Reddit Atheism, I Still Love You

You know how S.E. Cupp wishes she were religious and would never vote for an atheist… despite being an atheist herself?

I found the next worst thing: Atheists who hate it when other atheists point out the foolishness of religion.

Luke Winkie recently wrote an article for Salon about a trip to a Creation museum in California and some of the commenters used the discussion thread as an opportunity to — wait for it — mock Creationists and ignorant thinking in general.

I was just trying to talk about Christianity without adopting the tone of offended arrogance that so many non-Christians use when they’re discussing fundamentalists. To be clear: I wasn’t defending Creationists; I just didn’t want to be a giant dick.

As soon as the piece was published, the comments section erupted in overwrought, hoity-toity, exasperating rhetoric, as people made fun of Creationists for being ignorant and blamed the people I mentioned in the articles for everything evil done in the name of Christianity.

I’ll admit Creationists aren’t responsible for all religious evils… but they are ignorant.

Anyway, Winkie calls this the “Reddit Atheists” mentality:

Never mind that I wasn’t exposing Christianity or even endorsing it — if you say something as mild as “Hey, here are some Christians practicing their faith; that’s not really a bad thing” you’ll get mobbed by a group of people who are quickly becoming the most annoying demographic on the internet. I speak of a subtype of militant atheists who I’ll call the “Reddit Atheists.” These are the folks who have, ironically, adopted the attitudes of hardcore evangelicals who try to convert strangers on subway platforms — it’s not enough for them that they don’t believe in God, they want to make sure you don’t believe in God either. Just by being themselves, they make the best case against humanism.

Riiiight… those “militant” Redditors, what with their silly memes and their ability to raise $200,000 for Doctors Without Borders.

When they start taking rights away from religious groups and bombing churches, you can use that word. Until then, it’s completely inappropriate.

And you’re damn right atheists want other people to lose their faith. When you see the awful policy-decisions made because of support from religious groups, it’s hard not to want them to come to their senses. We’re trying to educate them, not annihilate them.

Winkie’s argument against the Reddit Atheist mentality boils down to this:

Reddit Atheism isn’t about philosophy or even adult conversation; it’s about getting riled up into a frothing-at-the-mouth ideological stupor so you can feel guiltlessly self-righteous for the rest of the day. In all of my trips to r/atheism, I’ve never seen anyone post anything written in a measured tone. If you need more proof, take a look at these fine examples of even-keeled insight. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I don’t think Ludwig Feuerbach would be proud.

Who the hell is Ludwig–oh, who cares. Winkie is missing the whole point of r/atheism (in my mind, anyway).

There are plenty of academic books out there that discuss the philosophy of religion and tear apart the arguments of Christian apologists. I would tell you more about them, but they all make me fall asleep.

In a world where people have freakishly short attention spans, sometimes a picture that shows religious ignorance or a meme that highlights religious hypocrisy can have an effect that most 400-page books can’t. If I’m a teenager questioning my faith, hearing stories from other atheists who have to deal with religious nonsense in their lives or laughing at an idea I once wholeheartedly believed in can be cathartic. r/atheism is a *wonderful* place for that. It’s not the place I go to when I want nuanced discussion of religious philosophy.

In other words, don’t blame r/atheism for not being something it never claimed to be in the first place. It’s not a place full of “adult conversations” — it’s a place to talk about (and vent) your frustrations with religion. It might involve humor that not everyone finds funny and comments that not everyone finds helpful.

Are there assholes on there? Yes.

Are there people who think all religious people must be anti-gay, anti-women, etc? Yes. (And there are people who will correct them.)

Is there a lot of circle-jerking going on? Yes.

That’s the Internet, though. You’re not going to find a place completely ignorance-free, including sites that atheists visit. At least on Reddit, other commenters can (and often do) put people in their place if they made a mistake or wrongly stereotyped a group. (In fact, many Redditors agree with Winkie’s assessment.)

I have read *many* incredible threads on there and I’m surprised Winkie claims to have never seen one. He’s not looking hard enough.

If you agree with his general assessment, though, there’s a way to fix it. If you think a post or comment on the site is stupid, don’t just sit there. Downvote it. If enough people found the memes unfunny and useless, they wouldn’t be on the front page all the time.

If r/atheism isn’t for you, that’s fine. You might like some of the r/atheism subcategories instead since they’re more focused. But I don’t get criticizing the whole website just because they’re not talking about the stuff you think is worth talking about.

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.

  • 3lemenope


    And you’re damn right atheists want other people to lose their faith.

    Well, you’re not speaking for me, there. I care very little whether people keep or lose their faith. What I do care about is the promotion of empirical and logical strategies–and empathy and compassion–for dealing with social, personal, and intellectual problems. Some people are able to reconcile those strategies with a belief in the supernatural (compartmentalize, if you will) and some aren’t. But whichever one they pick, the effect on my life and the society I live in is the same.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I can’t find the other thread, but not I have to test the tag

      Hm, that one works. There’s a .css

      .shr_compact_tick s, i that is mucking up the <i> tag.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=728060506 Adam Colley

      Well, he is speaking for me, heh

      Given all the evil religion causes, should be not be making an effort to get rid of it? One person at a time may be slow progress but it’s progress -.o;

      • Pseudonym

        Religion doesn’t cause evil. People cause evil.

        If it wasn’t religion, it’d be something else. Everyone here knows this deep down, but not everyone will admit it.

        • Cicada


          Everyone here knows this deep down, but not everyone will admit it.”

          Not only do I not ‘know’ that, but you’re wrong. Religions can and do cause people to say and do evil things.

          • Pseudonym

            I didn’t state it well. I’m not saying that people do not say and do evil things in the name of religion, or even motivated by religion.

            What I’m saying is a broader point which is as obvious as it is uncontroversial: If religion wasn’t available, people would still say and do evil things, at the same rate as they currently do. They would just pick a different excuse.

            • Rando

              How can you know that for certain?  You know what that argument sounds exactly like to me?

              “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”Sure, that’s true.  But as the wise Eddie Izzard once said, I think guns HELP.  The fact that they do not hold a monopoly on violence does not somehow make them completely innocent of enabling violence.

              • Pseudonym

                I was indeed riffing on the “guns don’t kill people” line.

                BTW, I am not American, I don’t own any firearms, and am generally an advocate of gun control. Nonetheless, guns don’t kill people. There are plenty of countries with high gun ownership with far lower homicide rates than the US.

                It’s not guns that are the underlying problem. It’s the combination of an over-developed sense of “rights” (i.e. entitlement culture), utter cluelessness about public health (especially mental health) and high income disparity.

                Guns don’t kill people. Americans kill people.

                • AndyTK

                  Citation please on more guns and less violence than the US.  I find this hard to believe in part because there are so few countries that have a higher gun ownership rate.

              • Pseudonym

                Incidentally, I know that with as much certainty as is possible, because that’s what the evidence says.

                Take Steven Weinberg’s famous cliche that to make good people do evil requires religion. This is often repeated, despite the fact that the hypothesis has been disproven by experiment many times, most famously by Stanley Milgram.

        • Big Einar

          Is it ok for me to stomp on your nuts? If I don’t do it someone else will. When we are on it anyway, lets release all the prisoners in the world, if they didn’t commit the crimes they did someone else surely would so there is really no reason to punish anyone for anything. You are bright.

        • http://www.facebook.com/eulogy1337 Ian Norton

          Right, but religion serves to justify and facilitate evil. I agree that it does not necessarily cause it.

          Without religious motivation, it is much harder to cling to the natural fear of those who are different from you.

          For example, without religion, you can’t justify being against gay rights after learning about how and why some people are gay. You learn that they deserve the same rights as you, because they are just like you, and are worthy of the extension of your empathy.

          If you introduce a motive for clinging to your first instinct, while denying evidence that conflicts with your religious beliefs, you can never grow morally.

          I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it, but if you take away justification for a basis to a conclusion, the conclusion falls apart. “I hate gays because God made Adam and Eve” turns into “I hate gays because I don’t like them” turns into “I don’t hate gays”.

          • Pseudonym

            The war in Iraq and all of the atrocities therein were justified on the pretext of “freedom”, “security” and “democracy”, but I don’t hear any calls to take away those justifications.

        • DriveBySnark

          Sure, but I can only really handle one cause at a time. If we can get religion to stop causing evil (however that may come about), next stop I think should be nationalism, maybe. Anyone else on board?

      • Guest

        Religion also creates good.  Feeding the poor, giving people a sense of belonging.  When your force your beliefs onto some one else, intolerance and violence are the products.

        • Zob

           Religion has NOT properly compensated the people whose poverty it perpetuates.  The churches of the world are the primary obstacle to the sexual and economic empowerment of women, which are OBJECTIVELY the greatest and most dependable methods of fighting poverty.  This may or may not be because poverty is the most fertile environment for religiosity to spread.

          • Pseudonym

            As always, history is not so clear cut. Religion has also been the most prominent force for improving the status of women. People forget, to pick one example, that the suffragette movement, grew out of (and remained allied to) the Christian temperance movement.

            The primary obstacle to the sexual and economic empowerment of women is powerful men who refuse to relinquish power. Some of those men are in the upper hierarchies of churches, but even more of them are in government, in the form of politicians, police, judges and soldiers. Religious and religiously-inspired movements are also some of the largest and loudest forces advocating change.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ross-Patton/682129211 Ross Patton

          You don’t need religion to feed the poor or have a sense of belonging, that’s just silly.

          • HobokenGary

            Name one atheist food bank.

            • Oivind

              Fellowship of Freethought and

              Secular Center USA
              Plus there are a lot of humanist soup kitchens.
              And the point isn’t about it being an atheist food bank, but a non-church food bank.

              • HobokenGary

                Oddly, there was nothing on either of those groups websites about feeding the poor.

                While its true that you don’t need religion to feed the poor, it helps as religious institutions have the members and resources to conduct such an operation.

                • Inti

                  That’s just due to the congregating nature of churches and doesn’t stem from religion. Cross the pond to Western Europe and you’ll find that most charities are secular.

                • HobokenGary

                  I dunno, JC was pretty big on the whole charity thing, that have something to do with it.

                • matt

                  JC (if he existed) was not the inventor of charity.

            • http://www.facebook.com/eulogy1337 Ian Norton

              Name 240 million atheists.

              • HobokenGary

                Good answer.

          • Pseudonym

            Of course you don’t. But it seems to help.

        • Guest

          Not to mention inspiring Renaissance art. :D

          • Pseudonym

            Errr… I wouldn’t be so quick to claim that. Sure, the good bits of Renaissance art were really good. But Sturgeon’s Revelation applies here, too. Some of it was really, really bad.

    • slappybones

      “What I do care about is the promotion of empirical and logical strategies.”  That equates to losing faith as faith has to deal with beliefs held without evidence or logic.  You’re trying really hard to create a wedge where there isn’t one.

      • 3lemenope

        I know, just in my life, many believers who are sharp as a tack and routinely use logic and empirical methodology (some of them are even scientists!) when they interact with the world. They have compartmentalized their magical thinking into a little box that applies only to their metaphysical speculations about their deity and their approach to judging the metaphorical claims of the religion attached to it.

        They aren’t even particularly liberal in their approach to their religion, in some cases. The clearest thinking and smartest person  (as in, way smarter than I could ever hope to be)  I know personally would have to have been the department chair of the philosophy department I attended at Uni, and he was a Christian of a rather conservative variety. His classes were amazing. He taught, among other classes, Philosophy of Religion, and if you didn’t know before hand he was a Christian you wouldn’t have been able to figure it out from the class. His capacity even to think about his own religion and the metaphysical claims therein was not particularly impaired by having a belief about them that was personally relevant to him, so it’s not even particularly fair to say that this phenomenon is entirely due to compartmentalization.

        And for what it’s worth, I find the general tropes of faith being understood as a simple absence or abandonment of logic or reason to be painfully inaccurate. It may make us atheists feel a lot better about the thought processes of our adversaries, but it doesn’t actually mesh with the substance of the reports that many religious people will give you about how they think about religion if you actually bother to ask.

        If you’d like a litmus test, the poll question about believing in evolution is a good one. There are usually three categories of response: people who believe that evolution occurred pretty much in line with the standard biological account and with no “assistance” (me, hopefully you, probably the vast majority of posters in this forum), and of course people who believe that God poofed species into existence divided them into kinds and had them herded on a boat and then…it’s not exactly clear what happens after that, but presto! species. But then there is the third category, of people who accept in its entirety the biologist’s account, but believe that the process was guided (either gently or directly, it really doesn’t matter which) by their deity. Now, since the theory of evolution really doesn’t speak to etiology, since scientific theories in general really aren’t etiological in nature; they are descriptions of processes, not why those processes occur in a metaphysical sense, this “evolution+god” theory is functionally identical to the straight-up evolution theory, especially for those who accept that evolution could have happened without the intervention of God but just happened not to (because, shockingly, they believe in God and aren’t deists). This third category of people is *huge*. So the category of people who successfully adopt accurate scientific theories but still believe in God, for example, is rather large. Not too good for your hypothesis that it is a tiny-to-nonexistent category I’m making up out of thin air.

        • Redscream5

          “I find the general tropes of faith being understood as a simple absence or abandonment of logic or reason to be painfully inaccurate.”

          Not necessarily a total abandonment of either reason or logic, but surely a misapplied version of both coupled with invalid (due to not understanding what constitutes valid data) or misunderstood data. Of course there are those that, as you say, compartmentalize their theistic philosophy to only the parts of their lives that are deeply meta, while practicing sound data collection and interpretation methods in their professional lives. 
          Unfortunately they then have to then explain why they choose to deliberately alter their information stream so as to support their world-view without the huge amount of cognitive dissonance that you would expect to be present with someone that is properly trained in experimentation, philosophy and logic. This seems overtly irresponsible to me.
          Should ‘It just feels better to me’ really be a valid (or respected) argument for a world-view?

    • akp

      when people start to use empirical and logical thought processes they will inevitably lose their faith.

      • 3lemenope

        That has not been my experience at all. See above.

        • hoyohoyo

          I’m not sure how anyone could rationalize ‘empirical and logical thought processes’ with any specific religion without running into massive amounts of cognitive dissonance.

          The whole idea of using empirical data is at odds with what faith is.

          • 3lemenope

            I suppose that depends a great deal on what you think faith is. Augustine and Maimonides both (a twofer!) considered empirical investigation as totally compatible with faith, arguing that if empirical investigation seems to conflict with, say, what appears in a religious text, it simply means that the believer has misunderstood the holy text, and the empirical findings are an important corrective for what the proper interpretation might be. In other words, their position is that empirical investigation and conclusions thereof only improve not just the believer’s understanding of the world, but also the believer’s understanding of their own religion. They, like many religious people before or since, do not think of faith as some kind of epistemological or logical trump-card that allows them to ignore evidence or reason. It helps to remember that most religious thinkers over large swaths of the history of the major Western religions did not think taking Scripture literally was particularly wise. 

            Taking your cues on what faith is (or, heck, what religion is) from modern fundamentalist idiots is, of course, going to distort your view of how the concept operates in many other corners of religion, including especially the intellectual self-critical traditions that come along with each major religion and have guided their conceptual evolution in very obvious ways. Unfortunately, in my experience, many atheists are exactly that lazy when criticizing religion generally. It’s a bad intellectual habit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eulogy1337 Ian Norton

      The only atheists who are not anti-theists are; afraid of speaking out against, apathetic towards, or ignorant of, the harm that religious thinking can and does cause in our society.

      In my opinion, theism is simply a result of erroneous thought derived from wishful thinking, indoctrination, misinformation from authority, and/or flawed reasoning. To attack theism is to attempt to treat merely a symptom of irrationality.

      Although just a symptom of a larger problem, theism may be the best place to attack. Considering the sincerity in which religious beliefs are often held, and their effect on a believer’s choices, actions, and personal policies, it serves to be the best area to combat irrationality as well as the effect of it. When aiming to facilitate reason, if you can bring down a person’s religion, they will understand the importance of scrutinizing their beliefs before acting on them or trying to convince others.

      Such scrutiny, and the resulting skepticism, will lessen the number of religiously-motivated/justified acts of violence and discrimination.

      Apathy doesn’t help, but it’s better than the undeserved sympathy and support of a system of thought responsible for justifying many atrocities. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but it doesn’t make all of them equal in quality.

      • HobokenGary

        What a load of shit. That’s exactly the self important turd the article was talking about. These responses have proven the Vice article right fifty times over.

  • Patrick Sharp

    A lot of people forget that subreddits are meant for a specific group of people.  r/atheism is specifically for people to vent and complain and roll their eyes, especially if IRL they’re surrounded by people they don’t understand and don’t feel like they can be themselves with.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DYMQ74VK55RPNRARHMDV5UNFEE V2Blast

      Not, actually, it’s not “specifically for people to vent” – that’s just become its de facto purpose, because that’s the most easily digestible content. People know such posts will get massively upvoted out of sympathy.

      • pato

        Yeah, I thought the point of /r/atheism was to discuss atheism. That doesn’t happen ever.

        • slappybones

          It does, but most of those never make it to the front page as those stories and questions are usually discussed by a small group of people like me that don’t usually dole out votes, and choose to contribute via comments instead.  The other thing is that since other subreddits of /r/atheism have more specific coverage on the things that people “want to see” /r/debateanatheist or /r/freethought, a lot of the “quality” content makes it there instead.  If you look though, the rate at which those subreddits receive content is much slower than /r/atheism as there isn’t always debate going on nor is there always some topical event happening that’s relevant to atheism.  Some could argue that it’s not that /r/atheism doesn’t have those other bits and pieces as much as there’s so much filler content that it tends to bury those bits.

        • Carrieschilman

          I just opened Reddit, went to r/atheism went to new and read a discussion on Atheism, so yes, it does.

      • Redscream5

        /r/atheism just gets a lot of beef due to it being one of the ‘default’ subreddits. In truth, it probably should not be, as you’re right, it’s intended for a specific demographic. It’s a support subreddit, not a recruiting one.

  • Justin Miyundees

    Faith is the antithesis of reason.  We’re in trouble on this planet and time is of the essence lest our children suffer a fate worse than being ridiculed for practicing, promoting and promulgating faith.  It’s time to take a page from the Catholics when they painted Paganism up as silly and foolish (April Fool was coined to ridicule Pagans that continued in their delusion – funny thing that they replaced one delusion with another).

  • MegaZeusThor

    On one hand, I don’t really care that some of my neighbours go to church. As long as they keep it to themselves and it doesn’t affect me, well whatever.

    On the other hand, it is a bit embarrassing what people believe. Yahweh is sillier than Santa in concept. Also, religion rarely doesn’t affect others, so there are good reasons to show people our point of view (we think it’s all or mostly made up.) Granted some atheists are better at communicating than others – but it can be hard to tell what will get through to someone else.

  • Javier

    This guy really generalizes r/atheism by cherry-picking. There is tons of great content submitted there, but it often doesn’t reach the front page. There are a few regular submitters who constantly submit quality stories that drive discussion.

  • Wild Rumpus

    I understand why some people find r/atheism to be a big circlejerk. 

    Instead of following r/atheism, I find there are sometimes amazingly educated discussions of religion at r/debateachristian and r/debateanatheist . Of course there are still a few frothing at the mouth atheists, a few completely clueless creationsists, and the occasional circlejerks, but the tone is much more respectful and the debates between knowledgeable theologians – both Christian and atheist – often challenge my own position in a positive way.

  • http://truth-tables.com James Hotelling

    After a few months, I found that r/atheism just tended not to have content I found interesting or worthwhile. So, instead of saying that they were wrong to post it (they clearly see value in that content, even if I don’t), I simply unsubscribed. I cannot recommend that action heartily enough, even though it requires non-users to become users. I wish them all the best, and am happy that people who hang out there have that stuff to keep them amused; it’s just not for me, and I don’t particularly want to use my downvotes to change it, so I don’t subscribe anymore.

    Though I do still cringe when I think of all the “this isn’t atheism!” comments I saw. That just drove me nuts.

  • Lefty

    let this sink in: r/atheism isn’t telling anyone that they are going to hell.
    battle, won. war….???

  • Thalfon

    I think that new atheists often end up going through a phase like this. Often we hear stories about new converts having a “sudden clarity” or “everything clicking” or “it finally makes sense”; certainly I felt that way when I finally realized that the universe made much more sense when you stopped positing the existence of a god. To continue my point though, I think new atheists (new as in recently deconverted, not as in the “new atheism” movement) have trouble understanding why theists can’t see things as clearly as they now do. This “How do you not see this?!” attitude sometimes comes out in the form of frustration and fuels these sorts of memes like we see on r/atheism or Y! Answers (at least, last I checked).

    After a while I think most of those (myself included) who walked that road realize that it’s not as simple as we’d all like it to be. Humans are hardwired in such a way that changing our beliefs is difficult. From there you’ll have some people branch off into more measured criticisms of religion, others who attempt to bridge the gap, and heck, a whole rainbow of other positions on the matter. (And of course, a few trolls who just keep on trollin’.) Age and maturity most likely play factors too.

    You can almost see it playing out on r/atheism on a regular basis too. New members will show up, start posting screenshots of mocking religious people on their Facebook feed, posting mocking memes and whatnot. Meanwhile at the same time you see comments of the people who have been there a while growing tired of the antics of r/atheism, despite the fact that they haven’t really changed at all in the last year or two.

    Of course, I’m not speaking of everyone here, maybe not even a majority, but I think it accounts for at least a noticeable chunk of the crowd. Nor do I know or think that it’s something that ought to be stopped (it’s probably not something that could be). With the case of r/atheism, my only concern would be that, as a default subreddit (all new users are automatically subscribed to it, and it also posts to the front page when logged out; default subreddits are determined purely by number of subscribers), a lot of people are on the receiving end of those messages who perhaps don’t deserve to be.

    For redditors who are interested in a more measured discussion of atheism, r/trueatheism is a smaller sub that is geared toward content that drives discussion. (The “true” prefix is just a reddit thing, several other subs with too much image macro or other mindless content have created “true” versions to limit things to more discussion worthy content. Don’t read into it too much.) Friendly Atheist blog posts have shown up there somewhat frequently in the last little while, actually. The majority of content there is self-posts (normally on reddit you post a link; a self post is a text post rather than a single link, though it may contain links in it) which are questions or viewpoints up for discussion.

    • NotRightNotLeft

      It’s been over 20 years and still I find it amazing that people just can’t see. I understand why, but it just doesn’t make sense. All it takes is the courage to question ones beliefs and follow the evidence no matter where it leads. Yet still, we are the minority in this world and are bound to be ruled by those that accept faith as a method of accessing “truth”. In this day and age, that is down-right pathetic. I don’t actively seek people on the street to prosyletize to, but if I hear someone utter nonsense, I’m calling them out on it. 

      • Inti

        A surprisingly insightful article, from Cracked of all places, made me understand why we are the minority. Read point #4 about how myths are a kind of social cement: 
        http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-you-dont-realize-movies-are-controlling-your-brain/

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

           There are actually quite a few really good and insightful articles from Cracked. I don’t follow the site, but I’ve seen multiple articles over the past couple of years to be a little more than surprised and impressed. I have no idea what the majority of their articles are like, but the ones that have been recommended to me were quite good. Head and shoulders above the magazine that is its namesake.

    • Pseudonym

      I think that new atheists often end up going through a phase like this.

      FWIW, it’s not just new atheists. The most obnoxious kind of zealot is always a recent convert, be it religious, political, or even to a humanitarian cause. Studying a subject at the university level for the first time also often contains these “zen” moments where things click into place and you feel the need to tell everyone.

      What’s going on on Reddit is psychologically the same thing that happens when we speak of Muslims being “radicalised”, only in a far more benign form.

      • Guest

        not even close those so called “radical” atheist post offensive meme’s to some while radical muslims blow up cars. 

        • Pseudonym

          Little-known fact, since you brought it up: The car bomb was invented by European anarchists in the early 20th century, all of them atheists.

          Of course, this has nothing at all to do with Reddit atheism, beyond the psychology of conversion. People can be converted to violent causes or non-violent causes, malignant causes or benign causes. What I’m trying to compare is not the level of violence, but the level of pig-headed obnoxiousness and imperviousness to nuance.

          • mobathome

            @
            Pseudonym: Little-known fact, since you brought it up: The car bomb was invented by European anarchists in the early 20th century, all of them atheists.
            Your evidence, please.

      • Viper

        Trust me. Atheist zealots are preferable to every religious zealot in the world. An atheist extremist will not be working to take away your rights or prevent you from living as you want, except with your lifestyle choices are harming others. 

        • HobokenGary

          Regularly there are posts on r/atheism advocating banning religion, thus restricting others rights to think for themselves.

          • OmNomNomonymous

            What the hell are you talking about? I haven’t seen one post like that. Give me even one example of a successful post on r/atheism that advocates “banning religion” and I’ll eat my own hat. 

            • DriveBySnark

              Maybe they mean banning the practices of religion, like being able to impose your beliefs on others. Pretty much the same thing, right?

              • Mackinder

                one cannot ban ignorance.  it simply exists.  but you can work to have religion separated from public life.  i think that most atheists are pushing for a secular society.  we don’t wanna burn churches, but we don’t wanna put our hands on a bible before testifying in public courts.  

        • Agnostic

          Atheists do not take away rights as much as Lenin, Stalin and Mao Do not take away rights. Why do you think that atheists are the most feared group?

          • thorny264

            Because theist trolls like yourself are easily scared? Also it doesn’t help that you’re so ignorant it actually beggars belief

  • LesterBallard

    I try to not make fun of the ignorant (though I often do); who knows for sure why they are ignorant. But as for the willfully ignorant, they deserve both barrels.

    • Joe

      I never make fun, but I often correct. I usually try to do so in a way that isn’t degrading and is not demeaning, however difficult it may be sometimes. You can get alot more out of having a conversation with someone than out of a debate.

      • LesterBallard

        But wants to talk to some asshole who thinks like Bryan Fischer?

  • Garrettdnls

    r/atheism is atrocious, and I don’t care what people believe in so long as I have representation and everyone is treated fairly and don’t have a cross shoved up their ass. The statement that atheists want people to lose their faith is a false one. If you guys want a true subreddit that discussed atheism, go to r/trueatheism.

    • Rob Cunningham

       r/trueatheism?  Wow.  Given how often the “No True Scotsman” argument gets thrown around in religious debates, it seems that the name of that subreddit is more than slightly hypocritical.

      • Garrettdnls

        The name isn’t to say that atheism is true but that it’s a true and pure atheism subreddit where they only discuss atheism and religion. Pictures, for example, are not allowed at trueatheism. 

      • HobokenGary

        It’s the way reddit works, more serious discussions on a particular topic are called ‘trueXXX.’ Like r/true gaming is serious talk about video games.

  • Zob

    Let’s be honest.  r/atheism is a bit of a circle jerk.

    Let’s be more honest: is it really more of a circle jerk than any church gathering?  And would Winkie go into any religious establishment brandishing the same criticisms?

    • Joe

      On top of that, ever been to r/christiantiy?

      • Redscream5

        It’s like /r/atheism, only with a humongous ban-hammer that’s retrofitted with a hair-trigger.

  • buckyball60

    Love your column, but I love xkcd as well: mind giving him some credit on that cartoon? xkcdDOTcom/774/

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

      The link is provided in the image.

      • buckyball60

         Oh, scroll over.  Good Good

  • Py

    It is kind of cute how some atheists think they are above arrogance and hypocrisy.

    • Pope

      It’s also cute how you present your “holier than thou” stance.

      • Py

         Of course.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_722JM2BE6YISLQ3KWROXGHBBXQ Joe Mama

    As someone who all too often whips himself into a foaming rage over fundamentalists, I can see where this author is coming from.

  • dubaloseven

    I personally appreciatte r/atheism’s way of criticizing the shit out of everything.

    • Brendanfitz

      seriously who cares the internet is only offensive if you think it is. Who gives a flying fuck just do not visit r/atheism. They are not the worst people on the internet. I did not know they passed pedophiles cruising chat rooms for children

  • Joe

    Thank you. Ironically I just read Luke Winkie’s article 2 minutes before reading this one (both I found on r/atheism’s front page). I was honestly abashed by his article and the stereo types he pulled out of his ass while mocking stereo types. r/atheism has helped me go from someone who, since I was 16 years old, had been a closet atheist because I grew up in a Mormon household and didn’t know how my family would react. Now I’m 24 and having found r/atheism a few months ago I’m comfortable with who I am and am capable
    of having an intelligent conversation with someone of faith, without bashing them for their beliefs. I was also able to tell my parents and family about my atheism and now I feel that they know me for who I really am and now I am truly comfortable around my family in a way that I never thought possible (even though they are still Mormon).

    TL;DR – r/atheism isn’t bad, it’s helped me a lot!

  • Bill Haines

    The only issue I have with the ridicule is that when it’s directed at only moderately religious folk who otherwise might support our rights, even work with us on state/church separation issues and such, they are completely turned off by the yahoos and come to see them as the majority of us rather than just the loudest.

  • http://twitter.com/dooglesweathers Douglas Weathers

    I lost patience when the subreddit when they didn’t start in on Islam until it became a fad after the Egyptian election.

    You make some good points, though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/billyup Jesse Jones

      When you don’t know much about a religion, you tend not to argue against it with more than “Nuh Uh!” Think about it like this too, for the most part those in r/atheism are in or around the US. They know what it feels like to be under the christian thumb. They don’t necessarily know what it’s like under the muslim thumb. That’s how I make sense of there only being a few posts about islam.

  • Christopher

    I hate opportunistic bloggers like you who think they can piggyback off other writer’s popularity. Go back to writing articles on cis privilege and how to make vegan s’mores you dirty hippie.

    - Religious and proud

    • RedScream

      Love seeing the stereotypical venom-filled theist post. 

      Proof positive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThreeDeeSix Nick Oefinger

    The one defense I’ve ever heard for fundamentalist Christians is this: “in the end, ultimately, they genuinely believe they’re fighting the good fight to save our souls from our own follies.” By that logic, a “friendly atheist” is simply someone who doesn’t care enough about these poor, brainwashed sots to try and help shake them out of their delusions.

    Yes, there are some particularly blunt and heavy-handed posts made to /r/atheism; this is going to be a lot like them. Exactly how heavily should we censor ourselves to help other people feel comfortable in their willfully self-imposed (and forcefully exported) ignorance? Further, your underlying assertion is false: with millions of people reading and posting to /r/atheism, yes, there are thousands upon thousands of nasty posts out there, but you’ve obviously never read the post from the distraught mother of a suicide victim, whose pastor told her that her son was burning in Hell for what he had done, who received level-headed and friendly advice from /r/atheism which helped her to come to terms with what had happened and overcome her compulsive belief in an eternity of suffering. 
    You’ve most likely not read the post from a young girl who was questioning her Catholic upbringing, who was gently and tactfully steered towards a variety of simple, easy-to-digest articles concerning the facts that she is not alone, and how she needs to put serious thought into these sorts of decisions, rather than jumping to an immediate conclusion about what her beliefs “ought to be.” These posts made it to Reddit’s front page. I’m sure that if I happened to catch these both in such close proximity that there have been more like them. I’ve certainly seen any number of posts which, while they weren’t so entirely altruistic as those two, could hardly be called crass, condescending, rude, or heavy-handed.
    Is blasting a Christian minister for saying that the Aurora theater shootings are due to “people acting like animals because they believe in the false theory of evolution” in a not-overly-polite fashion somehow worse than his saying that in the first place? Not too long ago, Colorado had another highly publicized mass shooting where a number of young people died. One who didn’t, a girl who refused to renounce her belief in God, was later claimed to be dead by a Christian rock group which wanted a martyr for an emotional song (which completely ignored the girl who had, instead, been shot and killed in the supposed martyr’s place; she wasn’t a Christian). Is this cool, then? Because this is the sort of bull that the atheists I know rail against. The aforementioned example completely ignores the documentaries and Halloween-themed “Hell-houses” later created and used by churches across the country to frighten children into docile obedience. 
    The word “atheist” means you are “against” or “anti” theism. By claiming to be a “friendly” atheist and making the comments you have made, you’re creating an oxymoron. You’re painting yourself to be an apathetic individual, with regards to the general well-being of those around you. You’re making a gross over-generalization with regards to the attitudes that all atheists supposedly display all of the time, and you’re suggesting, in the process, that those of us who choose to take a stand against the increasing level of assault under which we are falling for being rational, thinking persons are incapable of being polite or informative. You are behaving like the Christian fundamentalists, and you’re completely missing the point: being an atheist means an acceptance of scientific fact, not an “alternative belief system.” You’re damn right that we don’t want somebody who believes that Jesus is going to take control of his vehicle in a tight spot driving a school bus, or someone who believes that “ultimately, whether he lives or dies is up to God” performing open-heart surgery, or someone who thinks that homosexuality is a sinful abomination teaching sex-ed in public schools.

    Atheism is not a belief. It is a focus upon reality. Many atheists would very much like to free their brainwashed friends, family members, and fellow members of their communities from the more poisonous of the many religious delusions in existence. When a religion oversteps its bounds and is allowed to become a dominant influence in how the secular society governing everybody’s way of daily life is run, it needs to be put back into its place… because, at that point, it’s not about spirituality, it’s about material, worldly control. If you don’t like the way /r/atheism carries itself, you’re free to find like-minded intellectual discussion elsewhere. 

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, who listens

      gotta mostly agree with this.

  • Christopher

    Imagine acting like a regular adult instead of trying to convince somebody to abandon their faith.

  • Bryan Elliott

    Hemant: if you want more of this sort of nonsense to deconstruct, /r/shutupyouguys is always a “fun” read.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThreeDeeSix Nick Oefinger

    Well, I definitely proved somebody’s point. I came here via a link on /r/atheism and posted a moderately scathing reply to what, as it turns out, wasn’t the “friendly atheist’s” words at all, but something he in turn was commenting on, and largely disapproving of himself. Point made. If one IS going to be self-righteous, angry, condescending and blunt, one must at the very least learn to read thoroughly first.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DaystarEld Damon Max Pourtahmaseb-Sasi

    I’ve been saying this for months. I expect /r/atheism hate from theists and maybe even agnostics, but when other atheists bash it all I can think is they’re the privileged minority of atheists who don’t realize that not everyone lives in a town or village or state or even country where it’s okay to be an open atheist, and that there’s nothing wrong with having a place online to vent and laugh with like-minded people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Imagicka John Blackthorne

    My response to Luke Winkie’s article: 

    No, you weren’t exposing or endorsing Christianity, but being somewhat apologetic for it. You wrote an article about Creationism, which is willful ignorant of science, and seen as wholly slanderous indoctrination for especially the young.  Then you are amazed that people have some strong opinions on the matter?

    It is like you wrote a benign article on how you were an unwitting victim in an abusive relationship, didn’t condemn it, only passingly touching on the fact that you were brain-washed into giving unconditional love to a vicious demanding person.  Of course you’re fine now, and over it, but hey, let’s not talk badly of the past shall we?  Then getting upset because some people have some strong opinions about that subject as well, and want to voice them at the table you set out for everyone to come and enjoy.   

    You then turned this article into a rant against reddit/r/atheism?

    Then you commit the fallacy of composition by assuming that all members of reddit/r/atheism are bitter, faux-enlightened young people.  I’m glad you did your homework.  Did it take you an entire five minutes?  

    It doesn’t matter what reddit was intended.  Do you think when people built the internet, they expected it to be practically dominated by porn?  If you cannot intelligent thoughtful discussions on reddit it is because you aren’t looking hard enough.  There are over 160 subreddits on atheism alone, as well as those about religion.  Now that /r/atheism boasts over 1 million members, and growing by the hundreds every day, perhaps you might concede that there are those who aren’t as thoughtful, articulate, and intelligent as you’d have the whole of them espouse to.  

    Perhaps you weren’t on AOL chats when they were at the height of their popularity.  But it is a lot like YouTube nowadays.  Lots of people trolling saying stupid ignorant things.  Popularity only attracts the trolls. 

    I don’t think you do get it.  Would you rather Reddit Atheists take to the street-corners and proselytize there?  Instead of on the internet… a house that science built? I invite you to read the comments about your article back on reddit, see what they think about this.      

    Having someone say “I’ll pray for you” is condescending.  It ignores or outright disrespects what differing believes someone may or may not have, while proclaiming what is seen as self-righteous religious superiority and then backhanding them with pity.  Perhaps now do you perceive the superiority that others would label theists as having when they preach and attempt to convert the non-believers.  

    Atheists are typically ex-theists. They’ve seen both sides of the coin and usually know what it is like to be brain-washed to accept theists’ beliefs alone. They heard and bought into the lie that atheists are little more than satanists with the serial numbers filed off. That atheists have no morals and if they could get away with the lie that atheists would eat your baby, they would say that too. But no rational person would believe that no more than believing in human sacrificing satanists. 

    Militant atheists do not look at reality through the lens of religion and see the wicked and immoral things people do in the name of their gods. Not just in the past, but today as well. Just because you are an atheists doesn’t mean you have the cognitive skills to formulate and debate the evils that one sees, and it is quite easy to mock and ridicule the hypocrisy, cruelty, and fallacies that they themselves once unquestionly held.

    Do not confuse arrogance for the mixture of anger, humour and relief that is felt by those who have successfully broken from the yoke of repressive religion that was irrationally trust upon others throughout most of their life.  Do not confuse lording-intellect with the genuine attempt to inform and educate those (albeit in a juvenile manner) who are willful ignorant and do not understand, or sharing their same experiences with like-minded individuals.  Especially those who are still surrounded by irrational theists in their own real life.

    Dawkins is our fire-and-brimstone pin-up boy?  You offer evidence of your ignorance yet again.  I would choose Hitchens as our pin-up boy. 

    http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/xvtj7/vice_magazine_says_angry_super_arrogant_reddit/c5qgnqq

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=678124192 Thorsten Lünborg

    The fact that funny, easy-to-digest punchline memes dominate the frontpage of r-atheism is simply explained by a flaw in reddit’s weight-algorithm for votes, and every subreddit that has reached a certain size and doesn’t enforce strict moderation has the same problem:

    Early upvotes count more than later upvotes – any submission that takes time to read, evaluate and upvote for will inevitably get votes later, and in subreddits with many members (As /r/atheism) will probably be flushed from the first page of /r/atheism/new before it got enough early upvotes to make it to the hot frontpage – which means, it will never be seen again by the majority of the audience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Greyhaven7 Eric Hedden

    I have a question about the Vice.com article itself.

    How is this guy connecting his initial issue back to /r/atheism?

    He said that he published an article on Salon.com (NOT on /r/atheism
    or Reddit), and the comments section for that article (on Salon.com)
    “erupted in overwrought, hoity-toity, exasperating rhetoric”.

    How are comments on Salon.com, in any way, the fault of the members of /r/atheism? He should be pissed off at the people who made the offending comments: the readership of Salon.com!

    Since the author failed to provide a link, this is the article in question.

    As you can see, “the comments section erupted” with a server-crushing
    deluge of 47 comments… containing precisely ZERO mentions of Reddit
    or /r/atheism. In fact, as far as I can tell, the entire second half of this article (from the moment he mentions “Reddit Atheists” on) is based entirely on a non-sequitur.

  • Jack Rawlinson

    Precisely. r/atheism is a huge group of atheists of varying ages and inclinations so you’re bound to see everything from stupidity to seriousness there. Once you get used to the place (and the related subcategories) it’s a lot of fun and you can take from it what you want. Its critics seem almost maliciously stupid in their determination to hate on it.

  • Hypersapien

    I don’t have a problem with atheists who point out the foolishness of religion. I have a problem with how r/atheism goes about it. And I’m not talking about how offensive or “militant” (whatever that means) they are being, I’m talking about how they can’t seem to construct an argument against religion that takes more than 5 seconds to take in, and how almost nothing gets upvoted to the front page unless it’s in the form of an image.

    Atheists used to be the intellectual elite, but r/atheism is dragging us down to Middle School level. All it’s doing is encouraging intellectual laziness.

    I’ll stick with r/atheismbot and r/trueatheism, thanks.

    • Redscream5

      I think you just have the wrong perspective on this.

      Is it not more likely that we are seeing a slight (or not so slight) increase in atheism, especially among high-school demographics? These people may not all have turned to atheism due to advanced learning in the natural sciences or philosophy. They may be atheists simply because religion doesn’t ‘make sense’ to them. 

      Not every atheist has to be an intellectual. In fact, I hope that most aren’t, as it shouldn’t take a dedication to intellectual elitism to be an atheist, and I think the average person has a life with practical priorities that may facilitate higher learning.

      The desire for atheism to only be the refuge of the intellectually above-average is deliberately marginalizing and hurtful to the entire idea of getting people to throw off the shackles of religious suppression, whether intellectually or emotionally.

      Lastly, there are plenty of subreddits with deeply complex, formal discussions and debates that scratch the itch you want. Why does /r/atheism have to conform to a mold that will make the very idea prohibitively complex? It shouldn’t have to.

      • Redscream5

        Edit: ”
        I think the average person has a life with practical priorities that may NOT facilitate higher learning.”

  • HobokenGary

    Well that wasn’t very friendly at all!

  • http://www.facebook.com/eulogy1337 Ian Norton

    Oops.

  • Seth Chalmers

    I think people are just missing the point of r/atheism entirely. It is NOT a place aimed at creating insightful discussion all the time, rather it has evolved into a place to vent frustrations and gather together with like-minded individuals — because atheists are hard to come by in some parts of the world.

    I myself am an atheist and I enjoy r/atheism for funny memes and jokes, but I don’t go there for insightful discussion. If I’m looking for great discussion on the flaws of faith, theism and anything to do with specific topics of discussion relating to atheism I head over to r/trueatheism. 

    Tldr; r/atheism is a huge circlejerk and not meant for serious discussion, for serious stuff head over to r/trueatheism.

  • John_smith

    I hate to tell the atheists out there, but you ARE just as bad as religious people.  As believers claim that they know God exists, atheists claim to know that god does not exist.  You can’t know one way or the other.  There is no evidence for God’s existence or lack thereof.  I’m agnostic.  You’re all equally annoying to me.  Just let people believe whatever they want.  As long as it’s not hurting anyone, who gives a shit?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I don’t believe it.  We just had this argument.  I feel like I’ve been lyched.  Not your fault John_smith, it’s just that that’s one of the most tired arguments out there.

      1) Atheists don’t claim to have proof that no gods exist.
      2) Religious dogma IS hurting people. All OVER the place.

      I have nothing against Agnostics.  Peace be upon you.  But if you can’t be bothered to make sure your kids aren’t taught that they’ll go to Hell if they don’t accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, then pretty please don’t give a shit out of my way.

  • Griff

    Hemant, I’m thrilled to learn that atheists are aware of the existence of intellectual and progressive Christians.  So, pray tell, why do cyber-atheists attack Christianity wholesale, i.e. denounce it as Christianity?  Why is “faith” inevitably Christian, and why on earth should the indiscriminate and, frequently, unqualified attacks on that faith be taken as anything but an attack on all of its adherents?  To condemn C. across the board is to condemn all of its members–period.  That’s Logic for Dummies, but you’d have me abandon same on your word.  This sounds like the Church of Atheism–a rather legalistic religion, if you ask me.

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

      A lot of Christians are homophobic, anti-women, etc. But even liberal Christians are still pushing lies when it comes to god-belief and prayer, so there are different reasons to call them out.

  • FundieDestroyer

    This is exceedingly brave. You should also visit reddit.com/r/magicskyfairy where we destroy fundies on a regular basis.

  • AndyTK

    My impression is that the r/atheism frothing, insulting and demeaning style has bled into other blogs as well.  The whole A+ debate reeks of this.  I have friends that I can debate many topics with over the internet and keep it respectful the whole time.  Even here that isn’t always possible.  Even though I’m a very liberal democrat I’ve developed a Rush Limbaugh view of feminists because of this experience and this isn’t healthy.  I do not see how this kind of behavior is of any benefit with regards to winning anybody over to any cause, be it feminism or atheism.  It may be cathartic to some people but it teaches a disrespectful, hateful, foaming at the mouth style that appears to be hard to unlearn once you’ve become accustomed to it.

  • John

    Disgusting. Fucking atheists. You really are just as terrible and evangelical as Christians. Easily butthurt and self righteous too!

  • Simone Jester

    Have they noticed that we’re ONLY using our words and the media? We’re not using violence or trying to take away a person’s right to serve on a jury or run for public office (in certain states). Oh alas, we mocked you with a funny image. People who buy Darwin Fishes have to get “Acts of God” insurance for if their cars get keyed or their tires slashed.


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