Saturday, March 1, 2014

Religious Intolerance- A Dividing Force Within the Conservative Movement

Next weekend, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)  will be held just outside of Washington, DC. I had the great opportunity to attend this event last year, and it was truly a wonderful experience. Unfortunately, this year, I will not be able to attend, but I won’t be the only one. A group called the American Atheists had their invitation rescinded.

In the past, my favourite part of the event has been the auditorium where different organizations have representatives standing at tables. Conference attendees can walk around, gain helpful information on hot topics and activism strategies, receive lots of free stuff (I love my Tea Party lapel pin!), and network with people. Last year, simply by taking the time to explore the tables, I was talked into applying for the Ayn Rand Institute’s summer internship program. Later, I was accepted, and had an amazing experience in Irvine, California this summer. I also made lasting friendships and valuable business connections.

Since I had such a positive experience with CPAC I was very excited to see an article posted on Politico on Tuesday that announced that the group American Atheists would have a table at CPAC 2014. I, myself, am not an atheist, but my religious beliefs have no bearing on my political views. Conservatives are often labeled as fiercely Christian. While this is true for many, it does not represent the entire conservative demographic. I had hoped that the attendance of American Atheists would be a positive step in showing the rest of America that we are a diverse group.
Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Within 24 hours of the original article, Politico revised their post. CPAC had uninvited American Atheists.
At first, I was angry at CPAC. By turning away people of other faiths, Conservatives are doing themselves a great disservice. I then heard the reasoning behind the decision. After receiving the invitation, David Silverman, the president of American Atheists gave the following statement to CNN:

“I am not worried about making the Christian right angry. The Christian right should be angry that we are going in to enlighten conservatives. The Christian right should be threatened by us.”
Ladies and gentlemen, here is a perfect example of what not to do when working with people who hold opinions that differ from your own. This was a great opportunity to bridge the unnecessary and harmful gap between atheists and Christians who are working toward the same end goal of restoring Liberty in America. Threatening to try to convert your new allies is an incredibly bad move.

Although disappointed, I understand why CPAC uninvited American Atheists. Some people believe that even this action wasn’t enough. The president of Media Research Center, Brent Bozell, made the following statement:

“American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity? ... No conservative should have anything to do with this conference. If you do, you are giving oxygen to an organization destroying the conservative movement.”

Yes folks, we have reached the two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right portion of the discussion. Not believing in a higher power does not mean hating God. Working with people who hold beliefs different from your own is not a betrayal of your beliefs.

CPAC is organized by the American Conservative Union. On their website, they have a page entitled “What We Believe”. It gives a great explanation of the beliefs of the conservative movement, closing with the following reassuring statement:

“The American Conservative Union will welcome all Americans who are prepared to fight for the realization and preservation of these principles through political action at the local, state and national level.”

The last time I checked, atheists were included in “all Americans”. I am therefore unsure why making an attempt to have an atheist group is “destroying the conservative movement”. It is also important to note that a lot of atheists already come to CPAC. Previously, I mentioned the wonderful conversation I had last year with a representative from the Ayn Rand Institute. CPAC is happy to have Rand’s philosophy represented at their event. Yet Rand is the poster-child for atheism. The Ayn Rand Lexicon lists several of her most powerful statements on religion.

This specific opportunity for cooperation between Christians and atheists did not work out. We must, however, continue these efforts. Divisions amongst ourselves will cause us to lose sight of our main focus- the fight for Liberty. For those of you who are attending CPAC, I encourage you to bridge these gaps on your own. Christians- go talk to the Ayn Rand Institute. They’re some of the best people I’ve ever met. Atheists- go talk to some of the more religious groups. Find common ground and think of ways you can use your differences to reach a wider audience.

And have a great time! Hope to see you all at CPAC 2015!

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