What’s the Point of Pink Masses?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses rituals people do over gravestones after a person is dead:

You can read more about the Pink Mass over Fred Phelps‘ mother’s gravestone here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

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.

  • Intelligent Donkey

    The point is to upset the theocrats who want to impose unreasonable restrictions on the rest of the world, usually based on some old book.

    They are much too easily offended. It is time for systematic desensitization training.

  • C Peterson

    Agree or disagree with what they are doing, but don’t say they aren’t accomplishing anything. Their actions are all over the Internet. People are talking about it. You are talking about it. That in itself is an accomplishment, and in reality, perhaps the only one they really hope for- in which case, you could say they are 100% successful.

  • # zbowman

    Exactly this. There are some people in the world who, because of a combination of attitude and privilege, are *worth pissing off* sometimes. If it makes the right kind of people the right kind of foaming mad, that itself is a point in its favour.

  • viaten

    This reminds me of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, making a parody of religion. If people notice and get the point, even if the don’t like it, it’s worth it. I don’t think the kissing over the grave is hated by the Phelps and like minded people for the act itself but because it’s making point. I think it’s like the innocuous atheism billboards. They don’t really give any offense, but you can take all the offense you want.

  • Bruce Martin

    You could probably say that the pink mass was to get Fred to think about the perspectives of other people. Maybe it was an attempt to get him to think:
    Hey, it’s wrong to try to manipulate another person’s sexual orientation without their consent. Oh, wait.
    So if Fred thought that, it would be a big step in his own humanity. If it got Fred to think about others’ views, then it might have done more than anything else ever done by or to his church.
    By the way, it thus might have done more good than any other mass, or other religion’s ceremonies. What do they accomplish?

  • Bruce Martin

    To answer my own question, the ceremonies of all religions might accomplish the comfort of those who believe in them. In that sense, the pink mass might have accomplished a good thing equal to the good of any other ceremony by any other religion, even if it failed to redeem the humanity of Fred or not.
    As an atheist, I think all prayer is a waste of time, in any religion. And that since all religions are false, all are equally false.
    But as a humanist, I don’t want to deny anyone the comfort of their own delusions, as long as those delusions aren’t forming a danger to themselves or others.
    I don’t know what the pink mass people were thinking, but I bet they were less deluded than Fred is.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    Yes, I was thinking pretty much the same thing. WBC thinks it’s OK behavior to disrupt funerals with their anti-gay ranting and messages about hate. Then it should be OK behavior to disrupt their funerals with a pro-equality message about love. Except that there aren’t very many opportunities to picket WBC funerals, so having the “pink mass” at the cemetery is as close as they could get to that.

    Of course, this won’t change Fred’s mind, because I don’t think anything will. But it might get some other people to stop and think and talk about it, maybe even a few more of the WBC-ers.

  • M.S.

    This is just fighting fire with fire. The collective world knows the Westboro’ers are complete idiots with probably deep psychological issues. I don’t see what this gains other than bringing the rest of us down to the same level of Westboro. I’d rather not be on that level…

  • skinnercitycyclist

    And except, Ubi, that if

    “WBC thinks it’s OK behavior to disrupt funerals with their anti-gay
    ranting and messages about hate. Then it should be OK behavior to
    disrupt their funerals with a pro-equality message about love”

    then I guess you mean that if something is OK with WBC, it should be OK with us? This is one more thing they believe in that I do not: “a tooth for a tooth.” If we use their odious practices, it is still odious. It is wrong to protest at just about anyone’s funeral, in my book.

  • viaten

    I wouldn’t want to see anyone picket any funeral. I don’t consider “pink masses” on a grave as an attempt to get close to picketing a funeral where people gather to acknowledge someone’s passing. Funerals are a significant human ritual even if you don’t like the people involved. But there’s nothing sacred about a cemetery that people can’t be there kissing in a way to make a point. Just as gays kissing over a grave has no effect on a dead person’s supposed soul, gay relationships and marriage have no relation to or effect on natural world events or the religious “sanctity” of straight marriage.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Why is this part of the Atheist Voice Series? To be a Satanist, don’t you have to believe in the bible?

  • Art_Vandelay

    Actualy, FSM wasn’t created to make fun of religion. He was created as a testimony in a court case in order to have biology teachers “teach the controversy.” They just needed someone else to bring forth a creation story to let it be taught beside evolution and Genesis. The Muslims and Jews sure as hell weren’t going to speak up because they have the same creation story as Christians.

  • viaten

    I was aware of that but thought there was enough of a similarity for the point I was making.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Sorry…that may have come off a bit pedantic.

  • Philbert

    In other words, successful troll is successful.

  • Paula M Smolik

    It’s nasty and disrespectful to do anything over anyone’s grave that the dead person might object to. He/she can’t get up and argue about it. Let it lie.

  • Kat Dean

    ROFL …. still laughing … now I’m crying and laughing …

  • ZenDruid

    The WBCers should realize by now that old Fred’s memory will be best expressed by the rest of the US population with a urinal as a headstone.

  • JimB

    I agree that these things don’t accomplish much on a practical level, but I can see how it would feel good for gay people to stick a metaphorical thumb in Phelp’s eye.

  • Frank


  • Ryan Fox

    What does it do? It turns their superstition against them. The same as dipping ones bullets in pork so the terrorist will get their body tainted and be forced to go to hell. It doesn’t matter that the person doing the task doesn’t believe the one with the superstition is the one burns energy.

  • Tekore

    I still think it would make more sense to use this “against” Mormons, since they are the only ones I’m aware of that perform ‘afterlife conversions.’

  • edgar ayala

    They trolled the trolls, and in this case I approve.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    It depends. The Church of Satan, founded by Anton Szandor LaVey, doesn’t include supernaturalism. He essentially used the Satan figure as a symbol of opposition to religion and an expression of individualism.

    I don’t know if the pink mass Satanists are LaVeyan Satanists, or sometype of literal Satanists.

  • Agrajag

    Dead people are dead. You cannot do anything to hurt the dead. Thus what the dead person “would” object to is ENTIRELY irrelevant.

    Now, what living relatives, and others who cared about the dead person would object to, is a lot more relevant. If you take a piss on the grave of someones mother, your actions do precicely *nothing* to hurt the mother — but very likely her children, if they’re alive and heard about it or witnessed it, would find it hurtful.