The Authoritarian Left and Misdirected Animosity in the Atheist Community

The worldwide atheist community is growing every day. In northern Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand this trend has been obvious for some time. The 2015 Pew Research Center Report ‘The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections 2010-2050‘ says:

During the next few decades, the number of religiously unaffiliated people around the world is projected to grow modestly, rising from about 1.1 billion in 2010 to a peak of more than 1.2 billion in 2040 and then dropping back slightly. (Page 81.) …

The religiously unaffiliated are heavily concentrated in the Asia-Pacific region, where 76% resided in 2010 and 68% are projected to reside in 2050. The share of the unaffiliated population residing in Europe is projected to grow from 12% in 2010 to 13% in 2050. North America, which had about 5% of the world’s unaffiliated population in 2010, is expected to have 9% in 2050. The shares of the unaffiliated living in the three other regions are expected to increase modestly but remain relatively small. (Page 82.)

Dark AgesThe change is causing some growing pains in the US though, and the religious right is fighting tooth and nail to maintain power. At the moment they’re succeeding. The election of Donald Trump as president and the domination by GOP candidates across the board is causing some angst in both the atheist and secular communities.

The effect the last election will have on the US Supreme Court in particular is worrying. Trump’s nomination to replace the late justice Antonin Scalia is judge Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch is even more conservative than the man he’s replacing. We can expect him to contribute his extreme right-wing religious and political views for the next thirty years. This, at a time, when the views of USians are becoming more liberal all the time.

The trend towards atheism is set to continue and the pace of change is likely to increase, but short-term there will be ideological battles.

How did the USA become more atheist 2014

(Click graph to go to source.)

Atheism CambridgeAtheist Values

Any dictionary will tell you that all atheist means is you don’t believe in God or gods. However, like religious groups, atheists are, on average, more likely to hold certain values.

In 2009 Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor at Pitzer College (and later founder of the Department of Secular Studies) wrote ‘Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions‘. His analyses include:

… when we actually compare the values and beliefs of atheists and secular people to those of religious people, the former are markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian.

Atheist Politics

No respect for religionIn the United States, atheists are far more likely to vote Democrat than Republican as the graph below shows. We tend to be feminists, pro-marriage equality (92%), anti-racism, and pro-choice (87%). As well as being atheists, many are also anti-theist.

Within the atheist community, those opinions are fairly uncontroversial. There are people who don’t hold them; I’ve come across several extreme misogynists who are atheists for example. However, most atheists are liberal (56%) or moderate (29%) and thus we have high levels of representation amongst the extreme left.

Voting by Religion 2016

(Click graph to go to source.)

The Rise in Authoritarianism

As well as a rise in atheism, there has been a noticeable rise in authoritarianism worldwide. We can thus expect there to be some overlap.

Vladimir Putin is using nationalism to support his brand of authoritarianism with increasingly scary results. In Britain the support for Nigel Farage’s party UKIP is rising. In France Marine Le Pen of the National Front is increasingly popular. Germany had the National Democratic Party, Greece has Golden Dawn, Sweden has the Sweden Democrats, Poland has the Law and Justice Party, and Hungary has Jobbik. There are literally dozens of others.

The best known authoritarian in the world today though is Donald Trump.

Authoritarianism in the United States

It is attraction to authoritarianism that marks out Trump voters more than any other characteristic. Media outlet Vox surveyed US voters last year. They reported:

… according to our survey, authoritarians skew heavily Republican. More than 65 percent of people who scored highest on the authoritarianism questions were GOP voters. More than 55 percent of surveyed Republicans scored as “high” or “very high” authoritarians.

And at the other end of the scale, that pattern reversed. People whose scores were most non-authoritarian — meaning they always chose the non-authoritarian … answer — were almost 75 percent Democrats.

Left-Wing Authoritarianism

However, there are authoritarians on the left too. From the same article:

But Hetherington also noticed something else: A subgroup of non-authoritarians were very afraid of threats like Iran or ISIS. And the more fear of these threats they expressed, the more likely they were to support Trump.

This seemed to confirm his and Suhay’s theory: that non-authoritarians who are sufficiently frightened of physical threats such as terrorism could essentially be scared into acting like authoritarians.

This is what I think is happening to some on the left. They are scared by politicians like Trump will cause them to lose the gains made in so many areas of society in recent years. Thus, they are acting like authoritarians. Within that group, we’re seeing a loss of respect for a fundamental liberal value: freedom of speech.

Authoritarian Atheists

Unfortunately, we have a growing group of atheists who consider particular positions to be compulsory. They want to shut down the voices of those who disagree with them. In doing so, they attack those who support freedom of speech for everybody. They only support freedom of speech for those they agree with, and it’s giving liberals a bad name. These people are not liberals of course – you can’t be a liberal and not support freedom of speech for all. However, the traditional association between liberalism and the left mean the terms are frequently confused.

Even worse, some leading atheist voices, like Dan Arel, are excusing violence. Recently, during an on-camera interview, leading alt-right voice Robert Spencer received an elbow in the face. Such actions are clearly unacceptable but many on the left, including Arel, made excuses for the behaviour. He, and they, considered the fact that Spencer holds (admittedly) offensive views excused the behaviour. (See Ken White’s post ‘On Punching Nazis‘ at Popehat for a comprehensive view on why Arel is wrong, though it should be obvious.)

Using physical violence against an opponent gives them the opportunity to claim martyr status. There’s nothing an alt-right activist likes better than being able to go on Fox News and point out bad behaviour by the left. The number of times I’ve heard the oxymoron “illiberal liberal” on Fox is too high to count. I heard it again yesterday following the UC Berkeley protests.

UC Berkeley Protests

Trump Berkley TweetMost Fox News commentators were reliably supportive of Donald Trump’s stance on the violence that erupted in the wake of a speaking invitation to Breitbart Editor Milo Yiannopoulos. There was one though that gave a clear and fair statement. Charles Lane of the Washington Post said:

I think Donald Trump owes the University of California an apology for threatening their federal funds and I’ll tell you why. What happened at the University of California is the following:

The administration worked with the college Republicans to provide a free forum for Milo, and protected it with university police drawn from the university’s system from all around the state. Then, it provided a space for its students to protest peacefully, which they did, until 150 people dressed in black – the same kind of people who wrecked Washington during the inauguration – showed up with their crowbars and created the mayhem from the outside, which the University of California then repressed, as it should, to restore law and order.

And in other words the University of California upheld free speech and law and order through use of its resources in exemplary fashion. And its reward for that was to be threatened with a cut-off of federal funds by the president of the United States.

Back on campus though, a female student and Trump supporter, and again during an on-camera interview, was pepper-sprayed in the face. Such actions are simply unacceptable.

Personal Attacks on Leading Atheists

Although, as far as I know, there’s been no physical abuse, there’s a large number of far-left atheists attacking leading atheist voices via social media. I’ve written about the ongoing attacks on Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne on several occasions. I devoted a whole post to supporting Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

It looks to me like Dan Arel wants to make it with the authoritarian crowd too now. His 10 January post ‘How classical liberals helped normalize white nationalism and elect Donald Trump‘, attacking Jerry Coyne and Dave Rubin, must be one of the most ridiculous attempts at a take down I’ve ever seen. If you’re going to expose someone in writing, you really should make sure you get your facts straight, and Arel was simply wrong on every point. His characterization of Coyne’s positions on almost every topic was incorrect, and the flaws in his logic beggar belief.

Responses to Arel

Coyne himself wrote an excellent response: ‘Dan Arel goes full regressive: accuses “classical liberals” (i.e., me) of “normalizing white nationalism”. It was Arel’s own followers though who wrote some of the most scathing responses to Arel’s post.


You,sir, are an ignoramus of the highest order.


YOU helped get trump elected. For months ahead of the election you went on and on about how your precious principles would not allow you to vote for hillary despite her running the most progressive campaign in american history.

YOU elected trump [and] YOU decided that the suffering of women gays, muslims, latinxs was an acceptable risk copared to you having to lower yourself to casting a vote you weren’t 100% comfortable with You don’t get to criticize anyone on the left ever again.

YOU did this.


Dan, you’re fearful and angry- an understandable reaction to Trump’s election and one shared by people like Coyne and many others. However, you are responding in a foolish way, lashing out at people you deem to be insufficiently pure allies, and refusing to consider your own failings. This will not help, it will only set you up for more disappointment if you can’t rationally analyze your problems.

Coyne didn’t elect Trump, Rubin didn’t elect Trump, Bernie didn’t elect Trump- Trump supporters did. But, if, out of fear of losing to your actual enemies, you can see no wrongs on your own “side” and can brook no criticism, you will fracture your allies and drive the middle into apathy or into the Trump camp.

It’s not Jerry Coyne you have to worry about; he, like a reasonable person, can weigh up the follies of the left and the right and judge that Trump is a disaster whose real harm far surpasses the ugliness that can be found on the left. However, for people genuinely on the fence, seeing your denial and hypocrisy towards people who should be your compatriots can push them to the other side. It doesn’t matter if you or I think that is a foolish decision, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t fair, it is reality and you have to deal with what is, not what you wish could be. …


Arel has set himself up as the ultimate arbiter of who is allowed to speak and who isn’t. Heil Arel!!

These comments are just the most recent. There are dozens more the same. I have to say, it renews my faith in my fellow atheists. If you’re a liberal atheist, as most of us are, that means you support freedom of speech. Most importantly, you support it for everybody – not just the people you agree with.

Freedom of Speech

Ideas Don't Have Rights - CopyI’m in my early 50s, and just in my lifetime the improvements in so many areas of society are amazing. There’s less racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and many other forms of bigotry and prejudice. There’s still a long way to go, especially in the developing world and more religious countries.

As atheists we rely on data and evidence to support our case. We know that the world is better off when society is more accepting of all views and all people. To many we’ve made the case that, for example, equality for women improves the lives of everybody. There are still plenty out there who haven’t learnt that. The way to change their minds is through persuasion, not shutting down discussion. We have the better arguments – let’s use them.

And remember, it’s the increase in communication that’s led to the increase in atheism. Talking more has made the world a more rational place.

The Last Word Goes to Voltaire

Voltaire freedom of speech


I re-read this post on 2 May 2017, and discovered a helluva lot of typos and a couple of unclear sentences, so I corrected them. There’re probably more errors I haven’t noticed yet. Please feel free to point them out in the comments below. Heather.


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51 Responses to “The Authoritarian Left and Misdirected Animosity in the Atheist Community”

  1. Coel says:

    However, the traditional association between liberalism and the left mean the terms are frequently confused.

    Just a comment about how America skews these terms. In crude terms, America doesn’t have a left wing (by European standards), it has a center and a right.

    “Liberalism” is much more of a centrist position than a left one. The actual left, the socialist left, has never been liberal, it’s always had an authoritarian streak (after all, socialism inevitably involves a high degree of state direction and control).

    There’s also a streak of liberalism in right-wing ideology, where it tends to get called libertarianism.

    It thus doesn’t at all surprise me that the left is often authoritarian.

    Finally, getting a bit pedantic about one of your “meme” images. I *do* respect the right of a theist to tell me that I’m evil and going to hell, so long as I have the right to reply (the rest of the statements on that image are fine).

    • Coel says:

      To add a comment on Dan Arel himself, who is a socialist. Now, in general, populations don’t vote for socialism; they vote for mixed economies with strong welfare states, but not for socialism. This then leads to an authoritarian streak in socialism, that the people need to be told what is good for them.

      For people such as Arel, the election of Trump is hugely worrying. They now worry that their ideas will not win out in a free-expression competition of ideas.

      The classic liberal has always held that good ideas would prevail given open and free expression, but the authoritarians on the Left worry that that is not the case, and thus they cannot accept that their opponents should have free speech. Some ideas, they feel, are so outside their own vision of society, that society should suppress their expression.

      Thus, Arel’s wanting to use violence to prevent the expression of “Nazi” views, results, at root, from a fear that his own vision of society will not win out in a liberal democracy, and thus that authoritarian means are the only way to attain the society that he wishes for.

    • Excellent points, especially about the difference between US and European (and NZ) politics. The governing centre-right party here is liberal, and more left-wing than the Democratic party. No NZer would ever describe them as left-wing though.

      • Trevor says:

        I read a note somewhere this week that suggested one reason Trump lost his rag at Turnbull in “that” phone call is that while he didn’t know much about Turnbull, one of the things that he might have been told is that Turnbull was head of the “Liberal” party in Australia.
        No way of knowing if this is true, but it fits what we know!

        • BigBillK says:

          That makes sense given The Sociopath’s shallow perception of the world (and everything in it).

        • You never know with Trump. I wonder if it was about Turnbull having the temerity to stand up to him and question him.

          Trevor Noah had a good take. The White House said it was the last phone call after a long day and Trump was “fatigued”. Noah likened it to a toddler who’s missed his nap time, and you know what they’re like! 😀

          • Yakaru says:

            It sounded to me like Trump hadn’t been properly briefed about the contents of the phone call (i.e., didn’t want to be properly briefed), so he didn’t know about Obama’s “bad deal”, and blamed Turnbull for it.

            And of course, he was fatigued and hadn’t had his warm milk with valium.

          • He talks to our PM today. I suppose he was saving it for Waitangi Day (it’s the 6th here already). Congratulating the pm given that he’s not even going to Waitangi this year because of a political stramash shows he’s not sought advice from the embassy at the very least.

    • Robin says:

      I think maybe you are right that the Left has always been authoritarian to some degree. It would certainly explain all the Vegans who want to make meat eating illegal, including the video from “Freelee the Banana Girl” on Youtube that people who eat meat should be executed. It explains why the Greens and others on the Left are so obsessed with Hillary and hate her as much or more than Trump does. It explains the post I just saw from an atheist about how he wants to eliminate even the words to describe people who aren’t atheist from the English language. I find the rise of extremism/authoritarianism on both the Right and the Left absolutely terrifying. If either group ever seizes real power, they will make life on earth unbearable, or even impossible for the rest. Not only do they hate each other, but they also hate anyone who wants to allow any freedom of speech or choice of any kind. All they seem to know is hatred.

  2. Ken says:

    Arel is clearly over the top. There’s no doubt about that. Yet there’s a genuine problem that almost always goes unacknowledged. We’ve discussed it here many times. That is, the left is generally motivated not to provide any cover at all for the bigots and Islamophobes that really do intend harm. It is not illogical to want people to tread carefully when the wellbeing of such a vulnerable group is at stake. While denying religion has something important to do with terrorism goes way too far and can be counterproductive, it shouldn’t be difficult to see that a strong negative focus on the religion of a group that is feared due to that very religion, can contribute to putting innocent people in danger. And in the case where a demagogue has just become president in part by callously playing on that exact fear, it should be blindingly obvious that we all need to speak extremely carefully indeed. Yet people like Sam Harris not only insist that Islam is a factor in terrorism, which is true, he insists it is the main factor that something simply must be done about, which is false. So Sam condemns Trump’s Muslim ban in strong terms, yet many quite reasonably don’t trust he is sincere when he in the same breath echo’s Trump’s fear that the border isn’t being protected and refuses to acknowledge US actions that have so greatly contributed to the creation of organised terrorism in the first place and which are in our power to actually change. This can’t be defended as a truly liberal position either.

    • Coel says:

      Yet people like Sam Harris not only insist that Islam is a factor in terrorism, which is true, he insists it is the main factor that something simply must be done about, which is false.

      It’s very hard to have a sensible discussion about whether Islam is “the main” factor in a lot of terrorism, or about how important it is relative to other factors, when way too many people dogmatically assert that Islam’s role is precisely zero, refuse to have any discussion on the point, and shout down those that attempt it with “racist!” and “Islamophobe!”.

      • Ken says:

        I grant you Sam is way better behaved than most of his counterparts and that’s just not acceptable. But if the goal is less terrorism leading to safer borders, his error is by far the larger.

      • Yakaru says:

        — The aspects of Islamic terrorism that is “not Islamic but rather political” can only be addressed by addressing the problems within Islam as an ideology and the difficulties various Muslim communities have in protecting their fellows from radicalization. It’s all very well to say “ISIS leaders only use Islam for political ends,” but why is Islam so vulnerable to such usage?

        We can’t combat this political use of religion without combating the problems of even moderate religion itself — granting one book special authority, politely unquestioned belief in paradise, granting special status and authority to holy-men special, granting those holy-men access to young children, seeing people as “belonging to” a religion in the way one belongs to an ethnicity, emphasizing fixity and importance of religious identity over other aspects of individual identity….

        Religious leaders need to pushed to make some compromises in these areas, instead of being meekly thanked for being so moderate, as if being capable of a *very* basic level of ethical behavior is worthy of special praise.

        • Ken says:

          Yakaru, who are you quoting? Neither are mine and the latter I don’t even agree with. Also, who are you replying to? It seems to Coel, yet doesn’t seem to relate to his comment.

          • Yakaru says:

            Sorry if that was unclear — I was referring to Coel’s statement: “It’s very hard to have a sensible discussion about whether Islam is “the main” factor in a lot of terrorism.”

    • nicky says:

      Why are we (which would include Mr Chipito ?) always reducing the problems with Islam to terrorism? Terrorism, horrible as it is, is but a side issue. Read Jerry Coyne’s post on Jonathan Brown (‘professor of Islamic studies….’) and you will know what we’re really facing.

      • Ken says:

        There’s nothing particularly new in that article. Western apologists are always going to exist. I can’t see that it changes anything. And terrorism is hardly a side issue with regard to the US, let alone the Muslim world. The same is true in Europe even though they have much greater issues with assimilation as well. It’s usually the other way around, we reduce the problems of terrorism to Islam, too largely ignoring our own role and therefore the actions we can take that would actually reduce it. And the real irony for those like Sam who argue the main action should be to support internal reformers of Islam, is that their efforts will only ever have a chance of success *after* we reduce Western violence and Saudi funding of radical Islamist teaching, both of which bolster terrorists claims that the West is at war with Islam, and therefore make it effectively impossible for would-be reformists to succeed.

        • Then a fool like Trump comes along and reinforces the clash of civilisations narrative, and everyone on Fox News denies what he’s saying is a problem. “They always say that. Give me proof that ISIS is using his words.” There is proof. I’ve seen a small amount and I’ve heard reliable commentators saying they’ve seen a lot of it. I’ve already got 4 posts half written. (I keep getting distracted.) Maybe I should get diverted again and write about that and bring it to Fox’s attention!

          • Ken says:

            The thing is we don’t know whether Trump is a fool or if he is causing chaos on purpose. It does seem that Bannon is trying to bring about the fourth turning and believes bloodshed and war are inevitable. He has even said Trump may not understand what he’s being used for. I don’t know how much Pence buys into this, but it may be reason enough to hope the Reps impeach Trump sooner rather than later.

          • Yeah. I think Pence is more likely one of the ones who, like the white evangelicals, think Trump was established in office by God. Whether that’s to save the country from the Devil or help bring on Armageddon who knows.

          • Yakaru says:

            My guess is that it is both — Trump is a fool and he is causing chaos on purpose. I think he is a profoundly ignorant and incurious person who’s entire psyche and life is devoted to ruthless power games — gaining a sliver of advantage over opponents and increasing it any way possible without regard for any off the concerns that even normal psychopaths have.

            He loves it when his opponents are in disarray, and his biggest and most dangerous opponent at the moment is the Republican Party. And they have been in utter disarray ever since his campaign for nomination begun.

            My opinion — and I would love to be proved wrong — is that there is no way that the Republicans will impeach him. His position is now too well entrenched.

            My only vaguue hope is that his political stupidity will so cripple and lame the US that his regime will do less damage to the rest of the world than he does to the US. He’s not trying to improve the poower or position of the US for the future, rather he is using it as an extension of his business. He has absolutely no stakes whatsoever in the welfare of the US, and his strategy is based on installing like-minded dictators in other countries with the help of Bannon and Putin etc. It’s really up to the people, media and politicians of other countries to rpevennt this.

            It’s too late for the US. It may not be too late for the rest of us.

  3. j.a.m. says:

    The above characterization of Judge Gorsuch is a good example of contemporary confusion over the words liberal and conservative. Gorsuch is a Jeffersonian liberal by any rational standard, and an Episcopalian whose congregation is led by a woman, yet he’s described as holding “extreme right-wing religious and political views!” (What really ought to concern us is what we’re going to do when words no longer work.)

    Needless to say, the left has always been authoritarian, from the Reign of Terror to the Cultural Revolution, from the gulags to the re-education camps, from Pravda to Granma. (Atheism had its chance to run the world, and the results were unspeakable.)

    • Coel says:

      Atheism had its chance to run the world, and the results were unspeakable.

      That’s both untrue and a complete misunderstanding. Atheism is an *absence* of an ideology. “Absence of one particular ideology” cannot run anything. People are motivated by the views and opinions that they do hold, not by the opinions that they don’t hold.

      Thus, “atheism” has never run anything; ideologies such as communism have run things.

      • j.a.m. says:

        According the main post above, there is a unique and identifiable “absence of one particular ideology” community. Even if defined only by absence, a community cannot be a non-entity. As such, it (and subgroups such as communists) are capable of acquiring and wielding power, and have done so.

        • Coel says:

          It is perhaps fair enough that you could fault the OP for using the word “community” about atheists.

          But, to the extent that there is commonality among atheists in Western nations, the dominant positions would be support for: market economies with strong welfare states; free speech and free press; pluralistic multi-party democracy; individual human rights; and secular states, separated from churches, and not imposing particular ideologies.

          All of that is very, very different from and opposed to communism and the sort of totalitarian, ideological states that you pointed to.

          If you want to see examples where the above sorts of people are in power, see Scandinavia and the other less-religious Western countries.

          • What Coel said. Remember, I’m in NZ, currently one of the most successful democracies in the world. Until six weeks ago, we’d had atheist prime ministers continually since 1999. If you look at all the international indices for peace, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, ease of doing business, unemployment, gender equality, education, and dozens more, NZ is at or near the top in all of them. A study about 18 months ago (I think by Harvard) brought all those indices together and NZ came out #1.

            When they learned of the resignation of the PM, meaning the staunch Catholic deputy would become PM, NZers were principally worried that he might try to roll back some of our social gains like same-sex marriage. It was not until he reassured the public he wouldn’t do that that they accepted him, at least for now. We have an election in September.

      • Robin says:

        Maybe Atheism was once the absence of an ideology, but that is not how it is expressed these days. Many of its adherents are just as militant about spreading this “absence” as any Fundamentalist Christian is about spreading his/her religion. They want to make all religion disappear completely, by force, if necessary–just like religion was made illegal in the U.S.S.R. It didn’t work, of course, and religion–and religious extremists–are back full force in Russia.

        • Almost no atheists in the West are as you describe. That’s like saying Christians like those at the Westboro Baptist Church are common. Most atheists are not interested in using force to make religion disappear. Try looking at countries that are majority atheists like Iceland and Sweden, or where the biggest “religious” group is atheists like New Zealand, the Netherlands or Norway, and you will see that they are the most peaceful, lacking in corruption, socially harmonious countries on the planet.

    • BigBillK says:

      You’re being quite disingenuous here. A Jeffersonian liberal is quite different from the modern definition of a liberal. Gorsuch is in no way a liberal in the modern sense in any facet of his philosophy – quite the opposite. And he does indeed hold extreme right-wing religious and political views – much of which he undoubtedlu learned from his wack-a-doodle mother.

      • BigBillK is correct. There is no way the views of Gorsuch can be considered liberal. The general consensus is that he is more conservative than Scalia and only Thomas is further to the right. He was a recommendation of an extremist right-wing group who love his gun-toting, anti-right-to-die, and anti-LGBT credentials. Although he’s written no decisions on the subject, there is also strong indication he’s anti-choice.

        • j.a.m. says:

          @HH: That’s just it: Are we going by the original — true — definition of liberal, or the statist, collectivist, politically correct vernacular? Crushing individual conscience, as Obama did and so-called “progressives” demand, betrays America’s most precious founding principles, and meets the textbook definition of authoritarianism. Denying the dignity of the human person, with an inviolable right to life, is the opposite of liberal. Concentrating ever-more power in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats is authoritarian and illiberal. (And yes, the same goes for infringing the right to bear arms.)

          • BigBillK says:

            Again you are being disingenuous. Your hatred of Obama (racism? or just hatred of human compassion?) is clouding your thinking. The twisted and distorted description of what you consider modern liberalism is a complete straw man. Such “alternative facts” would make Kellyanne proud.

        • nicky says:

          Maybe Mr Trump should nominate Jonathan Brown for SCOTUS? ??

    • Yakaru says:

      “Atheism had its chance to run the world, and the results were unspeakable.”

      This is a common error. You are conflating atheism with the few totalitarian ideologies that were not overtly religious in the traditional sense. I don’t know if you are religious, but usually believers do this because they assume that lack of God leads to lack of morals.

      For the kind of atheism that Heather is referring to, you can substitute the term “secularism” as soon as it relates to the realm of politics. Secularism does not lead to fascism, and it does protect religious freedom.

      • The thing with rulers like Stalin too is that he wanted to make the state a religion with communism as its doctrine and himself as the head priest. He used all the worst aspects of religion to achieve his ends. When he died the Russian people were bereft because, even though many hated him and were scared of him, he was the one they looked to like a father.

        It’s like calling North Korea an atheist state, which many people do. The Kims are like religious leaders and are worshiped. It’s not that much different from the pharaohs of Egypt.

        China is another one seen as an atheist state. That’s about imposing the Chinese version of communism of the people, not forcing them to become atheist.

        All of the so-called atheist regimes that the religious point to as reasons religion is required have tried to replace religion with another form of unquestioned belief that people are required to accept. That goes way beyond atheism, which is simply a recognition that there is no proof to support the existence of gods or God.

    • Michiel says:

      But you are confusing communism with “the left” and even “atheism”. These things are not analogous. And Hitlers nor Stalins forces marched through Europe in the name of atheism. They did it in the name of their own, religion-like ideology, and their own messiah-like leaders.
      Several countries in Europe, including my own country the Netherlands are largely atheist and becoming ever more so. Guess what, these countries tend to excel in terms of measured happiness of the citizens, equality, education etc.

      Most countries in “the West” are run by expressly secular governments anyway. So, although secularism and atheism aren’t neccesarily the same, the idea of leaving religion out of the business of running society has been spectacularly succesfull overall.

  4. BigBillK says:

    “We have the better arguments – let’s use them.” While I agree with this in principle, I have to question whether or not it is effective. There are way too many who do not accept evidence or rational argument. Consider how easily manipulated the US electorate was in this past election.

    Yes, you would think that among the non-believers this would be less of a problem, but it still is a problem, albeit to a lesser extent.

  5. Pliny the in Between says:

    All politics are local. Progressives have forgotten that to their peril. A hard lesson from business might help us. If you want to be a successful salesperson you don’t hone your message then go out and try to sell. You listen to the customers and find out what they are looking for. If the customers don’t want what you’re selling it doesn’t make them idiots (all of them at least)- just as likely you’ve misread the market. The Democratic Party screwed the pooch on understanding the market. Ignoring the a-holes and bigots, a lot of people in rural America feel like they’re drowning. Nuanced social progress doesn’t often materially improve their lives. And when you’re worried about job migration, mounting debt, and your family’s security, nuanced social commentary might seem like a slap in the face and a reason to vote for the other guy who at least talks about some of the things that actually affect you.

    In the mind of many, the Big Tent doesn’t provide much cover for rural America. Until it does, we’ll lose elections.

  6. “white born/again evangelical Christian”

    There are a large number of born/again evangelical Christians who are not “white”. I can’t help but wonder why the people who created that graph left them out.

  7. Hey Heather,
    Apologies for not being around lately, I have been on holiday in Aotearoa, and I have a lot of reading and commenting of your blog to catch up on. But I got up today and read an article on the NZ Herald ( that has vexed me terribly. I’m trying to draft a response but the piece is so scatter-gun and incoherent and I take so many issues with it, I am not sure where to start. To me it seems to be full of the sort of regressive Leftism that we try to combat, but maybe I am over reacting and need to reflect. What do you think of it?

  8. j.a.m. says:

    The Authoritarian Left is the new Klan: “It is a felony under federal civil rights law to conspire to deprive citizens of their constitutional rights,” including freedom of speech and of assembly.

    Now, Obama and Sibelius on trial for violating the civil rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor? That would be poetic justice.

    • I’m afraid to ask. How on earth have the civil rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor been violated?

      • j.a.m. says:

        Remember? They were conscientious objectors back in the Dark Ages (i.e., before Obamacare was repealed), and Obama conspired to violate them.

        • Obamacare hasn’t been repealed.

          Obama went out of his way to find a solution that would suit those with religious objections.

          • j.a.m. says:

            He took a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend our rights. Given that there is no more sacred duty, I’m not sure what would count as going out of his way.

        • Trevor says:

          B u l l s h i t

          They weren’t conscientious objectors (and neither were Hobby Lobby) until the ACA passed, and although they would like to give you the impression that the ACA newly required them to pay for contraception, they had been paying into insurance policies which provided contraceptive cover for years.

    • Though I wouldn’t go as far as calling them the new Klan, because they aren’t actually lynching anybody, they are extremely problematic. Some do advocate violence, which is disgusting. True liberals need to keep themselves well separated from the Authoritarian Left.

      • nicky says:

        Yes we should keep them at arms length, a bare minimum. I see now that the fear of communism a few decades ago led to this extension of fundamentalist Christianity in the US, at least one of the causes. I mean Christianity was systematecally encouraged, not being Christian was un-American and potentially commie. The regressive left nowadays causes a comparable reaction, while we haven’t even overcome the earlier ‘drive’ yet.

        • Yep. It was to contrast with the USSR that God was put on the money and in the pledge. A recent report from Pew shows that 32% of USians think you have to be Christian to be USian. That’s an extremely high percentage compared to similar countries.

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