From Religion to Donald Trump

In my teen years I was an outspoken atheist. When debating people I would take the position that, not only are gods a silly idea, religion as a whole is bad for humanity.

Even when talking to other atheists I would often get this answer: “What if believing in God is helping these people lead happier lives? Why does it matter if it’s real or not? They’re not hurting you.”

A fair point. And one for which I did not have a good answer. It was offensive to me that we would simply accept that people were deluding themselves, and then indoctrinating their children to do the same. All in the name of happiness? It seemed dystopian, but I lacked the wit to explain why.

A few weeks ago I found the answer I’d been looking for, and I couldn’t be sadder about it.

They’re not hurting anybody, you say? These people who reject all evidence, all science, all reason, in favor of fictitious stories that validate their beliefs? These people that we’ve respectfully allowed to delude themselves gave us Trump.

But so what if people believe a rich cretinous demagogue is going to fix all their problems. They’re happy, and besides, who are they hurting?

Dear Conservatives

I’m a liberal, or, as you say, “libtard.” We don’t talk anymore, short of shouting at each other from a great distance.

I am mad about Trump, and for what your party is doing to our country. But I understand where you’re coming from, I think. And I believe we have more in common than is apparent.

For example, I wish for America and its citizens to prosper. To live happy, peaceful, fulfilling lives. I believe in freedom and democracy. I believe our government should work for the people.

None of this can be taken for granted, and we should recognize that we are united by this pursuit. Now let’s talk about our disagreements.

Yeah, I’m a socialist. I’m in favor of redistributing some wealth to those in need. It’s not that I’m lazy or entitled. In fact, last year I paid about 3 times what the average American pays in taxes. I hope to continue giving more than I receive for as long as possible. But why?

It’s not as obvious as a tax break, but I am getting something out of paying into social programs that benefit other people. These people, they live in the same country as I do, some in the same city even. They touch my life in various ways. Some prepare food that I eat, they write the books that I read, they teach children, or smile at me on the streets. Some are my friends, my family.

When they are healthy, when they get the education they want, when they’re not worried about food or housing, when they don’t live on the streets, then the quality of my life increases in more ways than money could buy.

But do they deserve my help, you ask? The first thing I’ll say is, on some level, it doesn’t matter. I’m doing what’s best for me.

But also, everyone is deserving of the basic necessities of life. Why? Good question. Seriously. This is at the heart of the Liberal vs Conservative debate, yet nobody cares to address it in a non-condescending way. Liberals act like it’s obvious we should help the less fortunate—it’s not. And Conservatives act like the less fortunate are capable but unwilling. Here’s what I would say.

“Will,” the willingness to work and do effortful things, is not a given. It is a fortunate thing to have, like health, inherited wealth, or various other predispositions. Are some people lazy and abusing the system? Sure. But I don’t believe they choose to be lazy. Hear me out on this.

It is unintuitive. We want to give credit to ourselves, and others, for our efforts and strength of character. And that means we should assign blame to those who achieve less. But this is misguided. While we should celebrate our success, it’s equally important to recognize that luck plays a big role in our lives. Bigger than we tend to imagine.

No-one decides where they’re born, or when, or to which parents. Yet those things, like so many others that are out of our control, are responsible for much of our fortune.