Christians Should Know About the Secular Right, Says Writer

Bryan Roberts, writing for the magazine RELEVANT, tries to urge his fellow Christians to rise above the hyper-partisan discourse. Among his reminders to other Christians: “Those who argue over politics don’t love their country more than others” and “Thinking your party’s platform is unflawed is a mistake.”

Obviously, he has his target audience, but it was this bulletpoint that caught a lot of readers’ eyes:

1. Both political parties go to church.

There’s a Christian Left and, perhaps even less well-known, there’s a secular Right. Edwina Rogers is a Republican lobbyist and head of the Secular Coalition for America. She’s a Republican, and her entire job is devoted to keeping religion out of the U.S. government. Party lines are drawn in chalk, and they’re not hard to cross. The Church must be engaged in politics, but it must not be defined by the arbitrary lines in politics.

This is precisely why the Secular Coalition for America hired Rogers. She’s a stereotype-breaker who’s representing atheists in places we’re not used to being seen or heard: The offices of the GOP. I wouldn’t go so far as to say there’s a robust “secular Right” but there are Republicans who don’t believe in god and we’d be better off if more of them spoke up about it.

It’s nice that others are finally taking notice.

(Thanks to everyone for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • The Other Weirdo

    The conservative atheist. It’s not just a problem for the religious Right. It’s also something many left-leaning atheists don’t want to hear about.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Wallach/533280349 John Wallach

      I never met a conservative atheist who wasn’t a follower of Ayn Rand.   Are there any? 

      • The Other Weirdo

         Follower. I wasn’t aware she ran a brainwashing cult.

        • 3lemenope
        • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

           You couldn’t tell that by some of the things the adherent to her philosophies espouse.

      • Jenny

        Here I am! :-)

        Seriously, though, I’m a fiscal conservative who doesn’t believe in a god, and has read quite a bit of Rand philosophy. Yet, I’m not a “follower.” 

        Do I agree with what she has to say? Some things, yes, but certainly not all. All that does, though, is make me thoughtful, not an acolyte. Indeed, politically, I consider myself “libertarian,” which Rand regarded as worse than the collectivists she despised. Rand had a rather nasty habit of painting with a broad brush when it suited her, and many of her current-day fans do the same. 

      • 3lemenope

        Nice to meet you.

  • Aaronlane

    And we’re damn lonely over here too. When people talk about expanding into things like “social justice” some of us start thinking, “Wait, my idea of ‘social justice’ is that if you make poor decisions… you starve. That sounds just. I bet that isn’t what they have in mind…”

    Then we tighten that grip on the wallet a little bit more.

    • http://www.facebook.com/neil.terry.98 Neil Terry

      Demonstrating only that you are ignorant and self-righteous and not much else, much like the religious right.

    • ben

      aaaaand this is why progressive atheists don’t like to talk about our conservative brethren.  It is true,  atheism is just a disbelief in God(s).  Nothing more.  No reason to automatically include compassion in that.  belief or unbelief, a dick is just a dick.

      • Jenny

        Perhaps there would be more compassion in the world if the progressives weren’t so damn busy compelling it thru force. Just sayin’.

        • ben

          Thanks for that Jenny.  The fact that you are a dick, expressly because progressives think you should be nicer is noted.  It also makes you that much more of a dick, which is still irrelevant to my point; that unbelief  indicates nothing but unbelief.  It doesn’t indicate compassion, morality, skepticism, critical thinking, or a lack of any of these things.  

          • 3lemenope


            It doesn’t indicate compassion, morality, skepticism, critical thinking, or a lack of any of these things.  

            In my experience, neither pole of the political spectrum has a lock on any of these qualities you list.

        • smrnda

           Compelling? We have far lower taxes and a much less robust social safety net than about any other industrialized nation. We don’t have any mandatory government service of any kind. I am just sure you are straining under a horrible burden of State-mandated compassion. I’m sure they’re just forcing you at gunpoint to give away all your hard-earned cash to poor people who *only* aspired to working in slaughterhouses and moving bricks for a living.

          How little ‘compulsion’ do you want?

        • RobMcCune

          So Aaronlane’s idea that starvation is a just form of punishment is a perfectly valid response retaliation against welfare, food stamps, social security, etc.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Get back to us when you can live completely on your own from birth to death: No schools, no roads, no libraries, no cops/fire fighters, build your own company–but don’t use TV, internet, loans…anything that other people contribute to or invented, no water or electricity, no doctors or insurance, so on and so forth.

          When you can live 100% independently of anyone else ever, you can complain about taxes. Until you stop taking advantage of everything taxes pay for, you’re nothing more than a hypocrite for whining about them. Especially since the current tax rate is the lowest it’s ever been, and the country is drowning financially for it.

    • 1000 Needles

      As you can see, rationality and skepticism are not the only paths to atheism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=116400943 Leo Buzalsky

       And if you make poor decisions, you should embrace the loneliness it brings you.  Hope you’re doing that.

    • Andrew Bernhardt

       With such opinions, I don’t find it hard to understand why you might feel lonely.

    • RobMcCune

      Who decides who starves, and what is the criteria for a “poor decision”? Is this just another case of conservative post hoc rationalization where everyone who starves had it coming, I’m betting it is. Damn those irresponsible third world children!

    • Patterrssonn

      That’s odd, usually the conservative version of social justice is “we make bad decisions and you starve”.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      A disproportionate number of homeless people are veterans or mentally ill. What bad decisions did they make?

      And how do you find out who made bad decisions and who didn’t? And especially when there’s children involved, how do you give no aid to the parents because of their decisions, but still help the children? Would you have let me starve? My parents had ten kids and my dad died when I was twelve, leaving my mom to take care of seven of us with pretty much no savings. I’ll be the first to say that my parents made some really stupid decisions and didn’t bother to think of how it could affect other people. But should the government just let us starve?

      You really have to consider that the majority of poor people didn’t just decide they didn’t want to work one day. They were born poor. When you’re born poor, you have severely limited options. It’s difficult to get a well-paying job, so you can’t live in the nicest area, and if you end up having kids, those are kids born into poverty in a poor area without the best education or best influences. And it just continues. It is extremely difficult to break out of it.

      But why don’t we all just decide to be born into middle to upper class families so we can go to college and have good jobs and stuff? Problem solved!

      • phantomreader42

         A disproportionate number of homeless people are veterans or mentally ill. What bad decisions did they make?

        Well, OBVIOUSLY the veterans shouldn’t have been so stupid as to join the military while a delusional warmongering right-wing shitstain was in office waiting for a chance to use them as cannon fodder…

        (do I really have to point out that the above is sarcastic?  Yeah, I probably do, just like I need to remind the GOP cultists that it was DUBYA who decided to send our troops to die in Iraq for no fucking reason)

        • Foster

          Obama voted to use force in Iraq while he was a senator.  In your opinion, does he avoid blame for making the same call as Bush did, given the information they both had?

    • Octoberfurst

      Aaronlane, so your idea of “social justice” is letting people who made poor decisions starve? How fascist of you!  Do you even have a grain of human empathy in that cold dark soul of yours?  Frankly I think you are an embarrassment to the atheist community.

  • http://yetanotheratheist.com/ TerranRich

    The Church must be engaged in politics…

    Sure. And The Church must be taxed… ;)

  • SwedishLore15

    I’ve known a few conservative atheists, and most of them identified as libertarians.  I’m sure there are members of the Republican Party who are atheists, but I wonder how they view their party’s hostility to secularism and atheism.  Perhaps they are like some gay Republicans in that, while they don’t like it, they can live with it.

    • de

      I actually have a relative who while he doesn’t call himself an atheist, is definately non-religious.  He is hard right conservative.  He opposes welfare, medicare, abortion rights.  When I ask him what he thinks of the religious right, he claims they are too small to have any influence on the GOP.

      • Octoberfurst

         I too have a non-religious friend who doesn’t identify as an atheist but for all intents and purposes he is one. He too is hard Right.  He is anti-abortion & thinks government should only provide for national defense and regulate commerce and that’s it.  I don’t get why he doesn’t want to try to make this world a better place. It seems his philosphy is all me, me, me.  (Very Randian.) To me it is logical to be a progressive but that is my opinion.  Anyway when I asked him what he thought of the Religious Right he gave me the same answer your friend did—that they really are an insignificant group who are too small in numbers to have any influence. I thought he was kidding—he wasn’t. I wondered what world he lives in.

        • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

          It’s not the same guy is it?

          • Octoberfurst

             I doubt it.

      • BradleyHart

        If he believes they are too small to have an influence on the GOP then he is as delusional as he narcissistic. 

  • C Peterson

    I don’t care for treating “secular” and “religious” as if they’re opposite terms. They certainly don’t represent mutually exclusive ideals. There’s absolutely no reason that you can’t “go to church” and still be a strong secularist (I realize that one meaning of “secular” is indifferent to or rejecting religion, but the much more relevant one in today’s world is rejecting government entanglement in religion, and there are many religious people who are also secular in this sense.)

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      I think the problem might be that you are conflating “secular” with “secularist.” You can be a secularist and religious (i.e. a religious person who promotes secularism as a political philosophy), but you can’t be secular and religious.

      • C Peterson

        I take your point, but think it’s debatable. It’s hard to see how a secularist isn’t secular. The word has a range of meanings. In the case of this discussion, the religious left should have been contrasted with the non-religious right. “Secular” is ambiguous at best.

  • http://twitter.com/gingerjet gingerjet

    One of the main reasons that groups like the NRA are so successful is because they can care less about party affiliation.   If you support what they are rooting for – they will endorse you or at least not come out against you.  Meanwhile gay rights groups like the HRC are just another wing of the democratic party which continues to compromise their goals.

    • Stev84

      There are actually many Democrats who support gun rights. They have true bipartisan support. That’s why they’re successful. On the other hand, the number of Republicans who support gay rights is miniscule and moderate Republicans are actually driven systematically out the party.

  • BradleyHart

    Most of the nonbelievers I have met on the right are just as much narcissistic assholes as the Christians on the right and I would just as soon have them keep their fucking mouths shut.

    • Frank

      No.

    • 3lemenope

      Thankfully my ability to speak does not depend on whether what comes out of my mouth pleases you.

    • RobMcCune

      Way to contribute to the discussion.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    As a Catholic, I’m completely opposed to Atheists.  But I’ve got to admit that both Karl Marx and Ayn Rand were atheists.

    Of course, I prefer Pope Leo XIII to either of them, but it would make a lot more sense out of politics if both the Democrats and the Republicans would just admit their economics comes from atheism, not from Christianity.

    • 3lemenope

      The Left owes much more to John Maynard Keynes than they do to Karl Marx. The Right owes much more to Milton Friedman than they do to Ayn Rand.

      Catholic-derived economics comes in two varieties. The first is the economy that they actually managed under Christendom during the Middle Ages. Not a good fit for the modern world. The other is Distributism, which is a fascinating attempt to “fix” capitalism with some Catholic social concepts like subsidiarity and family-as-fundamental-social-unit, as well as by bringing back trade guilds and abolishing banks. It’s worth the study, but the fundamental flaw with Distributism is that it cannot be paired with any realistic model of a state that could implement it stably.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Doesn’t really help much does it?  Keynes and Friedman may not have been atheists, but they were officially agnostic, and neither religion nor morality were taken into account in their economics (some would say even ethics weren’t taken into account in either of their economic theories).

        Actually, distributism has been modeled in one place for over a thousand years- certain Catholic order monasteries and convents.  Also, as of late, a few “New Monastic” planned communities, such as Catholic Worker’s houses, or People of Praise communes, or for the non-Catholic variety, certain post-modernist Emergence planned communities.Like Capitalism and Communism though, it doesn’t scale well.  Unlike capitalism and communism, the main point of distributism is that it isn’t supposed to scale at all.  If you have a population of more than 500 people in your distributist community, you need to really start considering buying more land and planting a new community if you want either to be sustainable.

        • Thelivingwalrus

          I thought distributism was where every priest got one kid.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Your attempt at irrelevancy is noted.  Having said that, Distributism has nothing to do with Catholic Clergy or the Sex Abuse Scandal.  It is instead the concept that a justly ordered economic system that includes morality, should pay every worker at least enough to feed, clothe, and shelter a family with children and have enough leftover that the smart man, with thrift, can set aside a savings for investment and/or business ventures.  Ideally, it does this by destroying economy of scale to provide more work, and as a social net backup, gives every family ownership of enough resources for subsistence farming if no work is available.

            Oddly enough, many capitalists consider it communistic because it gets those resources through estate/death taxes, and it destroys economy of scale through strict borders, high tariffs, and small markets.

          • phantomreader42

             Oh, come on, do you honestly expect the Rape Children Cult to limit their priests to only ONE victim each?

    • Baby_Raptor

      And as an Atheist, I’m completely opposed to theists. I prefer people who can actually think.

      • God

        I have no proof that I think, therefore I have no proof that I am. But since copying and pasting is a stupid atheist trick, I have no proof that you can think either, and thus like an atheist, I choose to believe that Baby_Raptor does not exist- because after all, an absence of evidence is evidence of abscence, correct?

        • RobMcCune

          Thankfully the universe is much more logical than any God. Especially this one.

        • Deven Kale

           Seeing a comment from you (God) is, so far, the most evidence I’ve seen for your existence beyond the propaganda written in a book of ancient history, and actually far more believable than anything written in said book. Sadly, I know that even that was written by a human as well, and so I still have less evidence to believe that you (God) exist than I do a Baby_Raptor. At least we have fossils of Baby Raptors to look at.

  • Emily

    The data’s old but in a survey of ~8200 atheists in 2008/9, about 5% considered themselves somewhat or very conservative. 14% considered themselves middle of the road.