Which Candidate Would You Choose?

Vjack asks a simple yet very interesting question:

If I had to vote for one of two hypothetical candidates, would I be more likely to vote for a liberal Christian or a conservative atheist?

The liberal Christian would almost certainly be a better fit with my stance on many political issues than the conservative atheist. But of course, the conservative atheist would not be a victim of the sort of superstition afflicting the liberal Christian. So who would I choose if I had to pick one?

Who would you choose?

You can see vjack’s response at his site and I would urge you to chime in there.

Personally, I’m leaning liberal Christian all the way. I have a hard time believing someone who’s with me on the social issues would be using the highest office in the country to promote his/her religious beliefs.

Then again, Obama pretty much fits this description and he’s promoted his faith more often than I’d like to see.

Then again, I’m still voting for him.

You make sense of that.

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.

  • ortcutt

    The question isn’t whether someone is a Christian.  The question is whether he/she is a secularist.  Barry Lynn is a Christian but he’s the head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.  As long as the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, etc… candidate is a secularist, I have no problem voting for any liberal candidate.  (I’m a liberal secularist, but I would hope that a conservative secularist would feel the same way about conservative candidates.)

    • randall.morrison90

      The trouble with some atheists, is that they are not secularists….as with the American Atheists calling for “Godless Government Now.”

      Secular does not necessarily equal Godless or Atheist.

      In any event, I will never submit to rule by atheists.

      • Marie the Bookwyrm

         You will never submit?
        That’s an interesting way of expressing yourself.  What do you think would happen to you under ‘rule by atheists’?

      • brianmacker

        That’s the very definition of secular when it comes to the government. You sound like Mohammad who wrote in the Qur’an that Muslims should rule over infidels.

      • ortcutt

         I won’t vote for a candidate who wants to institute Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Druidic, or any other religious government.  Nor should they be basing public policy on “what god wants”.  That’s what secular, “Godless” government means.  If you don’t like it, too bad.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

        The odds are good that you already have been governed, if not “ruled” by atheists.  If 19% of the US population are openly godless, and a fair number of the clergy actually have no faith, I’d guesstimate  that the odds that many politicians act religious only for show are 15 – 30 percent.

    • C Peterson

      Of course, being a secularist is vitally important. But I wouldn’t diminish the importance of a candidate’s personal religious viewpoint. A candidate who is Christian is irrational and believes in some seriously absurd batshit. That should concern anybody. That they respect the separation of state and church is mandatory, but if they believe in magic, we should be concerned about their ability to lead the country in a rational, positive way.

      • ortcutt

         All other things being equal, I would prefer the skeptic over the believer, but I’m not a perfectionist about political candidates. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625024380 Jake LeMaster

    Up and to the right.. Mormon.org advertisement…

  • http://www.facebook.com/mvanroy Mike Van Roy

    Libertarian Gary Johnson 2012.  He believes in evolution, is not a church goer, more socially liberal than Obama and more fiscally conservative than Romney.  Of the three candidates that will be on the ballot in most states he is the least religious of them.  (There are ads for his campaign T-shirts on this page believe it or not.)

    2016 will be our year.  Jesse Ventura and Howard Stern!

    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

       isn’t Jesse Ventura a crazy conspiracy theorist now?

    • brianmacker

      I doubt either Ventura or Stern understand enough about economics to do the right thing. Look how Arnold Swartzenegger turned out. Morons who are convinced of things for the wrong reasons and don’t truly comprehend can be your worst allies, because when they fuck up and do the wrong thing based on poor understanding of theory then it makes the correct theory look wrong.

  • Drew M.

    Given that when I hear “Liberal Christian,” I think of Believe Out Loud, John Shore, and several close friends, I would vote that way in a heartbeat.

    I’m still voting either for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, though.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    I’ll go with the liberal Christian, though I would assume that implies he/she is a secularist.

    While there are conservative atheists, it is hard to image one running for an important public office.

    • brianmacker

      Is that because it is hard to imagine any atheist running or is that a dig at conservative atheists in general?

      • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

        Neither of those.  It is a recognition of the fact that most conservatives are vehemently opposed to atheism and atheists.

  • http://twitter.com/gingerjet gingerjet

    Perhaps it would be helpful if someone would bother to define the phrases “conservative atheist  and “liberal Christian”.   Because we can’t give an opinion if we aren’t using the same definitions.  What is “conservative” or “liberal” varies widely in this country depending on the context and the location.

    • MichaelD

      Pretty much this. By Canadian standards Obama is fairly conservative and I’d vote for liberal christian Jack Layton were he still with us (of course in canada we have 3-4 choices to begin with ;p) . Honestly this whole question is more or less moot I’d vote for one or the other based on their policies. 

      Being an atheist doesn’t make you someone I’d necessarily vote for, nor is it some sign that you have your head on straight and don’t believe in lots of stupid shit.

  • http://twitter.com/ReasJack Jack Jesberger

    I think that single issue politics has been more a characteristic of overly devout religious believers.  I am not interested in making normalization of unbelief the foundation of single mindedness either.

  • Jesuslovesbags

    Two words: S.E. Cupp.

    I can’t think of any other atheist conservatives off the top of my head but she is a contemptible atheist.

    I would much rather a liberal Christian that I can work with on common causes.

    • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

       The problem with her is that it is all schtick.  She wanted a media career and has carved out an empty niche.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    The liberal christian. Usually liberal christians don’t try to force their views onto others. At least that is my experience. I am liberal and would, in most cases, vote for the more liberal candidate. The liberal christian most likely would support the separation of church and state. As long as they don’t say god is telling them to do something, like bush did, I would be fine with the liberal christian. 

    As someone else mentions if the example for conservative atheist is s.e. cupp there is no way i’d vote for that person. 

    • brianmacker

      Liberal not libertarian. Liberals (not the classical kind but the modern socialist kind) force their views on others all the time via government.

      • Alex Griffin

        Conservatives, of course, never known for forcing their views on others via government.

      • amycas

        If by “force their views on others all the time via government” then yes they do, but then again, if libertarians are ever elected, then they will do the same thing. A political party, by the very act of being involved in government and making and passing legislation must force their views on the people. I also wouldn’t call it “forcing” if they are elected to the position.

  • 3lemenope

    Being a conservative atheist, it should be no surprise at all that I’d pick “conservative atheist”. Then again, as others have pointed out, there is a ridiculous amount of play in the terms “conservative” and “liberal”, such that what I think of as an ideal conservative is going to likely be quite different from what others do.

    • Archaeopteryx1861

      Same here. I usually say that I am fiscally conservative, but socially liberal. I think our welfare system has gotten carried away (especially here in Maine) and I support the right of citizens to keep and bear arms (within reason…seriously, no one needs an AK-47 in their home) so that makes me a conservative, but I also think we spend way too much on war, I think women have the right to choose, I think science ought to be taught in science class, I want a secular government, I’m for allowing same-sex marriage, and of course I’m an atheist….those things make me liberal.

  • DougI

    I’d vote for the liberal Christian.  I don’t mind that politicians do the political thing and mention god, as long as they don’t legislate.  Lincoln was probably an Atheist but still used religion for propaganda purposes, so did Stalin.  It’s just a political ploy to motivate to unthinking masses.  A person’s politics matters more than their religion.

    As for Obama, I certainly wouldn’t classify him as a liberal, but we have a two party system so whatcha going to do?

  • jose

    The liberal. I don’t want the atheist around privatizing everything.

    • brianmacker

      That’s because you are ignorant. The abolishionist Spooner was running a mail service that delivered the mail cheaper than the post office but was banned from competeing in general mail delivery, and many services deliver faster for priority mail. Why do you want the postal service? So you can get subsidized junk mail?

  • http://twitter.com/KevinSagui Kevin Sagui

    Depends on whether the conservative atheist is S.E. Cupp or Arnold Vinick.

  • Richard Wigton

     I’d vote for the liberal Christian.  I have very progressive views and I think the liberal Christian would obviously promote ideas/programs that I could go along with as opposed to the conservative atheist.  Besides liberal Christians don’t try to ram their beliefs down your throat like right-wing Christians do & they tend to be pro-evolution, pro-choice, pro-gay, etc.

  • Ibis3

    Liberal Christian. Liberal Muslim. Liberal Sikh. Liberal Hindu. Liberal Wiccan. Every time. Conservatives, in my experience, are either deluded about how beneficial it is to have the government privatize and deregulate everything, or they are immoral assholes.  I’d rather have someone who prays to Allah or Jesus or the oak tree in their back yard whey they come home from work but who at least tries to work to make the world a better place while they’re there. I’d even choose someone who tried to insert their religion into government over a secular person if that religion was inspiring them to help the poor, keep the peace, fund education, protect the environment, and preserve human rights, when the secular person would use their power to make a profit whatever the cost to the people and the planet.

    • brianmacker

      Liberals are generally economic ignoramuses who don’t understand all the damages their policies cause in the long run because they are to lazy to study the hard choices before moving directly to the great feelings they get about themselves for caring.

  • Guest

    well, since we know that being an atheist does not guarantee someone is not superstitious or rational thinking, chances are I would go for the liberal anything, including a Christian. I don’t think religious people are bad leaders, fundamentalists are bad leaders. 

  • Keulan

    I’d vote for the liberal Christian, because they would share most of the same opinions as me on social and economic issues. That and liberal Christians usually don’t try to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

  • brianmacker

    Based on the comments I see some atheists don’t understand how adjectives work. They don’t always mean the same thing used with different nouns. A militant Islamist or Christian is not the same thing as a militant atheist. A conservative atheist doesn’t want to ban abortion and lock up homosexuals on sodomy charges.

    • Deven Kale

       You’re right. A militant islamist or Christian goes around murdering people in the name of their god, while a militant atheist just makes lists of people.

    • freemage

       brianmacker: Then what do they want to do?  Further deregulate the financial sector?  Eliminate protections against discrimination?  Ayn Rand was a ‘conservative atheist’ by these standards, and I wouldn’t vote for her, either.

  • brianmacker

    Conservative atheist, or liberal Christian, it depends on what stands they take on particular issues. I think it more likely the former then the latter however.

  • Gus Snarp

    This depends on how you’re defining liberal. It’s a tricky word in a number of ways. But as I consider myself a liberal, I’ll treat the question a bit differently: would I vote for a Christian who agrees with me on pretty much every issue, or an atheist who disagrees with me on pretty much every issue. I’d pick the Christian every time.

    Even if you just stick to the liberal versus conservative terms, I’d still take the liberal Christian. For one thing, “liberal”, in my definition, includes secularist. If you don’t believe in separation of Church and State, then you’re not a liberal.

    And then there are the potential examples of conservative atheists in the real world: S.E. Cupp, who I wouldn’t vote for against Mitt Romney, let alone a liberal, and who is clearly not a secularist, and Ayn Rand, who while a noted atheist, if allowed to run the country according to her philosophy would drive it into the ground.

  • ACN

    Well, neither “Christian” nor “atheist” are terribly good proxies for “is a good human being”. That being said, if the point of the question is to get me to consider what’s more important to me, to have my personal religious views (all baloney) represented by a candidate, or to have my political views represented by a candidate who is also willing to admit publicly that they talk to imaginary people, yeah I’d pick the political views.

    Let me pick at this a little harder. I’m a socialist, so I’m NEVER represented adequately politically by any candidate. My general opinion of the politics of my country is that all politicans are in the pockets of wealthy interests, but occasionally, through a combination of grass-roots efforts or road-to-damascus-esque ability to see the forest for the trees, said politicians are able to push through sweeping social change that benefits most of the population.  As a socialist, I view it as my responsibility to encourage these sorts of changes it when I see opportunities for it.  

    I don’t see why, a priori, an openly atheist candidate would be any better at ignoring wealthy interest groups that I find  so repugnant, and harmful. In fact, I strongly suspect that LOTS of politicians (or at least certainly more than let on!) are closet atheists who find religions to be useful. 

    I’m reminded of the oft-attributed to Seneca the Younger observation that: “The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful”.
    Considering that I probably do have atheists representing me now, I think that, until such a time as christians in the US don’t have a stranglehold over running for important public offices, the optimal choice for me is to pick the candidates who seem to be willing to entertain the most liberal, most progressive, and most socialist of policies regardless of their claimed religious views.

  • C Peterson

    There’s no way I could say which I’d vote for. And I’d doubt the rationality of anybody who felt they could answer this question. As others have noted, “liberal” and “conservative” don’t tell us very much, and in any case, a candidate can only be judged by looking at the entirety of their positions.

    In weighing the merit of a candidate, I’d give them a positive score for being atheist, and a negative one for being a Christian. For instance, I take points away from Obama for his Christianity (and even more from Romney for his particular version of Christianity).  But there would be lots of other scores as well- some positive, some negative. In the end, it would be the final score that mattered, not any one subscore.

  • CultOfReason

    Don’t kid yourself.  ALL politicians force their views on others via government.  They just have different ways of doing it.

  • Anonymous Otter

    liberal Christian, no contest. I identify as a progressive much more than I do as an atheist. Plus I do see the harm that religions inflict upon government but it doesn’t really come from the liberal Christians. Even in the case of separation of Church and States issues, both tend to stand by in our current American political environment, but the Christian wouldn’t be fucking over LGBT, Women, racial minorities, or immigrants.

  • Baal

    ” I will never submit to rule by atheists.” <–this is just weird.  What part of "I don't believe in supernatural forces" would be bad for someone running government?  Are you trying to say that you haven't liked the atheists you have met and wouldn't want them in office?  That's a much narrower complaint and doesn't make you seem fearful.

  • Sunny Day

    I think I have a general idea of what a liberal christian is, but wtf is a Conservative Atheist?

    You might as well ask me to pick between two flavors, Golba or Phildox.
    I cant pick between them if I don’t know what they are.

    If I missed it in the linked article please enlighten me.

  • Highlander

    It would really depend.  Does the candidate want to inflict outdated religious morals on the nation?  Either one might, based on either their religion or their conservatism.  If the candidate is for keeping the government out of personal lives, keeping religion out of government and balancing the budget through sensible (rather than dogmatic, or outright crazy) tax and spending measures and economic policies I would vote for them.  I don’t mention foreign policy because if the person can get those previous things right, they are probably smart enough to get the foreign policy thing right.


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