Herding cats, birds, lions, sharks, and rabbits »« Lighter than air

Going for the numbers

Many people have been annoyed-to-furious with American Atheists and Dave Silverman over the past few days over their courtship of members of the batshit-rightwing community. AA was going to have a table at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), but then CPAC changed its mind and gave AA its money back. Dave went to the conference anyway, and talked to lots of people there.

Raw Story reported on some of those conversations on Friday.

[Silverman] seems an unlikely proselytizer for this suit-and-bow-tie crowd, tearing into his subject with the wired energy of an old-school punk rock fan. But he claims it’s working.

“I came with the message that Christianity and conservatism are not inextricably linked,” he told me, “and that social conservatives are holding down the real conservatives — social conservatism isn’t real conservatism, it’s actually big government, it’s theocracy. I’m talking about gay rights, right to die, abortion rights –”

Hold on, I said, I think the Right to Life guys who have a booth here, and have had every year since CPAC started, would disagree that they’re not real conservatives.

“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

That’s one of the items that people are riled about (apart from the basic issue of going there at all). It’s a bit tangled. At first Dave is saying that conservatism needn’t be social conservatism, because that’s actually big government and theocracy, and conservatism ought to be opposed to that – so conservatism should have no problem with gay rights, right to die, abortion rights. Then the reporter, Roy Edroso, says but there are anti-abortion people here, and they would say they are conservatives. Then Dave says there is a secular argument against abortion, so opposing abortion isn’t necessarily theocratic. So that could be a genuine conservative position, because it’s not theocratic, while school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage are issues to do with church and state.

Well, there are a lot of conservatives who are conservatives because they want the lowest possible taxes on themselves and no unions or minimum wage or national health; such conservatives may be socially liberal, or indifferent. But guess what: that doesn’t mean they’re interested in pulling away from the social conservatives. You know why? Because votes, that’s why. They can’t win by themselves, so they put up with a lot of bullshit that they don’t personally like, in order to win, in order to have lower taxes.

So Dave coming along and dangling atheism in front of them is not very likely to make them go anywhere. And meanwhile it’s pissing off his supporters in the other direction, so it might not be such a hot idea.

Then he expands on his own political views.

But why is this his battle? Why not let conservatives be conservatives and just vote for the candidates he likes? “Because I want a choice,” said Silverman. “I don’t get a choice at the voting booth, ever.” He describes himself as a “fiscally conservative” voter who “owns several guns. I’m a strong supporter of the military. I think fiscal responsibility is very important. I see that as pretty conservative. And I have my serious suspicions about Obama. I don’t like that he’s spying on us. I don’t like we’ve got drones killing people…” In the final analysis, “the Democrats are too liberal for me,” he says.

See I can’t make sense of that part at all. Those suspicions of Obama aren’t right-wing suspicions, they’re left-wing suspicions. The right wing is all for spying on us (does the name George Bush ring a bell?) and it thinks drones are the best fun ever. The Democrats aren’t too liberal for Dave, at least not on the issues he listed there; they’re too conservative for him.

Secular Census points out that the numbers don’t support this move anyway – they really don’t support it. There are so few Republicans on Team Atheism it’s a joke.

There are several survey questions; let me show you just one:

For which presidential candidate did you vote in 2012? [Question visible only to those who've indicated they voted.]

  • 82.5% Barack Obama
  • 06.2% Jill Stein
  • 03.1% Gary Johnson
  • 00.9% Mitt Romney

[remainder were other / can't remember / etc.]

See what I mean? Does it seem worth pissing off that 88% for the hope of attracting some of the .9%? That’s POINT nine percent. Does it?

I would say no.

Historically, secular identity organizations have gone to some trouble to accommodate their conservative minorities, taking care not to alienate Republican and/or libertarian members with positions too far to the left on issues (like reproductive rights) that might be seen as “non-core.” One of our motivations for creating the American Secular Census was, in fact, to try to quantify the prevalence of conservatism among Secular Americans, since we have suspected for some time that it is less than believed by organizations’ leaders, boards, and staff. So far, our statistics have borne out this theory. So why are groups continuing to accommodate — and now actively courting — conservatives into the secular movement, especially at a time when organizations’ support for, and relevance to, women is being debated?

Maybe secular leaders aren’t aware of these political statistics …? Except that they are. These very figures were posted by us on a listserv of leader-subscribers of these two and many other organizations in July of 2013, following a claim by one leader that 30% of secular voters are Republican. We asked for a citation on that figure, were never given a primary source for it, and then posted these figures as clarification for our request. There was no followup to our post.

That one leader was Edwina Rogers of SCA.

So, yeah. Many of us have been getting increasingly alienated from the atheist and secularist movements because they seem to have shitty politics on a lot of issues. The Secular Census post shows us that they’re not even making a good cynical move.

Comments

  1. bcmystery says

    The other day when Stephanie posted about the existence of the atheist movement, I remember getting to the end of it and thinking she’d made her point and that I didn’t dispute it, but so what? The atheist movement is a thing which contains Thunderfoot and Justin Vacula, and for that matter, Dave Silverman. Those are people with whom I have only one thing in common. What I don’t have in common with them are values which are fundamental to who I am: liberalism, a belief women are people, that laissez-faire economics cause widespread harm, etc.

    And, sure, someone will jump up to defend Dave Silverman as not being Thunderfoot or Vacula. But here’s what I know about Dave Silverman: he proclaims his gun ownership as a value signifier and throws women’s choice under the bus to make points with CPAC assholes. He might be mostly all right in some interpersonal, hang-at-a-conference-bar-with-him sense, but he also chose to thrust himself into the national conversation this weekend by standing tall with those who vehemently oppose basic human decency. His atheism doesn’t mean shit next to that.

    I have more in common with religious liberals than I do with secular conservatives. What Dave Silverman did this weekend was make the atheist movement less relevant to me. Perhaps he’s okay with that. Honestly, with people who say “the Democrats are too liberal for me” at the helm of the movement, I’m fine with it too.

  2. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I’d get all cynical here about that 0.09% likely having quite a bit of disposable income, but I think I need to start thinking happier thoughts. :)

  3. Katherine Woo says

    Sure the type of atheists that feel the need to be part of some entity known as “Team Atheist” and write “Secular American” with a capital-S are probably all liberal-left types of one sort or another.

    The Republicans can get appreciable percentages of gay men to vote for them, despite actually wanting to impose legal restrictions on them, yet this Secular Census organization wants people to believe less than 1% of the secular populace voted for Romney, some 4700% less than American voters as a whole. Complete and utter bullshit. Polls from organizations with an advocacy bias are grade-A balonium in most cases — and this one exemplifies why.

    Here are some actual poll numbers on abortion, political affiliation, and gender:
    http://www.people-press.org/2012/08/22/the-complicated-politics-of-abortion/

    And yeah, the leftwing politics do alienate people, starting with myself. I am a non-white, childfree woman with a STEM degree and a lot of your leftist bullshit pisses me off as I make clear here on a regular basis. I found this blog because Ophelia does not tolerate one important area; the ridiculous accommodation of religion and culture in terms of misogyny.

  4. Katherine Woo says

    Some actual credible polling data is here:
    http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/

    Among religiously unaffiliated Americans the conservative-moderate-liberal-N/A split was 20-38-38-4.

    Support for abortion was 72%, but not nearly as overwhelming as some would imply with their outrage (I admamantly support abortion rights just to be clear, more than many Democratic politicians i might add). Also note the views on governments role in socio-economic terms — not that different from the general populace.

    I realize this poll does not tease out differences between atheists (2.4%), agnostics (3.3%), and unaffiliated (13.9%), although it did note the distinction. I would add it is pretty arrogant of Secular Census to use the term “Secular Americans” because it implies only non-believers can truly be secular citizens.

  5. zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait says

    Katherine, I take issue with your claim that the Secular Census “poll” is wrong because of self selection, and then using a poll which is at best 1/3 representative of non-believers as a counter argument.

    What’s more, let’s be clear that “moderate,liberal,conservative” are not great ways of determining actual views because the words are nebulous and many fairly liberal people will describe themselves as moderate or conservative, and some conservatives will call themselves moderate.

    I understand skepticism about the result, but I think both your statistics and the website support:

    1. There are far more liberal and moderate atheists than not.
    2. The atheist “base” of support is overwhelmingly liberal.

  6. Silentbob says

    @ 3 Katherine Woo

    … a lot of your leftist bullshit pisses me off as I make clear here on a regular basis. I found this blog because Ophelia does not tolerate one important area; the ridiculous accommodation of religion and culture in terms of misogyny.

    That’s odd. The only thing I’ve noticed you complaining about (endlessly) is alleged religious and cultural accommodationism. If that’s not the problem, which part of ‘our’ leftist bullshit pisses you off?

  7. Katherine Woo says

    zhunge, the basis of the Secular Census poll was “based on the viewpoints of American Secular Census registrants,” so yes, that is about as glaring a self-selection bias as you can get. I mean truly an exemplar of the problem.

    Secular Census in turn chose to make claims about “Secular Americans.” To even begin to defend their poll, you have to immediately change the goal posts to “non-believers” on their behalf. They are sunk by their own shoddy method and hubris.

    I agree self-identification is a problem, but only because the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are stretched and abused for the sake of simplicity. The reactionary right and left do not fit those labels really. There is an entire leftist literature devoted to denouncing liberalism as racist, colonialist, etc. based on its claims of universality and emphasis on the individual over the group.

  8. Katherine Woo says

    @Silentbob

    A lot of what I am talking about is not here on this blog. Racist paternalism towards non-whites is the most egregious sin I see, which I loudly denounce (and one that connects to some of the accomodationism).*

    But there are plenty of leftists out there that bash gun owners exercising our Constitutional right, have kneejerk fears of GMOs, brand as ‘racist’ anyone who does not think illegal immigration is swell, and all around act like leftwing versions of the Fox News crowd (narrative before facts).

    *Much to Opehlia’s chagrin – and yes, I was over the top the other day with the stock photo criticism. I apologize. I do feel the white people pejoratively talking about “white people” trend on some leftwing sites is unbecoming of any sincere liberal.

  9. Anathema says

    @ Katherine Woo:

    Pew does break down the distinction between atheists, agnostics, and the rest of the unaffiliated in their political affiliations here. It claims that 14% of atheists identify as conservative, 27% identify as moderate, 50% identify as liberal, and 8% either don’t know or refused to answer.

    Pew does a similar break down for the results on abortion here. 41% of atheists said that abortion should be legal in all cases, 42% said that it should be legal in most cases, 8% said that it should be illegal in most cases, 5% said that it should be illegal in all cases, and 5% either didn’t know or refused to answer the question.

  10. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    Why is he willing to piss off the lefties?
    C’mion, this isn’t hard.
    We are not the people he wants in his movement.
    He doesn’t want to frighten away the right wing assholes and misogynists because that’s the sort of movement he wants.
    We’ve been played. Silverman needs our support to help him and white straight, cis, men who happen to be atheists like him gain political power, not so they can change the system, but so they can be management.
    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  11. doubtthat says

    But there are plenty of leftists out there that bash gun owners exercising our Constitutional right, have kneejerk fears of GMOs, brand as ‘racist’ anyone who does not think illegal immigration is swell, and all around act like leftwing versions of the Fox News crowd (narrative before facts).

    Haha, really? Those are your go to examples to create an equivalency between RADICAL leftists and conservative whack-a-doodles?

  12. drken says

    If David Silverman didn’t go to CPAC, there would be no Atheist voices there. That alone is a reason for him to go. He probably won’t make much headway with the “moral majority” types that form its base, but it’s about being visible so we can’t be completely ignored. A sisyphian quest, perhaps. But, a lot of activism requires that. Hopefully, he found a few libertarians there and made some people realize that you can be both conservative and Atheist. A old high school buddy of mine went last year as Editor-in-Chief of High Times magazine and said he was the most popular guy in the place. So, you can’t write off anybody.

    I really don’t want to see Atheism (or any part of it) turn into what we see with JRF and the Skeptic Society, where libertarian evangelism ends up turning off many people who would otherwise be allies. Yes, you can be an Atheist no matter where you fall on the left-right political spectrum. No, you don’t have to be pro-choice, anti-gun, or even against anti-LGBT discrimination laws. I’m sure there are secular reasons for all those things. I don’t have to agree with them, but there should be no other qualifications for being Atheist than not believing in god.

  13. Jackie, all dressed in black says

    Why do we need atheist voices at CPAC? Do we need atheist voices in the KKK? These people are unrepentant bigots and liars.We do not need to join them. We need to fight them.

  14. Reggie Dunlap says

    Reading the responses to Silverman shows me that people want to live in bubbles where they agree. You don’t accomplish things by insulting everyone who disagrees with you, and painting them in the least charitable light. It isn’t as fun to find common ground as it is to have your blood boiling with outrage. But peaceful measured engagement is a more successful method than antagonism. I cringe everrytime I hear my pro choice dusters and brothers raging about the role of god in the debate. The fact is that in the courts god has no weight. All the laws such as the ones recent passed in Texas have been passed with secular language. 40+ years of debate have defined this argument in a secular playing field. Instead of railing against a strawman that pro lifers want their god to rule their body I’d like to see smarter tactics. Pro lifers want less abortions. Making the argument that contraception and education will reduce abortions and using the pro lifers desires to advance something beneficial to both parties would be better than antagonizing them with the least charitable hyperbole of their positions. I don’t see enough if it.

  15. doubtthat says

    Reading the responses to Silverman shows me that people want to live in bubbles where they agree. You don’t accomplish things by insulting everyone who disagrees with you, and painting them in the least charitable light.

    Here in the real world we have a president who has done everything possible to negotiate with, convince, cajole and cooperate with the right wing, including voluntarily making his programs shittier to gain their suuprt (no public option, insufficient stimulus, sequester…etc.), and to what end? What has been gained by this? Is there a single issue where “cooperation” with conservatives has yielded a remotely positive effect over the last 20 years?

    And recall that CPAC is the craziest of the crazy. Is Silverman going to convince Bachman that Obama really isn’t a harbinger of the Apocalypse? Is an atheist booth going to negate Coulter’s blatant racism? Will Rand Paul give up his land of make-believe glibertarianism? What’s the point?

    Now, if Silverman is just a atheist right winger – and there seems to be a growing number of these folks, at least on the internet – then he should just say so. I would rather support a god-bothering politician advocating for positive policy objectives than a non-believer who is “fiscally conservative,” whatever the fuck that means these days.

    But peaceful measured engagement is a more successful method than antagonism.

    Can you offer a single major policy point where this approach has been effective since Bill Clinton took office? I see two possibilities: 1) you won’t offer any or 2) the examples you give will just show that you have completely different policy objectives in mind (like welfare reform or deregulation or our wonderful cooperation on initiating the war in Iraq…).

    Making the argument that contraception and education will reduce abortions and using the pro lifers desires to advance something beneficial to both parties would be better than antagonizing them with the least charitable hyperbole of their positions. I don’t see enough if it.

    Do you honestly think that no one has considered this before? This has been tried time and time again. Speaking as someone who grew up in Kansas, you can scream to the heavens that the abortion rate dropped under Clinton policies, but that won’t make a dent. You are assuming, in defiance to every bit of evidence available, that you’re dealing with rational people and a rational approach will yield results.

    Go find a Planned Parenthood in a Red State and explain this brilliant new idea to the folks standing outside and picketing — hell, try to explain it to a Republican member of Congress — let’s see how far you get.

  16. smhll says

    Making the argument that contraception and education will reduce abortions and using the pro lifers desires to advance something beneficial to both parties would be better than antagonizing them with the least charitable hyperbole of their positions. I don’t see enough if it

    I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at the topic.

    The argument that you suggest about reducing accidental pregnancies was made in the (ahem) fucking 1970s to advance sex education programs. It’s not that no one ever thought to suggest this. This idea is baked in to the short phrase “Abortion should be safe, legal and rare.” (Implied by the word “rare”, but not directly spelled out.)

    Sex education classes were rolled back by religiously inspired people. It’s not antagonistic bullshit for me to say that. “Abstinence only” classes were promoted by religious beliefs that ignored science and put weird lies in the curriculum.

    We can tell that SOME abortion opponents are illogical because they oppose contraception and sex education, both of which reduce the number of abortions by reducing the number of unwanted abortions. The money spent on “abstinence education” shows very little concrete payoff.

    Look at the campaigns to oppose HPV vaccination in young girls. People come really close to stating that they want fear of cervical cancer to help their daughters stay pure. (And they are afraid that a vaccinated daughter will develop a premature interest in sex.) This is fucked up shit that is hard to talk about without using strong language.

    Some abortion opponents want ‘slutty girls’ punished or to face the consequences of their oh so naughty sins. I have no idea how to discuss that POV with those people logically. (Your point sounds logical.)

  17. Drolfe says

    Tea Partiers aren’t anything like radical Marxists or Critical Theorists or whatever in terms of: votes, money, power, voice, and cultural influence. Could you even tease the radical input out of the Democratic base? You can with Tea Partiers (and/or the Moral Majority, the religious right, and other aliases for the conservative purity wing of the Republican base).

  18. noxiousnan says

    But peaceful measured engagement is a more successful method than antagonism.

    I’d always been told that, but I can’t agree (as much as I’d like to). President Obama hasn’t managed to get many of his goals completed due to the low success of his peaceful, measured engagements whereas the GOP has managed to thwart Obama at every turn – their stated agenda – due largely to antagonism.

  19. Drolfe says

    Making the argument that contraception and education will reduce abortions and using the pro lifers desires to advance something beneficial to both parties would be better than antagonizing them

    This hasn’t worked in 30 years despite being evidently true! Facts haven’t mattered in the abortion debate in fucking ages, what indicates that is changing?

  20. A Hermit says

    jackie @ 13:

    Why do we need atheist voices at CPAC? Do we need atheist voices in the KKK? These people are unrepentant bigots and liars.We do not need to join them. We need to fight them.

    QFT

  21. Shatterface says

    But peaceful measured engagement is a more successful method than antagonism.

    When engaging with people who are equally peaceful and measured.

    I kinda like the idea that there’s a decent, principled, intelligent right wing out there that we can engage with – but it always turns out they’re fictional characters played by Alan Alda or Jeff Daniels.

  22. sezit says

    Good grief! Do some of you really think that conservatives are so poisonous that atheists should remove ourselves totally from their presence? My position is that we have the better arguments, and people need to hear these arguments. If we bow out, our arguments are absent, and they can pretend that everybody agrees with them.
    FYI, I tabled outside CPAC. Many (maybe 30-40%) of the people who came by our table said they were atheists. Another good percentage said that we should not have been kicked out. If American Atheists/Silverman had not tried to get a table, no one would be talking about whether or not we deserve a place at the table. There would have been no mention of anything but christianity. Atheism would not have even been a blip on their radar, and certainly wouldn’t have gotten air time. Here’s interview footage at 16.14 – 20.00 (I’m at 18.00)
    http://rt.com/bulletin-board/rt-america-news-march7-2014-898/

    And, Silverman is right. There is a secular argument against abortion. (A fetus is a human, and all humans should have equal rights) It’s not a good argument IMO. It falls apart pretty fast when one considers that requiring a woman to carry to term privileges the fetus over the woman, and that knocks out equality. But the argument can’t fall apart if we don’t engage in it… over and over and over. By any means (conversation, voting, protesting, etc.) After all, Isn’t that what the other side has been doing, so successfully…. for years?

    Let’s not bow out. Let’s be present and challenge. That requires neither antagonism or acceptance.

  23. doubtthat says

    Good grief! Do some of you really think that conservatives are so poisonous that atheists should remove ourselves totally from their presence?

    What a bizarre statement. I don’t believe anyone suggested religious apartheid. The issue is whether it’s worthwhile to court whack-a-doodles at CPAC and risk alienating folks already on your side.

    And yes, I consider almost every view espoused by every speaker at CPAC to be deeply poisonous. Perhaps you could link me to the example of the reasoned, well-argued, thoughtful speaker.

    If you manage to find a handful of angry, insane, vitriolic, glibertarian fantasy thinkers who also happen to not believe in Jesus, I would assert you’ve done very little. The question, then, is whether claiming a tiny percentage of assholes as “atheists” is worth alienating the majority. If your answer is “yes,” then you’re just the atheist version of the DLC and I have no time for you.

    My position is that we have the better arguments, and people need to hear these arguments. If we bow out, our arguments are absent, and they can pretend that everybody agrees with them.

    This will sound flippant, but I mean it sincerely: do you know any conservatives? I’ve spent my whole life around them, including conservatives in government, and there are precious few who could give a rat’s ass about the quality of the argument.

    In fact, since you were at CPAC, could you provide a single example of a speaker or high profile attendee at that conference that has shown any indication of being persuaded by good argumentation over the last 20 years? Is there an example of Sarah Palin saying, “You know, I just read this study and I’ve changed my mind on ________”?

    And, Silverman is right. There is a secular argument against abortion. (A fetus is a human, and all humans should have equal rights) It’s not a good argument IMO. It falls apart pretty fast when one considers that requiring a woman to carry to term privileges the fetus over the woman, and that knocks out equality. But the argument can’t fall apart if we don’t engage in it… over and over and over.

    So let me see if I get this straight: we go to conservatives and explain that they would be welcome among atheists because there is a secular anti-choice argument. We then educate them on this anti-choice non-god invoking position, and once they’ve converted and joined the cause, we immediately explain that the argument used to seduce them was actually bullshit?

    We’re going to “engage” with a position that no one holds? That’s the master plan you folks concocted?

    By any means (conversation, voting, protesting, etc.) After all, Isn’t that what the other side has been doing, so successfully…. for years?

    Again, if your goal is to be more like the conservative movement, have at it, but I want absolutely no part of it.

    What they’ve been doing for years is lying, generating fraudulent science, appealing to the worst aspects of people’s humanity (racism, sexism, jingoism, homophobia) to convince mostly white, mostly male people to vote against their economic self-interest; they’ve manipulated religious belief to convince rural folks and poor people to support the aims of billionaires; they’ve perverted the concept of patriotism to terrify folks out of objecting to a series of deeply destructive policies…etc.

    What about that is appealing or worthy of imitation?

    Let’s not bow out. Let’s be present and challenge. That requires neither antagonism or acceptance.

    It also doesn’t require a booth at CPAC. It also does not require that any of those folks actually be atheists. It also doesn’t require current atheists to allow into their corpus of beliefs a lot of obvious horseshit for the sole purpose of swelling numbers.

  24. A Hermit says

    We’re not just talking about conservatism here; we’re talking about CPAC conservatism. These people are antigay anti immigrant anti science ideologues. Fuck ‘em.

  25. ewanmacdonald says

    You don’t accomplish things by insulting everyone who disagrees with you, and painting them in the least charitable light.

    It was fucking CPAC, guy. That’s exactly what you do.

  26. sezit says

    I tabled outside CPAC. I didn’t do it to convince the speakers there or even the attendees. I did it to be visible, to show that there are reasonable people on the other side, to be part of what was reported in the news. To ask questions that these folks have not heard before. I actually didn’t try to argue much – just asked people if they think atheists should be welcome, and if we have as many rights are everyone else. And yaknow what? It made some people think, at least for a few seconds.
    But I was really there for reporters. If nobody gives an alternate view, reporters can only report the wingnuttery.

  27. doubtthat says

    Well, if it tickles your fancy, have at it. I’m relying on several hundred years of American history and incalculable political hours in the rest of the world to judge that exerting funds trying to advance atheist rights via CPAC attendees is not the most productive use of funds.

    But again, that wasn’t really what caused the controversy. I notice you’ve slid the argument from, “Hey, here are some ways you can keep your terrible ideas without God-Join Us!,” to, “we were just there to show folks that we exist and are reasonable.”

    If you want to sit in a booth and ask questions, great. If you want us to help you concoct shitty secular arguments that will appeal to the loonies at CPAC in order to involve said loonies in atheist/skeptical/rational organizations, you’re on your own.

  28. sezit says

    Huh? douthat, sounds like you are positioning me as an apologist for jerks. no thanks, I don’t like that offer.

    As a counter to your POV that it is pointless to table at CPAC, let me ask you if, when you watch an interview about a religious whack-job trying to limit 1st amendment rights, do you appreciate seeing or hearing video of the protesters against said w-j? Because I get a little depressed if there’s no one visible to refute the w-j. So I went there for people who are cheered to know that others like them are out there. I was happy to be interviewed for RT so that viewers could see and hear a real live atheist. We need to be seen.

    Sorry you think that is a waste, but I don’t agree. And, I have asked no one to help me concoct arguments. It seems to me that your target practice on me is the only effort you are making. not sure why.

  29. mildlymagnificent says

    But peaceful measured engagement is a more successful method than antagonism.

    Wasn’t it MLK* who said that he was grateful for Malcolm X and the radical black activists because the fact that he wasn’t them opened more doors for his version of “peaceful measured engagement”.

    *I’ve lost my whole list of bookmarks so I don’t have any reference handy.

  30. doubtthat says

    @30 sezit

    Again, your rationale for being there is shifting. The Silverman statement clearly implies an attempt to “convert” folks to atheism, or worse, somehow argue that atheists should feel welcome among conservatives because there are non-religious arguments for silly conservative positions. I’m still unclear on which he thought he was doing.

    If you read supporters of Silverman, like JT Eberhard, they clearly thought that Silverman was there to convert, and they thought this was a good thing. The criticism raised by Ophelia and others has to do with this approach. In order to convert these folks, make atheism a welcoming place for right wing loonies, are you alienating your largely liberal support base?

    You’ve looked at this criticism and rather than responding, just shifted the argument to find value in being present. Great, knock yourself out. I question the efficacy, but if you’re really there to just argue your case, rather than present atheism as welcoming to shitty conservative ideas, you’re not acing contrary to political goals of a huge percentage of atheists.

    But you still haven’t explained why claiming that there is a secular argument for abortion advances your goals, mostly because you haven’t articulated your goals. If you were there to antagonize and confront the whack-a-doodles, great, but both your posts here and Silverman’s accommodating statements seem to indicate that you were expressly trying NOT to do that.

    What was your goal? How does Silverman’s statement advance that goal? Why was he trying to make it seem like atheism was welcoming to the political beliefs of CPAC attendees?

  31. medivh says

    MM, #31: Makes sense. Having someone shoving hard at the other side of the Overton Window means you get to paint yourself as moderate rather easily. It makes me think that if we want liberalisation, we should set up literal female supremacy organisations, literal gay/black/atheist/trans*/disabled/etc. supremacist organisations. Have the MRAs, homophobes, whatever, shove at one side of the Window while the oppressed-minority-supremacist orgs shove at the other side. We set up shop in the middle and declare that we’re the only reasonable position.

    You know, get the fallacy of regression to the mean working for us. If in a horribly unethical way. On the other hand, I don’t think many people would be interested in liberalisation through such means.

  32. sezit says

    @32 doubtthat –
    you say my rationale is shifting. I disagree. I said (#23);
    “My position is that we have the better arguments, and people need to hear these arguments. If we bow out, our arguments are absent, and they can pretend that everybody agrees with them.”
    The people I’m referring to here are not only the CPAC attendees. It’s the populace. If the media was not present, I wouldn’t go, and I bet Silverman wouldn’t either. I don’t speak for Silverman, but if he goes to convert, I have no problem with that. I’m glad he’s there even if I don’t totally agree with what he says. I’m not a purist.
    @21 A Hermit –
    You compare CPAC to KKK and say we shouldn’t attend. But I would go to protest a comparable KKK event as well. Media needs to report on us. They can only report on the voices that are present.
    Our voices in a forum like this is for us. Our voices in a forum such as a CPAC protest is for others. I see it as my patriotic duty.

  33. doubtthat says

    My position is that we have the better arguments, and people need to hear these arguments. If we bow out, our arguments are absent, and they can pretend that everybody agrees with them.

    For the third time now, explain how “a secular argument for abortion” fits in with the “better argument” ethos. This is exactly how you shifted the argument, or, if you prefer, it’s how you’ve made an incoherent post in response.

    The people I’m referring to here are not only the CPAC attendees. It’s the populace. If the media was not present, I wouldn’t go, and I bet Silverman wouldn’t either. I don’t speak for Silverman, but if he goes to convert, I have no problem with that. I’m glad he’s there even if I don’t totally agree with what he says. I’m not a purist.

    So in response to a post criticizing or questioning Silverman’s behavior, you’ve just disowned Silverman’s actions after appearing to defend them in post 23. Fair enough, but it was certainly a confusing path to get here.

    Almost all the criticism of Sliverman’s statements that I’ve read, hear and in other places, focuses on the notion that atheism is a welcoming place for conservative dogma. If you disagree with that position, then we aren’t at odds, but surely you can see how Silverman’s statements implied such.

    You compare CPAC to KKK and say we shouldn’t attend. But I would go to protest a comparable KKK event as well. Media needs to report on us

    There was nothing in Silverman’s statements that remotely suggested that the American Atheists were there in protest. In fact, I think Silverman’s words were startling because everyone assumed he was going there to antagonize or protest the conservatives like he does so well on Fox News. If Silverman had said it was a protest effort, I doubt there would be any criticism — or at least it would have been significantly different.

    Notice again, though, that your explanation of your behavior is in no way a response to criticism of Silverman’s. That’s partly why your argument is so confusing, If you were protesting CPAC you wouldn’t be trying to explain to them that they could continue to be insane assholes even after giving up god-bothering.

  34. sezit says

    #35 doubtthat –
    My read of your post looks like you think that I am arguing against abortion. I’m not. I’m pro-choice, and I think the pro-choice side has all the better arguments. And I think we need to engage in those arguments at the political level, challenging the anti-abortionists to use secular arguments only. If that doesn’t clarify my position, then I’m mystified as to your issue with my position.

    Also, many here are continually repeating that atheism is trying to welcome right-wing conservative positions under the umbrella of atheism. That’s backwards.
    My stance (and I think this is the American Atheists position) is that politics should be free of religion. Classic separation of state/church. That conservatives (and every other mainstream political party) should be neutral towards faith positions, in support of 2nd amendment, and focus only on rational policy arguments only. When they kick out atheists/atheism, it shows them up as bigots, and even more as hypocrites on their constitutional stance. If we didn’t try to get in, their bigotry/hypocracy would not be on display as clearly for the rest of the population to see. I do agree that Silverman is not arguing on their political position, because (I think) he is focused on step 1 – separation of state and church. That’s always the main focus of AA, as far as I can see, and I support that position. Why can’t we start there?
    If we can get religion out of government, it can only improve government, even if there are still loony political positions.

  35. doubtthat says

    @36 sezit

    My read of your post looks like you think that I am arguing against abortion.

    Well, your read is exactly wrong. I’m curious what part of writing gave you that idea. I have never suggested that.

    I’m not. I’m pro-choice, and I think the pro-choice side has all the better arguments. And I think we need to engage in those arguments at the political level, challenging the anti-abortionists to use secular arguments only.

    You don’t think those arguments are already being engaged at the political level? You clearly have a different experience with politics.

    Why would anti-choicers use a secular argument? If you can convince them to abandon their religion, why not just convince them to be pro-choice? How is the cause advanced by helping them figure out that they can abandon religion and still cling to the shitty ideas religion helped them develop?

    Also, many here are continually repeating that atheism is trying to welcome right-wing conservative positions under the umbrella of atheism. That’s backwards.

    This is exactly what Silverman’s statements imply:

    Hold on, I said, I think the Right to Life guys who have a booth here, and have had every year since CPAC started, would disagree that they’re not real conservatives.

    “I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

    But overall Silverman still thinks the movement is losing out, citing studies that show Millenials less religious than previous generations of Americans. “If conservatives insist on saying Jesus wrote the Constitution” — referring to something Tom DeLay said — “they’re just gonna be dropped,” he said.

    [...]

    …He describes himself as a “fiscally conservative” voter who “owns several guns. I’m a strong supporter of the military. I think fiscal responsibility is very important. I see that as pretty conservative. And I have my serious suspicions about Obama. I don’t like that he’s spying on us. I don’t like we’ve got drones killing people…” In the final analysis, “the Democrats are too liberal for me,” he says.

    Sure sounds to me like Silverman wants to create an atheist faction of the conservative movement. It sounds like he believes that that’s where he belongs.

    Again, this is fine, it’s his right, but I think those issues he mentioned (“fiscal responsibility”–for fuck’s sake, he’s even using the bullshit jargon of the right) are far more important than belief in God. Separation of Church and state is obviously incredibly important, but plenty of believers, including the folks that drafted the First Amendment, have argued in favor of the wall.

    The big question becomes whether the largely liberal supporters of American Atheists are going to want their donations to go to the creation of an atheist faction in the conservative movement.

    My stance (and I think this is the American Atheists position) is that politics should be free of religion. Classic separation of state/church. That conservatives (and every other mainstream political party) should be neutral towards faith positions, in support of 2nd amendment, and focus only on rational policy arguments only.

    And the way to do this is by explaining that there are shitty secular arguments to take the place of their shitty religious arguments? That does not seem rational. You’ve said yourself the argument fails, so why on Earth would you try to promote them or convince people to adopt them?

    If we can get religion out of government, it can only improve government, even if there are still loony political positions.

    This is a vague statement. What do you mean “religion in government?” Obviously dogma as a source for legislation is a problem, but the participation of religious folks in government really isn’t. I would rather be in a political party with a religious person like MLK than an atheist like Ayn Rand. Silverman seems to be trying to eliminate religious people while allowing them to retain their shitty ideas. I see little value in this approach.

    There are plenty of atheists who could make our government much, much worse. The brand of glibertarian asshole so popular on the net, for example. You may disagree, and that’s fine, but

  36. speed0spank says

    I wish people could at least be honest. Its not a simple difference of politics. I have lost good friends over “simple politics”. The simple politics of whether I deserve a fair wage, or if I should have been forced to give birth when I was pregnant. The “simple politics” of whether my gay family and friends deserve the same rights that I do. The “simple politics” of whether it should be legal to discriminate against people of color.
    You can call them simple politics and try to act as if its not a reason to dislike someone and not want them to be a part of “your group”, but its disingenuous.
    I guess I’m just small-minded or something that I don’t want wingnuts or MRAs for that matter to be associated with me.

  37. says

    Well, Dave Silverman is right – there IS a secular argument against abortion. It goes like this: Women’s biology is destiny, which means they cannot enjoy full human beings on a par with men as their rights must be subordinated to their childbearing role.

    As for whether such misogyny is compatible with the atheist movement, blogger Dana Hunter says it all and extremely well. Please go read now: http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/2014/03/16/i-lost-my-best-friend-to-abortion-i-can-stand-to-lose-the-atheist-orgs/

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