Before Donald Trump came into office, there were a few years when American Atheists would purchase a booth at CPAC, the conservative conference, to make a pitch to an audience that didn’t typically overlap with AA’s membership. The group’s justification for going there went like this: Conservative ideas like smaller government aren’t incompatible with atheism, and plenty of Republicans don’t buy into the party’s social conservatism, so let’s make a pitch to them.
In theory, that made sense. The problem was the execution. Because the sort of Republicans who went to CPAC — certainly the people who appeared on stage to speak — were absolutely the sort of batshit insane politicians who have opposed church/state separation, supported Christian Nationalism, fought LGBTQ rights and abortion rights, and rejected science.
In other words: Maybe there was an argument for why atheists needed to appeal to conservatives, but why were atheists trying to appeal to these conservatives?
And that was before Trump.
Since that time, the Republican Party has become even less interested in supposed conservative principles. They don’t even have a platform anymore. They just function as a Trump-worshiping MAGA cult, ignoring or denying his blatant corruption, defending his actions no matter how egregious, pushing anti-science conspiracy theories, and actively opposing the democratic foundation of this country by trying to suppress or discredit the votes of those who don’t usually support them. They’re literally standing by and saying nothing as Trump attempts to invalidate an election he lost in every way.
That’s why it’s truly disturbing that a right-leaning group called Atheists for Liberty purchased a booth during this weekend’s Turning Point USA Student Action Summit conference in West Palm Beach, Florida.
What you’re looking at there is a group of self-described reason-loving atheists crammed together in a conference venue — without masks, without social distancing, in one of the worst states for the pandemic — attempting to win over the sort of people who think Charlie Kirk is intelligent, that the election was a fraud because Trump lost, and that right-wing conspiracy theories ought to be embraced.
It’s not that they’re necessarily saying all that, though the group’s leader Thomas Sheedy is a Trump voter. It’s that they’re trying to appeal to people who bought tickets to listen to the likes of Dinesh D’Souza, Rudy Giuliani, and the FOX News primetime lineup.
If that’s who you’re trying to reach, you don’t get to pretend that you care about reason, logic, science, facts, or critical thinking.
It’s not just that picture. It’s all the ways these people toss aside any apparent principles if it means becoming buddy-buddy with these conservative zealots.
Last year, David Silverman, the former American Atheists president who led those visits to CPAC and now serves on the advisory board for Atheists for Liberty, wrote an article about the myriad problems with Falun Gong. Oh well. I guess that no longer matters. All attention is good attention now. He’s also in that picture at the top of this post.
And here is Sheedy fawning over GOP Rep. Dan Crenshaw because he wrongly thinks Crenshaw is an atheist. The congressman most recently made headlines for trying to ruin the reputation of a woman for reporting sexual assault at a veterans’ hospital.
He says all that as if simply being an atheist is some sort of achievement no matter how much of a moral monster someone is.
For what it’s worth, Crenshaw is a Christian who said in a now-deleted video that “faith in God helped me never quit.” He’s also used misleading statistics to trash atheists. He’s also anti-abortion, against the Affordable Care Act, and fully in support of how Trump handled the COVID crisis.
I’m not sure what part of that screams “reason.”
It won’t surprise you that the group got a stamp of approval from Michael Sherlock, the head of Atheist Alliance International, who congratulated them for spreading atheism to members of a right-wing, anti-science, anti-democracy cult.
I would like say a huge thank you and well done to AAI affiliate Atheists for Liberty for putting on such an impressive presentation and spreading #atheism among conservatives in the US! https://t.co/5xwwN7et6B
— sherlockmichael (@sherlockmichael) December 19, 2020
The atheists didn’t win over the conservatives. The conservatives successfully hoodwinked these atheists into accepting a different kind of harmful dogma.
It’s just a reminder that being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re more logical or thoughtful than anyone else. In this case, it’s the opposite.
By the way, American Atheists no longer attends CPAC. That stopped after Silverman left, precipitated by the fact that CPAC rejected the atheist group for not being conservative enough.