Greta Christina does a marvelous job of rebuking American Atheists for their presence at CPAC. I agree completely with it. Go read it.
Nick Fish of American Atheists does a very good job of replying. In particular, he tries to put their efforts in a different light.
I want to clarify one thing right out of the gates: American Atheists did not attend CPAC with the purpose of “recruiting” conservatives into the broader atheist community. This is a misconception that I have seen repeated on Twitter, in the blogs, and in person. That this needed be clarified is likely a failure to clearly articulate it on our side. So, we’ll take our licks there.
It is much more accurate to say that we were there to empower atheists who already exist within the conservative community to be more vocal about their opposition to the theocratic elements of Republican Party orthodoxy.
Good try. Falls apart with a moment’s thought.
You’ve all heard the joke about the drunk who has lost his keys and is searching for them under a streetlight; a passer-by tries to help him, with no luck, and asks the drunk if he’s sure he lost them there. The drunk replies, “No, I lost them in the park, but the light is better over here.” It’s actually got a name: it’s called the streetlight fallacy.
Of course there are rational conservatives, and always have been, and I agree that they are a good target for recruiting (or “empowering”) by atheists. The problem is that those reasonable conservatives are as horrified by CPAC as we liberals are…maybe more so, since there has to be some bitterness in seeing your political party hijacked by frothing rabid loons. If you’re trying to reinforce and support the reasonable element in the Republican party, it makes no sense at all to hug a tea party member. You won’t help build a non-unhinged GOP by standing with the most unhinged side of the party.
I know the media spotlight is on the far right groups like CPAC, and the kind of conservatives you want to help are scattered and often disconnected from those weirdos, and hard to find, but searching where the media spotlight is is not going to accomplish anything.
I wish I could make a constructive suggestion about where you might find a more open-minded conservative — perhaps in civic organizations, or politically neutral groups? — but they are not my people, so I’m the last person you’d want to ask. I would suggest, though, that a better place to start would be with the Democratic party. All our candidates seem to be centrist or leaning right, with damn few real liberals among them, and most of them want to run and hide when atheists come by, so if you really want to empower conservatives, that seems like the place to go.
But CPAC? What a waste of time and effort.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a hankering to catch myself a bluefin, and there’s this mud puddle conveniently located in my driveway…