Whatever you like to call the members of our culture – atheists, agnostics, skeptics, secular humanists – in my experience most of us think pretty much alike. Despite all the talk about the impossibility to unite atheists, which is supposedly like herding cats, we actually share one identifiably culture with a common language, similar goals, rituals and taboos.
As a skeptic who routinely interacts with others of our group, you have to say that you are for science, even if you have no clue of science. You have to talk about the importance of evidence, even if you actually don’t give a damn about evidence except in the case of topics on which you have read a book or two, normally the question of god’s existence and the lacking value of religion.
Otherwise, you just have to go along with what the majority believes. In the area of politics the skeptic majority believes in typical lefty stuff, a conclusion at which they have arrived using the following logic: Religious conservatives are wrong about god (the one topic we know something about), so all conservatives must be wrong about everything.
If you want to be one of us, you have to be either a liberal (bad enough) or a lefty. Conservatives are generally assumed to be potential witch burners who are creationists, oppose abortion, go to church every Sunday and hate homosexuals. Of course, there are members of the religious right who fit this description. But what might come as a surprise to you: There are also highly educated and intelligent conservatives who offer astonishingly good arguments. I’ve made the mistake to read some of those. And hell, was I embarrassed by my own arrogance and stupidity.
More surprising might be the fact that the secular right thinks that it represents Enlightenment values. Which is exactly what P.Z. Myers and Richard Dawkins and the lot believe of themselves as well, all the while being leftys.
Certainly, being a skeptic (as I assume for the sake of argument) you asked yourself at one point: How can religious people be so stupid to never question their dearest held beliefs? After all, it’s just so obvious that they are wrong!
Well. Why have you never questioned your dearest held beliefs on other topics but god and religion? Despite that fact that you are so obviously wrong!
Also, in my experience, religious people can make a really good case concerning other topics than religion (where they can, admittedly, not make a good case at all). As I mentioned before, my two favorite US-presidents were both evangelicals because of actions that are unrelated to their religion – although, in fact, protestantism was historically important for the development of individualism, an Enlightenment value, so there even is a connection to their political beliefs and actions.
Which leads me to another point: The idea that lefty ideas were irreligious or that there wouldn’t be any secular ideologies all too often shared by “skeptics” that are pretty much like religions themselves. There are. And I don’t only speak of communism and things like that. How about environmentalism or the radical animal rights movement? How about the Bush derangement syndrome? Or how about the weird lefty idea that protesters would somehow represent “the people” instead of being just a bunch of students who have too much time and not enough work and who were elected by absolutely no one and who represent no one expect their typically uninformed selves?
All of our heads are filled with unreflected or insufficiently reflected ideas. All of us share opinions that lack empirical and logical support. The aim of whomever thinks that he or she represents the Enlightenment should be to reduce the nonsense in our heads on all fronts. We may have a reason to be arrogant about religion. But do not make the very common mistake to assume that just because you know more about the god issue, you would also be an expert on politics or whatever else. In fact, you might well be an embarrassment to mankind on other topics, just as religious people are an embarrassment concerning their faith.