I once attended an atheist society meeting at melbourne university. There werent too many people there, maybe four or five others, three of whom were obviously stalwarts, the others newcomers like myself and my friend. It wasnt really a meeting as such, it was more like a half hour or so of ranting by the main guy of how the obvious it was that god couldnt and didnt exist. He also made a few unfunny jokes about american evangelists. I guess back then, before LJ and this whole blog thing, people had to get their opinions out a little more directly. I was a little disappointed, I’d assumed that atheists (of which I counted myself one) took it for granted that there wasnt any such thing as a god (or gods) and went on to discuss better and more interesting ways of organising the moral foundation of society in a godless universe.
I came away from that meeting thinking that those atheists there, or at least the guy pretending to be an TV evangelist, protested too much. Underneath all that anger was disappointment and betrayal that god did not after all exist.
A couple of years ago I joined up an anarcho-capitalist email list. Fortunately those guys, as exceedingly eccentric and pedantic as some of them were, didnt spend much time ranting on about how the State couldnt and shouldnt exist. There were a few rather marxist-style inevitable movement of history into anarcho-capitalism arguments but on the whole, these guys liked spending a fair amount of time refuting each other’s arguments to the nth degree on various topics which seemed to have little to do with anarcho-capitalism. I came away from that list thinking I should probably just read some of the abundant material out there on the web.
I pretty much identified as a lefty, if a little uneasily, for much of my teens. Back then I thought that a strong and selfless socialist government with good rational legislation combined with an efficient, unpartisan and competent bureacracy could deliver a just and equitable society. That assets owned by the people, run by the people, for the people was the best and most effective way of delivering services. That Cuba is the last best hope for a working model of communism in the world.
These days, I tend to distrust state based solutions on principle. Nonetheless, I do have a nostalgia for those early days and maybe, in a small way not very different from that atheist, I feel a touch of disappointment and betrayal. Just as there is no god, there is no great and good government, no higher power that we can trust to look after us. But I sympathise with those that still believe. And sometimes, I envy them too.