The Division Within Secular Thought

Within secular thought, which we can call atheism for simplicity, is a large schism which limits its growth.  With numbers as small as they are, this split is more limiting to atheism than differences among Christians are to the faith.

While I’m not sure I can accurately describe the factions in atheism, I’ll start by saying one branch began with Thomas Paine.  I would describe this faction as having a positive and idealistic message about reason, and a humanistic focus.

This group would say humans have the ability to gather together and come to reasonable consensus on how the organize themselves and how to treat each other.  It is not necessary to seek devine guidence.  Implied in this is that the “getting together” would be within an  elected government.

The other faction of atheists sometimes would be called liberatarians.  They have a strong dislike for most large institutions including both church and government.

The problem is these two threads of thinking will seldom support the same candidate for office.  The Paine group will often support liberal democrats while the liberatorians might team up with religious people who also dislike government behind a conservative religious candidate.

Religious folks who post comments on this blog sometimes rightly point out more time is spent bashing the faith than advancing positive aspects of secularism.  That’s partly because the two branches both agree on getting religion out of government.

What to do next is not so clear.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years.
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9 Responses to The Division Within Secular Thought

  1. Bob says:

    “What to do next is not so clear.” Jon

    What’s clear to this atheist libertarian is after everyone has followed the law of the land, which is the constitution, its then up to that individual what to do next, and no one else, that’s freedon. Not the government, religions, other atheists, or any other organization or even tyrannical individual should force what they think is good for them on anyone else. What’s so hard about that?
    Like I stated in the last post. The United States is a republic, “and to the republic to for which it stands” which means we follow the constitution, and no majority can then stomp on the rights of the individual if we are following the law of the land, the U.S. constitution. Period. What’s so hard about that?
    Sometimes the majority will be wrong, whether they be democrats and republicans war mongering illegally on foreign countries because they did not get congressional approval, or compulsory Prussian education which strips away all children’s constitutional rights from them, school children aren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom without a strangers adult’s permission and often are denied that most basic of rights,
    so we need to follow the constitution, or we are all even more screwed.
    To me, any atheist who doesn’t get this, isn’t worth a dime to me, atheist or no atheist.

  2. Bob says:

    Although, I do appreciate you doing all the work for this blog. Thanks Jon, that’s worth more than a dime.

  3. Santa says:

    Interesting, and i think very accurate summary, Jon. as far as what to do next….try to tell the Paine followers to wake up and support Ron Paul! :-) I enjoy reading this blog, even though I’m one of those crazy “faitheads”, as Bob would call us. I think it is becoming obvious that fewer people are influenced towards voting for a candidate based on his/her religious ideals than they used to be years ago. There are alot of more important issues where atheists and “faitheads” alike can agree on a candidate, such as Ron Paul.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Santa 3:48 “..fewer people are influenced..” by faith of a candidate…

      That would be progress for certain. We all have to wonder, do we ever really know the faith of another person, especially someone running for an office?

  4. Bob says:

    “do we ever really know the faith of another person, especially someone running for an office?” Jon 4:57

    I can wonder about this question all I want, but ultimately to me, my philosophy as a free person and constitutional libertarian, is its nobody’s business but that persons. I don’t care as long as they are doing what I think good politics are. And that’s following the constitution.
    Analogy: If a mechanic is a faithhead, but does great trusted work on cars, I still pay that mechanic for their good work, and I don’t care what invisible person the mechanic talks to. That’s their business. (Although I hope I don’t actually see the mechanic faithhead talking and beseeching thier favorite invisible person because frankly that creeps me out and I’d think they’re nuts.)

    • Henry says:

      “I don’t care as long as they are doing what I think good politics are. And that’s following the constitution.”

      Ok. Let’s follow the constitution as you suggest.

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”

      Sounds good. Congress can’t get into the business of church according to the 1st amendment.

      Then we have the 10th amendment:

      “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

      So exclusively using the US Constitution for guidance, the federal government can’t get entangled in religion, but the states can. Is that really what we want, Bob? Is that your utopia?

  5. Bob says:

    “Libertarians tend to believe a person’s social and moral values are an individual choice (this is my personal view as well) while conservatives believe they are a collective choice. Modern conservatives (as well as progressives) have taken away the moral choice over someone’s lives away from the individual and into the collective where each person sacrifices their own individual decision making power to the collective. This view is an affront to individual liberty but its going to be difficult to undo the feeling of wanting to purify the world from them.”

    For me, the key words in the tenth amendment is “or to the people.” And there might be little tents of people within a state who choose to do things the way they see morally fit, like the Amish and such. But its not the federal government’s business to decide that, its up to the states and much more importantly the individual.
    The feds have no right to regulate drugs, education, dairy, support an evangelical empire standing military, war mongering, tax deductions for religions, telling where we can and can’t rent (HUD), and so on and so on.

    You still share nothing I can use as an atheist libertarian Henry. I have strong doubts you can.

  6. loki says:

    Jon– I believe you are on to something here. History reveals that the more extreme the opposing ends in the spectrum of any movement are, the more similar they are, and in the results. Almost predictable.

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