Atheists Thrown Under the Bus By Progressives

Godless Liberal

One would think that persons on the same side of the political spectrum (i.e., those who lean left and describe themselves as liberal or progressive) might recognize that they are stronger when they have more allies and weaker when they go out of their way to dismiss or alienate like-minded persons. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.

Austin Cline wrote a thought-provoking post on the subject of progressives marginalizing atheists (update: link no longer active). As someone who is both a progressive (or at least a liberal) and an atheist, I read it with great interest. And having been on the receiving end of this sort of treatment by a few on the left, it certainly rang true to me.

In the U.S., we have all seen how this scenario happens again and again. Conservatives constantly attack liberals and progressives, in part by suggesting that there is a link between liberalism and atheism. Of course, what they don't say is that they maintain this relationship by exploiting public misunderstanding about the meaning of secularism and making the demonization of atheists a central part of their position.

The key, as Cline suggests, is how many on the left respond to such attacks.

Rather than standing firm in their defense of liberal atheists who themselves stand firm in defensive of basic progressive values, some liberals are ready to toss them overboard. Atheists are told to sit down and shut up rather than speak out on science, evolution, or religious politics.

For those of us who consider the progressivism and/or liberalism our home, this is difficult to ignore.

Cline offers many possible reasons that liberals and progressives might behave this way. I suspect that the manner in which political correctness has taken hold on the left is a core reason that many are so quick to run from atheists. Those who have convinced themselves that religious belief is worthy of respect because it is an aspect of culture are going to have a difficult time working alongside atheists, many of whom are not interested in respecting beliefs which are both false and dangerous.

This is unfortunate. Atheists, along with agnostics and secular humanists, have played an important role throughout the history of the progressive movement. They are stronger with us, and we are stronger with them.