Dinesh D'Souza on Atheism and Libertarianism:

There is no shortage of poorly informed rants against libertarianism; similarly, it's easy to find silly screeds against atheism. Dinesh D'Souza, however, has achieved the unusual distinction of combining these two genres in a single column. Let's start with the part about libertarians:

Many libertarians are basically conservatives who are either gay or druggies or people who generally find the conservative moral agenda too restrictive. So they flee from the conservative to the libertarian camp where much wider parameters of personal behavior are embraced.

It is true that most libertarians oppose parts of "the conservative moral agenda" (at least to the extent that that agenda is to be enforced by the state). The rest of the above is hogwash. The vast majority of libertarians are neither gay, nor "druggies," nor even people with unusual personal lives of any kind. And there are very few libertarians who have "fled" from conservatism, because most libertarians were never conservative to begin with. There are many prominent libertarian thinkers who are former liberals or socialists, such as Hayek, Friedman, Richard Epstein, and quite a few others. Very few if any were former conservatives of any kind - much less ones who fled because they were gay or wanted to use drugs. To top it off, D'Souza also commits the common mistake of conflating libertarian opposition to state regulation of "personal behavior" with "embracing" such behavior (more sophisticated conservative critics of libertarianism, such as Kay Hymowitz often make the same mistake).

The anti-atheist part of D'Souza's screed is even sillier. He starts by suggesting that Christopher Hitchens' fondness for alcohol (and possibly that of other atheists who drink a lot) is somehow related to his rejection of religion (as if there aren't plenty of theists who drink to excess). He ends with this:

I agree that many nominal Christians have also forgotten the message of Christmas. Even so I wonder: what's the atheist equivalent of Christmas? Darwin's birthday? For many libertarians I suppose it's the day they get their tax refunds.

Here, D'Souza makes the common but foolish mistake of conflating atheism with the theory of evolution. In reality, you can be an atheist and reject that theory (as the Soviet government to a large extent did under Stalin) or be a theist and accept it (as the Catholic Church now does). And, as Radley Balko points out, D'Souza is seriously misinformed if he thinks that libertarians celebrate tax refunds as opposed to decrying them as a part of the government's deceptive scheme to extract what are effectively coercive interest-free loans from the taxpayers.

As for the "atheist equivalent of Christmas," atheists no more need an equivalent of Christmas than we need an equivalent of Ramadan or Yom Kippur. Part of the point of atheism is that we do not believe in the need for holidays that honor deities. Obviously, there are atheists who celebrate theistic holidays for cultural or family reasons or just to have a good time. But atheism as such has no need for "equivalents" of religious holidays. Indeed, since atheism is not a comprehensive belief system but merely a rejection of the existence of God, it has no need of any holidays at all. Rather, individual atheists will choose to celebrate particular holidays for ethnic, historical, or philosophical reasons that generally have no connection to atheism itself. Just as atheism is compatible with a variety of different moral and political views, it is also compatible with a variety of different holidays.

There once was a time when Dinesh D'Souza was a reasonably serious public intellectual. I didn't always agree with him then, but his writings were at least worth considering. This column, coming on the heels of his book arguing that we should sacrifice many of our freedoms in order to allay the anger of Muslim fundamentalists, suggests that those days are gone. There are weighty arguments to be made against both libertarianism and atheism. Sadly, Dinesh D'Souza is no longer likely to be the one to make them.

UPDATE: Just in case, I should clarify that in denying that "many libertarians" are "gay...or druggies," I am in no way accepting D'Souza's equation of these two categories. As I'm sure regular VC readers know, I don't believe that there is anything wrong with being gay. Indeed, it is probably true that the percentage of gays among libertarians is higher than among social conservatives. However, even if gays are twice as common in the libertarian community as in the nation as a whole, that would still make them only a tiny fraction of the total.