Why does the left wing ignore atheists?

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The renowned physicist Max Planck once said, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

AlterNet

And this isn’t just true of science: the same principle holds true in the political arena. Most progressive advances don’t come about because vast numbers of people are persuaded to drop their prejudices, but because younger generations to whom new ideas seem normal and familiar eventually replace the old guard. To name the obvious example, this is what’s happening right now with marriage equality, as young people who are overwhelmingly comfortable with GLBT rights grow up and replenish the electorate.

But there’s one political issue that seems to be an exception to the trend of progress over time, and that issue is abortion. A recent poll found anti-choice views in the slim majority for the first time in decades. What’s worse, the anti-choice side is far more aggressive and well-funded, partly because they’re not burdened by providing actual medical care and can spend all their donations on propaganda, and they’ve been hard at work creating hurdles for women’s rights throughout the country.

Written By: Adam Lee
continue to source article at salon.com

42 COMMENTS

  1. ” Wings ” tend to be ideological knee jerk-ers, so why not ignore something that does not elicit a knee jerk response and requires you to think about it?

    Things are changing though and I wish ideologies, ” wings, ” would also change a bit.

  2. What’s more, can we really claim that any of the “wings” in the USA even approach left wing? Not that the liberal left in many countries don’t tend towards a very weak attitude towards people’s rights when cultural/religous sensibilities are liable to be offended.

    (How do you delete your own post? I made a vaccuous point first, then had to expand it instead of my preferred option of deleting it)

  3. What’s worse, the anti-choice side is far more aggressive and
    well-funded, partly because they’re not burdened by providing actual
    medical care and can spend all their donations on propaganda,
    and
    they’ve been hard at work creating hurdles for women’s rights throughout
    the country.

    That’s a bit like politicians.  There are those who spend long days working on reforms to protect the rights of their electorate, getting little thanks for their efforts,  and then there are those whose total efforts go into self publication and simply posing as public beneficiaries while ingratiating themselves with pressure groups and vested interests.

    They know they can con most of the people most of the time!

  4.  I couldn’t agree more with your first comment. It’s entirely appropriate for all party political systems to include a centre right party to represent reasonable business interests and a social ethos that prioritises individual responsibility. They have that party in America, its called the Democratic party. And to the right of them you have a collection of flat-Earthers and birthers that somehow get taken seriously.

  5. Left wingers are corrupted by the nonsense of religion and multiculturism.
    They don’t seem to accept that dogma should never trump common sense.
    They’re full of the dogma of sociological pseudoscience.
    What pisses me off is the fact that their disgusting interference with free speech is now part of the law.

  6. The same reason liberal (and thus statistically atheist/agnostic) presidents presidential candidates and many other politicians pretend to believe in GAWD.  I thought at least that much was obvious, as well as their ends-justifies-the-means rationale/justification.

  7. Hi, I’m a communist, I’m against ristricting freedom of speech, I’m not religious, I don’t think religion should be considered a valid reason for discriminating against other people in any way (like marriage).
    Just pointing out that your generalization does have gaps…

  8. I agree that the rise of atheism draws many *liberal* religious folk out of the pews and into the science classrooms, but I doubt it does much to the conservative caste but galvanize them and encourage home-schooling.

  9. There’s a historical antecedent for this argument. Slavery in the U.S. and England was specifically Christian in origin. Most of the hundreds of defenses were written by clergy and routinely relied upon the Bible for support. When abolitionists tried to quote a revised version of the Bible that supposedly did not support or even opposed slavery, the slavery defenders regularly clobbered the abolitionists. Many abolitionists were atheists and did not rely on the Bible; and some Christian abolitionists even argued that Christian support of slavery created atheists! More ironically, it was common for slavery defenders to call Christian abolitionists “atheists” on the grounds that they were created a higher morality to the moral laws that God gave to humanity, which included support for slavery. To many U.S. Southern (and some Northern) Christians, our Civil War was a war between Christians (and God) vs. atheism! I must note that the atheists won.

  10. And you are rhetorically hamstrung in what way, exactly?

    Also, would you be so kind as to furnish us with your definition of “multiculturalism”? It is difficult to debate when we keep talking past one another, and for that to cease, we must ensure that the same words mean the same things to all parties involved. We don’t all load language in the same manner.

    It seems to me that you are conflating two different concepts, and you are far from being the only one here on RD.net guilty of that kind of intellectual slovenliness. Firstly, there is multiculturalism (acceptance or appreciation of the culture of other people and nations, e.g. art, literature, cuisine, aesthetics, scientific contributions and so on. Secondly, there is cultural relativism, i.e. blind acceptance of other nations’ societal norms (“Well, so what if they behead women for wanting to learn algebra? It’s their culture..”).

    These are clearly not the same, and to blithely merge the two stems from intellectual laziness and ignorance, if not outright idiocy.

    To intentionally conflate the two is both dishonest and dangerous.

  11. I went from liberal to libertarian and I don’t really regret it. The liberal problem might be due to much.openmindedness and wishy washy sentiment. Being open minded can be good thing but only to a certain extent. Liberals are far more into nonsense like astrology, alternative medicine, and new age junk than conservatives.

  12. The other point to consider is that fundamentalists often have larger families than non-religious types, and it is hard for them to break away from the religion of their parents as the multiple stories in Convert’s Corner attest (well worth a read if you haven’t yet).
    It is just going to get nastier and more polarized in the US, the good news is they can’t burn us at the stake like they used to.

  13. I agree, Zen. I have a lot of very broad-minded, politically left, pro-choice, pro-LGBT friends whom I value, but as soon as they zone out on their silly ‘spiritual journies’, my eyes glaze over. The need for a sort of ‘guiding Other’ seems to be so strong, that even some of the most undogmatic people just can’t let go of it. Frustrating, because ‘spirituality’ (a word I really don’t understand anyhow) leads to the same sort of disputes as discussions with theists.

  14. So, according to you, Multiculturalism is ‘acceptance or appreciation of the culture of other people and nations’ while Cultural Relativism amounts to ‘blind acceptance’ of the same.

    I’m afraid that Multiculturalism, when viewed as a certain kind of response to cultural diversity, often slips into a sort of crude Cultural Relativism since those practicing it are reluctant to do anything other than blindly accept almost all aspects of ‘other’ cultures; to do anything else would be to be ‘intolerant’, ‘racist’ or ‘Culturally Imperialist’.

  15. The WRP, SWP and like far left groups, resemble nothing more than religious cults; I know, I was knocking about with them in the seventies, and their tactics vis a vis propaganda and conduct at union meetings are text book wing nut; they’re as devious as pigs tails and obsessive.

    Ring any bells folks? 

  16. It was the politics that dominated from the end of the 70s that created the current crisis. It’s ignoring the left-right divide and so allowing the owning classes to dominate that’s the cause of most of our current problems. I’m not sure what relevance the decade has, regardless. Do you reject QM because it’s so 20s or natural selection because it’s Victorian?  

  17. I think atheists have their work cut out on the left wing as much as the right. Look at the alternative health, anti-vaccination and new age movements. These are as irrational as anything on the right. It’s hard to promote rational arguments to irrational people regardless of their political views.

  18. Why not just say “descriptive cultural relativism” (i.e., describing the situation as one in which cultures differ) as opposed to “prescriptive cultural relativism” (which would be saying that we should accept all memes as equal in (moral) value)?

  19. I was once very enthusiastic about the new atheist movement but I became
    very disappointed with it after finding out how much it is aligned with right
    wing extremism when it comes to killing people for their religion and any
    innocents who get in the way. There are too many influential people in the
    movement who don’t seem to consider killing people an extreme means to solving  problems. It is not only irrational to blame the unenlightened for being
    unenlightened, it accommodates unreasonable behaviour.

    My disillusionment with the new atheist movement makes me think of how
    George Orwell’s Animal Farm ended, with the animals having difficulty being able to see the difference between the people and the pigs that walked on 2
    legs.

    Programming computers has helped me become aware of how different your
    approach is to solving problems when you feel angry and when you feel
    rational.

    Anger may help one feel self-righteous but it impedes critical thinking and
    I have never been able to see how it has helped me debug anything.

  20. Whoa. If you think the so called ‘New Atheist’ movement is aligned with the right wing then I suggest you need to read up more. Start by understanding what the Republican Party in the US is. I for one baulk at party mentality. An argument backed by veracity is an argument I can relate to. Political parties do not work like this, which is why many rationalists do not belong to them.

  21. First of all I don’t like the term itself. However, if we are to proceed as such I would say Richard. Then the Hitch, Sam and Dan Dennet. This betrays the huge mass of atheists who didn’t need figureheads but who will give credit where it is due. Also, Richards work explaining evolution in itself is required reading for anyone contemplating our very existence as ‘sentient’ beings. Obviously I would place Darwin there, as well as countless others, scientists, philosophers, artists and others. I do not see any correlation between atheists and right wing philosophy. Nor van I see any link with the degradation of human or any other life. Surely if you can grasp that this is all we have, why destroy it? Can you give me any examples of your proposition?

  22. Outside of the US, most Christians today are not offended by Darwin, in fact most would see anyone who tries to deny evolution as an extremist and most would not consider Darwin a new atheist the same way most atheists don’t consider themselves new atheists, most see arguing for atheism antisocial much the same way most religious people today don’t argue for or preach their religion in public out of fear of offending others.

    I however think the world would be a better place if society encouraged people to speak their minds, this is why I much dislike the way many new atheists resort to trying to use shame to silence those they disagree with, such tactics are not reasonable, they are the tactics typically used by religious fundamentalists who can not rely on logic to back their argument.

    Richard Dawkins has strongly promoted Sam Harris Ayaan hirsi Ali, Christopher Hitchens, Pat Condell and Nick Cohen’s writings and speeches, all who would have harshly criticized Richard Dawkins for his anti Iraq war invasion he wrote for the Guardian in 2003: titled “Bin Laden’s victory” “A political system that delivers this disastrous mistake needs reform”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl

    The way many new atheist speak I am sure many of them would be surprised to find out Richard Dawkins once used these types of left wing anti war arguments which he seems to no longer use. Why does Richard Dawkins not promote prominent left-wing intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali, Glenn Greenwald and John Pilger who were so much more reasonable in the stance they took against the Iraq invasion than the right wing extremist were who he now promotes one has to ask.

  23. The left is religious in its own way. Instead of wearing the mental straight jacket of traditional religion, liberals wear the mental straight jacket of political correctness. When it comes to the atheist community it seems to be particularly virulent among the readers of Pharyngula; the political correctness over there gets downright vicious and hateful sometimes, especially when it comes to flaming Sam Harris.

    The ‘South Park’-creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, once put it like this: “We hate conservatives, but we fucking HATE liberals.”

  24. Pat Condell was dead against Gulf War II and felt UK troops lives were put at the disposal of the US and blames T.Blair in particular.
     Similarly you seem to forget that in most respects C.Hitchens remained commited to left-wing causes throughout his life. His position on Iraq was based on a deep knowledge of its peoples and disgust at how the West betrayed the Marsh Arabs after GW I and the kurds on too many occasions to count.
    To simply class him as  “a right winger” is a total oversimplification.

  25. I don’t think that the argument has been made that the strong anti-abortion argument is not only favoured by the religious, it is purely a religious argument.  It depends on belief in the soul.  Unfortunately, movies have made the soul seem real.  There is no way you can claim a blastula is  a full human being unless you imagine a little homunculus soul living inside it. It is not even as advanced as a rotifer in pond scum.  I don’t think the average person has any idea how tiny a blastula is whose “murder” supposedly requires vigilante action.

    I don’t think the public realises how infrequently blastulas carry on to become babies. Perhaps they should put the mother on the rack for murder every time one fails to develop.

  26. Pat Condell once urged the Jews to give Jerusalem back to the Arabs saying its an Arab town but more recently he said he no longer believes the Israelis should give it back.
    I am not a big fan of the guardian newspaper myself for how they treated Wikileaks but Pat Condell calling the guardian “The ugliest newspaper in Britain” does make him sound rather anti left to the extreme.
    Left and Right are ambiguous political labels always being redefined but are the labels one has to make sense of to be able to try to make sense of this article. I would like to turn the question around from why does the new atheist movement get so little support from the left to why does the new atheist movement spend so much time attacking the left. I don’t care to get bogged down debating whether Hitchens, who considered himself a very conservative Marxist, was overall right or left, he supported killing hundreds of thousands of people which is one of the traits of right wing extremism I dislike the most. You have to acknowledged Sam Harris frequently says things like it’s the religious right/fundamentalists who “get it” when he talks about Islam being a threat to western civilization. I can not be enthusiastic about a movement that seems to boil down to its ok to behave like the religious fundamentalists so long as don’t kill for God but to kill before they kill you, when what attracted me to new atheism was the idea that it was all about promoting a reasonable society which in turn should undermine war mongering. Considering many of the new Atheists spend a lot of time attacking the left for being weak pacifists who accommodate “Islamic fascism” and try to group them in with the 9 11 truthers,  new agers or what ever straw man one can think up to feel self righteous, it should be of no surprise that many from the left do not or no longer feel enthusiastic about supporting their cause especially the way it has continued to move more and more towards the right.

  27. The strict anti-abortion argument is not only favoured by the religious, it is a purely religious argument. It depends on belief in the soul. Unfortunately, movies have made the soul seem real. There is no way you can claim a blastula is a full human being unless you imagine a little homunculus soul living inside it. It is not even as advanced as a rotifer in pond scum. I don’t think the average person has any idea how tiny a blastula is whose “murder” supposedly requires vigilante action.

    I don’t think the public realises how infrequently blastulas carry on to become babies. Perhaps Christians should put the mother on the rack for murder every time one fails to develop. In their anti-abortion propaganda Christians show babies just prior to birth, to persuade people to ban even the morning after pill. We need to show them what a fertilised egg or blastula looks like. Images of a fertilised egg and a blastula (bigger next stage of development) are what all the fuss is about. You need a microscope to see them. They have none of the characteristics of babies, no pulse, no nerves, no limbs, no eyes, no mouth… They are all but indistinguishable from the eggs and blastulas of fish. This is what anti-abortionists are killing doctors over. It is as silly as putting women in jail for expelling unfertilised eggs in their monthly periods on the grounds they too are potential life or putting teenage boys in jail on the same grounds for spilling their seed. This is religious hogwash.

  28. The strict anti-abortion argument is not only favoured by the religious, it is a purely religious argument. It depends on belief in the soul. Unfortunately, movies have made the soul seem real. There is no way you can claim a blastula is a full human being unless you imagine a little homunculus soul living inside it…

    I’m not sure I buy this argument. If left alone and barring complications, a blastula will become a human being. If you were to go back in time and administer an abortion to Shakespeare’s mother, would it matter if you did it a few days after conception or six months into the pregnancy? The end result would be the same: no Shakespeare, soul or not.

    Blastula + about nine months = person.

    It’s a shame that the religious right, particularly in America, has managed to hijack this argument and turn it into a political weapon with which to beat the hated liberal left; because by doing so they’ve taken a genuine and genuinely fascinating moral argument and rendered it black-or-white, with no room for nuance. 

    The irony for them, though, is that by doing so they’ve forced the left to dig its heels in and become just as obdurate as they are. The issue becomes polarising, creates animus on both sides, gets presidents elected or unelected, and the world gets a little dumber and a little sadder.

  29. Hogwash indeed, but the RR rely on ignorance to push their agenda. And their agenda though veiled is clear to anyone who gives it some thought: the total and absolute control of women’s sexuality.

  30. >> Blastula + about nine months = person.

    I’m having trouble with your argument here. Using the same logic, you could also argue:

    Sperm + Ovum + 9 months = person

    Which would make both masturbating and menstruating evil. Also:

    Sperm + Ovum + 9 months + porn + twinkle in the eye = person

    Might as well tack on the Playboy channel and the heat of the moment to those things of which one should not stand in the way.

  31. I’m having trouble with your argument here. Using the same logic, you could also argue:

    Sperm + Ovum + 9 months = person

    That’s exactly the argument I’m making; you’ve just taken it back one step.

    Which would make both masturbating and menstruating evil.

    No, this is a step too far. While masturbation is proscribed by all three of the Abrahamic faiths, I’m sure that not even the most fruit-loopy of these fruit loops would describe menstruation as evil; just dirty and shameful, and probably a curse on all womankind from a God who takes scrumping far too seriously.
    And if we take it to its logical conclusion, that would make prepubescence an immoral state in which to exist, which come to think of it would explain the behaviour of a lot of Roman Catholic nuns towards their young charges.

    The fact remains that, if left unmolested by human hand or by the gods, a fertilised embryo will eventually develop into some sort of person. And I think that this is why conservatives have managed to make this issue their own: because the other side’s argument, when it isn’t focusing on a woman’s ability to excercise control over her own body, always comes down to when does a person become a person?, and this is wishy-washy, how-long-is-a-piece-of-string territory which just makes us look vague and morally uncertain.

  32.   Katy Cordeth – The fact remains that, if left unmolested by human hand or by the gods, a
    fertilised embryo will eventually develop into some sort of person.

    They MAY develop, but a large proportion of them fail to implant, or spontaneously abort as early stage foetuses.

    Indeed, if we were to take RCC claims (of “ensoulment at fertilisation”) seriously, we could expect “heaven” to be populated with a high proportion of the “souls” of failed blastocysts and spontaneously aborted foetuses!

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