Matt Dillahunty’s Excellent Response to ‘How to Be an Atheist Without Being a Dick About It’

Jezebel’s Lindy West posted an article today called “How to Be an Atheist Without Being a Dick About It“… which gives you some indication of where her mind is at. It’s the sort of thing people say when their impression of how atheists act is limited primarily to reading Internet comments written by anonymous jackasses.

It’s especially rich coming from the same person who wrote a piece titled “Fuck the Pope.”

It’s not that she’s wrong — of course we shouldn’t be dicks. Of course, in any large group of people, there’s bound to be a handful of awful individuals who deserve our condemnation. But that’s not just a lesson for atheists. It applies to damn near everyone, especially when it comes to issues where good people can have serious disagreements.

Matt Dillahunty has done an excellent job of breaking the article down and responding to her (lack of) points.

Like when West writes this:

There are a lot of people in the world who have nothing. Faith in a higher power gives them one thing. You know what we call people who try to take away other people’s one thing?

Dillahunty responds with this:

Ah, the final fallacy. You see these efforts as trying to steal away people’s ‘one thing’ or their ‘hope’… it’s nothing at all like that. A fan once asked a co-host, “When you rid the world of religion, what do you replace it with?” Without missing a beat, my co-host replied “When you cure cancer, what do you replace it with?”

Truth is its own reward. Helping people employee skepticism and exercising critical thinking to free themselves of superstitions and religious thinking isn’t merely taking away their ‘one thing’ any more than it would be if their ‘one thing’ was a thorn; it’s helping them to think and live better lives. If your internal model of reality is inaccurate, your decision-making skills are going to suffer.

Finally, your broader point implies that while you don’t need religion to cope, other people do. The arrogance and condescension in that line of thought is just about as dick-ish as you’ve accused others of being. It’s actually the second time in your article that you portray believers as inferior while lashing out at others for purportedly doing exactly that.

Dillahunty’s whole piece is like that — a lot of shredding to pieces of a faulty argument — and he does it without coming off like a dick.

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.

  • Cake

    “When you rid the world of religion, what do you replace it with?”

    Role Playing Games.

    • Hat Stealer

      Chedder cheese.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Cheese made of role-playing games!

    • Pepe

      Pasta, so that the noodly one’s pleased?

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Role-Playing Games made of Pasta!

        • 3lemenope

          Gold? Women? Golden women? All these can be yours…

        • islandbrewer

          I want to play an Arrabiata-classed Penne!

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            I’m not sure if I’m bothered more by the fact that I got that, or the fact that it took me a second to get it. :P

    • katiehippie

      Amen.

    • flyb
    • Inferno128

      When you rid the world of AIDS, what do you replace it with?

      Because many people find that the death sentence of AIDS makes them appreciate their lives and families more. Do you really want to take that away from people?

    • Rene Belloq 12 inch dick

      you can replace it with anything you want, food, friends, sex, fun, amusement parks, beer, larping, lol. But the best thing is to replace it with Knowledge.

  • Cuttlefish
  • Heidi McClure

    What if their “one thing” was that they were constantly followed by pack of invisible unicorns who totally needed every seat on the bus? Would you give up your seat to the invisible unicorns? What if their “one thing” was Zeus?

    • randomfactor

      People who try to take away someone’s “one thing” are often known as “psychiatrists.”

  • SeekerLancer

    Watching Matt on The Atheist Experience was one of the reasons I stopped being afraid to admit I was an atheist. He’s a personal hero of mine.

    His response here really illustrates why.

    • CultOfReason

      I would tend to agree. He’s an intelligent guy that makes extremely sound, logical arguments. And it’s always fun watching him hang up on the extreme nut jobs that merely call in to hear themselves speak.

  • L.Long

    ‘Don’t be a dick’ is impossible as soon as you show any real evidence that the religious BS is BS, you will be classified as an unthinking, unbelieving DICK that is in league with satan and you will go to hell.
    When they talk with me I usually say ‘ya OK you can believe that if you wanna, while laughing at them.’ and I’m still a dick.

    • islandbrewer

      In other words, the only way to “Not be a Dick” is to pretend to be a theist, according to most theists.

      • Keyra

        Actually in other words, just ask questions and be polite about it, try to respect them (that doesn’t mean you have to agree). Just because “Love thy Enemy” isn’t a moral implication of atheists, that doesn’t give them the license to be an annoying dick (then try to “rationalize” their clearly irrational [& in alot of cases, immoral] behavior)

        • islandbrewer

          Implicit in your comment is the suggestion that I don’t state my own beliefs, while letting theists expound upon theirs as if I agreed with them, is that incorrect? Or can I say what I actually believe? Can I do that without breaching some sort of etiquette?

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Just because “Love thy Enemy” isn’t a moral implication of atheists,

          I don’t know about anyone else, but part of my moral code is “don’t be a doormat”.

          There have been two almost identical cases within the last week or so when theists have come here and generally trolled very hard with passive aggressive insults. And when called on it, they gleefully point out how angry/immoral/whiny atheists are.

          Nobody is under any particular obligation to act a certain way online, but it’s simple human nature. If you go somewhere looking for a fight, you’ll find someone not willing to give you both cheeks.

          And if your goal is to prove that atheists don’t turn the other cheek, then congratulations; you’ve proved that most humans will indeed fight back against bullies if they can.

          • Kingasaurus

            “There have been two almost identical cases within the last week or so
            when theists have come here and generally trolled very hard with passive
            aggressive insults. And when called on it, they gleefully point out
            how angry/immoral/whiny atheists are.”

            Well put. It’s like clockwork. The problem is that when you’ve had a bubble of conversational protection around your beliefs for your whole life, and everyone around you reinforces that by not only failing to challenge what you think, but showing your beliefs positive reverence at every turn, the minute your ideas are attacked you’re going to think it’s impolite.

            “And if your goal is to prove that atheists don’t turn the other cheek,
            then congratulations; you’ve proved that most humans will indeed fight
            back against bullies if they can.”

            And that in turn feeds the persecution complex that the minute they expose the “Gospel” to a hostile audience, they’ll be attacked, and that just proves how right the Bible was in its predictions of how they’d be treated, and how much more noble they think they are for putting up with it.

            The idea that their ideas are attacked because their ideas are simply WRONG never seems to cross their mind. It’s just not a possibility. The problem is that we’re just a bunch of angry, intransigent sinners with closed minds.

            Who’s being a dick, again? I forget.

        • JET

          “… then try to ‘rationalize’ their clearly irrational [& in a lot of cases, immoral] behavior…”
          I beg your pardon and please don’t take this the wrong way as I respect your right to your opinions. I would just like to politely ask a simple question. Doesn’t that statement you made sound a bit dickish?

          • Pepe

            Don’t bother JET. Keyra is a Level 4 troll. (S)he always makes inane arguments and leaves. I doubt they even read the replies.

        • Mogg

          So… not wishing to discuss a theist’s beliefs and politely saying so is dickish? And saying that I don’t wish to have the rules of a religion I don’t believe in forced upon me by theists is dickish?

          Sounds a bit… dickish.

        • The Other Weirdo

          And when, exactly, have Christians shown “Love thy Enemy?”

        • Edmond

          Another good tactic, Keyra, is to have an actual CONVERSATION, with back-and-forth exchanges of ideas. It’s usually considered EXTREMELY dickish to drop a drive-by posting, lecturing people, and then never reappear.

        • Matt D

          I’m tired of seeing you make comments without any intention of having a conversation, so, do shut up. You already know those arguments are weak or you wouldn’t act like a child sticking their fingers in their ears when they don’t like what their hearing.

        • Jasila

          Seriously, it’s just embarrassing to watch Atheists pretend they understand rationality and empathy and then fail to understand the simple lessons that interfaith Theists have understood for decades/generations. It’s simply not impossible to engage with people who are “wrong” and yet somehow avoid being a Dick.
          Idiot bigots choose to pretend that since there are some idiot bigots in the opposing group it is therefore “impossible” not to be a dick – ‘because just existing pisses some of them off’
          Seriously? That’s probably the most retarded argument that I’ve ever heard. Newsflash: No one said “please everyone” they said “don’t be a dick”. If you can’t understand the limits of how to treat people decently – even when they’re wrong – then you’re a shitty person – but don’t despair, just like we can be Good Without God, Atheists all over the world are proving that we are Equal Human Beings with all the capabilities of Theists and are just as capable of being Shitty Bigots Without God.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    I’m only a dick when being a dick is necessary but sometimes people think I’m being a dick when I point out what they just said or typed makes zero sense. One of my cousins one day was hit by a car, not hard but a car hit her and she thanked her guardian angels in a facebook post.

    I simply told her she needed to fire her guardian angels if they let a car hit her to begin with but other people felt I was being dick. I was just pointing out the obvious.

    • flyb

      Exactly! What are you gonna do…

    • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

      We have to set our own standards, and decide for ourselves what behavior is dickish or not. If we allow the religious to define dickery, they’ll have us be completely silent.

    • Greg G.

      I never wanted to be a guardian angel. Some assignments you just can’t wait until something comes along where you can say, “Oops, my bad.”

  • flyb

    This whole discussion about atheists being dicks is, well, ri-dick-ulous. We will always be dicks to some degree or another in the eyes of most theists, even if we are being mature and tip-toeing around some religious person’s sensibilities. I’ve had sincere discussions with religious friends and, of course, I’m always the “offensive” or “rude” one because I have the audacity to just question certain beliefs or quote some random Bible verse to see what they think about it. Ultimately, they almost always end it by asking me why I can’t just ignore it all. We’re dicks for just bringing it up or pointing out 1st amendment abuses. SMH

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I’ve been told I’m being just utterly offensive and acting atrociously for saying that I found belief in god(s) silly. Not stupid, not inane, and definitely not calling any person any names. Just the idea that there is/are god(s) is silly.

      My existence makes me a dick to some people.

      • flyb

        I understand completely.

      • Tainda

        I know the feeling

  • Keyra

    It’s one thing to encourage rationality & open-mindedess (in fact, most believers are, it’s when New Atheists insult their beliefs, that pisses them off), but exploiting their faith & laughing at them while insulting their intelligence only makes things worse and stirs up more conflict.

    It’s one thing to ask questions and try to make sense of things, but ridiculing people’s beliefs (spouting blasphemous babble, making faulty comparisons, using the same repeated & offensive arguments) based on your own self-assured assumptions, overconfidence, and/or misconceptions is not the way to go if you want to be a “moral, rational, reasonable, free-thinker” (or at least show them where you’re coming from based on your opinion) or sincerely want to know and understand

    • wombat

      Seriously, what’s with the ‘New Atheist’ obsession? It’s not like religions, where there can be the New Reformed whatever. Atheists are just atheists. We don’t have denominations.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      • baal

        I’ll admit to finding this image funny but then having a second thought. Poverty is not funny and is a life with above reasonable levels of suffering. Worse, the untreated mental illness rates of the homeless is well above what is moral for a rich society like the U.S. and a national shame. For those reasons, I’m feeling like a killjoy today.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      Irony? let’s talk about “self assured assumptions.”
      “spouting blasphemous babble” this is an assumption that the word blaspheme has any (theistic) meaning to an Atheist. An Atheist can not blaspheme a religious person with language that is otherwise incomprehensible.
      Moving on: “Offensive Arguments.” You are assuming that the contradictory arguments we often make are offensive arguments but to us they are just opposing opinions.
      “based on your own self-assured assumptions, overconfidence, and/or misconceptions” Isn’t this like the pot calling the kettle black. You are attacking us with the very same type of language you are saying is faulty and offensive. You could have totally left that out of the statement and, by your own proposition, asked us a question. Keyra you are being very “presumptuous” and not very christian like.
      Your argument is an appeal to traditionalism. You are asking us to leave the theists alone because the traditionally assumed truth value is that they are “good and just and fair and kind and innocent of all charges.” Sorry, but we, Atheists, are pretty darn certain that is false.

    • CultOfReason

      Ah, that awkward moment when it becomes obvious that the speaker is really describing himself/herself, and not the people he/she is addressing.

  • LesterBallard

    I’m biased, but I feel that my dickishness is appropriate to those I am dealing with.

    • baal

      I try to avoid using my personal emotional response as a judge of merit for abuse. Instead, I actively try to think as a 3rd person and consider the wrongful act on a range of possibilities (from that was really shittty to eh, let it go). This helps me avoid knee jerk responses, hurting innocent parties due to my error, scaling my replies to the harm inflicted and reducing the number of apologies and walking back events I need to have.

      • LesterBallard

        I think of people like this; https://www.facebook.com/OpenAirTony

        Check out his posts about being in London recently. Or anything else, really.

        • baal

          For that guy, I agree with heaps of pushback. That’s based on his extremely harmful views on a number of subjects. Tony is a clear example of why we work against the theists.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I remember the early days of online message boards. There were always people chastising the trolls to get them to play nice. It always seemed to have the opposite affect. Some people are going to be rude. You have every right to ban them or delete their posts if it’s your board or blog, but scolding them will just encourage them since it’s exactly the kind of attention they crave.

  • Alexandra

    Are you claiming that Lindy was a dick in her article about the Church? She hasn’t contradicted herself. Her piece is good and really spot on. She’s not attacking a strawman, lord I wish that was the case. These atheist dicks really do exist.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Are some atheists dicks? Oh yeah. For sure. Is there a higher percentage of dicks among atheists than other religious groups? Not that I’ve noticed. I’ve also noticed a distinct tendency to label outspoken atheists who don’t put up with stupid crap (I don’t mean theism generally, but the bad apologetics) as being unacceptably rude.

      Don’t be a dick? Fuck, that means don’t tell people I’m an atheist where I live. The mere fact of my existence discomfits a lot of people, but I refuse to let that be seen as my problem.

      EDIT: What counts as being a dick, anyways? Is it when someone says “God is the source of morality” and I response “so slavery, genocide, and rape are all A-OK then”? Is it when people say Jesus is super awesome and I point out all the places in the Bible where it shows him to be, in fact, not super awesome? Or how about when people say nature proves God exists and I use logic and facts to tell them they’re wrong. At what point have I crossed a line, and how much respect do I have to give to wrong ideas?

      • kaydenpat

        Are you saying that religion is the source of slavery, genocide and rape? Have non-theists committed slavery, genocide and rape? I really don’t get this point that tries to equate a belief in God with atrocities.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Not the source of, no. A continued justification for, yes. A proof that God can’t possibly be the source of morality, yes. The OT is full of God commanding people to commit genocide, condoning slavery, and condoning rape. The NT is even more clear that slavery is not a bad thing. We as humans know that those things are not moral, so clearly God can’t be the source of morality. If God was the source of morality, those things would be moral. And if you think genocide, rape, and slavery are moral, I think you need to stand … over there. Way, way far away from me.

    • Halis

      i agree with alexandra. this whole pile-on of a fellow atheist like lindy is puzzling to me. and disappointing. and kind of proving her point.

      realizing i didn’t have to be a dick about it is exactly what helped me out of the closet.

  • Charles Chambers

    I love Matt.

  • Sam Kay

    “When you rid the world of religion, what do you replace it with?”
    “When you cure cancer, what do you replace it with?”

    That is legendary. I love it.

    • http://fractalheretic.blogspot.com/ Fractal Heretic

      I actually thought it was a flawed analogy. Cancer doesn’t offer the promise of eternal life in paradise.

      Some people build their whole lives on the foundation of religion, and they don’t know how to find meaning in life without it. That’s why I try to follow the examples of people like Carl Sagan and Phil Hellenes, to offer a substitute by talking about the beauty of life without religion.

      • Itsrealfunnythat

        But many of them think Beauty is Gods creation, they dont think there is beauty without God.

      • baal

        “promise of eternal life in paradise”
        It’s an empty promise and might stop you from leading as full a life as you otherwise might. I know that ‘oh shit, i have about 10 years of life left where I can engage in sports that take strength (rock climinbing).’

      • Sam Kay

        Well, no one’s saying they’re equivalent entities. That’s not how analogies work. They’re both unnecessary, neither of them is beneficial, and just because something is removed doesn’t mean that something else has to be added.

  • Bruce

    Atheists can be at least a little gracious. You can always tell religious or spiritual people they’re welcome to believe whatever they like, even if you think it’s nonsense.

    • Mogg

      That works fine, until those beliefs lead them to persecuting those who don’t comply with those beliefs, either socially or via legislation.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      And I always do. So long as they aren’t making truth-claims, I don’t care what anyone believes. It’s when people start saying “this is so and you should believe it too” that I start requesting some evidence. People get very huffy when I do that. They also get very annoyed when they tell me about some supernatural/divine experience they had as “proof” and I tell them how it could be explained without the supernatural.

      If you want to believe an invisible, flying dragon that breathes heatless fire lives in your garage, feel free. But if you start telling me that it’s real, I’m going to ask for some evidence. And if you tell me the dragon told you to go out and kill people for it to feed on (or just to build monuments to it on government property), or that anyone who doesn’t believe in this invisible dragon is automatically an immoral person, we’re going to have a serious problem.

    • MD

      I don’t care what people believe. What bothers me is when 1) their beliefs cause them to act in a manner that is harmful to others, 2) they attempt to impose those beliefs on me 3) and/or they attempt to codify their beliefs into civil law.

      My sister believes in all sorts of woo. I think it’s hilarious, but she’s an adult and if waiving her hands and reading auras make her happy, then she can do it all she wants. I only say anything when she tells me I should join her silliness. And I get really angry when she insists her little incantations will cure disease. Wave and chant all you want, but take the kid to a real doctor at the same time.

    • Sven2547
  • libbyjon

    It’s the sort of thing people say when their impression of how atheists act is limited primarily to reading Internet comments written by anonymous jackasses.

    I guess that’s me. I liked her article.

  • Rain

    Ah, the final fallacy. You see these efforts as trying to steal away people’s ‘one thing’ or their ‘hope’… it’s nothing at all like that. A fan once asked a co-host, “When you rid the world of religion, what do you replace it with?” Without missing a beat, my co-host replied “When you cure cancer, what do you replace it with?”

    Oh yeah, counter a fallacy with a whole cavalcade of fallacies. A veritable fallacy cornucopia. There used to be a show called “Your Show Of Shows”, which was the dumbest show ever. Now they can have “Your Fallacies Of Fallacies”, and then “Your Show Of Shows” would be the second dumbest show ever. They might as well throw a fallacy parade.

    • lorimakesquilts

      Are you seriously calling “Your Show of Shows” the dumbest show ever?! I realize that funny is in the eye of the beholder but the consensus is against you on this one. It really wrecks your analogy.

    • rx7ward

      Are you actually trying to communicate something here? ‘Cause this reads like “Argle bargle hummph.”

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    If your one thing was air, well, if you rid the world of air what would you replace it with? Something uninspiring. Ha! Get it, uninspiring!

  • libbyjon

    You are making a bad name for us Non-Theists

    • rx7ward

      Who is? How? Why? Where?

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    I am glad I am not paranoid otherwise I would think she was talking about me.

    I don’t think I agree with what she is implying, my take on it is she is saying is, “We should leave the faithful alone and not try to show them a different way to see the world, attempting to do so is being a dick.” Could we call her an Atheistic Christian Apologist?? Some people here might think I am a dick and I’ve been called out on it a few times and on those occasions I have apologized. But, while some people may have a more eloquent method of debating, I do not. I am pretty barbaric in my methods and I am willing to use hostile arguments with the likes of “Frank,” “Free” and a few others. Personally I see my dickishness as part of my education in critical thinking. I personally feel, at least against radical religious commentators, that the usage of explicit and hostile language has its uses within the context of the discussion. I also feel its fair game if my opponent is using hostile language. Let me be clear though I am very conscious of the “innocent bystander” who may be reading but not commenting. My ultimate goal is to present a valid, sound, clear and easily understandable arguments or rebuttals against theistic misconceptions and invalid statements. If by disagreeing, with these misconceptions and invalid statements, makes me a dick then all I can say is, “Oh, well, (Insert Quarter to play again.)”

  • rg57

    We probably should also stop using gendered slurs.

    • CelticWhisper

      Came here to say this. Penises and vaginas are parts of the equation of creating human life, and should be more positively connotated than they are.

      “Asshole” always seemed like a good go-to pejorative to me. While vaginas and penises are involved in creating new members of the species, what does an asshole do? Spew shit. I know I take more offense at being (seriously) called an asshole than at being (seriously) called a dick.

      Plus you can then get into Cockney rhyming slang and call someone a “jam roll.” The looks you get are priceless.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      For me it’s the power imbalance. Officially I will stop saying “dick” when womens’ equality is even on the horizon. Unofficially I might just fall into not saying it, because the former is not likely to come about in my remaining years.

    • L.Long

      bitch isn’t a gender slur it is a species slur cuz all the bitches I know have furry bodies, 4 legs and a tail.

  • ShoeUnited

    There’s Christian privilege for ya. Assuming I’m a dick because of their religion. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a dick to anyone who makes life difficult for others.

  • fentwin

    The real question is, if I’m being an atheist dick in the great state of Virginia, and my girlfriend kisses me, have we committed a felony?

  • Tainda

    Speak for yourself, I’m a bitch.

  • Ton_Chrysoprase

    Yeah, if her thing was about being an atheist without being a dick she clearly failed by her own standard. That said, everybody seems always so eager to admit that there are atheist dicks and at times to trow Dawkins or Hitch under the bus for good measure.
    I can’t say I really see that a lot. Yes, there’s snark, but usually directed at a point, not at the person making it. Sometimes there are (mostly young, mostly recent) ex-fundies who go overboard, usually in a clear situation of struggle with the cognitive dissonance of abandoning believes. But by-and-large that doesn’t happen a lot and when it does mostly in response to trolls. I don’t really go on religious sites, so maybe the atheist trolls are all there?

    • baal

      “Yes, there’s snark, but usually directed at a point, not at the person making it.” I make fun of christians who hate the sin not the sinner. I’m not sure the distinction makes the recipient feel any better. At best, it’s a reminder to not engage in ad hominem.

      • Ton_Chrysoprase

        Not my job to make anybody feel good (although I prefer it to the alternative) and when the logical extension of somebody’s believes lend themselves to ridicule and the person has previously shown a ‘robust’ style of debating I think that’s fair game, particularly if in a setting such as this in which the other person chooses to participate.

        The charge of ad hominem tends to be leveled pretty one-sidedly anyway, what with the entire Jezebel piece being effectively one big ad hominem.

  • Itsrealfunnythat

    Animal Crossing

  • viaten

    Maybe the better way to say it is, “ridding the world of the perceived need for religion”. But I think poorer people and others that want to unite themselves against others will still find an equivalent replacement.

  • baal

    There is pissing people off and then there is pissing people off. I distinguish between the two by suggesting the first can be forgiven or the offended person can change their mind (or even learn something). For example, let’s say I have a neighbor who flies a confederate flag and also owns 6 cats. The cats like to poop in my garden.

    Now, I head over to his house, knock on his door and confront him on both issues. “You’re a racist grow the hell up!” and “I’m tired of your cat poop and it’s illegal for you to trespass on my lawn via actively pooping cats!”.

    The neighbor was pissed at both statements. There is a chance that he’ll see the cat poop as something he really needs to fix but absent some better showing (or less abrasive communication), he’ll probably just resent me on the racism charge.

    TL;DR, even though someone else is offended, that doesn’t mean you were being unreasonable or unfair. We can’t use unreasonable offense as an excuse to not avoid reasonable offenses.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I’m all about the golden rule but the problem is that I’m pretty much impossible to offend. In fact, I want my ideas challenged, mocked, disrespected, etc. This writer doesn’t want to treat theists respectfully…she wants to placate them. She wants to treat them like children. It’s far, far worse than telling people they’re wrong.

  • The Other Weirdo

    It’s funny. One of the accusations is that “so many people insist on being such condescending dicks in the name of atheism.” Matt’s reaction is, “Where?” Where is the evidence? Or, put more precisely, “Citation needed.”

    I’ve seen the same reactions here. When asked for evidence, inevitably we’re told that it must be true because they “feel” it.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      The same response I’ve often gotten from American Conservatives. Both groups are filled with people who think that they are psychic. My personal theory that I lack the background to describe well is that it’s a Dunning-Kruger thing. They lack sophisticated empathy, and lacking that understanding of its complexity, assume it’s simple and thus that they get it, and end up projecting their thoughts and flaws onto other people and thinking it’s insight.

      • The Other Weirdo

        There, you see? Who says the Internet will rot both your brain and your morality? I learnt something new today. I did not know about Dunning-Kruger.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          It’s a fascinating, dangerous, and potentially personally useful concept. Just remember that it applies to everyone, yourself included. And that most people, myself included, don’t understand it as well as they think they do. :P

          • The Other Weirdo

            I don’t say I understand it. Just that I learnt about it. :)

  • Matt D

    I’ve had limited success debating opponents who think giving me a “rasberry” is an appropiate counter argument. Apparently, in their minds, centuries of them being in charge makes them right, while the truth is that they are spoiled children. Thus I cannot think of a better course than patience and persistence. In the face of opponents who extrapolate on fantasy to address questions grounded in reality, our options are limited.
    .

  • edb3803

    So, pointing out the obvious and living in reality means you’re a dick? This is why they have blasphemy laws.

  • edb3803

    I once had an EVOLVE fish on my car, and a friend of my daughter’s said it was offensive. I still don’t get it.

  • CBrachyrhynchos

    I think I’d appreciate “don’t be a dick” screeds much more if they connected with and promoted the kinds of atheist activism they want to see more of. As it is, these articles engage in the practice of tearing down atheism through vague broadsides, hyperbolic examples, and repeated cussing without supporting any alternatives.

    If you don’t like the “four horsemen,” don’t read them, cite them, or use their twitter account as the trigger for your monthly rant about New Atheism. If your interest is in feminist atheism, then start promoting the work of feminists who are publishing. If your interest is in interfaith discussion and collaboration, there’s a ton of stuff getting done there at the moment. Start a reading group for people like Hutchinson, De Waal, and McGowan.

    And for reason’s sake, stop using Facebook, Tumblr, Reddit and Youtube comments as your barometer for what’s going on in the world.

    Meanwhile I found this to be deeply offensive:

    You’re going to tell that girl that she’s an idiot for believing in god?

    Of course I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t call someone an idiot for believing in god at all, and I certainly wouldn’t use therapeutic or ceremonial space to debate religion. Honestly, I don’t think this happens nearly as often as is claimed.

    But this stereotype was used on the house floor to justify discrimination against atheists. It was used to justify discrimination against humanist interfaith groups in Boston earlier this year. It’s used in arguments for excluding atheists from other religious and interfaith spaces. Promoting the stereotype that we lack basic empathy and consideration for another person’s pain and will aggressively prosthelytize to them threatens my therapeutic relationships.

    And that’s not punching up.

  • Jimmy Lin

    Not everyone has to be nice little atheists, that is not what atheism is about. As long as you don’t believe in any god(s) or have very serious doubts about theism you are fine.

    Having manner is always recommended, but not a requirement. Let’s look at it this way, Christians have kept talking about being nice for a long time, but the result is less than impressive to say the least. Let people be people, not just stereotypes, that is what atheism should become in the end, no theists, no atheists. Just people.

    My advice is don’t take your atheism too seriously, atheism needs no defense nor justification, I don’t go around justifying my disbelief in unicorns, so why bother with god(s)? If someone wants a discussion on it, I’d still do it, but I don’t intentionally go mention it unless there is a reason or purpose.

    Free your minds.


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