Atheism and politics

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Edmund Burke was adamantly against atheism and pointed out its negative influence on the political realm.[1]

Atheist Dr. Gordon Stein wrote:

Atheism has long ceased to be a rare and oft-ignored philosophical outlook...It has transformed itself into an active political programme with clear objectives which, though they vary from state to state, unequivocally include the elimination of state religion, religious education, and the enshrinement of scientism."[2]

Atheists commonly use the political realm to advance their atheistic ideology (see: Political activities of atheists).

Historically, atheists have screwed towards the left side of the political aisle (see: Secular left).[3][4][5][6][7]

According to the Pew Forum, in the United States: "About two-thirds of atheists (69%) identify as Democrats (or lean in that direction), and a majority (56%) call themselves political liberals (compared with just one-in-ten who say they are conservatives).[8] A Harris interactive poll found that most American atheists are liberal.[9]

In some regions where the secular left has considerable influence, they are losing an increasing amount of their power. For example, in secular Europe right-wing nationalist political parties are growing and in China conservative Protestantism is growing rapidly (see: Growth of Christianity in China).[10] In addition, religious conservatives are immigrating to secular Europe in significant numbers and having more children than their secular population which is expected to increase social conservatism in Europe over time (see: Desecularization).

Atheists do not have a completely unified political standing, but embrace a diverse range of political opinions. atheists hold all major political positions, including the secular left and the secular right.

Atheist political opinions varies from country to country: the secular left are the most notable in the USA. But there have been atheists on the political right. For example, in the United Kingdom there are links with a tradition of the secular right, e.g. David Hume, who was an atheist or agnostic (it is unclear),[11] whose book History would "spread toryism across the land" according to Thomas Jefferson.[12] However, Edmund Burke was adamantly against atheism and pointed out its negative influence on the political realm.[13]

Atheism and communism/socialism

See also: Atheism and communism

According to the University of Cambridge, historically, the "most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power."[4] Vitalij Lazarʹevič Ginzburg, a Soviet physicist, wrote that the "Bolshevik communists were not merely atheists but, according to Lenin's terminology, militant atheists."[14]

Vladimir Lenin similarly wrote: "A Marxist must be a materialist, i. e., an enemy of religion, but a dialectical materialist, i. e., one who treats the struggle against religion not in an abstract way, not on the basis of remote, purely theoretical, never varying preaching, but in a concrete way, on the basis of the class struggle which is going on in practice and is educating the masses more and better than anything else could."[15]

In 1955, Chinese communist leader Chou En-lai declared, "We Communists are atheists".[16]

The atheism in communist regimes has been and continues to be militant atheism and various acts of repression including the razing of thousands of religious buildings and the killing, imprisoning, and oppression of religious leaders and believers (see: Militant atheism and Atheism and communism).

In the belief that "people cannot change", governments under the banner of atheistic Communism have caused the death of somewhere between 40 million to 260 million human lives.[17] Dr. R. J. Rummel, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, is the scholar who first coined the term democide (death by government). Dr. R. J. Rummel's mid estimate regarding the loss of life due to communism is that it caused the death of approximately 148,286,000 people between 1917 and 1987.[18] For more information please see: Atheism and mass murder

Prior to this, the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution established an atheist state, with the official ideology being the Cult of Reason; during this time thousands of believers were suppressed and executed by the guillotine.[5][6][7] There is far more notable examples of Atheists on the left than in any other political spectrum. This is mainly due to the Marx idea that "Religion is the opium of the masses" which appeals to Atheists. Additionally, within totalitarian communist regimes, the church was a threat to the power of the dictator and so being a Militant Atheist was necessary in order to expand the power of the state. Though, quite ironically, the communist left sometimes push for more integration of church and state. An example of this was Stalin's revitalization of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1941, which was joked to be more of a nationalization than a revitalization.[19] In British Politics, the Socialist party Labour have had multiple Atheist members including Clement Attlee who became prime-minister[20] and Ken Livingston, mayor of London[21]

Secular left and mass murder

See also: Atheism and mass murder

Theodore Beale wrote about the secular left and mass murder:

...it does, however, cast serious doubt on the common atheist assertion that a godless society will be a peaceful one. The significant question has never been if atheism causes political leaders to kill in large quantities, it is why political leaders who happen to be atheist have been inordinately inclined to kill in large quantities.

As I wrote in TIA, the answer is probably to be found in the fact that atheists who have committed great historical crimes are almost exclusively left-wing atheists with utopian visions of restructuring human society; Ayn Rand atheists aren't exactly known for attempting to violently restructure societal order. This is why atheists like Bertrand Russell, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and especially Michel Onfray are far more dangerous than those more akin to Daniel Dennett and even Richard Dawkins.[22]

Secular left, Soviet Union and historical revisionism

See also: Atheism and historical revisionism

The secular left has a history of engaging in historical revisionism (see: Atheism and historical revisionism).

In terms of academic and popular history, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) often engaged in historical revisionism via their control of political/ideological public discourse (media, education, etc.) and via the monitoring/silencing/imprisonment/persecution of citizens through the KGB.[23]

During and subsequent to the rule of Nikita Khrushchev (1956–64), there was competition between the pro-Stalinists and anti-Stalinists in terms of how Soviet history was portrayed.[24]

Communist Party of China

See also: Atheism and communism and Asian atheism and Growth of Christianity in China

Flag of the Communist Party of China

In 1955, Chinese communist leader Zhou Enlai declared, "We Communists are atheists".[25] In 2014, the Communist Party of China reaffirmed that members of their party must be atheists.[26]

In 2016, the International Business Times reported:

A senior Chinese advisor on religious affairs has said the country should promote atheism throughout society, in remarks that appear to reflect a deepening campaign to reinforce traditional Marxist values in China — and could add to concern about official attitudes among believers in the country’s five officially recognized religions.[27]

There is growing persecution of Christians by the Chinese government.[28]

Atheism and liberalism

The Secular left, while called left, actively promotes liberalism. It demands "strict government secularism" and "anger toward religious and political conservatives,"[29] within the USA. The secular left has historically opposed religious conservatives and social conservatism. Part of this is ideologically centered. Liberalism had its foundlings in challenging traditions and religious thinking has became tradition for certain countries. As such, being an Atheist defies tradition in these countries and so Atheism would seem liberal. It has been claimed that American Atheism has only became liberal in a reaction towards the attacks of the Religious Right[30] in a case of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and even a claim that the secular left is not strong but is rather an over-reaction of the religious right in calling all center-left politicians "the secular left".[31] Within the United Kingdom, there are notable atheist liberals such as current Deputy Prime-Minister Nick Clegg.

Atheism, right of center politics and libertarianism

In the United States, atheists are a small faction of the political right.[32] Since the 1960s/1970s, the was a significant trend of religious conservatives becoming Republicans.[33]

There is a stronger wing of the right of center politics in the United Kingdom, with famous adherents such as David Hume and Reginald Johnston,[34] and Tory MP Michael Portillo.

In South Korea, the Head of the conservative party was an atheist while he was running against a Roman Catholic liberal.[35]

Atheism and libertarianism

According to Murray N. Rothbard, who writes for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, most libertarians at the present time are atheists.[36] Ayn Rand was a libertarian and atheist.

Rothbard also declares:

There are many libertarians who are theists, Jewish or Christian. Among the classical-liberal forebears of modern libertarianism in a more religious age there were a myriad of Christians: from John Lilburne, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, and John Locke in the 17th century, down to Cobden and Bright, Frédéric Bastiat and the French laissez-faire liberals, and the great Lord Acton.[37]

Both Ron Paul and Rand Paul are religious libertarians.

List of politically right of center atheists/agnostics

  • Heather Mac Donald, commentator and journalist
  • Charles C. W. Cooke, writer for National Review
  • George Will, columnist and commentator ("Low voltage atheist"/agnostic)[38]
  • Walter K. Olson, tort reform advocate and author
  • Charles Krauthammer (agnostic)
  • James Taranto, journalist and columnist
  • Allahpundit, blogger
  • Greg Gutfeld, commentator (agnostic)
  • S.E. Cupp, commentator
  • Amy Holmes, commentator
  • Niall Ferguson, historian and columnist
  • Carrie Sheffield, commentator and journalist

Atheism and economic/political instability

See also: Christianity and social stability and Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Over the long term, atheistic societies have tended to have a lower degree of economic productivity and as a result have eventually experienced economic/political instability (see: Atheistic communism and lower economic productivity and Secular Europe's economic crisis).

The Eurozone crisis is an ongoing economic crisis which has been negatively affecting Eurozone countries since late 2009. It consists of a sovereign debt crisis, a banking crisis and an economic growth and competitiveness crisis. Economic and societal/political instability is positively correlated to greater religiosity.[39] Economic/societal instability in Europe could cause Europe to become more religious.[40][41][42]

On the other hand, biblical Christianity enhances social stability and economic productivity (see: Christianity and social stability and Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism).

Western atheism, schisms and political polarization

See also: Western atheism, schisms and political polarization

Post Atheism plus movement and post the Elevatorgate controversy, within Western atheism, there has been increased conflict between atheists who espouse political progressivism (feminism, identity politics, multiculturalism) and atheists who disagree with all or part of political progressivism (see: Western atheism, schisms and political polarization).

Religious are expected to see a net gain in political power in the 21st century

See also: Desecularization and politics and Religious conservatism and politics and Growth of global desecularization

Due to their higher fertility of religious conservatives and religious immigration to the Western World, the religious are expected to see a net gain in political power in the 21st century (see: Desecularization and politics).

The decline of the secular left

See also: Decline of the secular left

As noted above, historically the largest advances of the secular left has been through utilizing the power of the state (see: State atheism and Atheism and communism). For example, secular leftists use the power of the state to promote evolutionary ideology and to censor creationist/intelligent design models of origins (See: Suppression of alternatives to evolution and Atheist indoctrination).

The historian Martin Van Crevel points out that sovereign states are losing power/influence due to technology democratizing access to information, welfare states increasingly failing, fourth-generation warfare being waged against countries and sovereign states increasingly losing their ability to maintain internal order.[43][44]

Decline of the secular left and demography and religious immigration

See also: Global atheism

Atheism is in decline worldwide, with the number of atheists falling from 4.5% of the world’s population in 1970 to 2.0% in 2010 and projected to drop to 1.8% by 2020.[45]

On December 23, 2012, Professor Eric Kaufmann who teaches at Birbeck College, University of London wrote:

I argue that 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious.

On the other hand, the secular West and East Asia has very low fertility and a rapidly aging population. The demographic disparity between the religious, growing global South and the aging, secular global North will peak around 2050. In the coming decades, the developed world's demand for workers to pay its pensions and work in its service sector will soar alongside the booming supply of young people in the third world. Ergo, we can expect significant immigration to the secular West which will import religious revival on the back of ethnic change. In addition, those with religious beliefs tend to have higher birth rates than the secular population, with fundamentalists having far larger families. The epicentre of these trends will be in immigration gateway cities like New York (a third white), Amsterdam (half Dutch), Los Angeles (28% white), and London, 45% white British. [46]

In 2010, in his book Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth, Eric Kaufmann wrote concerning the culture war in the United States:

High evangelical fertility rates more than compensated for losses to liberal Protestant sects during the twentieth century. In recent decades, white secularism has surged, but Latino and Asian religious immigration has taken up the slack, keeping secularism at bay. Across denominations, the fertility advantage of religious fundamentalists of all colours is significant and growing. After 2020, their demographic weight will begin to tip the balance in the culture wars towards the conservative side, ramping up pressure on hot-button issues such as abortion. By the end of the century, three quarters of America may be pro-life. Their activism will leap over the borders of the 'Redeemer Nation' to evangelize the world. Already, the rise of the World Congress of Families has launched a global religious right, its arms stretching across the bloody lines of the War on Terror to embrace the entire Abrahamic family.[47]

Darwinism and antipathy towards social conservatism

See also: Evolution and liberalism

Most liberals/leftists tend to be evolutionists (see: Evolution and liberalism).

In July 2000, Creation Ministries International reported:

For years, many people have scoffed at any suggestion that the evils in society could be linked with the teaching of the theory of evolution. But new research has confirmed what Bible-believers have known all along—that the rising acceptance of Darwin’s theory is related to declining morality in the community.

The research survey of 1535 people, conducted by the Australian National University, revealed that belief in evolution is associated with moral permissiveness. Darwin himself apparently feared that belief in evolution by the common man would lead to social decay. The survey showed that people who believed in evolution were more likely to be in favour of premarital sex than those who rejected Darwin’s theory. Another issue which highlighted the contrast between the effect of evolutionary ideas and that of biblical principles was that Darwinians were reported to be ‘especially tolerant’ of abortion.

In identifying the primary factors determining these differences in community attitudes, the author of the research report, Dr Jonathan Kelley, said: ‘The single most important influence after church attendance is the theory of evolution.’[48]

Irreligion, culture, morality and politics

See also: Atheism and culture and Atheism and morality The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC) declared about irreligion and politics:

Because politics is downstream from culture, once the people become irreligious and corrupt, the politicians will reflect their ethos. No representative form of government can be preserved once the people are given over to selfishness and moral corruption.[49]

Atheism, culture and morality

Atheism and liberal Christianity

See also: Atheism and liberal Christianity alliances

Although liberal Christianity adherents disagree with atheists on various matters, they do work together on points of agreement (see: Atheism and liberal Christianity alliances).

Atheism and American politics

See also: Atheism and American politics

Many Americans have a very unfavorable view of atheists (see: Views on atheists).

Atheism and U.S. presidential politics

See also: Distrust of atheists

In 2015, National Public Radio (NPR) indicated:

In a 1958 poll of Americans, only 18 percent of respondents said they would vote for a generally well-qualified presidential candidate nominated by their political party if that person happened to be an atheist. In 2015, that number has jumped to 58 percent.

Yet, even today, 40 percent of respondents say they would not vote for an atheist.[50]

In 2012, the Gallup organization reported:

While more than nine in 10 Americans would vote for a presidential candidate who is black, a woman, Catholic, Hispanic, or Jewish, significantly smaller percentages would vote for one who is an atheist (54%) or Muslim (58%).[51]

Atheism and U.S. congressional politics

USA Today indicated in 2014:

Guess how many of the major-party candidates in next month's congressional elections are openly atheist. Hint: You can count them on one finger.

It tells you something that in a time when "no religion" is the category of roughly 20% of Americans, virtually none of the hundreds of Democrats and Republicans vying for congressional seats identify as a religious "none."

.... atheism and related forms of non-belief are about the worst thing a candidate can be associated with.[52]

Atheism and Australian politics

See also: Atheism and social/interpersonal intelligence and Atheist conferences

In 2017, Andrew P. Street wrote in The Sydney Herald: "atheists have failed to make a strong organisational case to become a meaningful lobby group because we have a tendency to… well, act like a bunch of jerks."[53]

See also

External links

References

  1. Edmund Burke on atheism
  2. Gordon Stein, Encyclopedia of Politics and Religion, 74.
  3. Atheists & Agnostics in America Tend to be Politically Liberal
  4. 4.0 4.1 Marxism. University of Cambridge (2008). Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “The most notable spread of atheism was achieved through the success of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which brought the Marxist-Leninists to power. For the first time in history, atheism thus became the official ideology of a state.”
  5. 5.0 5.1 James Adair (2007). Christianity. JBE Online Books. Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “Although the Civil Constitution called for religious liberty, which was extended to Jews as well as Christians, many revolutionaries pushed for the establishment of a new state religion, either the Cult of Reason (atheists) or the Cult of the Supreme Being (Deists). Changes toAlthough the Civil Constitution called for religious liberty, which was extended to Jews as well as Christians, many revolutionaries pushed for the establishment of a new state religion, either the Cult of Reason (atheists) or the Cult of the Supreme Being (Deists). Changes to the calendar eliminated references to Christian holidays, and even the ancient seven-day week, and a ist of officially recognized saints included such famous thinkers such as Socrates, Jesus, Marcus Aurelius, and Jean-Jacques Rosseau. A period of political persecution, often with religious overtones, broke out, known as the Reign of Teror. Thousands of people were executed by the guillotine, including many of the original leaders of the French Revolution.” 
  6. 6.0 6.1 William Belsham (1801). Memoirs of the reign of George III. to the session of parliament ending A.D. 1793, Volume 5. G.G. & J. Robinson. Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “Reign of this portentous period, it has been eloquently tenor, and energetically observed, " that the reign of atheism in France was avowed the reign of terror. In the full madness of their career, in the highest climax of their horrors, they shut up the temples of God, abolished His worship, and proclaimed death to be an eternal sleep:-in the very centre of Christendom, Revelation underwent a total eclipse, while atheism, performing on a darkened theatre its strange and fearful tragedy, confounded the first elements of society, blended every age, rank, and sex ,indiscriminate proscription and massacre, and convulsed all Europe to its centre, that the imperishable memorial of these events might teach the last generations of mankind to consider religion as the pillar of society, the parent of social order, and the safe-guard of nations." It is wonderful that, amid the horrors of this dismal period, while "the death dance of democratic revolution" was still in rapid movement, among the tears of affliction, and the cries of despair, "the masque, the song, the theatric scene, the buffoon laughter, went on as regularly as in the gay hour of festive peace."” 
  7. 7.0 7.1 William Kilpatrick (2012). Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West. Ignatius Press. Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “Actually, it's helpful to think in terms of two Enlightenments: the Enlightenment that cut itself off from God. The former led to the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, the abolition of slavery, and the civil rights movement. The latter led to the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror, the suppression of church by state, and the godless philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche and their offspring-National Socialism and communism. More recently the abandonment of God has led to the regime of cultural relativism that regards rights as arbitrary constructions. It's this second Enlightenment tradition that Cardinal Ratzinger referred to when he wrote, "The radical detachment of the Enlightenment philosophy from its roots ultimately leads it to dispense with man." Actually this transition happened no "ultimately" but almost immediately. The first instance occurred when Enlightenment worship of abstract "reason" and "liberty" degenearated quickly into the mass murders committed during the antireligious Reign of Terror in France. "Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name", said Madam Rolande as she faced the statue of Liberty in the Place de la Revolution movements before her death at the guillotine. She was one of the early victims of a succession of secular systems based on rootless notions of "liberty", "equality", and "reason". As many historians have pointed out, the atheist regimes of modern times are guilty of far more crimes than any committed in the name of religion. Communist governments alone were guilty of more than one hundred million murders, most of them committed against their own people.” 
  8. 7 facts about atheists, Pew Forum
  9. Atheists & Agnostics in America Tend to be Politically Liberal
  10. EU Failures Fuel Rise of Right-Wing Populist Parties in Europe. Sputnik News, 2016
  11. David Hume - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philisophy
  12. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=673&chapter=159422&layout=html&Itemid=27
  13. Edmund Burke on atheism
  14. Vitalij Lazarʹevič Ginzburg (2009). On Superconductivity and Superfluidity: A Scientific Autobiography. Springer Science+Business Media. Retrieved on 2011–03–15. “The Bolshevik communists were not merely atheists but, according to Lenin's terminology, militant atheists.” 
  15. Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich, Proletary, No. 45, May 13 (26), 1909, translated by Andrew Rothstein and Bernard Issacs, quote from [1].
  16. Noebel, David, The Battle for Truth, Harvest House, 2001.
  17. Multiple references:
  18. Rummel, R. J. (November 1993). "How many did communist regimes murder?" University of Hawaii website; Freedom, Democracy, Peace; Power, Democide, and War.
  19. http://www.ipc.od.ua/14spravka.html
  20. "[...] then in 1896 at the age of thirteen went on, like all the boys in the family, to Haileybury College. Here he confirmed an unobtrusive atheism—he became disenchanted with church attendance and religious observance—and played rugby and cricket with the handicap of his small stature and lack of any real skill, but enjoyed the rifle corps." R. C. Whiting, 'Attlee, Clement Richard, first Earl Attlee (1883–1967)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edition, January 2008 (accessed May 2, 2008).
  21. "I assume you're an atheist? I am too. Isn't life easier?" "Ken Livingstone: The Interview". attitude.
  22. Atheist Demotivator #4 by Theodore Beal
  23. Klaus Mehnert, Stalin Versus Marx: the Stalinist historical doctrine (Translation of Weltrevolution durch Weltgeschichte) Port Washington NY: Kennikat Press 1972 (1952), on the illegitimate use of history in the 1934–1952 period
  24. Roger D. Markwick, Rewriting history in Soviet Russia : the politics of revisionist historiography, 1956–1974 New York ; Basingstoke : Palgrave, 2001, on legitimate Soviet Historiography particularly in the post 1956 period.
  25. Noebel, David, The Battle for Truth, Harvest House, 2001.
  26. Senior Chinese Religious Advisor Calls For Promotion Of Atheism In Society, International Business Times
  27. Martyr killed by bulldozer becomes symbol of growing persecution of Christians in China
  28. http://www.secularleft.us/about
  29. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unreasonablefaith/2012/06/liberal-atheists/
  30. http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0523-25.htm
  31. A Place on the Right for a Few Godless Conservatives by MARK OPPENHEIMER, New York Times, 2011
  32. A Place on the Right for a Few Godless Conservatives by MARK OPPENHEIMER, New York Times, 2011
  33. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199899/cmhansrd/vo990623/debtext/90623-40.htm
  34. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/12/conservative-atheists-not-rare-in-south-korea/
  35. Myth and Truth About Libertarianism, Mises Daily
  36. Myth and Truth About Libertarianism, Mises Daily
  37. George Will: I Am a 'Low-Voltage Atheist'
  38. Does atheism thrive on economic prosperity? Does religion prosper when people are desperate and ignorant?
  39. Social unrest in Europe altering its religious landscape
  40. Another crisis hitting Darwinism, atheism and agnosticism - Eurocrisis is causing secular Europe to have falling fertility rates. Creationism does well in economic hard times
  41. Why a literal reading of the Genesis is surging in the world
  42. The Fate of the State by MARTIN VAN CREVELD
  43. Martin van Creveld interview
  44. Global Study: Atheists in Decline, Only 1.8% of World Population by 2020
  45. 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious, Tuesday, April 30, 2013
  46. Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth by Eric Kaufmann
  47. Morals decline linked to evolution
  48. God's politics, Christian Anti-Defamation Commission (CADC) website
  49. Would Voters Entrust The White House To An Atheist?, NPR
  50. Atheists, Muslims See Most Bias as Presidential Candidates, Gallup organization
  51. Can atheists be elected? Column
  52. Why do public atheists have to behave like such jerks by Andrew Street, The Sydney Morning Herald, June 21, 2017