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SPOTSYLVANIA: Conservatism fits for this skeptic

For Matt Jordan, political conservatism and skepticism go hand in hand.

So he says he has trouble understanding why more conservatives don’t question religion like they do the federal government.

“They don’t want the government saying, ‘I’m with the government, I’m here to help,’” said Jordan, 55, who lives in Spotsylvania County. “They’re not going to buy that just because you said it. And yet, conservatives tend to be the most religious. I can’t wrap my mind around that.”

Jordan, the media representative for the Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason, or Fredericksburg CoR, is both an atheist and a conservative—traits that aren’t at all contradictory, in his view.

Actually, he estimates that about a quarter of the CoR’s membership, which includes atheists, nontheists and agnostics, is conservative.

Jordan even co-founded Conservative Skeptics of Fredericksburg but said he had to give up the group because of his work schedule.

“We can get together, fire off about things we think about, and nobody’s going to say, ‘well, we’ll pray for you,’” he said of the CoR, which includes Parenting Beyond Belief and Fredericksburg Secular Humanists.

Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason, said people who are active in the secular movement tend to be liberal. But that’s not to say there aren’t a good number of conservative skeptics like Jordan, he said.

“What they mean by conservative isn’t likely to mean anything resembling extreme conservatives of the religious right,” Edwords said. “I’ve known humanist Republicans who’ve said, ‘I haven’t left my party, my party left me.’”

Jordan, who says he attended one of the first tea party rallies in Washington, describes himself as a fiscal conservative.

But his political views don’t fit into a neat little box. He calls conservative talk show host Glenn Beck a “conspiracy nut” and says he has liberal or libertarian views on social issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Still, Jordan said he “almost invariably” votes for Republicans. Last year, for instance, he voted for gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli, a popular target of liberals.

“He’s against abortion,” Jordan said of Cuccinelli. “Does that make him a woman hater? Of course not, any more than somebody for abortion hates every baby. It doesn’t work that way. It’s just a label people hung up.”

Jordan was raised Catholic but says he was a skeptic from an early age. At age 7, he said, he had a conversation with his father about Communion bread during which he asked: “Isn’t it just a symbol of something?”

“That almost got me a beating,” Jordan says with a smile. “So I just shut up.”

He also has a different perspective than his adult sons, all four of whom are Catholic.

Not too long ago, he said, he and one of his sons got into a heated discussion that was spurred by the death of a relative. “He seemed to be frustrated by the hopelessness of the idea” that God and heaven don’t exist, Jordan said. “I view it as just the opposite. If you don’t give yourself a do-over, you’re more likely to live as best you can.”

It wasn’t until he moved to the Fredericksburg area about 10 years ago that he went public with his beliefs. Jordan was the spokesman for Fredericksburg CoR in 2012, when the organization paid for a billboard along Interstate 95 that read: “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.”

The Rev. Rick Mitchell, who teaches a world-religions course at Germanna Community College, said he invited Jordan to speak to his class after seeing the billboard. Since then, Jordan has been a guest lecturer every semester.

“He’s very fair,” said Mitchell, who is a Southern Baptist. “He doesn’t put anybody down. He explains his point of view.”

Aside from being an atheist, Jordan has a lot in common with many folks in the Fredericksburg area.

He commutes to a job with a defense contractor. He’s a military veteran. And like the majority of Spotsylvanians, he votes for Republicans more often than not.

The idea that atheists believe in nothing “couldn’t be further from the truth,” Jordan said. “We just believe in one less thing than most other people.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402