As a political conservative who does not happen to believe in God, I am somewhat conflicted about participating in this discussion.
On one hand, I am troubled by the hijacking of the US conserviative movement by the religious right and agree that religious fundamentaism of all denominations is a grave threat to world peace and survival and that, by extension, theism that tolerates the fundies is equally dangerous.
On the other hand, I believe in self reliance, capitalism/free-enterprise, low taxes, minimal governmenal interferrence in both personal and business matters, a “tough-love” safety net and strong national defense. I do not expect or trust the liberal left to embrace and/or support these values that I hold dear.
For me, there is no incompatibility between conservatism and atheism which both result from the application of reason and rationality.
However, given a choice between 1) tolerating the religious right and embracing conservative values or 2) promoting atheism and watching the country move radically to the left politially, I will choose option 1) every time.
Of course, in my ideal world of conservative atheists such a choice would be unnecessary.
So, I (perhaps naively) am hoping that the participant’s religious and political belief systems can be sufficiently compartmentalized for purposes of the discussion in this thread to allow prgress on the basic question of promoting atheism at the expense of religious fundamentalism and leave politics to another day and another forum.
My basic approach to the question is that atheists need an overarching “strategy” rather than a bunch of “tactics” as contained in most of the relevant posts above.
Yes, in some circumstances it might be good to march with picket signs in front of churches, encourage critical thinking and educational TV watching among children, etc. But without a strategy, these tactics are little more than random acts of reason in an unreasonable world.
In order to develop such a strategy, we will need to clearly and thoroughly understand the relevant strategic characteristics of the “enemy”, the “battlefield” and ourselves.
A good place to start developing this understanding is to read “The American Religious Landscape and Political Attitudes: A Baseline for 2004” , The Pew Forum on Relgion & Public Life, Sept. 9, 2004. http://pewforum.org/publications/surveys/green-full.pdf
This is a pretty comprehnsive and apparently objective 57-page report on a survey of American attitudes regarding religion, politics and current issues containing many statistical results, trend analyses and interpretations. I encourage you to read it for yourselves…....however here are some of the key findings…..
- Only 3.2% Identify as Atheist or Agnostic
- Of these only 10% Identify as Conservative (I am pretty unique)
- Another 7.5% Identify as “Secular” (no affiiation but modest level of belief)
- Another 5.3% Idenfity as “Unaffiliated Believers” (no affiliation but high level of belief)
- 40% Believe in a “Personal” God
- 41% Beleve in an “Impersonal God”
- 19% are “Unsure” (which includes the 3.2% of Athiests & Agnostics)
- Of the Atheists, 19% are Republicans, 27% Independent, and 54% Democrat (These latter have not yet seen the light and clearly require more conservative education)
There is lots of more interesting stuff to think about in the report but, even from this limited extract, you can see that the Atheists are clearly vastly out numbered, disorganized (we don’t gather together every week to plot against the enemy), and divided politically.
Furthermore, we don’t have a common manifesto to quote from, a sympathetic political, cultural or social forum within which to voice our ideas, powerful and respected leaders to articulate our views, ready access to media outlets, vast financial resources, etc., etc.
Yet, we need a strategy to turn these shortfalls to our advantage…........what will it be?