The mission of the RAP sheet blog

Here’s the content of the About page, as of day one of this blog (June 23, 2012):

I’m a Republican, Atheist, Professor, which is where the acronym RAP sheet comes from.  (I rejected the title Conservative, Republican, Atheist, Professor after a few moments’ consideration.)

The motivation for this blog is that I often feel like I am a member of the world’s smallest demographic.  Certainly, there are no shortage of atheists in the Academy, but the combination of atheist and professor almost guarantees a liberal – or even leftist – political outlook.

So in addition to needing this blog as an outlet for opinions (the Academy is no place for the free and open exchange of political ideas – let that fact sink in), I am also using it to illustrate a question that drives me nuts: why are intellectuals and atheists so monolithic in their political philosophy?  The question intrigues me because I take political conservatism as axiomatic given my atheism and given my academic knowledge in the fields of neuroscience and psychology.

While I may choose a more appropriate image later, I have chosen Saruman’s tower from The Lord Of The Rings for the header picture.  For some reason, when I think of the phrase “Ivory Tower”, Saruman’s gleaming tower often pops to mind.  Obviously, the analogy is hyperbolic – I don’t really think of Academia as the source of all evil, sending forth legions of newly-minted orcs to savage the countryside and lay waste to all that is good and holy.  On the other hand, if you read books like Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism or Thomas Sowell’s Intellectuals and Society, you just might wonder how strained that analogy is after all.

But I may change the cover picture just the same, because one of the guiding principles of this blog will be to refrain from name-calling and hyperbolic fear mongering.  There’s enough of that in blog land, sufficiently enough that I’m still uncertain if I really want to be out here in it.  In fact my plan is to use the site, at least initially, as an online sounding board for myself alone.  At some point, when I get my feet wet, I may solicit some followers.  My interest is less in joining up with a choir of like-minded cheerleaders than it would be to find others out there with the same questions I have, and hopefully ones with an open mind.  If I do get comments on my posts one day that go off topic, or call names, or cheer-lead, I hope that I will not feel any hesitation in deleting them.

In this respect I have been inspired by Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind and his website CivilPolitics.org.  I know enough about myself that I may not always be able to remain civil and focused on political philosophy over political personalities – but I intend to try.  I am also hopeful that I will find and follow some similarly open-minded and civil political blogs.

Without a doubt, the over-riding mission of this blog rests on reconciling the first word (Republican) with the second two words (Atheist and Professor).  But there will also be time to consider each word individually:

  • I certainly do hold some positions that are at odds with positions held by most Republicans.  Currently my main sources of disagreement seem to be on immigration policy and gay marriage.  I have voted for Democrats in the past, but as that party continues to move Leftward I believe I will be less able to do so in the future – even if Republican choices may be disappointing to me personally.
  • My atheism is absolutely central to my world view.  While I tend to be a “religious sympathizer” and critical of my fellow atheists who misunderstand the so-called “separation” of church and state and who waste their time on trivial issues such as whether “under God” belongs in the Pledge of Allegiance, I can’t deny that my complete inability to believe in God is occasionally a source of estrangement from many of my political allies.  I also can’t deny that my philosophy of individual rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) is vulnerable due to a failure to believe that these were granted by a Creator.
  • My professorship is an interesting issue on its own.  Facts about psychology, neuroscience, biology, and history absolutely drive my political philosophy, and these facts will sometimes deserve special comment.  My livelihood also rests on the survival of the Academy – and yet politically I have become critical of the way colleges operate and the way colleges are viewed by society.

With any luck, writing about these topics will give me some insight into myself, but also insight into my colleagues and their thought processes.  I’m not so naive as to imagine that something I write here will convert anybody.  On the other hand, maybe it will at least demonstrate that, despite the stereotypes encouraged by academics and the media, Republicans hold the positions that they do because they think about those positions deeply.  Sure, some Republicans are not particularly deep, but my conversion to the Right was thoroughly an “intellectual odyssey” (as it has been for many late converts to the Right; I borrow the term intellectual odyssey from the subtitle of David Horowitz’s reader Left Illusions).  Of course, as Michael Shermer points out in Why People Believe Weird Things, even the most intellectual among us can sometimes go down the wrong path, but I hope this blog will lay bare the thinking behind my own political positions.  And I hope that the people who disagree with my facts and logic will respond with their own facts and logic.

These are some of the goals of The RAP Sheet blog.  Now let’s see how short of the goals we fall…

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7 comments

  1. In order to reconcile Republican with Atheist and Professor you’re going to have to come to terms with how you feel about religions. Most of what are called Atheists are merely Godless anti-religionist bigots, mostly anti-Christian since they won’t say anything against the Muslims and will often side with those enemies of America.

    1. You may find my most recent post of interest. It deals with the recent Gallup poll showing that (only) 54% of Americans would vote for an atheist for President. In that post, I deal at least a little with my contempt for “militant atheists” whose anti-religious bigotry is hardly helpful to the acceptance of atheists in the political arena. Thank you for your comments.

      1. I’ve seen the poll. I’m part of the other 46% who would never knowingly vote for an atheist – or hire one into any position of responsibility, or rent property to one.

        I don’t, in general, trust people to do the right and responsible thing except when they think that they’ll get caught and punished. The theist at least thinks – a little – that he’ll always get caught by God and face punishment.

      2. I can’t agree with your point of view, and in fact, a full explanation may require a blog post of its own. In my view, the Founding Fathers didn’t trust anybody – theist or not – with power, which is why they designed the system that they did – a system with checks and balances and ample controls on behavior.

        An atheist who rents property from you does not fear God’s judgment, but he does fear a lawsuit, imprisonment, loss of security deposit, opportunity to rent elsewhere, etc. An atheist hired by you fears lawsuit, imprisonment, loss of income, loss of opportunity to work elsewhere, etc. An atheist who is elected President values historic reputation, desires re-election, aspires to a lucrative post-Presidential career, and is constrained by 2 other co-equal branches of government.

        While the theist may also fear God, that additional security is not required. Indeed, it could be a loophole – a theist, convinced that God is on his side, may well act in ways that are insensitive to the constraints that would normally be in place. Democrats liked to accuse George W. Bush of this error; in my own view, a sense of Godly mission may more likely explain some of the excesses of Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

        Thanks for the comments.

  2. Hello, RAPster.
    I learned of your website from
    http://keithburgess-jackson.typepad.com/ .
    Here’s a rhyme that an atheist rapper might want to set to music:
    Can omniscient God, who
    Knows the future, find
    The omnipotence to
    Change His future mind?
    Source: Richard Dawkins, “The GOD Delusion”, page 78.

    I happen to be in the midst of reading “God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment” by Scott Adams (creator of the ‘Dilbert’ cartoon). It’s a small-size, short (130-page) book, and interesting so far. Have you read it? I will not know till I finish it whether it will have been worthwhile, or is just a theological shaggy dog story.
    — Mark Spahn (West Seneca, NY)

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mark. I love upstate NY. I have not read Adams’ book or, indeed, Dawkins’. I don’t tend to read atheist literature. I am uncomfortable with people who proselytize atheism, and Dawkins is one of the worst offenders, along with Hitchens and Dennett. (I don’t know about Adams.) I love Dawkins on biology, and Hitchens on politics, and Dennett on the mind-body problem, but their atheism screeds leave me cold. My own interest is in showing why I believe atheism is more consistent with a right-wing political philosophy than a left wing one. But I am always in the market for learning a new rap! Thanks for the comments and hope you’ll stop by regularly. Cheers.

  3. When asked, have I accepted Christ as my savior, I respect the reverence of the person asking me, and have a vague sense of belief, but my mind just sees that question as an intellectual contrivance, and I couldn’t go there if I wanted to, even though the choice is always there. I wonder if I am missing out on something. The thought that I might be forsaking Christ is with me, along with the realization that I could try to be a better person.

    Lately, I have begun to wonder if belief does not have to involve a mental strain, but instead can just be that acceptance that this is God’s world and I am just one small part of it. I do not have much of a religious background, but I do have a vague sense of being part of something bigger than myself.

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