No doubt most of you are aware of the head-shaking and puzzlement and alarm, and sometimes just plain anger, about Jamila Bey’s address to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as a representative of American Atheists last week. Debbie Goddard has thoughts and questions about it at Skepchick. Rai Rhoades is unpleased at Rhoades to Reality. James Croft has big doubts at Temple of the Future.
American Atheists’ overtures to CPAC and to the Republican Party make me uneasy. I can’t help the sense that this is less about promoting atheist visibility and acceptance, and more about cozying up to powerful people under the cover of a completely unrealistic image of “conservatism”. It’s as if not only do they want conservatives to be OK with atheists, but they want atheists to be OK with conservatives – and they’re willing to overlook the very troubling record of contemporary conservatism to make their case.
As if to prove my point, at one moment in her speech Bey looked out into the crowd and said: “I see people who love this country and believe in the equality of all people.”
No you don’t. You really don’t, Jamila! You see a subset of the most conservative activists in the country, people whose job it is to oppose LGBTQ equality, women’s equality, and the equality of people of color. People who quite literally lead the charge against equality in America! It’s one thing to play to your audience, but quite another to flatly reject reality. This is pandering, and it makes me wonder about motives. I’m all for humanizing atheists in the eyes of conservatives, but lying about conservatism to do so is dishonest.
That. The thing is, there are ways atheists can be humanized, to conservatives and to anyone, that are not open to conservatives. (No doubt the reverse is also true, but I’ll leave the specifics of that to conservatives who want to underline the inhumanity of atheists.) It’s fine to say conservatives put their jeans on one leg at a time; it’s not fine to say that conservatives believe in the equality of all people – not in the USofA it’s not. It’s as James said: conservatives and especially CPAC are programatically and officially opposed to the equality of people. Conservatives like and trust hierarchy; in many ways hierarchy is the whole point for conservatives. In many ways love and trust of hierarchy and dislike and distrust of “leveling” is and always has been the core of conservatism. It’s no good trying to pretend that away. It’s no good denying it. It’s no good pretending it’s not true because you want it to be not true.
Hierarchy versus equality has always been the border between right and left. It’s not “small government” – that’s far more tangential.
This is political GPS.