Let’s be fair. Even if you hate the idea, this is a Grade-A bit of trolling. It might even distract the media from hunting down the kookiest conservative they can find and using him as a purported example of what most attendees are like. Everybody wins.

I was sworn to secrecy but I can’t hold it in any longer: We are, in fact, planning a coup of the conservative movement from the booth in the hall. Our first official act will be to purge the Fox News “Special Report” panel of believers and install George Will and Charles Krauthammer there instead.

Wait a sec.

“Just as there are many closeted atheists in the church pews, I am extremely confident that there are many closeted atheists in the ranks of conservatives,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists…

Meghan Snyder, spokeswoman for CPAC, said American Atheists were included in the confab because “conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”

“CPAC’s mission is to be an umbrella for conservative organizations that advance liberty, traditional values and our national defense,” said [Family Research Council president Tony] Perkins, who spokes at CPAC in 2012. “Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God? Thomas Jefferson warned against such nonsense.”

The social conservative leader added: “If this is where the ACU is headed, they will have to pack up and put away the ‘C’ in CPAC!”

Guy Benson had the same thought I did when I read the boldfaced part. Wasn’t GOProud just denied a booth — again?

What’s the theory by which the atheists are in and the gay conservatives aren’t? GOProud will be there because they agree with Republicans on most issues. American Atheists will be there because, I suspect, they’re hoping for some easy publicity when reporters stumble across their booth and can’t resist the fish-out-of-water story of nonbelievers at ground zero for conservatism. (If they’re really lucky, some prominent social con like Perkins will stop by their booth while cameras are rolling.) But even if you’re willing to assume that they’re attending just to remind people that some conservatives are atheists too — which, I assure you, is true — then GOProud warrants the same benefit of the doubt. There will be gays at CPAC; if the event’s all about freedom of expression and representing the diversity of the movement, why not a booth for them?

In fact, no matter how sharply GOProud may diverge from the rest of the party on gay issues, it’s a cinch that they’re more conservative than a nominally unaffiliated group like American Atheists. Here’s a fun fact from Pew:

In recent elections, the religiously unaffiliated have become one of the most reliably Democratic segments of the electorate. Exit polls conducted by a consortium of news organizations indicate that in 2000, 61% of the unaffiliated voted for Al Gore over George W. Bush. By 2004, John Kerry’s share of the unaffiliated vote had increased to 67%. And in 2008, fully three-quarters of the religiously unaffiliated voted for Barack Obama over John McCain. In 2008, religiously unaffiliated voters were as strongly Democratic in their vote choice as white evangelicals were Republican. Obama’s margin of victory among the religiously unaffiliated was 52 points; McCain’s margin of victory among white evangelical voters was 47 points.

“Religiously unaffiliated” isn’t the same as “atheist” but it would be a strange result indeed if the strongest skeptics among the “unaffiliated” broke sharply from the rest of the pack in partisan identification. Approaching this from a different angle, it’s also undeniably true that while most Democrats are religious, the percentage of religious Democrats is notably lower than the percentage of religious Republicans. Late last year, the Harris poll found that 87 percent of GOPers believe in God versus just 72 percent of Dems (and 70 percent of indies). In 2011, Gallup found that 90 percent of Democrats believed in God — as opposed to 98 percent of Republicans. Here’s another one from Gallup, this time from 2008:


There are a few atheist conservatives — and I do mean “a few.” If I had to guess, I’d bet they’re comparable in numbers to gay conservatives, if not fewer. But they’re not in the middle of the gay marriage battle that’s raging right now, which apparently makes them a bit more tolerable at conservatism’s biggest event. That’s the real answer to Guy’s question, I take it. I can’t think of another explanation. Exit quotation from CNN: “In 2013, American Atheists launched a billboard campaign against three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.”

Update: That was fast.