A libertarian friend of mine sent me a link to a post from serial-conflater PZ Myers, who once again is espousing the idea that atheism as a movement must be a progressive one. The post contains the usual PZ crumbs, a dig at libertarians, and a myopic conclusion. We’ve seen it before.
And again, PZ is wrong. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god (to use shorthand) and the conclusion that there is no deity should have little bearing on what you think the top marginal tax rates should be. Sure, there are lots of issues in the US that appear on the surface to be religious issues, ie gay marriage opposition, but those are really secular issues. In the US, it might be easy to conflate secularism and atheism, but you shouldn’t.
Religions can be progressive. They can support climate change legislation, nationalized healthcare, equal rights, and equal opportunities for all. There is nothing inherent in the concept of religion that precludes the possibilities of supporting all the same political positions that PZ holds. Where would the atheism movement be then? Marginalized again is my guess.
Why do people continually want to make atheism take on their politics? I think the issue is that those people are becoming bored with atheism as a movement. I wrote about this earlier concerning the skeptic movement, but it applies here as well. Also, while the secular movement has many fronts to work on, politically speaking, the atheism movement, not so much. It’s hard to “push” atheism politically, while at the same time asking that religions be prevented from pushing their beliefs. Atheism is “relegated” to a non-political philosophy movement, one that is very important mind you, but it doesn’t itself belong in political dog fights.
If atheism has any chance to move beyond it’s current size, it has to accept that some atheists are going have different political beliefs. If you are unable to accept that, then you have a problem, because pluralism is how this world is going to look for a long, long time. If you’re a progressive atheist, and you can’t find common ground with your libertarian atheist brother, then I think you have some growing to do.