Have You Ever Received an Atheism-Related Death Threat?

It’s ironic that during “Rationalist Week ’09″ sponsored by the Leeds University Atheist Society (in the United Kingdom), a student in the group received a death threat.

It is said the student, who wished to remain anonymous, was threatened while patrolling outside the festival tent at night. The victim in question has decided not to go to the police, but police in Leeds are now investigating vandalism that also occurred during the event.

This is the second death threat received by the society, the last one being made by university’s Muslim society member’s state. They believe that this most recent threat may have also been made by the same people.

Even more ironic is that the threat (and an act of vandalism) occurred on the same day the Southampton University Atheist Society found out they were allowed to hold a debate on the “limits of free speech.”

What is the motive behind the threats? One theory is the atheists were trying to stir up religious hatred… I’ve never known a student group to do such a thing. Another theory is that the students wanted to “debate the validity of Islam.” Since when is that off-limits? That’s precisely the type of discussion you want to see happening at the university level. It’s outrageous the lengths some religious people will go to to protect their sacred cows.

Have you ever received a death threat that was related to your atheism?

How did you handle it?

It’s happened to me once (only once, I should say), via email. The sender was anonymous and the note was vague. I just deleted it.

I also once wrote a posting about a younger atheist — a commenter issued a threat against her. I sent that commenter’s name/email/IP address to the young atheist’s parents. They forwarded it to police and kept the girl home from school the following day. Nothing ever became of that threat as far as I know.

Still, nothing in person, and nothing I’ve deemed too serious.

I’m sure if I’m getting that few, some of you are getting far more…

(Thanks to Chloë for the link!)

  • Tony

    Sorry about that death threat Hemant. I’d just burned my toast and was furious and had to vent… And it was regular toast burning. No image of Christ or the Virgin Mother or anything…. Just a waste of bread.

  • Joel

    Nope, I’ve just been threatened with the usual eternal damnation tripe. Of course, I seldom make a public spectacle of my non-belief. I can’t imagine ever making a threat on anyone else’s life over a difference of opinion.

    This, however, is yet another reason why religion sucks. While there may be some religionists who are non-agressive and mind their own business, for many, religion is simply a tool used to justify their own bigotry and silence all dissent, through forceful means if necessary.

  • http://rblogs.co.cc Ruturaj

    Not till now but I m surely gonna recieve it as I am working hard on spread of atheism and am showing invalidity of religion & GOD when doing this on my website [link]rblogs.co.cc[/link]

  • http://blaghag.blogspot.com/ Jennifurret

    No death threats, just the usual “You’re going to hell” stuff shouted at me. Our club actually has received very few hateful emails, my favorite one calling us a “giant circle jerk.” Woo.

  • Tony

    I have had the “I will pray for you” business of course. Which could be construed as a death threat considering that intercessory prayer makes you worse.

  • Brian E

    That is very strange, and more than a bit paradoxical. I think my response would have to be ‘If Jesus wanted me dead, why hasn’t he taken care of it already? Why would he send you and not just give me a heart attack?’

  • Larry Huffman

    Well…in a way.

    I was debating on a live atheist chat forum with a very whacky fundamentalist woman…with maybe a dozen people also in the room watching or commenting. I was pressing her to explain something she had said, or provide support for a statement when she abruptly said: “I wish atheists would all just die.” It was so random, but I asked “so you want me to die?” and her reply was “Yes, you and everyone like you.” I was intrigued so I asked how this death should take place and she said “God or his appointed”. I asked who the appointed would be and she said “Me or someone like me.” To which I summarized…”So you wish god would use you as a tool to kill all atheists?” and she never replied to that.

    So not really a direct threat…and given the whacko ramblings she had been putting forth and always seemed to put forth, it was more comical than anything else…certainly not scary as an individual incident. However…it is scary to think that people like her can let their religion get such control that they even want or wish for these kinds of things. Fortunately I did not live anywhere near her Alabama trailor park (not kidding).

    (To illustrate her form of whackiness…she had photoshopped marriage announcements between her and Jesus. Pictures and all. Quite formal and serious looking just as you may make a real wedding announcement, except for the fact that it was a picture of her sitting with a painting of jesus standing next to her as if being close and intimate…lol…and when asked about them, she defended her actions as being perfectly rational. So…we did not see her as much of a threat other than to herself, though she could give people headaches who debated her)

  • http://twitter.com/almightygod almightygod

    Yes, I have been threatened. A Christian said he would slit my throat. I saved the IM transcript here:

    http://almightygod.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/the-love-of-christ/

  • Ann

    Much like Larry there, I was in a debate in some forum/blog or another where I was going back and forth with a crazy fundie. After repeatedly rebuffing her fallacious arguments, she ended the conversation (was it ever really a conversation?) with threats of looking for me, cutting me up (and other miscellaneous forms of torture), killing me, killing my family, so I and everyone around me could die and burn in hell.

    I often find that those that profess to be the most ‘godly’ christians are the ones that are more likely to profess hate/genocide to atheists or any group that do not conform to their world view. Christian love indeed.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    I’ve never received any in person threats, which would really scare me. I have received a couple threatening emails and plenty that say either that I’m going to hell or that want to “save my soul”.

    It surprises me because I don’t have an atheist blog, so someone has to go from a comment I leave or maybe a twitter post to my blog, get my email address, and then send the message. Why does anyone care enough to go to that effort just to insult or threaten me?

  • Larry Huffman

    Noadi asks:

    Why does anyone care enough to go to that effort just to insult or threaten me?

    While I think there are all kinds of complexities to the answer….the simple answer is: You (we…atheists) threaten something that they have placed at the core of their beliefs and values, and we do so with logic and reason and they know, deep down, theirs is built on faith and assumption and the ramblings of long dead ancients without any kind of view of the future. And, to top that off, the bible’s way of solving any kind of contention was death, killing or enslaving.

  • SarahH

    No death threats, just warnings that I’ll go to hell when I do die. Seeing as most of my family probably think that, I don’t so much mind hearing it from strangers on the internet.

  • Larry Huffman

    Regarding the ‘you are going to hell’ theme that fundamentalists like to lob at atheists…at that same debate forum I mentioned above, we heard all of the time. We found a way to let them know we did not care about their threat.

    You see, we decided if we all were going to hell, we had to get our accomodations straight. A few of us chose houses on the shores of the lake of fire, complete with a dock and a jet-ski (broken of course- it only turns right). Others on the slopes of magma, making for some wonderful ski-in-hell excursions. We laid plans for great after-life parties on the lake. We even had determined that, since it was hell, the only food would be a really bad 3-bean salad and Tuborg beer…but hey, we would make the most of it.

    Childish, I know, but that was the point…the threat of hell was no less childish than our extrapolations on the theme. When a fundamentalist would show up and proclaim we were going to hell, it never had the impact that they hoped because all of the atheists on the board would begin discussing our party plans on the lake of fire. It would agitate them to no end to hear how little their hollow threat affected us. It may seem silly, but it worked much better than simply explaining we did not believe in hell. That did not seem to register for them. Hearing us discuss it in mocking tones got the point across much more effectively.

    (But hey…just hedging here…you are all invited to my lake house on the shores of the lake of fire in 100 years for a big bash. I will bring the 3-bean salad!)

  • Depressed Atheist

    There is an atheist over that the Bill Tammeus blog, KCStar, who loves to quote Hannibal Lector and signs off “Christian brains are delicious.”.

    His name is Igor Dybal.

    Perhaps you all have heard of him

  • SarahH

    (But hey…just hedging here…you are all invited to my lake house on the shores of the lake of fire in 100 years for a big bash. I will bring the 3-bean salad!)

    Ew, I don’t like any beans (except for green beans, unless they’re canned), so that really would be a dish for hell. *shudders* How badly does it hurt if you swim in the lake? Do you lose layers of skin? If so, how fast do they grow back? I really like me some swimming…

  • medussa

    Well, I wasn’t exactly threatened, but I was baited to an extent that I almost started a fight I would have lost.

    I was at an Operation Rescue event (in the 80′s), trying to keep the clinic doors open for women who had appointments. At one point, I was deeply surrounded by angry, very emotional fundamentalists, chanting and speaking in tongues. This one guy started baiting me, which both sides did regularly at these events. I don’t remember how we got there, but I allowed him to engaged me on the subject of unmarried mothers and my own atheism. The guy said something about if my mother had just kept her unmarried atheist legs shut, they wouldn’t have to worry about the likes of me.

    Now it’s one of those truths that while it’s ok for ME to dump on my mother, it is not ok for anyone else to do so. And this comment came from nowhere, and was so disrespectful and vulgar, that my fist was on its way to his face before I even realized it. I should add at this point that I have never hit anyone in anger, ever. Luckily for me, a good friend had just fought his way to me, and managed to deflect my fist, so I missed the a.h.’s face. As it was, the good christians were ready to lynch me and I barely got out of there.

    I do consider this to have been a very threatening situation, but it’s not exactly like a death threat…

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Vic

    Sometimes the “threats” are so vague and poorly worded that you have no idea if it’s a threat or not. There was a poster on one forum I was on that kept saying things like “you’re going to pay”, “your death will come soon enough”, etc. When I asked him if he was threatening us he seemed confused and had no idea that statements like that could be interpreted as a threat. I’m still not sure what to make of anything a Christian says. Crazy, ignorant, or lying, I cannot wrap my head around anything they say.

  • Todd

    There is an atheist over that the Bill Tammeus blog, KCStar, who loves to quote Hannibal Lector and signs off “Christian brains are delicious.”.

    His name is Igor Dybal.

    Perhaps you all have heard of him

    Perhaps you’re not an atheist.

  • http://undergroundunbeliever.blogspot.com Anna Lemma

    About 10 years ago, I was working for a government contractor, a very small field office for a fairly large corporation. A co-worker who was a very laid-back evangelical Christian and myself would have a lot of fun debating religion. We did not know that this was extremely disturbing to another co-worker. This co-worker went to a very strange fundamentalist church which seemed to be linked to the militia movement popular at that time. Let’s call him Mr. Militia

    One day we were debating whether or not it was okay for lesbians to be together. My evangelical co-worker said that he thought lesbians were cool. I said that I thought the bible was only concerned with guy-on-guy, not girl-on-girl. My evangelical friend agreed. The next thing we knew, Mr. Militia started screaming that we were all going to hell and he stormed out to our laughter.

    The next day several of us were discussing something work related and were interrupted by Mr. Militia. He came right up to me and told me that atheists like me deserved to be lined up and shot and he would be happy to do it.

    After staring at him blankly for a couple of seconds, I smiled coldly and replied in my best Southern drawl “Well, my Daddy taught me to shoot when I was 5 and I’d really like for you to show up on my front porch.” My co-workers were standing behind Mr. Militia and were signaling like mad for me to not take the conversation there. But I had judged the situation correctly, Mr. Militia was a coward with a big mouth. He backed down.

    Our site manager heard about the confrontation and wanted to fire Mr. Militia for this and other reasons. I asked him it we could transfer him instead, I did not want an unemployed Mr. Militia thinking his unemployment was due to me. I was glad when he was transferred. It was very scary.

  • gribblethemunchkin

    The situation with the Leeds Muslim students group isn’t entirely surprising. Bradford (where i lived for 6 years) and Leeds have large muslim populations and organised muslim groups. There has been a tendency for muslim groups on campus in universities and colleges to be dominated by the more radical end of the muslim population. Read Ed Husains The Islamist for an excellent case. Ed was once a member of Hizb Ut Tair (spelling?)a group banned in most muslim countries for causing political trouble but curiously free to roam in Britain at the time (they’ve been banned here too now). Ed also was a member of his colleges muslim students group which gradually forced out the moderate muslim students in favour of Hizb supporters. They would hold debates and rallies and shout down opposing speakers with threats, lies, propaganda, anything to make those with opposing viewpoints look weak.
    Most of the 7/7 tube bombers were from the Leeds/Bradford area. Its entirely possible the muslim students group at leeds university isn’t a reasonable moderate voice but an angry, political one.

  • Mark Browne

    Not really on topic, but relevant to the original posting…

    I was at Leeds University in the early 80s, and the only religious group that made themselves noticeable were the Christians. However, as gribblethemunchikin says, Leeds and Bradford have large “Muslim communities”, which were the source of the tube bombers. Given that, I suspect that there are a fair number of radical Muslims, and they will feel safe enough on their own turf to make these threats.

    I only hope it goes no further, as I still have friends who live there.

  • http://blog.calumnist.com/ Danny

    I don’t know if this qualifies but my picture from my blog has been reposted to private forums (invite only) and websites associated with a certain cult here in the Philippines. I don’t know if they were able to find my real name and address. All because I had the gall to criticize their cult leader and commented on his blog.

  • CybrgnX

    I’m up front and public with my athiestism and Never been threatened. If they did it in 1st person present I’d laugh in their face, tell them they don’t have the balls and stare them down with an evil grin …. they do not have the courage to do an in you face one on one confontation. Of course everyone I associate with knows I’m crazy as a rabid squirrel so they don’t try silly things like that.

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/traffician traffician

    larry huffman said:

    And, to top that off, the bible’s way of solving any kind of contention was death, killing or enslaving.

    wow… wow that makes so much sense. yeah, you come to expect cruddy behavior from someone who’s parents showed cruddy behavior.

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/traffician traffician

    sarah, and everyone else who’s had grown adults tell you you’re going to hell,

    a back-and-forth i enjoyed on the atheist experience illuminated something for me, when matt asked the theist if he thinks matt’s going to hell. and there seem to be only three logical next steps.

    “no i don’t think you’re going to hell” – well then there’s no problem with me being an atheist so this topic is moot

    the problem arises when the theist is asked her opinion on matt being sent to hell. fortunately most americans’ closest family members don’t think we deserve it.

    “yeah you do deserve to be sent to hell” – great, now i’m talking to someone who thinks i deserve merciless torture. handle this at your own discretion.

    “no you don’t deserve… ” (lightning strikes theist)


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