Protecting Yourself Against Religious Bullies

Jennifer Hancock, who previously wrote a book about Humanism, has now published a book called The Bully Vaccine: How to Innoculate Yourself Against Obnoxious People. The purpose is to help parents “vaccinate their kids against bullies” by preparing them for the worst kinds of behavior they encounter in school.

Below is an excerpt from the book focused specifically on religious bullying:

If you are a person of faith and someone tells you that you are an affront to God and that God is going to send you to burn in hell, that’s a very upsetting thing to hear.

The sad fact of life is that for some people, religion isn’t about learning to love and respect others; it is about learning to hate and demonize others. If anyone ever tells you that they know what God’s will is and that God hates you, they have just proven that they believe God wants them to hate. That is very sad and very wrong.

What you need to know

These are not people you can reason with. You can’t argue with them that they are wrong so don’t even try. Please don’t think for a minute that they might be right. They aren’t. They don’t know what they are talking about. They are just parroting what they learned in their church, which is apparently a hate­filled church. Most importantly, what they are trying to do is gain social status by being “holier than thou,” which is a sure sign that they aren’t.

The best way to deal with such people is to feel sorry for them because they don’t understand what it means to love their neighbors. This approach will help you feel better immediately and it will help you ignore their taunts more easily.

If you must respond to these holier than thou types, the best way is to compassionately call them out on their self­righteousness and walk away. It doesn’t matter if they claim to speak with religious authority; the fact is they are not. They are kids just like you. All they have learned to do is quote some out­of­context Bible verses that they don’t even understand fully. But if they can convince you to be afraid of their “religious authority” they can get status among their religious friends and the leaders of their church.

As hard as it is to ignore religious taunts and threats, you must. People who throw their hate­filled beliefs in other people’s faces are guilty of religious hubris, which means that they are guilty of excessive pride and arrogance. Do you really think such jerks are speaking for God? I don’t.

No one knows what God’s will is or if He or She even has a will. NO ONE! Anyone who claims to know is either lying or deluded. If people are trying to gain social status because of their perceived piousness, they are guilty of the sin of pride because they have made it clear by their actions that they care more for their social status than they do about God’s teachings. The Bible is very clear on this. God doesn’t like pride. He loves the humble.

The best way to deal with this sort of religious taunting is again, to call them out politely and compassionately and simply walk away. Here are a couple of quotes you may use. And no — you don’t need to explain them to religious bullies. Heck, you don’t even have to give them the actual quote. You can just provide the verse numbers and encourage them to look it up for themselves. Don’t ever get sucked into an argument with holier than thou people. Show your humble wisdom by holding your tongue. If you give them a Bible quote they don’t know you will force them to admit they don’t know or understand the Bible as well as they think they do and that is often all it takes to make them more humble in the future or at least to go find other targets to hassle.

From Proverbs

Proverbs 11:2 — When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.

Proverbs: 11:12 — He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbor: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

From Luke 18

If your bully argues the above quotes are from the Old Testament and that they only abide by the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament; say, Jesus felt the same way and refer them to Luke 18:9 — 14 which is a parable about the sin of pride as told by Jesus.

Luke 18:9 –­ And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.

Luke 18:14 ­– For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

There are many more quotes in the Bible about pride and online Bible searches can help you find them. But again, you will be more effective if you just use one or two as a standard response to those who think they know more about the Bible and God’s will than anyone else. Sounding like a broken record is exactly what will make them want to leave you alone. Just keep referring these arrogant fools to the same tired quotes and ignore any of their attempts to claim that they are right on this matter or that their obnoxious behavior is justified. They aren’t right and there is never a good reason to be a jerk. End of story.

You can purchase the book on Amazon, donate copies of the book to your local library, and check out the extended bullying toolkit.

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.

  • Janice Clanfield

    Bit of a problem here. These two sentences appear in the same paragraph:

     “No one knows what God’s will is or if He or She even has a will. NO ONE!”


    “God doesn’t like pride. He loves the humble.”

    This makes my brain ache…

    The author really needs to rethink their position.

  • Andrew Hall

    “As hard as it is to ignore religious taunts and threats, you must.” I disagree.  In the school that my kids (2nd and 5th grade) go to in MA there is a pretty strong anti-bully  policy. If my kids were taunted at school I would communicate with the school officials via email so that I have a record of what is stated (thus avoiding the “He said, she said” trap).  

  • 3lemenope

    Yeah. I mean, the overall advice is good (in most circumstances), but that paragraph brought everything for me to a screeching halt. 

  • Mandocommando23

    “No one knows what God’s will is or if He or She even EXISTS. NO ONE! Anyone who claims to know is either lying or deluded.”–fixed

  • Chris McLaughlin

    “If anyone ever tells you that they know what God’s will is and that God
    hates you, they have just proven that they believe God wants them to
    hate. That is very sad and very wrong.”

    By all appearances, God (if it existed) DOES hate us.

  • curtcameron

    Paraphrased: “Some people will say that God likes hate, but they’re WRONG!”

    Then encourages the kids to get into a debate of Bible verses to prove their point. The trouble with this is, the Bible does speak of a malevolent God, and the bully will likely go home and find the verses to counter your kid’s nice-God verses.

    The author is basically saying that she knows what God is like, and other people’s ideas about god are wrong. Good luck with that approach.

  • cipher

    The sad fact of life is that for some people, religion isn’t about
    learning to love and respect others; it is about learning to hate and
    demonize others.

    You know their canned answer to that one – “Would it be loving to say nothing and let someone go to hell?” You’re dealing with people at a very primitive developmental level. Most wouldn’t even understand the previous sentence.

    These are not people you can reason with.

    This is what I’ve been trying to tell you for years.

  • WildRumpus67

    I’m confused by the cover. I think the guy on the left is a passionate atheist, trying to use logic and reasoning to convince the arrogant bully that gods don’t exist. The bully waves off the atheist with her moral superiority because she believes she has an invisible friend supporting her.

  • EllenBeth Wachs

    You know the saying, “Physician, heal thyself?” Well, Ms. Hancock, has a lot of nerve writing a book about bullies given that she is one of the biggest I have run across in my activist career. 

  • Achron Timeless

    Well, we can’t expect too much. It continues in the fine christian tradition of taking the parts you like and ignoring the rest. The “bully” in this case prefers the hate filled bits while the author prefers the lovey dovey bits. The problem is, they’re both in there and they often contradict each other in their application. 

    At that point you either have to go into celestial stockholm syndrome and declare the horrible parts to actually be love (as the bully has in this case), or you come to your senses and walk away from the fairy tale altogether. Any other choice is just lying to yourself.

  • C Peterson

    I don’t see where the problem is. The first statement seems pretty accurate (although it could be expanded to “nobody knows if a god even exists”).

    The second statement is out of context. What it actually says is “The Bible is very clear on this. God doesn’t like pride. He loves the humble.” (Emphasis mine.) Is that not also a pretty accurate representation of how pride is generally treated in the Bible?

    Is there some sort of contradiction between the two sentences I’m missing?

  • Michael Noyb

    Well said.

  • smrnda

    My real complaint is how Christians approach me with the ‘so, could I tell you the gospel/good news?’ As if living in the US I’ve absolutely never heard about the Christian religion until now. What I usually do is I ask them to stop, and I spit out some usual apologetics arguments, they nod their heads, and I tell them I’ve already heard the best they’ve got and wasn’t convinced.

  • 3lemenope

    The Bible is the primary means by which Christians support their claim that they know the will of God. The author claims that NOBODY knows the will of God, and that anyone who claims so is either deluded or lying. Then she goes on to claim that she knows the will of God, specifically that God doesn’t like pride. Then she uses the Bible to back up this claim, much as those bullies would for their positions. 

    Her claims are in direct tension. Either nobody knows the will of God and those who do are deluded and/or lying, or she knows the will of God (through looking at the Bible) and God is against pride. It can’t be both, as the first being true would make the second either a delusional statement or a lie, and the second being true would contradict the first claim that the will of God is unknowable.

  • C Peterson

    Okay. I don’t really see the “will” of God as equivalent to a subset of views expressed in the Bible. That is, I think a Christian can reasonably say they don’t know the will of God while still asserting certain things that this God does or does not happen to like.

    But if this is the reason for the complaint, I can understand it, even if I don’t fully agree with it.

  • ChristineIam

    How about just telling them STFU? No? Oh, well. ;)

  • Coyotenose

     It’s the difference between the general and the specific. They consider it appropriate to say that God loves the meek, humility, and kindness in general, and hates this and that. It is not okay to say, “You’re going to Hell for that!” to a particular person, because that is claiming to know the will of God. Ironically, that makes the speaker a false prophet, which is something that is supposed to make them go to Hell…

    Of course in the wrong hands (that is, the typical hands), this leads to passive-aggressive bullshit where they say that homosexuals are going to Hell but aren’t technically saying that that particular homosexual is going to Hell, thus getting off the hook via semantics games… which again, ironically, sets the speaker up for a Hell-visit…

  • Coyotenose

    But what about the fist he’s shaking?

  • Baal

     Some atheists are bullies.  I’ve commented frequently on how I dislike the method some of them use to communicate certain messages that I otherwise agree with.

    Some christians are bullies.  I have yet to hear of an Anoka-Hennipen school district like event where xtians are committing suicide at dismaying rates due to atheist bullies.  Finding stories of xtian bullies is much easier – pretty much a daily affair either here or on FTB.

    So while you have a point, it is very small and entirely overshadowed by the opposite situation.

  • Baal

     Today I had my teeth cleaned.  The otherwise generally secular dentist office had like a christian adult -lite contemporary station on.  I got 3 songs of god is love and love is all around.  When I gave a few dollars to a homeless person, I got the “God bless you” line (they always do, I suspect its borderline necessary in the US).  What do these have in common?  It’s everywhere and pretty much every day anytime I’m out in public.  Sometimes it’s just background (like today, still noticed) and other it’s more obvious.

    So yeah, never had a clue that this xtian thing was going on.

  • Mark

    You wrote: “No one knows what God’s will is…”

    Sure we know what God’s will is.  Its plain to see in the Bible.  God wants you to recognize your own sin and repent.  Obey the ten commandments and Jesus’ later re-interpretation: “love God and love your neighber as yourself”

    Its so simple and obvious.  And you are quite correct, nowhere does Jesus say that you are responsible for your other people’s sin.  That is arrogance and hate in disguise. 

    There are actually very few real Christians today because most people who call themselves christian are too busy worrying about the sins of others before they have confessed and repented of their own.  Matthew 7 is very clear on this, and Matthew 7:21 explains the severe consequences for the hateful bigots who are worrying about everyone else but their own sin. 

    I agree with you that you should just ignore this hateful bigots who call themselves christian leaders.  A very harsh punishment in hell awaits them.

  • Tak

    I have tried this approach and it does not work. The faithheads just come back with counter verses. Also there are way more verses about who/how to hate in the bible than there are about love I am shocked that anyone would give this advice at all. Has Hancock not read the bible? If she has she’s obviously cherry picking…and the bible based haters have a bigger orchard.

  • Coyotenose

     I might hit the ‘Like’ button, except that supernatural sin is a made-up problem, with supernatural forgiveness a made-up solution. It’s identical to charlatans who advertise strips of tape to “detoxify” your body through your feet, or it would be, except that the tape does get rid of some dirt and dead skin.

    Which ten commandments? The ones that go 4/10 talking about how God is vain while ignoring things like rape and pedophilia (which are condoned elsewhere in the book…) or the other sets that also ignore things like rape and pedophilia?

  • Antinomian

    Of course I haven’t read the book but from the exerpts above it sounds like a “no true christian” argument.

  • Foster

    Speaking as a Christian who believes that we can to some extent know the will of God, in that He reveals it to us in a general way through the Catholic Church’s teaching and through the scriptures, I agree with C Peterson that the author is being consistent in her presentation, because she is obviously attributing the latter opinions about God abasing the proud and exalting the humble and meek to the Bible.  These need not be her own opinions as she has presented things in her book.

  • smrnda

     Totally agree. People and the world have real problems. Religions tell you that the real issues and real problems are spiritual, and then they get to work selling you spiritual solutions. Sometimes, occasionally, a real world problem gets solved by accident, but a lot of resources get wasted.