An Open Letter to Jeremy Stangroom

Dear Mr. Stangroom:

It’s come to my attention that you’ve recently devoted your blog to the purpose of highlighting uncivil statements by the so-called New Atheists. This is a laudable pursuit, as I strongly believe that the world needs to know exactly who these people are and what they stand for. To that end, may I submit some statements from my own blog, Daylight Atheism, for your consideration? After all, if you’re showcasing the viciousness and rudeness of outspoken atheists, I wouldn’t want to be overlooked.

“As you’d expect, most doctors [in Catholic hospitals] suffer agonies of conscience when forbidden to save the life of a dying woman… regardless of the actual outcomes, these accounts show the Catholic hierarchy’s cold, callous attitude. Whether a woman dies is of no importance to them, so long as their dogma is respected, and they’re ready and willing to enforce that on every woman who comes into their power. The most hideous absurdity is that these monsters have the audacity to label themselves ‘pro-life’, when their beliefs have the exact opposite effect in practice.”

“In all these stories, we’re hearing the shrill screams of Christians who’ve discovered that they’re not the only ones allowed to speak in public, and are furious over the perceived loss of that privilege. It doesn’t matter what the actual message atheists are promoting is. No matter how meek, how inoffensive, how conciliatory we make it, its mere existence will draw hatred and fury from religious bigots, because they really want is for us not to exist. Nothing less will satisfy them.”

“It’s no wonder that so many believers react with outrage and try to censor us when atheists unapologetically stand up and proclaim our existence – especially if the message is that the godless can be good people too. As peaceable as that is, from the standpoint of religious culture warriors, it’s the most dangerous message we can possibly convey.”

“Ridicule has its uses: If skillfully deployed in an argument, it can be more persuasive than anything else – nothing gets someone on your side like making them laugh. It helps break down the stifling aura of solemnity and respect that religions have convinced themselves they deserve, and that they use to smother legitimate criticism. And it communicates, more eloquently than any cool and dispassionate argument ever could, that it’s okay not to believe this stuff!”

“The one thing that absolutely terrifies a prejudiced majority is anger, no matter how righteous or how justified, from any oppressed or marginalized group. That’s why any member of such a group who does express anger for any reason whatsoever will immediately be tarred with the standard, well-worn insults used to belittle and dismiss the speaker’s concerns and equate their passion for justice to irrational insanity… The reason why they do this is obvious: because a movement led by its least ambitious, most conciliatory members isn’t going to get anything done. The guardians of tone are really the guardians of popular prejudice, concern-trolling for all they’re worth in an effort to prevent us from making anything more than cosmetic changes. They counsel us to be meek, to be mild, to be small and bland and inoffensive, because that makes it much easier to ignore us altogether.”

Thanks for your consideration! I hope you’ll post about some of these statements, as it would be just awful if I was allowed to get away with saying such things in public.

Adam Lee

UPDATE: I get a response!

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About Adam Lee

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

  • Rick

    Great idea! But why don’t you just leave a comment on one of his posts inviting him to peruse your posts?

    Oh, right, because the pansy turned off comments.

  • Ebonmuse

    Yes, that is quite unfortunate, isn’t it? There are all those lovely examples of atheist incivility that we’d all just love to cite on Jeremy’s blog, but can’t because he turned off comments for some inexplicable reason.

    Well, never fear: he has a contact form. If you come across examples of atheist rudeness that you think Mr. Stangroom would be interested in featuring in his ongoing series, feel free to send them to him.

    And oh, yes: I used that form to send this letter to him, and I got a personal reply. More on that soon!

  • Andrew A.

    I suppose he didn’t want any uncivil comments about his post, huh?

  • Camels With Hammers

    Great idea, and I think this is a particularly superb turn of phrase “The guardians of tone are really the guardians of popular prejudice” which I stuck with me since I first read it (though I had forgotten where I had seen it until now).

    While I see (and have myself defended) the value in some mockery and some justifiably “righteous” anger, and while I wholeheartedly approve of giving people the unvarnished truth about the falseness, moral failures, and illegitimate claims to authority of religions, I do think that we can do all of the above without sinking to the level of acerbic tone that makes us indistinguishable from the Rush Limbaughs of the world.

    The accommodationists all the time inappropriately conflate truth-telling with incivility. But just because they tar us with that false equation, we should not make the opposite error and conflate incivility with truth-telling when it’s not.

    This is not to judge any of your particular remarks above, but just to say we should still take the specks out of our own eyes even though there are giant planks in our enemies eyes.

  • KP

    Awesome. I think the best he’s been able to do is find some people who are unruly in comment threads, but that is such a thin device. Shall we comb the comment threads of any religious right website and cherry-pick the incivility that abounds there, too?

    Lame, Stangroom. Lame.

  • Ebonmuse

    OK, so as promised:

    I used the contact form on Stangroom’s website to send the above post to him as an e-mail. Almost immediately, he sent me the following response, which I quote in its totality:

    Don’t be an idiot.

    Not really sure what he was getting at, I responded as follows:

    Dear Mr. Stangroom:

    I’m afraid I don’t understand your reply. Are you saying my statements aren’t rude enough to meet your blog’s standard for angry, uncivil New Atheists? I take grave offense to that, sir! Clearly, you’re just a traitorous, lily-livered accommodationist lackey who’s too ignorant to recognize pure, high-quality atheist hate when it’s paraded before him!

    Am I getting close to your standard yet? :)

    And all I got in response to that (again, almost instantly) was a very huffy e-mail asking me not to contact him again. I just don’t understand it! I mean, I’m obviously such a terrible person, I’d’ve thought he’d want to feature my letter as a prime example of New Atheist nastiness. I wonder what it is I’m doing to fall short of his lofty standards.

  • Spanish Inquisitor

    A “traitorous, lily-livered accommodationist lackey”?

    Surely, Adam, he didn’t understand the big words. Why don’t you call him a simple half-wit, and leave it at that? He’ll get your drift…eventually.

  • Peter N

    Ooh! Can I play? How’s this for vicious and rude?

    If atheists’ opinions are better, truer, more valuable than religious opinions, it’s not because we’re intrinsically smarter – it’s because we are willing to change our minds when new evidence presents itself. Millions of religious believers’ minds are mired centuries in the past, clinging to beliefs that we now know to be false and moral tenets that we now know to be atrocities. We have every right to feel superior to people who still hold such fossilized opinions.

    – from Daylight Atheism, “Fossilized Opinions”, March 6, 2010.

    You tell ‘em, Ebon!

  • Badger3k

    Ebonmuse@6 – translation (of Stangrooms comment, ETA) “Stangroom took his ball and left”.

    You vicious meanie, you! The nerve of using his contact form to actually contact him. As if he wanted people to write to him. You know those forms are there for decoration. Next thing you know, he’ll either sockpuppet or let comments back but silently ban people.

  • gamba

    Hmm! Same happened recently when one of these Nigerian Televangelist, pastor E.A Adeboye sent on facebook that he is “…30 years as the general overseer of The RCCG…” and want his ‘choir’ members to pray for him.
    I was like -”wow! For 30 years you’ve been defrauding your church members…of their meal ticket taking advantage of their superstition?…some of them can not afford a 3 square meal but will sacrifice a 10 naira offering so can buy a new suit…”

    This did not appear on the comment thread and thought it a network failure. I tried again and i was told i’d been blocked!


  • Jon Jermey

    I like this game! Can I play?

    Dear Jeremy,

    Please include my blog Religious Atrocities on your hate list. I could really use the publicity. The address is

    I hope you can find enough examples of rudeness and intolerance towards religiously-motivated murderers, sadists and bigots on the first page or two but if you need more let me know, and I will be happy to oblige.


    Jon Jermey

  • Mandrellian

    This is a great idea! If all Gnus deluge this clown with similar requests and deluge the net with the responses he, in an act of craven and blatant cowardice, won’t allow on his website, it can only serve to highlight the ridiculousness of his position.

  • Mark V

    His responses to your helpful emails certainly seems to be rather uncivil. Perhaps he should make plans to attend the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona. :)

  • Yahzi

    What Mark said – Stangroom’s response was exactly the sort of uncivility one would assume he was complaining about.

    Apparently there is a severe shortage of irony meters – so many public pundits seem to not have one any more.

  • Danu

    He’s missing the point entirely though. The truth about God’s existence or otherwise is totally independent of the civility or otherwise of anybody.

  • Candice S

    Brilliant !! Can I just say Ebon that a friend suggested your site to me last week and now I read it daily, your writing style is so refreshing ! Pat on the back for you Ebon ! :-) :-)

  • jtradke

    He said “idiot”! I’m offended! I’m offended!

    Huff huff huff

  • jack


    translation (of Stangrooms comment, ETA) “Stangroom took his ball and left”.

    I don’t have much sympathy for Stangroom, but it’s really not fair to bring into this discussion the fact that he has only one testicle.

  • Stephen Tapply

    I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there used to be a link to his contact page on his home page… there isn’t one now.

    Ebon’s link above still works, though ;)

  • John Cortesy

    You made the mistake Ebon of offering him reasoned responses rather than simplistic bumper sticker philosophy. He found that he could not argue with your reason so he asked you not to contact him again. Lets hope that you planted a seed that will grow into full enlightenment.

    John Cortesy

  • Just Al

    Man, how did I not find this blog before now? I must not be checking blogrolls often enough.

    Anyway, my own take on stridency. I’m not sure I was shrill and mean enough – mostly I’m just sarcastic as shit.

  • Ophelia Benson

    I think you’re not qualified, Ebon, but he didn’t like to say so because the qualifications are implicit rather than explicit. He has a very small file of Evil Gnu Atheists: all his examples are people I regularly link to. It would be clever of him to go farther afield, but I don’t suppose he will. I think this is all extremely personal. (No, I don’t know why.)

  • Ebonmuse

    Thanks, Ophelia – that explains a lot. I hadn’t considered the possibility that this all stems from some odd personal vendetta of his, rather than a generalized desire to discomfit Gnu atheists. It’s good to know, though; I’m reassured that his refusal to include me isn’t because my nastiness isn’t up to snuff. :)

  • kennypo65

    What is the deal with tone in the first place? If one posits a ridiculous idea, then one must be prepared to have it called ridiculous. An omnipotent god is a ridiculous idea. If you don’t like my tone, tough shit! If those brain dead scumbags at Westboro Baptist church can picket the funerals of patriotic American soldiers, then I can say whatever I want about their stupid, stupid religious beliefs. Fuck’em, fuck’em with a broomstick. They have no special priviledges, and besides, I WANT to offend them.

    Sorry about that but I am just exercising my first amendment rights.

  • Alex Weaver

    Don’t be an idiot.

    That doesn’t seem very CIVIL, does it?

    [Insert Engineering department rivalry inside-jokery here]

  • heliobates

    I’m reassured that his refusal to include me isn’t because my nastiness isn’t up to snuff. :)

    Once Ophelia Benson starts commenting on your blog you’re running with the big dogs.


  • Joe Geiger

    Ebon, your reply to Stangroom’s first message would make Ignatius C Reilly proud! Very well stated!