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(Post 12 of 33 in my 16-hour shift for the Secular Student Alliance Blogathon.)

1:30 pm EDT

Q: I classify myself as an atheist libertarian. From the few atheist/humanist gatherings I have been to, I see some with political views very different from my own. My husband summed up this observation when he noted that it seems like many humanists try to replace “god” with “government”. We shouldn’t pray for things, we shouldn’t rely on commandments, but instead we should legislate people to behave according to the morals what the “enlightened” humanists “agree” are good.

A: I’d phrase the equation a little differently, but I think it’s an explanation on the right track. The God hypothesis is an attempt to order and control a chaotic world. The deeply-felt need for that order and control doesn’t go away when god-belief does. For many, that belief is replaced by collective human judgment and a utilitarian ethic that seeks the greatest good for the greatest number. (And yes, that leads to all sorts of Gordian knots itself, but there it is.)

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.