The Right Coast

April 13, 2004
Annoying Federalist Society Atheist
By Tom Smith

Brian Leiter has reprinted a long passage from some annoying Federalist Society atheist, who hurls a few of the usual insults at people who believe in God, namely that they cannot think straight, are stupid, and so forth. This is a silly claim to make. First, let's review the speakers list at any given Federalist Society national event (they are much the same). You sure see a lot of theists on the list! Nino Scalia--yes. Bob Bork-- probably. Ken Starr--yes. Frank Easterbrook--no, but believes in Easterbrook like most of us believe in God, so count him as half. Posner the Greater and Posner the Lesser-- ditto. Clarence Thomas--yes. One could go on. If the Federalist Society invited only non-believers to their events, they would have to get a new set of icons.

Next, this point that theists are stupid. What a stupid thing to say. Lots of very smart people are or were theists. Take Bertrand Russell. Oh, that's right. He was the self-serving atheist with bad breath. I meant to say Wittgenstein. He certainly spoke as if he were a theist. He was always talking about God this and that in his letters and to friends. Unappealing man in lots of ways, to be sure, but no dummy. One could go on, especially if you go back before God became so unfashionable. I. Kant for instance. Smart, last time I checked. And Karl Marx. Oh, sorry. He's the atheist who almost destroyed the world. R. Descartes. No slouch at maths, solid grasp of theory, high IQ I think. Maybe not up to the standard quite of your average Federalist Society member, but still a clever chap. Or Leibnitz or Newton. Whichever one invented calculus, they both worshipped you-know-who. But that was before science! Well, not before science, but before really good science! I don't know about that. Seems to me they did really good science, and understood very well what science was.

But most philosophers these days are atheists! Proves nothing. There's a strong selection bias at work. People who believe in God and like to buy a new car every few years decide not to become philosophers. I think you would find that a lot of professional mathematicians are theists. Are they stupid?

A rather mean thing to say, but look: before we worry about why so many scientists are atheists, we should worry about why so many became Nazis in Germany. People aren't very good at separating what they believe from what gets them ahead. Those that do are often a little wacky, like Ludwig.

Lots of Federalist Society members believe in God. I for one, though I think my membership in said society may have lapsed, cheapskate that I am. Few libertarians may believe in God, presumably because they think the universe was created by the market in a moment of perfect efficiency. When they die, they go to a resort run by the Libertarian Party. Oh, just kidding. Some of my best friends are libertarians. I'm half-libertarian myself. Just don't go to them for religious advice.