When I was growing up in the 1970s, the few times I ever heard anyone use the word “atheist” it was always in a political context. Typically, it was someone inveighing against the atheist Communism of the Soviet Union. The general sentiment was captured by Ronald Reagan in a 1985 speech,
Atheism is not an incidental element of communism, not just part of the package; it is the package.
It was just a foregone conclusion of adults I knew that atheism and Communism were one and the same thing.
Fast forward 40 years, and the idea that atheists are or should be politically homogeneous is still around. With the end of the Cold War, however, it is typically
atheists themselves who insist that atheism necessarily entails not only statements about religion, but also politics.
John Loftus, whose books I have read and enjoyed, offers up a particularly facile instance of this on his blog when he wonders why atheist leaders aren’t falling all over themselves to endorse Bernie Sanders for U.S. president.
I’m going to talk Presidential politics folks. Atheist intellectuals and activists are failing us when it comes to something that may do more for atheist causes than anything else we can do, or say. Atheist leadership should lead. So far they are failing us. I’m talking about leaders like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Valerie Tarico, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Annie Laurie Gaylor, Dan Barker, David Silverman, Russell Blackford, Hemant Mehta, Daniel Dennett, Jerry Coyne, Peter Boghossian, Barbara Forrest, DJ Grothe, Phil Zuckerman and others, some of whom I am personal friends with, and all of whom I respect for their contributions. What am I saying? We should all be speaking out in support of Bernie Sanders for President for these reasons!
Loftus doesn’t even bother to make a case why atheist leaders should line up behind Sanders–other than that Loftus himself apparently shares Sanders’ politics and wishes his fellow atheists did as well. Instead he simply says things like,
If you value my opinion at all, getting Sanders elected as the next president of the US may be the most important thing we can do.
The. Most. Important. Thing. We. Can. Do.
Even atheists can be true believers, even if not about God.
Loftus seems like a decent guy and I’m fairly certain this is an example of him being an overly enthusiastic Sanders supporter. But when I read it, the post irritates in much the same way it grates when I happen across arguments that Christians need to unify behind someone such as Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum.