S.E. Cupp is a frequent guest on RedEye, one of my favorite shows and is arising as one of the top commentators on the Fox News Channel. She also writes a weekly column for the New York Daily News, one of the ten most read papers in the country. Her upcoming book is entitled Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity . It may be surprising to know then that Cupp is an admitted atheist. So why is Cupp so going out of her way to defend Christianity and accusing liberals of attacking it? A cynical answer would be that Cupp is doing what most political commentators do today: amp up their rhetoric to 11 in the hopes of generating publicity and book sales.
There is probably a more principled reason to her book as well. Similar to many bloggers in the Roissysphere, Cupp might believe that the particulars of religion are nonsense, but that religion is gives a moral framework to people and that if you take it away, you’ll be left with nihilism. Some conservative writers, such as Irving Kristol have suggested that some truths should be withheld from certain peoples. A noble lie if you will. I don’t think Cupp is that brazen and cynical, but is rather just making a correlation in her mind between people who are religious and people who are good, decent people. In her opening diary at the Daily Caller, she writes:
First of all, I say, I dislike you very much already. Not because you’ve already told me how much money you make, but because I’m a misanthrope. That’s because most of the people I meet fall far short of the examples my mother and father set decades ago. Whereas they are compassionate, hard-working, down-to-earth, unpretentious, God-fearing common folk, you are an entitled, self-important, elitist and condescending snot weasel who wears his empty moral relativism and cheap “Daily Show” pieties like they are Olympic medals.
Like S.E., I am extremely troubled by moral relativism. For a long time, I bought into the mindset best expressed by supposed Fyodor Dostoyevsky quote, “If there is no God, then everything is permitted.” For this reason I was unwilling to identify myself as an atheist until fairly recently. As long as it is thought that life is a choice between religious faith and moral subjectivism, religious faith will win out because people are rightly afraid of what subjectivism will lead to. But the battle between faith and subjectivism is a false choice. When I discovered that there can be objective morality that is based in reason rather than faith, it solved my biggest hang-up about atheism.
William F. Buckley is famously quoted as saying that he would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone book than by the 2,000 members of the Harvard faculty. In a similar vein, I would prefer to be governed by 2,000 randomly selected Mormons than 2,000 randomly selected Atheists because the bulk of the Mormons would have a higher commitment to morality and would probably be more disposed to my views on markets and national defense. That certainly does not mean that atheism is itself immoral, but I do believe that most atheists do not believe in objective morality. This means that atheists who do believe in objective morality need to stand up, make their standards of morality clear and counter those who would claim that atheism necessarily leads to subjectivism.
I personally do not identify myself as a “conservative” because I believe word implies a certain reverence for tradition and institutions which I do not share. If forced, I would classify myself as a classical liberal or in more familiar terms, a libertarian. Nonetheless, I take an interest in the future of conservatism because it is the most realistic hedge against the growing power against the state and I align myself with the Republican Party. In order for conservatism and the Republican Party to maximize its appeal, they both need to argue from a place of reason rather than faith and fear. If you’d like to read further into that, I’d recommend the articles “The Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party” by Ed Hudgins and “The Party of Modernity” by David Kelley.