Out of the frying pan, into the camp fire.
Politicians are having a field day with atheists and secularists, in general. They’re doing it by exploiting a weakness in humans to confuse ends with means.
To explain this position, I’ll need to back up for a moment and talk about religion.
When people believe in holy books, most ethical questions are conveniently addressed within the book’s pages. For ambiguities, an industry of clergy exists to assist with “interpretation” of the book. And the people who rule the masses can then, in turn, use the religiously based ethics to justify political actions. (see Iran or Saudi Arabia for conspicuous examples, the USA for an insidious one)
For politicians, the most useful aspect of religious philosophy is based on the idea of being your brothers’ keeper. If people are born into a state of perpetual obligation, politicians could simply exploit the meme to justify any behavior “for the good of the people.”
Today’s politicians are using same old argument, but supporting it in a secular fashion. You are still born a slave to everyone around you, but not because the bible tells you so. We have a new oracle for that.
The rationale that supposedly supports the new collectivism is “reason.” But reason is a method by which one arrives at a conclusion. Not a conclusion in and of itself. But if the conclusion is already assumed (“how do we maximize good for the greatest number of people?”), how can anyone disagree with reason as the method to get there?
And there’s the trap.
Once the collectivist gets you to bite on the new categorical position of “maximizing good for all” as your goal, you get politicians who believe in imposing higher taxes on those who work to subsidize people who don’t want to work because they’d rather be poets (thanks for that gem, Nancy).
This wonderful trick, convincing you of “maximizing good for all,” hides a dark underside, the presumption that you are born in obligation to the collective good. Theists say you are born in a state of obligation because you’re bad (a flawed sinner). Progressives say you’re born into a state of obligation because you’re good, a natural-born altruist.
Proponents of this position often invoke the idea of cooperation as a proof. They observe that humans are self-interested creatures who use cooperation to thrive. But they drop the “self-interested” part and focus only on the cooperation. Humans are cooperative, they say, therefore this is our highest nature.
Again, they’re confusing means to end. Humans use cooperation because it is often reasonable to cooperate to achieve our own self interests.
Atheists, in particular, are easy pickings for this flawed argument because few have arrived at their political positions by way of a metaphysical one. The thread of the political argument is easy to see for a theist.
God exists (metaphysical position)
God said that my purpose in life is to serve him and his flock (ethical position)
Serve God and His flock (political position, justified by metaphysical and ethical presumptions)
Now let’s try that for an atheist:
There probably is no god, I am probably simply a product of nature (metaphysical position)
My purpose in life is…? (ethical position?)
Serve the state and all humanity (political position)
Many attempt to use cooperation as their purpose in life. But as we’ve already shown, cooperation is not a purpose, it is a means to an end.
Often a secularist will say, the meaning of life is that which you assign to it. Well, if this is true, what if my meaning in life doesn’t entail forced obligation to strangers?
Seems like politicians are still eager to sell you an ethical position that keeps you obligated to others from birth. The college professors are the new priests and reason is the new divination.
And it seems like plenty of atheists are becoming true believers.