My Interview on the Jesse Lee Peterson Show

Earlier today, I was on a radio show hosted by Jesse Lee Peterson, an ultra-right-wing black conservative minister who’s defended slavery and advocated an end to women’s suffrage. We talked about how I became an atheist, my book, and my petition to advance feminism and diversity in the atheist community. You’d better believe it was a lively hour! If you didn’t get the chance to listen live, you can hear an archived version through iTunes here:

or download the podcast from this link. My segment starts around 86 minutes in. My favorite thing is that the episode is titled “Atheist Guest Incites Callers”.

A few of the other high points:

• Privilege in action: “But religious people normally don’t bother atheists… they don’t try to force you to do anything.”

• Since I was invited on the show to talk about my petition, I had expected Peterson to bring it up as a way of arguing that atheists are more prejudiced than churchgoers. Surprisingly, he didn’t try that. Instead, he dismissed or denigrated all reports of sexual harassment in the atheist community, arguing that women must be making these stories up to control men. It seems his worldview is so deeply rooted in misogyny that he refuses to believe sexual harassment can ever be real or legitimate, even when it would be in his interest to do so. He asked, in all apparent seriousness, “Are you attacking the white male?” (Since I happen to be one, that would be silly of me, wouldn’t it?)

• “I’ve never met a feminist who didn’t hate men,” he said. I bet the denizens of the Slymepit would find a lot to talk about with this guy.

• Black atheists got the same treatment: “If they don’t believe in god, it’s impossible for them to tell the truth,” Peterson insisted, so therefore any stories they tell about being disowned by their families or shunned by their communities must also be lies. Again, I’m surprised he didn’t grant the truth of these accounts and then insist that it was deserved.

• And one more bit of friendly advice from Jesse Lee Peterson: “You’re making a horrible mistake by trying to get these feminist women into your group – they’re gonna mess up your organization like never before!” I didn’t say it at the time, but I’ll say it now to all the churches: if you’ve got any women who are too independent or too feminist, send them to us. The atheist community will gladly welcome them.

• The caller who argued that America was founded as a Christian nation, and as proof of this, demanded to know who discovered it. I answered that it was the Native Americans, which apparently baffled him – he kept insisting that it had to be Christopher Columbus, because it said so in a book!

• The other caller who said I was the “best-versed atheist [he'd] ever heard”. Thanks!

Apparently the people who wanted to talk to me were lighting up their telephone switchboard, so I may well be invited back some time in the future to take more calls. I’d be happy to do this again! It was immense fun, and a valuable opportunity to make the case for atheism to an audience that doesn’t usually get to hear anything like it. If you got to listen, how do you think I did?

Weekend Coffee: February 22
Weekend Bonus Music: Hard Believer
Atlas Shrugged: Sixteen Tons
Bangladesh Is Killing Atheists
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.

  • Jack

    Bravo! Superb performance, Adam. How you can keep your composure in the face of such absurd statements and questions is beyond me. You have a real gift for this. Keep it up!

  • Leum

    I loved how Mr. Peterson thought the Native Americans couldn’t have discovered America if they didn’t have a name for it.

  • asonge

    Leum: Yeah, that bit reminded me of the treatise of that famous humanist comedian, Eddie Izzard, in his bit about how world empires and taking other people’s land was done by the clever use of flags. “Don’t have a name for it?” is even worse than “Well, do you have a flag?”

  • Errant Endeavour

    It’s difficult to say that I enjoyed the show, because a lot of the time I was moaning ‘are you fucking kidding me?’ and clutching my head as I thought it actually would explode. But I thoroughly enjoyed hearing your responses. They were well reasoned and well articulated.

  • Charles

    You did a fantastic job while faced with such unreasoning. Very cool headed and in control. I’m very proud of you!

  • Michael

    You put up with this better than I could have, Adam, kudos for that. I found the ignorance appalling, hilarious, yet quite unsurprising. Amazing how much can be achieved by defining terms in ways to fit your views beforehand and practicing continual denialism. I’d be interested to know where Reverend Peterson believes thoughts come from but the answer is probably spelled G-O-D or something related.

  • Mick

    Welcome to the third hour of the show already.
    On a Thursday.
    We just had a Thursday.
    Now we gotta ‘nuther Thursday
    Why is it happening so fast?
    Uh Uh Uh Uh Uh

    And that’s where I switched off.

  • Austin

    “Are you attacking the white male?” (Since I happen to be one, that would be silly of me, wouldn’t it?)

    Well in his defense, he on several occasions attacked the black male, so for him this was a perfectly reasonable question.

  • drax

    Wow! That may be the most painful talk show I’ve ever endured. That actually gets broadcast on the radio? Everything about that show was of poor quality, except Adam’s performance. You’ve heard the phrase,”you have a face for radio”. Well, Jesse Lee Peterson has a voice for silent movies. The show is terrible all the way down to the awful editing of the podcast.