interact just to interact as cheesy "marketing" or something….I don't do many of those short, no content, jump on the bandwagon comments. The small stream of traffic my commenting drives is an organic effect of the way I participate. I do wait until there is something I really want to say that is relevant, which makes me pretty sporadic at times(sometimes weeks without a single word published online) , especially if I'm busy in real life. But when I DO comment, I try to be as engaged as I can. I say what I honestly think as clearly as I can, I often have at least minor points of disagreement with the blogger whose site I'm on, I try to answer people if they engage with me, and I often am willing to argue my point instead of just proclaim it. I am willing to engage honestly, doing my best to see the other perspectives in play, not just my own, and to put some thought into it all. Once in a great while, somebody even gets me to maybe make a small change of mind, or at least to understand a new perspective on an issue.

            My way of doing things can take up as much time as generating blog post content, and it does have to happen more or less organically at times that are convenient for all involved, so there is some hit and miss….you can't be a one-man debate team all the time, and you can't schedule an impromptu discussion like you can blog post writing. I can see where this style wouldn't fit well with a schedule that was much busier than mine.

            A separate thought….have you ever tried posts that are by their nature more interactive, but with your personal twist or commentary? You could post an online quiz, but also include what you think is wrong with it or missing, or like that 20 questions list you posted recently, but maybe a deeper or more political version, or ask more direct questions of your readers and be willing to answer back. Or even embed video of you favorite moments of certain movies or tv and analyze it a bit, see what makes it great.

            Speaking only for myself, I would like to see more online conservatives in general apply their political views to real-world issues and news. Show the world how a true conservative's views can actually be more useful in a given situation than a maybe more media-friendly liberal response would be. There are plenty of examples of supposedly "secular liberals" hypocritically kissing religious ass all over the place. Hell, look up some historical shit and show what we've done right in the past without liberal policies. I know there are plenty of examples.
            More in-depth exposes on what you see as bad liberal policies would be interesting, but I think there is a finger-pointing problem in today's political discourse…..I want to see people actually explaining why their views are right, not just claiming they are, or pointing fingers at what they see as wrong with no real reasons outlined. You could probably keep just as many readers or get more, even with fewer posts, if there was a bit more in-depth meat on them more regularly. One thing I can honestly say about the atheist blogosphere….despite the ingroups, cliques, and echo-chambering, there are still a non-trivial amount of smart, thoughtful people involved, many of whom seem to enjoy thinking about all kinds of issues. So give 'em something to think about, though it may take a little more time per post that basic content.

            Anyway, I like your blog, I'm just spitballing here at this point, maybe you'll find an idea of value in there.

  4. I quickly perused your article so sorry if I missed some of your finer points, but I'd like to say you're not alone.

    I find myself pretty well in the middle, although if anything I'd lean towards talking about religion over talking about politics. Politics to me in a lot of ways is a bit of a lost cause. I fight for 2nd Amendment rights, followed closely by 1st Amendment rights, but I feel like I'm much less likely to have any affect on those causes than people's religious beliefs. I think atheism is "trending" so to speak, while the anti-gun and big brother mindsets are probably increasing. I'll fight the downhill battle first.

    I also believe that religious beliefs (and superstitions) are the #1 factor in political affiliation so it feels natural to start there. If we can get people to focus on the rational/logical process by questioning dogma, tradition, etc., political decision making should begin to follow suit. Then we can start talking about how privacy is an important tenet of freedom, freedom of speech is the most liberating principle in history, and how the 2nd Amendment levels the playing field, defending those Human Rights.

    1. I think that most of these things have the same root cause, people acting irrationally. It's how you get bad beliefs and bad political views, by being satisfied believing things without any good reason or objective evidence. that's why I'm such a vocal advocate of teaching children at a very young age, not what to think but how to think. If everyone without exception was required to learn how to think critically about claims, both bad politics and religion would go away in a generation.

  5. Do you think that whatever conservatives came to the Atheist community, left soon because of domination of the modern liberals?

    Susan Jacoby did a hit piece on Right WIng Atheists in 2011Surprise, right-wing atheists do exist. Its quite a lousy piece, something she should be ashamed of. I read her 'The Age of American Unreason' a few years ago, where she mentions the good-old-times of Robert Ingersoll.. when he would travel across the country having debates.. and people from both sides of the spectrum would attend and have a lively participation in the debate. She laments that today's americans are so polarized and they dont talk anymore. Given that, its so odd to see her do a hit-piece on RIght WIng atheists.

    And then there's the women in secularism conferences.. which is better titled 'feminists in atheism'. coz there are no Religious women, no Non -Feminist or Anti feminist women.. and no Right wing women either.

    I am a classical liberal.. and I find the Atheist community to be just a huge echo chamber of modern liberals.. who are heavily into human-nature denial .. in stark contrast to the few conservatives that I follow. Its a pity that 'diversity' has come to mean this.. not a diversity of opinion, but a diversity of people that say pretty much the same thing.

  6. I can't speak for any conservative atheist other than myself but I can say I am neither afraid nor bored with religion as a topic. What I would like is to leave the liberal agenda for just one freeking moment!

    Like every other atheist I worry about poisonous superstition in government, schools, business, families ad naseum. I can work myself into a fearful frenzy or relax and stand-by in shocked horror. Either way the human needy requirement for super-imaginary support is baffling. The insidious spread of the disease with its constituent consent is incomprehensible. For example: How does my mother benefit by spreading the disease? If she doesn't benefit why does she do it? Why does anyone do it? I know from experience religions teach the need to spread the religion. I understand that. But this ridiculous fantasy is spread by people who would never follow another's rules. Why is religion an exception? It's bizarre!

    For the record I am fiscally conservative, environmentally responsible, atheist, professional and female in no particular order. Choosing one before another would be like asking me which leg is my favorite. I do my thinking. In don't get my views from others and I am direct, even blunt.

    I would like to find similar independent thinkers. Agreeing with me isn’t a requirement from my perspective. I enjoy a logical argument for or against my stated views. I haven't met another conservative atheist so I searched. Until I read your blog I thought I was the only one on the planet! I can't speak for any others but I can tell you I would have read every word you wrote had I known where to find it. Now that I do…….

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