By Eric Jayne
Note: Editorial; Eric Jayne’s opinion does not necessarily reflect that of Minnesota Atheists. -ed.
We are freethinking atheists because we are not persuaded by the extraordinary theistic claims that go against the laws of nature. We also reject religion (theistic or political) for its rigid control and fear-based mind-manipulation that shields and fosters a particular belief system.
We freethinking atheists are skeptical about all unfalsifiable claims and we question beliefs, think critically about ideas, and seek out accurate information for a clear understanding of our world—past, present, and future. We are not beholden to personalities or ideologies. Our philosophies and viewpoints are always vulnerable to reason and evidence because it is with reason and evidence that our loyalty rests. It is because of these qualities that we freethinking atheists, no matter how fiscally conservative we might be, reject the recent neo-political religion known as the “Tea Party.”
The recent debt ceiling fiasco and the August 11th presidential Republican debate revealed the reckless power of the Tea Party dogma. On the night of that televised debate, candidates were asked if their opposition to tax increases is so strong that they would reject a deal that reduced the federal deficit with 10 times the amount of spending cuts as it had in tax increases. Every candidate raised their hands affirming that they would. I can’t imagine a more unreasoned, dogmatic position than to suggest that taxes are so awful, so vile that it’s worth refusing a federal deficit reduction compromise with a 10 to 1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue. To be sure, this is not a Democratic vs. Republican issue but a purely rational vs. anti-rational issue.
Most policy-makers from both major parties are afraid to question and challenge the no-tax doctrine and those who do recommend some tax increases (no matter how modest) are severely ostracized. The fear and rigidness manufactured by the Tea Party faithful has made the mere mention of “tax” a heresy. There is no vulnerability to this belief because any contrary evidence or attempt at a reasoned dialogue is dealt with a hearty serving of devotional faith-based passion. This is popularized by personalities who peddle a socio-economic utopia to their followers where taxes are completely banished.
Like all religions, the Tea Party religion has a spectrum of orthodoxy and among some groups it has been a supplement to their theistic religious beliefs. While some Tea Party Patriots are strictly secular fiscal libertarians, others are fiscal libertarians who seem to subscribe to social dominionism. In other words, along with a strict adherence to a laissez faire economic theory they believe that Christians should rule the nation. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann is a good example of this type of Tea Party Patriot, while Texas Representative Ron Paul epitomizes the strictly secular Tea Partier.
It’s worth noting, however, that for all of his apparent intellect and ability to distance himself from social conservatives even Rep. Ron Paul’s freethought is shackled to the Tea Party doctrine. In spite of the warnings and overwhelming scientific evidence of the cause and damaging effects of global warming (or the more innocuous sounding “climate change”) Rep. Paul factors out the science in order to square his Tea Party belief by saying on his campaign website: “Much of the ‘pain at the pump’ Americans now feel is due to federal policies designed by environmental alarmists to punish traditional energy production – like oil, coal, and natural gas – in hopes of making energy sources they favor more ‘economical.’”
Rep. Paul suggests the free market is the only worthy gauge to monitor and deal with energy production even if science tells us that continued use of fossil fuels will have a detrimental impact on our planet. In Rep. Paul’s view, scientists are “alarmists” and any tax or regulation that serves to mitigate the negative effect fossil fuels have on our planet is an unfair government intrusion that punishes the oil, coal, and natural gas industries. This--along with “gun ownership is sacred” and “English as a core language is required”--is one of 15 “non-negotiable core beliefs” (aka, commandments) according to teaparty.org.
Whether it’s the laissez faire Tea Party movement in the United States or the communist Great Leap Forward campaign in China, political extremes (whether on the right or the left) are religions complete with an anti-rational dogma and devotional followers who lap up ideological sermons served up by personalities with strong egos. Freethinkers will not mistake Tea Party beliefs for reasonable cogent arguments. Instead, it is important to employ the same techniques used to reject all other systems of unchecked belief. Science, enlightened reason, open dialogue, skepticism, and evidence will lead us to cast the Tea Party religion onto the heap of all the other overzealous faiths. Unfortunately, religions wield enormous power and it looks as though we freethinkers have one more to contend with for some time to come.