In Case Anyone Was Wondering If Atheists Are Still Disliked… Yes, We Are

I would never count myself above criticism.  I certainly have my flaws, and not in a “Zooey-Deschanel-leaves-her-house-messy-so-she-can-dance-in-her-pajamas” way.  It’s more like a “I-am-not-going-to-air-my-issues-on-a-public-blog-for-all-to-see” kind of way.  So, while reading this post, please keep in mind that I do not think I am above criticism.  Also keep in mind I accept constructive criticism, not random lists of petty complaints about my community.

On Monday, Timothy Philen wrote an opinion piece at the about atheists. I think he meant it to be some kind of scathing review of the movement but it just kind of came off as pointlessly dickish.  Not to mention he was also super-condescending about the Reason Rally, which got my goat because it was such an amazing experience for me personally.

Oh, and there was the obligatory Hitler reference.  More on that later!  Let us delve into the text!

This is how Philen sees atheists

The acolytes who gathered on the National Mall this past March for the “Reason Rally” are veritable Nietzsches of nonbelief — a thinking man’s Tea Party of the best and brightest white people, drawn by the intellectual vigor of the New Atheists and their messianic mission: to save civilization by stamping out the harmful delusions of religion once and for all.

First of all, let’s take it easy on the alliteration.  Second of all, “messianic mission”?  Doesn’t that necessitate a messiah? You’re barking up the wrong tree there, buddy. Even if you wanted to make an argument calling Richard Dawkins the “head of the New Atheists” (and a lot of atheists would disagree with you there), it’s a stretch to call him anyone’s messiah. But Timmy didn’t make that argument. He just kind of said a thing that he thought sounded clever.

As for the “save civilization” thing, well he isn’t too far off there.  Maybe it’s a grandiose term for it, but fighting against things like, you know, modern-day child-witch hunts in Africa or the people who are anti-anti-bullying, or trying to encourage people to get vaccinated because whooping cough is on the rise are, in fact, things that are saving civilization. And, on the subject, saving it from religious zealots.  Do you think that people think gay kids are killing themselves because of rhetoric like that of Bill Nye or Bill Donohue?

I admit it. I’m annoyed by these people. Not simply because of their fervent lack of faith, or blinding sense of self-importance, but because of their lack of a sense of humor.

Whoa, whoa, whoa buddy.  Let’s stop before you say something hurtful. Lack a sense of humor?! Why don’t you try this on for size, guy!

An atheist and a Christian walk into a bar.  The bartender gives the atheist a beer and the Christian a glass of wine.  The atheist looks at the… um… at the bartender and says… uh … “Blood of Christ!?  More like…”

Okay, fine. I don’t know any jokes. Are you happy now Tim? Are  you?!

After all, you would expect an Elie Wiesel or an Aung San Suu Kyi to be serially somber in the pursuit of their causes, but you wouldn’t expect the same from Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer. It’s easy to understand why these folks needed Bill Maher and Penn Jillette to send in videos to the March rally (not that 20,000 people standing in the rain for six hours celebrating “reason” wasn’t funny enough).

Um, Dawkins is a zoologist, not a stand-up.

And how is celebrating who we are and what we stand for any funnier than going to church every Sunday? A group of people setting aside time to get together and celebrate their worldview is funny? Am I missing the joke?  Maybe I don’t have a sense of humor (since I am an atheist and all). BRB. I have to go shut down my Twitter account as I’m not as clever as I once thought.

Philen goes on to use the trifecta: Comparisons to Nazis, Stalin, and Mao.  I am choosing to ignore it, because it’s dumb and overdone.

Moving on.

After all, in an atheist utopia built on “In Darwin We Trust,” no one can ultimately be trusted.  Without an absolute and sacred moral touchstone, free from the perversions of reason by men and the state, power will naturally coalesce into the hands of the most gifted, educated and Machiavellian — in other words, the “fittest” leaders of any movement. Those, like Singer, sufficiently devoid of sentimentality to be able to make the “hard choices” will in the end triumph — and ruthlessly if necessary — in the absence of religion’s restraining influence.

Even if one doesn’t believe that the common tenets of world religions are objectively true, their utility in undergirding the social contract can’t be denied.

Yes.  All of that.  Because religion has never been used to repress the masses.  And no religious person has ever broken any kind of “social contract.”

And the occasional overreach of religion into the secular square, and even the tragedies of the 12th-century Crusades and the ungodly acts done in the name of Allah today, would be catapulted from any scale by the counterweight of the noble, edifying and sacrificial deeds done daily throughout human history by those who adhered to the dictates of their religious faiths.

No, you’re wrong.  It doesn’t counterbalance.

See?  I can just say things too!

By the way, do you see the irony in calling attacks in the name of a god “un-godly”?  Oh, irony!  See, I do still have a sense of humor!

And he ends with this:

I recall my gregarious grandfather having friendly conversations with agnostics and atheists and people of other faiths. Although steadfast in his point of view, he was always respectful of them and, to my knowledge, they were respectful of him.

I can only pray that if I attend next year’s “Reason Rally,” these libertine lions will show this Christian some of the same respect that they so passionately crave.

So… because you perceive your grandfather as being a nice Christian and Dawkins as being a mean atheist… what?  We’re wrong? All atheists are mean?  There is a god?  Science is bunk?

And that’s a really cool strawman that you have set up at the end there. I don’t recall any Christians getting beat up at the rally; does anyone else?  Is speaking our mind any more disrespectful than this article about how nasty we are? Also, there’s not going to be a yearly Reason Rally. A preliminary Google search could have told you that.

Well, Timothy,  I would like to close by thanking you.  It is reading things like this that remind me why it is so important to do what we do here at Friendly Atheist.  While your article itself was fairly pointless and ill-informed, you did make a larger point clear:

Apparently we are still a caricature to you.  The idea that the voices of a minority deserve to be heard is silly.  You actively chose to ignore the evils that religion can do just because you don’t want to deal with them.  I am not just a mindless drone who thinks that natural selection means that we live in a world without subtlety, beauty, and wonder.  I am not an argumentative jerk who plugs my ears whenever someone disagrees with me.   And I am not the kind of person that thinks that one op-ed piece can paint 20% of the American population with a single brush and then say “this is why the opinion I have assigned to you is wrong.”

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • Piet Puk

    Not simply because of their fervent lack of faith, or blinding sense of self-importance, but because of their lack of a sense of humor.

    Maybe he just doesn’t understand the humor of Jim Jefferies, Dave Allen, Jimmy Carr, Pat Condell, David Cross, Ricky Gervais, Doug Stanhope, Julia Sweeney, Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman, Eddie Izzard, Tim Minchin, Patton Oswalt..

  • Ateista Sveta

    Godless Atheists… RLY?

    Is there any other kind?

  • Dan Marshall

    Don’t forget George Carlin!

  • Lukas

    “I can only pray that if I attend next year’s “Reason Rally,” these libertine lions will show this Christian some of the same respect that they so passionately crave.”This is hilarious. Does the writer not realize that *he* is the one who shows no respect for the other side? Maybe the anecdote about his grandparent should be put to good use as something he can learn from, rather than something he can beat over other peoples’ heads.

  • Cindy

    The Daily Caller? Nobody reads that steaming heap.

  • David McNerney

    Atheists lack sense of humour….. Bill Maher, Penn Jillette.

    My sense of irony is twitching.

  • Patterrssonn

    It’s funny that he had to go back two generations to come up with an example of a Christian treating atheists and agnostics with respect.

  • Patterrssonn

    Yes but for sheer hilarity can any of those match Ken Ham?

  • David McNerney

    I just did.

    I wish I could unread it.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Respect is earned, buddy. You can hope for it all you want, but until you deserve it, it won’t be there.

    Of course, that’ll just be our fault according to you, but whatever. 

  • Nazani14

    He obviously wasn’t there.  All phenotypes of humanity were present.

  • DougI

    From what I understand about his rant he’s upset that Atheists exist and don’t pay his sense of Christian privilege any respect.  If he doesn’t want to go to the Reason Rally he doesn’t have to, but he says he’ll grace them with his presence if they pay him respect.  He didn’t exactly make a good case why he should be paid any respect since he ranted about how immoral we all are because we aren’t religious.

    Anywho, about his Nazi comment.  Given the fact that Hitler thought secular schools were a disgrace and had them abolished I doubt any of those professors (who had to be Aryan, otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to teach), were openly Atheist.  Professors like Albert Einstein certainly didn’t espouse his loyalty to the Nazi regime (but we were glad to have him in the secular US).  Given the fact that Atheism in Nazi Germany was equated with Communism or the Socialist Left political factions, I highly doubt there were any Atheists at all in the universities lest they openly renounced their views.

    But really, I think the blow hard had no idea what he was talking about and just needed to advertise that he’s a huge bigot and why Reason Rallies are needed.

  • Christopher Buchholz

    I stopped at “religion’s restraining influence” seriously? 

  • Luther

    I see his point about humor when I watch Comfort describe  the banana, or seeing innocent children riding on dinosaurs, it gets a little harder to take the joke about me never being in a foxhole, and I just cannot laugh at the Pat Roberson stream of bulloney.

    But the gorilla cartoon did get a laugh from me, but then I realized some religious don’t think that is a joke.

  • Gus Snarp

    To many religious people, simply saying “I don’t believe in God” is disrespectful. It’s the worst sin one can commit. It’s insulting to their deity, prophet, whatever at a fundamental level. There is nothing any of us can do, no amount of niceness or moral behavior, no amount of money donated to clean up vandalism of churches, nothing can redeem the fact that we are evil and disrespectful simply for not believing their story. Calling it a fairy tale is no more disrespectful than calling it a myth. Calling it a myth is no more disrespectful than saying there’s a chance that some parts of it are not true. OF course, all these things are really the same, but there’s a scale of niceness in the wording. Many believers don’t see that scale because disbelief itself is already off the deep end of disrespect to them. We can’t win with such people. Philen is obviously one of them.

  • Bill

    Well done, Jessica.  Last paragraph is especially compelling.  

  • Patterrssonn

    I think all this hatemongering strawmanning, this gnashing of teeth and frothing of mouth is based on the fear that we might be right. They need to build a gigantic scary strawman to distract themselves from this.

  • Pascale Laviolette

    Wow, how condescending can this guy get?

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    An atheist and a god walk into a bar. The bartender pulled one beer. Well, there was only one person to serve.

  • AntieQ

     But, BR, he’s going to pray for respect….from atheists…..seems rather counter-productive, somehow….

  • AmyH


  • Holytape

    Oh yeah, what about the great christian comedians like Dana Cook, Jeff Foxworthy and Gallagher….. [sounds of crickets,... tumble weed blowing by,... wolf howling in the distance...].    

    Higgs Boson

  • Jessica

    Ooooooh good one!  I was hoping I would get a couple jokes out of this post :)  

  • julie

    You get the sense that he didn’t actually talk to anyone there. Probably just pointed and laughed and then claimed we had no sense of humor because atheists weren’t pointing and laughing at themselves.

  • Thomas Lawson

    I would love to send Saint Timothy a copy of my book, being that he’s so convinced how nice and respectful his “grandfather’s atheists” were. Here’s a little excerpt from Harry Hoover, a Civil War veteran (fought from 1861 to 1864):

    “I do not believe in God because I have sense enough to know that all Gods are frauds; and I have some solicitude for my reputation for sanity. I refuse to worship him because I have a pardonable desire to retain my self-respect.”

    That was written in 1903. Here’s something from Morris Sachs, an ex-Rabbi…

    “Man the worker, the thinker, the producer; God the imaginary phantom of a coerced, subdued, and frightened brain.”

    Atheists were SO nice in 1903. Give me a break, Timbo.

  • Patrickd509

     Interesting point.  Maybe we could try something like “I don’t believe your story” – as in dismissing a movie in which the plot was not very convincing, ultimately.  A subtle way to put the burden of proof where it belongs.

  • CultOfReason

    A man sees a boy with a box of kittens
    the man goes over and says “oh what cute kittens!” the boy replies “yes they are Christian kittens”. About a week later the man sees the boy again with the same batch of kittens. once again he walks over and says “my, those are just adorable!” the boy replies “yes, they are atheist kittens” the man asks “wait, weren’t they christian before?” the boy looks at the man and says ” yeah but they have their eyes open now”

  • Ryan Barrett

    Well, Dawkins _did_ say at the reason rally that theists deserve to be ridiculed at every moment they’re given.  I agree with him, but I’m sure these people’s panties are in a twist just because their pastor’s also are.

  • Matthew Baker

     He managed to spout the exact same things his ilk always spouts. Lets see if we can run down the checklist
    1. Reductio ad hitlerum: this one goes without saying
    2. Projection: Christian comedians tend to not be as funny as atheist comedians so therefore atheist comedians are not funny.
    3.Conflation: Lets just mix up atheists, secularists, nihilists, humanists etc because it just easier that way.
    4.Nostalgia: Opining the good old days when the non religious kept their mouths shut (or at least letting themselves be kicked)

    Ps. It would seem he thinks himself a Henry David Thoreau when he really is more of a William Lane Craig.

  • smrnda

    I don’t think civilization is in danger from atheists. Secular nations tend to do the best at measures of civilization.

    Lack of humor? Depends on who. I don’t recall there being many jokes in the Bible, or any other sacred text.

  • M. Elaine

    Sheesh, you weren’t kidding about the alliteration.

  • brianmacker

    ” Even if you wanted to make an argument calling Richard Dawkins the “head of the New Atheists” (and a lot of atheists would disagree with you there), it’s a stretch to call him anyone’s messiah.”

    At least they didn’t call him the Dick of the new atheist.   Ba-dum-ba.

  • northstar

    An insomniac agnostic dyslexic tossed and turned all night, wondering if there was a Dog. 

  • Deven Kale

    Throw epileptic in there and it’s even better. ;)

  • HughInAz

    Jesus walks into a hotel and asks, “can you put me up for the night?”

  • Robster

    I really think the godbots dislike of all things atheist (rational, perhaps) is that the non-believers voicing their view is a threat to their own shaky beliefs. Ever noticed whenever a bunch of godbots of the same flavour get together, they spend most of their time not swapping recipes but confirming each others similar beliefs? Viewing those unafflicted with the christian belief system shakes them and they get nervous about having to think and to try and justify their dodgy belief system that they know is very sus.

  • amycas

     I thought it was funny that in one sentence he says atheists lack a sense of humor and about two sentences later he uses examples of atheist comedians to somehow prove his point.

  • Northstar

    During the Reign of Terror of
    the French Revolution, one morning’s executions began with three men: a
    rabbi, a Catholicpriest, and a rationalist skeptic.

    The rabbi was marched up onto the platform first. There, facing the
    guillotine, he was asked if he had any last words. And the rabbi cried
    out, “I believe in the one and only true God, and He shall save me.” The
    executioner then positioned the rabbi below the blade, set the block
    above his neck, and pulled the cord to set the terrible instrument in
    motion. The heavy cleaver plunged downward, searing the air. But then,
    abruptly, it stopped with a crack just a few inches above the would-be
    victim’s neck. To which the rabbi said, “I told you so.”

    “It’s a miracle!” gasped the crowd. And the executioner had to agree, letting the rabbi go.

    Next in line was the priest. Asked for his final words, he declared, “I
    believe in Jesus Christ the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who will rescue
    me in my hour of need.” The executioner then positioned this man beneath
    the blade. And he pulled the cord. Again the blade flew downward thump!
    creak! …stopping just short of its mark once more.

    “Another miracle!” sighed the disappointed crowd. And the executioner
    for the second time had no choice but to let the condemned go free.

    Now it was the skeptic’s turn. “What final words have you to say?” he
    was asked. But the skeptic didn’t hear. Staring intently at the ominous
    engine of death, he seemed lost. Not until the executioner poked him in
    the ribs and the question was asked again did he reply.

    “Oh, I see your problem,” the skeptic said pointing. “You’ve got a blockage in the gear assembly, right there!”


  • Tom

    An atheist and a Christian walks into a bar.  The bartender gives the Christian a glass of wine and the atheist a Bud Light.  The atheist says to the Christian, “Man, they really hate atheists here.”
    “Why do you say that?” the Christian asks.
    “Because at least they gave you the blood of Christ.  All I got was his piss.”

  • Anna

    It’s the great double standard. Religious people are allowed to assert that their god (and only their god) is real, and no one calls them out for being presumptuous, insensitive or disrespectful. If we say that gods are imaginary, then we get accused of being arrogant or offensive.