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Defense of Godless Liberalism: Godless Liberalism, Godless Liberals, and America

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What is Godless Liberalism?:

Godless liberalism should be defined as a liberal or progressive political perspective which doesn’t rely on gods, divine revelation, or religion for its values, ideas, or policies. Because liberalism is hated by America’s Christian Right, and godlessness is hated even more, the label godless liberalism is usually used as a form of attack or insult. The label must be reclaimed because there is nothing about godlessness, liberalism, or the combination which deserves derision or hostility.

Christian Right vs. Godless Liberalism:

The nature of godless liberalism can be difficult to understand because of how frequently the label is misused by the Christian Right in America. According to them, all liberals are godless liberals because they don’t adhere to a conservative evangelical or fundamentalist Christianity. Only conservative political policies are regarded as compatible with Christianity; therefore, all other policies are anti-Christian, anti-religious, and anti-God. Advocates are all thus godless liberals.

Who Are Godless Liberals?:

If not all liberals or everyone opposed to contemporary American conservative policies is a godless liberal, then who are godless liberals? Godless liberals base their liberal or progressive political policies on philosophical considerations independent of religion. Some liberals base their political positions explicitly on their religious values and religious beliefs, so they can’t be considered godless liberals – even if they are mistaken about what follows from their religion.

Are Godless Liberals All Atheists?:

Whether godless liberals are atheists depends upon what the adjective “godless” is modifying: the person or their liberalism. If it modifies the person, then they are atheists because being godless is what atheism means. If it modifies their liberalism, perhaps they aren’t all atheists. It’s unlikely for religious believers to have political positions independent of their religious values, but not all theists are devoutly religious.

Is Godless Liberalism anti-Religion?:

For people who see their god or their religion as the source of all order and morality, godless liberalism may be treated as impossible or even as a threat. The fact that godless liberals do not derive their political positions from religious doctrine does not make them anti-religious, though. They may personally be anti-religion, but politically they may not be – indeed, they may have no problem with making common cause with religious liberals.

What Do Godless Liberals Believe?:

Godless liberals are, naturally, politically liberal – but there is as much variety in their political positions as there are among liberals generally. Most will be pro-choice and anti-death penalty, for example, but not all are. Godless liberals even disagree on the value of religion and the role religion should have in society. They are not a monolithic force within liberal circles. If you want to know what a godless liberal believes, you have to ask.

Godless Liberalism and the Separation of Church and State:

Godless liberals may agree or disagree on a wide variety of political positions, but one common position is that church and state should be strictly separated. Godless liberals oppose basing public policy and civil laws on any religious doctrines or dogmas. This puts them in conflict with both the Christian Right and some liberal religious believers. It’s one thing if someone’s position is influenced by religious values, but quite another to base a law on those values.

Godless Liberals and Liberal Believers:

That godless liberals do not use religious doctrines as a basis for political decisions doesn’t prevent them from working with other liberals and progressives who do. One may oppose the death penalty for non-religious reasons and the other may oppose it for religious reasons, but both can work together to end capital punishment with little or not conflict. It all depends, probably, on how much the religious believer pushes their religious doctrines as the basis for political action.

What is the Basis for Godless Liberalism?:

It’s easy to say that godless liberalism isn’t based on any religion or set of religious doctrines, but it’s harder to say what godless liberals do base their political beliefs on – because there are so many non-religious philosophical systems. Some are humanists, some are objectivists, and some are communists. Many rely heavily on science and the scientific method because they have a strong orientation towards the sciences. If you want to know more, you have to ask.

Godless Liberalism as Political Smear:

It’s not just uncommon for people to openly and proudly describe themselves as godless liberals, it’s almost unheard of. The most common context for the labels “godless liberalism” and “godless liberals” is a political attack from religious conservatives. For them, the concept of godless liberalism covers everything they think is wrong with modernity: the loss of religious traditions and Christian privileges, sexual license (which includes abortion, homosexuality, pornography, contraceptives, feminism, etc.), the separation of church and state, the triumph of science over superstition, and so forth.

When religious conservatives attack something in society, politics, or law which they don’t like, there’s a good chance that they will attribute the problem to godless liberals. Being godless, they fail to acknowledge or accept the commands which God expects everyone to follow. They have no reason to be moral, and thus their political positions lack a moral or divine foundation necessary to a well-ordered society.

The use of the word “liberal” is almost redundant from their perspective because it’s difficult for them to conceive of anyone adopting the “correct” conservative positions without a religious basis (and it’s true that godless conservatives are less common than godless liberals). Many act as though anyone who is liberal must necessarily be godless because no one who adopts liberal positions can possibly be a “real” Christian.

Many Democrats have sought to disassociate themselves from the label, treating it like the label "homosexual" was once treated. This is unfortunate because being a godless liberal is not inherently bad. There is nothing wrong with basing one’s politics on something other than religion and there is nothing wrong with not being religious. When Democrats act as though “godless liberal” is bad, they lend credence to the prejudices of the Christian Right. Democrats should embrace godless liberals right alongside religious liberals.

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