The Atheist Conservative shows why secular conservatism continues to be an irrelevant and impotent force in American politics

Summary: Looking at the margins of a political movement often reveals much about its core, as people on the extremes display traits the mainstream conceals. For example, Marxists show many unexamined values held by Liberals. Today FM website author Joe Bonham looks at atheist conservatives, a group in the larger conservative movement that shows interesting things about what might be the dominant political force in America today.

Anguish at the stupidity of Christians
Anguish at the stupidity of Christians

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For centuries Christians have warned society about the threat of unbelievers, a narrative which continues today in the United States. Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly and other members of the Christian Right insist that an atheist is incapable of morals. Without a magic man in the sky threatening eternal damnation, a human being is not only unable to behave himself, but will be quickly seduced by an evil ideology, like Nazism. The underlying assumption is that man’s innate moral compass is not enough; a scripture written by prophets is the only way to ensure that the average citizen will remain within the confines of civilized behavior.

While most liberals and progressives scoff at this notion, the Religious Right has been proven at least partially correct in their prediction -– American atheists have become empty-souled and easily duped by a hateful ideology. Not on the Left, but within the ranks of the Right itself.

Any blanket statement of an entire group is problematic and to be avoided. So for the purposes of this analysis, the writings of one of the largest collections of Conservative secular thought will be used, the website “The Atheist Conservative”.

Perhaps the most extraordinary attribute of the Conservative atheist movement is the way they have unthinkingly accepted virtually every position held by the Christian Right. The viewpoints of these modern Conservative atheists contrast sharply with those of Ayn Rand, the most influential and perhaps only atheist of any significance in Conservative politics. Rand herself expressed contempt not just for religion, but the very idea of any moral constraints on human behavior at all

Real Religion
Real Religion. There is not much depth left to modern American religion

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For centuries, the mystics of spirit had existed by running a protection racket – by making life on earth unbearable, then charging you for consolation and relief, by forbidding all the virtues that make existence possible, then riding on the shoulders of your guilt, by declaring production and joy to be sins, then collecting blackmail from the sinners.

—  Ayn Rand, For The New Intellectual (1961)

Condemnation of organized religion is not a new or uncommon tenet of atheism as a worldwide movement. Leftist atheists like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens became mouthpieces for the human rights movement, espousing the idea the leading cause of oppression in the world is mankind’s adherence to outdated and primitive codes of holy law spelled out by the major religions.

Conservative Atheists on the other hand have mostly abandoned Rand’s contempt for religion, instead embracing it as a useful tool to benefit society.

Leaving aside the tedious exegeses by contemporary believers who tease out the most progressive ethics from its pages, if the Bible is read as a set of historical documents, and as an “in-group” ’ survival “blueprint”, it cannot be said to be immoral.

Review of Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion (2006) by C. Gee, at The Atheist Conservative, 18 July 2009

In other words, no matter how violent or barbaric a religious code of law is, it’s okay as long as it is written with the intent to ensure survival of the tribe. Any attacks against it are unwelcome. This is the first point where Conservative atheists and Leftist atheists’ viewpoints diverge.

While considering themselves aloof with total confidence in their own confidence and reasoning skills, Conservative atheists very frequently fall into the same fallacies and snafus as the most misinformed religious believer within the Republican Party.

Even the most “educated” atheist within the Conservative party will often fall victim to the most absurd conspiracy theories, like the notion that Muslims (who to this day remain a tiny minority in every Western country) will overrun Christendom with their hordes of terrorists and camels. None of the “survival” logic used to defend Judeo-Christian atrocities applies to Islam apparently.

However, whether [Dawkins] recognizes it or not – and it seems he does not – the Western “progressive” class to which Dawkins belongs is under severe threat, both from within and without. Democracy is dying with the populations that created them. Demographically and ideologically, Europe is giving way to Islam. What will happen to the Universal Court of Rights for Humans and Smart Animals when the Caliphate is reestablished?

— C. Gee, ibid

These atheists’ lack of willingness to contest even the most hateful tenets of their Christian “allies” in the United States makes sense when the reader delves deeper into their fears. From “The forces of Islam enjoy a bloody weekend“, The Atheist Conservative, 23 September 2013:

It is not a clash of civilizations, as is often said: it is a clash of civilization with barbarism. But either civilization has not yet woken up to that reality, or it is conniving at its own destruction.

One story of the massacre in the Kenya shopping mall is of the barbarian warriors entering a children’s shoe shop, demanding that the children trying on shoes recite “the Shahada” – a tribal chant about their nasty god, set down as the opening lines of the Koran – and shooting dead those who could not. Bullets in the little bodies. They were not Muslims so they had no right to live, according to the creed of the Muslim barbarians.

Most reports agree that it is a group belonging to the Somalian terrorist organization al-Shabaab, affiliated with al-Qaeda, that carried out the massacre of shoppers and their children in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Among them are five Muslims from America, one from Canada, one from Finland, and one from Sweden. At the time of this writing there are still gunmen in the building on the loose, and they may be holding hostages.

Never mind of course that the Kenyan government has directly challenged Islamist control of Somalia. While the Islamist retaliation was certainly violent and brutal, it had a solid political motivation, and in effect, is no different than atrocities routinely committed by “civilized” Christian (and secular!) nations.

Like with their allied Christian mouthpieces, these atheist writers refuse to acknowledge that the “Islamofascists” have any political or rational reason for their attacks. This logical failure could be a result of stupidity or ignorance, but is most likely a willful and deliberate use of propaganda.

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

— George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language” (1950)

Despite the fawning admiration for Christian Dominionism {see Wikipedia} expressed by Conservative Atheists, the favor is not returned. The ridicule and condemnation of atheism from Fox News and other religious Conservative outlets shows no signs of stopping, or even slowing. The very existence of Conservative atheists is repugnant to American Conservatism as a whole.

Conservative atheism as a movement produces no original thought, makes no attempt to gain support from other atheist movements, or advance secular society in any way. In essence, Conservative atheism is to American Conservatism what a barnacle is to an ocean liner – a mostly ignored nuisance beneath the surface, just along for the ride.

Jesus & Ayn Rand in 2012

For More Information

(a)  Articles about the libertarians:

Best:  “If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride — A Pony!“,
John Holbo and & Belle Waring, 6 March 2004 — One of the best political posts, ever.

  1. Objectivists and Libertarians“, David Boaz (EVP of Cato, bio here), IOSJournal, August 1997 — “all Objectivists are necessarily libertarians, though not all libertarians are Objectivists.”
  2. What I Think About Atlas Shrugged“, John Scalzi (sci-fi writer, bio), 1 October 2010
  3. A Place on the Right for a Few Godless Conservatives“, New York Times, 18 February 2011
  4. The American Right and Ayn Rand: A Love Story“, Travis Benton, 14 August 2012
  5. Conservatives once ridiculed Ayn Rand“, Michael Lind, Salon, 8 August 2013 — “Today’s doltish conservatives, like Paul Ryan, worship her. But their forebears called Rand’s work ‘preposterous’”
  6. What was Ayn Rand’s view of the libertarian movement?“, Ayn Rand Institute
  7. Libertarianism And Objectivism: Compatible?“, William R. Thomas, The Atlas Society
  8. Wikipedia entries on Libertarianism and Objectivism, Libertarian Christianity, and Christian Libertarianism.
  9. Where are you on the Political Compass –  libertarian-authoratarian and liberal-conservative?

(b)  Posts about God and conservatives:

(c)  Posts about Libertarianism:

  1. All you need to know about Ayn Rand, savior of modern conservatism, 22 March 2009
  2. A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
  3. Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us, 27 December 2011
  4. Choose your team: our election is a conflict between long-dead philosophers, 12 September 2012

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16 thoughts on “The Atheist Conservative shows why secular conservatism continues to be an irrelevant and impotent force in American politics

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/atheists-in-congress_n_3944108.html

    America goes on a vicious tear across the Muslim countries all while being safely out of any control of any atheists. Our descent into anti-Arab racism and torture and drone killings and domestic spying. This is not the fault of the ‘atheists in our midst’ — (disclosure: which includes me). It’s the political center, the mainstream that’s behind all this violence and militarism and killing and torture.

    I only fear, once they are done with the Muslims, that the atheists will be next.

  2. The atheist conservative is a person who isn’t motivated by the pressure of the coming end times to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  3. The rise of the Christian Fundamentalists is a sign of the decline of America. They are also strongest in areas habitually poor and held back with bad education systems.

  4. “Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification”

  5. The main pretension to atheist conservatives is their anti-Islam aggressiveness.”Progressive” thinking operates with the scientific and humanistic development of the humanity not seeing the contradictions and grave conflicts of this developments.

    People who criticized social Darwinism from the academic point of view could not imagine the nazies` practices. The mature “conservative atheism” is not “innovative” enough for the optimistic young progressive people.

  6. The state of modern politics is extremely dogmatic.

    1. Progressivism and conservatism are mostly blind to any virtues from each other.
    2. Conservatives do not welcome other conservatives who view our country’s government as secular.
      Progressives are often hostile to mainstream Judeo-Christian faith.
    3. Liberal hate watch groups refer to the “Religious Right” as though there were no intolerance from the “Religious Left” (there is).
    4. The Southern Poverty Law Center frequently refers to the Religious Right. After the Boston Marathon Bombings, they tried to link the murderers motives to right wing ideology.
  7. Atheist (conservative or whatever label yo give them) are united in their agreement that religious dogma is just that…dogma. Anything an atheist states afterwards is their opinion and point of view. Your rant is baseless.

    1. Kwame,

      I don’t understand your analysis of Bonham’s post.

      (1) “Atheist (conservative or whatever label yo give them) are united in their agreement that religious dogma is just that…dogma.”

      Dogma is dogma. That seems logical. Do you disagree?

      Dogma: a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true

      (2) “Anything an atheist states afterwards is their opinion and point of view.”

      Yes, I believe that is true of most statements of philosophy and religion. Do you disagree?

      (3) “Your rant is baseless.”

      In what sense is Bonham’s post a rant, rather than an analysis?

      Rant: speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way.

  8. The real danger of the political dewelopment of the Western world is the “new leftism” that is masked today as the liberalism.Conservative believers,secularists,atheists,libertarians are not the real enemies.The covered leftism with it`s “social justice”, wellfare state and fight with the ” inequality” is the real way to serfdom.It`s a pity that “atheism” doesn`t prevent leftist`s dogmas making it the social religion.Atheist who refuted religion after thinking and understanding is the opposite person to the lefist who changed one dogma for another.

    1. The notion that atheism requires an allignment with policies that are economically illogical is a rather parochial posture. The unfortunate realities of secular-thinking abuses outside our borders are sobering, but all so often these exist in parts of the world that do not embrace and enforce the idea of personal property rights and other tenets of capitalism. Capitalsm has afforded our luxury of being able to debate these issues. Don’t undervalue that. There is more that goes into a vote than your position on religion, and to suggest otherwise is immensely short-sighted. Other right wing voters are entitled to their beliefs, whether I share them or not. Promote acceptance first and foremost. Plant grass, don’t pull weeds. Otherwise, we’re all just another group of assholes trying to indoctrinate people who aren’t interested.

  9. Freedom of worship is Secularism -separation of the belief and the disbelief from the state,community,church.Secular conservatives as “secular atheists” must unite for the individual liberty preservation(including free market).”Secular atheists” are the problem as we see the left atheists,including millions of the communists, with their “atheist revolution” and the state worship can`t be called “secular”.

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