This is a guest post written by David G. McAfee. He is author, most recently, of Atheist Answers: Rational Responses to Religious Questions.
Richard Spencer, the “alt-right” leader who was assaulted outside of President Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony on Friday (leading to online debates over the question, “Is It O.K. to Punch a Nazi?“), says he’s an atheist.
— The Current Year (@TheeCurrentYear) January 20, 2017
Spencer doesn’t believe God chose the white race over all others, nor does he believe that slavery is okay because it’s justified by the Bible. Instead, Spencer is part of a new group of White Nationalists who don’t adhere to traditional norms. He says he coined the term for those people — the “alt-right” — in 2008.
Spencer has previously described himself (8:12) as a “cultural Christian,” but he told me in a private interview (over Twitter) that he is in fact an atheist. He also said the separation of church and state is “an utter illusion.”
Here’s an excerpt from the discussion:
MCAFEE: Are you religious? Do you support the Separation of Church and State?
SPENCER: I’m an atheist. The “separation of church and state” is an utter illusion. The state and religion state [sic] deeply connected.
MCAFEE: So, despite your lack of religion, you do think religion and government should be connected. Is that right? Do you think a secular government would fail?
SPENCER: A truly secular government could never exist. Sovereignty is a magical thing. For a political order to function — for it to accomplish its tasks, including war-making — the population must *believe* in it.
As a secular activist, this tells me more than the religious preference of a particular White Nationalist. It tells me that no matter how much some atheists want to believe otherwise, we’re not inherently rational or reasonable. Spencer’s beliefs (or lack thereof) debunk that myth in one fell swoop.
The fact is that atheists share one thing and only one thing: a lack of belief in any god(s). The rest of it — the Humanist aspect of it, at least — isn’t guaranteed at all.
David G. McAfee is a Religious Studies graduate, journalist, and author of Atheist Answers: Rational Responses to Religious Questions, The Book of Gods, The Belief Book, Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer, and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also the founder of The Party of Reason and Progress and a frequent contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee, who writes about science, skepticism, and faith, attended University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.