The atheist’s lot

A significant political effect of atheism and a general decline in religious belief has been to facilitate a major power shift within most democratic, nominally Christian countries.

Because Christian churches have been important social and political power structures, their decline has led to a power vacuum which national and international bureaucracies continue to fill, nook by nook, cranny by cranny.

Taking the UK as our example, we once had significant dependencies on ourselves, family and friends within a largely Christian milieu. Today, the Christian influence has been extensively replaced by law and state-sanctioned social norms, often with the connivance of fake charities set up for that purpose.

This has created powerful, unidirectional political pressures. Unless a political party is committed to the politics of the dependent voter and state-sponsored social norms, it will not have the means to extend or even consolidate its body of voters. This is the reality faced by the Conservative party.

For example, unmarried mothers are semi-dependent voters. It doesn’t mean they always vote in a particular way, but they will have a tendency to vote in their own interests, as we all do. This does not imply anything about the behaviour of specific unmarried mothers, it is merely the logic of a political reality.

So for mainstream political parties in a modern welfare state, it is politically beneficial to undermine the institution of marriage and create as many unmarried mothers as possible. Again, this is merely the logic of a situation facilitated by the decline in Christian social and moral constraints.

Politicians don’t necessarily “believe” in undermining marriage, they are merely responding to political exigencies, step by step, nudge by nudge. It is the logic of a situation.

We see the same logic operating in teaching, policing, drugs policy, anti-smoking policies, the promotion of social norms and even concepts such as motherhood and fatherhood. As religious influence declines in these areas, there are political and bureaucratic opportunities for the extension of official power and influence.

Golden careers have been built on fostering state-sponsored social trends, so for many politicians and senior bureaucrats, atheism has genuine political value. It reduces the power of potential opponents, particularly during the manipulation of social trends.

This is not to say that atheists should go knocking on the doors of the nearest church. We atheists are what we are, but we tend to be naive about malign political trends facilitated by the decline of Christian traditions.

Neither is it a suggestion that we should go back to where we were, say fifty years ago or more – too many straw men lurk there. Yet in losing one set of admittedly imperfect Christian values, we have gained a set of malign political and social trends which promise to be considerably worse, and where opting out is not an option.

As an atheist, it seems to me that traditional Christian values here in the UK cannot be further eroded without a continued leakage of personal freedom, sucked away by an ever more authoritarian state bureaucracy. Of course many authoritarian atheists on the left welcome the consequences. Others seem to live in hope that something will turn up.

Maybe something will turn up. Maybe an existing social power structure will seize the opportunity of opposing the bureaucratic state. Because it is an opportunity – the bungling, dishonesty and moral relativism make it so. Who could make something of it though?

A revitalised Church of England? The Catholic Church? Islam? If it does happen, it certainly won’t be libertarian atheists setting the social agenda will it?

11 comments for “The atheist’s lot

  1. November 23, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I think this is the same for most “revolutions” through history. They may well start with the good intention of the people making the most noise for it at the start. It would seem however that waiting in the wings is a despot who has a more extreme agenda. One who saves their energy and resources for when the initial euphoric phase begins to peter out in which they sweep in to press their own agenda.

    • November 23, 2012 at 8:23 pm

      “waiting in the wings is a despot who has a more extreme agenda.”

      That’s what bother me too – a multi-headed despot with too many resources and too many disguises.

  2. Greg Tingey
    November 23, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I do not believe yuou are an atheist, if you are calling for some sort of religious establishment.

    This is completely contradictory.

    Care to explain yourself?

    • David A. Evans
      November 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm

      1) No-one’s calling for some sort of religious establishment

      2) Read the article, it’s a well trodden path and one we’ve been over many times in history.

      DaveE.

      • November 23, 2012 at 8:18 pm

        Yes – we seem doomed to tread these paths over and over again.

    • November 23, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      I’ve been an atheist all my adult life, but there have been negative aspects to widespread unbelief – obvious ones in my view.

  3. David A. Evans
    November 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Not sure if this fits here or James’ Anatomy of a quisling post.

    DaveE.

    • November 23, 2012 at 8:21 pm

      I think it belongs anywhere – it’s a powerful piece. I particularly like this.

      “there is in fact a certain percentage of people in any given epoch that carry within them a latent ability to abandon conscience.”

      • David A. Evans
        November 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm

        The strongest message for me is the fact that they are often mediocre people who enjoy power but in their insecurity are terrified of being challenged. In other words, they’re bullies.

        Actually strongly reminds me of a certain litigious Professor at Penn State.

        DaveE.

        • November 23, 2012 at 9:53 pm

          “a certain litigious Professor at Penn State.”

          I do hope he falls – good and hard and slow enough to enjoy to the full.

  4. Greg Tingey
    November 25, 2012 at 9:04 am

    What “unbelief”?
    I continue to believe that the laws of Physics will continue to operate, as they have always done.
    That should be sufficient.

    Sorry, Mr Haart, but you are waffling codswallop.

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