This is not that

On that Popehat post All This Talk of Harassment Is Harassing Me! – a comment that helps to explain the basic confusion. Author, Robert White.

Sounds to me like this “free Thought” movement is having what I call “the Libertarian problem”.

As a movement, I have found, Libertarianism is a thin rich chocolate shell of progressive idealists hiding a meaty, inconsistent nougat of biggoted ass-hats looking for a system of thought that can keep the faggots, darkies, spics and freeloading liberals out of their lives. Both outer shell and inner douchebag (again, talking libertarian here) unable or unwilling to take their propositions all the way to their logical conclusions…

Ohhhhhh – they* think “freethought”=libertarian. Nooooooo. No no no no no. All wrong. Freethought is a child of the Enlightenment. Libertarianism is a child of Ayn Rand and Hollywood. Freethought is liberal (in the classical sense), progressive, egalitarian. Libertarianism is liberal (in the classical sense) but not progressive or egalitarian.


*By “they” I mean the trolls who’ve been trolling Freethought blogs since the day of its birth.


  1. dirigible says

    ” Freethought is a child of the Enlightenment. Libertarianism is a child…”

    …that has just been told to tidy their room.

  2. John the Drunkard says

    Thanks, neatly put. I have been trying to raise this point here and there.

    Does Atheism, as a movement, really include Randroids and Stalinists? They may not recognize a God-with-a-capital-G, but their uncritical belief, their idolatry towrad third-rate notions about economics and history, qualify as religion at its worst.

  3. Arthur says

    I watched a good YouTube video by someone calling herself “sofiarune” on this matter: “Freethought vs Freedom of Thought: The difference matters”.

    (Warning, she’s discussing this difference in relation to Phil Mason’s aka Thunderf00t behaviour at Freethoughtblogs, for people who are tired of hearing about that guy.)

  4. Matt Penfold says

    Does Atheism, as a movement, really include Randroids and Stalinists? They may not recognize a God-with-a-capital-G, but their uncritical belief, their idolatry towrad third-rate notions about economics and history, qualify as religion at its worst.

    When you get time, take a look at the Wikipedia article on political religion. The similarities between conventional religion and certain political ideologies is well documented.

  5. Martha says

    Is “Atheist” just too broad a name for a cohesive movement? I’m quite happy to call myself a Freethinker or a Humanist instead. Or just about anything else not to be lumped in with the Randroids. *shudder*

  6. karmakin says

    Maybe it’s too broad of a name. Maybe we should just fully embrace the Freethought monicker, even if people don’t understand it. (I don’t think I did until that video linked above) Who knows.

    But yes, it’s pretty clear that there’s at least a substantial (if nowhere near majority) Libertarian part of this community and that in the long run the two probably can’t fit together.

  7. Dimitris Batis says

    @John the Drunkard:

    I think that, guided by the definition of the term, it would be inappropriate to try and define the atheist movement in a way that excludes any type of atheist. I would say that atheism, as a movement, concerns actions such as equal rights between believers and non-beliers, the abolishment of special rights for religions organizations, and so on. It would be silly to exclude potential atheist allies, who share the same goals, because they also happen to be Stalinists or libertarians or whatever. Other terms are more appropriate in specifying philosophical or political movements that exceed these boundaries, such as humanism.

    In any case, as I lurk these and other atheist/skeptic blogs for quite a few years, I do think a valid point that is somewhat similar to what Robert White says in his post at Popehat. As we value rationalism and other wonderful ideas, it is easy to consider that any “true atheist” or “true skeptic” is magically ridden of all character flaws or biases in specific domains of thought. The recent feminism debate is a good example of this, that there are indeed a lot of atheists and/or skeptics who simply can’t grasp some very rational thoughts on that issue. We have to accept that the atheist/skepticism movement is essentially going to be a diverse community which will include douchbags. That’s simply unavoidable.

  8. says

    Ayn Rand never called herself a Libertarian (though she was one)-she preferred the term “Capitalist” or “Objectivist”. Libertarianism is a child of Leonard Read and the Foundation for Economic Education back in the ’50s (and, to some extent, the Mises Institute in the ’80s and early ’90s).

  9. kagekiri says

    The comments on that post….they get stupid and then stay stupid. GAH. I keep hoping someone will step in and clear things up, they keep saying feminists are sexist and all sorts of other incredibly stupid shit despite well stated arguments. Privilege is so freaking annoying.

  10. says

    I’m just going to jack in right here, not having read the popehat article nor much else relevant either, besides:

    …this “free Thought” movement is having what I call “the Libertarian problem”

    You’ve all (so far) entirely missed popehat#commenter’s point. It’s not about Libertarian it’s about a problem illustrated by whatever-it-was that s/he goes on to describe.

    Libertarian is not the noun, it’s the adjective. Sheesh! Slow down a bit so’s your sentence parser can keep up with your typing fingers!

    To belabor popehat#commenter’s point a bit, this “free Thought” movement has an exoskeleton of ______ surrounding a ______ center of __________. None of those blanks contained or were intended to contain the big-L swear word.

    Seriously, just because it contains the word Libertarian doesn’t mean the entire paragraph is 100% incorrect. Although much of the time that may well be the case.

    When read as intended, who knows? S/he might just have a point worth consideration.

  11. says

    Ok I see the problem – it’s me forgetting that not everybody who’s reading has been reading previous posts, again. “They” in my commentary after the quoted passage refers to other people, not the commenter. This post is part of an ongoing discussion about libertarianism and atheism/secularism.

  12. roland72 says

    I don’t think he’s saying “freethought=libertarian”. I think he’s saying that the “freethought movement” is being latched on to by libertarians and that this is a problem for the movement. He doesn’t seem to propose a solution (not in that comment anyway), but I can see what he’s getting at. I’ve a feeling this is why it’s a good idea to talk about social justice a lot.

  13. roland72 says

    And I was only able to get so far in the comments after that before my brain started to explode. Props to Gretchen for dealing with this. All anyone is being asked to do in this whole harassment business is listen to women (well, and act on what they hear in simple ways which quite obviously benefit everyone). Why does that seem to be so difficult?

  14. says

    @Dimitris Batis:

    It would be silly to exclude potential atheist allies, who share the same goals, because they also happen to be Stalinists or libertarians or whatever.

    It’s even more silly to exclude potential allies because they happen to be women, people of color, or LGBTQ people. When libertarians start obstructing efforts to include more of these people (because they shouldn’t have to change their behavior to accommodate others), suddenly alienating libertarians isn’t all that silly anymore.

    By the way: why are people so afraid of alienating libertarian allies, but seem to be have so little concern for alienating feminists? Or even progressives in general?

  15. R. Johnston says

    Any movement that tries to incorporate libertarians into its midst is worthy only of being flushed down the toilet. Libertarianism is radical willful ignorance and bigotry. It is incompatible with thought, much less with free thought. Alienating libertarians is a necessary goal for anyone trying to do any social or philosophical good.

    Libertarians should be alienated from the free thought movement as a deliberate maneuver to remove a deadly cancerous growth, not merely as a side effect of efforts not to alienate other actual free thinkers. It’s not enough for the movement to actively seek to include women, people of color, LGBTQ people, etc.; libertarians must be specifically marked for exclusion if the free thought movement is to actually endorse free thought.

  16. hypatiasdaughter says

    #12 Matt Platte
    That was my take on the post. He was saying many of the people in the Freethought movement behave like Libertarians. They have a thin shell of professed progressive ideals, but underneath they are regressive asshats, using their “skepticism” to protect their privileges. They apply their skepticism to other people but not to themselves.
    A prime example is the whole “biological imperatives” excuse for male bad behavior, such as rape. Hey skeptics, you do know that women, too, have biological imperatives to continue the race and these are sometimes complementary and sometimes conflicting with the males imperatives? The whole point of view of women on the issue of “biological imperatives” never raises its head with these people.
    Their “skepticism” becomes a handy excuse to accept a status quo that works for them, and attack anyone who won’t buy their reasoning as being irrational.

  17. Dimitris Batis says


    Perhaps there is some context here that I am missing. So, as a genuine question, has this been an issue with libertarians in the past, especially in relation to the atheist movement?

    It may be the case that I misjudge because of my experiences here in Greece, where the libertarian movement is one of the most active in equal rights issues, as well as atheism-related issues such as the separation of Church and state (the Orthodox church is state-owned). Their strategy to accomplish equal rights may differ (for instance, privatization of marriage), but this is far from excluding feminists or gay rights activists. It also happens that the president of one of the two main libertarian parties is also the president of the National LGBT Union (I think that’s the only LGBT-related political organisation as well). As far as I can understand, the U.S. libertarian think tanks such as the Cato Institute are also in favor of gay marriage, etc.

  18. John the Drunkard says


    We seem to be using the term ‘libertarian’ in entirely different ways. Here in the US, the term describes a tribe of ‘free-market’ anarchists. Largely composed of people who read ‘Atlas Shrugged’ before they were twenty years old and never grew up thereafter.

    Libertarians sometimes pass for ‘progressive’ because they oppose religion and legal restraint on private behaviour. Unfortunately they are really interested in eliminating legal restraint on public behaviour. They are categorically unable to accept that any problem can be solved, or ameliorated by collective, public, or political action. They really believe that personal greed will lead to a utopia where all problems will dissapear.

    Of course, libertarians drink water from public utilities; live in a country with a standing army, and hope a public fire-department will show up if their house catches fire. This cognitive dissonance makes them permanently irrational. They are incapable of debate, because they are incapable of questioning–or even observing the consequences of–the bizarre notions at the heart of their faith.

  19. says

    @Dimitris Batis in #23: yes, libertarians are often in favor of gay marriage and such – but they are also often opposed to things like equal pay acts, laws that protect workers from being fired for being LGBTQ, or accessible high-quality public education, even for those living in poor districts, etc etc. That is, they claim to believe in equality, but they don’t want anything that could actually help to level the playing field. And that attitude is strikingly similar to what we’re seeing in the atheist movement at the moment – people who claim to believe in the equality of women, but are not willing to level the playing field by adopting a pretty standard non-harassment policy.

  20. Shatterface says

    The internet is dominated by Americans which is probably why the word ‘libertarian’ is associated with propertarian ideologies invented in the Fifties. That’s like thinking ‘socialism’ is the same as Marxist-Leninism, or National Socialism.

    There is a long tradition of left-libertarianism, libertarian-socialism, mutualism and anarcho-syndicalism which all have a more legitimate claim to the label ‘libertarianism’ than anything advanced by those who claim to be libertarian but depend on the State to enforce their productive property rights.

  21. Jonathan says

    ‘libertarians must be specifically marked for exclusion if the free thought movement is to actually endorse free thought.’

    My first article on this site and I can already tell that the sites name is merely doublespeak. Oh well I had already gathered as much from Thunderf00t.

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