Wednesday Link Roundup

I may write more about some of these stories over the weekend, but in the meantime, I just had to make quick mention of them:

• Prominent evangelical pastor John MacArthur, whom Daylight Atheism readers have heard about before, has a new pearl of wisdom to bestow on us as regards the democratic revolutions currently sweeping the Middle East (HT: Slacktivist):

I think there are a lot of ways to approach that but if you just talk about a biblical thing, [the protesters] are all in violation of a biblical command – to submit to the powers that be because they’re ordained of God. I’m not saying Moammar Gadhafi is the best leader, I’m not saying that Mubarak is a great, benevolent and just leader, not when he’s got $70 billion in his own pockets at the expense of people.

But what I am saying is that whatever the government would be, even if it was Caesar in the New Testament, that the believers are commanded to live orderly lives, peaceful, quiet lives, subjecting themselves to the powers that be because they’re ordained of God… After all, who said democracy’s the best form of government? No matter what the form of government is, the Bible doesn’t advocate anything but a theocracy.

Libertarianism in a nutshell, as told by The Volokh Conspiracy (HT: Slacktivist, again – what can I say, he’s posted some great stuff lately!):

I think there’s a good case to be made that taxing people to protect the Earth from an asteroid, while within Congress’s powers, is an illegitimate function of government from a moral perspective.

And emphasized by the author, in a comment:

Yes, the view I’ve stated opposes taxation even to prevent the end of civilization, provided that end happens by purely natural means.

I laughed a lot at this, until the sobering realization that some people who believe this have probably been elected to high office. Do read the post about it on Slacktivist – he also discusses a very interesting distinction between “first-order insanity” and “second-order insanity”, which could be very useful concepts for atheists.

• A discussion of conservative atheists. Unfortunately, it rather proves the point that they are, for all intents and purposes, utterly irrelevant compared to the religious right:

In 2008, feeling the absence of irreligious voices on the right, Mr. Khan, who also blogs about science for Discover magazine’s Web site, started SecularRight.org. Today, the site usually gets 500 to 1,000 hits a day, Mr. Khan said, although there are spikes as high as 10,000.

Sheesh. I get more than 10,000 hits on an average day. When do I get a writeup in the New York Times?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Jeff

    MacArthur: believers are commanded to live orderly lives, peaceful, quiet lives, subjecting themselves to the powers that be because they’re ordained of God

    I’m pretty sure this means they have to STFU and do whatever Obama tells them to.

  • Paul

    Holy insanity, Batman, you have found some X-ed up thinking!

    Opposing taxation might mean the end of civilization, but at least we will kill everyone with due process and sustain the truly important values. You know, the ones more important than the survival of civilization.

    Whew! There’s some wild stuff out on the Intertubes, but that’s right up there.

  • Jormungund

    Libertarianism in a nutshell, as told by The Volokh Conspiracy

    Odd. The libertarians at my campus’s libertarian club all agreed that a legitimate function of the government was security. Reading Sasha’s post I wouldn’t say that I or any other libertarian that I have ever personally met would agree with Sasha. This really doesn’t seem representative of libertarian thought.
    Strictly speaking natural disasters are incapable of violating rights since they are unconscious. I have no idea what that fact has to do with not allowing Congress to prevent human extinction.

  • lpetrich

    So if John MacArthur was living 235 – 240 years ago, he would have been demanding submission to King George III? Would he have been saying how wrong it is to whine about taxation without representation and exploitative economic policies, to tar and feather disliked officials, and to dump shipments of tea into harbors?

    If he was living in the pre-Constantine Roman Empire, would he have demanded that his fellow Xians there worship the official gods of that empire? If he was living in a Communist country before recent decades, would he have demanded that his fellow Xians there treat the religion business as the moral equivalent of drug addiction?

  • TEP

    . . . to submit to the powers that be because they’re ordained of God. I’m not saying Moammar Gadhafi is the best leader, I’m not saying that Mubarak is a great, benevolent and just leader, not when he’s got $70 billion in his own pockets at the expense of people.

    So what does that say about Yahweh that he would appoint such leaders?

  • Rollingforest

    @Jormungund: Maybe you can fill me in on this, but from my understanding of Libertarianism, the only reason they accept national security as something that the government should be enpowered to do is because they can’t come up with a good way that mercenaries could do it. Libertarianism seems to teach that we should decrease forced taxation by as much as possible (even if that taxation was decided via democracy). If they could figure out a way to get rid of taxes that support the army without threatening the country’s existance, they’d do it.

  • Brian M

    Rollingforest:

    I think you may be slightly off. The only reason libertarians and anarchocapitalists support taxation for “security” is because they assume that they, of course, will be the wealthy Genius-Galts who need to be protected from the unworthy masses. And, with the rise of mercenaries and private security, they will gleefully reject even that, as we devolve into a wonderous medieval world of roving brigands and privatized everything!

  • Jormungund

    Rollingforest,
    I have personally met one man who advocated mercenaries like you are mentioning. You average libertarian does not want to abolish the US military. I really don’t get where all these silly concepts about libertarianism come from.
    Imagine a mild minarchist. That is your average libertarian. He probably doesn’t want to abolish schools and public roads. He isn’t an Objectivists and an Objectivist would take offense to being called a libertarian.

  • http://daylightatheism.org J. James

    …What? There is such a thing as an Atheist right-winger?! I thought I was the only one in existence… Why is that, I wonder? Why are there so few Republican atheists? Is it because they have a monopoly on Jesus, and a majority share of ignorant dumbassery? Not to mention racism, funny accents, and other such intolerable greivances. Or is it that the left attracts Atheists like a magnet attracts iron filings? Is the Left like a safe intellectual haven? I speak for myself when I say that among even fellow moderate-Republicans the reception I get is cold at best and outright fire-and-brimstone and “THE POWAH OF CHRISTLORDALMIGHTYJESUS-AH COMPELLS YAH! BEGONAH, FOUL DEMON-AH!!!” at worst. But I feel the most terrible when people recoil and look at me like I am going to reach out, snap their soft necks and then drink their spinal fluid. But I digress. Do any of you Liberals have anything to say about your lack of beliefs relates to your political outlook?

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Steve Bowen

    Do any of you Liberals have anything to say about your lack of beliefs relates to your political outlook?

    It’s a bit of a chicken and egg question. Many of the things socially liberal types abhor; gender / race discrimination, prohibitions on lifestyle choices, restrictions on sexuality / sexual health etc etc are part of society because they have religious roots and are frequently justified in religious terms. Personally I don’t think a liberal can be honestly religious as there is too much cognitive dissonance between the two. I can understand how an atheist can still be socially conservative, but you would have to find some rational reason to deny equal rights to minorities. I tend to describe myself as socially (very) liberal but fiscally conservative which means I do identify with some right wing budgetry decisions (but please bear in mind I’m British and being right wing over here has much less wingnuttery attached to it than in the states).

  • Suzu

    Jeff @1 FTW

    yeah, it’s a cheap shot, but it made me smile…

    I know quite a few atheistic right wing leaning individuals, they tend to be men who pride themselves on rationality and self reliance. Their values tend to be socially libertarian and fiscally conservative.

  • Suzu

    My political beliefs (I’m a disenchanted liberal/progressive) both stem from my atheism and feed my atheism. I have a deep distrust of the ability of large institutions to manage the finer points of morality and ethics, and thus am very wary of any institution that seeks to do so, thus churches are out…

    However: I feel that large institutions can provide opportunity for individuals to act upon the best of human impulses, and it is the role of government, with the stated mission to act for the support, protection and betterment of the population, to build, support and legislate the institutions operating on their shores.

  • T. E.

    This is a cheap shot at libertarianism in my opinion. Firstly, there are almost no prominent libertarians in high office anywhere in the world, so the comment pertaining to that in the post is untrue. Moreover, representing the Volokh Conspiracy as “libertarianism in a nutshell” is like saying that any extreme liberal/conservative site is “liberalism/conservatism in a nutshell.” It ignores the broad spectrum of opinion within a political philosophy in order to demonize it as radical and dangerous.

    Second, to dismiss libertarianism as an insane, fringe position is to alienate a significant portion of atheists as well. Libertarianism is ultimately about denying power to institutions that have proven that they can abuse that power to oppress human rights, something which you, Adam, have frequently and stridently advocated in terms of denying the power of religious institutions to control the lives of others (“Unapologetic” on Ebon Musings comes to mind). Libertarians would (and do) advocate just as strongly against religious control as against government control, and just as many atheists are libertarian as are liberal. The only substantive difference is in our economic position, something which is frankly rather disconnected from discussion about atheism.

    Liberalism and libertarianism are allies in the struggle against oppression and for human rights; in political terms, both movements are very much socially “left.” Over the years, I’ve noticed a distinctly anti-libertarian bent to your writing and commentary. I’m not sure why you are so deeply against libertarians, but you are alienating valuable allies in our quest to make atheism socially acceptable. By definition, a libertarian values freedoms, religious and secular, and would not seek to impose their religious values on anybody at all. As someone who has the deepest respect for you, your writing, and your rational thinking skills, I would encourage you to step back and reexamine whether most libertarians actually believe in this ultra-anarchist strawman that you seem to think represents all of us.

  • lpetrich

    I’ve crunched the numbers for some political quizzes in several forums, and there are significant contingents of right-libertarians in some of them. As to religious affiliation, I’ve found that right-libertarians are the least religious of all, even less than left-liberals.

    I call them that because they are sometimes belligerently pro-capitalist, just like someone whom many of them admire: Ayn Rand. She was also an atheist, which fits the demographics.

  • T. E.

    After making my comment, I’ve dived into the backlog a bit (I read Daylight Atheism in spurts every once in a while) and noticed that you’re reading Atlas Shrugged partially in order to examine libertarianism more deeply. In addition, after thinking, I find some of my comments about you being “deeply against libertarians” a bit overblown, though I emphasize that you do often tend to be deeply against extreme libertarians (and I tend to agree with your evaluation of them! This case with Sasha Volokh is certainly an example) while representing them as libertarianism.

    I would encourage you to also view Atlas Shrugged as being a somewhat extended approach to the subject. Objectivism, while it’s certainly a philosophy that embraces a great deal of libertarian thought in economics and politics, also contains Ayn Rand’s ethical views concerning self-sufficiency and denial of aid to those who cannot (for one reason or another) be self-sufficient. I and many other libertarians are not Objectivists because we view denying aid, when it is within the ability of a person/government, as fundamentally immoral. I view your Universal Utilitarianism as essentially capturing what should be the basic foundation of morality, and view libertarianism as the simplest way to facilitate it by denying institutions the power to cause suffering and deny happiness while retaining the ability to facilitate happiness and eliminate suffering.

  • http://www.facepunch.com/member.php?u=298989 Jeep-Eep

    libertarianism as the simplest way to facilitate it by denying institutions the power to cause suffering and deny happiness while retaining the ability to facilitate happiness and eliminate suffering.

    it denies them them the ability to actually DO anything about it this lack of happiness and abundance of suffering beyond mere trifles. We’ve heard your arguments before and they grew tiresome before you even arrived. We are not receptive.

    Objectivism merely codifies what is implicit in libertarian ideology.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Libertarianism is ultimately about denying power to institutions that have proven that they can abuse that power to oppress human rights, something which you, Adam, have frequently and stridently advocated in terms of denying the power of religious institutions to control the lives of others (“Unapologetic” on Ebon Musings comes to mind). Libertarians would (and do) advocate just as strongly against religious control as against government control, and just as many atheists are libertarian as are liberal.

    Quite true, and I’ll be perfectly happy to work together with libertarians in areas where we agree. That doesn’t rule out my criticizing them in areas where we disagree.

  • T. E.

    To #16: No need to be rude. I wasn’t aware that this site was a monolithic “we” that could be unreceptive as a whole, nor that that “we” was interested in shutting down legitimate discussion with abrupt soundbites.

    If you can’t see that there is a diversity of opinion within libertarianism then I can see how you might view Objectivism as just libertarianism with revealed subtext, because there are a number of Randroid-like libertarians who do have this undercurrent of distaste for the poor running through their writings and actions. These people are very near-sighted in their philosophy, as are a lot of the prominently radical libertarians like Volokh who have an obsession with reducing government power for its own sake and who read morality into taxation, rather than urging government to facilitate liberty and happiness (often by not doing anything, but not necessarily always avoiding action when action would be appropriate).

    I would refer you to my above comments about Universal Utilitarianism for evidence that Objectivism’s repugnant morality does not necessarily follow directly from libertarian thought. You, as many do, are confusing libertarianism for all of the viewpoints of its most radical and odious followers. I’m sorry if saying that there’s diversity of opinion in a political group is “tiresome”, but it’s certainly true.

  • http://www.facepunch.com/member.php?u=298989 Jeep-Eep

    I’ve heard hundreds of the likes of you before. I ran out of patience for libertarian no-true-scotsmanism years ago and will no longer waste my finite supplies of good-naturedness upon them. Quite frankly, I’ve seen many strains of libertarianism, and generally, the only difference is in names and other such minutiae.

    In MOST cases, libertarianism is is just objectivism with the serial numbers ineptly filed off, mostly due to the ‘founder ‘of that particular ‘school’ having objections to Rand’s atheism. In the other cases, it’s just random craziness. It’s not just some libertarians who hold those attitudes toward the poor either; in fact, it’s generally the one uniting factor between most libertarians, as you couldn’t get that bunch of Christanist gun nuts, creepy sex-nut potheads and general headcases to stand together otherwise.

    I hold libertarians in the same respect as I do communists. Lower, even. It’s an ideology held, in the younger generation anyway, by the same kind of people. If you are below twenty-five and are libertarian, you are kind of cute, in a childish, posturing, ‘They’ll grow out of in a few years” kind of way. Anywhere beyond that, and they can generally be fitted into either the “complete git”, complete idiot or both categories. This is a rule of thumb which has served me well online. The sole case where it did not hold was only a libertarian in name.

    In actuality, he was some species of anarchist and one of the saner varieties at that. I generally hold anarchists in low regard; Complete pie in the sky ideology.

    But they tend to be infinitely more interesting, infinitely more pleasant to be about and most importantly, they have a much greater average intelligence than libertarians!

  • Rollingforest

    Progressives are more likely to be atheist because, ironically, they are taught to be respectful of all religions. The problem is once you do that, the religion that you belong to loses its specialness. Once you can believe whatever you want about religion, it seems not to matter what you believe and then it becomes obvious that the time and effort put into religion is a waste of time. Then you realize how harmful it can be. Libertarians similarly realize that defending freedoms like gay rights puts them at odds with the Bible and they drop faith as well. Conservatives, on the other hand, while defending what they see as economic freedom are taught that traditions are more important than social frieedom. Since religion is a tradition, they cling to it more strongly than the rest.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    @T.E. :

    I would certainly agree that not all libertarians are identically minded, nor necessarily Objectivist in their views. It would help distinguish yourself if you would point out in particular what policies and ideas you personally vary on.

    @Jeep-Eep :

    I find your extreme prejudice highly disturbing, your lackadaisical comparison between libertarians and communists bizarre, and your use of the royal We to speak for your own views laughable.

  • Jormungund

    I’ve heard hundreds of the likes of you before. I ran out of patience for libertarian no-true-scotsmanism years ago and will no longer waste my finite supplies of good-naturedness upon them.

    Let me get this straight: hundreds of libertarians have pointed out that you are misrepresenting their views. This sounds more like you are setting up a straw man than they are claiming no true Scotsman.

    In MOST cases, libertarianism is is just objectivism with the serial numbers ineptly filed off

    I have not found that to be the case. I’ve been to libertarian clubs and actually spoken to them. Many libertarians HATE Rand. They don’t seem to be a different flavor of Objectivists. Are you sure you spoken to hundreds of them?

    It’s not just some libertarians who hold those attitudes toward the poor either; in fact, it’s generally the one uniting factor between most libertarians,

    Odd, I thought that their one uniting factor was a belief that erring on the side of too little government was better than erring on the side of too much. I think that the left-libertarians would be confused as to why you specifically bring this accusation against them.

    as you couldn’t get that bunch of Christanist gun nuts, creepy sex-nut potheads and general headcases to stand together otherwise.

    And now we’ve descended into petty name calling. Like all political views, libertarianism is quite broad. There is no one narrow meaning to the term. Everything from gun-loving Christians to sex-positive cannabis users can exist in libertarianism just as they coexist in modern liberalism. There are everything from gay gun-carrying advocacy groups to Christian communists. It doesn’t take much to get a wide mix of people all fitting under some ideology or outlook.

  • http://www.facepunch.com/member.php?u=298989 Jeep-Eep

    And now we’ve descended into petty name calling. Like all political views, libertarianism is quite broad. There is no one narrow meaning to the term. Everything from gun-loving Christians to sex-positive cannabis users can exist in libertarianism just as they coexist in modern liberalism. There are everything from gay gun-carrying advocacy groups to Christian communists. It doesn’t take much to get a wide mix of people all fitting under some ideology or outlook.

    I’m just descibing the types that I run across the most frequently.

    And I missed a few groups in that generalization, like the underpaid coder who spends his time writing ‘edgy’ things about the lower class and women in his free time…

    But I digress.

    I think that the left-libertarians would be confused as to why you specifically bring this accusation against them.

    Where the devil do you find those people anyway? I mean, you can find people who like doing indecent things with Bacofoil online, easy; but those guys…
    Okay, jokes aside, as far as I see it, they are either not libertarians at all or the truest libertarians, AKA a synonym for anarchist, which, like everything that can described as good about that ideology, was copied wholesale from anarchism, a far older and more worthy ideology.

    I have not found that to be the case. I’ve been to libertarian clubs and actually spoken to them. Many libertarians HATE Rand. They don’t seem to be a different flavor of Objectivists. Are you sure you spoken to hundreds of them?

    And fundie protestants hate fundie catholics hate fundie orthodox..
    Rather rich, coming from all of those.
    I don’t need to go and talk to them. Start or hang about any half interesting politics thread on a forum and like clockwork sooner or later they will come out of the woodwork, no matter the political leaning of the forum as a whole. The thread usually starts getting boring as they start turning up en mass and spamming their arguements to the point where you have to dig through three pages of copypasta arguements and every freaking one whining about every other libertarian not being the true sort.

    your use of the royal We to speak for your own views laughable.

    Well excuse me for for seeing red at another libertarian waffler coming to spoil what was shaping up to be an interesting discussion thread to lurk on and not fully proofreading!

    Let me get this straight: hundreds of libertarians have pointed out that you are misrepresenting their views. This sounds more like you are setting up a straw man than they are claiming no true Scotsman.

    I don’t generally want to hold conversations with the nuisances, for the same reason you don’t hold a conversation with the anti-vaccination nuts that turn up on medical blogs: They make for boring conversation and it clogs up the thread. Except of course, when you need something to flame. Then they do nicely.

    …lackadaisical comparison between libertarians and communists bizarre…

    I’m just observing that you see them in the same youth set. Namely, the cynical 16+ hipster types who likes to give the apperance of giving the major political schools of thought the finger. Although, it’s rather unfair to compair them, I agree. I remember this communist I knew a while back. He was rather cool and fun to talk to, unlike the libertarians I’ve run across.

    Now, I am off to do something to vent my rage, and stop rising to their bait. And not clog the thread.

  • Jormungund

    I don’t need to go and talk to them.

    Here is your problem. Go and talk to some actual libertarians in real life. Do not for a second think that forum trolls represent any actual political outlook. From my personal, real life experiences with libertarians, most are mild minarchists. A few are quite weird.

    I find it hard to believe that you take internet trolls so seriously as to have written off a whole political ideology based only on how badly it can be misrepresented online. I mean, have you seen what atheist trolls are like on the internet? I really hope that the average person doesn’t think that atheists are actually like the trolls online.
    I can imagine it now: “I don’t need to go and talk to atheists. Start or hang about any half interesting religious thread on a forum and like clockwork sooner or later they will come out of the woodwork, no matter the religious leaning of the forum as a whole. The thread usually starts getting boring as they start turning up en mass and spamming their arguements to the point where you have to dig through three pages of copypasta arguements.”

  • http://www.facepunch.com/member.php?u=298989 Jeep-Eep

    Here is your problem. Go and talk to some actual libertarians in real life. Do not for a second think that forum trolls represent any actual political outlook. From my personal, real life experiences with libertarians, most are mild minarchists. A few are quite weird.

    I’ve read their writings, you know. You’ve got little choice but read their tracts if you try to read american science fiction as it very difficult to find anything else. Which I don’t anymore. It won’t be any good again until that current crop of Heinlien idolaters are dead and buried.

    I run in a number of fandoms, subcultures and various groups where they are disproportionately common and I come in contact with their output and “thought” on a not irregular basis. It’s just the same stupid, previledged memes. The same creepy ubermench fantasies and the chimerical concept of a benevolent dictator, to name a few. Over and over and over. Every time I run into it I see my current views confirmed. Though I take measures to avoid coming in contact with them. It’s not good for my blood pressure or already hair-trigger temper. I don’t want to talk to them in person. I value not having a criminal record and if confronted with the same crap that I’ve heard from them, even in milder format, I’m not sure I could control myself.

    Libertarianism is anarchism-lite for rich, fortunate manchilderen who have never worked a day in their lives and who want to keep their money and have workers to fold their laundry and for unintelligent lower class people who think that by getting rid of what holds back the rich that impovrished them in the first place they will be able to acend to that level.

    We had a guy which showed the dark underbelly of that stinking crap. Look up the posts by christopher. Shows up the stinking darkness behind all that flowery rubbish they spew about freedom.

    Hell, read the damned “why I am not a liberatarian posts, and you will see why I hate them utterly.

    Do you know why I really hate them? Do you? Because I might have become one at one point. It’s the kind of ideology which appeals to young.middle-lower class whites who’ve not held major jobs yet and who aim to go to university or already have. I see what I might have become. But I was immunized against that kind of bullshit by seeing how precarious my position is, how much my fate depends upon luck. It’s by sheer luck that I’m not living on Kraft dinner right now. That’s what I’ve seen. It’s an ideology for the stupid rich who don’t have to risk that and have time to flame each other over minutae in their justifaction of priveledge; and it is also for the stupid poor who live it and need to be kept quiet.

    Although why I feed you is beyond me. You are just another tone troll who makes a practice of fainting on couches.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    I think that’s too harsh, Jeep-Eep.

    I’ve been thinking about T.E.’s comment and I have to admit he has a point. Volokh’s view, as insane as it is, doesn’t represent all libertarians; “according to The Volokh Conspiracy” would probably have been a better phrasing. It’s true that there’s a fair amount of common ground between atheists and libertarians generally. Unfortunately, the libertarians in power tend to be less the sensible, minarchist school and more the deranged, absolutist government-is-always-bad-especially-when-it-interferes-with-my-ability-to-make-huge-profits school – Rand Paul with his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, or the Koch brothers funding union-busting and climate-change denialism. This, it has to be said, is probably not a coincidence.