Gregory Paul: "The Secular Party Must Be Destroyed -- It’s Pretty Much Self Destructed Anyhow"
A new meta-analysis in Personality and Social Psychology Review concludes that atheists tend to be more intelligent than theists. Perhaps statistically true, but sometimes I do wonder. The NAP/SPA debacle being an example.
Before going further we need to understand what an atheist actually is. Way too many atheists do not know. Oxford correctly defines atheist as being “without God,” as lacking a significant belief in a god. That’s the etymology of a-theist. So, if you’re not a theist who has some significant level of belief in at least one supernatural deity, then you are an atheist whether you like it or not. It’s one or another, there is no in between. You may be a marginal atheist, indeed most atheists are not stalwarts. You may be an agnostic atheist, but that actually covers most atheists since even Dawkins does not entirely exclude the possible existence of a god or two based on the current evidence. (As coined by Tom Huxley agnostic is a methodological philosophy rather than a conclusion, so calling yourself an agnostic tells us how you process information but not what you have decided on the matter.) What is not true is that all atheists strongly reject the existence of deities, or are opposed to theism. The latter are correctly called antitheists, who are a minority subset of atheists overall.
OK, back to the disaster at the NAP/SPA. From what I gather, the organization was struggling, and some in its leadership decided it would be a fine idea to change from NAP to SPA. A membership vote was held, a big victory for the pro secular crowd was announced, and it turned out that the vote was fraudulent (http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk/2013/09/09/allegations-of-voter-fraud-within-secular-party-of-america).
There is no point to keep the SPA operating. There is good reason for it to cease to exist.
Now, that atheists can be corrupt – and this was corruption -- is not surprising. Atheists are people too, and people mess up big time all the time. It’s what we do. We’re only human. Even so, the atheist community must impose harsh punishment on an organization that does something this unethical and foolish for moral and practical reasons.
For starters, when theoconservatives -- who go on and on and on about how they are moral principled people doing the work of the perfect creator as they denounce nonconservatives for their assorted failings -- mess up, they typically and hypocritically demand forgiveness of their transgressor. As the SNL Church Lady used to say, how convenient. We atheists cannot sink to the cynical level of the religious right, we should and must set a higher standard.
And there is the discipline factor. Atheists running organizations need to know that doing something that is so illicit will result in dire consequences, including the destruction of the organization. That won’t eliminate atheists from doing stupid things, but it has the potential to tamp down the malfeasance.
In any case the SPA is ruined. If it continues to operate, all theists have to do to discredit it is mention how it has a history of election fraud. The stain will never go away. And many atheists won’t have anything to do with it, suppressing funding and membership. Better to start fresh with a new organization.
Which brings us back to that miserable name change. The theory was that NAP was too narrow based to be politically viable, and that the group needed to broaden to accommodate folks who are not atheists, which means theists who agree with atheists that it is a good idea to keep the government secular.
Oh the multiple inanities.
The current SPA website says that the group promotes rational thought based on evidence based reasoning (secularamerica.org/charter). Nothing wrong with that. Where the SPA is going way off into la-la land is that the very same site says that members are welcome “regardless of faith.”
Is that a joke?
Assuming it is not, then the people who in their inanity think that you can have an organization that is supposedly rationalist and simultaneously and cheerfully invite in those whose wildly speculative opinions are based on faith which is the opposite of rational are either intellectually lazy and sloppy and/or cynical to some hypocritical degree.
It cannot be overemphasized how perverted this is. In this age of science and hopefully analytical reason theism is automatically irrational on intellectual and especially moral grounds. Only atheism is rational based on the available evidence. So, here many of us are busting our butts trying to inform the globe about how rational analysis is critical to building a better world, and how that automatically excludes the possibility of a Good God in view of the state of the universe (as I detailed in Philosophy and Theology at gregspaul.webs.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf), and yet another major atheistic organization is claiming to be rationalist and trying to recruit the damned faithists on the cynical and dubious calculation of obtaining better political viability. It’s an Orwellian contradiction. It’s yet another wimpy project by woosey atheists who are scared that the word ATHEIST will drive away fence sitters and liberal theists, yet again leaving the proud to be atheist atheists having to put up with being lumped under the bland secular label so as to not offend those who do not even understand what the word actually means.
And just how is broadening the NAP to the SPA supposed to work? Are theists who believe in the supernatural supposed to happily join a party that says it is strictly rational? Are atheists, most especially antitheists, in the SPA allowed to tell the theists in the SPA that they are not rational? Or are the SPA antitheists as is so often demanded of them supposed to be nice to the SPA theists and not mention what is true in yet another game of let’s nontheoconservatives all get along with one another pretend?
An explicitly atheist party, and only an explicitly atheist party, can represent the interests of all atheists, ranging form ardent antiatheists to tolerant atheists. A secular party does not add tolerant theists to the prior mix. It automatically sidelines the antitheists for the reason described in the prior paragraph. Ergo, a secular party only represents the segment of atheists who want to get along with theists who want to get along with atheists who want to get along with theists. A secular party is therefore no broader based than an atheist party, it just shifts the base laterally by excluding a portion of atheists while bringing in a portion of theists. So to repeat, a secular party cannot be a party that represents atheists in total, it is a party that represents those atheists and theists who can put up with one another in the context of an effort to keep religion out of the government.
The effort to convert the NAP into the SPA was correspondingly inappropriate, in that making the conversion automatically left the more dedicated atheists out in the cold. What should have happened is this. Those who thought they a secular party could do better than an atheist party should have left the latter to form the former. That way the atheists could have their party, and the secularists their party too. If the two parties shared a common cause they could work together, when they did not they could compete and see which side did better. But some in the ANP could not see the logic and ethics of doing the right thing, and instead engaged in corrupt fraud. Good job, fools.
A secular party cannot, however, claim to be rationalist for the reasons described above. And what is the justifiable reason for its existence? A party of atheists and theists allied to prevent the emergence of a theocracy is hardly a multitasking political party. This is literally true, the SPA being a tax-free advocacy group rather than an actual political party that can advocate or put up for election actual candidates. Instead it is a single position group of a/theists, like say Separation of Church and State and the anti-creationism National Center for Science Education that already exist. Do you want to keep church, temple and mosque out of the federal and state governments, and state sponsored worship and creationism out of public school curricula? Then why not join the SCS and/or NCSE which need the funds, rather than waste some of your hard earned money on another prosecular government group tainted by scandal?
As dubious as a secular party is, there are difficulties with the idea of an atheist party. That’s because it too is too broad. A general atheist party includes atheos from Ayn Randian libertarians who want to shrink government to the size of a pea, to progressives who think government has a major role to play in modern societies. So what can an atheist party with such extreme variance in economic-political policy opinions do? Not a whole lot. Not much more than a secular party. The same old same old of opposing theocratic policies.
There is also a demographic disparity inherent to a general atheoparty. Surveys show that
three quarters or more of the fast expanding irreligious are progressives who tend to vote
Democratic (www.pewforum.org/unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx). If the membership
reflects this greater pattern then the libertarian minority will be chronically outvoted. On the
other hand, the libertarian side tends to be better funded by wealthy adherents. So both sides
are likely to be discontented.
If atheists wish to engage in organized politics, best to form two parties that are sociopolitically specific. An atheoprogressive party repping the majority opinion, and a smaller atheolibertarian party. Of these the first makes the most sense. It has the larger potential membership. And it is in most accord with rational analysis based on empirical science. It is well documented that the most atheistic democracies are also the most socially, politically and economically progressives examples (www.epjournal.net/filestore/EP07398441_c.pdf). And that the most progressive democracies are enjoying the best socioeconomic conditions in history. And that the progressive democracies are the most atheistic because they are the most successful in providing the middle class majority with the secure prosperity that causes most citizens to lose interest in seeking the aid and protection of supernatural deities.
Because libertarianism would not exist without the foregone conclusion that individuals tend to be better off with as much liberty as possible short of anarchy, and because libertarians and others have not been able to produce comprehensive research showing that progressive democracies fare worse than more libertarian ones like the disturbingly dysfunctional U.S., libertarianism is an ideology based on faith. Atheolibertarianism is therefore more like religion than is pragmatic, evidence based atheoprogressivism.
So I am not excited by the prospect of an atheolibertarian party. But if you ungodly libertarians want to form one, go right ahead, it’s a free country.
More valuable is an explicitly progressive and atheist party or organization. One that funds objective technical research and then gets the results out to the public. Perhaps one that backs and even offers up candidates.