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February 27, 2014

Atheism and Conservatism, Continued

Three good pieces. I would say these three pieces essentially agree with one another:

Cooke: Atheism and conservatism are perfectly compatible.

A.J. Delgado: This particular group, American Atheists, should have been disinvited.

Goldberg: Both Cooke and Delgado are right.

Note, by the way, that Cooke concedes, early in the piece, that he's not defending this particular atheist group, which is, as I've termed it, particularly obnoxious, not "conservative" at all, and in fact rather partisan-seeming, as the only political targets they go after just happen to be on the right.

Delgado's piece reports this of this particular crew of zealous evangelical atheists:

Speaking of its CPAC sponsorship, the group’s president, David Silverman, said on CNN: “I am not worried about making the Christian Right angry. The Christian Right should be angry that we are going in to enlighten conservatives. The Christian Right should be threatened by us.”

These remarks triggered the revocation of the group’​s sponsorship.

People do have the right to dissent, and to try to persuade other people, and I wouldn't fault an atheist, generally, for preaching atheism to the converted. But these guys, as I said, are especially obnoxious, and are, it seems, pre-announcing their dickishness and combativeness.

In my previous post on this matter I said CPAC could not be faulted for disinviting this crew of obnoxious people, but that I thought it would have been better to be more generous towards the principle of free expression than is necessary. That is, they had every reason to disinvite American Atheists, and every justification, but that it would have been better to bend over backwards to accommodate these guys.

Commenters objected: But they're just there to make trouble, and no one would consider inviting determined troublemakers to a convention of any sort.

After sober reflection, I now say: Commenters were, as they often are, right.

My bend-over-backwards advisory has limits; while I would still urge a bend-over-backwards policy with other atheist groups (including those who wish to preach atheism; everyone wants to preach their religion, after all), these guys have done more and more to make me look foolish for my argument in favor of heroic accommodation with those who disagree.

These guys did not plan to come to CPAC to inform, engage, and persuade convention-goers; they came to pick a fight, and a convention, and its conventioneers, have every right in the book to say, "No, I didn't spend $1500 to get here to be pestered by assholes."

If you read Cooke's piece, or my pieces, you'll note that we're both respectful towards those with whom we disagree over matters religious.*

At the end of the day, persuasion only happens in a climate of respect. No one's going to even listen to someone outright insulting them.

So if these guys were coming in with a disrespectful, we're-gonna-get-them kind of attitude, their efforts at "persuasion" would have been failures anyway, and they would have just been, as commenters said, Trolls With A Leaflet Booth.

Mea culpa.

I still think there is good sense in trying to think of reasons to include dissenting, oddball, or unpopular voices in any group, rather than defaulting to the standard human (not conservative, human) reflex of excluding them.

But when you're announcing as loudly as you can "I intend to Make Grief," you know, at that point I have to stop arguing for the inclusion of dissenting voices.

I'm pro-dissent, not pro-grief.

* You'll also notice that many atheists don't even attempt to persuade anyone that he's wrong about God, because, frankly, we 1, don't care, 2, don't think it's weird to believe in God (belief in God is as old as mankind itself), and 3, do not object particularly strongly to the pro-social effects of a restraining moral code.

One commenter, who was an atheist, told me two things in rapid succession:

1. I'm an atheist.

2. I'm pro-Christianity.

His reason for point 2 is that Christianity has generally served as a powerful force for social cohesion, morality (slavery was extinguished by men with Christian, or at least Deist, beliefs), and freedom, given that Christianity is a religion that does tend to suggest a distinction between Caesar and God.

So his reasons for being "pro-Christianity" have nothing to do with metaphysics, and thus could be said to be "cynical" reasons. He wanted people to believe in things he personally did not believe in, because he saw positive social effects flowing from that (erroneous, in his mind) belief.

But in any event, there are a lot of atheists who really don't care very much what you believe.

In fact, most atheists don't care about these issues because they lack much of an interest in metaphysics whatsoever.

Oh: Another atheist friend and I frequently talk about Tim Tebow-- to praise him, and to knock his detractors.

Our point comes down to this: At the end of the day, it's not us secularists who are devoting our summers to assisting surgeons operating on the poor of the Philippines.

It's Christians (and other religiously-motivated people) who do that. We secularists use our off hours to please ourselves, not others.

So we can pat ourselves on the back all we like for being smart enough to see through this Mystical Hokum, but at the end of the day, we ain't the ones working hard on behalf of others. It's the people who believe who are doing that.

So what's our big claim to superiority? That we've intuited that we should devote ourselves to more Me Time?

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posted by Ace at 12:03 PM

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