Yep, This Will Make Everything Better…

You know that whole “Don’t Be a Dick” thing?

This is the sort of thing it’s referring to:

Alright, let’s get some things out of the way.

Is American Atheists president Dave Silverman talking about Islam (and not all Muslims)? Yes. Good. That’s where the focus ought to be.

Is it an accurate statement? Where he states facts, yes. Muhammad was indeed married to a nine-year-old girl.

Am I suggesting that Dave should keep his mouth (and typing fingers) shut? Not at all.

But I have a hard time understanding what good comes from posts like this. If I hadn’t heard of American Atheists, then this post doesn’t make me want to become a member. If the post makes people want to join, then I need to rethink my own membership. (I’m sure some atheists just said “Good riddance.”)

I’ll say this carefully because I’m sure a bunch of you will take issue with it: I don’t care if your statement is true. If you come off as a jerk when you say it — and Dave’s message reads like a bully’s taunt on the playground — you’re not winning anyone worthwhile over to your side.

There are ways to tell the truth with tact. You can be incredibly blunt but still get your point across in a meaningful way. Comedians are masters of it. So are certain YouTubers. The same with writers like Hitchens and Dawkins.

I want Dave Silverman to use the “President of American Atheists” title more effectively. I want him to be on TV, explaining why our beliefs make sense and religious beliefs don’t. I’ve seen him do that and he’s great at it.

But I don’t want him to become another Madalyn Murray O’Hair, telling the truth in such an ineffective and off-putting way that he becomes an obstacle in the very movement he’s trying to lead.

There’s a bit by comedian Louis C.K. in which he says the word “Jew” is the “only word that is the polite thing to call a group of people and a slur for the same group” — It’s all in how you say it. Dave’s statement doesn’t sound like a rational person explaining the truth about Islam. It sounds like the rantings of all those Christian Right figureheads we love to denounce. It’s not flattering.

I know Dave personally. I know he’s a good guy. I know he’s just trying to make a point here. But it doesn’t work. In fact, it does more harm than good.

And if you’re cheering him on, I have a hard time understanding the thought process that goes Yeah! Let’s call Islam shitty! That’ll show everyone they’re wrong!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Coconut

    Shouldn’t that be ‘I don’t care if your statement is true if you come off as a jerk when you say it’ or ‘I don’t care if your statement is true — if you come off as a jerk when you say it’. I’m assuming you care about the truth, you just want it to be said as tactfully as possible.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      It works both ways.

      • Cd1809

        Just like the gay community did in the 80ies… We need David to be the”angry atheist”. Remember a few years ago people were outraged when the first “don’t believe in god? You’re not alone” billboards came out and christians had a cow? Then David put up his billboards and christians suddenly thought the first billboards weren’t so bad… That those are the “nice atheists” and David is the bad one. He is a loud mouth, but definitely a good trailblazer.

        • Gus Snarp

          I think the comparison to the gay rights movement fails here. The gay community in the 80s was a hated minority expressing its anger at a privileged majority. When Silverman goes on Fox and calls out Christianity, or religion in general, or when the AA put up a billboard that does so, that’s comparable. But when he makes a statement like that about Islam then it’s a hated minority expressing its anger at another hated minority. That’s what I think is unproductive. We certainly shouldn’t shy away from legitimately criticizing Islam, but I think that works best when our critiques are substantive and specific, rather than simply angry rants. Angry rants can be reasonable when directed at the actions of the privileged majority, or at specific actions or words from a minority group, but when we just rant at another minority group, then we sound more like the Nation of Islam attacking Jews, or attacking MLK. In this country, we as atheists need to fight a Christian majority, or a generally religious majority, for our right to not practice religion or have it forced on us in any way by the state. Muslims in this country are fighting for the same thing, and as far as rights go, we ought to be natural allies. Which makes the sniping highly unproductive. Islam is wrong, like all religions. But Muslims have the same rights that we do, and its not the state’s job to outlaw religion any more than it is to enforce it. Where Islam encroaches on civil society, we must argue against it, where Muslims ask to be left in peace to worship as it pleases (and that is often all it does), we ought to fight for its right to do so.

      • SphericalBunny

        What Coconut said works both ways, what you said didn’t work at all. Here, try this –
        I don’t care what you say. If you come off like you’re abusing grammar when you say it – and Hemant’s statement comes off as suggesting he doesn’t care about truth – you’re not winning anyone worthwhile over to your side.

        Ironic on a post about poor communication, no?

  • skm9

    I love it when Dave says things like that, it makes my proud of my membership in the organization and may well bring in more people like me.  But the main thing, I think is that Dave knows how to get attention and  visibility with short statements.  Then when given a platform to do so, he can expand on his position.

  • Chad

    Not cool. Even a modicum more thought would result in a statement containing the same facts and making essentially the same point without all the sneer. His position must sometimes exhaust him with its demands for tact and patience, but for good reason.

  • Karen Loe

    I couldn’t agree more, Hemant.  I am tired of the rude, angry atheist who gives the rest of us a bad image.

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Never listen to Greydon Square then.

    • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

      Excuse me, my lady. I’ll just be peculiarly courteous with thou and theists while thou thinkst that the vast bulk of theists believing we’ll rot in hell is not rude or.. fucking evil, even.

      Now, I’m not saying that if they are retarded and rude we should be too, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Dave’s status update.

      It came out of nowhere, and I’d like to know if it’s the conclusion of any event or something, but whatever, why not.

    • Luddite

      A bit off topic, but I don’t like the title “president” of American Atheists. It suggests he represents all of us, and he doesn’t.

      • http://profiles.google.com/nathanlee2 nathan lee

        Well, he kind’ve does represent all of us. For the same reason, Tom Cruise represents Scientologists, or the Pope represents all Christians (even those that aren’t Catholic).

        He’s actually pretty good at the role too – far better than you or I would be. heck, his face even became a meme. But Hemant is right – he could do better. Ideally we should be traveling just slightly on this side of the line of offensive, and this time he skipped over that line.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

          Ha, so he IS the “WTF Guy” on ICHC!

    • Bonnie Taylor

      I’m tired of the cowardly, apologist atheists giving the rest of us strong, confrontational atheists a weak image.

      • His Shadow

        You have to pick your battles. There is no point in confrontation for the sake of confrontation. Then you become that jackass that sneers at someone for saying “Merry Christmas”.

        “It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

        If a person or group is trying to force prayer in a public school, or remove evolution from textbooks, it’s something that needs to be confronted. If a handful of religious zealots are trying to change the laws to conform to their bigotry, that’s something that needs to be confronted. But Silverman’s tweet is ignorant and abusive for no real reason. It wouldn’t even have a place if you were arguing with the Taliban. 

        Silverman comes across in the exact same manner as the god botherers on twitter who attack anyone who isn’t perceived as stridently pro-choice, and it will harm the atheist cause.

      • Pseudonym

        Discretion is not cowardly. On the contrary, it’s the better part of valour.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Okafor/1759887752 Anthony Okafor

          Being a pussy isn’t “discretion” It’s called being a pussy….

          • Pseudonym

            If you enjoy consensual antler-butting, I say go for it. Personally, I’d rather be pusillanimous than puerile.

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

              *gigglesnort*

    • Yakamoz

      And who says being rude and angry is a “bad image?”  You? Or the people who propagate the stereotype? 

      Negative stereotypes don’t obligate us to limit our behavior so we never, ever, ever resemble that stereotype.  I have hairy legs. I’m a feminist.  But no, I did not go back in time and start the stereotype, and frankly, I have better things to do than dedicate my life to countering negative stereotypes in the hopes that letting myself be shamed out of doing something will magically make the stereotype go away.

      Like feminism.  I could be doing that, hairy legs and all.

      I am also genderqueer.  There’s a negative stereotype that all feminists are really just women who want to be men.  I guess I should just femme it up, so I don’t give heterosexist feminists “a bad name.”

      Do you see the problem with this reasoning?

    • NorDog

      The fact is, if even a small sample from a minority demographic is known to have a dedication to being dicks in a very public manner to the overwhelming majority of people, then the “atheist movement” will always be seen as whinny angry dorks unable or unwilling to exist in a pluralistic society.

      How’s that working out for you?

      • Yakamoz

        Atheists are maligned not because of what we’ve done, but because of a relentless, thousands-year long propaganda campaign against us from the clerical class.

        In a related story, bitches did not cause the glass ceiling, nor did pride parades inspire people to be disgusted by gay people.  The prejudice causes our rudeness, NOT the other way around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=622166576 Colin Thornton

    He needs John Stewart to shame him again. The first time didn’t do the trick.

    • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

      I like John Stewart a lot, but he was rather retarded with that remark.

    • JesseVigilante

      Jon Stewarts bit on Silverman was repulsive. Stewart has different
      standards of “acceptability” for us atheists than he even has for
      himself. He used his celebrity status to contribute to the bigotry
      against atheists, and the opposition to anti-theist free speech. He
      doesn’t care about us, he cares about what’s popular. Don’t give that
      shitty segment on the daily show support just because it’s “hip” and
      “cool.” It was incorrect, and inaccurate, and if anyone needs to be
      shamed for it, it’s Jon Stewart himself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lane.r.taylor Lane Taylor

    Meh, sometimes rudeness is what gets peoples’ attention.  This thread, for instance.  

    • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

      Just curious, but what’s rude about this thread?

      • Anonymous

        I expect the intended meaning was that this thread is the attention that the post got.

  • Joe

    There are some people who are not moved by a kind and gentle message – I know this to be true because I am one of them.  I prefer messages like Dave’s because a strong  statement shows me that the speaker believes there is something to be excited about.  Without passion and emotion there is little to move me to learn more.  Good for Dave – he’s reaching people that Hemant cannot.  

  • http://twitter.com/Cos2mwiz2 Nina

    I’ve got NO problem with his statement. With Dominionists fighting tooth and nail to take over the gov’t of the US, we no longer have the option to be respectful of blind religious beliefs…of any stripe. Tact be damned. Call a spade, a spade. 

  • Anonymous

    To fanatics, just the idea that I, an atheist, exists, offends them. So, why not give them something to really piss and moan about?

    • Anonymous

      A Muslim could say: “To Christians, just the idea that I, a Muslim, exists, offends them. So, why not give them something to really piss and moan about?”

      I find it odd that one day on this blog we’re complaining about Lowe’s Hardware caving to a fringe christianist group and showing bigotry against Muslims, and the next, we’re throwing around statements like “Islam is a shitty religion”. Islam, like any religion, is whatever the majority of its followers want it to be. There are many shitty things about it, like the way it degrades women and encourages mindless fanaticism. On the other hand there are a great many decent. moderate Muslims who cherry-pick their religion just like Christians do. I want to see these people winning out over the fanatics and I don’t think WTF Guy allying himself with the loonie Christian dominionists will help.

      • Anonymous

        Do they try to win over the fanatics?

      • Gus Snarp

        @HughInAz I generally agree with you, and reading your comment I realized what one of my problems with this statement is. It says “Islam is A shitty religion….”, which implies that maybe there are some religions that aren’t shitty. I think I might have less problem if it said: “Religion is shitty, whether it be Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or Scientology”, or “Religion is shitty, Islam included”.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

          Much of Wicca and Neo-Paganism is far from “shitty”. Yeah, it’s still pretty much woo, especially when you delve into the magickal side of things, but I have yet to hear of a bunch of Wiccans, say, protesting a soldier’s funeral, or go on screaming tirades about the End Times, or Teh Gheyz.

          So, no, not ALL religion is “shitty”.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    But he is telling the truth and why is telling the truth a bad thing?

    This is a huge problem when it comes to the atheist community. A lot of us disagree with each other and that creates huge issues such as this one.

    I agree with Dave and I’m not an angry atheist but I also agree with Hemant about some of his points and that is where we run into this sort of issue.

    A lot of times we are own worst enemy and this story is a perfect example but I do not see us ever coming to a level playing field and that is the part we need to work on.

    South Park ripped us pretty damn good when it comes to being an atheist and sadly, they got it right.

    • William Garvey

      Science damn you!

  • Silo Mowbray

    I do get (and agree) with Hemant’s point. I also agree with Joe’s point above, where he posits that strong language tuned to offend serves a useful purpose.

    But that’s just the thing. Hemant’s style (which is generally mine) appeals to one sort of audience, whereas Dave Silverman’s style appeals to another. And if we’re to attract as many people as possible to open atheism, we need both.

    The trouble is, of course, in targeting. How do you target the “soft touches” with Hemant’s message and the “fed up with Jesus freaks type” with Dave’s message? How do you shield one from the other? Tough one for certain. I’ve done a lot of work in marketing and communications, and I’m not sure what the answer is. “Channels” don’t work on the Internet where the membrane between channels is infinitely permeable.

    • http://www.facebook.com/squeakyreaper Kenneth Armstrong Gould Jr.

      If’ns I recall, American Atheists is supposed to be the “Bad” atheist group, while the American Humanist Association is supposed to be the “Good” atheist group. Neo Atheism vs Secular Humanist.

      • Lurker111

        Like Good Cop/Bad Cop?

        • Pseudonym

          My first thought was that AA is to the Moral Majority as AHA is to World Vision.

          • Brian Macker

            Funny thing is next to know one knows about AHA and World Vision.    Both AA and MM are well known.

            • Pseudonym

              Here in Australia, both AA and MM are unknown, but everyone has heard of World Vision.

              • Brian Macker

                … and what is the population of Australia compared to US?    I still haven’t heard of World Vision and hear we are using its name.  :)

                • Erp

                  google is your friend.  World Vision is a very large international (but founded in the US) evangelical Christian charity.

    • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

      Silo, you just nailed it! 

      I would add only one thing: I suspect that when your message is likely to be viewed by everyone, the best solution is to go with the approach that works for the largest proportion of your viewers.

      • guest

        Which is….what?  If you assert that there is one clear approach proven to work for the largest proportion of potential atheists,  where is the evidence to support that assertion?  Not saying you have asserted that there is one,  but your statement above (and the statements of all those who say “don’t be a jerk” or “being a forthright “jerk” is necessary!”) suggest that there may be a general feeling that there is a majority who prefer one approach over anohter.
        For my own part,  it is obvious to me that there certainly is one majority which prefers the friendly, respectful, submissive atheist approach -  that would be the theist majority.

        • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

          The only way I know to answer your question with any reliability would be to do rigorous market research, including polling and focus groups.  That’s pretty much standard operating procedure.  I don’t know whether any atheist organization has done that, but if none have, then I would question their competence.

      • Yakamoz

        That’s nonsense.  You should go with the approach that works best for the largest proportion of your target audience.  

  • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

    I don’t understand why anyone would expect Silverman’s approach to persuade people to join our side.  I think if that kind of approach really worked, you would see Madison Avenue and the advertising industry adopt the same approach in a heartbeat in order to sell products and make money.  At best, what he’s doing is preaching to the choir.

  • http://youratheistmuse.blogspot.com/ Lina Baker

    I’m an Atheist, and Dave Silverman does NOT speak for me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Francis-Montes-de-Oca/100000177616186 Francis Montes de Oca

    I don’t know about other people but me reading about Madalyn changed me from being an agnostic who was never bothered one bit by following “religious traditions” including saying under God in our pledge, to becoming a woman who would rather think and stand up for herself and (lack of) beliefs, even if people get offended and disagree. She might have been considered the most “hated women in America” but to me that makes her my hero. She stood up and said what needed to be said, and for some people like me, bluntness and a reality check is all one needs to be won over. Political correctness to me, at the time, just felt like there was some secret agenda underneath all the sugary coated words.

    I’ll be honest, I don’t care much for Silverman, but I do think he like many other speakers are effective for creating a spark in people. What may attract one person to the movement can be totally different from the next person. Regardless, to me I didn’t see him as being a jerk, he was just sayin’ it like it is, while also including the fact that it has NOTHING to do with Muslims and everything to do with the Islamic religion. Maybe you’re right Hemant, but it’s hard to see past and not be angry at the evil way Islam treats fellow women, women who aren’t even allowed to be angry for themselves. To me looking at it from that perspective, “shitty religion” is quite an understatement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

    So basically you are saying: islam is a shitty religion, but muslims in general aren’t.. Which is exactly what Dave said, btw.

  • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

    That doesn’t make any sense, was that satire or something?

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    I feel like Dave’s statement is more defensible than Ernest’s because Ernest was obviously just hunkering down and refusing to see that there could be anything wrong with his statement.  Dave at least explicitly acknowledges the muslim/Islam distinction.

    Also, Dave doesn’t use shitty aphorisms. :P

  • Restlessdeviant

    I think it’s a well written statement, & It’s true. I can’t even see anything wrong with saying Islam is a shitty religion…. And also saying they worship a pedophile as morally perfect is not an opinion, it’s a fact, which needs to be brought up as much as possible.

    I get way more tried of Hemant judging other athiests with this righteousness attitude. Have your style… Your way, and others have theirs. To be honest I think his way will win over more people then a pussyfooting around softly softly approach, although of course there is need for all styles.

    The more the boundaries get pushed the smaller the area for the religious to cry offense every opportunity.

    • Erp

      Well not true in that (1) Muhammad is not worshiped by Muslims and (2) I don’t think the evidence supports that he was a pedophile (i.e., sexually attracted to prepubescent children).   The evidence shows that he married exactly one girl and that all the other women he married were considerably older.  Given his power and if he were a pedophile, he could have married many girls.  In addition I think the marriage was highly political.  The girl’s father,  Abu Bakr, was powerful and the marriage connected him closely to Muhammad to the benefit of both (he later succeeded Muhammad as leader of the Muslim community).  After Muhammad’s death he and his daughter had a vested interest in emphasizing the closeness of the marriage (and most of the stories about it are supposedly from the daughter) to support their position especially given that Muhammad had a son-in-law (and through him grandsons) who also had a good claim to become leader.

      It was abuse of a child and wrong, but, I think it was abuse that was accepted at that time as normal (much like slavery) and not a sign of extraordinary depravity of Muhammad.   Islam like Christianity in many of their forms is hurtful to women, to  non-members, to gays/lesbians, etc..; however, I’m sure humanism or other atheistic life stances have faults (what will the judgment 300 years down the line be on us).

      • Cheron22

        Only 300 year from now no one will be saying atheistic stances were inspired by a perfect moral authority above reproach. 
        In today’s world if you worship someone (from whatever period in time) that took a child bride and “knew” her before she was 10 then you are morally inferior to me and I will take every opportunity to say so.

        • Anonymous

          Did you miss the part where he explained that Muslims DO NOT worship Muhammad?  Perhaps it should also be said that we do not know that Muhammad “knew” his child bride.  As Erp pointed out, this was an arranged political marriage, and it is quite possible that Muhammad never laid a hand on the girl.  He was over fifty, a widower once and remarried to another woman already.

          • Cheron22

            Hadith Sahih Bukhari volume 7 book 62
            She was six years old and he consumated the marriage when she was nine.

            It doesnt matter to me if this really happened or not any more then it matters that Abraham was really going to kill his son.  Vast numbers of the people in the pews takes these stories as the truth and find them to be moral.

            I find the idea that most Muslims dont worship Moh to be a pile of crap. They just think him the most perfect example of what a person should be and the final messager of God. Held is just high regard that a simple set of cartoons making fun of him are enough to set embassies ablaze.

            • Pseudonym

              I find the idea that most Muslims dont worship Moh to be a pile of crap.
              They just think him the most perfect example of what a person should be
              and the final messager of God. Held is just high regard that a simple
              set of cartoons making fun of him are enough to set embassies ablaze.

              Ironically, the reason why there’s a taboo against depicting Muhammad is precisely because he’s not worshipped. No “graven images” and all that.

              Not that the people who got angry about it realise this, of course. It’s still pretty messed up.

              • Brian Macker

                If he’s not worshipped then an image wouldn’t be a problem, now would it.  The danger is that he would be worshipped as an image, an that is tantamount to idolatry.

                What’s the difference between praising Mohammad and praising god.  Both are intended to get in good with the diety.

                Worship is the expression of reverence for or showing of adoration for a diety or ancestor.

                Sounds exactly like what they do, but claim not to be doing.

                • Pseudonym

                  I didn’t express myself clearly, but you said it more or less correctly in the first paragraph. If Muslims had allowed images of Muhammad to adorn places of worship, there was a danger that he would have been worshipped.

          • David Fairbanks

            Muslims worship Muhammad.

            The reverence that they feel toward him…
            The insult they feel when he is maligned…

            If that isn’t worship, then the word worship really doesn’t have any meaning.

          • Brian Macker

            They literally worship his every word, his every deed, his every desire, and his every taste.      Mo hates dogs, kites, and dance, so we hate them.  Mo writes a book so we worship what it says.   Mo likes to thigh fuck children then that is the way to go.

            They claim not to worship him but show all the signs of doing so.   Just like they claim not to worship the Kaaba and black rock but show all the signs of doing so.

            They certainly would not accept such excuses from “idolators”.    No amount of arguments that an idol is a representation of the real god and the the actual object of worship would keep their head attached to their neck.

        • Pseudonym

          Only 300 year from now no one will be saying atheistic stances were inspired by a perfect moral authority above reproach.

          People are saying that now, in this very thread. The “moral authority” being invoked is “because it’s true” (even though, as Erp pointed out, it’s not quite true). Admittedly, that’s a more abstract moral authority than a theist would invoke, but it’s an invocation nonetheless.

          The invasion of Iraq was justified by appealing to “democracy” and “freedom”, things which few of us would deny are good things. Good things always make the best excuses for misbehavior.

      • EJC

        Erp said:

        “…It was abuse of a child and wrong, but, I think it was abuse that was accepted at that time as normal (much like slavery) and not a sign of extraordinary depravity of Muhammad…”

        Erp, you needed to stop your statement at the BUT. There is no rationalizing the pedophilic aspect of this. There really is no way to excuse it or make it “lighter than it is.”

        It is akin to “well, the way she dressed…I mean she ASKED for it.”

        FAIL.

        • Brian Macker

          It’s much worse than mere pedophila.   Mohammad was in no way thinking of her best interests.   He was 55 and was about to die of old age in that period, yet he had Allah command than none of his wives could remarry upon his death against all tradition (the pagans were actually very advanced and allowed women to divorce and hold property).    So poor Aisha not only had to cuddle up to this wrinkled old man she was sharing with around ten other wives, and many sex slaves, and lovers, but ended up having forced celebacy for the rest of her life.

      • Brian Macker

        “The evidence shows that he married exactly one girl and that all the other women he married were considerably older.  Given his power and if he were a pedophile, he could have married many girls.”

        Ever hear of the phrase, “Suck just one cock, and now you are known as a cocksucker”.

        Do you mean to say that we all get to have a 6 year old and not be called pedophiles?   Are you kidding me?  How do you define a pedophile?  Someone who only likes little girls?  That’s ridiculous.  Many pedophiles are married to women.  That’s not unusual at all.
          
        He also had unlimited access to sex slaves, both girls and women which he took full advantage of much to the consternation of his wives.
        Nor is there any evidence that he married her for political reasons.   The father was against it at first but like all cult members was browbeat into it by “god”.    There was no need for any kind of alliance as the guy was already a follower.   

        All the other reasons given for him having so many wives are also bullshit.  Like the claim these were all “widows” as if they were old maids.  They were in fact very young women who were half his age.   Plus several of them were widows because Mohammad just got their husbands killed.  He also extorted at least one girl into marriage lest her relatives be sold off as slaves.

        There were plenty of people in Mohammad’s time who were honest good people, so don’t blame it on the period.  In fact the followers were at first agast at him marrying such a young girl, taking so very many wives, and screwing married slaves.    His answer was a revelation from Allah that in fact he was being order into all this rapine, and carnal gorging.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_POBNPRAX3ZQKUBJF3XAG3WLI4A Tracy

    I’m siding with Silverman on this one.  Yes, I find American Atheists abrasive, but they’re the ones who are actually getting something done.  American Humanist Association (not to smash them, because I love them) have been around longer, have a larger membership, and haven’t done half as much as AA to change what we experience as atheists in the US.  This is just like any other social movement.  Do you think women would be voting right now if suffragists had been politely reasoning with their politicians?  I don’t think anyone would have even noticed them.   So yeah, be abrasive.  Be RUDE!

    • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

      Personally, I think it’s best to be polite in public and cutthroat in private.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shamar-Skeptic/100003293251216 Shamar Skeptic

        This is what we call “two-faced” Paul.

        I can’t stand people who won’t say how they feel.

        • Mike Higginbottom

          I disagree with both of you. Atheism as a movement contains both abrasive individuals and polite ones. That doesn’t make atheism “two-faced”; it makes it rich. To my mind though, being abrasive in public attracts attention and being polite in private attracts converts. Be abrasive to the world at large (when the object is to incite interest in the apathetic majority) and be polite to an individual (when the object is to win them over to your arguments). Dave serves the former goal; Hemant, the latter. Both have their place.

          • Sulris Campbell

            thats true we should have both kinds of poeple in our movement.  but we should give power to the one’s who are polite becuase they represent all of us.   Let the comedians and the athiests that don’t hold official positions say the rude things.  but if you accept a position as a spokesman for a serious orginization you are expected to act with manners.  it is not wrong for silverman to be jerk but it is wrong for him to both accept a position of public trust in our community and be a jerk.

            it is easy for people to point out the abuses by those in group “other” but it takes a quality movement to point out the abuses by group “us”  dont let the fact that what he says is right blind you to the fact that due to his position in the community he should be excpected to not just to say correct things but to say them in the correct way.

        • Pseudonym

          What you call “two-faced” I call “multi-faceted”. I do it. I suspect you do it, too. For example, I’m no prude when it comes to matters sexual, but there’s no way I’m discussing my sex life with my mother. (Or hers, for that matter.)

          There’s a world of difference between being dishonest and being wise to context.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1218655120 Rochelle Inselman

      Laurel Thatcher Ulrich “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”  By the same measure, asking politely rarely works when you are asking for something big. I think this is an excellent example of the carrot and the stick. I admire people who can smile and offer the carrot, but I am far too impatient to do it. Or good cop/bad cop. My point is that we are a diverse group and should use diverse methods to share our thoughts. I think its important to be reasonable with reasonable people (the carrot) and be blunt with unreasonable people (the stick).  Some views quite simply do not merit the respect of reasonable dialogue. 

    • NorDog

      Suffragists?  Are atheists prevented from voting in America?

      This brings up a good question: Just what is the end game for atheism?  Eradicaton of religion?  Majority power?

      Or is there really and end game in mind?  After all, all this high dudgeon can be terribly adictive.  What to do without it?

    • NorDog

      Sorry Tracy, didn’t mean for my reply to be addressed to you personally.

  • Dan W

    Sorry Hemant, but I care more about the truth of Silverman’s statement than whether some will take offense to it. There’s not really a way to say “I think religion X is wrong” that won’t offend the followers of that religion. I’d rather say the truth and be thought rude than be silent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-Porter/100001075278352 Ben Porter

    Look anger is fine. I like anger. I think it is a strong tool. you can use anger with tack. I don’t know that his post hurts our cause, but I don’t know that it helps our cause either. Muhammad was a pedophile and Islam worships him. I get why your angry. Now why did you post it?

    That to me is the key question. David Silverman is a well known atheist that many believers feel stands for most if not all atheist.  I argue that there is a lot in religion that can be mocked and their are people out there who mock it very well, but that David Silverman shouldn’t mock it. He has every right to, but he shouldn’t.

    The leader of a group that strives for the equal rights among all should not be displaying such mockery. For the simple reason, if you insult people they won’t want to listen to you, even if your right. Atheist can be dicks to religious people. I am on occasion and it can work to prove a point.  But He wasn’t proving anything he was putting American Atheist up on the chopping block to be called a bigoted group. An easier why to insult them would be a bill board.

    “Atheist believe that racism, pedophile, and bigotry are wrong. We are good without  God”

    Stuff like this pisses off believers for w.e. reason.

    Atheist be angry. Explain why your angry in a civil debate. Don’t just post rude comments.

  • Cheepak Dopra

    Muslims don’t actually worship Muhammad. If you believe that they do, you’re probably confusing Islam with Christianity.

    • Anonymous

      I would dispute that. Muslims don’t worship Muhammad as a god, but they sure do worship him. He is considered the greatest human to have ever lived and, in something that mirrors Christianity in many ways, his life is idealized as the perfect life and Muslims are to become as much like him as they can. I suppose the closest comparison to Christianity would be the way Catholics worship the Virgin Mary, who is just one step short of a goddess, the way Muhammad is one step short of a god.

      • Cheepak Dopra

        Catholics don’t worship Mary either, they venerate her.

        • Anonymous

          True, but that is semantics. To a Catholic “worship” is something you should only give to God, so since they don’t believe Mary is God, they had to invent another word to use. But they are still holding her as sinless and focus on praising her so that is worship by the common definition.

        • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

          Potatoe, potahto. They build statues, give offerings, and pray to her. That’s worship, whether they’d like to redefine the word so it isn’t or not.

      • Charles Black

        I thought Jesus is believed to be a prophet of Islam that is they don’t call him divine like Christians.

        • Anonymous

          They do. In fact, unless I’m mistaken they accept that he was born of a virgin and everything. Jesus is a holy figure in Islam, almost certainly because Islam is a much younger religion and including figures of Christianity would help enable the conversion of Christians in Muhammad’s day. However Muslims reject that he was the son of God or a manifestation of God. He’s more a figure like Moses, an important but mortal prophet. Muhammad is also a mortal prophet, but he is the most important one of all, with the definitive word on the matter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1535286477 Roxane Farrell Murray

    When somebody says, “I don’t like how you said/did that,” nine times out of ten it means that he doesn’t like the thing you said or did.  Nobody ever said, “I don’t like the way you gave me a raise.”  Only in discussions about atheism have I thought that this kind of comment was at all sincere and to be taken at face value.

    I understand why people might be put off by this.  But is anybody seriously going to argue that Islam isn’t a shitty religion?  No?  I didn’t think so.

    I remember hearing an interview with Silverman in which he was asked about the AA billboards–which are usually quite a bit more “out there” than, say, the FFRF ones.  He said that every time American Atheists puts up one of their more obnoxious billboards, his group doesn’t necessarily pull in any new members, but a bunch of people join the American Humanists, which he views as atheism for beginners.  

    And where do we draw the line?  OK, so maybe we have a lot of agreement that Silverman is more of an asshole than he needs to be.  Maybe he should ratchet it back.  A lot of people find Dawkins and Hitchens objectionable as well.  Should they put a sock in it?  A lot of people object to the FFRF billboards and find them strident.  Should they stop putting them up?  I think there is a place in the movement for every degree of outspokenness, because somewhere out there is somebody who responds to just that tone.  We have a lot of voices, and we should use all of them, rather than try to present ourselves as a monolithic force that speaks with one voice–because we aren’t, and we don’t.

  • http://stochasticscientist.blogspot.com/ KathyO

    The only thing that bothers me is the word ‘shitty’.  

    I think it’s fine that Silverman is brash and unapologetic.  The numbers of atheists, agnostics and nones has been steadily increasing, so obviously the rise of the  ‘angry atheists’ has not been a deterrent, and may be a boon to the movement.  It does some people good to hear it like it is.

    To my ears, though, shitty sounds childish and inarticulate.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people stop reading right there, and never get to think about the pedophile part.

    • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

      I believe “shitty” here is an intentional reference to yesterday’s drama.

  • http://cafeofthecosmicdance.blogspot.com/ Paul Sunstone

    If it were impossible to both tell the truth and be polite at the same time, I would choose to tell the truth.  But if I could both tell the truth and be polite, I would do that instead. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1535286477 Roxane Farrell Murray

    After all, people object to atheists just because we exist and are breathing the same air they do.  There is a sense in which it hardly matters what we actually say.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=528400012 Matthew Baker

    David is somebody I actually admire in that way, I’m an atheist, and I’m tired of living in a North America that believes that everyone believes in some form of supernatural cause. I don’t like to be rude, but I do like to point out blatent holes in the religion.

  • http://donaldmorton.wordpress.com/ Donald Morton

    The problem here is that there’s no context for the quote. He appears to attack Islam for no reason. In a medium where more could be said, where he could have preceded this statement with hard examples, it would have been much better.

    It doesn’t matter that it IS factually accurate because it LOOKS like unsubstantiated hate speech. If you want to lay truth on somebody, you have to communicate it effectively.

    I am 100% for being an angry atheist, but people must be able to see where I’m coming from. If I communicate some other message tha. I intended, then I failed.

    • Anonymous

      The problem here is that there’s no context for the quote. He appears to attack Islam for no reason. In a medium where more could be said, where he could have preceded this statement with hard examples, it would have been much better. It doesn’t matter that it IS factually accurate because it LOOKS like unsubstantiated hate speech.

      I wholeheartedly agree.  Is Silverman’s comment in reaction to anything in particular?  If so, I’d have liked to have seen/read it……I’m much more supportive of abrasive/potentially-insulting comments if they’re in response to something that deserves to be responded to…..but just tossing out a poke in the eye a propos of nothing?   that looks petty and incendiary just for the sake of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shamar-Skeptic/100003293251216 Shamar Skeptic

    Well sais Rochelle, I totally agree.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Black/100001776060470 Michael Black

    I am going to have to agree and disagree with Hemant on this one.  David called it exactly right.  There is no way to make it tactful in this case.  I would like to add that there is not any real problem in judging people of the past by our standards today.  I hope that humanity has become more moral/ethical with time.  I’m sure there is some back stepping along the way.  David got free publicity.   It is up to the rest of us to disagree with David about how he delivers the information.  Hemant is doing his job perfectly!

  • Drago Gerlachan

    While i deeply respect your wish to be a nice person, i consider this vastly less important that freedom of speech. Telling the truth bluntly is a valid weapon against the hilarious demand for respect of idiotic believes. Religious people might demand we bow to their golden calves but spitting on those is a much clearer statement to the world than politely refusing. It offends the religious and that is good. They have no right to not be offended as much as they have no right to burn people or murder them for their imagined sins against, Jesus, Ahuramazda, Allah, the FSM or the Force.

    ps. english is my second language.

  • Ben Crockett

    Well said, sir.
    I love that Mr Silverman is so passionate about these issues, as am I. However, it’s true that when making any kind of statement or performing any significant action, especially when you head an organization such as American Atheists, the top priority must always focus on the ultimate good that results from the things that you say and do.

  • Trudy

    Sometimes it needs to be said like it is. I love you Hemant, but I’m with Silverman on this. We atheists have been too nice for too long. It’s time for someone to call a spade a spade.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-Okafor/1759887752 Anthony Okafor

      Preach it Trudy!!!!!

  • http://www.atheistnexus.org/profile/MattDittloff Mattmon

    As Greta Christina would say, different arguments work on different people.

    “You can be good without god” can work on one group of people, and “Islam is a shitty religion that worships a pedophile” can work on another group of people.  Both arguments are good, and both have a time and place that they’re appropriate.

    American Atheists is the agressive, in-your-face group, and this message will appeal to that type.  Other groups have a less confrontational approach, and you’re free to join some other group too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.zamecki Joe Zamecki

    To me, it’s the same with Christians. Most Christians are good people who are shouldered with a bad ideology. We should be able to criticize their religion without demonizing them. Of course the Muslims in Muslim countries sure can muster a lot of really angry people for the media, making it look at least, like it’s a lot more than a minority of Muslims who are so angry that they’re violent.  Even ignoring that, one can easily find the inspiration to commit violence in their holy book. And no, they’re not so quick to say “That was then, and we’re living under different laws now.” One thing about Islam that’s different from Christianity is that Islam has been a lot more consistent in its attitudes and goals over the centuries. When brought to terms with the modern western world, friction is inevitable.  I just can’t stand this notion that basic fundamental Islam is above criticism that might include emotional diatribes and sweeping denouncements. These people aren’t as sensitive as we think. Plus the U.S. government seems to be at war against Islam. What else does it take for us to be able to spell out the truth about that religion, without looking like WE are the problem? We’re the rational ones.  (Again, I’m not saying all Muslims are the same.)

    Also please remember that Dave Silverman was strongly against burning the Koran, when that was recently in the news. He didn’t want to offend them on that level. 

  • Rod Chlebek

    For those of us that are actively working on having meaningful discussions with people of other worldviews, statements like these would lead to collateral damage and reinforce opinions that atheists are generally negative and uncaring. When anyone makes such a statement they should consider the audience and be aware of its effects. I say what I want, how I want in particular circles, but when speaking to a broader audience I trim off the rough edges. ;)

  • Anonymous

    I’d say a decent standard is that if you cannot readily say that a quote about Islam doesn’t come from a deranged Christian bigot if you are not provided with the author up-front, then maybe this is the sort of shit that you should not be saying.

    I’m also sick of the justification that something is OK to say because you have the “right” to say it. It’s always “Insult, Insult, Insult. I WILL NOT BE SILENCED!” Somebody needs a remedial course on the difference between “can” and “ought”. `[EDIT]: The exception I would make to this is if there is an active attempt to suppress speech, as in the Danish cartoon flap. It’s justified if the point is exlusively reclaiming free speech, but that is not a blanket license to be an asshole whenever the mood strikes you.

    You know, I always thought that American Atheists should never be judged by the emotional issues of their founder (she was brave, but obviously had issues) but its becoming increasingly clear that American Atheists has decided to take every bit of O’Hair’s legacy, including the style. I cannot demand that liberal Christians or moderate Muslims openly oppose bigotry in their ranks while staying silent about it in ours. This shit is unacceptable and I sincerely hope the other organizations (FFRF, SSA, CFI etc.) distance themselves from it.

    • Anonymous

      Great post Claudia :)

      I read/participate in a lot of online discussions on religious/philosophy boards, and I cannot tell you how many times a discussion has become sidetracked when an ‘angry atheist’ is rude and insulting in expressing their point ~ what happens?  The truth/validity of the atheist’s message gets completely ignored and it all becomes about “there you go, see? people without God are hateful. The stereotype is true”.

      I get soooo tired of great/valid/important points being lost and obscured because of puerile hostility.

      There are a few great atheist posters on the amazon.com religion board;  what makes them “great”?   They never ONCE lose their temper or get dragged down to the pettiness/snarkiness of their opponents, even when they’re being baited……

      The result?  the flaws in the believers’ arguments are brought right to the forefront, because there’s nothing to distract from the issues at hand.  I tell you, it’s a beautiful thing to see ~ the atheists calmly, reasonably and articulately expressing valid criticisms, while their opponents flail around, not being able to refute the points…….and NONE of it gets lost in a distraction about ‘tone’.

      Nothing makes me happier to see :)

      • Anonymous

        aswm. i’d love a link to an example.

        • Anonymous

          http://www.amazon.com/forum/religion

          There’s the board ~ just do a search for Alex Miller and/or Michael Altarriba……those 2, in particular, are shining examples of sticking to the points, making rhetorical slam-dunks, and never resorting to insults/ad hominems…….

          and throwing ignorance into very stark relief :)

  • http://twitter.com/NackteElfe Juju Budkeson

    Most people seem to forget that it was perfectly fine to marry minors in the time of Mohammed. That had nothing to do with Islam or anything else. 
    No one blames the Christians for doing the very same thing at the same time.
    I am just annoyed over this “Mohammed was a pedophile” thing.

    (I prefer not liking religions for a reason. ;))

    • David Fairbanks

      Juju, you have a weird argument.  It’s almost like you are saying that pedophilia was OK back then.  I hope that’s not what you meant.  I think that pedophilia is wrong regardless of its popularity.  It’s a lot like rape or slavery.  Those things are all morally wrong regardless of how popular they are.

      I think that a good reasons to dislike islam include Mohammed’s pedophilia.

  • http://www.facebook.com/reapsow1 Reap Paden

    I am thrilled to see so many comments from people saying Atheists need to deal with believers by using differing styles. In my opinion Madalyn Murray O’Hair was a genius she was what was needed to bring attention to Atheism. She inspired many to stand up and admit what they had been thinking, religion doesn’t make sense. I love the style she had. I have a tendency to be blunt in my opinions and I have had some people accuse me of  “making atheists look bad”. I am simply expressing myself in a style of my choosing. Sure I am an Atheist but I am many other things too.  I like the color blue. Do my actions represent all the people who like the color blue? I think not. The comment from David Silverman was not on the American Atheist wall it was on his personal wall and I think that should afford him a bit more freedom to post whatever he sees fit. Sure he has a bit more accountability because of his position. I think the comments here show he didn’t cross the line so far that it made a majority of people uncomfortable. The truth makes some people mad but usually only if they deserve it.  As far as Ernest goes I talked to him about his comment, he stood behind it because it was directed at Islam, which it was. How so many smart Atheists manage to dumb themselves down sometimes amazes me. I watched the comments on Ernest’s post turn Islam into meaning Muslim  and that into terrorists and suddenly Ernest hated all Muslims because every one of them was a terrorist. Then he has to come in and try to explain what should be obvious. Anyone who knows him should know if he was talking about Muslims he would have said exactly that, and if they didn’t know him they shouldn’t be putting words in people’s mouths. Simple.

  • Anonymous

    “But it doesn’t work. In fact, it does more harm than good.” – sorry, but this is just your opinion and I completely disagree, as i disagree with your insult “you’re not winning anyone worthwhile over to your side” where you simply insulted myself and others who do value the truth over anything else as not worthwhile.

    Islam is a shitty religion as is Christianity and, even though it is apparently hard for you to understand this, there ARE people who need to hear it like that because the “nice” approach simply does not work for them. They see it as a sign of respect for something that definitely does not deserve respect and thus as a sign of weakness.

    Weakness is not what they are looking for, particularly if they, like me, have been harmed by religion and religious dogma. What they are looking for is a strong and aggressive approach to equally aggressive religious bullshit.

    I have a much harder approach than Silverman to Orthodox Christianity here in Serbia and believe me, I won some quite worthwhile people over! People who were so fed up with religious bullshit that they contemplated many bad options, among which was even suicide. When they saw that people exist who are not afraid to grab that bull by the horns it gave them hope, it gave them strength to fight back and to stand up! Whether you like it or not, it saved them! As I am sure some people will be saved by Silvermans approach!

    Most importantly, if what Dave said makes anyone want to walk away, than they are the ones not worthwhile and they should walk away.

    • http://profiles.google.com/nathanlee2 nathan lee

      Compare:

      “Never give up a right without a fight. I will defame Islam if I want to. It doesn’t mean I hate Muslims. It means Islam is a shitty religion that worships a pedophile as morally perfect.”

      “Never give up a right without a fight. Islam is a horrible religion, started by someone who married and had sex with 9-year-olds. I don’t hate Muslims, but their religion should be removed.”

      To me, the first one comes across as ignorant, arrogant, and rude. The second says the exact same thing, with more harsh language, but comes across as far more intelligent and combative. You’re right that we don’t need to be polite and soft (that didn’t work very well in the last few thousand years), but there is a way to be harsh that doesn’t make all atheists look like we’re closed-minded bigots.

      If that doesn’t convince you, remember that when fighting a war it’s better to take the moral high ground. We want to show that being an atheist is a better form morality that they want to be like.

      • Sulris Campbell

        well said.

        it is important to say the truth but when you are the leader of a social movement it is also important to say the truth in the right way.

        a normal person would not be under this obligation but as the leader of AA he is obgligated to sound intelligent not bigoted and in this he failed due to poor word choice not due to poor content.

    • Anonymous

      But he’s stretching the truth.  Muslims don’t worship Mohammed.  To me, to say that and claim it’s a fact shows that he’s really out to get attention, not to spread truth for truth’s sake. We don’t need people that stretch the sake of getting publicity.

      • Yakamoz

        They kind of do.  You can worship someone without believing they were divine per se.  Many, many Muslims believe and are taught to believe that Mohammad was a perfect person whose life we should all strive to emulate.  

        The worship is so overpowering that it causes otherwise sane people to hesitate to condemn how he married that six year old and slept with her when she was nine.  Now, I don’t believe most of these people think marrying six year-olds is a good thing as a general rule, but clearly, many have trouble saying anything Mo’ did was bad. 

        There’s also the weird talisman (peace be upon him, often shortened in Islamic literature to ‘pbuh’) that’s invoked whenever Mohammad’s name is mentioned.  It’s reminiscent of the Jewish, G-d, like they fear using Mohammad’s name in vain.  Toss in the trial of that one Pakistani guy for ‘blasphemy,’ because he threw away a business card with Mohammad’s name (because it was also the cardholder’s name), the shitstorm that ensued after the incident with Mohammad the teddybear, and riots whenever Mohammad is drawn, and yea, I’ll go ahead and call it what it is: worship.

      • Brian Macker

        You can be arrested and charge with blapheme in some countries not only for criticizing Muhammad, but also his companions.   So you don’t get to criticize the guy who hung out with Mo and set fire on peoples chests, and turned young girls into sex slaves on Mo’s say so.   That’s about as close to worship as you can get.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Once again, for the zillionth time on this blog, I’ll say this. Forgive me for the repetition: There’s expression and then there’s communication.

    Expression is about self; it’s about the speaker getting something off his chest. He feels better because he has vented his feelings. It has nothing to do with anyone else hearing him, or understanding him, or agreeing or disagreeing with him, or changing any opinions of their own because of what he has expressed.  Expression can be done alone in the woods.

    What is expressed may be factually correct, but when there are other people within earshot, unintended, unpredictable, and unfortunate consequences can sometimes happen. People who are associated with the speaker just because of their category can get those consequences.

    Communication is about others; it’s about the speaker getting an idea or feeling across to another person clearly and accurately, so the other person clearly and accurately understands his idea or feeling. It’s about the effect that the idea or feeling will have on the other person: to clarify understanding, to provoke a reexamining of their position or opinion, or to persuade.

    What is communicated may be factually correct, but if the utterance is loaded with invective, humiliation, hostility, or antagonism, then the listener’s emotions will begin to form a defense against hearing any more, and against considering any validity to any more utterances from the speaker. Communication ceases and it becomes expression. Eventually the speaker might as well be alone in the woods, just like the person who expresses.

    Some people just really want to indulge in expression. Others want their words to have an effect on more than just their own feelings, and they want that effect to be constructive.  Freedom of speech protects both, but one is perhaps more worth the effort.

    If you want someone to see something more clearly, don’t start by poking him in the eye. If you want someone to listen carefully, don’t start by insulting him. If you want to attract onlookers to come over to your side, don’t look uglier than your competition.

    • Anonymous

      Sometimes a poke in the eye is communication.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        .

    • Yakamoz

       If you want to attract onlookers to come over to your side, don’t look uglier than your competition.

      Easier said than done when there’s such an obvious double standard.  I wish the phrase “militant Muslim” started with being out and ended with an occasional strongly-worded tweet.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    Every movement needs its rhetorical bomb throwers. At least ours aren’t throwing actual bombs.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Every movement might have its rhetorical bomb throwers, but that does not mean every movement needs them. 

      The fact that they’re not actual bombs is not much to boast about. 

      • Anonymous

        I think what Andrew might be referring to is the strategy used by other minority-rights movements of Good Cop, Bad Cop.
        Essentially what you have are radical, aggressive and often entirely unpleasant activists who push the envelope on what can be said or demanded, often going entirely too far. At the same time you have much more polite and respectable movement which asks for equal rights and does so through mainstream means. Think Malcolm X and MLK. The idea is that the radicals make the moderates seem very reasonable by comparison, encouraging people to side with the moderates and having the net effect of moving rights forward.

        Now, I don’t see this so much as a pre-planned strategy as much as a post-hoc rationalization and justification for the inevitable existance of radicals. They’re gonna be there, like it or not, and they may even be useful in some ways. However that does not in itself constitute a good justification for individual actions and words. Ends and means, and all that jazz.

      • Cheron22

        And how well was the atheist movement doing before the rhetorical bomb throwers started showing up ?

        • Pseudonym

          Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. It’s just ask likely that the rise of public atheism brought on the rhetorical bomb throwers.

      • Yakamoz

         The fact that they’re not actual bombs is not much to boast about.

        What?! When the other side has no shortage of actual bomb throwers, the fact that we don’t throw bombs is definitely something to boast about.

        • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

          So you allow murderers to set the standard for what you decide is your own good behavior? You decide you’re okay because you’re not as bad as murderers?

          • Yakamoz

            What makes it ok for you to throw that rhetorical bomb at murderers? Do you think you’re BETTER than them, or something?

    • David Fairbanks

      There are followers of islam who kill people just because they disrespect the pedophile the islamists revere.  As in literally kill people…  I have a really hard time getting upset at people who call islam a shitty religion.

    • His Shadow

      What we need are snipers, not bomb throwers, to extend the analogy. 

      As I stated above, we need to pick our battles. Silverman’s tweet will be enshrined forever in the knee pocket of every theist who believes atheists are rude, uncultured and abrasive. It does no one any good for the President of American Atheists to be stridently ignorant. And those that agree with Silverman’s tweet need to think long and hard about how they are willing to be perceived.

  • Charles Black

    The thing we can all learn here is that even if you are telling the truth as accurately as you can, it won’t mean a jot of difference if you treat people as stupid which makes them stop listening to what you have to say.

  • LudoPhil

    It’s times like these when we must turn to the wisdom of The Dude:

    “You’re not wrong Walter. You’re just an asshole.”

    Statements like David’s above only serve as insular choir-preaching. True, certainly, but it will only serve as a reason for those who need to hear the message most to stop listening.

  • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

    1) “THEY STARTED IT/THEY DID IT FIRST” is logic you don’t accept from small children, yet from a grown-assed adult, it’s cool. Right.

    2) Outside of the Koran, where’s the documentation on Mohammad marrying a 9-year-old

    3) If Dave et al want to “get things off their chest” why not use a PERSONAL account? Because as of right now, “Islam is a shitty religion” is the official position of American Atheists. That will be a big help.

    4) Not being a dick is not weakness.

    5) No, MLK and Malcom X were not playing good cop bad cop. That’s incorrect, and a really stupid oversimplification of both men. 

    6) I can’t wait for the reaction, and you know it’s coming, when some religious person says “Well, atheism is a shitty way to go through life, all empty of meaning”, because I’ll bet now that most, if not all the people saying “He’s talking about ISLAM not MUSLIMS” will have their panties THOROUGHLY twisted over it. And I shall laugh at all of them for being whiny hypocrites.

    • Erp

      “2) Outside of the Koran, where’s the documentation on Mohammad marrying a 9-year-old”

      We don’t I think have it in the Koran, the stories come from Hadith which are reports about Mohammad that later people collected and then tried to trace back to the time of Mohammad (E.g., Aisha was reported by N as later reported by M … to have said she saw such and such).   Not all Hadith are necessarily considered accurate (it was recognized that some reporters might have lied or been less than careful) even by Muslims though certain collections are considered to be accurate (though different Muslims may consider different collections accurate).    I think it is likely that they were married (as a widow of Mohammad [and daughter of the first caliph] she wielded a lot of influence) though when intercourse took place after the marriage may be questioned (she was about 20 when he died). 

    • T-Rex

      “6) I can’t wait for the reaction, and you know it’s coming, when some religious person says “Well, atheism is a shitty way to go through life, all empty of meaning”

      Not sure where you’re from or where you have been living your entire life but, um, this happens every day and has been happening every day since the inception of religions.  Welcome to the 21st century. 

      • http://www.bynkii.com/ John C. Welch

        Bless your heart. 

        I know this. And howwwwww do atheists react? Do they say “Well, they’re criticizing atheISM not atheISTS, so while I disagree, it’s clearly not a personal attack.”?

        No. 

        No they do not. Not even slightly.

        Self-awareness fail.

        • David Fairbanks

          The biggest mistake I’ve made today was clicking like instead of clicking reply.

          Your comment is a thoughtless generalization of how atheists react.  I’m not sure it represents the real world in a meaningful way at all.

          I’ve been told personally that being an atheist is a shitty way to go through life because you have no purpose or meaning.  I didn’t take it personally.  I was actually happy to explain that how I find purpose and meaning in life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001071231218 Andrew Pfaff

    I think many people are forgetting what blog they are on. Although you have stated yourself, Hemant, that your patience has dwindled in the past few years for the religious, this post is still staying true to your original idea of the blog. That is, being a friendly Atheist.

  • EJC

    Sorry Hemant, but on thin one I have to disagree with you.

    In fact, I have to go so far as to use the “H” word again. That word is hypocrite. We have all (including you) called xtians far far worse than what was in Silverman’s statement.

    I feel (notice I did not say I know) – with prejudice – that this whole “let’s be nice to islam” thing is based on nothing more than being overly politcally correct and namby-pamby.

    Islam sucks. It is horrific and I find no reason to “be nice” vis-a-vis how I speak of it.

    And for all others here who are cowtowing to islam, I call you hypocrites as well.

    You all may as well head over to Pharyngula where you can collectively be ashamed of your penises and skin tones.

  • EJC

    On a note of levity….

    I kinda feel like I am the Magneto to Hemant’s Prof. X here….
    :)

  • Anonymous

    “And when I saw my devil I found him serious, thorough, profound, and solemn: he was the spirit of gravity – through him all things fall.

    Not by wrath does one kill but by laughter. Come, let us kill the spirit of gravity!”

    - Nietzsche

    I don’t think it’s necessary to be gentle or polite – but attack in ways you can reasonably expect to be effective, or don’t waste your time. Wit is what kills crusty old ways of thinking. When you attack followers of Islam in a way that confirms their worst prejudices about you, you lose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-McLaughlin/100000447965254 Chris McLaughlin

    Thirty years ago, there was only Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Today there is a plurality of atheist voices. We need people like Silverman pushing the boundaries while others (like yourself) are are simultaneously working in a highly civil manner. If the boundaries of civility with regard to religion do not move more in the direction of allowing harsh yet truthful criticism, we atheists will remain at an unfair advantage in any discourse about religion. Only a decade ago, just the idea of debating religion was widely considered crass. Mild mannered people like Daniel Dennett were castigated for it. Now, because of these trailblazing instigators, the topic of religion is open to discussion and is turning into something of a national pastime. Hermant, by trying to diminish the important work of atheist instigators, you are working against the cause of atheist equality just as much as you accuse the instigators of so doing. If you really want to help us all, you should support these people in public, and keep private your negative appraisal of their message.

  • Mike Williams

    How do we know this isn’t a useful way to convey our message?  Do you have data to support your assertions?  I see a lot of people make the claim, but never any evidence to back it up.  If we’re just going to use anecdotes and feelings, scores of people claim to have been deconverted by PZ Myers’ “dickish” behavior.

    In the absence of any empirical evidence, aren’t we just arguing personal preference?

  • Mike Williams

    Have you seen the reaction to Lowe’s pulling their advertising from the “All American Muslim” TV show?  Slamming islam may actually be a great way to garner support.

    • Anonymous

      Err, I have seen the reaction to Lowe’s pulling their ads. The reaction has been overwhelmingly negative for Lowe’s and the “Family Association” that started it all has been openly mocked and condemned for bigotry. It seems that hysterical and unmeasured insults to Islam have garnered support…for Muslims.

      • Mike Williams

        You and I do not frequent the same corners of the internet.

  • T-Rex

    Meh. This happens every day, to every religion and non-religious people. I agree with Mr. Silverman. Maybe it wasn’t the most tactful way to say it, but his statement is mostly true, except for the part about it being shitty, which his own personal opinion. But I agree with that part of the statement as well.  Most theists have similar feelings towards other religions and non-religious people too. But rather than post their feelings as a status update, they try to impose their beliefs on society in the form of laws and/or by taking away peoples’ freedoms. This is quite tame compared with the wha tothers might try to do. Move along, nothing to see here.

  • Nazani14

    I agree with the content, but he’s made a terrible choice of words.  Most English speakers use the word “defame” when referring to an unjust accusation.  “if I want to” is pretty much limited to the outburst of peevish children.

    I don’t think this is just my opinion, I think you can test the reaction of people to these terms in other contexts.   Call it “wordsmithing,” but it matters.

  • Anonymous

    I kind of see Dave Silverman in the same light that I see the Pharyngula commentariat:  A bit abrasive, but generally worth having around regardless.  A sharp tongue is needed sometimes, and if not for folks like, say, Voltaire, we’d probably not be as enlightened now as we are.  So long as it’s factually correct and contains more substance than bile, I’m prepared to accept and own Silverman’s words.  I can’t always say the same, as for O’Hair or Valerie Solanas, but I remain happily active in both the atheist and 3rd wave feminist movements.  Unfortunately, it’s always a matter of degrees and audiences, and sometimes, things worth expressing are dangerous to express.

  • JesseVigilante

    This passage by David Silverman was extremely effective. Perhaps not at getting new members for AA, or explaining our particular view to the world, but I don’t think that was what he was trying to do here. Here, he was confronting condescending accomodationists, who would try to tell him that he  shouldn’t be criticizing Islam, or religion at all, in such a bold and unapologetic way. Mission accomplished.  I’m sure he has other things that he would say on TV, or to convince someone to join AA, that’s just not what he was doing here. He did that yesterday. It’s crazy to believe that this is the ONLY thing that he has to contribute to the atheist community, so it better be the most efficient christian-swaying-god-disproving passage in existence.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Who told Dave not to criticize Islam/religion? Not me. I’m fully in support of that.

  • Sarah

    “Is it an accurate statement? Where he states facts, yes. Muhammad was indeed married to a nine-year-old girl.”

    Incredibly false, I’m afraid. If you do your research (into actual Quranic Islam and not just based on what the prominent people in the middle east like to call Islam), you clearly find out that the Hadiths (not the Qur’an) have grossly misreported the age of Muhammad’s wife. The Hadiths are full of hearsay and contradictions and were written hundreds of years after Muhammad passed on; they should not be taken in any reliability as Islamic scripture. The reasons they continue to be taken as such though is based on religious-political bull and hardline tradition they can’t shake (typically because of the aforementioned religious-political bull).

    I won’t deny that many or even most parts of Islamic countries over-seas are still stuck in the 7th century.. but I will greatly call them out on it, despite the fact that I am a Muslim (I posted on the last post about this issue.. I’m the former-atheist who is now a Muslim).

    Cheers.

  • http://www.bblss.org Miki

    While I believe leaders of organizations like this are obligated to employ some level of diplomacy, and that using words like “shitty” can make one seem hysterical, I’m unable to muster any real indignation at David’s post.  Before I’d finished the sentence I’d already thought of several ways in which the tenets of Islam are…er…objectionable.  And I only had to refresh my browser to see an article confirming as much.  

  • Luc

    So is the first amendment about to be abolished or what? I don’t really understand what’s up with that tweet.

    • Luc

      or SU or whatever it is.

    • Mike Williams

      There is a near constant assault on free speech by various and sundry groups looking to get their views preferred over others’.  If we’re not constantly pushing back against that, while the letter of the first amendment may stay intact, the spirit of it will erode.

  • http://rosalarian.com Rosalarian

    I understand Silverman’s frustration. There are days when I want to say the same thing about all religions all over in every public space and on my blog. And I used to do that. I’d get angry and insulting and combative. I imagine if my words had physical form, it’d look like a child on the ground kicking and screaming and biting.

    One of the best things I ever learned as far as activism is how to cool off before making public statements, how to not take the bait from people trying to get me to go overboard, how to wait until the anger has subsided and only passion remains. 

    Let the vinegar evaporate and put out the honey instead.

    Never have I been more persuasive. Never have I had so many people taking the time to consider my point of view as when I lost the anger and used passion instead. They don’t all agree with me in the end, but they at least see my point of view as a valid thing to consider rather than a mouth-foaming rant.

  • Guest

    Hemant and shockingly all the commentators thus far seem to have missed the point on this one.  It seems relatively clear that what Silverman meant by this was not to criticize Islam per se.  He says “Never give up a right without a fight.  I will defame Islam if I want to…*offensive thing about Islam*”.  Everyone thus far has just ignored the first part and concentrated on the substance and/or tone of the offensive thing he said about Islam (true though it may be), but I think Silverman was trying to comment on the anti-free speech reactions that many Muslims have to Islam being criticized.  Hence his discourse about fighting for his right to defame Islam.  The provocative statement was made on purpose to make a point about criticism of Islam being a legitimate endeavor.  Noooot really sure why this was so hard for y’all.

    • Luc

      That’s exactly why I asked if the first amendment was in danger 3 hours ago, comment you ignored. Ya know, because it grants americans freedom of speech. It doesn’t make sense to fight for a right you already have written in the Constitution. Battle already won a few centuries ago. What’s the point again?

  • theLarch

    I don’t think Hemant understands what American Atheists is about. They absolutely prioritize being right over regard for the feelings of others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=18914070 Hannah Taylor

    Who cares?

  • Brian Nowosatka

    Reading the tweet more, I’m less and less bothered by it. 

    It seems as though Dave is using his dislike of Islam as an example for his fight for free speech–and a clarification that free speech regarding the silliness of Islam is not equivalent to hate speech towards Muslims.

    This tweet could be less about the silliness of Islam (though he does take a potshot), and more about the difference of defaming a concept vs. defaming a group of people.

  • Achess

    People have died for cartoons less offensive than what Silverman said: I believe that makes blasphemy all the more important.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1601680373 Kent Gordon Schlorff

    I’m worried that Silverman may have become bitter, what with the amount of baiting he receives (like that segment on Fox in regards to Hurrican Irene). I think that because he’s the go-to guy for freethinkers, he has had to deal with a lot of shit. I can definitely appreciate the need to confront religion on matters of social importance, like keeping prayer out of schools, equal rights for homosexuals, and separation of church and state. In those matters, we should be confrontational. In matters like these, where the comment hits home for a lot of Muslims and very much feels like a personal hatred of Muslims themselves, we – Silverman included – need to back off. Don’t be a dick.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnnyrodgersmorris John Morris

    Dave’s tweet was successful.  I just followed him.  

  • Anonymous

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16201961

    Re; the above: Is it okay if I say that patriarchal religion is shitty?

  • http://christthetao.blogspot.com/ David Marshall

    I didn’t just see “tact” and “Dawkins” and “Hitchens” all in the same paragraph, did I?  (Rubs eyes.) 


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