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Dec 19

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Are There Libertarian Atheists?

MoineLast night, I got into a small argument with a guy (I think) who goes by the handle moine on Twitter. It was regarding two articles that I’d written: The Atheist Libertarian Connection and Libertarianism Incompatible With Atheism. So he took to something called TwitLonger to explain. But before I get to that, I want to point out a couple of things that I find really annoying!

I really don’t know if I’m talking about a guy or a gal, because when I went to his (used as the neuter from here on) website’s About page, there was no actual information except that he is “retired and grumpy and in need of a nap.” Which is great! I like that style of writing. But everywhere I go on blogs, I run into these too-clever “about pages” that don’t so much as provide a name. I blame it on Digby (Heather Parton), who for years was thought to be a man. I also don’t appreciate the lack of a photo. That is, by the way, one of Jakob Nielsen’s top ten things wrong with blogs. And I see it everywhere. A number of famous bloggers are very cagey about this. But fine, knowing a name would be a start.

Regardless, Moine thinks that I am wrong to think that there is a connection between libertarianism and atheism. He thinks that it is just that some atheist just happen to be libertarian, just like some atheists are into knitting. Well, it depends upon the kinds of atheists you are talking about. I’m an atheist the same way that Terry Eagleton is a Christian. We disagree with everyone and everyone, in turn, hates us. So if we are going to push the atheist envelope wide enough (and I think we should), there are huge numbers of atheists in this country. And they most certainly do not have a tendency toward libertarianism.

But if you look at the public atheists, they roughly fall into two camps: humanists and anarchists (libertarians). I think there are actually more humanists. But the libertarian crowd is very big and it is very much linked. For one thing: Ayn Rand. She was an anarchist who was an atheist and very much linked the two. She is still hugely popular. Go look on Amazon; even great novels of her time sell for 1¢ (The Grapes of Wrath!), but Atlas Shrugged might as well have been released earlier this month. You will not find the book cheap, even though it is, even on the basis of a story, absolutely dreadful. People read it as “philosophy.” These are people who don’t know what philosophy is, but never mind.

The other connection between atheism and libertarianism is a certain way of thinking. I call this group the “first principles” people. They think that they can prove in a deductive (or mostly deductive) way that libertarianism is “natural.” And this feeds into Social Darwinian thinking which feeds into Darwinian thinking which, for idiot atheists, proves that atheism is correct. For more, see: Clueless Atheists.

But above all, I just see it. I hear a lot of libertarian junk thinking coming out of the mouths of atheists. Often, they don’t even know it is libertarianism. The utter ignorance of atheists about just about everything is only eclipsed by the utter ignorance of American Christians. And remember: I used to be a libertarian. I worked for the party. I wrote about it at length for years. I read everything Ayn Rand ever wrote. I know those people. I know how they think. (But don’t be mistaken; most libertarians are not atheists; I could go on about the kooky ways that libertarian Christians justify that mind-blowing cognitive dissonance.)

That’s all I have to say on the matter right now. The truth is, I don’t disagree with Moine about anything but this one point. And his blog is interesting, although he doesn’t write enough to get me too excited. But it is worth checking out if you are interested in issues of faith and atheism.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2013/12/19/are-there-libertarian-atheists/

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4 comments

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  1. Moine

    It is common practice of bloggers/journalists to attack the "personality" on the way to cause celebre in journalistic circles. Their ideas become almost incidental to the conversation. Gifford would be a good example, with his criticisms of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Amis. It’s the element that is essential in writing a good story, conflict and antagonism. The more personal you make the attack, the more likely they are to respond in an emotional way. Readers love it. More recent examples can be found in Salon, Foxaganda, and British press. This isn’t a new phenomenon especially for writers. History buffs should read the read the hoo hah between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
    This is the price one pays to be considered relevant I suppose, in today’s internet savvy society, Neilson’s opining of blogging mistakes notwithstanding . That ship has sailed for me. You, [being a contrarian] might respect that I prefer my ideas to stand or fall on their merit and not pollute the conversation with my supposed value to the collective. So my anonymity is carefully crafted to be the way it is everywhere I use social media. Perhaps that will generate its own buzz. Conspiracy buffs will think I’m Dick Cheney or Anne Coulter’s socialist mother.
    What to say about Ms. Rand’s writings?.! Like an axe, you can use it constructively to chop wood or like Lizzie Borden <who> took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done she gave her father forty-one. {popular skipping rhyme back in the day}
    Her ideas read "objectively" present a mildly depressing ouvre, read while listening to Leonard Cohen might prompt you to invent a better guillotine. From a philosophical perspective, Rand’s writing fails at solving certain problems, and since she claims her purported solutions succeed where others fail, the reader has no way of objectively judging her criticisms of the positions nor the success of her own solution. Familiarity with ideas being criticized inform the reader of problems Rand’s solutions face as well. She is relentlessly vague. Since Rand herself characterizes the dependence of argument on such ignorance as argument from intimidation, it is ironic that she studiously fails to be specific. She is unable to cite specific references to support her criticisms, or unwilling to do so. This is poor scholarship by the standards of professionals. Using her own criteria, it is weak, deceitful argumentation.
    To those Libertarians who think anarchy is Darwinian, you might want to review the evolutionary model. There’s a difference between being an apex predator and a progressive cooperative society with higher cognitive function.
    Thanks for visiting my blog, the link love done properly, and the interesting conversation about the marketplace of ideas.
    ~Moine

  2. admin

    @Moine – I understand the anonymity thing. And it is certainly the case that the writing should stand on its own. As a reader, when I find something I like, I want to find out about the writer. But it’s your blog and your life.

    As for Rand, she loved to dismiss philosophers that she clearly had the slightest of understanding. That’s especially true of Kant. For a few years of my life, I thought Kant was an idiot, until I finally studied him. She must have read the comic book version of [i]Critique of Pure Reason[/i]. And then, she dismissed Nietzsche, even as she stole many of his ideas.

    Another thing that binds libertarians and atheists together is materialism. Understand: my fundamental orientation in life is as a mathematician. It is just how I see the world. Materialism is clearly wrong. I certainly don’t believe in God, much less a God that cares about me. Just the same, there is some kind of twisted something that allows the universe(s) to exist. And that is beyond us to understand. In fact, there is work in set/information theory that something inside a set cannot have complete information of the the entire set–even if the set is composed of only itself. Thus, being as we are of the universe (as I put it: we are by nature parochial), we will be unable to understand why it exists.

    Thus my ontological credo: we don’t seek answers, only better questions.

    Most theists are wrong because they seek answers. (And really lame answers too!)

    Most atheists are wrong because they claim the questions are invalid.

    I believe the best theist and atheist thinkers are the same people.

  3. Moine

    [At the risk of sounding like Oprah,] based on your answers I would place you as an agnostic deist in the scheme of things. Einstein took a similar position if memory serves.
    I’m a materialist, so I guess we will disagree on that. I cant accept idealism or dualism as being logical.
    My ontological credo would be: Proper questions are framed philosophically; and then they [the questions] must be tested empirically to find truthful answers.

  4. JMF

    "Relentlessly vague" — thanks, you two, for a terrific, intelligent argument.

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