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Readers Respond: Why Do Atheists and Agnostics Tend to be Liberal in America?

Responses: 18

By

Are there reasons why more atheists should be more conservative? It's certainly possible that in another society and in another set of circumstances, atheism could be more strongly associated with political, cultural, and even religious conservatism. But not in America at this time. Should this change? Will it change?

Liberals

Liberals tend to be more educated and more open to new ideas. Since we atheists have no religius dogma to defend, we can allow our intellect to be used to freely explore and learn without fear. Believing that thinking a certain way will grant you an eternal reward, while using your intellect will condemn you to a horrible fate after death tends to stifle independent thought.
—GrandmaVickie

Social v. fiscal liberalism

Why atheists in America tend to be social liberals is obvious: we are viewed as pariahs by the dominant social view, and thus identify with excluded minorities. To be socially liberal is to stand up for our own rights. (This same dynamic can be observed among Muslims and Catholics: Americans like Keith Ellison advocate tolerance, while Saudis teach oppression. As long as Catholics were shunned by Evangelicals, their politicians tended to be liberal; this is now changing.) And unlike socially conservative religious minorities, we have no religious authority to counteract our empathy with fellow minorities who disagree with us. Why we tend to be fiscally liberal is less easily explained, and indeed, there are a lot of fiscally conservative atheists, notably Ayn Rand, Penn Jillette, Seth (the Thinking Atheist), and the libertarian respondents to this question.
—Cousin_Ricky

conservatives

The conservative parties have been taken over by the evangelists,promoting their extremist views on the rest of the country. This narrow minded view alienates anybody that does not fall into line with them.
—ummugumma

How far should we take failure?

TomDaughty's response perfectly illustrates how some people can be very selective in their skepticism. He turns a critical eye towards religion and the supernatural but ignores human history when it comes to politics and sociology because he has let his emotions and personal biases override his reason. Failure is a very important learning tool and can be expressed scientifically as falsifiability. But history has shown that raising our basic standard of living regardless of individual merit lifts all social groups to a higher level. If we had adopted a philosophy like ultra-conservatism or Rand's Objectivism in the early days of civilization we'd most likely still be living in caves hunting our food with stone tools and have average lifespans of about 20 years, most of which would be spent in abject misery. Ultra-conservative & libertarian beliefs ignore basic human needs & nature just as egregiously as communism. We should consign them all to the dustbin of history and move on.
—timlister82

To Tom Andrews

Nothing in your philosophy is even remotely libertarian.
—Guest Ron

Atheist and Liberal

I am an Atheist who is extremely liberal. I care about people and support inclusiveness. I have no religion-inspired ignorance and bigotry towards other groups . I find that the most compassionate people I know tend to be Atheists and liberals. They also tend to be better educated than the religious as well (I don't count going to bible college to avoid learning anything not religiously approved as being "educated.")
—terrilynnmerritts

GrayLion

IMHO, conservatives have retreated into religion to escape being associated with the perceived immorality of liberals. I'm an apparently rare species in the world, an ultra-conservative non-believer. God/Gods ? An ancient tribal medicine-man's tall tales to make the rest of the tribe co-operate. In order to be civilized, we must make sure all the rest of humanity is made comfy-cozy first ? If ALL the fish in the primordial sea had been made comfy-cozy first, would ANY have crawled out onto the land ? I'm human, and it hurts to admit it, to see it happen, but there is no such thing as success, without a thing called FAILURE ! And failure just upsets the (sniffle) emotions of liberals too much for them to accept it, despite it being as real as time passing, and gravity pulling you down. It goes for species, cultures, governments, and individuals. Liberals who think they are atheists are more illogical than all the "BELIEVERS" in the world, and just as big a threat to freedom.
—TomDaughty

Interesting Juxtaposation

They tend to go by logic and reason, and see the bigger picture. I alway find it ironic, that the supposedly Christian GOP are always out to destroy "God's environment and nature." While the supposedly Godless scientists are trying to save it. An interesting juxtaposation. Seems that the scientists see the value of Intelligent Design, while the GOP is actually caught up in Moronic Destruction.
—Guest Rossi D

Proud Atheist, Proud Libertarian

Atheist since the womb, Republican until W. It seemed like they knew economics better. Then came W and with him Sarbanes-Oxley, perscription drug benefits, stimulus after stimulus, Too Big To Fail, and finally "I bent the rules of capitalism to save it." The GOP no longer believes in the free market. Libertarians do, plus an ancient scroll called The Constitution. What a novel idea!
—Guest Mike

Any club that'll have me as a member...

I think political labels and philosophies are anathema to the skeptical mind, and skepticism is what normally leads one to atheism. Conservatism, liberalism, etc. all have dictionary definitions but in everyday life they can be very subjective terms. Regardless of that I doubt any true skeptic could fit the rigid doctrine required to completely adhere to the tenets of a political dogma unless they're lying to advance their standing among their peers or are willfully ignorant of some issues either for the sake of convenience or because they simply don't care about the subject being discussed. One should express a little humility instead. If you don't know or don't care don't get involved until you do. We should all approach problem solving rationally or just admit that our participation in the discussion of an issue is either undesired or inappropriate. False indignation is just as dangerous as ignorant indignation because both lend credence to potentially fallacious arguments.
—timlister82

Libertarian Socialist

I define myself this way because I believe that one should be free to practice self interest after basic humanity has been honored. In other words, don't leave 'em freezing in a ditch somewhere. So I'm pro "sopcialized medicine", social security, welfare for the poor and disabled, but anti-beaurocracy, etc. That puts me in favor of SOME aspects of both the right and left. Religiouisly, I was born a Roman Catholic (my sisterr is a nun), but have been atheist for about 50 years now.
—Guest Tom Andrews

Libertarian

Both the Liberal Left and Conservative Right don't know what to do with us Libertarians. :) Liberalism is something of a religion in itself. The belief in the right of the gov't to be able to pick the pocket of anyone at anytime is as frightening as the most die hard jihadist.
—Egk

It's fear and anger

Conservatism is resistance to change, diversity, and the unfamiliar. They are afraid that those things will be forced on them. Liberals are much more accepting of them. I believe that if most conservatives would examine the reasons for their positions, they would find considerable fear and anger behind them.
—MrBip

morgan

Because we dont believe in or know a god, we are free to use critical thinking and logic to solve problems and create responses for ourselves. We are not goaded, cajoled or threatened into accepting others dogma.
—Guest morgan

jeff.crawford@flsmidth.com

I am currently working and living in thr USA. I have been an atheist for over 50 years, although from a practising christian family and education (COE UK Grammar school). I have been through the various political phases of life, in my opinion it is the severe attitude of the conservative right in USA that alienates atheists from associating with them. In the last 4 general elections that I have voted in in both the UK and Australia I have voted for the conservative side of politics. The right wing of politics in both of these countries do not discriminate against candidates that do not follow the ridiculous rigid positions on matters that should be left to individuals
—Guest Jeff Crawford

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