Recently one of the people I follow on Twitter wrote the following, “Strangely I would much rather talk about religion than politics. The former has easier answers.” I, too, hold a similar position. I can talk for hours when it comes to atheism but when it comes to libertarianism I’m almost embarrassingly silent. However that not got me to think upon why that might be.
I think it is because while both can be quite divisive to discuss with people who do not share a similar opinion, atheism is far more focused than libertarianism is. Atheism is simple. I don’t believe in any god. 6 words, done. There’s very little that one can draw from that other than the fact that I don’t believe in any god. Many people presume to know where I stand on other things by overlaying the likely political leaning an atheist might hold. But that is a guess based on the likely political stance I hold, not of the lack of belief.
Libertarianism, however, is a far more pernicious beast as it touches a great many issues. If I tell someone “I am a Libertarian” those 4 words instantly inform them of my stance on dozens of topics. So in discussing my political views I have to be well versed in much more than the problems of Pascal’s Wager or the notion I don’t have morals. I have to be able to discuss the pros and cons of gun ownership, gay marriage, abortion, taxes, welfare, the environment, and so on. Dozens of topics which is hard to defend as the subtleties of the libertarian position are easy for people to white-wash and difficult to defend to those who see little more than black and white.
It is easier to discuss atheism because it is so focused. It is one topic. One can easily defend atheism on its own merits without getting mired down in the details of the sciences supporting it. Politics, by their very nature, require one get mired down in the minutia of multiple social quagmires.