Do non-believers tend towards a certain political view?


Disclaimer: all quotes from the AHS Convention are para-phrasings, not direct.

I've just been, yesterday, to the National Federation for Atheist, Humanist, and Secular Student ...' conference in Conway Hall, London. The AHS are a group wholly facilitated and supported by the - perhaps more familiar - British Humanist Association, and the day involved many high-profile Humanists giving salient, topical, and often humorous talks to an audience of mainly student society leaders.

The speakers included Jim Al-Khalili, a Physicist, broadcaster, and the new President of the BHA; Robin Ince, a well-known Atheist comedian and co-host of the Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox on Radio 4; Andrew Copson, Chief executive of the BHA; Polly Toynbee, Guardian columnist and former BHA President; and many more notable and inspirational people.

I mention this because, during the Q&A after Polly Toynbee's talk, a very interesting point was made... A self-identifying 'Conservative Libertarian' seemed at pains with the idea that potential Humanists could be put off from identifying with the label because the organisation tends to take left-wing political views on various issues (and it's leading members are themselves vocally left-wing). According to my memory of it at least, the issue was - in his mind - a misrepresentation of the members of the BHA, as it 'was not meant to be a political organisation'.

Again, to my memory, Polly made the point in reply that the stance that the BHA takes on certain public ethical issues - such as assisted dying and sexual/reproductive rights - is intrinsically left-wing. Andrew Copson noted too, that (after beginning with 'Let me say something about the Tories', which had the hall laughing) while the BHA did have associations with Conservatives, those Tories tended to be the most left-wing of the right - perhaps of the same somewhat paradoxical group of  'Conservative Libertarians' as the man who asked the question... (Read more of this post)

Views: 51

Tags: AHScon, Athiesm, BHA, Conservative, Humanism, Left-wing, NAP, Politics, Secularism

Comment by SteveInCO on March 3, 2013 at 11:17pm

Interesting question and one near and dear to my heart, as I have run into so much casual presumption that because I am atheist I am necessarily leftist--from both atheists and non-atheists!  Where the hell does that package deal come from?

Atheist organizations (i.e., one that have "Atheist" or "Freethinker" or something like that in their name) to my mind should very carefully stick to church-state separation issues when they do politics, or they are in fact devaluing atheists who don't agree with their non-religion-related agenda.  Strictly speaking, this probably really ought to include feminism and gay rights which really aren't intrinsically religious or rather anti-religious issues, BUT there is so much misogyny and homophobia in the bible I give them a pass on this, especially if they tend to focus on how much bad shit is in the bible/quran/whatever-low-grade-toilet-paper-pad they are talking about.

There is a freethinker's group where I but when you go to their meeting they preach left/liberalism from the "pulpit" and I tried to tell the new president that was driving away a lot of libertarian atheists (such as me and many of my friends).  It's one thing to discuss things socially, it's another to do it from the "pulpit"--the implication is you aren't a real freethinker unless you are on the left somewhere.  Is it any wonder so many people give them the finger?  The guy who does it the most bitches about people "forbidding him to talk about politics" but the problem is he's doing it with the imprimatur of the organization.

Similarly the "Atheist Party" that had a table at the reason rally, had a platform that was basically left/liberal/progressive and only ONE, maybe two, planks actually had anything to do with atheism.  Non starter for me as church-state is NOT the only issue I vote on.  Yes, I bitched about it.

Now when the group is called "Humanist" (American Humanist Association, BHA) it's a different story, because Humanism is not just atheism, it is atheism with a lot of "you are obligated to care for your fellow man" thrown in--which logically leads to left/liberal politics.  I notice that's who you are actually talking about here.  And as far as I am concerned those groups are honestly labeled, not trying to intimidate all atheists into supporting their specific platform.  If you are not a humanist, including the left-ish politics... don't join!

So even though I'd sympathize with the complaint the libertarian made at the meeting under many circumstances this isn't one of them.  He did it at a HUMANIST event, not a broader atheist one. So he's wrong.


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