Thursday, February 9, 2012

"We Are The 1.6 Percent"

It came to me yesterday when I was looking at the numbers in the U.S Religious Landscape Survey issued by the PEW Forum.    The relevant numbers were the 1.6 percent of the sample who identified themselves as being atheists and the 83.1 percent who identified themselves as members of religious denominations.   Actually, the percentage of the population who identify themselves as religious is higher because in the 16.1 percent who are listed as "unaffiliated",  5.8 are listed as "religious unaffiliated".    It doesn't much matter if the percentage of the population which identifies themselves as religious is 83.1 or 88.9 percent of the population,  what matters is that the population which are atheists is politically insignificant, certainly in all but a very small number of political districts.

In American politics, you must have the support of religious voters to win.   For the left to win,  religious liberals and even moderates have to vote for liberal and leftist candidates.   They can't win without those votes.  The 1.6 percent of the population who are atheists, and who are certainly not all of the left, are not a significant voter group in terms of winning elections.

There is nothing to be gained for the left by tolerating the tiny, obnoxious, fraction of that 1.6 percent who compulsively vomit insults and lies against  religious people and their religions, not making a distinction between reactionary fundamentalists and the most liberal and progressive of religious denominations and individuals.  

The price the left has paid for coddling the obnoxious percentage of atheists has been way more than they ever deserved, considering their inability to produce more than the alienation of potential supporters for the left and, so, political defeat.   I believe they have been a big part of the continuing political impotence of the American left which has either been identified with those atheists by our opponents or which too many of us have identified ourselves with out of some lame brained, misplaced devotion to fairness for what is constantly mistaken as a beleaguered group.     The obnoxious fraction of the atheist population has suffered relatively little in the way of discrimination.   And,  in fact, if they did,  they could sue under the federal civil rights laws under which they have been a covered class since the mid 1960s.   They are one of the least discriminated against of the covered classes.   Atheists have seldom been the target of unprovoked violence,  only slightly more often have they been the target of provoked violence, they have not been discriminated against in making contracts or marriages.   Most of their long sad story consists of having to put up with being exposed to the religious culture of the vast majority of the population.   Well, as long as they don't use government to do it,  the vast majority of the population is as entitled to express their religious ideas as atheists are to express theirs.  So, if it offends the tender sensibilities of atheists, well, that's just too bad.

The religious left owes atheists one thing,  we owe them their due measure of justice, under the law and in so far as anyone else is owed justice.   We don't owe them anymore than that.  We certainly don't owe atheists a single issue that disadvantages us politically.   We don't owe atheists continued support for the faddish obnoxiousness that is the public face of atheism today due to the obnoxiousness of atheists.    If other atheists want to avoid the results of that obnoxiousness, that's their responsibility.   I know I won't be addressing the distinction anymore as it doesn't seem to be of great concern to atheists in general.   I could count the times I've heard other atheists  tell the louts among them to shut up on one hand with fingers to spare.  

Religious people on the left, the vast majority of the left, do not owe them an enforced ban on our expression of the very basis of our political orientation and ideals and the reason that we stay in the struggle. It is impossible to imagine the success of the very civil rights struggles that made atheists a covered class under the law without the expression of religious ideals by the Rev. Martin Luther King jr, many other ordained ministers,  their congregations and numerous other religious people acting out of religious conviction to put their lives and bodies on the line and to do the huge work of changing laws and the harder work of changing minds.

That the major accomplishments of the left in the United States have been the work of the religious majority of the left is hardly surprising because the religious left is many, many times larger than the atheist left.  The atheist left couldn't  accomplish anything without the religious majority.   I look at the history of the left and see that it was when religious leftists accommodated the irreligious that we have lost political influence.   I think that is a good part of the story of political loss of the left.   Given the addiction of many atheists to various materialist intellectual cults, especially some of the most obviously illiberal "Marxist"  and "anarchist" ones,  supporting them has cost the left very dearly with no rational prospect of that support making real progress for people in need of relief.   If they ever gained power, real liberals would have to fight against them.   The history of officially atheist governments, from the reign of terror to North Korea, has been a history of epic oppression and bloodshed.

Considering their numbers, considering the obnoxiousness that atheists, themselves, have made their predominant public image,  I'm not wasting any more time worrying about hurting their feelings.    It would be immoral to worry about that considering what is at stake.

Note:  I will be writing on this subject more in the near future.

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