Guest Post: Why We Atheists Ridicule Theists

Guest Post: Why We Atheists Ridicule Theists October 30, 2017

This is a guest post by a long-time commenter at this blog, Richard S. Russell. Richard is a retired research analyst (Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction) and long-time activist in the realms of atheism, science fiction, and liberal politics. He has more opinions than any ten people should legally be allowed to have but makes up for it by giving them away as fast as possible. He blogs irregularly at

Guest Post

For years, published essays on what they called their Belief Blog — something to do with religion and occasionally atheism. And I’d often join other atheists in the comment section as we pointed out the many, many flaws, fallacies, and outright lies in the cases the religionists are trying to make. I in particular often favored humor in my observations, but I’m hardly alone in that regard. And this has led any number of religionists to whine that we have no respect for them or their faith, and that we’re just mean to poke fun at them.

I don’t deny that I derive a certain glee in doing so, but I submit that it’s a perfectly normal, utterly human reaction, in defense of which I offer up one of Jesus’s favorite tactics …

= = = = = =  T H E   P A R A B L E  = = = = = =

You’re sitting around your favorite table at the corner tavern with the usual gang, when your friend Norm comes in, all excited.

“Norm, where ya been, buddy?”

“Guys, you’re not gonna believe this, but I swear it’s true, every word of it. I was just leaving the house and heading for my car when I heard voices coming from my back yard. That was strange, so I went around back to see what it was. And you’ll never believe what I saw.”

“So don’t keep us in suspenders, what was it?”

“It was a leprechaun. And he was talking to the Easter Bunny. Not exactly talking, they seemed to be arguing, but they were using some language I couldn’t understand. Loud, though, that’s why I heard them all the way around the front of the house.”

Some sniggering, but Bob down at the end of the table rises to the bait. “Easter Bunny, huh? How do you know it was the Easter Bunny and not just a regular rabbit?”

Norm shoots the questioner a reproachful look. “Because he was 6 feet tall and wearing a polka-dot vest. And talking! OK? And while I was just standing there goggling, the leprechaun reaches behind his ear and pulls out a big gold coin and just throws it at the bunny, like he’s really mad or something.”

“Oh, do go on!”

“Well, I kind of slid into the shadows, hoping they wouldn’t see me, and just then the flying saucer shows up.”

“Flying saucer, eh? We’ll probably get lots of coverage of that on the news tonight, then?”

“No, probably not, because it was only about the size of my hand when it appeared. I didn’t even see it coming, it just settled down on the lawn out of the sky. And then it suddenly just grew, right before my eyes. Got about as big as my garage. And then …”

“Yeah, then a little green man came out, right?”

“Will you please shut up and let me tell it? I was there, and you weren’t! Yes, he was little and had those big almond-shaped eyes you always see in the movies, but he wasn’t green, more grayish. And only 3 fingers on each hand. And he didn’t say anything but he kept waving his arm at the other 2, trying to get them on board the saucer.”

“And did they go?”

“The leprechaun did. Right away. Just scooted in past the space alien. But the bunny didn’t look like he wanted to, and you could tell that the little green man, I mean gray man, was getting irritated, because he waved harder and stamped his foot. Finally the Easter Bunny hopped on up the ramp and got on. Had to duck a bit to get through the doorway.”

“Norm, if you think …”

“Will you wait a minute? Then the opening in the side of the ship just closed up, the saucer shrank back down to about hand size again and took off straight up, faster than I’ve ever seen anything move. It was out of sight in about 10 seconds. So that’s what happened and why I’m late.”

And everybody else just looks at each other and then busts out laughing. Norm is miffed. “I’m telling you, that’s exactly what happened!”

“Norm, my friend, we are just simple everyday working guys. Our drug of choice is beer. What on Earth have you been smoking?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all! Haven’t had a drop to drink, either. I’m stone-cold sober.”

“Been doing a little experimental cooking with mushrooms, then, have you?”

“No! I’m telling you that’s exactly what happened. God’s honest truth. Would I lie to you?”

A round of nods and a chorus of “Oh, yeah!”s, and Norm gets really pissed and stomps off.

= = = = = =  T H E   E N D  = = = = = =

OK, be honest, now. You would’ve made sport of Norm, too, wouldn’t you? What an incredible crock! He’s practically begging for scorn and ridicule.

And if, in the coming days and months, Norm stuck to his guns and continued to insist that his account was true, despite lack of any evidence whatsoever, you’d eventually fear that your buddy had suffered some kind of psychotic break and start urging him to seek professional help.

But at least Norm had the advantage of claiming first-hand, personal, eyewitness experience. And, no matter how far-fetched his tale, it didn’t contain any outright impossibilities. How much crazier do you have to be to solemnly subscribe to the even more incredible BS from the Bible, all of which (supposedly) happened 2,000 years ago and is attested to only by 4 pseudonymous authors, otherwise unknown to history, who didn’t even live thru the events they wrote about?

And you religionists wonder why we jeer, scoff, roll our eyes, and poke fun at you. Put yourselves in our position, and imagine the self-restraint we have to use to hold it down to only that. The only reason we take you at all seriously is because you wield political power and have historically shown that you’re perfectly willing to barbecue people like us for pointing out your idiocies, so you’re not merely pathetically funny, you’re irrationally dangerous.

People who don’t want you to laugh at their beliefs
shouldn’t believe such funny things.
— Anonymous

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  • Doubting Thomas

    I ridicule theists because they believe ridiculous things. Their ridiculous beliefs mean that in defense of those beliefs they will inevitably say ridiculous things.

    Getting theists to say ridiculous things is the easy part. Getting them to not change the subject or otherwise divert the conversation away from their ridiculous beliefs long enough to make a point is the hard part.

  • Yeshuahfullofit 2.0

    God is unnecessary and Jesus is irrelevant.

  • Herald Newman

    Holy shit, Norm saw the same thing I did three years ago. This can’t possibly be a coincidence. /s

  • It’s tough to break religious belief systems when people have been indoctrinated since childhood. The greater the indoctrination (i.e., religious services several times a week, Bible study on one’s own, religious education, strong ties to the religious community) the less likely the adherent is to examining the doctrines that seem ridiculous to the outsider. There is more at stake for the believer when they have doubts, and giving up the beliefs and removing oneself from the religion often leaves people without their community, friends, even family members. There is a lot at stake.

  • Raging Bee

    “We’re just mean to poke fun at them,” say the people who fantasize about a place called Hell.

    • And are happy to shake their finger in our face and tell us how we deserve to go there.

      • Raging Bee

        Or tell us, with the smuggest smiles you’re ever likely to see, how about 90% of Mankind will end up there after the Great Tribulation.

        • Jesus is the Great Physician but apparently isn’t the Great Educator if 90% of his class fails.

        • Kodie

          They’re just bitter. They can’t punish us themselves for ridiculing their beliefs, so they have to make up a lake of fire for us to suffer eternally. That’s how mean they are. We’re just laughing at them, they want us to be served eternal violent justice.

  • Priya Lynn

    I find the theists beliefs to be just as absurd as the story about Norm you posted. But I don’t find it funny or amusing so much as scary that so many people could fervently believe such absurdities – if you can believe such an incredible load of bullshit, how can I trust you not to do absolutely crazy and insane things?

    • They believe because so many others believe, or seem to.

      My wife and I postulate two species (one of us is a mimic of the other). One human species builds a world view based on what they see and experience, and the modern version of that process includes other people’s experiences, if they make verifiable claims. The second human species builds a world view based on what other people tell them, and it’s approved by tribal authorities. The first thinks that quarks exist, and can cite the evidence for thinking so. The second believe that angels exist, and can cite the authorities who said so. Neither of us understands the other, especially if we realize how they are doing it.

      Our species (and theirs) is facing an existential threat from global warming and other unsustainable processes.

      I do not know the solution.

      • Unfortunately, a religious parallel springs to mind: the Gnostics talked about humans being similarly divided. Those in one set each have a divine spark, while the other set are just mud people walking around, looking rather like the first set but having no real life inside.

    • adam

      “if you can believe such an incredible load of bullshit, how can I trust you not to do absolutely crazy and insane things?”

      You can’t:

    • Kodie

      Well, you never know what someone might actually do, but there’s this part of theists that say they believe devoutly, and the other side that look like they are just regular people who do regular things, and don’t seem to literally believe at all that anyone is watching over them, accounting their actions and keeping a score sheet on their morality score. Thing is, if you challenge them, which I have made the mistake of doing before, by measuring their beliefs for them as “casual” believers, they will say no. I mean, they are moderate compared to fundamentalists, but they don’t seem to carry any adherence to their religion at all or walk the walk, so to speak. It is not that they are casual or moderate, it’s that they must believe that their sincere belief that Jesus’s blood cleanses them of sin, and they are forgiven and saved, is all it takes, and they can dress any way they want, have premarital sex, hate their parents, they can be gay, they can be liberal, they can be openly accepting people of other religions (i.e Islam), they can get abortions, women can have jobs and men stay home, etc., though they have in common with their conservative analogs a gross misunderstanding of what atheism is, as they recoil in horror – satanists, hate god, reject god, want to be their own god, all the usual shit.

      So yeah, you kind of know what most theists you meet in regular society might do unless you tell them you’re an atheist. That’s still up for grabs, in my experience.

  • I think it depends on what the aim is. When you attempt to change people’s minds, ridicule probably isn’t a good idea. Yes, people claim it works, but I’m not sure how many more they alienate while winning over a few. If you’re just enjoying mocking them without any goal beyond it, then obviously this won’t apply. On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of genuinely mean-spirited and just inaccurate or ill-informed jibes that I can’t get behind.

    • Straight-up ridicule should be used with caution, I agree. But on the other hand, when someone thinks he has a good argument and gets a faceful of ridicule plus arguments that he can’t respond to, he may be a little more cautious next time. He’ll pare away the stupid arguments. In the short term, this will make his overall list of arguments stronger (and shorter). With luck and a push from his conscience, he may pare that list down to nothing.

      • Well, this can be difficult to parse out. Reductio ad absurdum is valid in arguments, of course. I guess I’m thinking of more straight-out mockery. This also depends on the person. I know I’m not one to respond well when ridiculed. Some have a thicker skin. If you know them, and they’re thick-skinned, then it’s probably okay to (gently) mock. Otherwise, it’s probably best to simply stick with the facts.

        • Agreed. I do my best (it can be a struggle) to stick with a civil, adult conversation.

          I’m just saying that ridicule isn’t 100% bad. Someone you ridicule is pretty much guaranteed to not say, “Y’know, you’ve given me some good food for thought. Much appreciated.” However, that humiliation might plant a seed that eventually grows into skepticism.

        • Greg G.

          That played a role in my deconversion.

        • adam


          Have you recently removed the ability to post images?
          Mine are no longer showing up.

        • Yeah, I think you’re right. Let me work on that.

        • adam

          Thank you.

        • Greg G.

          I thought something like that. Some of your responses seemed to be missing something.

        • Greg G.

          That picture made me yawn.

        • I guess images work better than I thought.

        • I don’t think it’s inherently bad (satire and so on has been very effective at times), just risky. That seed seems more likely to cause doubling down, or at least is equally likely to, along with dislike and resentment toward those mean old atheists. I think it is best avoided, or at least kept to a minimum. There’s also an obvious risk of it turning into the appeal to ridicule fallacy, which I’ve often seen too.

        • Yup, good points.

        • Thanks.

        • Lark62

          True. And an excessive number of christians will never under any circumstancces say “Y’know, you’ve given me some good food for thought. Much appreciated.”

          There is a point when ridicule and playing along are the only choices, and playing along merely reinforces their delusions of competence.

        • Kodie

          I really don’t have the sort of temperament to want to patiently listen and let things go long. I mean, in my experience, some theists really enjoy thinking they are making a difference, people are listening, engaging them. They are not here to lose an argument. They are here to camp with their tent and their sleeping bag and keep us up all night with their good news about Jesus. I don’t feel like letting them get that comfortable. I mean, they think they’re selling Jesus, and someone opened up the door to let them in. They aren’t leaving without a sale now, they are not here for two-way dialogue or to listen to what you have to say, whatsoever.

    • MNb

      “When you attempt to change people’s minds, ridicule probably isn’t a good idea.”
      I agree. However especially creationists have completely unchangable minds and it’s impossible to win them over, so no single attempt is going to be a good idea.
      That’s why I recommend to change our goals. And then ridicule might be a very good idea.
      However I don’t think ridicule justifies inaccurate and ill-informed jibes. On the contrary, if we want ridicule to have maximal effect it must be accurate and informative. Exactly that is my goal beyond it, besides entertainment at their expense.

      • I thinks some have, though admittedly many will outright declare they simply assume the Bible is true to begin with and interpret everything through that, so it’s harder than with others. However, if you aren’t trying to change someone’s mind as I said, then ridicule away. I like a good laugh much as anyone else. What should be our goals?

        • MNb

          There are creationists who have changed their minds, sure. But I have yet to meet the first one who changed his/her mind during an internet discussion.
          I have read several testimonies of ex-creationists. It’s always a gradual process that includes them getting hammered by facts and the exposition of creationist lies, followed by private introspection. Then ridicule may play or not play a role.

          “What should be our goals?”
          Above all everybody should decide for him/herself. If there is no miracle cure the best chance might be a large variety of attitudes. Exactly that’s why I encourage some others not to mock and even admire them for it.
          But if there is a common goal I specified it in my previous comment (I added some stuff while you were typing): be accurate and well-informed. Moreover I encourage apologists who participate on this blog to pick the regulars they prefer. They will have the best chance to influence them.

        • Well, personally so far I have yet to see anyone change their mind in an Internet discussion. It does seem that a change of heart (whatever this may be, not just about religion) usually takes time, rather than simply being a sudden thing, unless someone really didn’t have much invested in it.

          I think I’d agree with that. One thing to add though, is refrain from personal attacks and simply gratuitous insults. I mean, criticizing some huckster like Kent Hovind is one thing. Saying all religious people are idiots or evil? Not good. Yes, this should be obvious, but it happens. Of course, the people who do it won’t listen if you say to stop…

        • MNb

          When well done personal attacks and insults can be both accurate and well-informed. Even foul language can. It’s a common mistake that any personal attack is the logical fallacy called ad hominem. So it’s my personal goal (again, I don’t expect anyone to take it over, on the contrary) to formulate my personal attacks and insults in such a way that they are maximally accurate and well-informed. That takes some effort, I can tell you. But I like it.

          “criticizing some huckster like Kent Hovind is one thing”
          Good example. When I say that Kent Hovind is a lying piece of shit I think it’s accurate and informative. His lies are documented and me calling him a piece of shit informs people of my ethical views.

          “Saying all religious people are idiots or evil?”
          Is not even inaccurate – it’s false. As far it’s informative it only tells us something about the claimant.
          So you won’t ever see me writing something like this.
          That’s the effort I was talking about just above.

        • I’m not saying it’s always fallacious, but generally best avoided.

          You are the kind of person I don’t think about in writing this MNb.

        • Michael Neville

          Saying all religious people are idiots or evil?

          I know very few people (the number is not zero) who say that. What we do say is they’re wrong. There are evil Christians, Mark Driscoll and Pat Robertson come immediately to mind, but most are not. There are idiotic Christians, Ken Ham and his fellow creationists are a good example, but again, most are not. But what all Christians are is wrong and I’ll say so to them with no provocation.

        • I’m thinking more of the anonymous commenters here (of course, that is a problem with those who have all views). Then again, I’ve seen things that seem to get into this territory from those who are known as well. It’s the generalization which is the problem.

        • Kodie


        • For what?

        • Kodie

          Sounds like you’re talking about how I do.

        • I don’t know. I can’t remember how you do.

        • Lark62

          I agree, for most people, “finding” religion is sudden and emotional, while becoming an atheist is gradual and unemotional.

          I have heard of christians who researched evolution to better fight for creationism online. They became atheists. Fighting for accurate information matters.

          As for personal attacks, usually I like to be unfailing polite up against christian rudeness. But if someone works very, very hard to earn the title of fucking asshole, I am loath to deny them the honor.

        • Yes, that is something I’ve heard too.

          No, this wouldn’t apply in extreme cases, though there I prefer to just check out.

        • adam

          “But if someone works very, very hard to earn the title of fucking asshole, I am loath to deny them the honor.”

          That honour comes quick to those who outright lie to me.

        • Kodie

          You don’t really know what someone is thinking when they leave. Of course, being banned makes one sore, but they also like to think their truth burned so bad we had to put it out somehow, because we hate and reject god. In another post, I know of one guy who deconverted because of internet, but my recollection is not that he continuously posted first as a Christian and then admitted he had lost his faith as a result of the current discussion. He was always a Christian at that blog, then the blog started to be less updated, and we had forums, but people started wandering away, so I think he left to think it over and then sought out another poster from facebook, it was a seriously close kind of group where people want to meet up or get a check-in from certain posters. So he had befriended a few people seriously, as a Christian, and later I find out he gave these posters a lot of credit to his eventual deconversion. I didn’t mention in the post above, but it’s also possible if they kept up private correspondence, that stuff happened I don’t know about.

        • Kodie

          In my observation, they have no plans to change their minds or listen or play fair at all. If you ask a good question, they will avoid you (or, actually Susan). I enjoy seeing someone like Greg G. keep a dialogue going, but even he has his limits, but they will reject the similar tactics of Susan. Totally sexist.

          Anyway, they are not here to be in a conversation, they are here to repeat their assertions and/or change the subject, and also be tone trolls. I know it’s not a winning strategy, but it’s totally ridiculous to reject a comment because it contains a curse word. Invalid rejection of counter-argument. Oh my god, that person made some excellent points I can dodge because they said “fuck”! I win!!!!

          That said, on the blog I originally started following (the defunct Unreasonable Faith), a Christian guy was argued and partially ridiculed into deconverting. I didn’t have anything to do with that, but I think the main part of sticking with some theist is to offer content, which Greg G. does quite a lot of legwork, and Ignorant Amos, I don’t want to start listing people and then forget some people, but I think this guy was respected, didn’t complain, wasn’t an asshole, which might be then nobody’s credit but his own, a non-typical Christian. I might have ridiculed him, and he just didn’t engage, I might have left him alone, because he was having more in-depth discussions than I was even interested in having. I don’t remember how or if I even approached him. When he deconverted, I don’t think it was there. This is passing through friends of mine from UF and he on facebook – he deconverted, and it was contributions from a few posters there that laid it out for him.

          It wasn’t without any ridicule at all, but it was also a lot of content, and his own decency that he had befriended regs and be able to find them on facebook later. Somewhat of a success story, I suppose. Occasionally, a theist wants and is willing to keep up a civil two-way conversation and be chill. I don’t know how long I have posted here, but I don’t recall any theists showing up like this guy, who might have started off a little bit annoying, you know? It’s when he started to be able to have 2-way conversations, and didn’t just deflect everything that people eased up on him, and it might have been the initial ridicule that clicked in him and made him stay and ask and answer questions. Nobody would have thought he was in the process of deconverting then, but he was a cool guy and considered part of the group rather than one on his way to banhammerville.

        • In that case we may as well not waste time chatting with them. I don’t do so much because it never goes anywhere. From what you’re saying however, it seems that civil conversations works best (although even then it’s rare).

      • epeeist

        That’s why I recommend to change our goals.

        I think one mistake is to attempt to fight on their ground. Much better to present our current knowledge and have them say why it is wrong rather than demonstrating why creationism doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

        This being said, I don’t think there is a single way of changing people’s minds.

        • adam

          “I think one mistake is to attempt to fight on their ground.”

          When facts dont matter, you cant use facts on their ground.

        • “When facts dont matter, you cant use facts on their ground.”

          Right. The fact is, even their Bible depicts God and Jesus as monsters. When Christians are so removed from reality that they worship a god their own holy book shows to be a psychopath, there’s simply no way to reason with them.

        • MNb

          “I think one mistake is to attempt to fight on their ground.”
          Oh yes, I learned this the hard way. It’s one reason I refuse to let them defining scientific terms.

    • adam

      “When you attempt to change people’s minds, ridicule probably isn’t a good idea. ”

      When you are dealing with people where ‘evidence’ is THE EVIL thing and BELIEF is the goal, mockery exists to expose that faulty thinking process where facts cannot.

      • I said earlier that sort are exceptions. There is likely nothing that would change their minds anyway.

        • adam

          How is this the exception?
          Let’s take christianity.

          The overwhelming evidence is that people once dead remain dead, yet this is the evil truth compared to the BELIEF that Jesus rose from the dead.
          Since the resurrection of Jesus is KEY to most all christianity, this is actually the rule and not the exceptions.

        • I said they’re exceptions about the likelihood of changing their minds. Your memes would likely not change my mind.

  • MR

    For some of us, we’re poking fun at ourselves, too, because some of used to believe this silly shit. Do my comments make you look foolish? Well, no more than they made me look!

  • LeekSoup

    Mocking people who expect to be mocked by the people they have already decided are spiritually blind can just confirm to them they are right in their beliefs.

    • Michael Neville

      Usually my part of the conversation begins with a request for evidence for their beliefs. It’s when the evidence is either fallacious, and I’ve pointed out the fallacies, or is not forthcoming at all that the mockery begins. If someone wants to believe in something without any reasonable support for that belief other then I feel justified in telling them their beliefs are ridiculous.

      I have a friend who’s a Mormon and politically conservative. He can justify many of his political beliefs and he and I have had serious political discussion without mockery because both of us can give reasonable reasons to support our political views and quite often we agree to disagree with no loss of respect on either side. But the few times he’s tried to explain his religious beliefs I tie him in knots by showing that his beliefs have no foundation other than the Bible and Book of Mormon, both of which I cannot consider authoritative. He gave up proselytizing me years ago.

      • Kodie

        Usually my part of the conversation comes after others have been more patient for a while and they become hostile and abusive and dishonest and especially arrogant. Then I got somethin’ to say.

    • Cuz Jesus totally predicted that. “Yea, brethren, ye shall get much crap from those who prefer ‘reality’ to faith!”

      • LeekSoup

        Which you gotta admit is some genius pre-emptive work. “Lads, people will call you stupid, that means you’re doing it right!”

        • Greg G.

          I have seen at least one Christian saying that in this forum.

          It seems to me that some are so far gone, it doesn’t matter what you say or do, it will always confirm their belief. They will have to deprogram themselves. But sometimes a little ridicule will start some thinking. Then when they come across Isaiah 45:7, it is suddenly hard to overlook the meaning.

      • Kodie

        It’s basic marketing. Some people are just not ready for this shit, but you’re ready, right? You’re ready. You are a truth-seeker, are you not? You’re not one of them lazy bums who doesn’t care about the truth, you believe the truth matters, and some people are going to hate you for being smarter than they are, but just keep speaking the truth and don’t let them bring you down. I will tell you the truth they’re not ready for, but you’re going to say some shit, they just ain’t ready for. I will profile those people for you – they either hate the message because it’s too true and they’re not ready for it, or they are just jealous of you for besting them intellectually, that they respond in bitterness.

        Christ, anyone, anyone could have totally predicted that.

    • Joe

      So it won’t hurt to mock them, is what your saying?

      • LeekSoup

        It probably will but their response is probably to double down on their faith in the face of persecution.

        • Treating their views with respect clearly doesn’t work. At least mockery has the potential to snap them out of their delusions.

        • LeekSoup

          I’m not sure it will. If hostility is a mark that you’re doing it right then mockery won’t cause people to reconsider. More likely to produce martyr feelings and reinforce beliefs.

        • “More likely to produce martyr feelings…”

          Aw, diddums! Maybe they should all nail themselves to crosses – maybe then I’d care.

          You’re welcome to try it your way. I’ll stick to mine. My way has the benefit of being a lot more fun and far less time consuming than treating their ludicrous nonsense with respect it doesn’t deserve. I’m damned if I’m going to kowtow to people who, if they ever again got political power, would gleefully start to gather kindling and set up stakes and gallows in the town square.

        • LeekSoup

          OK. I expect you to get frustrated first.

          FWIW it’s not about respect. It’s about picking the best instruments for the job. Mockery is a hammer. Sometimes a wrench is more useful for taking things apart.

        • Kodie

          I’m pretty sure I have seen zero Christians here since I have been here who want to have a discussion with any of us. They can keep up a dialogue, sometimes, but they will keep it to stuff they know. They will not answer questions from, for example, Susan, who asks very direct and important questions, and I am dying to find one honest Christian who will actually give us the important answers to those questions. She didn’t insult anyone straight off, and I can see no reason other than they want to avoid looking vulnerable and stupid, not to answer the questions. Well, who voluntarily goes for the vulnerable stupid look? Christians do. Avoiding simple, straightforward questions to stay on top of their topic means they don’t have the substance – right away, they don’t have substance, and then they lie about Susan so they can pretend they have a good reason to block her right away.

          What does it mean to treat someone’s beliefs with respect? I usually jump in when the theist thinks they were closing the sale but then realize it was going to be harder than that. In my opinion, there are some posters here who give incoming theists plenty of rope to walk around with, doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference, but then theists get all finicky about language and, sorry, I do like to swear, I don’t try to annoy people on purpose, but they think we have to treat them like royalty all of a sudden. It is usually they are enjoying their shitty privilege to stretch out all over and say dumb shit to their patient audience, lies, hostile remarks, pretend that’s not them talking, but god said in the bible, that’s all, and then pretend they were being civil and demand people stop cursing around them. I goddamned fucking hate it when people do that shit – when someone shuts you down after they got to say exactly what they wanted to say, that’s some pathological manipulative dishonesty. When Christians do this provoke shit and then sorry, not going to read your post because you said a curse word. Why should I treat that person with any respect. They are manipulative assholes who use any means they can to get out of uncomfortable areas of conversation.

          This guy I used to live with, his (extremely conservative, Bill-Clinton-hating, Planned-Parenthood-picketing) mom would come to visit us and take us to lunch and say the most awful stuff, I have to just put up with that shit. I mean, people who maintain they are being civil because they don’t curse, meanwhile bring up politics and religion in a tone that assumes you agree with their gripes, doesn’t ask you your opinion, this is my whole life story. People gonna say shit all the time and use it as a barrier. They don’t care how you feel about them, their opinions, or about your opinions. They want to piss on the ground first to control you from having a voice around them. That’s my experience with most of the Christians here. They don’t get that atheism isn’t a thing, it’s a counter-thing. We’re not loud and obnoxious except to counter loud and obnoxious Christian assertions, and Christian announcements and Christian control of the general conversation. We’re atheists to say something and no longer be controlled. At least I am. I don’t know about y’all. I was not raised in a religion, indoctrinated in one, or fallen in with Jesus or other cults as a teen or young adult. I have a different experience, a different perspective. I don’t have this deconversion story or how I came to realize or was abused or disowned or anything like that. I didn’t have any conversations about religion, it wasn’t even really a topic in my family.

        • Lerk!

          Especially if they weren’t expecting the mocking to occur.

        • MNb

          Doubling down is what they do anyway.

  • Greg G.

    Easter Bunny, my ass. That was either Harvey or the White Rabbit from Wonderland, possibly on Eat Me Cake.

  • eric

    OK, be honest, now. You would’ve made sport of Norm, too, wouldn’t you?

    Probably not. If he’s pulling your leg, then making fun of him just plays into his game. And if he’s sincere, he probably deserves sympathy more than laughter. He either had a bad drug episode, or needs a drug he’s not getting, or he had a really vivid dream he can’t shake, or some weird experience his brain translated wrong, or he needs therapy.

    Secondly, it’s worth considering what your goal is in talking to him. If it’s to make yourself feel superior, then sure, laughing at him probably does that. But if it’s to try and convince him he’s wrong, probably not the best idea. A normally-toned set of questions – do you think you could have seen something etc. – would work better in that case.

    Not rationality, nor intelligence, nor education makes ones’ brain immune to chemical, cognitive, or other brain problems. It doesn’t make people immune to confirmation bias or other belief-preserving defense mechanisms. At least initially, I think it’s much more productive and reasonable to assume the person you’re talking to is reasonably rational, intelligent, educated etc. and just has a cognitive bias. Equating an idiosyncratic belief with idiocy is IMO exactly the same sort of generalization atheists have been the victim of for decades if not centuries. By laughing at Norm and dismissing him, you’re basically treating him the same bad way atheists have been treated by the larger society of theists.

    • Lark62

      If Norm was obviously struggling mentally or emotionally, I agree that laughing would be inappropriate. But that isn’t what we are talking about.

      We are talking about sane, functioning adults who choose to believe nonsense.

      What if Norm were a US Senator?
      What if Norm was a teacher telling your children that “evilution” is lie from the pit of hell, and there is no evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution?
      What if Norm thinks the Easter Bunny doesn’t like what you do with your genitals, therefore your marriage cannot and should not be recognized by our secular government?
      What is Norm wants a tax free housing allowance because he spends his days telling people about the Easter Bunny and the Space Aliens?

      At some point, the only options are to laugh or scream.

      • eric

        I’m not saying I’d vote for Norm, or claiming he’d be a competent teacher, or saying that I agree with his votes on issues. I’m saying that if your goal is to make the world better by changing how the Norms in it think, then laughing at him is not going to make your world better. It’s counterproductive.

        As for your second to last one…are you implying we should prevent Norm from voting his preferences? Let’s put that in broader terms: do you think the state should have the power to prevent people from voting if the state deems their beliefs irrational? I think that’s an absolutely horrible idea. And I can guarantee you atheists would be one of the groups deemed irrational enough to have their rights limited. How do I know that? Because that’s exactly what some states did prior to the adoption of the Constitution.

        • Lark62

          Human rights are not put to a vote.

          I said nothing about voting.

          I said people who think it’s their business to interfere with who other consenting adults choose to marry deserve to be ridiculed.

        • eric

          Maybe he does. But given the choice between giving people ‘what they deserve’ or responding in a way that makes the world better, I’ll almost always choose the latter. A justice system that seeks to rehabilitate is better than one that focuses on punishment, right? And as Gandhi said, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, right? This is simply an extension of the same principle to personal interactions. If his beliefs deserve ridicule and you choose ridicule, you’re punishing rather than rehabilitating. You’re giving an eye for an eye. You can laugh if you want. I won’t.

        • Lark62

          If a religion wants to complete in the marketplace of ideas, it gets held to the same standards as other ideas. And it is subject to the same derision as other ideas for which there is no evidence.

          For millenia, shaman and priests have known their religions cannot withstand scrutiny and so protected their religions with threats of supernatural punishment. Every flood, drought, epidemic and eclipse was drafted into service. Just listen to modern day shamans explain the recent eclipse and hurricanes. But supernatural threats don’t work when someone has figured out it’s nonsense. That is why world wide, theocracies punish blasphemy and apostacy with silencing by either death or shunning. One way or another, blasphemers and apostates leave the community before their ideas infect others.

          In non theocracies, religion has been protected by an impenetrable wall of “respect.” Everyone is taught It’s not polite to criticize religious belief. Everyone must stand politely and quietly while some idiot pretends he can speak to a supernatural being. We must not ridicule the ridiculous. It isn’t polite. And again just criticism is silenced.

          It is exactly this “politeness” that for decades prevented Boston newspapers from fully reporting on the systematic rape of children by priests.

          Now Eric is here with a grab bag of reasons for why religion still deserves special treatment.

          Religion is bullshit.

          Religion is harmful.

          The silence demanded by religion is deadly.

          Religion is make believe. I am under no obligation to prop up your greedy, immoral, nonsense systems with either explicit or tacit concurrence.

          Eric – I must thank you for helping me clarify my thoughts about the place of respect.

          I will respect religion – I will respect it by holding religion to the same standards as all other ideas. The ridiculous will receive ridicule. The contemptuous will receive contempt.

  • Chuck Johnson

    The only reason we take you at all seriously is because you wield political power and have historically shown that you’re perfectly willing to barbecue people like us for pointing out your idiocies, so you’re not merely pathetically funny, you’re irrationally dangerous.

    Well, here’s another reason:
    Every religionist is a potential skeptic.

  • It’s about time someone said it.

  • I agree to a limited extent with the commenters who caution that ridicule can alienate people rather than changing their minds. But ridicule is often for the benefit of the listeners on the sidelines, not the person on the receiving end.

    When the Emperor’s nakedness is revealed in the famous story, the primary benefit is not for the monarch, but for all of his subjects who cowtow under his unearned authority. The emperor may run off in shame, but his subjects (even those who had believed his every word) are freed by laughter.

    • eric

      In the original story, the boy doesn’t ridicule the Emperor. He just points out that he’s not wearing clothes. So if you’re citing that story as an example of how we should behave, then what it actually teaches is ‘point out the the problems with Norm’s belief,’ and that’s all.

      • Lark62

        You don’t know many boys, do you? The ones I know would be pretty much incapable of saying “He’s naked” without fits of giggles. They can’t even manage “Dick’s Sporting Goods.”

        The Emperor’s delusion was cured by a factual statement by the boy and laughter from everyone. If only that worked on Christians.

        • eric

          So be like boy – point out the problem and let others laugh if they want it to.

          You do understand that “yeah but when the boy pointed it out, other people laughed” doesn’t support your original argument, right? It undermines your point and supports my response.

        • I think you mean my “original argument”, not Lark’s.

          Referencing a Hans Christian Anderson story is an illustration, not a form of evidence. I don’t really think children’s stories are the sort of thing one uses as evidence.

          My original comment was not black and white, because I don’t think the issue is black and white. Poking fun at ideas (and even the people who hold them) is an ancient form of rhetoric used by figures as diverse as Aristophanes and Jesus. Like all forms of rhetoric and can be used effectively and poorly.

        • Lark62

          “… a factual statement by the boy and laughter from everyone. ”

          There is a period after “everyone.”

      • Depends on what you mean by ridicule. Sometimes all you have to do is point out what is ridiculous in order for laughter to erupt. Even if ridicule wasn’t the boy’s intent, it was certainly the intent of the story-teller.

        On a personal note, laughing at the idiocies I used to believe certainly helped me change.

  • RichardSRussell

    Possible backfire when pointing out that people coming back from the dead is just as ridiculous as the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, and miniature flying saucers: “Well, I believe in those, too!”

    • I got caught with that problem myself. In one post ( ), I was talking about the progression of claims, from the mundane (I have a car) to the incredible (I own a 400-foot-long nuclear submarine) and beyond (I have a time machine). At the end of the progression was the completely unevidenced claims of Christianity. I called them “inconceivable.” And, deservedly, someone brought up the meme, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

      Sometimes the stupid outmaneuvers me.

      • Kodie

        No, it wasn’t deserved. People that can’t help themselves from quoting a line from a movie get to be fairly annoying. It’s like, you can’t use vocabulary words in a sentence if it’s going to trigger someone to quote a line from a movie. It’s annoying to hold the language hostage like that, and get away from having a conversation without taking time to acknowledge, yeah, ha ha I like that movie too, that guy is funny, what’s he in lately, blah blah blah, oh yeah, I was trying to make a point when you had to interrupt me like an attention whore who saw a movie everyone else also saw.

  • Andrea Fitzgerald

    Another great post!

  • scdorman2

    What’s interesting to me is that even if norm would have provided a picture, they still might not have believed him. Which makes me think. How much evidence would it take to convince you that what norm saw was true? Would even seeing it with your own eyes be enough? Or should we just automatically rule out believing anything with any amount of evidence for it if we don’t experience it regularly?

    • Crowdsourcing helps. If just you saw something truly incredible, you’d likely doubt your senses. But if everyone did, and your stories confirmed each other, that’s another story.

      Keep in mind, too, that Norm’s claims are unprecedented, but we understand about technology and space ships, having built some ourselves. We understand about surprising new life forms (the gorilla was just legend within Europe for a long time, I understand). Maybe it was new technology causing a hologram. Anyway, as incredible as Norm’s story, there are precedents for each part. Not so with Christian claims.

      • scdorman2

        “Crowdsourcing helps.”

        I agree. It will add confirmation for you. The bible seems pretty clear that many people saw the risen Jesus. The accounts confirm each other as well.

        Not sure what your saying here. “Norm’s claims are unprecedented” but later “Norm’s story, there are precedents for each part.”

        • The Bible makes claims. It does not provide evidence backing up those claims, and there is no evidence for the supernatural claims it makes anywhere else. We don’t even know whether the people who were supposedly eyewitnesses even existed. It could easily be the case that someone made the whole story up.

          What we do know is that there is no evidence whatsoever for any supernatural claims – and there is lots of evidence disproving such claims. Given all the evidence, the overwhelming likelihood is that gods are not real.

        • al kimeea

          Xian claims are a subset of supernatural/spiritual claims as are psychics. Why do psychics require a standard set of images for their audience to choose from? Circle, square, triangle, star & wavy lines. Shouldn’t they have better reception if all are focusing on an image drawn by one of the audience even if random?

        • The Bible says lots of things. So does the Book of Mormon. Supernatural claims have a long way to go before they’re credible.

          Norm’s claims are unprecedented in degree but not in kind.

        • Otto

          Nothing written in the Bible can be traced to any of those supposed eye witnesses. As such it is no more interesting than if I said ‘hey do you know what my mailman’s neighbor’s nephew said he saw’?

        • Lark62

          I am a werewolf. 20 years ago 500 people saw me become a werewolf and change back again.

          Do you believe me? Why not?

        • Bob Jase

          I believe you because if you hadn’t changed back you couldn’t have typed that.


        • Lark62

          The moon was covered by clouds, so I’m good.

        • Lark62

          Yeah. The accounts are so much in sync it is just like they all plagaiarized the same source. This is actually evidence against multiple sightings.

        • Kodie

          Norm’s claim, i.e. exactly what he said he saw, was unprecedented. If he actually did see this occur, there are plausible scientific explanations and precedents for each element of the event. Norm is the only eyewitness to it, and it doesn’t matter how serious he is, the first reaction is to assume he’s totally mistaken and saw nothing. The thing is, we experience people lying all the time, but did Norm lie? If he was running late because he had a flat tire and had to wait for AAA, he might have called, but say, he left his phone in the house and also lost his house key. A series of typical things that usually don’t all happen at the same time, but of course when you’re running late, and one thing after another falls apart… of course. Sometimes when people are lying they tend to pile it on like that too. But if you’re waiting for a friend who you understand to be unreliable like that, what’s the harm if he doesn’t want you to know it was completely his fault and he was playing video games and not looking at the clock. Why would he make up that he saw the easter bunny talking to a leprechaun, visited by a tiny spaceship that enlarged itself and aliens came out? Well, he knows you’re not going to believe that, so it must have actually happened, or….? Something might be wrong with your friend, maybe he was watching a movie where that exact thing happened, and he got so wrapped up in it, he lost track of time, so it is technically true that’s why he was late, and maybe he’s messing with you to see how gullible you are. Maybe he’s late because he met his dealer and …. maybe he’s in need of medical attention and you should carefully not dismiss his claim in case he gets violent. There are many super-realistic plausible reasons that Norm thinks he saw what he saw, including making up a lie so outrageous you had to believe it.

          The bible makes a claim that 500 people saw zombie Jesus, so does that make it more plausible that they did? Can’t someone trying to make their own claim, like Norm, say, everyone in the neighborhood saw it too. Why didn’t you get it on your phone Norm, this is 2017. I don’t know what the significance is, but how likely are you to check with Norm’s neighbors? And even if you did, you start to get the sense that nobody else saw it, and he’ll just say no, they weren’t home, it was people from other blocks away, I don’t recognize them, but I know there were over 50 other people who were there and saw the same thing I saw. He saw they were there just like the easter bunny and the leprechaun and the alien and the tiny spaceship. You’re taking Norm’s word for that.

      • Sonyaj

        Crowdsourcing helps, but when it’s three atheist/skeptics witnessing something that can’t be immediately explained, it still doesn’t point to some supernatural cause (and of course, I know you know this).

        Happened to said trio on a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon back in 2006. No light pollution there, and all three of us witnessed what appeared to be a star moving around in a random, zig-zag motion in the sky looking slightly southeast of where we were. I thought I was imagining it, but nope, all 3 of us saw it. Of course, the difference between three atheists vs. three Christians is that we postulated exactly what it was we were seeing, and tried to ascribe a physical cause to it, knowing that had nothing to do with god (and no drugs or alcohol were involved, either). Of course, I had to internet search it when we got back, and I suspect that it was due to the billion-year old light probably encountering some atmospheric temperature difference, like a mirage, but that’s my best educated guess, as nothing finite turned up about that particular phenomenon. It was still cool, and had I seen it myself and tried to explain it to others, I’m sure they would have thought I was imagining what I saw.

        • Right–I’m hoping for some serious crowdsourcing. When everyone in the entire world on one night has the exact same dream, in their own language, where some deity provides a clear indication that he exists and what his desires for mankind are, then we skeptics should take notice.

          Is an alien intelligence the better explanation? Maybe. But that would be a heckuva lot more evidence for the supernatural than we have now.

        • Sonyaj

          I’ll pull up a chair, get my snacks and a cocktail ready, and wait for that to happen. I mean, surely it’s not too much to ask that this omnipotent deity (or all of ’em, for that matter) throw us skeptics a bone at some point, right? And preferably in some universal sign or language so there’s absolutely no doubt.

          Hey, it would be kind of awesome to be proven wrong in this regard, but life is just simply too short to wait for that to happen.

        • Bob Jase

          “When everyone in the entire world on one night has the exact same dream”

          Then the stars will be right and R’leyh will rise…

    • “How much evidence would it take to convince you that what norm saw was true?”

      A lot. After all, it’s not like he said he saw a cat.

      • scdorman2

        Maybe, what specific evidence would convince you?

        • This would be a major discovery, so from eyewitnesses I’d expect to see at the very least something like what we saw when Kennedy was assassinated: i.e. a number of video recordings taken of the incident by people who don’t know one another. Also, all three beings would need to agree to be evaluated scientifically, or to tell us how we could send scientists to wherever they live so we could evaluate others of their species.

          But we already have evidence that Norm was hallucinating: the Easter Bunny and the leprechaun are mythical creatures, and we know how they came to exist as myths. They are extremely unlikely to be real. Grey aliens are a modern urban legend, and they conform to many night terror or waking dream phenomena – all of which can be explained as flaws in cognition having to do with the process of waking from sleep. If Norm saw these things when he was fully awake, he should consult a psychiatrist, because he may have a serious physical problem with his brain, or a psychological issue.

        • Lark62

          Let’s first consider the evidence we have:

          – All of the following exist:
          Practical jokes
          Special effects
          Self delusion
          Fictional stories
          Tall Tales

          – None of the following have ever been shown to exist
          Magical beings
          Mythical beings
          Extraterrestrial intelligence
          Communication with any being not physically found on earth

          So the required evidence would have these components.
          1. Show by repeated independent evidence the existence of any being not bound by the laws of physics
          2. Show by repeated independent evidence that humans can see, hear and interact with beings not bound by the laws of physics
          3. Rule out the natural explanations – pranks, special effects, lies, LSD etc.
          4. Provide evidence that Norm did in fact interact with magical beings

        • Kodie

          You forgot:
          -flash mobs

          Because it was just Halloween, the news for October occasionally featured some wacky homeowner staging such believable horrors that police were called. I guess this might fall under special effects, but maybe Norm wasn’t invited to the party.

    • Joe

      Which makes me think. How much evidence would it take to convince you that what norm saw was true? Would even seeing it with your own eyes be enough?

      I like to think about believing things as being degrees of probability. if Norm and I both saw the exact same thing (as we confirm to each other) then I’d believe. Of course we should always hold to the fact that we could be wrong. The more people that see the same thing (i.e. we can all describe the Leprechaun and bunny with the same features) the more confident we can be. The more it’s repeated, or the longer it lasts, the more confident we should be.

      Remember we also have other senses, so just seeing something is not the same as seeing, smelling and touching. If we can’t touch the Leprechaun, if our hands pass through it, then we would be less confident. For example most Christians tales of interactions with Jesus all differ in certain ways (they tend to fit their cultural biases), or are incredibly vague, and most never get to shake his hand. Or even take away anything of value from the encounter.

      Or should we just automatically rule out believing anything with any amount of evidence for it if we don’t experience it regularly?

      We also have a to assess risk/inconvenience with something like this. If I saw an Easter bunny, I would lose nothing either way. If I saw a monster approaching me, the sensible thing to do would be to believe it for the time being and run. In fact we would probably do this at a subconscious level anyway.

      • scdorman2

        “Of course we should always hold to the fact that we could be wrong”

        Maybe, but what about the fact that you can’t doubt your existence without proving it?

        “The more it’s repeated, or the longer it lasts, the more confident we should be.”

        What about Norm though? He saw it. It was subjective evidence in this case, but isn’t norm justified in believing what he saw? In spite of the fact that say it won’t be repeated or last longer?

        “if our hands pass through it, then we would be less confident.”

        Well then we would know its not a leprechaun in the sense that we normally think. You would have a good reason then to believe it wasn’t what you thought.

        “…believe it for the time being and run.”

        Only believe it for survival value. Would we be justified in believing it to be true in that case though? I think so actually, but if that’s the case then you should also believe you saw the Easter bunny. I mean there really is no difference in your evidence. You saw it. Its just one seems like its going to hurt you.

        • Joe

          Maybe, but what about the fact that you can’t doubt your existence without proving it?

          What does that have to do with the existence of other things?

          What about Norm though? He saw it. It was subjective evidence in this case, but isn’t norm justified in believing what he saw? In spite of the fact that say it won’t be repeated or last longer?

          He’s justified in believing he saw something, but not that what he saw was real.

          Only believe it for survival value. Would we be justified in believing it to be true in that case though?

          It’s truthfulness becomes irrelevant in that instance.

          I mean there really is no difference in your evidence. You saw it. Its just one seems like its going to hurt you.

          So we potentially gain by believing, whereas with the Easter bunny we lose nothing by disbelieving.

        • Lark62

          Given what we know about our planet, which is more likely
          – the Easter Bunny exists or
          – someone played a joke on Norm?

    • Otto

      But Christianity does not have more evidence than what Norm supposedly experienced…it has less. Norm is at least a claimed eye witness.

    • Lark62

      Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      “I saw a rabbit in my backyard” doesn’t require the same evidence as “I saw the Easter Bunny in my backyard.”

      As for the personally seeing Easter Bunny – I would have to consider natural explanations first. Costumes, special effects, etc.

  • Lerk!

    Great post!

  • Anthrotheist

    Maybe I can expand on the parable a little, and see if it changes any notions of whether ridicule is eventually warranted.

    Let’s say that, once Norm had finished his story and gotten a fair amount of laughter, he then went on to claim that because of his encounter, he didn’t have money for beer. Turns out, the leprechaun had formed his gold coin out of Norm’s cash and bank accounts, and Norm is asking everyone to help him out.

    Worse than that, the next night Norm comes in and declares that if he doesn’t hang a golden-gilded, Easter-egg painted hand-sized space-ship from the rafters of the tavern, then the trio will eventually appear and set fire to everyone’s socks in outrage.

    Norm’s demands and expectations continue to be persistent and outrageous, and he never gives up his story no matter what arguments or evidence are presented to him. I wager that most people, at some point, would groan and start making snide jokes the moment Norm walked in the tavern door. The most charitable may comment on how they hope he gets some help, assuming he is a bit nutty.

  • Lark62
  • sandy

    CBC Politics added a new video: Payette’s controversial speech on science.Like Page

    2 hrs ·

    During a speech to a conference in Ottawa Governor General Julie Payette made dismissive references to astrology, the notion of “divine intervention” in the creation of life, and those who doubt the science behind climate change.

    Read more here:

    • sandy

      You have to love our new Governor General in Canada. As close as you can get to ridiculing theists. Click on the abc link at the bottom for a clip of the speech. I don’t think you would ever hear this from such a high office in America.

      • al kimeea

        I was wondering if someone was going to mention this. There’s a lot of pearl-clutching going on for someone pointing out that we do yet live in a demon haunted world. At a science & tech conference of all places.