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Mixing Politics and Atheism:

I blogged recently about Larry Darby, the Alabaman atheist Attorney General candidate with strange views about Jews (not to be confused with the Malibu Catholic with strange views about Jews), and one of the commenters wrote:

It certainly seems that, whenever we mix politics and atheism, we get a lot of crazies, whether they're Americans or Communists. This candidacy might provide another excellent argument for the separation of atheism and state.

Oh, wait, that's not exactly what happened. Rather, I wrote that the "Official Presbyterian Publisher Issues 9/11 Conspiracy Book," a book written by a theology professor; and the ocmmenter wrote:

It certainly seems that, whenever we mix politics and religion, we get a lot of crazies, whether they're Christian or Muslim. This book might provide another excellent argument for the separation of church and state.

Both arguments, though, make about the same (low) amount of sense. There's little reason, to my knowledge, to think that the view that we're living under a "Zionist-Occupied Government" is distinctively or even disproportionately held by atheists; that one atheist holds it is hardly an argument against "mixing politics and atheism," however you define "mixing." Likewise, there's little reason to think that a conspiracy theory about the Bush Administration planning the 9/11 attacks is distinctively or even disproportionately held by religious people; that one theology professor holds it is hardly an argument against "mixing politics and religion."

I realize that one can come up with theories about why religiosity would correlate with various weaknesses of character or judgment. One can likewise come up with similar theories about atheism. Or one can suspect, as I do, that these theories, while not implausible, do not seem correct in practice.

But one way or another, "X is [religious/an atheist] who believes stupid thing Y or does bad thing Z, therefore that's a black mark against [religious people/atheists]" -- with zero explanation for why you think the religious or atheists are especially likely to do Y or Z (except that this one particular religious person or atheist happened to do it) -- is an argument that reveals more about the speaker than it does about the religious or atheists.

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