***Update (10/20/14)***: There have been several accusations of plagiarism leveled at Werleman. I’m not sure if this piece was affected but just wanted to point that out.
We know Republican atheists exist.
Sure, we’ll roll our eyes at their affiliation and say to ourselves that they support the GOP only for fiscal reasons, but we’re really wondering how they deal with all the cognitive dissonance that has to be going on in their heads. How could any atheist support a party that focuses way too damn much on guns, God, and gays?
CJ Werleman has a simple answer to that question and it’s the title of his latest book: Atheists Can’t Be Republicans: If Facts and Evidence Matter
In the excerpt below, Werleman summarizes his case:
You’re an atheist for one reason and one reason only: you’re not an idiot!
Actually, that’s what I once thought. I don’t think that anymore, for I have come in contact with as many idiot atheists as I have with idiot Christians, Jews, and Muslims. For instance, Penn Jillette happens to be an atheist, but he’s also a clown. A professional clown whose libertarian beliefs make him an idiot. CNN’s S.E. Cupp is also an atheist and libertarian. Yes, the Cupp is half empty, for she is also a clown, but unlike Jillette, she is actually paid to be taken seriously. Over a stellar lifetime career of accurate and insightful geopolitical commentating, Christopher Hitchens was rarely proven wrong, but on the rare occasion he was, it was when he hitched his wagon to the Republican Party. Remember Iraq?
You’re an atheist for one reason and one reason only: you see no evidence for the existence of gods. That’s it. The genesis of your atheism doesn’t need to be any more nuanced or sophisticated than that. You don’t believe in things that can’t be measured, tested, or proven. It’s why you most likely don’t believe in astrology, homeopathy, or scientology.
While atheism alone does not ensure a smarter-than-thou intellect, non-belief does have an intellectual advantage over theism. Hitchens wrote that the intellectual advantage of atheism is its ability to reject unprovable assertions on face value. It’s why we don’t believe in the supernatural. We demand facts and evidence, and equally, we reject mythical notions and ideologies on the basis that these ideas lack, well, facts and evidence.
You have as much in common with another atheist as you do with someone who doesn’t believe in unicorns. But you don’t get an interesting title for not believing in unicorns or fairies or zombies. It’s only when you don’t believe in a god that you get a name: atheist. It’s for this reason why atheists don’t necessarily have much in common politically. There are conservative atheists, libertarian atheists, and progressive atheists. There are atheists who are fiscally conservative and socially progressive.
If there’s a common political thread, it’s that all atheists are secularists. An atheist who doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state makes as much sense as a Klansman who doesn’t believe in white people. That atheists are secularists is one reason why atheists can’t be member of today’s Republican Party. More on that point later.
Atheists can’t be Republicans because the economic and social policies of the Republican Party have been proven abjectly false and dangerous. Much in the same way religion is false and dangerous. In other words, atheists who cling onto modern U.S. conservative ideology are hanging onto ideas that have either been proven mythical at worst or remain unproven at best. If atheists applied the same litmus test to their political ideology as they do to theology, then clearly an atheist cannot be a Republican.
The Grand Old Party (GOP) is not only a theocratic sponsor, it’s a party that has been proven wrong on just about everything in the past three decades or more: from evolution to climate change, trickle-down economics, that the Iraqis would greet us as liberators, that the Bush tax cuts would lead to jobs. It didn’t. It added $3 trillion to the debt. They were wrong when they said the stimulus would trigger inflation, that austerity stimulates an economy in recession and that universal healthcare is worse than slavery, and they continue to prescribe debunked policies. That is when they aren’t carrying out a reenactment of the American Civil War in the chambers of the U.S. Congress i.e. obstruction, nullification, and disruption.
Now, bear in mind this book is not an endorsement of the Democratic Party. For most of the past three decades, much of the Democratic Party bought into the myth of conservative economics. Partly due to political expediency — meaning the DNC has made itself dependent on Wall Street, although not to the same degree as the GOP, when it comes to campaign fundraising. I blame the Clintons for this. President Clinton believed that in order for Democrats to win, they needed to sound like Republicans. Political polling not only demonstrates his belief to be wrong, but it also sold out the progressive agenda. No doubt you have your own shit-list of examples where Democrats have fallen short of expectations. My list is longer than the menu of a popular Chinese restaurant. But surrendering your vote and activism, insofar as whining that both major political parties are rotten at the core, is an intellectually lazy cop out. Also, it’s exactly what the plutocratic pro-corporate elites and the Republican Party want of you. They want you disillusioned and disengaged. Low voter turnout and dissatisfaction with government is the ambition of those who wish to continue the exacerbation of America’s winner-takes-all society. So stop handing the Masters of the Universe a political gift.
Now, not only am I a professional political commentator, I’m also a confessed political junkie. It’s what I do. It’s what I love. But I get that 90 percent of the country doesn’t share my passion for following day-to-day machinations of Washington. Most tune in to politics only in the weeks leading into a general election. For those who do pay attention to every last bit of minutiae, however, it’s clear that one political party in this country has entirely given up on representing the interests of anyone outside of the top 1 percent of income earners — the Republican Party. And this is gradually and in many instances rapidly eradicating the middle class.
For all the Democratic Party’s shortfalls, they are the only party that is making fact based attempts to deal intelligently with the nation’s needs and ills. It’s the Democrats who are trying to reform the healthcare system, the immigration system, banking system, campaign finance system, and the tax code. It’s Democrats who are fighting to raise the minimum wage, strengthen public safety nets, implement green initiatives, protect LGBT Americans, and improve public infrastructure. It’s the Democrats who are making gradual steps to end the drug war and foreign wars. The Republican Party, on the other hand, has not a single coherent policy outside of tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, nullification, abortion, guns, god, repealing healthcare reform, Benghazi, and rejecting any attempt by Democrats to deal intelligently with the nation’s problems. America can’t become great again by making the rich richer and constantly repeating the word “no.”
The purpose of this book is to demonstrate the destructiveness that mythical conservative economic and social thinking has wrought on this country, and then, in turn, provide some kind of blueprint for restoring America’s greatness.
You cannot make America better by subsidizing already wealthy companies that pay low or no taxes thanks to a tax code that has been redesigned for their exclusive benefit; nor can you make America better by cutting investment in public infrastructure, and removing regulation that keeps our food, water, and skies safe. It serves no one’s interest outside of the very fortunate few to privatize and monopolize every touchstone of our lives. The strength of our democracy is weakened when we alienate segments of the population from the democratic process, as does denying equal rights to all on the basis of “religious freedom.” These are commonly accepted truisms, but far too many atheists continue to subscribe to a political party that advocates the opposite.
I am an atheist, but I have no real affinity to my atheism. To be honest, I don’t get the whole let’s get together and talk about the god we don’t believe in thing. Each to their own, of course, but that’s not me. What I’m more interested in is the potential political and civic power atheists (freethinkers) have as some kind of wishful monolithic voting bloc. Atheists are the fastest growing minority in the country. We now have the critical mass to shape elections and policy. Were atheists able to establish a monolithic political demographic, one that is based on proven economic and social policies, then our potential political power would translate into saving this country from the clutches of the American Taliban and Wall Street.
Atheists Can’t Be Republicans: If Facts and Evidence Matter is now available on Amazon. On a side note, I’m very amused by the fact that, despite this being Kindle-only, the cover image is still that of a physical book.
(Minor edits were made to the text.)