Posted by: randyman72 | June 24, 2009

Pull Yourself Up by Your Own Bootstraps- Conservatism’s Conflict with Humanist Ideals



This afternoon, I was listening to a podcast of the Minnesota Atheists. I heard a commercial for the Minnesota Humanists that ended with the tagline, “The responsibility for our lives- and our world- is ours and ours alone.”

I began to muse about personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is integral to becoming a mature adult and a fully contributing member of society.

In order to be a patriotic citizen of the United States (not merely a resident of this country), one needs to be dilligent about being an informed citizen- and at the very least, vote (preferably after researching the candidates and issues). The truly informed citizen might choose to become more politically involved by working for a particular candidate, political party, or advocate for a particular issue or interest group. One might even go so far as to assume the responsibility of being a part of government as an elected or appointed official.

One often hears conservative media pundits noting that many Americans are too concerned about personal rights, without understanding the crucial part of the equation- one’s own responsibilities as a citizen.

There is some truth in this. And, as we know, one of the central tenets of conservativism is limited government- which in theory, enables individuals to exercise personal liberties. Personal responsibiltiy is essential to making this work.

So, one would think that conservatives would applaud this humanist philsophy of self reliance. But as we know, this is not the case. Those on the right side of the aisle are more likely to tell us that the solution to our problems is more prayer, more religious faith, and adherence to scriptural principals. Some on the far right will even question the patriotism and morals of those who don’t worship the “right” god, or don’t believe in or worship any gods.  Former President George H.W. Bush once stated; “I don’t know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots.”

Conservatives will often promote “Intelligent Design” being taught alongside Darwin’s Theory of Evolution (or favor not teaching Darwin’s Theory at all). “Intelligent design” is merely creationism in a cheap tuxedo- i.e. teaching Christian scripture as fact in public schools, a clear violation of church/state separation.

Granted, Democrats do their best to appeal to “people of faith”- and emphasize the role of “faith”- but the Republicans have long used religion as a cudgel. 

During the Bush years, Karl Rove and company brought this to a new level- or shall we say lowered it to a new nadir. Supposedly, George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq because God told him to. It is rumored that Karl Rove and many others in the GOP apparatus are agnostics, skeptics, and perhaps even closeted atheists who find religion to be a useful tool.

Be that as it may, I find that all of this runs counter to truly being self reliant…  promoting the philosophy of self reliance, and fostering self reliance in others.

In other words, is it really “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” if you think “God” is the one pulling the bootstraps?


The Cleveland Freethinkers



  1. I’ve heard people say that a principle of “classic” conservatism (a la Goldwater) is respect for individual rights, including religious beliefs, what you do behind closed doors, etc.

    That’s a crock- though Goldwater expressed his disdain for the religious right later in his life, in “The Conscience of a Conservative” (1960) he states that “(Conservative principles) are derived from the truths that God has revealed about his creation.”

    In his 1964 Republican nomination speech, Goldwater declared that “those who elevate the state and downgrade the citizen must see ultimately a world in which earthly power can be substituted for Divine Will, and this Nation was founded upon the rejection of that notion and upon the acceptance of God as the author of freedom.”

  2. Well have you forgotten all the ridicule Obama got for talking about checking your tires’ pressure?
    I was particularly disturbed by that. I don’t think derision is the best response when someone brings up personal responsibility.

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