Freethinkers and Labor

In a special Labor Day post, vorjack wrote today about the ways that leading American freethinkers like Thomas Paine, Robert Owen, Frances Wright, and Robert G. Ingersoll all mixed up their concern for free thinking with their concern for labor rights. Go check it out.

(This was of course before official proclamations went through the land that skeptics of religion were not allowed to believe or stand for anything, or to commingle their criticism of religion’s falsity with political activism, lest the purity of words like “atheism” and “freethought” be sullied by associations with moral or political commitments.)

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • peterh

    Thomas Paine was British, and I’ve seen the statue erected in his honor in Thetford, his birthplace.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      He emigrated to America.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/ Vorjack

      We borrowed him, you didn’t want him back.

      Kind of odd that there’s a statue of him in Britain. He was tried and convicted in absentia for writing “The Rights of Man.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=641090103 j.p.hollembaek

    I think concern for labor (and all of the human condition) is a natural outflow from atheism. god isnt going to fix things, so we are going to have to. and we can determine the best outcome of two (or more) policies through scientific examination

    • John Morales

      Only if someone considers that things need fixing.

      (Not everyone is a Kropotkin)

  • http://primarydeposits.blogspot.com/ Apxeo

    Thanks for this. Given that most of us identify as “atheists” (as opposed to all the other things we could identify as not believing) because of the harm religion does, the argument that there is no connection between atheism and values does not seem to be a good faith argument. Sometimes history trumps the dictionary.

  • Justiceis

    A+ Atheists with a virtuous intellect are the best opposition to the theist’s believing that they are the moral code of society. Non-religious humanists like myself recognize the value of the A+ movement, which promises to gather the social-justice minded people, who make the choice to make the difference needed in society. After all, it was an increasingly principled conscience that led me away from churches and faiths, only to find a vacuum for atheists with a sense of purpose directed at improving the world in a temporal manner that offers and sustains hope in something bigger than one’s own selfish desires. Others tend to rationalize these moral objectives as being of no importance and beat down the sympathetic people who opt to evolve in a social-conscience necessary to continue reforms from religiously imposed and reinforced cultural beliefs that even the godless unwarily continue to promote in the liberation of The Lord of The Flies.

  • AKAHorace

    I agree strongly with the importance of supporting labour, I would like to live in an egalitarian society where there are few extremes of wealth and poverty and natural resources (oil, mining) are controlled by the state.

    The problem with A+ atheists is that they align themselves unthinkingly with the modern North American left and so are in favour of mass immigration.

    This leads to lower wages for manual workers and means that there is less solidarity among labour as they come from different cultural backgrounds.

    If we are free thinkers we should be willing to question the positions of both the left and the right.

    • John Morales

      Do you question your own statism, or is that beyond the purview of your freethought?

  • AKAHorace

    Hi John,

    I would not consider someone (e.g. a libertarian) who disagreed with me evil, or unprogressive but simply wrong. Then again, I could be wrong about the role of the state.

    The problem that I have with A+ or progressive Atheism is that they seem to feel that you can be as sure about what we need to do in society as you can be about the non-existence of God.

    The other thing is that what we consider progressive positions have changed so much, we consider ourselves progressive without admitting this. A good example is the way Cesar Chavez was violently anti illegal immigration.

  • John Morales

    I would not consider someone (e.g. a libertarian) who disagreed with me evil, or unprogressive but simply wrong. Then again, I could be wrong about the role of the state.

    The very necessity of a ‘state’ (in the sense of a government) is questionable (cf. anarchism). If you consider its existence as axiomatic, you are not truly engaging in freethinking.

    The problem that I have with A+ or progressive Atheism is that they seem to feel that you can be as sure about what we need to do in society as you can be about the non-existence of God.

    Yes, I get that this is your perception; however, mine is that A+ holds that social issues are no less amenable to critical enquiry on an empiricist, rational basis than scientific issues.

    The other thing is that what we consider progressive positions have changed so much, we consider ourselves progressive without admitting this.

    You seem confused; progressiveness is the attitude that societal advancement is both possible and desirable, rather than a specific and static set of policy positions.

    • AKAHorace

      John,

      Thre brief points, may answer at more length later:

      -A+ seems to me to have determined that the answers are already known and correspond to the current opinions of the American left. As I strongly feel that mass immigration is a terrible mistake I am reluctant to be part of this movement. I hope that you are right and I am wrong and that the A+ers are willing to be fully critical.

      The example that I have seen of the version of feminism of PZ/Ftb being described as simply believing that women are human beings (with the assumption that if you disagree with them you don’t think that women are humans) does not encourage me though.

      -Actually, to be a bit of a pedant, I would prefer to describe myself as a social democrat rather than a progressive. The word progressive seems to imply to me that history is going in the right direction (progress) and we should push it forwards. This is too optimistic for me, it is possible that the trends point downward, and our job is to prevent progress.

      -I think that we need a state. I am willing to listen to and debate anarchists and libertarians, I think them misguided but well meaning. What is important is that we can debate without doubting the others good faith.

    • John Morales

      A+ seems to me to have determined that the answers are already known and correspond to the current opinions of the American left.

      And it seems to me like they have aspirations rather than dicta.

      As I strongly feel that mass immigration is a terrible mistake I am reluctant to be part of this movement.

      As I’ve read absolutely nothing by any identified A+ person regarding ‘mass immigration’ — rather than human rights — I don’t see whence your linkage of the two things.

      The example that I have seen of the version of feminism of PZ/Ftb being described as simply believing that women are human beings (with the assumption that if you disagree with them you don’t think that women are humans) does not encourage me though.

      Actually, to be a bit of a pedant, I would prefer to describe myself as a social democrat rather than a progressive.

      That ain’t pedantry, that’s an elucidation of something which you imagined needed clarification.
      Care to provide a citation or quotation in context?

      (And, clearly, if one disagrees with that proposition then it entails what you call a supposition)

      The word progressive seems to imply to me that history is going in the right direction (progress) and we should push it forwards. This is too optimistic for me, it is possible that the trends point downward, and our job is to prevent progress.

      I’ve told you what it means; how it seems to you is your own quirk.

      What is important is that we can debate without doubting the others good faith.

      So, you find it important to decry scepticism?

      (I don’t; rather, the contrary)

    • John Morales

      [emendation to correct my garbling of the text-box input through my carelessness]

      A+ seems to me to have determined that the answers are already known and correspond to the current opinions of the American left.

      And it seems to me like they have aspirations rather than dicta.

      As I strongly feel that mass immigration is a terrible mistake I am reluctant to be part of this movement.

      As I’ve read absolutely nothing by any identified A+ person regarding ‘mass immigration’ — rather than human rights — I don’t see whence your linkage of the two things.

      The example that I have seen of the version of feminism of PZ/Ftb being described as simply believing that women are human beings (with the assumption that if you disagree with them you don’t think that women are humans) does not encourage me though.

      Care to provide a citation or quotation in context?

      (And, clearly, if one disagrees with that proposition then it entails what you call a supposition)

      Actually, to be a bit of a pedant, I would prefer to describe myself as a social democrat rather than a progressive.

      That ain’t pedantry, that’s an elucidation of something which you imagined needed clarification.

      The word progressive seems to imply to me that history is going in the right direction (progress) and we should push it forwards. This is too optimistic for me, it is possible that the trends point downward, and our job is to prevent progress.

      I’ve told you what it means; how it seems to you is your own quirk.

      What is important is that we can debate without doubting the others good faith.

      So, you find it important to decry scepticism?

      (I don’t; rather, the contrary)

  • AKAHorace

    >You seem confused; progressiveness is the attitude that societal >advancement is both possible and desirable, rather than a >specific and static set of policy positions.

    There seems to be an assumption here that societies are advancing towards a more humane and egalitarian position. Perhaps a holdover from the Marxist view of history ? I hope that this is right, but I fear that it may not be true.

    >So, you find it important to decry scepticism?

    Where do you get this from ? I think that we should be skeptical of our political culture not just religion.

    • John Morales

      There seems to be an assumption here that societies are advancing towards a more humane and egalitarian position. Perhaps a holdover from the Marxist view of history ? I hope that this is right, but I fear that it may not be true.

      You may care to reearch the history of slavery, punishment, bear-baiting and perhaps even refer to Steven Pinker.

      So, you find it important to decry scepticism?

      Where do you get this from ? I think that we should be skeptical of our political culture not just religion.

      From that which I quoted.

      (If you don’t doubt others’ motives, you’re not being sceptical)

  • AKAHorace

    Hi Morales,

    I would agree that the world has become a more humane place over the past 500 years; I am not sure that this trend can continue. We may be running out of resources and managing this basic environmental/environmental problem may be more important than endlessly extending the remit of human rights.

    Doubting the motives of everyone you debate with is a bit pointless, especially on internet forums.


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