November 18, 2014

Atheism does NOT necessarily = political liberalism

Updated November 17, 2014 to reflect more "issues" with Robert M. Price.

Christian fundamentalists, and people halfway close to them, even, have thrown around phrases like "Godless communism" for more than half a century, implying some formal link between liberal, even more left-liberal, political beliefs and religious unbelief, whether that's expressed in the form of atheism or not.

At the same time, in recent years, some Gnu Atheists like P.Z. Myers have been doing a twist of their own on that, indicated that Gnu Atheism, or true movement atheism, really is liberal, to the point that P.Z. wants to read non-liberals out of the movement (and deny that people like Sam Harris are both Gnu Atheists and neoconservatives.)

Well, proof positive that Myers is wrong comes from a leading atheist, and a leading activist atheist of sorts, to boot, at least if one counts "mythicists" (biblical scholars who believe a historic Jesus never existed) as activists.

Robert M. Price went off on Facebook with an anti-Obama screed. (Note: Price normally posts to Facebook as "public," not "friends" or "friends of friends," therefore, I am not revealing any private confidences.)

And, now, as of March 25, 2014, per the screen capture of a recent Facebook post by him, he's gone far, far beyond that. In case you can't read the print in his avatar, it says, "Never apologize for being white."

A mix of that and commenting on a Facebook site about "American White History Month" (and not even the first such site!) would indicate that, if not a full-out racist, Price is at least that genteel, pseudo-scientific creature, the racialist.

(Update: And, he teaches at a seminary named for a leader of the African-American wing of the New Thought movement. Think of a black version of Unity, and that's where he teaches. At a minimum, doubly ironic for teaching at a metaphysics-dripping seminary, and a black one to boot. At a maximum, doubly hypocritical.)

Beyond that, per my original version of this post? Being selectively against democracy (Price doesn't indicate he had any problems with it when Reagan was elected) also would be an indication of some type of selective thinking.

And, given that Price believed a cock-and-bull story about an ancient statue indicates he could be a "movement atheist," an activist, even if not a Gnu, per my observation a few paragraphs above.

(Update 2: Price is an official fan/liker of Ted Cruz on Facebook, showing how far in the right-wing tank he is politically.)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Being an atheist, Gnu or otherwise, is no guarantor of critical thinking skills, or at least, no guarantor of their across-the-board application. Per that link immediately above, I've been saying that for five years or more.

Also, that last-but-one link above it, the cock-and-bull, is also an indicator that even the best-minded of mythicists (an intellectual stance I don't dismiss out of hand, but don't buy into at this moment, either) have some gaps in their intellectual rigor.

Beyond that, it shows that Price is some sort of conservative. There's plenty of libertarian atheists out there; there are also conservatives.

And, from a Redditor, where this post has gotten picked up and discussed: "PZ (Myers) is the Ann Coulter of the atheist movement. He gives both liberals and atheists a bad name." Amen to that comment. That said, per a recent post of mine, PZ is far from alone among Gnus in committing both sins.

And, speaking of, to the Redditors and others who come to this post, and poke around this blog a bit more, I'm not a conservative myself, or even close to it. I am a skeptic, a critical thinker, a secular humanist (preferred to "atheist" most the time) who is what passes for some kind of non-communist left-liberal in America of today.

But, please note that I'm a critical thinker, and one who values some type of intellectual honesty. (And for you Redditors, thank doorknob that's on an atheism group and only Gary Johnson, not Ron Paul, was mentioned. Because, in 2012 presidential campaigners, there was only one actual libertarian, and it wasn't Ron Paul, just like it won't be Rand Paul in 2016.)


Anyway, not all non-liberal atheists are libertarians, either, contra the general tenor on the particular Reddit room, of the claims of the likes of Penn and Teller. Sam Harris, as mentioned above, is obviously a neoconservative, as Chris Hitchens, to some degree, eventually became. Robert Price is an old-fashioned paleoconservative, arguably harkening back to a pre-Reagan era of the likes of Bob Taft, before a Religious Right started its political ascent. Price's political viewpoint, though I disagree with it (and think it lacks some critical thinking) illustrates my thesis.

Another example?

George Will, perhaps. No, he's not an atheist (yet?) but he does officially identify as a "none." And, if we were to label him politically, he'd be some sort of paleoconservative.

Yet another, who I know is an atheist, and is a libertarian on at least some issues, and who is, I know, pro-life on birth issues? Nat Hentoff.

And some of us, whether atheist or not, don't fall 100 percent in the pro-choice camp, to tackle that issue head-on. I believe that the state has a compelling interest in protecting the life of a fetus when it hits a reasonable point of viability, whether that's 22 or 24 weeks. I do believe that women in most states should have easier access to abortion than they currently do before that point, and  I believe that we should restore Medicaid funding for poor women.

I also recognize that out of many conservative people's mouths, a pro-life argument only applies to unborn babies, it seems, but not others. Again, though, that's not always true, all the time. The Roman Catholic Church is the most prominent, but not the only, individual or group to be pro-life and also anti-death penalty, for example. (Of course, we have the complication of some Catholic hospitals refusing to consider fetuses as persons when there's a monetary bottom line, but that's another issue.)

And I, like many other Americans, find this a difficult issue with few "bright lines." Sloganeering by pro-lifers repells me. So, too, though, do the stances of some pro-choice people who indicate that everybody pro-life is a noob, or that pro-choice can only entail pro-choice, no exceptions, for every week of pregnancy.

Sorry, but that's not me. Basically, I'm part of the "complex, middle, conditional position" that P. Diddle mentions in this excellent post on the political science of this debate. That stance, and the percentage of people who hold to it, has probably only grown in the 40 years since Roe, grown at the expense of extremes on both ends.

Anyway, atheists don't want to be stereotyped, right? Not stereotyping others is part of that.

This has further relations to the much-lamented (by some but not all) Women in Secularism conference hosted by the Center for Inquiry. I have no doubt that women's voices are underrepresented.

I also don't doubt that conservative voices are also underrepresented. That's especially true if we ignore the neocons like Sam Harris and the libertarians like Penn and Teller. Paleocons of a Robert Price or George Will perspective are woefully underrepresented.

I say this in part because of a recent post at The Humanist by Greta Christina, one to which I will not link until whoever is moderating the Humanist's website approves my post. She was talking about Women in Secularism, and got me to start thinking about conservatives in secularism.

Also, though I'm talking specifically about atheism, and more specifically yet about Gnu Atheism, similar issues hold true for modern skepticism.

Now, I have no doubt that American-style liberalism (don't forget, Americans, that term means something else in most of the world's political lexicons outside of the US and Canada) is the majority position among both Gnu and conventional athests, as well as among skeptics, and among humanists of various metaphysical or non-metaphysical stances.

But, in all of those movements, their inner positions don't necessarily lead to those politics.

I'm using "necessary" in its logical sense. In turn, that's why I continue to say good atheists and skeptics could always stand an intro to philosophy course or two, especially one that covers the basics of logic.

I don't doubt that, the free thought and critical thinking that, theoretically, skeptics will use across the board, and that one would hope atheists, Gnu or otherwise, would, is more likely to lead to generally liberal political stances. But, again, not necessarily so.

Back to the Redditor, and the person who commented here. Sometimes, tone itself is "substance." Certain tribalist-type subgroups within atheism either don't recognize that or else refuse to accept it.


Karsh said...

PZ and his ilk are the reason I stopped reading atheism based blogs. Any dissenting opinion was never meet with a reasoned discourse but accusations of ignorance, rape apology, misogyny, southern inbred genetics or just an outright ban hammer.


Simon said...

Talking to Libertarian Atheists taught me we are just human lol