Conservatives respect atheists less

This clip by S. E. Cupp is making the rounds. I often find Cupp to be glib, so it’s no surprise that I disagree with many of the details of what she is saying. In particular it struck me as strange to listen to her talk about how conservatives respect atheists. Atheists are held in low esteem by the American public as a whole, let alone by conservatives. The general social survey has a question, SPKATH, which states:

There are always some people whose ideas are considered bad or dangerous by other people. For instance, somebody who is against churches and religion… a. If such a person wanted to make a speech in your (city/town/community) against churches and religion, should he be allowed to speak, or not?

Here are fractions who would allow this person to speak or not not in 1972-1990:


Here are fractions who would allow this person to speak or not not in 2000-2012:


Liberals tend to be more accepting of atheists making a speech than conservatives. Interestingly even in the 2000s ~20 percent of self-identified extreme liberals would still not allow an atheist speak. As opposed to ~40 percent of self-identified extreme conservatives.

Addendum: To be clear about the intent behind this post, I’m all about keeping it real. I think it is acceptable to be an atheist on the Right. A substantial proportion of libertarians are atheists. Even among non-libertarian conservatives it’s an acceptable position. But this is really mostly relevant at the elite levels pundits and policy professionals. Atheists just aren’t popular at the grass roots. There aren’t that many conservative atheists or atheist conservatives.

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9 Responses to Conservatives respect atheists less

  1. BehindTheLines says:

    When people are asked, “Would you vote for a ______”, atheists always come near the bottom of the list. I think it will be awhile before an open atheist is elected President. (Many, including me, suspect Obama is an atheist, but would never admit it for political reasons).

    Cupp mentioned that she always felt welcomed as an atheist conservative. While conservatives are truly more respectful of intellectual diversity, I think Cupp’s attractiveness accounts for much of the welcoming.

    I did like her comment, “I don’t believe in God, but I’m not mad at him.”

  2. Narr says:

    I’ve never thought Obama was an atheist–an agnostic at the outside, and to me his pretense to piety is another reason to distrust him on any and all matters.
    (If he actually is an atheist that makes it worse in my eyes.)

    And an open atheist will NEVER be elected president in this country. Never.


  3. cynthia curran says:

    The reason why is the John Birch Society has sneak back in the Republican party, they were relegated for years into the third parties like the American Party. In fact Ron Paul interesting enough was responsible for the hard right on the social issues keeping back since he is involved with a home curriculum with Gary North and has been involved with the birchers who are opposed to atheism many of the Tea Party in Paricular the Patriots are Birchers Gary North believes in stoning people for adultery and gay marriage but is far right on economics.

  4. cynthia curran says:

    In fact there is a book by a liberal Clare Conner about growing up Birch. Her parents were birchers and the Koch brtohers dad was a John Bircher Fred Koch. This is why you heard the socialists remarks about Obama because of the John Birch conncetion with the Koch Brothers who finance most right wing groups including the Tea Parties. Charles Koch was a bircher until the late 1960’s.

  5. Susan says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama were an atheist. I also wouldn’t be surprised if a number of prominent Republicans were atheists, agnostics, or simply indifferent to religion. I don’t hold it against any of them if they’re effecting a faith they don’t hold. It seems to be something you have to do in order to get elected and stay elected. It’s the price of doing business, so to speak. And, given the pressure put on conservatives by the Palin wing of the party, to whom a belief in God trumps almost every other qualification for office, the price has gotten a bit higher.

  6. I think Cupp and the polling can both be right. For polls like that, both the questions and answers are generalities. Atheists have gone out of their way in the past few years to make themselves as obnoxious as possible, between Sam Harris and Bill Maher, the “New Atheism” is more about mocking and ridiculing their opponents. THAT is the current public image of atheism.

  7. Cephus says:

    You have to remember that the vast majority of the higher-ups in the Republican Party are not conservatives. They are neo-conservatives. The two are not synonymous. There is no fiscal responsibility in the Republican Party, they spend like drunken sailors, just like the Democrats. They do not want small government any more than the Democrats do. They do not want to keep the government out of your life, any more than the Democrats do. Neo-cons are a lot closer to liberals than they are to conservatives.

    Hence, why should conservative atheists give a damn what the Republicans and their wrongly-labeled positions want?

  8. cynthia curran says:

    Cephus, your thinking falls into the John Birch Society which is behind a lot of the Anti-Rino movement. In fact a liberal called Clare Conner who grew up in a Bircher family see a lot of similarities in today’s Tea Party and further right movements to the Birchers who don’t like Atheism because they think all Atheists are socialists or Marxist. Ron Paul spoke at the 50th Birthday of the John Birch Society and John MCmanus was involved in one of Ron Paul’s meetings. Also, the christian theocrats like Gary North and so forth get more funding than Atheists. Mr North wants to have a very free market but old testment laws against gays and so forth.

  9. cynthia curran says:

    Also, the John Birch Society ranks people and those that are very pro-life or anti-gay marriage along with really cutting the military and social services rank high. None of them are agnostics or Athesists. Rand Paul gets a 100 percent and so does John Campbell of Orange County who has never been known to support pro-choice or support gay marriage.

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