The Atheist-Progressive Alliance

I've long argued that there's a natural alliance between atheism and feminism, for the same reason that there's a natural alliance between atheism and GLBT activism: because we all understand what it's like to experience oppression and discrimination rooted in religion, and we ought to grasp that by cooperating to diminish religion's power, we can achieve goals we all hold in common. And in spite of a few recent, high-profile flamewars over questions of sexism and harassment in the atheist community, this political logic still holds very much true, as evidenced by a Gallup poll from May 29:


Americans with no religious attachment (self-identified atheists, agnostics, and those with simply no religious preference) identify as pro-choice by a 49-percentage-point margin over pro-life, 68% to 19%. This represents the strongest propensity toward the pro-choice position of any major U.S. demographic (as distinct from political) subgroup.

This finding is a strong argument for the fundamentally religious and faith-based nature of anti-abortion arguments: as people lose their religious beliefs, their pro-life views drop away as well. If anti-abortion views were based on evidence and reason, then we'd have every right to expect that the atheist community would be more evenly divided, and that there wouldn't be such a chasm between the religious and the nonreligious on the issue of choice. This is the same unobjectionable logic we use to conclude that rejection of evolution is driven mostly by religious belief.

And it's not just choice or evolution where we can see this sharp divide between theists and atheists. One of my first posts on the old Daylight Atheism was about a Pew survey which asked about the permissibility of torturing people suspected of terrorism. Here the gap wasn't as dramatic, but it was still significant: secularists were more likely than Christians to say that torture is never justified, by a 10-percentage-point margin. And of course, same-sex marriage is another issue where the nonreligious overwhelmingly come down on one side: we support marriage equality by a stratospheric 76% margin.

All these data points show that, while there's no necessary connection between atheism and progressive political views, in practice it usually does work out that way. I leave it up to you, readers, to weigh in on why that is. Are these the correct views, and atheists, being the most rational people around, are more likely to hit on them? (That's obviously the most self-serving possibility.) Are we driven by an instinctive rejection of the political views that have most commonly been supported by religion? Absent a belief in heaven, do we put greater emphasis on compassion and fairness in this life? Or is there another explanation I haven't considered?

Whatever the reasons for this correlation, it's clear that the growth of atheism's numbers and political influence is a development that should be welcomed by feminists, science advocates, gay-rights activists, and other people who uphold progressive values. As PZ Myers puts it, atheists could be the progressive air force, altering the political landscape and shaking up debates that are bogged down in deadlock or dominated by right-wing pressure groups marching in lockstep. And there's an obvious corollary for liberals: regardless of whether you're an atheist yourself, everything you do to weaken the power of dogmatic, authoritarian religion will help bring all your other goals closer to fruition!

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

Videos
  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less