What’s the Harm in Courting Conservatives? A Letter to American Atheists

American Atheists logo
What’s the harm in courting conservative atheists? What’s the harm in American Atheists going to CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) to promote their organization and recruit members, or otherwise work to recruit conservatives?

I want to talk about a few incidents that happened earlier this month, at the American Atheists convention in Memphis. I’ll explain why they’re relevant in a moment.

* I was sitting in the hotel bar, talking with a friend and colleague who’s African-American. A man, white, sat down with us, joined the conversation — and in about five minutes, he started telling us, entirely unsolicited and out of the blue, about a time he went to a Halloween party in blackface. He defended this at some length — in the face of my friend clearly being appalled and uncomfortable, in the face of my own obviously appalled expression, and in the face of me explaining that this was seriously not okay and why.* He said that that since black performers wear whiteface, white people should be able to wear blackface, it’s totally the same thing, and besides it’s not like he was dressed as someone from a minstrel show, he was dressed as a specific black person (Michael Vick), so it was okay.

I’ll say that again: Blackface. A white guy sat down with a black colleague and me, and out of nowhere, said that he’s done blackface, and explained why he thinks it was fine and why criticism of it is unfair.

It turned out, by the way, that more than one person had already talked with him about this — including my friend, who had explained to him in the past how and why many African-Americans find blackface dehumanizing and degrading. Despite that, he still thought blackface was okay — and he still thought it was okay to casually mention it at a convention social event, with someone he had never before met, and with an African-American person who had already told him it wasn’t okay. To be fair, he quasi-apologized when he left, saying he was sorry he had upset me, and acknowledging that it was “a touchy subject.” He still, apparently, remained oblivious to the notion that since this is a “touchy” subject, perhaps he ought instead to choose one of the 85,000,000,000 other possible Halloween costumes available to him, and perhaps he ought not to casually mention it at a public social event with one person who’s the subject of this “touchiness” and another person he’s just met. He also apparently remained oblivious to the fact that I wasn’t the one he should apologize to.

(BTW, if you don’t understand why white people wearing blackface is profoundly messed-up, or why black people doing whiteface is not the same as white people doing blackface, read this, and this, and this and
this and this, and this, and this, and this. If you still don’t understand, piss off.)

* Moving on to some other incidents: Heina Dadabhoy — blogger on this network, and writer/ speaker on (among other things) their experiences as a Muslim and an ex-Muslim — had more than one person come up to them at the conference and explain what being a Muslim means and what Islam is. (And yes — these folks did this knowing that Heina’s an ex-Muslim.) This included one man who told Heina that true Islam was all about conquest, and that if Heina had never believed this, they hadn’t been a true Muslim. He did this, ironically, after the workshop Heina co-hosted on intersectionality.

wedding-cake
* The keynote speaker at the convention, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, said in her keynote speech that “If you are gay the worst the Christian community can do in America is not serve you cake.” Either she was appallingly ignorant of the reality of many gay Americans’ lives — a reality that includes bullying, violence, losing jobs and homes and children, parents kicking gay teenagers out of their homes, vitriolic hatred, and more — or she knew about it, and was still willing to lie about it to score rhetorical points.

* Rebecca Hensler, founder and co-moderator of Grief Beyond Belief, got into a Twitter argument with Pro-Life Humanists representative Kristine Kruszelnicki, who was tableing at the convention. (Yes, the Pro-Life Humanists had a table at the convention. It’s hard to imagine that American Atheists would give space in their exhibit hall to an organization called Humanists for Jim Crow, or Humanists Against Gay Rights. But an organization dedicated to the eradication of the bodily autonomy of anyone with a working uterus — they were given a table.) When Hensler questioned how Kruszelnicki could claim “common ground” with Vyckie Garrison — a mother of seven, formerly in the Quiverfull movement, now an atheist activist and winner of American Atheists’ 2014 Atheist of the Year award — and at the same time collaborate with the movement backing crisis pregnancy centers, Kruszelnicki replied that the crisis pregnancy centers are, quote, “far from perfect,” but that they “work w them to help improve them.”

crisis pregancy center callout via exposingfakeclinics tumblr
(Crisis pregnancy centers, for those who don’t know, are fake clinics run by anti-choice organizations, supposedly offering free pregnancy tests but really targeting pregnant women with grotesque misinformation and abusively traumatic propaganda, not only about abortion but about birth control, safer sex, rape, and sex generally. Calling them “far from perfect” is like calling Pat Robertson “not entirely rational.”)

* Heina Dadabhoy told someone at the convention that the more credible threats to their personal safety come from within their own community — feminist-hating atheists in the US — rather than from random Muslims overseas. He then said that he, himself, was an anti-feminist — but it was okay, he would personally protect Heina from other anti-feminists who wanted to physically harm them.

How is all this relevant to American Atheists, and the issue of courting conservative atheists?

Here’s why it’s relevant:

Courting conservative atheists is saying, “Incidents like this are fine with us.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. Courting conservative atheists is saying, “Incidents like this are fine with us — and it’s fine with us if they happen more often, in ways that are even uglier.”

To be very clear: I’m not saying these incidents were representative of the overall tone of the convention. And I’m not saying American Atheists actually wants racist, sexist, homophobic, or other marginalizing incidents at their conferences. Courting conservative atheists is not saying, “We want incidents like this to happen.” It’s saying, “We’re okay if incidents like this happen.” It’s saying, “We are deliberately courting people, and are seeking to swell our ranks with people, who do crummy things like this and worse.” It’s saying, “We don’t like incidents like this — but there’s a cost/benefit analysis here, and we’ve decided that this is an acceptable cost.”

The reality is that conservatives are more likely to say and do things that are racist, sexist and even misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist, ageist, and more. Liberals and moderates say and do these things as well, of course — I’d guess that at least some of the people involved in some of these incidents would describe themselves as liberal or moderate — but conservatives do it more. They’re more likely to say and do these things repeatedly, persistently, unapologetically, even proudly. American conservatism is deeply racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. American conservatism is — to give just a handful of examples — perpetuating racist police policies and the racist drug war, dragging back reproductive rights (including birth control access as well as abortion), pushing students into perpetual debt, turning disability support into a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare, making poverty an inescapable hamster-wheel so rich people can become obscenely super-rich, opposing not only same-sex marriage but all LGBT rights at every turn. And they’re doing it by (among other strategies) targeting these marginalized people with hatred, fear, and contempt.

(And don’t come at me with “fiscally conservative, socially liberal.” That’s bullshit. I’m working on a separate piece about the nineteen thousand reasons it’s bullshit, but in a nutshell: You can’t separate fiscal policy from social policy, they’re deeply intertwined, and conservative fiscal policy is deeply racist, sexist, ableist, and otherwise oppressive. And even if “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” could theoretically be reconciled, the reality is that in practice, American conservatism is not reconciling them. American conservatism is fueling racial hatred, sexist bile, sexual fear-mongering of LGBT people, and more, to perpetuate (among other things) a retrograde platform that impoverishes and disempowers hundreds of millions of Americans in order to entrench the power and wealth of a handful of grotesquely rich and powerful people.)

cpac 2015 logo
And CPAC is all of this dialed up to eleven. This is a point that keeps getting missed in the debates about American Atheists recruiting at CPAC. CPAC is not just conservatives. CPAC is far-right-wing extremist hateful conservatives. CPAC is Scott Walker comparing American union protesters to ISIS terrorists; white supremacists getting press credentials and exhibitor’s booths; the hatefully racist and homophobic Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame saying STDs are the revenge of the hippies, you can’t have morality without religion, and the Presidency wasn’t meant for non-Christians — in his acceptance speech for the conference’s Defender of the First Amendment Award. CPAC is being monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the organization monitoring hate and hate crimes in America. Even if “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” were coherent, CPAC is not where you’re going to find it. CPAC is the hateful, reality-warping, extreme right-wing of an already hateful, reality-warping, extremist political movement.

If American Atheists is successful in courting conservative atheists, and if more conservative atheists start coming to our conventions and joining our local organizations, then incidents like the ones I described are going to happen more. They’re going to happen more at conferences, in local community groups, in online forums — anywhere our community gathers.

You can have all the harassment policies and codes of conduct you want. You can say in your conference program and your conference website that you prohibit “harassment related to gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, age, religion.” Those are good things, and many of us in this community fought hard for them. But if you’re deliberately courting people who are seriously retrograde on these issues, the effect of that policy is going to be limited at best. At best, it puts marginalized people attending your events in a position where we’re coping with a barrage of microaggressions; a position where we have to decide which microaggressions rise to the level of a policy violation, and whether we even have the energy to deal with reporting them. At best, it sends mixed signals: your code of conduct says one thing, but your dog-whistle to conservatives says another, and the people your policy is supposedly there to protect are not going to trust you to take action. At worst, it sends a signal that’s crystal clear: We don’t want to be perceived as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. — but we’re going out of our way to court members who are all those things.

circus tent
I’ve said it many times, but I’ll say it again: The big tent is a myth. It is literally impossible to be welcoming to everyone, or even to every atheist. You can’t be welcoming to gay atheists, and also be welcoming to atheists who think homosexuality is unnatural and disgusting — or to atheists who are either willfully ignorant or deliberately deceptive about the often harsh and painful reality of gay experience.

You can’t be welcoming to ex-Muslim atheists, and also be welcoming to atheists who think all Muslims are terrorists and Islam is inherently violent in a way other religions aren’t — or to atheists who have never been Muslims and are not Islamic scholars, but who still patronizingly explain Islam to the people who have lived it.

You can’t be welcoming to women atheists, and also be welcoming to atheists who think women are nothing but sperm receptacles and that it’s okay to target feminists with death threats — or to atheists who think women** don’t have the basic human right to bodily autonomy, and should be required to non-consensually donate their organs. And you can’t be welcoming to women atheists, and also be welcoming to atheists who think it’s okay to identify with the hateful anti-feminist movement, since they, personally, promise to protect women from the physical harm being threatened by that movement.

You can’t be welcoming to African-American atheists, and also be welcoming to atheists who think African-Americans are lazy and ignorant and controlled by their emotions — or to atheists who think it’s okay to show up at a Halloween party in blackface.

Stop trying. You’re alienating the wrong people. If only for purely practical reasons: You’re alienating the millions of female atheists, African-American atheists, LGBT atheists, Latino/ Hispanic atheists, Asian-American atheists — for the purposes of (a) courting a handful of conservative atheists (the Secular Census shows that self-identified seculars are overwhelmingly liberal) and (b) getting into the news cycle for a day or two. And let’s not forget the ethical reasons: You’re alienating people who have already been treated like aliens for most of their/our lives, who are often in much greater need of atheist community support than their more privileged counterparts, and many of whom already mistrust the atheist community and see it as having nothing to do with them. You’re doing this to court people whose values, as revealed by their politics, are toxic and vile.

Knock it off.

* My friend has asked to not be cited by name, so I’m respecting their wishes. Because of this, I’m also not naming the blackface guy.

** To be more precise, cisgender women and transgender men.

Crisis Pregnancy Center callout photo via exposingfakeclinics.tumblr.com.

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What’s the Harm in Courting Conservatives? A Letter to American Atheists
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74 thoughts on “What’s the Harm in Courting Conservatives? A Letter to American Atheists

  1. 2

    Great letter. I have one clarifying question, if you don’t mind.

    You said “You can’t be welcoming to ex-Muslim atheists, and also be welcoming to atheists who think all Muslims are terrorists and Islam is inherently violent in a way other religions aren’t…”

    I’ve found that different people tend to mean different things by “Islam is inherently violent in a way that other religions aren’t”. I don’t think Islam (or any other religion, for that matter) is “inherently” violent. I don’t think it’s “inherently” anything at all. Islam is whatever self-described Muslims believe it to be, and that’s entirely contingent, and constantly subject to change. But some argue that Islam in this particular historical moment is dangerous in a way, or perhaps to an extent, that other religions are not. I think that’s basically correct. Is that the kind of view that you think is incommensurate with being welcoming to ex-Muslims?

  2. 3

    And they were giving away free one-year memberships to these racist, sexist assholes at CPAC. In contrast, when I joined American Atheists a couple years ago, after what I later discovered was an insincere act by Silverman in support of feminism, I paid full price. AA won’t fool me again.

    Silverman’s “fiscal conservatism” means government defunding of Planned Parenthood. Women will die as a result. Tens of thousands have already died as a direct result of fiscal conservative opposition to Obamacare. It means my elderly parents will have their earned benefits, which they rely on to keep from starving to death, cut. It means higher unemployment, lower wages, more pollution, increased global warming. In short, “fiscal conservatism” is the definition of anti-humanism.

    Silverman is also a gun nut. I have to be concerned about being shot to death by a toddler or an asshole at the grocery store or the movies, or by an atheist in my apartment building because of people like him.

    Silverman literally said that he wants to help fellow conservatives “fix” the problem of them losing votes because of their social conservatism.

    If I’m asked to describe my religion in the future, I will say “Atheist,” but be careful to explain that I passionately oppose the anti-humanist work of American Atheists, and repudiate the sexism of “leaders” like Dawkins and Harris.

  3. 4

    To be fair, he quasi-apologized when he left, saying he was sorry he had upset me, and acknowledging that it was “a touchy subject.”

    It sounds like he was shopping the idea around, subconsciously or otherwise waiting for someone to say “Oh, that’s OK” so that confirmation bias could kick in and he could feel that he was being funny and acting appropriate, while completely forgetting the vast majority of people who told him it wasn’t funny. After a while, it would morph into: “I was at a conference full of atheists including even some black people and they thought it was funny.”

  4. 6

    It sounds like he was shopping the idea around, subconsciously or otherwise waiting for someone to say “Oh, that’s OK”…

    …and probably hoping to get at least one person to cave to his unspoken demand just to get him off their backs. I’m sure he would have happily taken “Okay, okay, it’s acceptable already, now would you just piss off?!” as meaning “they thought it was funny and had no problem with it.”

  5. 7

    One thing groups like AA and SPI and all the rest seem to fail to understand is that there is a world of difference between ‘working with’ and ‘being with’. Let conservative atheists make their own distinct organization that shows up at CPAC and the like. Then, when a church-state issue that they (the conservatives I’m speaking of, here) care about comes up, offer to tag-team lobbying efforts. Keep them at arm’s length, because you know that they are weak, even on the issues you both should care about (such as gay rights or abortion, because they’ve managed to convince themselves that those issues are a C&S issue). But keep your own mission at the forefront, and full-throttle.

  6. 8

    @freemage, but American Atheists isn’t a liberal atheist group, it’s just an atheist group. That’s why I can’t really get excited about them. Their main issue is atheism; they are interested in promoting atheism and supporting atheists, and any other issue is secondary. That is totally their prerogative; people can and should pursue the activism that engages their passion (the “whose-oppression-is-worse” game is beyond useless, so long as making things better for one group doesn’t make it worse for another one). Perhaps they even think that illogical religious thinking is the source of most of the other inequalities in the world and that eliminating it actually is the most important/worthy cause, or perhaps they just see it as an area in which they can do some good.

    And you know what? Ten years ago I would have agreed with them. (Hell, I did agree with them.) Ten years ago, I lived in a southern town surrounded by racist, sexist, homophobic Christians. Ten years ago, I barely knew any other atheists. Ten years ago, I thought legalized abortion was a settled question. Ten years ago… well, shit, black people were still being killed by cops on the regular, but I was young and dumb and white enough to not really have to think about it.

    Then I moved to a big liberal city where most people don’t wear their Christianity on their sleeves and everybody believes in evolution, but it’s still just as sexist and racist here as it was in the south. (If not more. Jesus Christ, Chicago.) I’ve got a bucketful of examples of sexist and racist behavior on the part of atheists drawn from my own limited experience as well as too many all-too-public displays by movement leaders and the masses alike. I never catch shit for being an atheist anymore, but for being a woman? Yep.

    So I guess my “mission” is not the same as American Atheists’. I’m happy to consider them allies when they are working on something I think is important, but I am not them. They are not me. Not anymore.

  7. 10

    Have you ever had bad interactions with atheists at conventions like Skepticon?

    birdterrifier @ #9: I think you may have missed this part of the post:

    The reality is that conservatives are more likely to say and do things that are racist, sexist and even misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist, ageist, and more. Liberals and moderates say and do these things as well, of course — I’d guess that at least some of the people involved in some of these incidents would describe themselves as liberal or moderate — but conservatives do it more.

    Or this one:

    If American Atheists is successful in courting conservative atheists, and if more conservative atheists start coming to our conventions and joining our local organizations, then incidents like the ones I described are going to happen more. They’re going to happen more at conferences, in local community groups, in online forums — anywhere our community gathers.

    In that second quote, emphasis is on the “more.”

    To answer your question more directly: I’m not sure what you mean by “conventions like Skepticon” — but yes, I’ve had bad interactions with atheists at Skepticon. I’m not saying that stopping association with CPAC (and other racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist, ageist, etc,. organizations & events, such as Pro-Life Humanists) will eliminate incidents like this entirely. I’m saying that courting CPAC and similar organizations & events will almost certainly result in incidents like this happening more.

  8. 13

    It’s always been a matter of some amazement to me that the Republicans have managed to convince large numbers of people to vote and otherwise act against their own best interests. It appears Silverman has fallen for the same bafflegab.

  9. 14

    I left my local atheist group back in August after a conversation started where, near the beginning, someone said they were “socially liberal but economically conservative.” The conversation basically went from there with people suggesting that the only problem they really had with the Republican party was that it was too religious. I wasn’t able to get a word in, but I really wanted to ask if the racism and whatnot didn’t really bother them. Or, how they could call themselves “socially liberal” and yet not seem to notice such problems within the Republican party. (Or, more off topic, even how they can call themselves “economically conservative” and not seem to have issue with how much Republicans love the military. It never ceases to amaze me how military spending doesn’t seem to count as government spending in the minds of such people.)

  10. 16

    Last fall I attended a small conference in Fargo. Dave spoke and during his rousing talk about increasing atheist numbers, he defended the courting of conservative atheists. During the Q&A, PZ Myers asked him if he was concerned that this meant people like Karl Rove, who is after all, an atheist. If I recall correctly, Dave’s answer, nope, he didn’t care.

  11. 17

    No Abrahamic religion isn’t inherently violent. The Quran is a shorter even than the New Testament so its easier to find the scary bits.

    People have damn’ good reasons for being ex-muslims. And they are in the best moral seat to talk about it. Including Hirsi Ali…even if she goes weirdly soft about Xtianity and dilutes her authority.

    ‘Socially liberal’ means: ‘wants to snort cocaine without fear of arrest.’

  12. 19

    PZ Myers asked him if he was concerned that this meant people like Karl Rove, who is after all, an atheist. If I recall correctly, Dave’s answer, nope, he didn’t care.

    Dave can be charming, but his sociopathy is off-putting and harms a hell of a lot of people.

  13. 20

    kellym @ #2

    And they were giving away free one-year memberships to these racist, sexist assholes at CPAC. In contrast, when I joined American Atheists a couple years ago, after what I later discovered was an insincere act by Silverman in support of feminism, I paid full price. AA won’t fool me again.

    Yeah, I fell for that too. Oddly, AA never contacted me to renew my membership, so I didn’t.

  14. 21

    If one wants a society that is more secular and more friendly to atheists, fiscally conservative policies won’t get one there (based on the the experiences in Scandinavia and Western Europe).

    David Niose made this point in his book Nonbeliever Nation on page 197:

    “As modern developed countries learn to educate, provide health care, and ensure the general welfare of a diverse population, there is less reliance on religious community and charity. This partly explains why conservative religion so often abhors the modern social welfare state, where the public sector fills many roles once served by religion. It’s little wonder that secularity is most prominent in the social democracies of Europe, where the notion of the public sector serving many essential community needs is widely accepted.”

  15. 22

    dianagoods @ 16 – I’ve seen it posted around FTB somewhere, and maybe elsewhere, that Rove has publicly said he’s a Christian and offended at the atheist suggestion. I suppose since he’s not very public lately that doesn’t get around much, and maybe he’s not as explicit with it as some since he’s not actually a politician. But, anyway, last I’d heard, he’s definitely not an atheist.

  16. 23

    kellym @ #2 & @ # kaboobie @ # 20: … an insincere act by Silverman in support of feminism…

    Could somebody please describe this ploy (at least with a few searchable words)?

  17. 24

    John-Henry Beck @ # 22: … Rove has publicly said he’s a Christian … he’s definitely not an atheist.

    Somewhat earlier, during his WH glory days, Rove was heard to say something to the effect that he lamented not being a person of faith, but had great respect for those who were. I find it all too plausible he’s since learned and performed the heartwarming obeisance to hyperchristianism necessary for 21st-century Republicans.

    In other words – brace yourself! – Rove has made contradictory statements of “fact”. Considering the source, I see no reason to believe any of them.

  18. 25

    Re the Karl Rove thing: It’s an interesting side point, and if Rove is now saying he’s not an atheist that’s worth knowing. But it’s not really relevant to the topic at hand. The topic at hand is whether the President of American Atheists would happily court/ embrace Karl Rove if he were an atheist. (Not a hypothetical, like “Would you court/embrace Darth Vader if he were an atheist?” — Rove’s Atheism was, at the very least, totally plausible at the time.)

  19. 26

    I don’t know if I’m ripping this off from somebody more clever, feel like I came up with it on my own: The difference between social and fiscal conservatives is that one group wants to kill the gays while the other wants to kill the poor.

  20. 27

    Imagine if someone, inspired by your piece, wrote the following:

    “Reality is that African Americans are more likely to be homophobic (link, link, link, link). If American Atheists is successful in courting more African Americans and if more PoC atheists start coming to our conventions and joining our local organizations, then homophobic incidents are going to happen more. You can’t be welcoming both on LGBT people and African Americans.”

    Would you be happy that more people used the same sort of reasoning as you demonstrated in this article? Or would you be outraged?

  21. 28

    Re Anton Tarde @ #27: Oh, ffs. Do I really need to explain this?

    Among the many many reasons this analogy is fucked up: Conservatism is a consciously chosen adherence to a political ideology that is explicitly, and in a multitude of ways, homophobic and racist and sexist and otherwise marginalizing and oppressive. Being African-American is not.

    Boring troll is boring. Comment moderation. Any further comments will have to be approved before they’re posted.

  22. 30

    kaboobie @ # 29 – Just what I was asking for – thanks much!

    When I first read that Silverman’s opening gambit with CPAC included an offer to throw abortion rights off the bridge, I immediately and permanently (so long as he remains in office) canceled a tentative plan to sign up with AA. Some people Just. Don’t. Get. It.

  23. 31

    Yes, Silverman promoted Vacula in the same Tweet that he promoted Amy Davis Roth. Vacula had previously posted Amy’s personal address on a hate site (not the ‘pit), resulting in her having to move.

    Silverman also personally enforced Dawkins’ blacklisting of Rebecca Watson at a Reason Rally.

    Glenn’s video calling harassed feminists “pussies” and the one implying that Watson lied when she claimed she was propositioned in the elevator (Glenn asserted that it was literally and only a request for coffee) were also promoted by American Atheists.

    I get the impression Silverman would be delighted to have both harassers and targets belong to AA. That’s not supporting targeted women.

  24. 32

    @drewvogel #2

    But some argue that Islam in this particular historical moment is dangerous in a way, or perhaps to an extent, that other religions are not. I think that’s basically correct. Is that the kind of view that you think is incommensurate with being welcoming to ex-Muslims?

    That’s not really basically correct. First of all “Islam in this particular historical moment” is already a huge broad-brush generalisation. There is no one Islam at this particular moment in time. There are multiple ethnic groups associated with Islam, many diverse countries, political systems, movements, terrorist organisations as well as humanitarian organisations, etc. etc. Yes, certain kinds of Islam or political ideologies claiming to represent Islam today are much more violent than in the past, but to say “Islam is .. dangerous in a way” is a baseless conflation of a huge disparate reality.
    tl;dr; There isn’t just one Islam.

    Secondly the comparison is a strongly biased one: what are you comparing “Islam” to? Liberal Christianity in the West? Why not Christian terrorists throughout the world? Why not compare for instance US domestic terrorism perpetrated by those nominally Christian to that perpetrated by Muslims? Why not compare Actual behaviours of people culturally muslim in the West to those of people nominally Christian in the West? Or what about casualties from the military action of majority-Christian countries (death count rising)? You can’t take the worst of the worst associated with Islam and compare that to the perceived relative harmlessness of a particular brand of your local religion.
    tl;dr; Compare religions in similar contexts.

    Thirdly there is an inherant overestimation of “the danger of Islam” in this idea. First of all from a Western perspective, Islam is not a “threat” in any real or significant way. You are more likely to be killed by cars, the weather or sugary beverages, than by a Muslim with a bomb. Yes, immigration may be a problem in some Western countries, but there bad urban planning, ghettoisation, xenophobia and workers’ rights can’t be ignored as much more significant parts of the problem than the particular religion of a particular immigrant. The majority of Muslims in the west are peaceful, secular people, trying to earn a living and live their life. Furthermore the West has a vast military advantage over any Muslim nation, so there is no significant threat of a violent Muslim takeover.
    tl;dr; If you let the terrorists spook you, they’ve won.

  25. 33

    @kaboobie #29 Re: Jaclyn Glenn
    Has she been up to anything particularly terrible lately? I mean I know she went all “I’m not a feminist” because she wants to remain buddies with the YouTube Mysogynist Atheist crowd, but in general she’s seemed to me as rather ignorant than milicious.

  26. 34

    DX @ 33
    Her latest video is a pretend “coming out” as a lesbian that continues to promote negative stereotypes about feminists. She is using LGBT identity as a joke, and yet is supposedly best friends with Danielle Muscato, a trans woman. I’m usually willing to assume ignorance before malice, but I lean toward malice in this case. YMMV.

  27. 35

    [email protected]:

    So I guess my “mission” is not the same as American Atheists’. I’m happy to consider them allies when they are working on something I think is important, but I am not them. They are not me. Not anymore.

    This is where I was trying to get at with my line about the difference between ‘working with’ and ‘being with’. If AA was simply trying to coordinate efforts on specific C&S issues with conservative atheists, and just otherwise not addressing social issues, that would be one thing. But CPAC participation requires more than that–as has been seen in recent years, there’s a full-blown ideological litmus test that needs to be passed to get a booth and a speaking gig there. That’s why they put up barriers to the Log Cabin Republicans.

    So if AA can make that appearance and that commitment, then they are explicitly choosing to become in practice, if not in name, American Conservative Atheists. Which is fine, but then, they don’t appeal to me for support of their organization by default. When they try to insist that they still want to speak for all atheists, they either are failing to comprehend the truth of their own situation, or are being deliberately disingenuous. Neither makes me feel particularly inclined to support them.

  28. 36

    The reality is that conservatives are more likely to say and do things that are racist, sexist and even misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist, ageist, and more.

    This kind of language bothers me. A lot.

    You know who I don’t want at my meetings? People likely to say and do things that are racist, sexist, mysogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ableist, ageist, &c. and so on.

    You know who I want at my meetings? Everyone else. And I mean everyone – conservative or liberal.

    It’s not like I even disagree with you about what’s wrong or what we should be doing. As things stand in the U.S. today, actions taken to court conservatives will, almost invariably, be actions that say to traditionalist bigots, “Come on in, the water’s fine.” But the things you’re talking about are correlations, not causations. An atheist meeting should be open to Republicans who think that the state shouldn’t regulate marriage at all, but who are willing to settle for marriage equality as a compromise. An atheist meeting should be open to libertarians who think that deregulation would make life better for everyone, but know that, as a historical fact, regulation made life better for black Americans. An atheist meeting should be as open as we can manage. And painting all conservatives, however lovely, with the same brush is not a good thing.

    Are they wrong about policy? I’m pretty sure they are. But if they’re willing to treat their fellows with respect, if they’re willing to listen, think, and wait their turn to speak, if they’re willing to leave people alone who don’t want conversation, if they’re willing to do all those things that we mean when we say “respect”, I’m happy for anyone to show up and be recklessly, honestly, and sincerely wrong. Who knows? They might learn something.

  29. 37

    packbat @ # 36: … if they’re willing to treat their fellows with respect, if they’re willing to listen, think, and wait their turn to speak, if they’re willing to leave people alone who don’t want conversation, if they’re willing to do all those things that we mean when we say “respect”…

    Welcome to USA, Planet Earth! We don’t have any specimens of the sort you describe, but – if you can provide recordings, DNA transcriptions, and other physical evidence, we will happily consider the possibility that such organisms exist in your space-time continuum. What color is the sky there?

  30. 38

    painting all conservatives, however lovely, with the same brush is not a good thing.

    packbat @ #35: Seriously: #NotAllConservatives?

    As I wrote above in #28: Conservatism is a consciously chosen adherence to a political ideology that is explicitly, and in a multitude of ways, homophobic and racist and sexist and otherwise marginalizing and oppressive.

    Are they wrong about policy? I’m pretty sure they are. But if they’re willing to treat their fellows with respect…

    What, exactly, do you mean by “respect”? Does it mean supporting racist drug policy and policing policy, forcing cis women and trans men to be involuntary organ donors, supporting legislation that literally legalizes discrimination against LGBT people, creating an increasingly corrupt government that traps poor people into a permanent cycle of poverty so the filthy rich can become the obscenely and grotesquely rich? Does all of that count as “respect,” as long they’re “willing to listen, think, and wait their turn to speak”? Do you really think “respect” simply and entirely means “a baseline of pleasantness and civility”?

    Also, do you seriously think that people who consciously adhere to a political ideology that is racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, etc. are likely to be “respectful,” even by your extremely narrow definition of the term? Do you really think they’re unlikely to talk in meetings about how black people just need to obey the law, or how poor people just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, etc.?

    The things I’m talking about are not accidental correlations. They are causations. Adhering to a bigoted political ideology causes people to act in a more bigoted way — and vice versa. Arguing otherwise is absurd.

  31. 39

    Pierce R. Butler @ #37: I have a friend who’s a social liberal and a financial conservative. (The opponent of civil marriage I mentioned in my comment, in fact – although I haven’t asked recently, so he may have changed his mind.) He’s staggeringly ignorant of the state of the world outside his well-educated circle of friends – I had to tell him that there are still a lot of people in the United States who oppose interracial marriage, because he assumed they had evaporated or something – but as a human being, person to person, he’s as respectful of the social justice stuff as anyone I know. He doesn’t grok the stuff, but he listens to people and tries to accommodate their preferences.

    Seriously, they might be outnumbered by trans/*/nb folk, but nice Republicans exist. And if you take every opportunity to make fun of them, you might never realize that you know any.

  32. 40

    I have a friend who’s a social liberal and a financial conservative.

    packbat @ #39: Please re-read the part of this piece where I point out that “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” is bullshit. In a nutshell: You can’t separate fiscal policy from social policy, they’re deeply intertwined, and conservative fiscal policy is deeply racist, sexist, ableist, and otherwise oppressive.

    He’s staggeringly ignorant of the state of the world outside his well-educated circle of friends…

    Setting aside for a moment the issue of how people make conscious choices of what to be ignorant about: What do you think he’s going to do when he shows up at a meetup with a genuinely diverse membership that doesn’t resemble his “well-educated circle of friends”? Do you think his “fiscal conservatism” is somehow not going to affect how he speaks or acts about poverty or race? And if he joins the group, how do you think he’s going to argue and vote when the group considers taking anti-poverty action, such as joining demonstrations supporting unions or supporting raising the minimum wage? Do you think he’s going to be one of the people full-throatedly advocating that the group take on social justice issues — or is he going to be one of the people shouting, “No! No! Mission drift!”

    And even if it somehow were miraculously true that his “fiscal conservatism” didn’t affect how he treated people, it doesn’t change the point of this piece — which is that even if your “fiscally conservative” friend somehow managed to not say or do racist, classist, etc. things, he is by far in the minority. I did not say all conservatives say and do horribly oppressive things, or that no liberals ever do. I said that conservatives are more likely to say and do horribly oppressive things — and when an organization goes out of their way to court them, they are accepting the very high probability that the number and severity of these incidents will increase.

    …nice Republicans exist. And if you take every opportunity to make fun of them, you might never realize that you know any.

    I am not “making fun” of Republicans. I am pointing out that their moral values, as demonstrated by their chosen political alliances, are repugnant. And I do not give a good goddamn if they’re personable and polite (well, I care, but I don’t care very much). The guy at AACon15 who went on at length defending blackface? He was very civil and pleasant about it. I don’t give a shit.

    You keep using that word “nice.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

  33. 41

    =8)-DX #32

    First, I’m not making a generalization at all. I know there’s not one Islam. I mean all of it in all of its diversity, and in proper proportion. By “Islam in this historical moment,” I include the beliefs of every self-identifying Muslim anywhere in the world. This includes dangerous doctrines like martyrdom and jihad, but only to the extent that they are endorsed by Muslims, as well as secularism and non-violence.

    Second, you accuse me of making a biased comparison and then you ask me what comparison am I making? You should have asked first, if for no other reason than courtesy. The idea is to compare religions in the same context, which is the context I just described. Basically, the context is “everywhere now”. “Christianity in this historical moment” includes the beliefs of every self-identifying Christian, including every variation all in proper proportion.

    Finally, I’m not overestimating the threat of Islam. You’re right that, for any given individual, it is extremely unlikely that they will be killed by Islamic terrorism. But that doesn’t mean you get to just ignore all the people who are killed by Islamic terrorism. They still count. Islam is almost certainly not going to kill me, but it is going to some people. Christianity too. That’s the comparison I’m talking about.

    I hope this clarification was helpful.

  34. 42

    drewvogel @ #41: I’m going to say this once, very carefully.

    There are some violent and dangerous Muslims, who commit violence in the name of Islam. There are also many many non-violent Muslims. There are some violent and dangerous Christians, who commit violence in the name of Christianity. There are also many many non-violent Christians. There are some violent and dangerous teachings in the Koran — some Muslims follow them, many do not. There are some violent and dangerous teachings in the Bible — some Christians follow them, many do not. The degree to which followers of different religions commit violent and dangerous acts in the name of their religion is different in different regions, and in different periods of history (examples: the Crusades and the Inquisition, bombing abortion clinics).

    The point is that there is nothing inherent in Islam — either in its teachings or in its widely-varying practice — that makes it any more prone to inspiring violence than Christianity or other religions. Again — Crusades, Inquisition, bombing abortion clinics.

    Tread very, very carefully here. You are walking on thin ice.

  35. 43

    […] In an open letter yesterday, Greta Christina asked, “What’s the harm in courting conservative atheists? What’s the harm in […] going to CPAC to promote their organization and recruit members, or otherwise work to recruit conservatives?” […]

  36. 44

    Greta Christina @ #38 & #40:

    …yes, I was seriously making a #NotAllConservatives argument. I’m sorry.

    To answer your specific questions:

    Do you really think “respect” simply and entirely means “a baseline of pleasantness and civility”?

    No, I don’t. I was on a forum for a while which had “being dapper” as an ideal, and while I was there I saw a trans person get a ban for yelling at the people misgendering them. It was a grotesque, gaslighting case of injustice, one which I argued against strenuously at the time, but the fact is, the moderator’s idea of proper behavior was precisely the kind of “baseline pleasantness and civility” that you deride.

    So, yeah, I know what you’re talking about, and it’s not what I mean.

    Also, do you seriously think that people who consciously adhere to a political ideology that is racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, etc. are likely to be “respectful,” even by your extremely narrow definition of the term?

    From my experience on other web forums, rarely. And by a definition of “respectful” that includes genuine concern for the wellbeing of others, even more rarely.

    The things I’m talking about are not accidental correlations. They are causations. Adhering to a bigoted political ideology causes people to act in a more bigoted way — and vice versa. Arguing otherwise is absurd.

    The distinction I was trying to draw was one between, “That person is driving a Ford Crown Victoria – they’re probably a cop”, and, “That person is a cop – they could have me thrown in jail on a whim and probably face no consequences for it.” That said, I can’t really argue with you – I can think of more than one mechanism by which adherence to bigoted ideologies would lead to personal bigotry.

    Do you think he’s going to be one of the people full-throatedly advocating that the group take on social justice issues — or is he going to be one of the people shouting, “No! No! Mission drift!”

    I think he’d probably be pretty weak in his advocacy either way. Given an explanation of why the specific issue under discussion matters to the core mission of the group, I suspect he’d support the social-justice side, albeit clumsily; lacking such an explanation, I would expect him to passively acquiesce to whatever decision was voted out, but not lend real support to the action decided upon.

    I am not “making fun” of Republicans.

    I apologize for the implication. For what it’s worth, I was addressing that remark at Pierce R. Butler, who wasn’t making fun of Republicans either, but me for thinking nice Republicans exist.

    I said that conservatives are more likely to say and do horribly oppressive things — and when an organization goes out of their way to court them, they are accepting the very high probability that the number and severity of these incidents will increase.

    Which is why I am apologizing. I agree with you, but I had a stupid knee-jerk reaction. I’ll try to be less of a dumbass in the future.

  37. 46

    packbat @ # 39 et seq – behold the problem of entering into debate at Greta Christina’s blog – turn your back for a few minutes and she’s covered all the relevant points better than you ever could.

    Let me just add that I come from the Deep South™ of the US, and have met more “nice” frothing bigots than you could count. I have reached the point of considering such “niceness” just another component of deep-seated cognitive dissonance, and usually factor it as one more reason that rational argument will never work with the person expressing it.

  38. 49

    I would rather work with a religious social progressive than with a conservative atheist. There ought to be a higher degree of social justice awareness and political progressiveness within the atheist community, but in reality that is just not (yet) the case.
    Keep in mind that rightwingers like Hirsi Ali, Silverman and Dawkins are still the dominant public faces of the atheism movement. That’s why I have disengaged, for I realised that we are more likely to achieve social justice and progress with non-atheist allies. At least for the time being.

  39. 52

    @16 “Last fall I attended a small conference in Fargo. Dave spoke and during his rousing talk about increasing atheist numbers, he defended the courting of conservative atheists. During the Q&A, PZ Myers asked him if he was concerned that this meant people like Karl Rove, who is after all, an atheist. If I recall correctly, Dave’s answer, nope, he didn’t care.”

    I was at that conference too, and if I recall correctly Dave said he thought Rove would be a bad president but that he would be in favor of it anyway because it would open the door for good atheist presidents after him. I’m pretty sure the speech was taped (the Fargo convention was called Zeteticon), so someone could track it down if they were ambitious.

  40. 53

    Greta, what do you think of the argument Dave made at the AA convention that if the secular conservatives could be split from the religious conservatives that it would so weaken the conservative movement that progressive secular liberals would win?

  41. 54

    @50, August Berkshire

    Greta, what do you think of the argument Dave made at the AA convention that if the secular conservatives could be split from the religious conservatives that it would so weaken the conservative movement that progressive secular liberals would win?

    I can’t speak for Greta, but to me it sounds like claiming that if only one could knock out Montana, the United States economy would fall apart. Secular conservatives who haven’t already abandoned the Republican Party are so rare in the U.S. as to basically be a statistical error. People who claim to be secular but still hang on to the right wing always seem to turn out to be willing to throw their secularism under the bus right away if there’s any doubt (like Rand Paul).

  42. 55

    have met more “nice” frothing bigots than you could count.

    This. So much this! I have tried to make this point to so many people, but they can’t get beyond “but they’re so nice!” And something I’ve seen a lot lately is the idea that a person can’t be a ruthless asshole if they have a family and friends; all ruthless robber barons and bigots must needs be friendless, famililess, Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Potter types. If people like them, well, they must be nice! Stuff that.

    The Vicar @51: I’ve been trying to convince my husband, a true secular, to totally abandon the GOP. He hasn’t voted Republican in years; I think he keeps hoping a miracle will happen and they’ll be the party of Lincoln again (which they haven’t been for so long it’s hardly worth mentioning anymore). So he’s one of the statistical errors you talk about (and I guess technically a RINO).

  43. 56

    @52, iknklast:

    If he hasn’t been voting Republican, then he has abandoned the party by any reasonable definition.

    (Saying “if only the Republicans would stop being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, ignorant, warmongering greedy hypocrites who wrap it all up in a religious veneer, and started passing positive, helpful legislation, I would totally vote for them” isn’t supporting them. In fact, that should be everyone’s stance. You should never say “I am a member of party X and will continue to vote for party X no matter what they do”, you should constantly be critiquing the behavior of the parties and always be ready to vote for a reasonable candidate who appears from outside “your” party. Of course, the number of Republican candidates for any office at all who have appeared in the last decade or so who I can think of offhand can be counted on the fingers of one ear, so that’s kind of a moot point, but the reason that the Democratic Party has moved so far to the right lately is that most Democrats will never even consider voting Independent or Green, no matter how blatantly the Democratic candidates have ceased to even pretend to be decent options — and the Democrats are always quick to blame their own failures on said Independents and Greens. More Democrats voted for Bush than Nader in the 2000 election in Florida by a factor of ten, but you never hear Democrats blame Bush — or Gore — for Gore’s loss. It’s always Nader.)

  44. 57

    I think it was Dan Savage who said that the religious conservatives in the Deep South were the nicest people to ever tell him he was going to burn in Hell, or something to that effect. Basically, there’s this deep-seated culture of ‘hospitality’ in the South that pushes towards a certain approach to dealing with others, but the views behind them are still just as horrific as always.

    There’s a candid-camera show that focuses on social and moral issues; they set up a scenario, and observe how bystanders react. One was having a waiter who refused to serve an openly gay couple. In an upscale New York restaurant, everyone just kind of looked the other way. They later did the same thing in a diner south of the Mason/Dixon line, and multiple patrons told off the seemingly bigoted waitress. I have no doubt that many of the patrons there, just based on statistics, attend hellfire and brimstone churches that condemn homosexuality in the most outrageous terms. But being rude to a guest? That’s right out. Humans, go figure.

    ****

    The Vicar: Personally, I always blamed Gore’s loss on Bill Clinton; his backstabbing of the base, coupled with his philandering and yes, perjury in the most stupid fashion possible, made it utterly impossible for Gore to win (especially since Gore didn’t take any action to distance himself from Bill’s record). The country would’ve been better off if Clinton had been impeached, preferably because of the more progressive Democrats in the Senate.

  45. 58

    @26 Great American Satan: The formulation I’ve used is: Conservatives and Libertarians are both totally fine with gays/atheists/PoC/women etc. being endlessly fucked over, they only differ in who they believe should do the fucking and for what reason. Conservatives will allow both the Government and our beloved Job Creators &#0153 for the love of God and Capitalism, whereas Libertarians will only allow it by the latter (with the backing and enforcement of the Govt, of course.) But they vote for the same a-holes and support the same discrimination, the only real difference being how honest they are about their motivations.

    Great piece Greta (glad to see you back.). It’s the same argument I make for why I don’t have any Conservative FB friends. I’ve seen enough activity on other friends’ pages to know that it is only a matter of time before a Conservative will say something offensive to my gay/black/women etc. friends.

  46. 62

    I appreciate your thoughts concerning tent size – but I wonder if you are taking a slightly more narrow view than you desire. In one sense your argument is similar to “don’t come to our graduate level coffee shop and talk philosophy if you are a high school graduate from the Catholic academy wearing a Kondoms Kill T-shirt.”

    Must someone have all their own biases, culturally learned bigotry, and other difficult and rough edges overcome before they can hang out with those most atheists like to hang out with? I’m not suggesting their behavior is in any way appropriate, should go unchallenged, or is even civil – but to what degree do we simply choose to not engage with these folks?

    In some ways I’m asking myself this same question, because often I can’t stomach those with the views you describe. But I once had pretty poor ideas as well. Still working on some dumb biases. In some sense, I guess I’m wondering where Socrates drew the line – I can just hear him thinking “Holy Zeus!##! If I could just get these dumb-assess out of my audience, I might get some straight answers!?##”

  47. 63

    one can be fiscally conservative and socially liberal with no problem. it’s rather easy to condone ideas of don’t waste money and spend it thoughtfully and give people their freedom to do what they wish as long as they harm no other.

    I have no desire to give up the term conservative to bigoted, greedy, ignorant twits who want to impose a theocracy or fascism on everyone.

  48. 64

    Is it bad that I’m actually angrier at Jamila Bay than I am at American Atheists for this?

    AA showing up at CPAC is actually not that surprising to me. It’s Jamila being the speaker, and her subsequent post about it, that I’m still mad about…

    I just… that’s why I’m really angry about all of this. I expect the big atheist organizations to end up being terrible now. But I definitely didn’t expect it from Jamila.

  49. 65

    Greta, what do you think of the argument Dave made at the AA convention that if the secular conservatives could be split from the religious conservatives that it would so weaken the conservative movement that progressive secular liberals would win?

    August Berkshire @ #50: Among other things, I think that I have now seen three different (and to some extent contradictory) explanations from AA representatives explaining why they did CPAC. I now don’t trust any of them. (I also agree with others here: even if this is their real strategy, the chances of it working to any significant degree anytime soon are vanishingly small. It’s not worth the very real cost: people who are intensely oppressed by American conservatism now see at AA as dissing them.

  50. 66

    I appreciate your thoughts concerning tent size – but I wonder if you are taking a slightly more narrow view than you desire. In one sense your argument is similar to “don’t come to our graduate level coffee shop and talk philosophy if you are a high school graduate from the Catholic academy wearing a Kondoms Kill T-shirt.”

    Must someone have all their own biases, culturally learned bigotry, and other difficult and rough edges overcome before they can hang out with those most atheists like to hang out with? I’m not suggesting their behavior is in any way appropriate, should go unchallenged, or is even civil – but to what degree do we simply choose to not engage with these folks?

    In some ways I’m asking myself this same question, because often I can’t stomach those with the views you describe. But I once had pretty poor ideas as well. Still working on some dumb biases. In some sense, I guess I’m wondering where Socrates drew the line – I can just hear him thinking “Holy Zeus!##! If I could just get these dumb-assess out of my audience, I might get some straight answers!?##”

    factoidjunkie @ #59: I think this is a good question, and I don’t think it has a simple answer or a single answer that applies to everyone. We all have to draw those boundaries for ourselves (although it’s sometimes worth discussing and debating where they should be drawn). For one thing, I think it differs depending on whether you’re talking about individuals responding to other individuals (e.g., my response to someone in a comment thread), or individuals responding to organizations (e.g., my response to American Atheists), or organizations responding to individuals or other organizations (e.g., organizations speaking out or failing to speak out about Slympit harassers, or the time Skepticon decided not to take CFI sponsorship when CFI was being horrible).

    For me, a shorthand way to answer in many of these situations is: Do I think the person or organization is educable? Are they expressing an awareness of their own ignorance on these issues, and a sincere willingness to learn? Or do they seem stubbornly entrenched? Do they seem like they’re just trolling/ sealioning/ JAQing off? I also have to consider whether I’m speaking solely for myself, or as a representative of an organization. (If I’m repping an organization, I have an obligation to try to welcome many different people — but I also have an obligation to not subject the members to jerks who are trolling/ sealioning/ JAQing off.) And I also have to consider my own mental and emotional health at that moment, and whether I have the time and energy to try to educate people.

    Does that help?

  51. 67

    one can be fiscally conservative and socially liberal with no problem. it’s rather easy to condone ideas of don’t waste money and spend it thoughtfully and give people their freedom to do what they wish as long as they harm no other.

    velkyn @ #60: Piffle. “Fiscally conservative” long ago stopped meaning “don’t waste money and spend it thoughtfully” (if indeed it ever did). Fiscal conservatism in contemporary America means “don’t waste money on poor people, spend it thoughtfully cutting taxes for rich people and giving them even more power to control how absolutely everything is run.” Fiscal conservatism in contemporary America means (among other things) ignoring infrastructure, and slashing programs that pull people out of the cycle of poverty — because rich people can buy their own infrastructure, and they benefit highly from the cycle of poverty being perpetuated into infinity. Poverty is one of the most important social issues we face, it affects pretty much every other form of marginalization (it disproportionately affects women, people of color, disabled people, trans people) — and fiscal conservatism feeds poverty.

    What’s more, fiscal policy and social policy are deeply intertwined. To give just one example of many: Racist police policies are deeply intertwined with fiscal policies that raise money, not by openly taxing people at fair rates, but by essentially “taxing” poor people with a constant avalanche of petty municipal fines. (That’s a big part of what was happening in Ferguson, and is still happening.) And look at the privatization of prisons, creating a prison system run for profit by people who have no motivation to reduce crime and imprisonment, and in fact are highly motivated to keep crime and imprisonment rates high and steady.

    And “fiscal conservatism” means deregulation that enriches the rich and breaks the back of the poor, the working class, the middle class. Deregulation = shitty work safety standards, the banking/ home mortgage crisis, business that pollute and contribute to global warming, more. Do I need to go on? How about keeping health insurance privatized? Keeping the minimum wage from being raised? That’s fiscal conservatism in contemporary America.

    You don’t want to give up conservatism to bigoted twits? Face it. Fiscal conservatism is bigoted.

  52. 68

    Nate Havens @61:

    Is it bad that I’m actually angrier at Jamila Bay than I am at American Atheists for this?

    I first heard Jamila Bey speak at the AA con in Des Moines in ’11. If memory serves, her talk mentioned that the average net worth of an American black woman was $5. Fiscally conservative economic policies, that she claimed at CPAC that she supports, will make that number much lower. Did I misunderstand her argument four years ago, and not realize that she thought that the net worth number was too high? Or does she think that the reason the figure is so low is that black women just don’t work as hard/smart as other demographic groups? Under “fiscal conservatism,” the government takes no action to address inequalities that result from unregulated capitalism. I don’t seem to share as many values with Bey as I first thought.

  53. 69

    What’s more, fiscal policy and social policy are deeply intertwined.

    Thank you!! And while most of your points are about the conflict between Fiscal Conservatism and Social Liberalism in practice, the more I think about it I’m not so sure the two can even coexist in theory. Social Liberalism is premised on the goal of using the leverage, power and authority of the State to address issues of inequality and injustice because it is uniquely qualified to do so in ways that the Private Sector or individuals can’t/won’t/won’t-anytime-soon. Fiscal Conservatism is all about minimizing the resource that the State has to use as ammunition (tax $) in that goal and to restrict what the Government can do as much as possible. It doesn’t take a PolySci degree to see how these two concepts are in deep conflict.

  54. 72

    @velkyn 60:

    it’s rather easy to condone ideas of don’t waste money and spend it thoughtfully and give people their freedom to do what they wish as long as they harm no other.

    See, the problem is, probably everyone would agree with that statement. I’m about as lefty as they come, and I agree with wholeheartedly. The difference between “fiscal conservatives” and “fiscal liberals” is what they consider to be a waste of money. (Personally, I think the USA’s obscene military budget is an offensive waste of money. Many conservatives consider welfare programs to be a waste of money.)

    When you define “socially conservative” with platitudes that broad, the term becomes almost meaningless.

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