More Filth-Based Initiatives

One of my earliest posts on Daylight Atheism was about the torrent of angry, obscene, hateful messages that inevitably greets any atheist who speaks out in public. We’re seeing this happen again, this time aimed at Blair Scott of American Atheists, who recently appeared on Fox News to discuss that group’s lawsuit against a cross in the 9/11 Memorial Museum. (Appearing on Fox is a surefire way to bring the angry lunatics out from under their rocks.) Here’s a sample:

“i say kill them all and let them see for themselves that there is God” —Paul Altum

“Shoot them. Shoot to kill.” —Bob O’Connell

“Nail them to that cross then display it” —Mike Holeschek

“these people are f’ing scum of the earth. can we start killing them now?” —Michael Perri [Editor's Note: He can gleefully fantasize about committing mass murder, but he won't type the word "fucking"?]

“I love Jesus, and the cross and if you dont, I hope someone rapes you!” —Sindy Clock

Note, I didn’t redact the names. These were Facebook comments, and if anyone is stupid enough to post this kind of filth under their real name, they deserve what they get. As far as I’m concerned, when you start making threats, you forfeit your right to anonymity. You can see these comments and more preserved for posterity, here and here, as well as a third page that preserved a different sampling, although it unfortunately redacted the names of the guilty. (I do have to give credit to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who actually discussed the lawsuit without demagoguing, a rarity among politicians.)

These violent, deranged messages put the lie to the claim that religion is a superior source of morality compared to atheism, much less that it’s the only valid source of morality. What it really is, is a tribal marker – a convenient way of identifying those who belong versus those who are outsiders. And while believers can be very compassionate and generous toward fellow members of the tribe, they’re equally swift to turn aggressive and violent when someone trespasses on one of the tribe’s taboos.

Ths isn’t even a new phenomenon. In the 1870s, the famous biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of natural selection, agreed to answer the challenge of a flat-earther who bet £500 – good money even today and an enormous sum back then – that no one could prove the Earth’s surface was curved. The wager involved hanging markers from two bridges along a canal, each at the same distance above the water, and then sighting through a telescope to prove that one was higher than the other due to the planet’s curvature. The judge declared that Wallace had won the bet, but his victory brought on a flood of death threats and bile from infuriated flat-earthers. As Steve Jones writes:

A hint of their response comes from a letter to his wife: “Madam – If your infernal thief of a husband is brought home some day on a hurdle, with every bone in his head smashed to pulp, you will know the reason.”

Although Wallace’s hate mail was slightly more literate than the drooling maniacs on Facebook, the striking similarity shows that it doesn’t matter what the taboo is, whether it’s the flat Earth or crosses in a 9/11 museum. It only matters that a religious faction holds it to be sacred. Announce yourself in opposition to it, and you can be sure you’ll attract the hate of the mob. The bright side of this ugliness is that, unlike in ages past, there’s a secular community that can point it out and publicize it, which aids our cause by helping to sever the perceived link between religion and morality.

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://toomanytribbles.blogspot.com/ toomanytribbles

    and some are unapologetic, it seems. the final entry in your list of haters, sindy clock, while donning a profile picture of a pious choir girl, has the phrase hopeyougetraped in her facebook url.
    ugh.

  • Jeff

    Although Wallace’s hate mail was slightly more literate than the drooling maniacs on Facebook

    This is a nation of idiot lunatics, and it isn’t going to get better, thanks to the Christian/Republican engineered decimation of our educational system – although, to be fair, even if they were educated (assuming they could be, which is a big leap), they’d still be lunatics.

    This is the reason I don’t argue with them. It makes me feel marginally better to come to atheist and liberal blogs and disparage them among like-minded people – but engage them? I can’t be bothered; it’s an utter waste of time.

    Meanwhile – she actually spells her name “Sindy”?

  • Jeff

    I agree with William Hamby on the Atlanta Examiner.com, the first page to which Adam linked:

    What’s worse, we have to spend hours defending ourselves to the “Good Christians” who would never do that kind of thing, and think we’re awful people for trying to paint Christians with such a broad brush. How dare we call attention to the hateful Christians! How dare we suggest that we’re a hated minority and that Christians are responsible? The gall of it all!

    And the thing is, day in and day out, we see the hate. We get it in our inboxes. We get it on Facebook. We feel the icy stares when we have the temerity to wear an atheist shirt in public. And then we get shouted down when we wonder aloud why all the supposedly “loving Christians” aren’t standing beside us against those who they claim are “Not really True Christians.”

    Well I’m wondering aloud. WHERE ARE YOU? If there are so many good Christians out there who think we atheists are decent people and that we deserve equal treatment under the law, where are you? Why aren’t you helping?

    If there are so many of you who believe in separation of church and state, where are you? Why aren’t you outvoting that tiny little minority of Christians who are misinterpreting God’s word?

    Because in reality, group identification comes first. “Belief” -whatever that means – is incidental.

  • jms

    I clicked on the link of Sindy Clock (hopeyougetraped) and it is a virus link. So beware. I wonder if someone hijack this person’s profile?

  • mikespeir

    As a Christian, I would never have used that kind of language. I would have rested comfortably in the smug confidence that my God was going to do worse than shoot unbelievers one day.

  • Jeff

    I clicked on the link of Sindy Clock (hopeyougetraped) and it is a virus link. So beware. I wonder if someone hijack this person’s profile?

    There’s a Facebook profile with that name and url.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com/ NFQ

    Mind-bogglingly disgusting.

    The thing I can’t wrap my head around is how, in the case of Alfred Russel Wallace, anyone would feel justified in sending hate mail. This kind of stuff is repulsive no matter what, of course, but when it’s a reaction to someone stating an opinion you don’t agree with (or rather, find completely and utterly vile) I can almost (but not quite) empathize. In Wallace’s case he did a public experiment that provided evidence disproving one conclusion and supporting another. How are you going to threaten death for someone who simply interacted with reality? How is anyone capable of insulating their beliefs against evidence that strongly?

    Sigh … people!

  • Jeff

    How are you going to threaten death for someone who simply interacted with reality? How is anyone capable of insulating their beliefs against evidence that strongly?

    That’s precisely the point – he forced them to confront reality. That’s what outraged them, and it’s what outrages fundamentalists today.

  • cag

    mikespeir #5 Why is it that your miserable excuse for a god will do horrible things to unbelievers and yet do nothing to help the starving, ill, or mentally disturbed. What about the amputees. You are so brain washed that the fact that no supernatural beings exist is beyond your capacity to accept. There are thousands of gods that you reject. Why accept one over the others? Two thousand years ago, where the Vatican now stands, people believed in pantheism, some more intensely than your belief in your god. They were as wrong then as you are now. With the exception of Earth, the other planets are named after Roman gods. Why do you reject them and accept the mind fart of some middle east fantasy author?
    Check out this list of gods and explain why you reject all but one.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Methinks you didn’t read mikespeir’s comment carefully enough, cag…

  • Don Mitchell

    I will stand next to you. I am an avid believer who supports complete and true freedom of belief or unbelief. I will stand w/ anyone against bigots. I will not tolerate dogmatic utterances of ignorance masquerading as reason. I love people who are courageous enough to wear flying spaghetti monster T shirts or other wear challenging unreasoned assumptions. Belief should not be comfortable.

    My miserable excuse for a God loves more than judges. I’m not sure that I believe in condemnation except for those who should know better but instead spew hate and exhibit greed. Jesus said to the “believer”, “where were you when I was thirsty, hungry, naked, and outcast? Saying Lord Lord does not suffice.” My God suffers with every abused and neglected human and doubly so when someone who uses His/Her name exacerbates or ignores that need. Belief raises accountability.

    I also agree w/ the comment that group identity—aka, tribalism—is the greater cause of hate rather than belief or lack thereof. Fear of the other causes hurt. Believe enough to risk embracing people who differ: that’s what Jesus did. He spurned the religious in favor of the outcasts: prostitutes, tax collectors, widows, and damaged. He eschewed tribalism and rules about how believers are supposed to behave.

    I will gladly stand with you against hate.

  • mikespeir

    I didn’t take the time to look at them all, cag, but I suspect I’d reject them all, without exception. ;-) BTW, thanks for the link. That’s useful.

  • L.Long

    Its nice to know that the members of the religion of peace and love are clearly stating their peaceful and loving opinions.

  • http://www.soulsprawl.com Matt DeStefano

    This is absolutely disgusting. I was also kind of surprised to hear Jon Stewart asking atheists “why the hell we care” about a cross at the 9/11 memorial. Really?

  • Lance

    Alfred Russel Wallace later considered it to have been more trouble than it was worth. From his Wikipedia entry: “The judge for the wager, the editor of Field magazine, declared Wallace the winner, but Hampden refused to accept the result. He sued Wallace and launched a campaign, which persisted for several years, of writing letters to various publications and to organizations of which Wallace was a member denouncing him as a swindler and a thief. Wallace won multiple libel suits against Hampden, but the resulting litigation cost Wallace more than the amount of the wager and the controversy frustrated him for years.”

  • Entomologista

    If all religious people were like Don in #11, I’d have absolutely no quarrel with any of them.

    Also, imagine if these statements were made by Muslims and directed towards Christians. The magnitude of the pants-shitting would be unprecedented.

  • CCBarber

    I must say that I of course find the response of these particular Christians to be ridiculous and, perhaps, even pathetic. That said, I think the whole thing is simply stupid. I’m an atheist, like many who read this site, and I don’t see the issue of this cross at the WTC memorial. The cross in question is not a Christian symbol, it’s one of the support beams that remained from the collapse of one of the buildings. In many ways it became a symbol of hope for everyone, not just Christians. Some may see it that way, which I think is a shame. I see the value in it from a historical perspective. It’s a historical monument, a memorial.

  • cag

    mikespeir, I believe I owe you an apology. I took you for one of those. I did not read “As a Christian” as being “if I were a christian”. My mistake.

  • Vin720

    You are going to find loons on every side of an issue, including, sad to say, ours. But what of the merit of claim. Isn’t the Memorial privatly owned? I know the original WTC was owned by the Port Authority of NY and NJ, but I know the Memorial isn’t.

  • Lagerbaer

    @Vin720

    “You are going to find loons on every side of an issue”.

    No. Not always. The typical atheist’s response to such death threats is NOT “Oh yeah? Not if I kill you first”, and to be honest, I have not yet encountered, not even in youtube video comment threats, death threats from atheists against Christians.

  • Vin720

    Lagerbaer, no, not death threats, but I’ve read many disparaging remarks here about xtians that have crossed the line on taste.

  • Zietlos

    Vin: Frankly, death-threats on one side, lack of taste on the other, I say I’ll stick on the threatened side, and let those (*section deleted*) be as far removed from my tasteless self as possible.

    Because words, words are words. As our PM showed the states, they can be ignored and save many, many lives. A proof is a proof, and suddenly, lives were saved.

    Still, the blood-cult of the middle-south that selfishly claims the name of the continent for itself goes on killing, and thinking about killing, and talking about killing, and reminescing about killing. The REAL issue is this: I live near the States, and your vocal, VERY vocal religious groups down there, they are all we hear outside the walls. I know 5 things about the states: High crime rate, high kill rate, very religious, Obama is your leader, and you ignore every study that shows how badly you, frankly, suck.

    Remember, I live near the States, I get your news and satire shows. I get about the same amount of news about Cuba, Korea, Russia, Egypt, and frankly, they all seem like, if you’ll pardon the term, goddamn saints by comparison. And Canada, we’re known as your best friend. And all we know about you can be summed up as “BAGH BLOOD BLOOD I NEED TO KILL, TO MAIM, TO RUIN MORE LIVES!!!!”. Just think of the image given off to the rest of the world, that doesn’t know you as well as Canada…

    Religious image and respect is one thing, but Isreal seems more religiously tolerant than the states these days.

  • mikespeir

    Not a problem, cag.

  • Alex Weaver

    Lagerbaer, no, not death threats, but I’ve read many disparaging remarks here about xtians that have crossed the line on taste.

    And a disparaging remark from one of them atheist scum is at LEAST as bad as a death threat from a good wholesome Christian.

  • Scotlyn

    Hey, there are probably hungry kids in *name favourite impoverished country* who’d just love to have a fine “death threat from a good wholesome Christian.” ;)

  • http://betterthanesdras.wordpress.com Abbie

    On a side note, anyone else think that the AA’s lawsuit is incredibly wrongheaded and counter-productive?

    The cross is a historical item, it’s going in a museum among other objects due to its historical significance. That it happens to be a religious symbol doesn’t really matter.

    The unhinged response is amusing, but AA is doing nothing positive here.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    Was the selection of the cross made or endorsed officially by a public figure for the memorial museum? That question mostly determines whether you have an Establishment Clause violation.

    If all that happened here is private individuals donated or selected items to be displayed at the museum, and there was no clear bias for or against any particular group, I don’t see the reason for a lawsuit.

    For the most part, I don’t think those violent threats are credible. Insane, yes. Likely to result in action, no. If you gather too many of these bigots in a room together, though, you may have a problem. Assuming they don’t kill each other first.

  • CCBarber

    @kagerato

    As I briefly touched on in my earlier post, the cross in question is not a religious symbol in any way (though, granted, some may perceive it as one if they so wish), it was merely what remained of a support beam standing after the collapse of one of the buildings. The significance of it is completely historical.

  • Jeff

    My miserable excuse for a God loves more than judges.

    He has an odd way of showing it.

  • Jeff

    He sued Wallace and launched a campaign, which persisted for several years, of writing letters to various publications and to organizations of which Wallace was a member denouncing him as a swindler and a thief.

    Typical addictive behavior – you’re never allowed to make an addictive personality see anything s/he doesn’t want to see. How dare Wallace force him to confront reality!

  • monkeymind

    “Belief should not be comfortable.”

    Love this.

  • Vin720

    Zietlos, you’re messed up!

  • Brett K.

    #16 Entomologista

    Also, imagine if these statements were made by Muslims and directed towards Christians. The magnitude of the pants-shitting would be unprecedented.

    That just made my night. Thanks for that.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    CCBarber

    As I briefly touched on in my earlier post, the cross in question is not a religious symbol in any way (though, granted, some may perceive it as one if they so wish), it was merely what remained of a support beam standing after the collapse of one of the buildings. The significance of it is completely historical.

    Rubbish. There are tons of pieces of wreckage they could use, but they selected a specific piece that looks like a cross because of its resemblance to the religious iconography of Xianity.

  • CCBarber

    @OMGF

    Well the fact of the matter is they didn’t pick any other piece. I don’t see any real religious value in the damned thing, only the historical nature of it. Removing it would be a loss in the regard, period. This isn’t something forcing religion on you any more than St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna (which is also historically significant, and just generally a beautiful building).

    This WTC cross is part of a historical memorial. Much like the many cathedrals throughout Europe, it can be appreciated by someone without them being religious.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    So you are going to persist in being disingenuous? The reason they chose this piece is because it is a Xian iconographic symbol. Your argument is akin to the ridiculous arguments that Xians make to keep the 10 commandments in courthouses for just one example, when they try to claim that it’s secular in nature and historical. It’s a BS argument in that case and it’s equally bad here.

    And, yes, it is forcing religion upon us if the government is endorsing this ridiculous notion that a cross is a good symbol to use for a national monument. Why would you support the “right” of Xians to post their iconography all over everything, thus making your citizenship into a second class status?

  • CCBarber

    The government isn’t endorsing anything. The memorial isn’t government owned and operated. Also, the argument is completely different from the one of the 10 commandments being placed in a courthouse. The issue here is that we have a support beam that happens to be shaped like a cross. Why it was chosen to be recovered is quite possibly because of the shape (which, by definition, cross beams all share that shape). The reasoning for that is not important.

    The fact of the matter is, it was that piece that was recovered and preserved and all that. That’s all. The reasons for it don’t really matter at the end of the day. It’s less like having “the 10 commandments in courthouses” and more like having da Vinci’s The Last Supper in a museum.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    The government isn’t endorsing anything.

    Wrong. By holding up specific religious iconography in a preferred place, they are indeed endorsing that specific religion, unless it is not a public memorial on public grounds.

    The memorial isn’t government owned and operated.

    There seems to be sufficient government entaglement.

    The issue here is that we have a support beam that happens to be shaped like a cross.

    Amongst much other wreckage not shaped like a cross. Why was this particular piece of wreckage singled out except because it resembles Xian iconography. To assert otherwise is to abandon all vestiges of intellectual honesty.

    Why it was chosen to be recovered is quite possibly because of the shape (which, by definition, cross beams all share that shape). The reasoning for that is not important.

    On the contrary, it is very important. If a piece of wreckage shaped like a Muslim crescent moon was recovered, do you think it would be displayed? As it is, the “compromise” so far given by the Xians involved to be more “interfaith” is to include a Jewish star of David and a Jewish shawl. Why no iconography from Islam or any other religion? Why no atheist symbols?

    The fact of the matter is, it was that piece that was recovered and preserved and all that. That’s all.

    I think we both know that that’s simply not the case. Many pieces of wreckage are not being used, but this one that resembles a cross just happens to be used for no reason what-so-ever? I was born at night, but not last night.

    The reasons for it don’t really matter at the end of the day.

    Eff that. My civil liberties and the civil liberties of all the citizens of the US matter a lot and eff you if you think that they are worthy of such a nonchalant dismissal.

    It’s less like having “the 10 commandments in courthouses” and more like having da Vinci’s The Last Supper in a museum.

    Only if you’re going to persist in dishonestly claiming that this one piece of wreckage is being included for no reason at all except that it was found on the scene. How rude of you to think we are so stupid and gullible as to fall for that trash.

  • MrPeach

    @OMGF – Pure projections it is – they are stupid and gullible so assume we are also.

  • della dempsey

    No matter what the beliefs of individuals, I think one who expresses defense has lost the debate already. The ‘us & them’ stance is beiggoted already. Easy to approach it, and leap on it, but it is no solution, just whining.

    I learned a long time ago, that expressions beginning with ‘I’ are much more powerful, for example, ‘I believe that love and atolerance is key’. No one can take away my beliefs, or philosophy of life. Using plain old manners is the high road.
    Using the system, and where necessary, changing the system

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    No matter what the beliefs of individuals, I think one who expresses defense has lost the debate already.

    Tone police much?

    The ‘us & them’ stance is beiggoted already.

    Who is doing that? This is about rights, state involvement in religion, and the ludicrous excuses that people make to perpetuate religious iconography.

    Easy to approach it, and leap on it, but it is no solution, just whining.

    Sorry that speaking up for equal rights and fair treatment from the state now constitutes whining. Would it be better if we all sat down and let the Xian majority walk all over us? Sorry, not gonna happen.