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!

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