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Liberal & Progressive Attacks on Atheists: Marginalizing Atheists & Anti-Atheist


Marginalizaing Atheists in Liberal, Pogressive Politics:

Conservative attacks on liberalism for being “godless liberalism” have some liberals and progressives running scared. Rather than standing firm in their defense of liberal atheists who themselves stand firm in defensive of basic progressive values, some liberals are ready to toss them overboard. Atheists are told to sit down and shut up rather than speak out on science, evolution, or religious politics. What sorts of arguments do liberals use for helping conservatives purge politics of atheists?

Atheists are Arrogant & Elitist:

One justification for anti-atheist attacks is the idea that atheists are arrogant and elitist for claiming to know that God doesn’t exist, and therefore think that they know better than most of the rest of humanity. Aside from the fact that this relies on a false definition of atheism, how is it not similarly arrogant to claim to know that one god exists, and therefore that all other forms of theism and religion (believed by most of the rest of humanity throughout history) are wrong?

Atheists Don’t Respect Religious Faith:

Anti-atheist bigots sometimes justify their refusal to respect atheism and atheists on the premise that atheists don’t respect religious faith. This falsely generalizes about all atheists (some are religious themselves, some don’t have a problem with religion or faith). Even worse, it fails to explain why religious faith (as they understand it) should be respected in the first place. Maybe it isn’t really worth respecting, and therefore atheists are right. Read More...

Atheists Don’t Respect Religious Believers:

Another example of the “they did it first” defense is the claim that anti-atheist bigotry is justified because atheists don’t respect religious believers. Once again, this is a false generalization because some atheists themselves are religious and others have no problem with religion or believers. Nevertheless, such people should ask whether the actions of believers might be partly to blame for some atheists’ anger and hostility towards religion generally and believers specifically.

Atheists Are a Threat to Religious Liberty:

A strange justification for anti-atheist bigotry is the idea that they threaten religious liberty. It’s true that some atheists would like to see religion done away with, but it’s rare to find atheists who aren’t simply strong supporters of the separation of church and state. Perhaps they favor more strict separation than religious believers typically do, but that’s because what believers might call mere accommodation, atheists may treat as unjustified religious privilege. Read More...

Atheists are Secular Extremists:

Closely associated with the claim that atheists threaten religious liberty is the claim that they are “extremists” when it comes to their secularism. If an atheist is irreligious, then it’s likely true that they will be more thoroughly secular in their outlook than the average religious believer. Yet this doesn’t justify the “extremist” label. Given the increasing religious diversity in America, greater secularization of political and public institutions is likely for the best. Read More...

Atheists Drive Religious Voters Away:

Progressives try to justify anti-atheist bigotry by arguing that they are so unpopular that they’ll further drive religious voters away. Republicans smearing liberals generally as “godless” have made religious liberals afraid of the godless on any level. It’s the same cowardice that drives them to reject the liberal label in favor of “progressive,” yet adopting the anti-atheist bigotry of religious conservatives is no way to counter their political agenda. On the contrary, it only helps them.

Atheists Make it Easier for Attacks on Liberals, Progressives:

Another attempt to defend abandoning atheists on a pragmatic level is the argument that high-profile presence of atheists only gives conservatives an easy way to attack liberalism without addressing substantive issues. In a way this is true, but liberals themselves miss the substantive issue: attacks on atheists are not an isolated issue. Instead, they are an integral part of reasserting the traditional, unjustified privileges which progressives should be working against.

Godless Liberals Don’t Have Common Values with Other Liberals:

A potentially more serious objection to godless liberals within progressive politics is the idea that, being godless, they lack the values which theistic progressives have in common and therefore cannot work with them. It’s surely true that godless liberals don’t have all the same values as theists, but do they lack the necessary progressive, liberal values? Do they lack the values of social justice, political equality, or public reason? The answer is an easy “no.”

Do Liberals, Democrats, and Progressives have an “Atheist Problem”?:

Given the increasingly nasty attacks on atheists and “godless liberals” by popular and influential conservatives, some liberals might wonder if their political movement has an “atheist problem” — i.e., that they have a problem with atheists being too influential, too publicly vocal, and creating too many problems. The fact that the real problems are being created anti-atheist bigots among conservatives is ignored; instead, the victims are targeted as if they were to blame for what they are being forced to endure.

This is not unlike wondering if there is a “Jewish Problem” on account of the presence of so many more Jews in liberal politics than among conservatives. Most would probably recognize such a question as implicitly bigoted and certainly offensive. Jews have concentrated in liberal political movements precisely because progressive politics have both served Jews’ quest for equality and matched traditional Jewish beliefs in social justice. The same is largely true of atheists: progressive politics have benefited atheists directly by creating the conditions necessary for their political equality as well as separating religious and political authority.

So long as progressives remain committed to principles of separating church and state, valuing reason over tradition, social justice, and political equality, then atheists will probably associate most strongly with liberal politics. There will be no way ro avoid atheists without betraying those basic political principles and failing to be progressive anymore. If there is a problem, it’s not an atheist problem. Instead, it’s a “problem" of success: conservatives wouldn’t launch these attacks on relatively powerless atheists if there were anyone more prominent to attack and if liberals weren’t making great strides towards their goals. The attacks are a sign of fear and dwindling confidence, not the actions of those who are confident in their own success.

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