Christian Apologist Concern Trolling

I’ve had a Google news alert for “atheism” for several years now, to keep abreast of stories I might want to write about. In 2006, when I started Daylight Atheism, it was a fairly low-traffic feed with maybe one or a few stories trickling in each day. But the volume has steadily increased in the last three and a half years, to the point where today, I find it hard to keep up with. And that’s just one news feed – not even counting all the other atheist-themed blogs I read regularly.

This is anecdotal, but it fits in well with a larger pattern that’s becoming impossible to overlook: throughout the Western world, atheists and humanists are fast becoming more visible, more assertive, and more organized. From bus ads in Bloomington to billboards in Broward County, we’re stepping out of the closet all over, and increasingly fighting back against the religious majority that too often tries to deprive us of civil rights.

To defenders of the status quo, our newfound outspokenness must be the cause of much consternation. Ever since the atheist movement started emerging into the daylight, they’ve been trying to figure out how to stop us, only to meet with failure time and time again. Trying to shout us down with insult and calumny didn’t work. Endless invocations of the Courtier’s Reply didn’t work. Trying to shut us out by force didn’t work. The next tactic should have been easy to guess: they’ve turned wholesale to concern trolling.

Concern trolling is defined as masquerading as an ally or a friend in order to offer your enemies “helpful advice” that, if taken, would hurt and undermine them. For example, take this condescending report by Zoe Brennan of the U.K. Daily Mail on the summer camp for freethinking kids, Camp Quest. The headline is, “Is Britain’s first atheist summer camp harmless fun or should we be worried?” (Cue ominous music.)

The question remains: why do atheists feel the need to resort to such high-profile tactics at all? After all, with campaigns, fundraising endeavours, a ‘High Priest’ in the form of Richard Dawkins and now holiday camps for children, aren’t they simply turning into a parody of the organised religions they so sneer at?

If you read between the lines, you can see the fear in this. What “worries” Brennan is that this atheism stuff is catching on. What she’s basically saying is, “Why are you atheists so eager to organize and create a community together with other people who think the same way as you? Only religious people do that! If you’re really atheists and don’t want to be like religious people, you should just go back into the closet and stay silent and invisible!” It’s little cleverer than saying, “Religious people eat food and breathe air! If you don’t want to be like them, you should stop doing those things.”

Another instance of concern trolling is this story, where renowned philosopher (and Templeton Prize winner – what are the odds?) Charles Taylor scoffs at the atheist bus campaign that’s spread to Canada, calling it “pathetic”:

“A bus slogan! It’s not likely to trigger something very fundamental in anybody… This new phenomena is puzzling — atheists that want to spread the ‘gospel,’ and are sometimes very angry.”

I agree that we’re not going to see a wave of deconversions everywhere a bus goes carrying one of these ads. (But I also doubt the efficacy of religious ads and billboards, which Taylor doesn’t see fit to criticize.) But that’s not the goal of this ad campaign. What Taylor doesn’t grasp or, more likely, wants to obfuscate is that these ads are meant to encourage people who are already atheists to come out of the closet and organize, by letting them know that they’re not alone.

Again, religious concern trolls miss the point. There are plenty of nonbelievers, but we’re largely disorganized and isolated (the state of affairs Zoe Brennan wishes would continue). By promoting atheism as a positive, attractive philosophy, we can bring these people out of the shadows and into the developing atheist community. The “anger” that Taylor detects is largely a projection of how he feels when reading these signs. Speaking for the atheists, I can say unequivocally that the predominant emotion we feel is joy to see a strong, assertive community taking shape. If some call this “spreading the gospel,” I’m happy to agree – “gospel” means “good news”, and our message is that atheism is good news, a liberation from the fetters of superstition. Concern trolls may call us “angry”, as if that alone could discredit any movement, and I welcome them to try. They affect not to understand what drives us, but the more outspoken and stronger we grow, the sooner the time will come when they will have no choice but to understand.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://lostaddress.org ray

    The Mail is very very much an “establishment” newspaper. One in which old white men can tell everyone what to do. If you want to know what the news is, and you can’t avoid the Mail (poor you!), read the news in the paper and then dial down the hysteria by a factor of 10 and you may be able to make a real news story out in the article.

  • thinkoplex

    “A bus slogan! It’s not likely to trigger something very fundamental in anybody… This new phenomena is puzzling — atheists that want to spread the ‘gospel,’ and are sometimes very angry.”

    Every time atheists express their opinions, or merely identify themselves as atheists, theists immediately claim that we are “angry”. Ebon makes a good point that theists are merely projecting their own feelings onto those who would dare speak up.

    Additionally, claims of “anger” are helpful to the theist in dismissing atheists as a whole. If atheists can be portrayed as militants, anarchists, and nihilists – all three common claims about atheists – then theists feel that atheist ideas can be discredited as a juvenile emotional backlash against authority.

  • Alex Weaver

    Do we even need to ask how Matt Nisbet, Chris Mooney, and Sheril Kirshenbaum fit into this pattern?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Hell yes, I’m pissed. About the thousands of years of wasted time and wasted progress, about the millions dead and billiions who lived in fear of hell, about the AIDS epidemic in Africa being helped along by some medieval twaddler in a pointy hat who’s supposed to be “infallible” — at least when he’s on the clock, that is. Yes, I am angry.

    But I always bear in mind common courtesy, even towards those who do these things; and I remember one of Dad’s favorite aphorisms: “Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell and getting them to look forward to the trip.”

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    There’s a BBC slot on the radio 4 morning program called thought for the Day which has become something of a whipping boy lately on account of the fact that they do not allow atheist or humanist contributors to take part. Now I have had an issue with this for awhile as the slot is often used to draw an ethical or moral point from current news stories. This perpetuates the assumption that only faith perspectives can have a moral view, whereas I believe religion has little to offer morally. Now, another radio 4 flagship program is Feedback (note: video stream link) where the main contributor in this edition states that the “campaign” to have non faith based contributors is “orchestrated” by a few “angry” atheists. I intend to write to feedback before the next edition, just to join the choir if not the orchestra.

  • Alex, FCD

    After all, with campaigns, fundraising endeavours, a ‘High Priest’ in the form of Richard Dawkins and now holiday camps for children…

    None of these are activities exclusive to religions, except for having High Priests, which we don’t. He wrote a book, for Darwin’s sake, we didn’t elect him president of Freethoughtia (although, come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea). The criticism seems to be that many of us read and enjoyed the same book. I declare that henceforth all atheists are to have non-overlapping reading lists. Dibs on being the one who likes Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia.

    This new phenomena is puzzling…

    No, either this new phenomenon is puzzling, or these new phenomena are puzzling. Honestly, you’re paid to write, have some pride. [/pedantry]

  • http://camelswithhammers.com/2009/07/26/on-the-alleged-intolerance-of-the-new-atheists-towards-ofaitheists/ Daniel Fincke

    The religion concern trolls must, as you say, “miss the point” because they cannot consciously confront it and still have any legs to stand on in trying to silence and block atheist attempts to organize. Consciously they may not be getting it but implicitly they are precisely avoiding confronting the real point and will blithely miss it repeatedly and in whatever new ways are necessary to preserve religion’s hegemony.

    They know that billions are lured to religion against their reason out of need for ethical community, rituals, meditation, and other goods that they put above their concern for truth. It only makes sense that atheists finally realize the imperative to meet these other psychological needs for people to keep them away from the peddlers of superstition for getting them. And these concern trolls are deeply invested in not realizing that if people can be swayed that they do not need religious institutions for moral, social, and “spiritual” goods then they just might be able to chuck the superstitions that they now think are part of those other bargains.

    They also cannot comprehend the notion that pro-atheism is distinct from anti-theism. They feel inherently threatened by organized atheism because what unites us most essentially AS atheists is our very opposition to their theism. In this way, we strike them entirely as a negative, a threat, and an anti- to them. Any of our efforts to do something constructive and alternative to them sounds to them like just a ramped up opposition to them.

    While the unity of atheists is predicated on the common philosophical rejection of theism, we can organize a sense of identity that has productive, constructive possibilities far beyond our reference to opposing theists. But since in their minds this is all about THEM and we’re just a fly in their ointment, they cannot conceive that we could have goals of doing anything community building of our own. To recognize this would be to see the falsehood of their dogma that people NEED religion and take one of their reasons for insisting on irrational beliefs away.

    Finally, since they are admittedly arguing for faith against strict rationalism, they lose the philosophical arguments on the merits in a matter of seconds and so their only remaining strategies are ad hominem—first that we are militant and now that we’re misguided for trying to muscle in on religion’s turf of addressing people holistically.

    If we can stay true to being a force for wedding holistic community with explicit focus on training people in skepticism, rationalism, and anti-dogmatism, then we strike a major blow against their alleged raison d’etre for billions who rationally know better but cling to irrationalism for other life-needs.

  • http://www.ahsstudents.org.uk AlexAHS

    This is becoming more and more common and most worringly it comes from a lot of people who profess atheism themselves. The beauty of the ‘movement’ we’re seeing now is that it isn’t homogenous, but it really does irk me when people who are purportedly on your side as just as virulently opposed to geting ourselves out there and demanding secularism as the most religious. Case in point is the editor of UK newspaper The Guardian’s ‘Comment Is Free: Belief’ section, Andrew Brown. Although an atheist himself he finds it hard to publish an article that doesn’t take a stab at the ‘new atheists’ or Prof Dawkins, and has turned down a number of contributions from high-profile atheists and Humanists because they already had an atheist article that week. It needn’t be pointed out that there are dozens of articles written by religious people every week – balanced it is not.

    I’m hoping we get through this “I’m an atheist, but” phase soon but you only need to take a look at other movements to see how badly these things can turn out; I’m willing to bet there are at least twice as many “I believe in gender equality but I’m not a feminist” as there are actual feminists.

  • Eric

    Atheists should organize. We should seek to become the majority, and while we are still a minority we should seek to gain influence beyond our numbers. We should have onganizations like The Family, a Christian fundmentalist rebel cell documenteted by Jeffrey Sharlett. Our government-influencing cells will be more secure.

    God-believers are mentally deficient. God-belief is a defect of the epestemic faculties of the mind as surely as depression and mania are defects of the emotional faculties of the mind. People who believe in magic men in the sky are unfit to rule and should be deposed. We must seek the numbers and power to brng this about.

    We must remember that our opponets have on sense of right and wrong as we do. They believe nothing is wrong unless a magic sky-man says so, and that everything can be right if they can can convince themselves their magic sky-person wants them to do so.

    They will never respect us until we have the power to force them to do so.

  • Kallan.G

    What Taylor doesn’t grasp or, more likely, wants to obfuscate is that these ads are meant to encourage people who are already atheists to come out of the closet and organize, by letting them know that they’re not alone.

    A point that’s too often ignored. I can’t describe how electrifying an experience it was hearing about the atheist bus campaign the day after it had been launched and finding they’d already passed their target. That’s actually I’d say a bigger point than just that it’s okay to be open about atheism; it says that in a very real way we, as a community, are out there and can flex our muscles and be heard! Call me idealistic, but that just may be our Rosa Parks moment if we can keep the momentum up.

  • Demonhype

    Thank you for putting a proper name on what my mom keeps trying to do. She doesn’t like my atheism, and after ten years of trying to get me to admit it was just a phase and that I actually love Jesus, she’s given up the overt campaign. Now it’s this passive aggressive shit that sounds a lot like what you describe as “concern trolling”. Some of it is harmless, like “don’t say ‘Jesus Christ!’ when you’re frustrated, atheists don’t say that because they dont’ believe in HIM”. As if she’s intimately acquainted with what atheists are, pfft.

    But today, as with many other days, she took exception to my use of “we” and “us” to refer to the atheist community, claiming that since believers congregate, we’re the same. And she’s superior to both us and the religious fundies because she doesn’t join groups (o yes? what about my lifetime going to–or rather, being forced against my will to go to–Catholic church, Catholic school, Catholic neighborhood events?) She dropped that crap with the priest scandals and has engaged her own personal revisionist history wherein she has never “belonged” to any ideological group of any kind, nor congregated with others who shared her ideas.

    I digress, big time. She’s infuriating. I told her that atheists do not have any holy rulers or rulebooks to be “fundementalist” about, I told her about how leading atheists is said to be like herding cats, I told her that the main reason atheists are grouping at all is because the religous have flooded the market unchallenged and that’s threatening our civil rights, I told her that only the visibility of atheists can combat the lies told from pulpits about how we are all rape-tacular murderers, and told her how her believer status alone gives her a privileged status over an atheist in our society but that her technically Christian status gives her a huge and overprivileged status that was achieved by the “not True Xians” who have congregated and both taken advantage of and perpetrated an ever-increasing lack of visibility for the opposition.

    But no, we’re just as religious as the religious types, we’re all shit because sometimes we like to keep company with others of like mind. And never mind that for atheists this means more, since for atheists this means both survival (visibility of atheism is ruining all the godbots dreams, I think, it was easier to lie about us when we were unseen) and the ability to be ourselves and not have to guard our speech for fear of being fired, evicted, or expelled if anyone finds out what we are. Something believers never have to worry about. (well, maybe getting fired, but the only possibility is if you’re harrassing a co-worker and your company cares enough about what’s fair and less about public opinion)

    She’s worse with atheists though. With fundie nuts, it’s “whatcha gonna do?” but with us it’s “well, when you get fired and blackballed so you can’t get another job or your kids get expelled from school under suspiciously orchestrated circumstances, or when your landlord changes your locks, I guess you have to pay for your beliefs.” And she says this whenever there are laws brought up for vote that would give the believers those kinds of rights. She tends to be okay, because “you should be willing to suffer for your beliefs”. Um, that’s happened already–do you read history?–and that’s why our founding fathers established a seperation of church and state. And with fundies, she doesn’t take too much exception when they use pronouns like “we” when they talk about their dominionist movements, much less when they gather in their heavy amount of cult-like congregation, but let a single atheist refer to the atheist visibility movement as “we” and all hell breaks loose with her. Yes, she uses the “you’re no better than they are”, but when they do it she hardly notices. It’s like they say the keyword “Jebus” and something snaps in the xian brain that disables their ability to criticize any pro-jebus efforts. And then someone else uses the keyword “atheist” and something snaps the other direction, forcing the xian mind to criticize even the tiniest and most meaningless aspects of non-belief.

    I can’t help but read her attitude as being passive-aggressive support for the fruitcakes, that secretly she supports their actions and secretly hopes they will be successful and force people like me to learn the errors of their ways or lose their jobs and homes, but she’s vaguely aware that it’s not generally acceptable in polite society to openly support such fascist insanity. Sort of a good cop/bad cop, hand-washing, laissez-faire support.

    Sorry if this is a bit convoluted or disorganized. It looks okay to me right now, but I have this vague idea that it’s, well, convoluted or disorganized. Because I’m in one of those vaguely-aware-that-I’m-tired states. But post I shall, because I said my piece and dammit I spent a half-hour writing it! :)

  • other scott

    @ Demonhype

    Not to be insulting your mother or anything, but the problems you seem to be having with her make my love my parents even more.
    Both of my parents are athiests, though my father was a forced catholic until he was 15. Both of them get angry whenever they see a child on t.v. who is talking like a fundamental christian, they agree with me that this is a form of child abuse. Even my grandparents are athiests which I really find fascinating. At my grandmothers funeral we had them cover up all of the crosses in the funeral hall and the celeberant didn’t mention god.
    If by some strange stroke of irony there does happen to be a god and that because we are human beings we just compeltely fucked up our worship of him due to a millenium long game of religious chinese whispers, at least I’ll be happy burning in hell with the rest of my family.

  • bassmanpete

    @Demonhype: It may have been a bit convoluted and disorganised but I understood it and there are many people a lot smarter than I that read this blog so you shouldn’t have a problem.

    @other scott: If you’re going to be an atheist please spell it correctly. Whenever I see ‘athiest’ I immediately think it’s a religionut writing. [pedant mode off] However I agree with your last paragraph. I know it’s been said many times before, but any god who would come up with the idea of eternal damnation isn’t worth worshiping; only a human mind could think of something so cruel.

  • other scott

    @bassmanpete

    Apologies my friend, I must be overly tired.

  • Serenegoose

    Yeah, the daily mail runs that kind of article regularly, as well as other, far, far more hysterical news stories that pick on any minority that they can find, as their target audience is straight, white, tory, and middle class. It is after all, the daily mail which brought us the unforgettable headline ‘Abortion hope after gay gene find’ back in 1993.

  • Scotlyn

    Demonhype – Your mum will have no hope if/when you have children (so take heart)… I collected my 13-year-old son from the airport lately, after he had spent a few weeks with his missionary grandparents. I had been mildly, though not really, a bit worried that he would be approached at some stage with the requisite “time-share sales pitch”.* So I asked if he’d had any interesting conversations with his grandparents – as he answered me he suddenly said – “do Grammie and Grampie know that (older brother) and I are atheists?” And then he said – “I don’t mind if people talk to me about religion, though – it’s always interesting to see how people’s minds work…” If the concern trolls are worried now, just wait til the next generation gets its thoughts out in public!

    *I once accepted free tickets to something or other, in exchange for listening to a time-share salesman for an hour. I didn’t buy, but had to forgo all decency and manners and eventually turn into a really rude bitch in order to do so. Ever since then, questions like “how’s your walk with Jesus,” and their ilk – which, in my family, can be the price of spending quality time with them, make me feel exactly as I did on that occasion.

  • Ritchie

    I have to echo Demonhype’s comment and say thanks for giving a name to this.

    Pretty much the same phenomenon hits the headlines whenever gay prides come around – “Yes, we accept these people EXIST, so why do they have to ANNOUNCE it?! Can’t they just stay quiet about it? They’re just shoving it down our throats!!”

    And then there’s the classic: “It’s these militant extremists who insist on shouting it all over the place who give the decent, respectable, quiet ones a bad name!”

    The moral apparently being ‘It’s okay to HAVE an opinion that differs from that of the status quo, but for goodness’ sake don’t make a scene about it.’

    *barf*

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    I understand the religious people who ask atheists to tone down our rhetoric. Atheism baffles and threatens them. The atheists who take others to task for speaking out in whatever ways they choose to do so, however, are the ones who annoy me. The struggle is large enough, and it’s going to take long enough, for people to engage wide range tactics and strategies. We should respect each others’ choices and encourage each other instead of sniping at each other.

  • Virginia

    The culture in the world has been respectful to theist and religion by default, and of course atheist are somewhat being wrongly associated with tyrrants like Stalin, Polpot and Hitler, which makes coming out more tricky.
    People don’t like religious fundamentalists (e.g. Christian Fundamentalists), but because a significant number of others are still quite personable, it makes us looks as though we are board brushing the “in general good religion”.
    Somehow our strategy must consider how people perceive us.

  • Alex Weaver

    An example I’ve always found useful in illustrating the point: a concern troll is a person who shows up uninvited to do what the character with glasses is doing here.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    I’ve just seen a news artical on the BBC about the growth of Skateboard evangelism in the US where christians are targeting young skaters to teach them bible study in a “fun” environment. Even here in the relatively secular UK this bit of insidious brainwashing is being presented as an essentially good thing, a “feelgood” story. However last week when they were reporting on the Atheist Summer Camp opening in the U.K the first response of the media was to seek religious spokespersons to ridicule and criticise.

  • keddaw

    Angry…

    I am equally a non-believer in astrology as I am religion and would gladly sign a petition to have horoscopes removed from anything claiming to be a newaspaper. But am I angry at astrology? No, bemused and incredulous perha[s but not angry.

    However, should the country start banning people from top jobs if they are Libra or placing Gemini into forced labour camps THEN I would be angry at astrology.

    When my rights are impinged by anything I am angry but especially so when there is no rhyme nor reason for it i.e. religion.

    So if you want atheists to stop being angry then stop doing stuff because of your religion that angers people.

    P.S. If you want to know if what you propose is wrong, try swapping God for Ganesh or Allah and see if it upsets you.

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Eric: That’s a mighty broad brush you’ve got there. A spooky one, too.

    People who believe in magic men in the sky are unfit to rule and should be deposed. We must seek the numbers and power to brng this about.

    Really? You’re essentially talking about disenfranchising a lot of people (now) and, if in the future we do form a majority you’re talking about disenfranchising a minority. Free speech (and free thought) is a two-way street.

    They will never respect us until we have the power to force them to do so.

    And when “they” try to do it to us, does that make you respect them? Then why would it be true if the players exchanged seats?

  • LindaJoy

    I guess I could be considered an atheist troll because I had the honor of getting kicked off of talk2action.org by Fred Clarkson after being inadvertantly drawn into a theological conversation with a christian. Of course, the guy I was arguing with was fine with our discussion, but Fred would have none of it. Also, the christian guy did not get kicked off. I emailed Fred about it and he was really pissed at me for making the remark that the fundamentalists actually have the truer view of the biblical texts, and that liberal christians would never be able to argue against the fundies as long as they also call that book the “word of God”. The war within christianity is a true mine field.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Ebon,

    Concern trolling is defined as masquerading as an ally or a friend in order to offer your enemies “helpful advice” that, if taken, would hurt and undermine them.

    Sure, it seems like Taylor did miss the point of the bus signs, but advice constitutes telling somebody what they should do. What “helpful advice” did Brennan and Taylor offer that, if followed, would undermine atheists? If none, does your definition need emendations? Or your conclusion?

    Virginia,

    Somehow our strategy must consider how people perceive us.

    Good words. When it comes to social change – well, democratic social change, at least – all strategy must consider the public’s perception.

    Modusoperandi,

    Eric: That’s a mighty broad brush you’ve got there. A spooky one, too.

    I felt exactly the same way.

    LindaJoy,

    Not saying you have, but don’t let simple minds discourage you. It’s a common error to conflate persistence and dissent with trolling.

  • StaceyJW

    Eric-
    I do agree that people that believe in sky gods have no business being in charge of anything more vital than a TV remote. Its the irrationality that bothers me. However, if they can keep their beliefs totally seperate from their job, I’m ok with it (some can do this,really).

    Modusoperandi-
    We don’t like that prayers shoved down our throats, but you have to admit that those beliefs get respect. Isnt a major complaint of atheists that religion is protected by a thick wall of respect that it doesn’t deserve? How do you think it got that way?Not by fgentle conversation or rational discource.

    BTW-
    I don’t think forcing people is in our best interest- its not needed and has many negatives that are opposite most atheist/ humanist ethics.Use of force makes more sense when used to back up a belief that is against tolerance (ie islam) Forcing people to be free thinkers is just wrong in so many ways!

    As for concern trolls, I to am glad that this has a name. My husband is so bad about this- he thinks labeling yourself (atheist or anything) is juvinile and arguing over religion pointless.He didn’t get the need for community, and didn’t realize that only those who stand up get counted. I also hear this “concern” all time- mostly from friends that are “spiritual” (woo-woo type). They are always saying how atheists are negative because we unite against, not for, something. And that we are just like the religious people- as if caring about truth, wanting like minded friends and respect in society is unique toi theists.

    Thanks for making that point, as I have to refute this nonsense, frequently.

    Staceyjw

  • http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    StaceyJW “We don’t like that prayers shoved down our throats, but you have to admit that those beliefs get respect.”
    That’s one of the joys of being the popular majority. I mean, even unpopular minorities like Muslims and Mormons believe in something*.

    “Isnt a major complaint of atheists that religion is protected by a thick wall of respect that it doesn’t deserve?”
    The wall is actually pretty thin. That’s why “they” tend to be so sensitive about it.

    “How do you think it got that way?”
    Thousands of years of their way being the only way (with heretics conveniently excised), with force of Law, support of the State, and control of education, social programs and exclusive access to the afterlife. I’m pretty sure that most, if not all of them, practiced the last one without a licence.

    “Not by fgentle conversation or rational discource.”
    Luckily, “we” (with exceptions) know a better way, which is probably for the best as I bruise easily. Talking doesn’t always work, unfortunately, but until I get my Mass Hypnosis Machine working, it’s the best we’ve got. The Machine is pretty cool, though. You should come visit me on Skull Island and see it. Be sure to call first. My minions are kind of twitchy.

    *I kid! I does!

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Use of force makes more sense when used to back up a belief that is against tolerance (ie islam) Forcing people to be free thinkers is just wrong in so many ways!

    The use of force in propogating an idea is a tacit admission of that idea’s bankruptcy. Note in this instance “force” also can mean the laws of a land.

  • Penguib_Factory

    All this “angry atheists” stuff really gets to me. Polite bus ads and children’s summer camps- can’t you just feel the rage?

    Give me a break. Even Christopher Hitchens- one of the few prominent atheists who really seem to fit the description- is far, far more laid back than the likes of Ted Haggert or the sort of raving fanatics that seem to be endemic in Muslim areas.

  • DamienSansBlog

    I have to agree with the first commenter. “The Daily Mail” is not exactly a source for fair and balanced news. It’s a conservative-biased tabloid, one step this side of “The Sun” or “The Weekly World News”. Everything is prefaced by “should we be worried?”; it’s how they sell papers.

  • Scotlyn

    Modusoperandi

    The Machine is pretty cool, though. You should come visit me on Skull Island and see it. Be sure to call first. My minions are kind of twitchy.

    MO, you never should have stopped feeding them those cookies you used to bake…

  • Eric

    Modusoperandi: How can you be so naive? Theists are the ENEMY, we should never forget that. They do not believe in right and wrong as you and I do. They believe that only a magic man in the sky who can kick our asses (even if only in the afterlife) can make things right or wrong. Theists will lie, cheat, steal, rape, and kill to further their ends. They will never respect us until we have the power to inflict real harm to them that scares them more than the thereats of their imaginary god.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Eric, you couldn’t be more wrong. Theists, as a category, are not the enemy. Our enemies are people who use faith to justify anti-intellectualism or violence, or who try to impose rules derived from their religious beliefs on people who don’t share those beliefs. Your overbroad generalizations are insulting and inaccurate, and the last sentence of your comment implies that we should make it our goal to take power over others by force, which is an abhorrent idea and thoroughly immoral as well. Our weapons in this battle are reason and persuasion, not coercion.

    I don’t deny that there are legions of militant fundamentalists who want to impose their way through force. I also don’t deny that these people are disturbingly numerous, perhaps far more so than most commentators would like to believe. But the majority of religious believers, however fiercely we may disagree with them, are normal, decent people and don’t deserve to be lumped in with the fanatics. Save your anger for the appropriate targets.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Eric wrote:

    Modusoperandi: How can you be so naive?

    And how can you derive naiveté from MO’s statement? Non sequiturs are useful, I suppose, but only for entertainment purposes.

    Theists will lie, cheat, steal, rape, and kill to further their ends.

    Really? My best friend of 15 years is a born-again Christian who doesn’t shy away from my hard questions, and eschews anger in replying. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, and his only “ends” are to find peace in his heart and to provide a loving home for his family, not in that order. But you may be right, he might be a member of the conspiracy. I just haven’t seen his decoder ring yet.

    They will never respect us until we have the power to inflict real harm to them that scares them more than the thereats of their imaginary god.

    Respect can never be earned with force. It seems you are confusing respect with fear. In matters religious, the only things force can change are cemetary listings.

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  • Caiphen

    Guys

    You have me on board. Your argument is the most impressive I’ve ever come across. Our differences are now only slight.

    I too am sick of religion and believe in rationality. We need to unite and leave superstition behind.

    Please remember, for our ‘revolution’ to be viewed as beneficial to humanity in the history books of the future, it needs to be compassionate and caring. If not, we might as well not bother.

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  • thedragoness

    Here’s a thought. A theist goes and advocates a strong militant anti religion stance. Far and above taking the gloves off against religion, they claim there should be laws passed opposing worship, removal of religious imagery, taking babies away from religious parents. And they advocate this in the hopes that atheism is seen as this and thus looks bad.

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