Atheists come to the Tea Party … 31

… and are snubbed by Godists. 

Walter Hudson writes an article about this, telling the religious members who object to atheists joining them, why they are wrong:

It began without controversy. At a routine board meeting of the North Star Tea Party Patriots (NSTPP), a coalition of activist groups in Minnesota which this author chairs, a vote was taken to admit a new member organization. The new group was the Minnesota Objectivist Association (MOA) which advocates the philosophy of Ayn Rand …  Though not a Tea Party organization in name, MOA was nonetheless supportive of the movement’s mission and principles. Signs reading “Who is John Galt?” in reference to Rand’s novel [Atlas Shrugged] had been a staple at Tea Party rallies since the movement began.

Within days, word got around to the broader NSTPP membership that MOA had been admitted. Pushback began. Some complained that MOA did not have “Tea Party” in their name. Others noted that MOA was not listed on Tea Party Patriots’ national directory. The concern over these relatively minor points seemed disproportionate. Provision had been made in the NSTPP constitution to include organizations which predated the Tea Party movement yet sought the same ends. A group without “Tea Party” in its name had been admitted before.

After some beating around the bush, the crux of the matter emerged. Ayn Rand was an atheist, and her philosophy of Objectivism did not acknowledge the existence of God. Thus was alleged an irreconcilable difference between the Tea Party and Ayn Rand.

As the controversy progressed, MOA ultimately withdrew from the coalition, citing the episode as a needless distraction to all parties concerned. Precluding debate left some important questions unresolved. What role does religion play within the Tea Party? Must one be a theist in order to be philosophically aligned with the movement?

These questions are important because their answers define what the movement is really about. Is it solely an effort to affect fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets? Or is it something more which goes unsaid? Is the movement on a mission from God? Or are its principles applicable to the religious and the non-religious alike? The answers to those questions could affect the integrity of the movement. …

Unfortunately, attacks upon religious expression by a relentless secular minority have placed many religious people on the defensive.

While we appreciate Walter Hudson’s intention, we interrupt him here to murmur  that complaints about crosses in public places and “the ten commandments” being displayed on the walls of government and judicial buildings, or grumbles about public prayer, are not “relentless” as the Inquisition and Witch Trials of the religious once were, or the jihad is now.

The result is an inherent suspicion of anyone without faith, the assumption that atheists are necessarily antagonistic toward religion, or worse – inherently anti-American.

Speaking for ourselves, we are antagonistic towards religion, though not aggressive towards religious people – unless in self-defense.

But inherently anti-American, atheism is not. Patriotism and atheism do not have any bearing on each other. There is nothing about atheism that makes it necessarily anti anything except religion.

As Hudson rightly says –

Nothing could be further from the truth. Ayn Rand is perhaps the best example of an atheist whose unrelenting Americanism has been established beyond question. Rand was an anti-communist long before it was cool. More than that, she escaped the Soviet Union and took great effort under blistering criticism to warn Americans about the horrors behind the Iron Curtain. Her first book, We the Living, was panned by critics who claimed she didn’t understand the noble Soviet experiment. Aversion to Objectivism among religious conservatives seems to ignore this history, along with Rand’s fundamental arguments.

It is popular among theists to assert that belief in God is an essential prerequisite to a morality which recognizes natural law and the rights of the individual. The Soviet Union is cited among other tyrannical regimes as an example of atheistic thought manifest in government. However, if atheism leads inexorably to progressivism and communism, why did the atheist Rand spend her entire life decrying collectivism and advocating individual rights more aggressively than most of her American contemporaries? The answer is worth pursuing, and can be found in her work. …

And he concludes:

The line which divides friend from foe within the Tea Party ought not be belief in God, but recognition of individual rights. In a world where government acted only to secure those rights, religious freedom would be assured for the theist and atheist alike.

Agreeing with an atheist like Rand about individual rights, and working in tandem to affect their protection, in no way compromises religious conviction. Atheism is not contagious. Why then vet political relationships with a religous test? What end does that serve? We don’t expect religious cohesion with our mechanics, co-workers, grocers, or in other incidential relationships. Why expect it in our political coalitions?

The Tea Party’s wise focus on economic and legal concerns ought to exclude religious affiliation as it excludes social issues.  The goal of affecting public policy consistent with the principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets is explicitly secular. … In the face of statist opponents who are strengthened by division in the movement, Tea Partiers ought to unite on principles of civil government and leave religious distinction to religious forums.

We like to think most Tea Party members would agree with that.