June 1, 2016

How Do Economically Liberal Atheists Vote?

Jill Stein speaking
Jill Stein
I wrote a post recently in which I posed the question of how fiscally conservative atheists vote given that they seem to have few options in the Republican Party of candidates who are both fiscally conservative and not openly hostile to secularism. In this post, I'd like to suggest that I'm not sure the situation is really that much better for many liberal atheists, particularly when they also happen to be skeptics and/or freethinkers. Since I have little idea whether other liberal atheists feel this way, I'll stick to using myself as an example so I'm not making unfounded assumptions about others. My suspicion, though, is that there are other liberal atheists who will be able to relate to at least some of what I am about to say.

I am quite liberal when it comes to economic policy. This means that it is not particularly hard for me to find a Democratic or Green candidate whose economic policies I can support, even if I don't agree with every aspect of such policies. This has become even easier in recent years since some elements of the Democratic Party (e.g., Bernie Sanders) have sought to pull the party to the left in some areas. This is not to say that I agree with every aspect of liberal economic policies; I don't. It does mean that I can often support many of them and that it is not too difficult for me to find candidates advocating economic policies with which I generally agree.

Like the fiscally conservative atheist voter who has an easy time finding fiscally conservative candidates, I have an easy time finding fiscally liberal candidates. But like the fiscally conservative atheist voter who discovers that many of his or her options have draped themselves in Christian extremism and hostility to atheists, I find that many of my options have draped themselves in something I find objectionable: authoritarianism, a regressive stance toward Islam, fact-free liberal dogma, and anti-science woo.

Of these, I suppose the authoritarianism and regressive approach to Islam (i.e., equating criticism of Islam with racism) pose the biggest hurdles for me. Many of the candidates and elected officials in the Democratic Party now seem willing to trade away the free expression of ideas in order to preserve the feelings of various constituent groups. As someone who sees the free expression of ideas as central to a healthy democracy, I find this troubling. I also see far too many candidates and elected officials making statements that minimize the role of Islam in terrorist acts perpetrated by Muslims and suggesting that they think we should have respect for such ideas. I can respect the people who hold bad ideas without respecting their bad ideas; I will not respect bad ideas, especially when these bad ideas include the notion that I should be killed.

What do I mean by fact-free liberal dogma and anti-science woo? There are too many examples to list, but I'm thinking of things like the unequivocal support for #BlackLivesMatter and their tactics, propagation of the myth that there is a large gender wage gap in the U.S. primarily due to sexism and systematic discrimination, support for GMO labeling, the view that there is an epidemic of sexual assault occurring on our university campuses, naive immigration policy, support for "alternative medicine," and so on. Like I said, there are far too many to list.

I struggled for some time over whether I could bring myself to support Sanders, given his positions on some of this stuff. In the end, I decided that there was far more good than bad there. This does not mean I am overlooking the bad stuff though. It is still there, and important to acknowledge.

I guess I'm writing this to say that I can relate to the fiscally conservative atheist struggling to find a candidate who is both fiscally conservative and not bigoted against atheists. I often struggle to find a candidate who is both economically liberal and not an authoritarian/regressive pushing fact-free liberal dogma and anti-science woo.
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