Many atheists, myself included, once passionately believed in our religion. We would fiercely defend it against all critics, usually with canned talking points we knew by heart. When doubts started creeping in, we went on serious searches for answers, and were dismayed by what we found. At first we rejected anything that contradicted our beliefs, but as the evidence piled up that became harder and harder to do. Eventually, it became impossible. We left our beliefs behind (and in some cases, all our friends and family as well) in order to embrace reality and more forward.
I find it very discouraging that so many atheists, the majority of them in my experience, are progressives: far-lefties who believe in the state with the passion they once reserved for religion. They reject religious laws as nothing more than words written down by goat-herders thousands of years ago, but have a great reverence for words written down more recently by weasels in suits. They deny that taxes are taken by the threat of force. They talk endlessly about The Social Contract, a construct as imaginary as The Holy Spirit. When expensive Keynesian economic policies inevitably fail, they insist it was only because they weren’t big enough. They love Obamacare. They will do everything they can to eliminate choice in education – fighting against charter schools, private schools, homeschooling and unschooling. They defend Obama murdering American citizens with drones. They denigrate capitalism, always confusing it with the corporatism we have in place in the US. They refuse to admit that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. And they despise the very idea of libertarianism.
The worst example of this is Humanism, which I’ve written about before. Join any humanist forum and leave a few posts that are liberty oriented. Talk about the rights of the individual, the invisible hand, or the advantages of free-market capitalism over socialism, then watch how they react. (Do not try this experiment unless you have a thick skin and flame-proof underwear.)
Progressives have no idea what libertarianism is. They’ve created a voodoo doll caricature of it, and they hate that doll.
The typical libertarian, according to them, is a selfish loner who doesn’t care about anyone else, not even a little. He wants to create a society that will cater to him, while contributing nothing himself. He’d like to live by himself, counting his bullets and his pre-1965 silver coins, only leaving his lair to buy dangerous drugs from vending machines conveniently located on school grounds. On the way, he’ll rub his hands and chuckle as he steps over the corpses of the poor who died in the street for want of food and medical care.
In reality, Libertarians are the same as most other people. We want a happy, productive life full of friends and family, helping out others as much as we can, teaming up with like-minded people to accomplish mutual goals, while being free of violence and coercion. There are only a few things things that separate us from the general population: we recognize that the source of most violence and coercion is the government, we rebel against (and often ignore) stupid laws and we are quite willing to let other people lead their lives as they see fit, even if we strongly disapprove of their choices.
(The term “voluntarist” is becoming popular among the liberty-minded. I like it; it encompasses non-violence, involvement and cooperation in one short word.)
Trying to explain this to a progressive usually a waste of time – it’s like arguing evolution with a fundy. Information on libertarianism is readily available, but they prefer to embrace their ignorance, clinging to it like the religious cling to their gods. Smugly hating the caricature is so much easier than learning the reality.
This is a plea to my friends who are progressive atheists. You know, from experience, how to rigorously examine deeply held beliefs. Please apply that skill set to your political and economic beliefs as well. Ponder the idea of force, and stop denying that it’s the government’s only tool. Figure out how many government “solutions” are responses to problems created by government in the first place. When there is a problem, ask if it can better solved by individuals acting freely, than by government force. Stop making excuses for the failure of Keynesian policies. Consider the idea that free individuals can, as a direct result of acting in their own best interest, create a society of abundance and liberty. Reject the caricatures of libertarians presented by The Daily Kos, ThinkProgress and Mother Jones. Visit Reason, The Cato Institute, and other sites that espouse real libertarian thought. Listen to Free Talk Live to hear real libertarians vigorously debate ideas with each other. Smartenize yourself on the subject. And most importantly, stop trying to force your morals and life-style on everyone else with laws and rules and regulations.
You can do it. Please, give it a try.