August 22nd, 2014
07:00 AM ET

Why liberals are more tolerant of atheists

Opinion by Chris Stedman, special to CNN

(CNN) Conservative atheist and television pundit S.E. Cupp has come out swinging against progressive atheists.

In a clip (see above) for CNN’s “Crossfire,” she argues that conservative atheists are “better” than liberal nonbelievers. What’s more, Cupp says, those on the right respect and tolerate atheists more than liberals do.

She’s wrong, and here are three reasons why.

Fact: Atheists are still political outcasts.

“It seems like there’s this idea perpetuated by atheists that atheists are somehow disenfranchised or left out of the political process,” Cupp says. “I just don’t find that to be the case.”

Survey data contradict Cupp.

For instance, a 2014 Pew Research study found that Americans are less likely to vote for an atheist presidential candidate than any other survey category—even if they share that candidate’s political views.

Faring better than atheists: candidates who have engaged in extramarital affairs and those with zero political experience.

And unless she recently had a change of heart, Cupp herself falls in line with the majority of Americans. In 2012 she said, “I would never vote for an atheist president. Ever.”

While atheists are making political inroads, we’re also still on the margins in a number of ways. Cupp concludes the clip by saying, “I think our atheists are better than yours.”

Apparently they’re still not good enough to be president.

Fact: Conservatives are hostile toward atheists.

“There’s another myth: that conservatism is somehow hostile to atheism,” Cupp says. “I’m a conservative atheist (and) I’ve felt very welcomed.”

But Cupp goes beyond arguing that conservatives broadly welcome nontheists—she also argues that liberals are less accepting of atheists.

“I’d go so far as to say conservatism is far more intellectually honest and respectful of atheism than liberalism has been,” she says.

Again, Pew’s surveys suggest otherwise.

While the number of people who say they wouldn't vote for an atheist candidate sits at 70% among Republicans, that number drops to 42% among Democrats. (“Progressive,” “liberal,” and “Democrat” certainly aren’t synonyms, but there is overlap.)

Of course, conservative hostility toward atheists goes beyond voting for a presidential candidate.

Earlier this year, the group American Atheists announced plans to sponsor a table at CPAC, the country’s largest annual gathering of conservatives. But within hours, after a number of conservatives spoke out against their inclusion, they were promptly uninvited.

Many of the most prominent anti-atheist voices—including Sarah Palin, Erick Erickson, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich—are conservative politicians and commentators, and I have yet to hear many other conservatives (Cupp included) condemn their anti-atheist remarks.

On the other hand, a number of political moderates and liberals have welcomed nontheists.

In 2009, for example, President Barack Obama became the first commander in chief to reference nonbelievers in an inaugural address. The next year, his administration became the first to meet with representatives from the atheist community.

Overall, a much larger percentage of the religiously unaffiliated (a category that includes many atheists) identify as liberal than conservative.

In 2012, Pew reported that 61 percent of nonreligious Americans are either Democrat or lean Democrat, while just 27 percent identify as or lean Republican.

If it truly were the case that conservatives are much more “respectful of atheism,” I would expect to see more Republican atheists.

Fact: Most liberals respect religious diversity.

“Conservatives appreciate an intellectual diversity,” Cupp says. “In contrast, on the left it seems as though there is this knee-jerk embrace of what is more like a militant hostility to faith.”

If you’ve been paying attention to Cupp’s arguments so far, this one should be a bit confusing. Which is it? Are liberals hostile toward atheists—or the religious? (Or are liberals just hostile toward everyone?)

But religious diversity is actually significantly greater among Democrats—for example, Pew reported in 2011 that just 11% of Muslims affiliate with Republicans, while 60% identify as or lean Democrat.

By contrast, as much as 74% of GOP voters identify as Christian, according to recent surveys and polls.

Finally, Cupp lifts up self-identified progressive Bill Maher—who has said, among other things, that religious believers have a “neurological disorder”—as an example of liberal intolerance.

I should give credit where it’s due: Cupp is partially right here. Maher’s take on religion is problematic and should be condemned.

But his views certainly aren’t representative of most of the progressive atheists I know. Suggesting that Maher speaks for atheism is like saying Pat Robertson represents all of Christianity.

In the end, I’m not arguing that progressives are perfect. We have plenty of our own issues and aren’t as welcoming of atheists or some believers as we could be.

But to say that we’re less tolerant of religious and nonreligious diversity than conservatives? Well, that’s just hard to believe.

Chris Stedman is Executive Director of the Yale Humanist Community, author of "Faitheist," and atheist columnist for Religion News Service. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisDStedman. The views expressed in this column belong to Stedman. 

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Culture wars • Discrimination • Nones • Opinion • Politics • Prejudice

soundoff (3,322 Responses)
  1. No Wake Zone

    A “good” atheist is an atheist who isn’t afraid to be honest about their beliefs and won’t be intimidated by those that would discriminate against them.

    August 22, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
    • Reality

      And Bill Gates and Warren Buffett fit the definition well.

      August 22, 2014 at 4:47 pm |
      • ragansteve1

        Of course, if I had $30+ billion, I probably wouldn't be discriminated against regardless of what I believed.

        August 24, 2014 at 9:07 pm |
        • In Santa We Trust

          While I agree that wealth brings power, I doubt that open embrace of KKK or similar scum would not cause a backlash.

          August 24, 2014 at 10:03 pm |
  2. khidir619

    Is anyone better than the next person? Swift "NO."

    August 22, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
    • LaBella

      I agree.
      Go down thread and read what was said when I made the same sentiment.

      August 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
      • khidir619

        I found it. I was specifically looking to see if anyone said exactly that. Sure enough I found your comment. It's a shame I had to scroll that far though.

        August 22, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
        • LaBella

          Yes...I would have thought that would be a commonly shared thought...
          Actually, this whole story is pretty hyperbolic, IMO.

          August 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
      • khidir619

        Lol. Nothing you stated indicated that you think you're better than Cupp. Russell went somewhere else. Lol!

        August 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm |
        • LaBella

          I thought it was a leap...

          August 22, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
  3. Lionel

    Looks like the atheist bunch is predominantly "white".

    Why are there no people of color in that picture? Is something wrong with that picture?

    August 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
    • Lionel

      Where is Mr. Brown or Mr. Black?

      Where is Ms. Brown or Ms. Black in that picture?

      August 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
      • River

        They are still working on their diversity and inclusion program. They have not made much of a headway in that direction as yet. They still have long ways to go.. although, the Mr. & Mrs. Brown actively participate in this blog, they are wannabe's...wink wink

        August 22, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
    • Dalahäst

      They were Photoshopped out by religion.

      August 22, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
      • LaBella

        You're on a roll today, Dalahast.

        August 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Apparently I'm trolling.

          But when others do the same thing it is not trolling. BECAUSE THEY SAID SO!

          August 22, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
        • LaBella

          Nah, you're not trolling. I recognize the difference.

          August 22, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Thanks for mentioning that! I'm glad you can tell.

          August 22, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
  4. Alias

    A great many of the fully matured Americans still think faith (especially in the bible) corrolates to morality.
    Young peopel are more inclined to ask questions, and reject the bible for being what it truely is.
    So to answer the headline: Yes, in general people who are in touch with reality are probably 'better'.

    Now let's all agree to insult each other over what the bible says 'better' means!

    August 22, 2014 at 2:43 pm |
    • atlantic9

      Most of the young people I know don't think of the bible at all in any context let alone as a possible source of the odd useful moral.

      August 22, 2014 at 3:03 pm |
    • ausphor

      Young people also seem to be more accepting of diversity in race, religion or lack thereof and s&xual choice at least north of the Mason Dixon line. Passing strange that the greatest degree of bigotry and intolerance happens in the BABBLE belt.

      August 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
    • sanddudian

      I find many young people today are at least open to listening to both sides of the discussion concerning atheism/theism. Many have not been indocrinated like our parents or the older generation so still hope for many of them.

      August 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  5. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I believe in the atheism of those who came before me and shed their blood so that I might be free to live freely and engage in free enterprise They refused to free silver and knew there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    August 22, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
    • bostontola

      As far as we can tell, the universe is conservative (smile).

      August 22, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
  6. ragansteve1

    So, really. Seriously. Are there conservative atheists?

    August 22, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
    • joey3467

      Yes, being Conservative or Liberal has nothing whatsoever to do with religion

      August 22, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
    • LaBella

      Ms. Cupp considers herself one.

      August 22, 2014 at 2:23 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Of course there are.

      "Conservative" is a political point of view. It should have nothing to do with religion.

      August 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
    • colin31714

      I tend to be (fiscally) conservative, if socially liberal and I am an atheist.

      August 22, 2014 at 2:54 pm |
      • sanddudian

        And Scottish? Just having fun there. I'm new to posting on this board but have enjoyed reading your posts. I read earlier you are visiting Calgary. I live there, actually Chestermere, a lake community just on the edge of Calgary. Enjoy your visit and the added value your US dollar is going to give you!

        August 22, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
        • colin31714

          Thanks Sandudian. We wanted to hike to the Helen Lake Stromatilite Beds, but, unfortunately, they are closed due to bears. We will still do two really good hikes, though and see some Cambrian fossils

          August 22, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
      • sanddudian

        For what it worth, staying at Emerald Lake and hiking the burgess shale is amazing and a world famous site for fossils. I have done it and stayed there. Great hotel and setting. The full loop is about 22km, if I remember, and is definitely a big day. The top of Sulfer Mountain in Banff has some incredible fossils and ocean floor strata and some incredible views. You can hike it but most people take the gondola.

        August 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm |
        • colin31714

          Thank you. We are booked on a hike to the Walcott Quarry in the Burgess Shale and to the Stephen Fossil Bed. I did not know about the top of Sulfer Mountain. We'll check it out.

          August 22, 2014 at 6:47 pm |
    • Dalahäst

      Not all atheists are male either! If you've been to an atheist convention that may be hard to believe, but it is true.

      August 22, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  7. Dyslexic doG

    "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." – George H. W. Bush.

    August 22, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
    • sanddudian

      Once again, religion gets the pass on being open to criticism. He should have been roasted for that comment.

      August 22, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      In as much as the founders unanimously agreed in the Treaty with Tripoli that the US was in no way founded on the Christian religion, I guess that makes Bush an ignorant fool, now doesn't it.

      August 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
  8. Rynomite

    Having read and listened to Cupp a few times, I have concluded she is extremely confused about her own beliefs and not all that intelligent. As far as getting along with people? She's an attractive woman. They get along with everyone. (Well not with other women, but they always pretend to get along with one another so it's hard to tell.)

    August 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
  9. Doc Vestibule

    Had republicanism not been hijacked by the conservative Christian "Moral Majority" in the late 20th century, her argument might have more merit.
    The fact is that Republican politicians are far more likely to play the Christian card than Dems, even going so far as to have their leaders declare that atheists shouldn't be considered American citizens (then VP Bush, 1987).
    Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas all have in place const.itutional provisions that bar atheists from holding public office. One state (Arkansas) even has a law that bars an atheist from testifying as a witness at a trial.
    Imagine if this type of discriminatory practice was predicated on race instead of religion – would it be as socially acceptable?
    The House Un-American Activities Committee is dead and gone. America needs to crawl out from the under looming shadow of McCarthyism and its conflation of atheism with communism.

    August 22, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
    • Doris

      Well said.

      August 22, 2014 at 1:51 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      To be fair, George Bush senior didn't say that in a speech, or in a news conference. I think he said it to a reporter at an airport while not altogether sober. But in vino veritas.

      August 22, 2014 at 1:59 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        It was at O'Hare airport in Chicago and it was a formal press conference.

        August 22, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          Only one reporter seems to recall the comment. Is there video or a transcript? I'm not a supporter of the Bush family's politics, but I was caught out using that quote myself.

          August 22, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

          It's a highly disputed quote – see the George H. W. Bush Wikiquote page.

          "No, I don't know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic. This is one nation under God.… I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists."

          August 22, 2014 at 2:51 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


          August 22, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
        • dandintac


          I know of this criticism of the quote–that it was just one reporter. That may be true, but I've looked for a denial from Bush, and it appears he has neither admitted nor denied it. He has had plenty of opportunity to set the record straight. This quote has been repeated many times–so it's hard to believe he's completely ignorant of it. Also, the quote is in detail, and is highly specific. I don't see the reporter's motives for making it up.

          Worse, it is something that I can easily imagine a Republic politician saying. The Religous Right is the largest, most loyal part of the Republican coalition–the base of "The Base".

          August 23, 2014 at 1:48 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      August 22, 2014 at 2:52 pm |
  10. tallulah131

    Once the phrase "conservative pundit" comes into play, it instantly negates any credibility. Conservative pundits make their living by creating artificial conflict, so every word that comes from S.E. Cupp's mouth should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

    August 22, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      like Lot's wife ...

      August 22, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
      • tallulah131

        She would indeed be a large grain.

        August 22, 2014 at 1:39 pm |
  11. bostontola

    I regard myself as a conservative and an atheist, and I am repulsed by this woman. Almost everything she says is nuts. The meaning of conservatism has been co opted by so many and has been so distorted that I don't know how anyone knows what a person means when they use it. Religious conservatism is not the same as governance conservatism, which is not the same as economic conservatism, etc. I don't know what kind of conservative Ms. Cupp is, but I don't recognize it.

    August 22, 2014 at 12:48 pm |
  12. bostontola

    Ms. Cupp is evidence that Atheism is not equivalent to science, rationality, or reason. She is an entertainer, much like Bill O'Rielly. They know what sells and provide it. CNN is a buyer. The author did a good job debunking her.

    August 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
  13. Vic

    First impression:

    Atheism is an odd ball and very foreign to the American populous at vast, whether liberal, in between or conservative, that's the bottom line, especially that everybody fears a communist conquest—ironically, a fear of the Communist Red Square relapse could be heightened right now, the two are associated.

    I wonder how many can make it as a celebrity conservative 'atheist' without the charms of S.E. Cupp.

    I watched Bill Maher very much before; while he is very intelligent, and funny, he is very much a militant anti-theist.

    I believe the smartest thing to do is to share the road without infringement upon each other.

    p.s. I was expecting a Blog post about Kendra Turner, a student who is being disciplined for saying "bless you," a First Amendment debate.

    August 22, 2014 at 11:59 am |
    • midwest rail

      "...a student who is being disciplined for saying "bless you," a First Amendment debate."

      Is there more to the story than that simplistic capsule ?

      August 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
      • LaBella

        Yes, there is, Midwest:

        August 22, 2014 at 1:16 pm |
        • tallulah131

          Some christians have got to play the martyr, no matter how many lies they have to tell to make it look like it happened.

          August 22, 2014 at 1:34 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "especially that everybody fears a communist conquest"
      Vic, this is priceless. I respect your religious beliefs but this statement is patent nonsense. Are you a Senator McCarthy fan?

      There is no way that Communists will take over the United States. It might have happened in the 1930s but you can thank FDR and Democrats for making sure that it didn't happen.

      Communism is utterly dead. There is not a country in the world that practices Marxism. If you think the Chinese or the Vietnamese are Marxists, then you need to brush up on your understanding of political science.

      August 22, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
    • bostontola

      Yup. Galileo was an odd ball, Newton was an odd ball, many odd balls turn out to be more right than the current orthodoxy.

      August 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      How old are you Vic ? 150 ?
      "at vast" ? You speak English ? What the hell does "at vast" actually mean ? Are you drunk ?
      Your "ad populum" argument is nonsense. Equating athesim with Communisim, (you DO know your Jebus told his followers to sell all they ahve ... etc "), is ancirnt history scare tactics. You are pathetically hilarious.

      Is you nursing home taking you out for a trip this week ?

      August 22, 2014 at 12:19 pm |
    • Vic

      Meant "populace" and not "populous." BTW, you can say "at vast."

      Well, I am speaking in general terms about the fear of Communism, that's why I said "relapse," as in a second coming or so. If you look closely, Vladimir Putin exhibits ambitions for reclaiming the USSR.

      August 22, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Putin doesn't want communism. He wants an oligarchical autocracy.

        It's not Marxism and unlike Lenin who did try to eliminate the church, Putin uses the Orthodox church as one of his tools – particularly in the area of suppressing gay rights. He does not want to abolish the church. He is not a Communist.

        August 22, 2014 at 1:24 pm |
      • realbuckyball

        You can say "at vast" all you want. Shows there is something very wrong with your brain. As if we didn't already know that.

        August 22, 2014 at 8:39 pm |
    • velesot365

      How is Bill a "militant"? Has he executed anyone? Blown anything up? Why do atheists get called militant when they clearly are not?

      August 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
  14. Dyslexic doG

    for the last decade Republicans have hijacked religion and the flag and outright told americans that if they don't vote republican then they don't love their god and don't love their country. It's been quite a propaganda coup.

    August 22, 2014 at 11:51 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      It's been much longer than a decade doG. It reached it's peak with Karl Rove in the 2000 election but the alliance between the GOP and the religious right started with the conversion of the Dixiecrats to Republicans when they voted for George Wallace in 1968.

      The George Wallace credo was adopted by GOP strategists ever since, including Nixon in 1972 and Reagan. It was during the Reagan years that the alliance between the religious right and the GOP grew the fastest with groups like Focus on the Family.

      August 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
    • Woody

      "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross."
      — unknown

      August 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm |
      • LaBella

        That's Sinclair Lewis, I believe.

        August 22, 2014 at 1:31 pm |
        • Woody

          The quote is often attributed to Lewis, but no one knows for certain.

          August 22, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
        • LaBella

          Ah. Okay.

          August 22, 2014 at 3:18 pm |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    This woman is a political hack, brought on at CNN to imitate the FOX News style of fact-less opinion journalism and get more FOX News type ratings.

    August 22, 2014 at 11:47 am |
  16. Reality

    Conservative or liberal atheists? The following puts an end to the discussion:

    From my scrapbook of essential theology and religious history–

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    August 22, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • wrathfuldiety

      Since all the religions you just mentioned are still "alive" and well with practicing members it certainly doesn't put an end to the discussion. People will not just drop them because of the information in your comment.

      August 22, 2014 at 11:33 am |
      • Reality

        Well darn it anyway !! Well at least, they now have something to think about when they attend their next time-wasting trip to their church, temple or mosque. Or maybe you can post my list on your house-of-worthless worship's doors?

        August 22, 2014 at 11:48 am |
      • toleranceofall

        The funniest part about all of this – he states opinion then represents it as fact. He relies on "argumentum ad ignoratum" to an almost hysterical degree. And then, he quotes authors who support his opinion.

        August 22, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
        • Dalahäst

          Didn't you know if you post a logical fallacy and opinions as if it were a fact 5 times a day, every day for 1 year it becomes factual?

          August 22, 2014 at 7:59 pm |
  17. Russ

    @ Stedman:
    you said: "Fact: Most liberals respect religious diversity."
    this is your opinion, not a fact.

    1) respect
    being on the same political side does not necessarily reflect "respect." case in point, the Allies included Stalin's USSR – but not because the Allies "respected" his politics. they merely shared a common enemy.

    modern example: you'd be hard pressed to find evidence for such widespread 'respect' for religious conservatism among the atheist comments here on the belief blog.

    2) diversity
    also, you actively demonstrate the opposite point in making your case:
    the intolerance of the left exceeds the right in this... it's lack of self-awareness.
    the exclusiveness of self-designated 'inclusivists' is overt hypocrisy. the emperor has no clothes.

    conservatives admit their exclusiveness openly. it's progressives who claim "diversity" but then explicitly fight to exclude conservatives. (note well: we're not talking politics here, but theology/religion/spirituality – and they are NOT the same.)

    there is no such thing as "diversity for diversity's sake." so the real question is: what is the principle that makes you pursue diversity? and WHY (& where) is it inherently exclusive?

    August 22, 2014 at 11:23 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I'm not sure I know how to begin to be inclusive towards people who are not inclusive, Russ. They're welcome at my table. They can even come in by the front door. Regarding principles, though, I wouldn't know where to start.

      August 22, 2014 at 11:40 am |
      • Russ

        @ TTTOO: i appreciate your honesty here. and truthfully, that is the *same* atti.tude i have toward those of other belief systems/faiths/etc. they are welcome at my table, but i passionately disagree with them on what matters most.

        but that only supports my point: let's be done with this false "i'm more inclusive" religio-political high ground and admit there is mutual exclusiveness in our underlying principles. that honesty is a good starting point for civil dialogue. how can we respect one another while recognizing our "love" (if you'd allow the term) for one another leads us mutually to 'evangelize' (again, if you'd allow the term) for our respective beliefs?

        bottom line: the difference is not "who is more inclusive?" but rather "can we be honest about our significantly different, passionately held, underlying principles?"

        August 22, 2014 at 11:47 am |
      • Tom, Tom, the Other One

        Well, yes, Russ. We can all be civil to one another even if we disagree on issues that are vitally important to us. Also, I'm sure we can learn a lot from each other. And be friends. It's always good to remember why handshakes originated, though.

        August 22, 2014 at 11:54 am |
    • zhilla1980wasp

      russ: the conservative right's "diversity" reminds me a lot of hitler's diversity during the war.

      Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 89% of Republican self-identifiers nationwide in 2012,
      while accounting for 70% of independents and 60% of Democrats. Over one-fifth of Democrats (22%) were black, while 16% of independents were Hispanic.

      -Republicans are overwhelmingly non-Hispanic white, at a level that is significantly higher than the self-identified white percentage of the national adult population. Just 2% of Republicans are black, and 6% are Hispanic.
      -Seventy percent of Americans who identify as independents are white, but independents have the highest representation of Hispanics (16%) of the three groups. Eight percent of independents are blacks.
      -Democrats remain a majority white party, but four in 10 Democrats are something other than non-Hispanic white. More than one in five Democrats are black, roughly twice the black representation in the adult population.

      so if the religious right can't even get an ethnic diversity closer to what america truly is, what makes you think you have a religious/ non-religious diversity at all?

      August 22, 2014 at 11:55 am |
      • Russ

        @ zhilla:
        1) you appear to be assuming that religious & political conservatism is the same thing.
        a) it is not
        b) i'm not a republican. i'm an independent.
        c) as a Christian, i believe Jesus broke these categories: he was a theological conservative while being a radical social progressive.

        2) your analogy of political conservatives to Hitler is not all that different from their reciprocal analogy to Stalin as representative of the left-wing. do you see how that is both anecdotal & self-refuting?

        3) you still haven't dealt with the heart of the argument (and are actually demonstrating the main point): we are ALL exclusive in some fashion.

        the real issue is this: what is the underlying principle that leads you to be exclusive?

        August 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "this is your opinion, not a fact."
      It was supported by sufficient data for me to consider it factual.

      If it helps, please remember that this is also factual: "Most Liberals are religious".

      August 22, 2014 at 12:16 pm |
      • Russ

        @ GOP: the key word was "respect".
        that is VERY different than saying "most liberals are religious" (which is much more demonstrably true).

        i think you missed the intent of my earlier analogy: just because the Allied forces were diverse did not mean that they 'respected' one another. Stalin's politics were not respected by the other Allied forces. they merely had a common enemy. there is a huge difference between 'tolerating' another group & pursuing/respecting/desiring diversity.

        along those lines, consider this: Christianity is the only religion almost equally represented across the 5 most populated continents (roughly 20% of total Christians on each one: Africa, Asia, Europe, N & S America). it is by far the most culturally diverse religion on the planet – breaking the norm of the other major religions (mainly existing in its context of origin). at the same time, most of Christianity is particularly religiously exclusive (Jesus is the only way), especially among missionaries – but that is the very thing that has driven its cultural diversity. and note well: that engine is a theological conservatism... NOT liberalism.

        but again, that merely goes to my theme here today: no one has "diversity for diversity's sake." what is the principle that leads someone to pursue diversity? inevitably, that underlying principle includes a highly exclusive element – whether it is religious or political or something else. but no one is "all-inclusive." and – especially in the West & even more so among the academy & cultural elites – i have found political & religious liberals to be incredibly exclusive & intolerant of their conservative counterparts.

        SUM: so, no –
        1) i do not think the qualifications for "respect" have been met by "most" religious liberals.
        2) and what is a "religious diversity" if it actually seeks to exclude certain groups? dishonest, at best. but i guess "my exclusive diversity is better than yours" doesn't hold the same umph, though, does it?

        August 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
        • hal 9001

          SUM: Since "'most liberals are religious' (which is much more demonstrably true)",
          and since "i do [NOT] think the qualifications for "respect" have been met by "most" religious liberals"
          then, if followers of Christ are instructed to have respect for others, then the percentage of true Christians represented across the globe is much less than previously presented [by Russ].

          August 22, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
        • Russ

          @ hal:
          why do you assume respect has to mean conceding an argument?

          if a man is walking out in front of a oncoming truck, is the most respectful thing to simply wave... or to tackle him?

          August 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          " Christianity is the only religion almost equally represented across the 5 most populated continents..."

          As opposed to being a sign of pursuing/respecting/desiring diversity, I think this is more a sign of pursuing/desireing empires, e.g. britain, spain, portugal, etc, is it not?

          Conquering other nations in the name of the lord is hardly diversity. Not that religion, per se, did this, but Christianity was often spread this way.

          August 22, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
        • Russ

          @ Midwest Ken:
          on the contrary, unlike many of its counterparts, Christianity has often spread through the blood of those willing to die for the sake of others – laying down their lives instead of taking up weapons.

          the first 300 years of Christianity (during its most rapid growth, and notably its most immediate form – which often tells you its roots), Christianity spread without military might or political maneuvering. As Rodney Stark details in "the Rise of Christianity", it was actually Christians taking in & caring for the marginalized that led to its rapid spread through the Roman Empire. female babies (considered worthless) cast out were cared for by adoptive families. two major plagues came through, leading families to cast out their own family members – but Christians took them in, often risking (even giving, in some cases) their own lives to save others.

          where did they get that idea? it's what Jesus did for them. and note well: pagan Rome had taken Europe long before Christianity took the Roman Empire by storm... without shedding *other* people's blood – but at their *own* expense.

          have there been opposite examples? yes. the Crusades come to mind, as well as colonialism (as a militarized version of religion) & the "forts" that were called "missions" on the frontiers. but Christianity has more often spread through other means. check it out. how is it currently spreading so rapidly in China (under communist rule)? how about in Africa?

          no, not only does the "military/political" spread of Christianity fail to match the teachings & example of Christ himself, it fails to see how much (if not *most*) of Christianity came to be where it is today. the God who saved us at his own expense calls us to do the same for others.

          August 22, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
        • MidwestKen

          If you want a dueling of anecdotal evidence then I'll leave that to you, but to imply that its prevelance is due, even mostly, to its diversity is denying the huge boost it got from those expansionist examples you mentioned.
          In other words, you haven't shown that the consequence is necessarily due to its diversity seeking nature as opposed to other factors.

          August 22, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
        • Russ

          @ MidwestKen:
          origins are not anecdotal – they're foundational.

          politically, why do we appeal to the consti.tution? have Americans failed to be very American by those standards at times? yes. but is the consti.tution anecdotal? absolutely not.

          the first 300 years of Christianity is far from anecdotal. it's the foundational history – and *everything* else that followed was built on that foundation. for the sake of comparison: consider the spread of Islam in its first 300 years... entirely by the sword & political maneuvering. note well the different approaches Christ & Mohammed took in that regard.

          no, it's not anecdotal. origins are intrinsic.
          other parts of the house might be 'anecdotal' & ancillary, but the foundation is essential for *everything* that follows.

          August 22, 2014 at 4:55 pm |
        • hal 9001

          Russ: "if a man is walking out in front of a oncoming truck, is the most respectful thing to simply wave... or to tackle him?"

          I'm sorry, Russ, but warning of an oncoming truck, regardless of method employed, is not the same as dirtying up someone else's life with one's own superstitions.

          August 22, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
        • Russ

          @ hal:
          but now you've changed the discussion topic. we've moved from 'respecting' others beliefs to pejorative labels for them. you've decided the discussion before it's begun – when the whole debate lies in the legitimacy of the "truck" in question.

          August 23, 2014 at 11:20 am |
        • MidwestKen

          "...it was actually Christians taking in & caring for the marginalized that led to its rapid spread through the Roman Empire. female babies (considered worthless) cast out were cared for by adoptive families. two major plagues came through, leading families to cast out their own family members – but Christians took them in..."


          You have just reduced to the time frame and made the same mistake. Instead of 2000 years you're saying the same thing about 300 years.
          And, one might argue that the persecution is the reason for their success in those 300 years, as opposed to inclusiveness. There is a reason why you don't want to 'make a martyr' of your enemy after all. Not that I'm saying that, just that it's not necessarily inclusiveness.

          p.s. Christianity went from persecuted to a favored religion with the Emperor as a member with a very short time. Hard to get that kind of press!

          August 22, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
        • Russ

          @ MidwestKen:
          no, to actually push to the foundation, I'd press you to Christ (for example, the methods he employed vs. Mohammed, etc.).

          nonetheless, you might want to take at least a cursory pass through Rodney Stark's book (among others). the first 300 years were rather definitive before Christians took political power precisely because it was rather unprecedented HOW they took political power.

          you want to cite the "press" they got as the source of Christianity's success, but that's anachronistic (because the success came BEFORE Constantine "converted." it was *why* he converted. he could see what was happening). *how* they got in the position to get such 'press' is the real issue. they went from an obscure group to 40% of all the urban areas within two centuries – without military might or political maneuvering. it was not a bloodless revolution, but it was Christians' own blood that was spilled – not their enemies. at the least, it is not the historical norm... as Stark subt.itles his book: "How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries."

          or to put it as Yale historian Kenneth Scott Latourette did:

          "Why, among all the cults and philosophies competing in the Greco-Roman world, did Christianity succeed and outstrip all others? Why did it succeed despite getting more severe opposition than any other? Why did it succeed though it had no influential backers in high places, but consisted mainly of the poor and slaves? How did it succeed so completely that it forced the most powerful state in history to come to terms with it, and then outlive the very empire that sought to uproot it? It is clear that at the very beginning of Christianity there must have occurred a vast release of energy perhaps unequaled in our history. Without it, the future course of the Christian religion is inexplicable."

          August 23, 2014 at 11:31 am |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

        Russ your arguments are wild extrapolation.

        Your real argument is this one:
        "modern example: you'd be hard pressed to find evidence for such widespread 'respect' for religious conservatism among the atheist comments here on the belief blog."
        1. To extrapolate the opinions of anti-theists who post here to all atheists is wrong. They may be well represented here, yet they do not speak for all, let alone a majority of atheists.

        (I will concede that the anti-theissts who post here do have no 'respect' for religion. They are anti-theists, so it's part of the definition.)

        2. To extrapolate the opinions of atheists to all Liberal is wrong. Atheists are a small minority of Liberals.

        The FACT stands. Fact: Most liberals do respect religious diversity.

        You do not present a single argument that contradicts this fact.

        August 22, 2014 at 3:17 pm |
        • LaBella

          You should see what he did to my "nobody is better than another...whether they believe in God or not." statement...

          August 22, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
        • Russ

          @ GOP:
          1) you still haven't dealt with the word "respect" – which is, i would think you would admit, a highly subjective thing to claim there is objective evidence to support.

          you want to place the onus on me to demonstrate *with data* (statistically?) an opinion, but to attempt to do so is actually to a) support your point, conceding the argument, when b) the onus is on you to support your supposed *fact.* opinions need no such support. and i'm arguing the statement as made is an opinion.

          2) you still haven't addressed my most basic question: what drives your pursuit of "diversity"? that answer will elucidate the underlying problem: it necessarily will EXCLUDE some.

          3) you are attempting to cover an opinion ("most liberals respect religious diversity") by conflating it with a fact ("political liberals are more religiously diverse than their conservative counterparts"). the latter is readily demonstrated by the evidence – but the former is NOT necessarily derived from the latter... hence my original point.

          4) you cite my one sub-point illustration (belief blog comments) in an attempt to dodge these larger points.

          a) you claim i conflate/equate atheists with anti-theists, liberals, etc. i did not. *you* made that inference. however, you seem to be making a reciprocal version of that mistake by assuming that all the vitriol on this blog can be relegated merely to anti-theists.

          b) the vast majority of comments on this blog – by ir/religious, a/theists alike are not respectful. that should be self-evident. again, that's not a shot at any one group, but rather evidence (yet again) that NONE of us are pure 'inclusivists' (my main point here today), much less a majority that are 'respectful.'

          August 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
        • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


          "3) you are attempting to cover an opinion ("most liberals respect religious diversity") by conflating it with a fact ("political liberals are more religiously diverse than their conservative counterparts"). the latter is readily demonstrated by the evidence – but the former is NOT necessarily derived from the latter... hence my original point."
          This is a reasonable statement but I think the distinction you make regarding the opinion versus the fact in this case is a distinction without a difference.

          Most Liberals do respect religious diversity and in part it is evidenced by much higher religious diversity amongst Liberals

          August 22, 2014 at 6:55 pm |
        • Russ

          @ GOP:
          thanks for conceding the line of logic. i hear your objection, but i would not call it a distinction without difference.

          consider the primary counterpoint: namely, the consistent vitriol displayed by religious liberals for traditional religious beliefs. i'm not personally pressing for an "us vs. them" narrative, but rather merely pointing out – that is the narrative that seems to have won in the leadership of BOTH liberals & conservatives.

          an example: the debate over current social hot topics (g.ay lobby, abortion, etc.). respect for religious diversity among liberal leadership only goes so far as one agrees with the agenda. to disagree is to earn a pejorative label (ho.mo.phobe, anti-women, etc.). there is NO ROOM for 'respecting' different religious beliefs. (side note: often i find that is because the cause in question has become one's most foundational identi.ty [read: primary religious belief], or close to it.) regardless, it certainly isn't because "all views are respected here."

          also, consider the possibility that the classic WASP majority (which is rapidly becoming a minority – something I'm actually thankful for) no longer is such. the rising tide of various groups stand in opposition to such 'traditionalism', but that is not necessarily to say they all agree. (for example, the vast majority of black churches stand in opposition to g.ay marriage, despite the consistent attempt of the g.ay lobby to narrate their belief that this is a civil rights issue.)

          so, i do not consider it a distinction without difference. again, i still think the WWII Allies make a good example (especially their att.itude toward Stalin). would you label that a distinction without difference? i highly doubt it.

          i don't want to speak merely anecdotally, but i speak from experience here. i received my education from some of the most liberal elite universities. i got my degrees in religion departments, where supposedly "diversity" was welcomed. i know firsthand how conservatives are treated among the liberal elites in the academy. 'respect' for religious conservatism (especially the classical, orthodox Protestant denominations that were the majority for the first two centuries of American history) is the exception, not the rule.

          i welcome those who see that falsely labeled "diversity" is equally part of the problem. we cannot have honest dialogue when that is labeled "diversity" for one group but called "exclusivism" for another. i'd much rather honestly admit our central beliefs & where they collide (i.e., we're all exclusive in some form). only that sort of honesty allows for a truly diverse conversation. otherwise, it's merely preferring one form of exclusivism over another, while using pejorative labels to silence those with whom we disagree.

          August 23, 2014 at 11:53 am |
        • G to the T

          "consider the primary counterpoint: namely, the consistent vitriol displayed by religious liberals for traditional religious beliefs"

          Being contrary to only one position (even if it's one you happen to hold dear) doesn't mean they are intolerant on average. On average I've found conservatives to be more intolerant of anything other than the beliefs they happen to hold dear.

          August 23, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
        • Russ

          @ G to the T:
          change the parties & keep the argument. would you make the same argument if the group in question was the g.ay lobby? or planned parenthood? would you also defend their critics with that same argument: "Being contrary to only one position (even if it's one you happen to hold dear) doesn't mean they are intolerant on average"? of course not. and that's the point.

          when the shoe is on the other foot, suddenly the logic changes.
          that's fine, as long as it's admitted: "yes, i'm an exclusivist, too."
          and note well: that is NOT seeking diversity.

          August 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm |
        • G to the T

          "change the parties & keep the argument. would you make the same argument if the group in question was the g.ay lobby? or planned parenthood? would you also defend their critics with that same argument: "Being contrary to only one position (even if it's one you happen to hold dear) doesn't mean they are intolerant on average"? of course not. and that's the point."

          I disagree. The "gay lobby" isn't trying to reduce anyone else's rights. Planned parenthood isn't trying to reduce anyone's rights. My rule of thumb is "the most liberty for the most people possible". Removing choices is the opposite of liberty and that is what most of the (socially) conservative platform is based on. By your logic the "segregation now and forever" group were just as "inclusive" as the blacks they wouldn't let drink from their water fountain.

          August 24, 2014 at 9:41 am |
        • Russ

          @ G to the T:
          1) note well: you shifted the discussion.
          again, my point was that you do not consistently hold that line of logic. if applied to your opponents' position, it equally supports their view, so you abandon it. by shifting the argument, you proved my point.

          2) you brought up a tangential point that presents an additional problem: your new argument(s) also does not accurately portray your opponents' position (which is a necessity for real dialogue).

          a) traditional marriage advocates contend g.ay marriage fails on *moral* grounds. you do not have to agree with their morality to understand why your argument thus fails to hold sway with them: if one party is advocating something immoral, it certainly does directly undermine what is "right" (by definition), and by extension: what should be someone's "rights."

          b) pro-life advocates are pointing out that it is a child, not a fetus. you contend "no one is losing their rights" – but that is the entire debate! your opponents are claiming the child is losing his/her right to life. if you truly advocate "the most liberty for the most people possible", think about what that means for those who ardently believe millions of children's lives are being taken annually.

          SUM: in both cases, you do not have to agree with your opponents to see how your logic FAILS to *hear* their arguments, much less actually address them. and that was my overall point: not to get hung up on these particular examples, but to see how obviously you do not allow the same logic to your opponents which you want to advocate for yourself (and those who share your position). "it's ok when i/we do it, but it's intolerance/hate/exclusivism when they do it."

          3) if you believe someone else is doing something fundamentally wrong, then you SHOULD be intolerant (think racism, ra.p.e, pedophilia, etc.). but let's not call the act of excluding wrongs somehow "having more diversity." instead, it is a purposeful exclusion. we SHOULD want to exclude things that are immoral/wrong/etc. but then the discussion is about *how* & *from whence* we derive such a moral compass, and not some false PC beauty contest where everyone shouts "I'm more inclusive than you are!"

          for example, g.ay lobbyist believe what they are doing is morally right (which begs the question for our discussion!). so when the political decisions are being made, they do not want to give a 'seat at the table' to those who are advocating something they believe is a moral wrong (exclusively traditional marriage). that is purposeful exclusion on moral grounds – but that is the exact same thing their opponents are doing (excluding what they believe is immoral).

          so this entire "i'm for diversity" line of argument is a red herring. it makes for good headlines, but it does not address the real divide, which is: on what grounds shall morality be defined for the public sphere? or more blu.ntly: who decides what should be excluded (b/c something/someone necessarily will be)? that is where a genuinely *diverse* (and difficult) discussion must ultimately go. otherwise, it's merely silencing your opponents through labeling.

          August 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
        • G to the T

          No – but I think I can see where you are coming from.

          As I said "the most liberty possible for the most people possible". I feel this provides the most inclusiveness we can and still be a functional society. If you are against gay marriage, you are being exclusive. And while I can sympathize with those that believe abortion is the death of a human being, that is their opinion, and no one is forcing them to have one. "Safe, Legal and Rare" I believe is the best (most inclusive) approach.

          So I would have to say I still respectfully disagree...

          August 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
        • Russ

          @ G to the T:
          1) while i appreciate your "agree to disagree" demeanor, that was not my main point.

          you are complaining about another group's exclusivity while maintaining your own version is something different. it's disingenuous. my goal here (at least in the immediate) was not to convert you to my opinion, but to get you to see that is at best a failure of logic or at worst purposeful hypocrisy.

          point being: once you see that your opponents *also* are advocating what they believe the "most inclusive... and still functional society", you will realize the discussion must go to our underlying foundational divide. that's where honest diversity happens – even if you *never* agree with those differing principles.

          you list off your practical goals, but still advocate excluding some things. on what grounds? what is your basis? and why do you assume your basis is less exclusive than others'?

          (for example, numerically speaking, there would be *millions* more people on the planet without abortion. hard to quantify how eliminating their existence & therefore liberty still guarantees *more* liberty for those who remain...)

          2) along those lines, are you advocating a practical utilitarianism ("most good for the most people," a la Bentham)? that is certainly what your repeated, main phrase sounds like.

          August 25, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
        • G to the T

          Which viewpoint provides the most options (i.e. liberties)?

          August 25, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
  18. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    In what way is it conservative to believe in an imaginary being, giving it absolute control over your life?

    August 22, 2014 at 11:05 am |
  19. LaBella

    What an absurd woman.
    Nobody is "better" than another...whether they believe in God or not.

    August 22, 2014 at 10:59 am |
    • Russ

      @ LaBella:
      you said: "What an absurd woman. Nobody is "better" than another..."
      THINK about these two *opposite* statements...
      now, which one do you actually believe?

      August 22, 2014 at 11:35 am |
      • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


        what point do you think you are making?

        People who believe in God are not better than other people.
        People who don't believe in God are not better than other people.

        What is so hard to comprehend in that?

        August 22, 2014 at 11:54 am |
        • LaBella

          Precisely. I thought my comment was pretty clear.

          August 22, 2014 at 12:11 pm |
        • Russ

          @ GOP & LaBella:
          LaBella clearly has no problem...
          a) *judging* Cupp (something most who claim "no one is better than anyone else" also say one should not do)
          b) assigning Cupp a pejorative label (is it really a logical jump to say LaBella is not strongly implying she is NOT absurd herself – and therefore *superior* to Cupp?)
          SUM: it's self-refuting to say "no one is better than anyone else" while basically saying "i'm better than her"

          GOP: i purposefully didn't bring up one's a/theism in my response here. the logic holds regardless of one's a/theism.

          August 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm |
        • LaBella

          Lol. Whatever, Russ.
          I'm sure SE Cupp is totally devestated that I called her an absurd woman, when I plainly should have stated, "although SE Cupp is probably a perfectly wonderful woman who has the view that conservative atheists are better than everyone else in the world, I happen to think that idea is absurd."
          Have fun straining the gnat, Russ. This conversation is going nowhere, so, for me, it's over.
          Pick away.

          August 22, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
        • Russ

          @ LaBella:
          I didn't say she would be devastated. You're responding with an emotional objection when i'm pointing out a flaw in your basic logic (which is not straining a gnat, but pointing out that you've swallowed the camel already).

          1) you didn't say the idea was absurd, but that she was. again, that's directly contrary to the sentence that follows.
          2) your newly "qualified" response here only further demonstrates my point: you feign belief that "no one is better than anyone else" while actually judging her to be your inferior. again, that's self-refuting.

          i'm not 'picking away' – i'm pointing out that you are regurgitating a politically correct sentiment without actually adhering to it yourself, and all the while criticizing Cupp for doing the very same thing you are doing to her.

          your original point was blatantly self-refuting.
          your attempts to re-articulate it are just making it appear that you also lack self-awareness.

          August 22, 2014 at 2:44 pm |
        • LaBella


          August 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
      • LaBella

        Russ, I think her POV is absurd. And I stated why.

        August 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm |
    • khidir619

      @Bella: Amen to that. I kept scrolling until I finally found someone that would have the decency to say that no person is better than the next.

      August 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
  20. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    S.E. Cupp is proof that atheists are perfectly capable of being blithering idiots....and she is really good at it.

    August 22, 2014 at 10:41 am |
    • ogamidiagoro

      All atheists are different.

      August 22, 2014 at 10:56 am |
      • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

        That was my point.

        August 22, 2014 at 11:10 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      Agreed – 100%.

      August 22, 2014 at 11:52 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.