Are Atheists Liberal or Conservative?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: Are atheists liberal or conservative?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

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.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Personally, I’ve met more liberals, and usual number of libertarians. And the few conservatives I’ve met have always been fiscal conservatives and not social conservatives.

    • Toadster InOttawa

      I agree. I would describe myself as fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and politically… almost libertarian. Social liberalism definitely seems to be tied to education… the more educated one is, the less likely they are to hold prejudice or to follow unfounded dogma.

    • David

      I agree. The majority of atheists I have met are liberal. But a surprising amount of them are libertarians (like me). A few famous ones are as well (Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Penn & Teller).

  • Jim

    I agree with your take on the political views of most atheist. Living in Oklahoma, I’m surrounded by many conservatives. It makes for lively conversation.
    During the McCain/Obama election I told several of them that it didn’t sense why the Republicans pander so much to their base. For example, McCain felt the need to take his ticket to the right by bringing on Palin as his vice-presidential candidate. Why? Who else are the conservatives going to vote for? Obama? Not likely. Are they going to stay home? Not likely. They never have (at least not since 1980). It would have made more sense to take his ticket to the middle and try to grab the independent vote.
    The same could be said for why the Democrats have ignored us. Who else are we going to vote for? The socially conservative candidate? Not likely.

    • BradGunnerSGT

      Good points. I can’t see why the GOP keeps reaching to the right instead of the middle. There are way more votes up for grabs in the middle than on the right.

      I think that this is all a side effect of Reagan and Karl Rove’s influence in the 80′s so that the GOP has been slowly co-opted first by the Moral Majority and then by the Tea Party, and now they have no choice but to pull to the hard right on social issues in order to keep the the religious faction happy and hard right on fiscal issues to keep the Tea Party happy. They are also trying to court the Libertarians, and in trying to please these 3 factions they have totally watered down their message of “small government, fiscal conservatism, and personal responsibility”.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        Because swing voters are mostly a fiction created by the media. Very few people change their votes. Turnout in the swing states is the most significant factor in determining who wins a presidential election.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      You’ve just pointed out the problem with the two party system. Core constituencies can be ignored. At the presidential level if you are not an interest group in a swing state you will get no attention.

  • 3lemenope

    Er, mm. I think it is always an error to assume that a particular set of foundational axioms ever compels a particular belief result, whether that be religious, social, political, or on personal matters. Christianity for example can lead to, and directly support, political systems as disparate as monarchy (the Divine Right of Kings) and democracy (Mayflower Compact), social beliefs as broad as radical individualism (Kierkegaard) and radical mutualism (MLK, Jr.), and everything in between. Atheism is more broad in this sense in that it has far fewer axioms (really just one primary statement and the few auxiliary statements necessary to give meaning to it), and so one ought to expect even wider variety in eventual expression in the social, political, and personal realms.

    From a dispositional point of view, the nature of atheism is pretty conservative. It claims little, what little it claims is remarkably parsimonious, and consequently requires little epistemological justification to provide sufficiency for those claims. A person who is by nature skeptical of broad, sweeping claims is going to like atheism on spec rather a lot unless they already have been diverted into another belief structure. And this intuition tracks most of the political history, even, of the US, with conservative politicians and pundits like John Adams, Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, all the way up to Christopher Hitchens, Ayn Rand and Gary Johnson in more modern times, not only *at least* public agnostics, but also rather publicly critical of religious influence on policy and society. Social liberals, from William Jennings Bryan up to Jimmy Carter, were the ones overly enthusiastic about religion having a formal role in things.

    The current focus on particular cultural identity issues (which is what many social issues have become; proxy battles for the “essence” of America rather than really about the issues themselves, which often have few if any policy implications for the vast majority who are vocal about them [*cough*gay marriage*cough*]) obscures this historical trend by superimposing a particularly pernicious hypercharged form of social reactionary fervor directly into politics. In “looking back” to an imagined greater past, a large public role for Christianity and a monomaniacal obsession with anti-communism are glommed onto as key features of what supposedly made those past moments great (or at least notable).

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      I’ve been perplexed since the late 1970s (when I was still young and a Southern Baptist) in this idea that we get our democratic government from the Bible. There is no such thing anywhere in the Bible. The Bible offers us the choice of monarchy and theocracy in which we are ruled by “judges”. That’s it. Neither of those bears any resemblance to anything found in our constitution. In fact, our form of government clearly rejects both ideas. Just because someone came up with an idea and happened to be Christian does not mean that it is a Christian idea, any more than arabic numerals form an Islamic math system.

      • 3lemenope

        We don’t get our democratic government from Christianity, really, at all. The same is not true of the Plymouth colonists. To wit, they wrote:

        Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents, solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic; for our better ordering, and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

        Radical democracy is often thought to seep into Christianity from segments of the Book of Acts; the commietastic sections can easily be read more expansively than merely a commentary on property distribution. And indeed, an earlier expression of such sentiments were arrayed by Cromwell’s supporters (the Roundheads) in support of parliament being a better expression of the Kingdom of God than any solitary sovereign. The more radical Roundheads, the Levellers, in turn had a persistent impact on these tropes in Christianity from then on, and did have a lateral effect on the ideas discussed by the Second Continental Congress, among many many others.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          I have always read some of the practices of early Christians as being communist. Of course I may be biased since I was often told as a child that they tried that and it failed which is why communism is bad. :-)

    • mountainguy

      Good points, but I’d like to bring my 2 cents on a very small part of it: while Kierkegaard may be rightly deemed as individualist, I don’t think is fair to put him as an individualist in contrast to mutualists (as you mentioned MLK Jr, and I’d gladly add most of anabaptist ideals). IMO, the individualism in Kierkegaard had more to do with extolling the individual than with the selfishness of a more capitalist individualism.

      (please excuse my english, which is not my maternal language)

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    Since “Atheism” means not believing in a god, I see no reason for Democrats to reach out to Atheists. Instead, they should reach out to secularists (theists and atheists alike). They should reach out to people who reject Iron-age-blind morality (theists and atheists alike). They should reach out to pro-science folks (theist and atheists alike). They should, in short, reach out to the important commonalities — to build cohesion. That said, I am an economically conservative Atheist and dislike much about the Democrats.

    • Pofarmer

      The exact same and opposite criticism could be made of the Republicans. I’m right there with ya. I tend to be fiscally conservative, but find myself a little bit to socially liberal these days.

      • islandbrewer

        Which means, according to the current US political paradigm, you’re a communist who wants to hand America to the muslims and the UN, according to the Tea Party.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          Even by the already low standards of American politics, the Tea Party are an amazing example of cognitive dissonance. “No government health care and don’t touch my medicare!”

          • Guest

            It’s basically just a fear of change.

  • corps_suk

    I think the question is flawed for a number of reasons. First being the defintion of liberal and conservative. Second, its backwards, it should read “are liberals or conservatives more atheist”.
    Atheism is less fearful therefore less conservative, it is more educated therfore more liberal, it is more individualistic and self determined therfore more conservative, it is less traditional therefore more liberal. it tends towrard an understanding of facts and science therfore more liberal….

    So its a tough question…

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      And how distorted is that question in a country in which conservatives are so strongly aligned with Fundamentalist Christianity? There’s no reason that atheism would lead one to any particular political view concerning economic policy.

    • smrnda

      I’m not sure that a clear case can be made that either liberals or conservatives are more individualistic or self-determined. Which side seems to be more so would depend a lot on how their policies affect you personally.
      I’m disabled, so when a conservative talks about ‘getting government out of our way’ they’re talking about removing or repealing laws that help me. I’d imagine that for a business like Hobby Lobby, the same phrase means more freedom for them since then they don’t have to cover contraception.

      I also find many liberal politicians in the US still give lip service to religion and even try to use it to bolster their arguments, so I’d say US liberals are only slightly more atheistic than conservatives. More secular, yes, but not more atheist.

  • SeekerLancer

    “Liberal” and “conservative” are difficult and often contradictory labels in the United States because the Republican party isn’t necessarily conservative and the Democratic party isn’t necessarily liberal.

    Atheist votes trending towards the Democrats is unsurprising however since most social issues in this country happen to be religious ones. If you remove the religious reasons for why gay marriage shouldn’t be legal or why abortion shouldn’t be legal you’re not left with very convincing arguments so it’s obvious why atheists, excepting a small minority, fall where they do on social issues.

    Economic, foreign policy and other issues get more complex. There are lots of libertarian atheists who support extreme-right politics but not in regards to social issues and many others who won’t vote for Republicans because of the religious right but don’t support Democratic policies either.

    • rwlawoffice

      “f you remove the religious reasons for why gay marriage shouldn’t be
      legal or why abortion shouldn’t be legal you’re not left with very
      convincing arguments so it’s obvious why atheists, excepting a small
      minority, fall where they do on social issues.”

      When it comes to abortion, why is it that the protection of innocent life a religious issue? I would think that atheists who claim to value this life more than Christians who can look to an afterlife would even be more adamant about protecting innocent life. Regardless of what you call the unborn, it is clearly a life yet liberals and most of the atheists here are on the side of ending that life through choice.

      Ironically, it is these same liberals that fight for the rights of animals on the basis that they are helpless and innocent and need protection from humans who want to kill them. Last summer I was in Florida and three were warnings on the beaches not to disturb turtle eggs or face a federal criminal penalty. It is a sad state of affairs, even without any religious beliefs, that a turtle embryo gets more protection from intentional killings than a human embryo.

      • Rob Bos

        Turtles are nearly extinct. If they’re not protected legally, they’d be made into soup or destroyed by vandals. That doesn’t apply to humans. If humans were down to a few thousand people, you can bet I’d be right up there shouting for abortions to be outlawed with severe penalties. It’s idiotic to compare the two situations.

        • 3lemenope

          I like that Battlestar Galactica actually explored this hypo in some detail. If the human species is nearly extinct and hovering around the minimum stable population, do the practical concerns over extinction override the presumption of individual autonomy that is normally dispositive?

          • Rob Bos

            I remember that episode. I would say yes, the survival of the species must take precedence over individual liberties, although it’s a pretty high bar to clear. There would have to be a clear and present danger.

          • Kodie

            I don’t know. Humans tend to take responsibility for other species as well as our own. Sometimes it’s because it’s our fault. If we had to, say, use all the available women for breeding, it’s not simply a matter of outlawing abortions, it would be enslaving them, because it’s some sort of emergency. I don’t think the human species is that important. Of course, we think we have to save ourselves, that’s what species generally try to do. But do we really have to?

        • Buckley

          And with all of the Fundies having children, I don’t think we’re gonna run out any time soon.

          • randomfactor

            Well, SOMEBODY has to provide the next crop of gay atheists. If the fundies didn’t have so many children we’d run out of recruits.

        • Rwlawoffice

          So in your world the value of life depends on how many of them there are?

          • Rob Bos

            You were comparing two different situations. Survival would be the key factor. I value people, and I don’t want to see us go extinct. To a lesser degree, and to the extent that their demise would make us poorer, I value turtles. It would speak poorly of humans if we killed them all.

            That’s why we protect turtle eggs and not human embryos. Neither turtle eggs nor human embryos are living beings, but the turtles are in danger of being wiped out.

      • Pofarmer

        If you didn’t take the abortion debate back to plan B territory, then I think you would find a lot more support among Atheists. Hell, Christopher Hitchens was against abortion.

        • randomfactor

          One of many things I disagreed with him over.

        • Guest

          What was his arguement against it?

          • Pofarmer

            I don’t remember the exact argument, but I remember him saying that it was a tough problem for society to deal with. I’m sure that there is a youtube video on it, because that is where I heard it.

      • C Peterson

        Without assuming a soul, it is hard to justify the suggestion that an undeveloped human is an “innocent life”. Without a soul, there are few arguments to be made that an undeveloped human should be treated as a person, something that values itself, or which can meaningfully have what we call “rights”.

        The issue isn’t that it is a life, it is that it isn’t sentient, and if you don’t believe in a soul, “not yet sentient” is pretty much the same as “not a person”.

        There are different reasons that people are involved in animal rights efforts. In cases like the turtles, I think it is less about any “rights” of the turtles and mainly about protecting biodiversity. A human-centric, “selfish” motive, really. In the case of many animals, however, I’m sure that people do consider them to be sentient creatures which should have at least some of the rights that humans choose to define for themselves. And why not? Without assuming a soul, looking only at the science, many animals are far more sentient and self-aware than any undeveloped human in the womb.

        • 3lemenope

          The issue isn’t that it is a life, it is that it isn’t sentient, and if you don’t believe in a soul, “not yet sentient” is pretty much the same as “not a person”.

          Skipping past most of the metaphysical snarls of the concept of possible futures, there is a significant sense in which this analysis of [not yet sentient]==[not a person] is problematic.

          It’s always a good idea to track what would happen if nobody acts, and use that as the baseline when tracking the moral valence of a particular act. In this particular case, if nobody does anything, chances are extremely good that the “not yet sentient” will become so. It takes active intercession to prevent that eventuality. So it seems a bit slippery to endorse an equivalence when one side of the equation depends on an act absent which the equivalency is almost certainly false.

          • C Peterson

            But what value is “will become so”? At any moment, there are an infinite number of possible realities that can ensue. Have sex one minute earlier or one minute later, and any resulting baby will be a completely different person.

            Without assuming a soul, what is a developing human if it has no sentience, no experience, no self-awareness? In my eyes, and I think in the eyes of many, it isn’t something that can have value to itself because of what it might become, it can only have value because of its potential to its parents.

            I have no problem with equating “not yet sentient” to “not a person”. “Might become a person” carries no weight in my system of morals.

            • randomfactor

              Especially when measured against the “manifestly IS a person” also involved in the issue. A good question to ask about the abortion issue is “at what point in the pregnancy may the woman’s rights be completely disregarded?” The proper answer is “never.”

              • C Peterson

                Personally, I don’t think the issue of the mother’s rights has any place in a discussion of the ethics of abortion. Abortion itself cannot be considered either moral or immoral by anything other than subjective personal opinion. There is no right or wrong about it, except individually. Its morality is unrelated to the mother completely.

                The issues of the mother’s rights comes up in the context of choice, and the legality of abortion. Here we can draw upon solid precedent, upon solid, objective ethical methods and principles to reasonably conclude that- from the standpoint of society- the rights of the mother far exceed anything we might assign as rights to a fetus.

                To consider abortion immoral is as acceptable a position as to consider it morally neutral. To seek to make illegal something which is not seen as immoral by a significant segment of society, however, can be objectively argued as an unethical action.

            • 3lemenope

              What value “will become so” represents depends on the proximity of the realization of the value and the putative value of the whole if/when it is made actual.

              Would you say that it is OK to kick over a sandcastle that someone else built so long as it is merely almost, but not quite, complete?

              • C Peterson

                Would you say that it is OK to kick over a sandcastle that someone else built so long as it is merely almost, but not quite, complete?

                With their permission? Absolutely. Without it, of course, not, but neither would I claim that kidnapping a woman and performing an abortion is OK!

                Depending on my personal aesthetics, I might regret the destruction of the nearly finished sandcastle. I might refuse to destroy it myself if asked to do so. I might try to talk its builder out of destroying it. But I would not consider its destruction, by or at the request of its builder, to be morally wrong in any way.

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  It’s a false analogy. The question would be whether or not the person who made the sand castle has the right to knock it over before it’s complete. The answer would be yes. This analogy would be the same as asking whether or not I had the right to force someone to have an abortion which I do not.

                • C Peterson

                  I think that’s what I said, but if not, I agree with you.

                • 3lemenope

                  Why would you need their permission? The argument I was responding to claimed that things that have potential for sentience but are not yet realized have no moral weight whatsoever. Not moral weight dependent upon the creator’s esteem of its value, but no cognizable value at all.

                  If you believe that permission must be asked, then you acknowledge at the least that value has been invested in the potential thing by the being from whom you seek permission. Which is a different argument entirely.

                  Arguments on the pro-abortion rights side that treat fetuses like adiaphora are rhetorical suicide, and are literally sinking to the same depths as one’s opponents (the “it’s a child right from conception!” crap). Is it really so damn hard for people to admit that a fetus is not exactly a child but (starting fairly early on) is not exactly nothing (or “a parasite” or “a vegetable”) either? That the ethical questions are actually hard questions that do not yield to pat answers?

                • C Peterson

                  Why would you need their permission?
                  Uh… because it’s not my property?

                  The potential of an unfinished sandcastle to become a finished sandcastle does not inform the morality of destroying it before it is finished.

                  I don’t worry much about what a fetus is. In my view, what matters is what it is not. It is not a person by any definition that makes sense to me. It is not sentient by any definition that makes sense to me. Therefore it isn’t something that has rights, or can have rights.

                • 3lemenope

                  Uh… because it’s not my property?

                  Which is an artifact of the metaphor. Remember, the point was that there was no value there you are bound to respect, if you agree with the OP argument. I’m attacking the contention that you can have a functional moral system that fails to recognize the notion of potential value, because it leads to absurdities like the moral equivalence of destroying an almost completed thing with destroying a just begun thing.

                  The potential of an unfinished sandcastle to become a finished sandcastle does not inform the morality of destroying it before it is finished.

                  Since intuitively that seems flatly false, you might want to provide a wee bit of argument for that. Making something that was possible no longer possible is a morally charged act. All cost sunk into the movement of a thing towards actuality is destroyed when the nearly completed thing is destroyed. There is no such loss with the just begun thing.

                • C Peterson

                  Sorry, I can’t think of anything about the potential of the unfinished sandcastle that involves ethics in the least. If my statement strikes you as intuitively false, we operate with very different sorts of intuition.

                  I don’t recognize the slightest moral difference between destroying a thing that is just begun, versus one that is nearly finished. I don’t even see the issue as one that involves morality at all. “Making something that was possible no longer possible” is not a morally charged act IMO. As long as the decision to throw away the value is made by the person who put the value into the system in the first place, the deliberate loss of that value is morally neutral.

            • Michael Harrison

              I agree, with an exception. If the mother plans to carry the fetus to term, then of course choices made while the fetus is still developing are important; e.g., fetal alcohol syndrome.

          • Anat

            Then we are all corpses, just still breathing for a while. Let’s forget about rights altogether, corpses have no use for them.

            • 3lemenope

              Asymmetrical states. One of the nitty-grittier reasons life is more valuable than its absence is that it is easier to make a living thing dead than a dead thing living.

              And that’s leaving aside actual value preferences, which cluster neatly around being alive for the obvious functional reason that living allows all other values, whereas dying negates the realization of most of them.

      • PNW

        Ok well 1, your comparison doesn’t make any sense. Turtles would be allowed to kill their eggs but wouldn’t be allowed to kill human babies. and 2, abortion is all about bodily autonomy. If I am dying and only one person in the whole world can save me. They are allowed to say no and let me die. This is actually a court case, McFall vs. Shimp http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~ras2777/judpol/mcfall.html

        It doesn’t matter if the fetus has a ‘soul’ or is alive. No one should be allowed to use my body unless I continually allow them to.

        • Rwlawoffice

          I really wasn’t making a comparison except to the extend that the Federal government and most liberals would protect one and not the other. They put more value on the unborn life of a turtle than the unborn life of a child.

          • Ewan

            You are really very wrong. The difference isn’t simply in how much you value a thing, it’s in the cost of it as well.

      • phantomreader42

        A fetus is not a human being. A woman is, even if she’s pregnant. As a human being, a woman has the right to decide whether or not she wants to share her organs with a parasite. If she decides she does not want said parasite in her body, there is no secular justification for forcing her to keep it there.

        If you think a pregnant woman should be forced by law to allow a parasite to use her organs against her will, then you must also support the forced harvesting of the organs of people other than pregnant women, including your own, so kindly post your address and blood type, I know someone who could use a new kidney.

        • Amanda Hernandez

          This is something I’ve never understood. The fetus *is* a human being–what else would it be? A cat? There’s a difference between a fetus and an embryo.

          Before I had my daughter I was strictly pro-abortion. Then my daughter caught CMV in the womb and there was a real possibility that I’d have to terminate my pregnancy out of mercy. Now I just get queasy when people are so nonchalant about late-term abortions. I’m not going to keep people from doing them, but damn. Calling them ‘parasites’ to make your point is simply awful.

          • phantomreader42

            There’s a difference between an embryo and a fetus.
            There’s a difference between a fetus and an infant.
            There’s a difference between an infant and a child.
            There’s a difference between a child and an adolescent.
            There’s a difference between an adolescent and an adult.
            There’s a difference between a living adult and a corpse.

            But none of these differences justify depriving women of bodily autonomy. We do not force people to donate organs without their consent, not even if they previously agreed to donate, not even if the recipient’s life is in danger. Even if a living adult needs someone else’s organs to survive, they’re shit out of luck without a consenting donor. Even if the matching donor is a corpse, those organs STILL can’t be taken without consent. We don’t even mandate blood donation, even though that’s easy to recover from and a single unit of blood can save multiple lives. And yet, fetus-fetishists think they have the right to demand that women be forced to endure a painful and life-threatening medical condition because the invisible man in the sky says so.
            Why should a woman have less right to bodily autonomy than a CORPSE?

            • Amanda Hernandez

              Whoa there. I said the idea makes me queasy (I may be an Atheist but I’m also a new mom), not that I’m going to vote to deny people the option to abort.

              • quickshot

                Why CANT you be pro-life? Because you can’t associate with a group that might have a lot of Christians?

                Be bold, Amanda! Don’t let these people bully you for having a different opinion!

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Good job of making the assumption that she might be a bigot based on your own prejudices, and playing your fake persecution card.

                • quickshot

                  If by bigot you mean someone who is pro-life?

                  Or, how about a bunch of men are jumping on a women while she is being honest? That’s a more accurate picture of what is happening.

                  Finally, the sheltered wannabe freethinkers of Patheos routinely forget that you can be a conservative, pro-lifer without believing in God. It happens every day: just ask Penn Jillette.

                  http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2013/04/23/penn-jillette-get-theblaze/

          • C Peterson

            You are perfectly correct: a fetus is a human being. Those who deny that, or deny that a life has begun, are wrong, and that is a silly argument.

            The question is, is a fetus a person? Because I think it is not, by any reasonable standard, I don’t think it has rights and I don’t think ending its life carries any more moral weight than killing a plant. When the decision is made by the mother, I consider abortion to be morally neutral.

            That said, I have no problem with people who consider abortion morally wrong. That is a perfectly acceptable moral position. My problem is with those who would seek to deny abortion to others, to the large percentage of society that does not believe it is morally wrong at all.

            • woeur

              To say a new person is created at conception is the safest position. It would need to be arbitrarily defined, otherwise, and judging by the varying positions people take on when personhood begins, millions are being murdered. To take a famous, or infamous, example, Singer believes personhood doesn’t begin till two years old or so.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                There are far more miscarriages than abortions, and no one seems to be in a hurry to define those as “people”.

                Something that lacks brain activity and has always lacked it is not a person, just like an empty tower at the factory is not a computer. Its arguable as to whether it is even human for most of a pregnancy, given that it lacks almost every potential feature of one.

                If you define an embryo as a person, then a woman who has a miscarriage has to be investigated for murder, and a medically necessary abortion becomes impossible. It is philosophically untenable as well as legally, as it demands that one person’s body become subservient to another “person”, up to and including death and permanent impairment of her health. You can’t justify such without also saying that the mother or the father can be forced to give up their health at any time for the sake of the pregnancy, or indeed even for the sake of the offspring at any point in the future. After all, said offspring remains a person after birth, and continues to have had no say in having been grown and birthed.

              • Kodie

                It’s a superstitious position, which is what I presume you mean by “safest”.

      • Guest

        1. Turtles are endangered, human populations are booming. 2. Turtle embryos don’t live inside their mothers for 9 months, feeding on her, endangering her health and making it hard for her to go to work or study. If humans could just lay eggs and leave them, there’d be less need for abortions. Also turtle mothers don’t need to pay for their kids or support them for 16 years+. There’s no stigma attached to a turtle putting her kids up for adoption.

      • Edmond

        If we could ask the turtle MOTHERS about THEIR opinion, we would, and we’d give THAT more weight than our own opinions about the eggs. We can’t, but we CAN ask HUMAN mothers about their choices for their own bodies. So we do.
        So, that’s abortion. Got anything on same-sex marriages?

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        Because humans are not an endangered species.

        • baal

          I personally think a billion humans is enough. We should have support improved education and health care around the world until it happens.

      • baal

        “When it comes to abortion, why is it that the protection of innocent life a religious issue?”

        Because all the folks who want women to gestate dead fetuses or deformed ones or really wanted future babies but it’s an ectopic pregnancy which will kill the mother are religious. Further, the ‘souls at conception’ crowd are entirely religious. The secular anti-choice movement is essentially non-existant in the US (and most other places).

        You’re a smart person RW, surely you see that the so-called pro-life movement is an arm of the religious groups in the U.S.

        • Rwlawoffice

          Of course it is. But it doesn’t exclusively have to be and the pro life movement can be based upon the value of innocent human life without the religious aspect.

          • baal

            I agree with you in theory but the ‘innocent human life’ phrase sneaks in the religious viewpoint as a practical matter.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        You don’t know what the term “endangered, threatened or vulnerable species” means? For real? No, not for real. It isn’t that. It’s more likely that you don’t think through your statements until it’s too late, and then stick to them no matter what. Seriously, this is addressable and correctable.

        • phantomreader42

          No surprise, he doesn’t know what most words mean.

        • Rwlawoffice

          Of course I understand that but it makes no difference unless you think that the value of life depends upon how many still exist. The point is that liberal care more about unborn animals than unborn children.

      • smrnda

        Depends on the animal. You can be fined for feeding pigeons in Chicago and I believe NYC as well (haven’t been there in a while) because the birds are a menace. Hunting is permitted and encouraged because deer herds need to be thinned out because of lack of predators, so sometimes being pro-environment means killing animals.

      • Anna

        Actually, Robert, there are millions of animal abortions performed every year, and I would wager that the vast majority of atheists are perfectly okay with that. What do you think happens when a pregnant cat or dog is brought to an animal shelter? If it is early enough in the pregnancy, the female is spayed, thus terminating the fetuses. I don’t think anyone believes that puppy or kitten fetuses be protected at the expense of already-born dogs and cats, who are frequently euthanized due to lack of space.

      • Carmelita Spats

        Here we go again and I’m fixin’ to burst your bubble as sure as a horned toad eats flies for breakfast…If a turtle, a spotted owl, Jeffrey Dahmer and Jesus-Christ-On-A-Pogo-Stick crawled up my vulva and were drinking margaritas in my uterus, you can rest assured that I would yank the rascals out with a rusty grappling hook, a coat hanger or a legal abortion even if all four were on the endangered species list. I ain’t partial to turtles nor serial killers nor Yahweh’s brat. I would give Jesus Christ the EXACT same consideration as an endangered turtle who “poofed” itself inside my uterus by the power of the Holy Pigeon. My body, MY choice.

        How far do YOU go to protect innocent life? Do you view chemical contraception as an abortifacient that must be outlawed because it endangers children? The Roman Criminal Church views the pill and the IUD as ABORTIFACIENTS that terminate tiny lives since they *may* impact the lining of the uterus and cause a fertilized egg to be unable to implant itself. According to Catholic lore, a woman who uses the pill or the IUD has turned her uterus into a killing field, a Dachau for fertilized eggs.

        Here is “The Pill Kills”:
        http://www.thepillkills.com/

        Not to be outdone by Mary-worshiping rosary rattlers, the creepy Evangelicals are taking a second look at chemical contraception. The former head of the Southern Baptist Convention, Al Mohler, believes in outlawing the pill and the IUD because they KILL “tiny people”. This means that when discussing birth control options with my GYNECOLOGIST, I would have to consider not just MY health but the fate of any “potential children” potentially flushed out on a menstrual pad:

        http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/11/17/were-all-harry-blackmun-now-the-lessons-of-mississippi/

        Innocent life? How many post born children were mauled over in Iraq, a war that was pronounced “IMMORAL” by Pope John Paul II who was in NO WAY a “liberal”?

        Post Born Children:
        http://www.uruknet.info/pic.php?f=24haditha.jpeg

        Pope JPII and Iraq War:
        http://www.foxnews.com/story/2003/03/12/vatican-strongly-opposes-iraq-war/

        Here’s an idea: if you have daughters of child bearing age, you can gently and incessantly ask them to open their glorious and anointed uteri to a “Snowflake Baby” so as to demonstrate YOUR “pro-life” stance on their bodies which is better than shoving YOUR demented views on a nine-year-old rape victim. Better yet, maybe science will one day equip you with a vagina, a uterus, and you can squat and squirt “Snowflake Babies” to your “pro-life” heart’s content:

        Snowflake Babies for Adoption:
        http://www.nightlight.org/snowflake-embryo-adoption/

        Impregnated Nine Year Old in Brazil (happy ending–she had an abortion):
        http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1883598,00.html

        • The Other Weirdo

          …Mary-worshiping rosary rattlers…

          That’s a keeper, though I might have preferred, Mary-worshiping rosary rustlers. :)

        • Rwlawoffice

          You are a really vile woman. i pray you never have children, By the way I am not Catholic, so you can leave the anti catholic rant to yourself.

        • Ella Warnock

          I wonder how many little zygotes failed to implant while I was on the Pill, and just ended up in a sad little puddle on some piece of cotton cloth.

          Pffft, no, I don’t really wonder that at all.

      • Ewan

        Turtle eggs that have been laid on beaches aren’t reliant for their continued survival on leeching support from their mother’s body.

        One of the key reasons for being pro-choice is to protect the mothers bodily autonomy. Human pregnancy can be compared to organ donation – you might need a new kidney to avoid dying, but you don’t get to use my body to supply you with one unless I say so. A human fetus needs a woman’s body to avoid dying, but it doesn’t get to use it without her consent. With turtle eggs, that issue simply doesn’t arise – a mother turtle lays them, then swims away free to carry on with her life.

      • Bdole

        Is this a serious question? You’ve been here long enough that you’ve probably heard the responses to those questions dozens of times. Quit your bellyaching and misplaced self-righteousness.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      And often those liberal/conservative issues line up differently in different countries. One example: in Germany it’s the conservative parties who favor funding for the arts. The Green party in particular would eliminate such funding.

      In America these alignments often have to do historical matters and coalitions of interest groups. One can imagine a scenario in which Progressive elements in the Democratic party had courted religious groups vs Republicans who had joined with constituencies favoring the decriminalization of certain drugs and gay rights. That’s just not how that played out for a variety of reasons. There’s no reason that someone favoring limited government has to also be against abortion and gay marriage, but our politics pretty much forces GOP politicians to check off a list of positions in order to get through the primary process in most states. Democrats have a similar list of positions. Some countries have multiple parties that form coalitions. Our coalitions are within the parties which makes the coalitions more or less stable in ways that are sometimes beneficial and sometimes detrimental to the electoral prospects of either party.

      • 3lemenope

        Much of that is a lateral consequence of purely structural factors; a parliamentary system allows for more ideological flexibility at the cost of stability (through the formation of coalition governments) over the more boring but more staid congressional systems.

    • advancedatheist

      If you remove the religious reasons for why . . . abortion shouldn’t be legal you’re not left with very convincing arguments

      Other than the fact that women’s sexual freedom damages society in the long run? When high-IQ women stop having children because their biological function interferes with their “personal fulfillment,” while the low-IQ women like Mamma June pump out bastard kids fathered by random male trash, that dooms society to turn into an Idiocracy.

      • smrnda

        This only matters if you think that IQ is entirely hereditary, or that it’s a good measure of intelligence.

        But let’s think about this historically – most people during the Dark Ages were illiterate, and literate people supplied very few offspring compared to the illiterate peasant masses, yet I’d venture a guess that the descendents of the illiterate peasant masses today are indistinguishable, in terms of intelligence, from the better off people.

        As a high IQ woman who is sexually inactive, the idea that I somehow owe it to the world to have sex (I don’t feel like doing it) and then have kids (don’t feel like that one either) seems to be pretty much treating me as if I’m a thing that has to do what other people think I should. It’s also a bit presumptuous to demand that sexually active women have kids when they don’t feel like it. To me, that’s not that much different than some vulgar creep who thinks that women owe him sex.

        I got a solution – why not just provide better support to the kids who are being born from all of this ‘trash?’ I mean, let’s be honest, the reason some kids do better than others is all about early experiences, which affluent, educated parents can provide and which others cannot.

      • SeekerLancer

        And yet despite that both the United States and much of the world are following a steady trend towards increased secularism.

        IQ isn’t totally hereditary and taking away women’s rights in attempt to “outbreed” other groups of people is not a solution to anything. Better education and fighting against religious indoctrination is.

        Mike Judge movies are not documentaries.

      • RobMcCune

        And if people followed your regimen for breeding “superior” people, an idiocracy would seem the least horrible option.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    You mentioned that christians are generally conservative. I think I’d have to modify that to “evangelical christians are generally conservative”. I grew up mainstream protestant, and the church I was with was pretty strongly liberal, big on social issues and helping the poor. I think that obvious reason the Democratic Party is so hesitant to reach out to us is that they don’t want to risk losing the religious left, which is still most of their base.

    • 3lemenope

      Mainline protestants are pretty liberal. American Catholics tend to be *extremely* liberal, even moderately so on the social stuff despite the obvious doctrinal impediments. One has to stand in awe of the evangelical stranglehold over what people tend to assume, default, a christian is; it’s a stunning PR campaign success story, especially given how unreflective it is of large parts of reality.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        If the religious Left made themselves really known, we’d be looking at a completely different political discussion as a country, I think. It says volumes that ignorant people come to this site convinced that Democrats are mostly or entirely atheists.

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          Yep. As someone who spends a lot of time in liberal Christian churches (they are the only ones who still perform any of the good liturgical and classical religious music and therefore the only ones who hire me) I can attest that they are mostly socially liberal. Not 100% but enough and at worst they keep silent about social issues from the pulpit. I never hear about abortion and when gay rights are mentioned it is always positive (or else I would not come back). However, they are also not the type to stand in the street screaming and because our current media landscape seems only interested in the screamers, and because liberal Christians tend not to be the pushy sort, they aren’t represented in the media very often and when they are they can’t get a word in edgewise.

        • smrnda

          They try, but then they are denounced as “Not True Christians” by people with a bigger media empire.

          • 3lemenope

            They need to pick up ye olde scotsman stick and thwack a few evangelicals with it. Turnabout! It’s fair play.

    • LizBert

      That is true, I know many liberal Christians. I think the extreme religious rhetoric coming out the right isn’t doing what they hope it will. Young people are moving away from churches much faster than previous generations and I’m sure that social policy plays a big role in that. My husband was raised Catholic and still believes to some extent but wants nothing to do with the church because of their stances on things like women and sexuality. When I see people like my step-brother posting divisive things like No True Catholic Votes Democrat, I laugh because he has no idea that he’s driving people out of his beloved church faster than if he was actually loading them into vans.

  • Marisa Totten

    I am definately socially liberal. I would like to think of myself as fiscally conservative, but my conservative friends disagree. What I am is a humanist who believes the government has a responsibility to the governed, and that moves me to believe issues like health care and care of the disabled/disadvantaged shouldn’t be decided along fiscal lines. I tend to agree with libertarians on most foreign policy issues but I am not a “closed borders” type of person, I believe we should have a global presence but it’s not the US’ job to “spread democracy” or be too vocal on human rights issues until we get our own squared away. I’m content to let others define me politically along their own biases.

    • BradGunnerSGT

      I think that Rachel Maddow summed it up best: “I’m undoubtedly a liberal, which means that I’m in almost total agreement with the Eisenhower-era Republican party platform.”. This is pretty much where I stand, too, which confuses the hell out of my friends. ;)

      They can’t understand that while I have historically voted Democrat more often than Republican, I don’t consider myself part of either party. I have voted more on my “socially liberal” side since the GOP has been co-opted by the Christian Right into the American Taliban. The party of “smaller government and personal responsibility” has turned into the party of “smaller government and personal responsibility, except for your sex life, where we want to be all up in your business”.

      I also have Libertarian leanings in some areas, but I don’t go to the extreme of saying “if people wanted better health care they should have worked harder before they got sick” like the Rand Paul people.

      In my opinion, any “-ism” (liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, capitalism, socialism, etc…) taken to it’s logical extreme is going to lead to pretty horrible results for the society that tries it, especially as the society gets larger. We’ve tried all of the extremes, and most of the combinations, and it’s pretty obvious that it is going to take a balance of them all to form a long-lasting society. We are getting there in fits and starts, but we are moving toward the goal.

      • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

        Perhaps you are simply in favor of common sense and reality-based policies.

      • Sweetredtele

        Maddow is way right wing, at least to us Bull Moose. Pretty sad that a platform from 100 years ago is, with a few exceptions, equally as relevant today.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Party_(United_States,_1912)

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      I think of myself the same way, but my Idea of fiscal conservative does not line up with how Republicans govern. Our choices are between borrow and spend Republicans and tax and spend Democrats. Paying for the programs you want from the government is, in my opinion, the only fiscally responsible position. If you don’t want to pay the taxes, then do without the services. In my lifetime Democrats have be far more fiscally responsible than Republicans.

  • Guest

    Both/either, any. Atheism is a lack of belief in God. It doesn’t automatically lead to any set of political beliefs. People have other reasons for being conservative or liberal.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    Are people who don’t believe in unicorns liberal or conservative? Why even bother asking that? All that unites them is disbelief in unicorns. We span the spectrum. Why isn’t this well known?

    Who is the audience of some of these video series segments? Conservative Christians? People who’ve never met an atheist? Is this an outreach series for people who know almost nothing about us?

  • Guest

    Last time there was an election, I voted Liberal Democrat. I’ve been voting for them since I could vote, in fact. But now I’m thinking of switching to Labour, because of Cleggs’ failure to get anything out of working with the Conservatives.

  • WallofSleep

    “Are Atheists Liberal or Conservative?”

    Um, no?

  • Doug

    Any chance of putting captions on your videos, or providing transcripts?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      On our own, I don’t think we have the time to, but if anyone wanted to offer a transcript, we’ll get it in the video!

  • Will

    I think a more interesting question would be, what stands up better to skeptical inquiry, liberalism or conservatism? Can science help us find the best policies? Who do the facts support?
    I don’t actually know the answers, btw, I just wish more skeptics analysed political claims as well as bigfoot.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      As practiced in 2013 American politics, both major political parties have irrational views not supported by reason or evidence. You have to pick between the two or stay home and let others decide for you. Those are the choices.

      • 3lemenope

        You have to pick between the two or stay home and let others decide for you. Those are the choices.

        Not to pick on your comment, but I dearly wish the whole “you have two choices” trope would crawl into a dark corner somewhere and die. Third parties have had profound, even transformative effects in American politics, and they are as viable an avenue to pursue effective political change as glomming onto one or the other “major” party.

        The preeminent example in American history is the GOP itself, which at one point was a third party in every sense of the word and rose to prominence after displacing the Whigs. Probably more important for our purposes, though, would be the Populist and Socialist parties from 1880-1920 or so. Neither party was directly successful at getting national offices elected, and yet through widespread public support pretty much every single one of their policy priorities made it into the two major party platforms, many of which–direct election of senators, women’s right to vote, Social Security, looser currency, state referenda, regulations of capitalism, and farming subsidies–still exist in large part today. They lost at being parties, but won in every way that matters.

        • LizBert

          I question the real usefulness of 3rd parties. In Canada they just split the liberal vote and effectively give the less popular overall conservatives more power.

    • smrnda

      The smart thing is to look to countries with better outcomes than the US, and then try to figure out what they did and adapt it to our own country. That’s what you do if you’re running a business – you see how other people succeeded and study it and apply what you can.

      The problem is that means accepting that the US might have something to learn from another nation which goes against the BESTEST COUNTRY EVER rhetoric that is mandatory for conservatives and often so for liberals as well.

  • égalité

    I’m a Libertarian Left, State Capitalist.

  • Paula M Smolik

    I was raised conservative and Christian. The less I believed in conservative politics, the less I believed religion was right. It was a long journey of about 20 years, but the two happened together and so parallel that I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg. I believed something completely different when I was young. I’ve been on both sides of the political fence looking over at the other side, wondering HOW people could be that stupid. I don’t see how anyone can be atheist and conservative, considering how much conservative policy is based on the bible.

  • Grotoff

    I would say that the fundamental principle that leads to atheism is questioning. Questioning authority is a fundamental “liberal” principle. By that I mean the old school liberals.

    In the modern US, you’ll find atheists in both major political parties and in many of the rest as well.

  • Jeff Akston

    The fact that I don’t believe in God has nothing to do. Literally zero to do with whether I think people should be able to own guns, what I think the corporate tax rate should be, where I think affirmative action should be a thing, whether I think there should be universal healthcare or gun control, or school choice, or whether pot should be legal. None of it.

    There are some social issues which are largely informed by religion (abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment [or one would think]), but they are few and far between.

    One of my biggest problems with the new atheist movement is that they continue to use this as merely just another an anti-Republican movement. If you actually cared about promoting atheism, you would call Obama to task and the host of Democrats who also pander to religion time and time again.

    • Guest

      Why don’t you suggest/link some stories of Democrats pandering to religion to the atheist bloggers here, or even start your own blog?

  • JET

    I’ve always been socially liberal and somewhat fiscally conservative. In the past I have tended to vote for candidates and issues regardless of their association with the Democratic or Republican party. Until very recently, I probably voted equally on both sides, skewed toward Republican for local offices and skewed toward Democratic in statewide or national elections.
    But since the rise of the Tea Party and since the fundamentalist Christians have shanghaied the Republican Party, I have not found a candidate in the GOP who didn’t scare the shit out of me. In order to get backing from these groups, it seems a candidate has to be anti-science, anti-education, anti-civil rights and for the establishment of a theocracy based on their version of mythology. Maybe I feel this way because I’m an atheist, but more likely it is because I’m a secularist, and secularism is a dirty word when it comes to today’s Republicans.

  • Brian

    Hit the nail on the head, Hemant. Democrats DO recognize that atheists vote for them, however they will not reach out to us so long as doing so can be used against them by their opponents. It will change eventually, but for the time being, associating with atheists is political suicide for most politicians, especially the farther up the food chain you go in politics.

    • Mario Strada

      It’s because they know we have little choice.

  • Ed Selby

    There is a very easy answer to that question — the answer is “Yes”

  • Joe

    The easy answer to this question is “Yes”.

  • Angi Ripli

    Being an Atheist does not require belief in unnatural relations. Simply put, an Atheist recognizes Reality. Reality is truth- and truth is relative. However Fact is Fact- and science is fact. Therefore, are Atheists liberal- or conservative…are all grapes sour- do all babies have blue eyes?

  • Clark

    This video gives people the wrong impression of what Atheism means. It simply means one does not believe in god or gods. After that absolutely everything is open. I know you say, “usually,” but it is silly to identify us by anything but people who don’t believe in god or gods.

  • Bdole

    If Republicans=conservative and Democrats=liberal then I’m neither. I’m pro common sense and determining solutions based on their merits and how they address the problem at hand on a case by case basis. But, apparently that’s just too much for the average American voter, so we’re forced to take our political positions in bundles like Happy Meals.

  • quickshot

    Hemant, you are much more friendly on video than you are on blog form.

    Also, you are selling your viewers short: ALL politicians are vote-hungry weasels who will do anything to get elected. No one, atheist, Christian, or otherwise should put their hope in a politician. They will be let down %100 of the time.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      False equivalence, as conservative politicians are documented as outright lying about even their intentions on a regular basis, let alone their ability to keep promises.

      Your lot would be complaining about Hemant’s alleged “unfriendliness” no matter what, as your problem isn’t with his quite generous attitude, but with the presentation of facts. We’ve seen that many times; theists calling him and other atheists angry, irrational and rude for doing nothing more than quoting other theists word for word. Our organizations have even tested it and been disappointingly unsurprised at the results. You’ve gone off the deep end over signs that said nothing, nothing but the word “Atheism.” You’ve had fits over a sign that just had pictures of cats because a secularist convention had the nerve to put it up.

      Those with a stake in their privilege portray truth as hostility when they feel that privilege is threatened.

      • quickshot

        Soooo, because conservatives are REALLY bad then we should be democrats? Or, are you a democrat who took offense to my comment?

        And who exactly is my “lot”?

  • directmail4churches.com

    Atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. And determining how many atheists exist in the world today is too difficult.


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