Well, I got all the emotional baggage out the way with my last post about A+, so time to move on to the analytical. Emotions are interesting, no doubt, but when it comes to the heavy lifting of being a rational person I usually engage the more utilitarian side of myself. Unfortunately for A+ my practical side isn’t really excited about it either, to tell the truth. I actually think A+ has the potential to harm the non-belief movement.
The A+ movement wishes to present itself as a combination of disbelief and political ideology. They claim the disbelief ultimately leads one to embrace the more liberal side of the political spectrum, so melding the two is not only appropriate but inevitable. Too bad it isn’t wise.
There is an example of melding atheism to a political position that resulted in damage to the secularism they were seeking: Communism. Now I’m not talking about the fur-hat wearing, parade loving Ruskies (although I do kinda miss their showmanship, their costumes were fantastic!) I’m talking about all those writers, thinkers and rabble-rousers McCarthy was seemingly terrified of. Since communists were (incorrectly) believed to be wholly atheistic, during the “red scare” of the 1950’s Congress added the words “under God” to the pledge of allegiance as a defense against their influence. According David Greenberg in an article written for Slate magazine:
“The legislative history of the 1954 act stated that the hope was to “acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon … the Creator … [and] deny the atheistic and materialistic concept of communism.”
It’s clear the intent was to distinguish America as fundamentally opposite of those “godless commies”. Of course 60 years later we realize we were never under any serious attack by communists in our country, but those words are still there, all because someone married disbelief with a political position. It just goes to show that given even the smallest opportunity to, the faithful in the halls of power will impose their beliefs on others, especially if they can earn political points in doing so. We shouldn’t be giving them these opportunities, because the laws of unforseen consequences will rear their ugly heads.
Additionally, considering the current Pew poll regarding faith and religiosity in America, it’s safe to say that an increasing number of young people are leaving their churches, and it’s pretty well-known that the push by churches to combine faith and politics is one of the driving forces behind this trend. They are rejecting the notion that their faith and politics are one in the same, and therefore are rejecting their churches and religion. This does not mean they are embracing disbelief, indeed they primarily self describe as being “spiritual but not religious”. But it does mean, as my friend Damion points out:
…since the “nothing in particulars” are marginally less skeptical than the general public, the only really good news here is that both of those groups are probably willing to hear us atheists and skeptics out when we try to explain to them that gods, spirits, souls, ghosts, astrology, reincarnation, faith-healing, and alt-med all fall into the same evidential category. To be sure, our mission field is expanding, but we still have to do the hard work of teaching people why and how to think critically about such claims.
Does anyone think our job of recruiting those who are leaving their churches because of politics will flock to us if we conflate our movement with politics? I think exactly the opposite, they will simply view our movement as just the same old crap they just left, only with a more “liberal” bent. These people might be open to a discussion of rationality, reason and logic as it pertains to their “spirituality”, but not if we muck up the process with politics.