Illinois Newspapers Portray ‘Atheist Baby’ as Future Killer

Are you prepared for the onslaught of atheist babies who go around murdering other people?

That’s the doomsday scenario sketched in an apparently dead-serious anti-atheism editorial that just got published in as many as seven Bugle newspapers, all small-town Illinois weeklies.

The writer fantasizes about two “atheist babies” (a tautology*: all babies are atheists) who get marooned on opposite sides of an island. One infant is found and raised by kindly Christians. The other child is reared by the Christians’ godless counterparts: a pack of wolves.

Wait — what?

You read that right: In order to lead this tale to its “correct” conclusion, the author’s first order of business is to paint non-believers as non-human; indeed, he equates them with predatory animals.

The deck thus stacked, Peter, the baby raised on Christian values, becomes (what else) a kind and compassionate young man. Paul, the Romulus-like feral child who knows only the “kill-for-advantage” law of the jungle, beats Peter to death the first time he lays eyes on him, in a squabble over some really delectable berries. The End.

The lesson that The Bugle says we should learn from this quasi-Biblical fable is that

… outside of the liberty of Western thought, wholly based on Christian morality, you cannot make a judgment [about right or wrong]. It is to each his own to decide good from evil. At its very heart liberalism is non-judgmentalism taken to its logical and idiotic conclusion. For good or bad to exist, in some objective sense, you need a God and a particular one: A God who is love, who is the creator and who continues to have a vested interest in his creation. Otherwise, the difference between good and evil is simply a matter of opinion.

No word is spent on the universality of the Golden Rule, which predates Christianity by many millennia, and which was articulated by Confucius some 500 years BCE and by Plato in roughly the same era. Nor does the Bugle‘s essayist manqué care to confront the frequent absence of the Golden Rule in the Bible, such as when Abraham slavishly agrees to kill his son on God’s say-so.

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Our incurious scribe gives no thought at all to the now largely godless countries of Scandinavia, all of which score sky-high on various desirable social metrics, from low crime to high literacy and from low unemployment to high levels of charitable giving.

And he expends not a syllable on the clear evolutionary advantage of things such as cooperation and trust and empathy, nor on their scientific underpinnings, like moral molecules and mirror neurons.

Basta! We can safely say that when it comes to treating non-believers fairly, The Bugle blows.


[*corrected, with thanks to reader Brian Westley]

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Fake

    Okay, I wish I were raised by wolves. Wolves are awesome.

  • the moother

    Alternative headline: Christian baby portrayed as future racist, misogynist, homophobic bigot.


  • GubbaBumpkin

    For good or bad to exist, in some objective sense, you need a
    God and a particular one: A God who is love, who is the creator and who
    continues to have a vested interest in his creation. Otherwise, the difference between good and evil is simply a matter of opinion.

    Even if we grant them tremendous leeway in this argument, they are claiming that God’s opinion is objective, while any other person’s opinion is not. It’s just silly.

  • Holytape

    I have to object, to the whole notion of being raised by animals leads to no moral compass. Like most agnostics, I was raised by a pair of loving wombats. And I think I have a pretty decent sense of right and wrong and which bindyi shoots are the tastiest.

  • eric

    “…apparently dead-serious anti-atheism editorial…”
    That may be his intent. But in execution, it more like “hilarious editorial making Christians look like idiots.” If it wins any converts, they probably won’t be for his position.

  • Art_Vandelay

    One of the atheists is rescued by a group of Christian monks who raise
    him with morality derived from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Oh yeah…because nobody’s ever been killed in the name of Jesus Christ.

  • eric

    I note with even further amusement that the Bugle’s comment policy admonishes contributers: “no racism, sexism, or any sort of -ism that is degrading to other people.”
    Evidently, the rule doesn’t apply in the case of Bugle contributors, or atheism, or possibly both.

  • Brian Westley

    The writer fantasizes about two “atheist babies” (an oxymoron: all babies are atheists)

    Not an oxymoron then, it’d be a tautology.

    +1 for Mitchell & Webb though.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I remember the last time Christians painted an entire group of people as animals. Rats, instead of wolves. Didn’t turn out so well for the world. Someone at the paper needs to nip this shit in the bud.

  • Mick

    Even the Christian readers will recognize the stupidity of that story – so they will try to cover it up by writing letters to the editor saying how inspired they were. Check out next week’s editions, you’ll see.

  • 3lemenope

    Right? I could go on to found a continent-spanning empire, if I were brought up by wolves. What do Christian parents have on that?

  • 3lemenope

    Inspiration is code for “we need to say something nice about this lame thing”?

    I need to update my Evangelical translator matrix; I learn every day!

  • GCT

    …“atheist babies” (an oxymoron: all babies are atheists) …

    Just a nit (and I’m being a bit pedantic perhaps), but that’s not what oxymoron means. An oxymoron is a figure of speech containing 2 contradictory terms. If all babies are atheists, then the term “atheist baby” is redundant, but not contradictory.

  • Terry Firma

    You’re right. FML. Thanks for that, I’ve corrected it.

  • Bitter Lizard

    …and the good, Christian child grew up and got a Facebook page…

  • Terry Firma

    At the Friendly Atheist, we’ve decided to crowd-source our editing, and you guys are coming through beautifully! ;-)

  • Bitter Lizard

    I made a chart comparing wolves and Christians, for our objective edification. I like charts.

  • DKeane123

    I love this chart!

  • Atheist chick

    Lmao!!! Love it!!!!

  • porlob

    Outrageous! Wolves don’t live in the jungle!

  • Matthew Baker

    Printed papers will publish just about anything by anyone theses days just to fill up the paper.

  • David McNerney

    Wolves can be trained not to shit on the carpet.

  • ToonForever

    Cart before the horse, innit.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Plus, if these wolves were so amoral…wouldn’t they have just eaten the baby instead of nurturing it?

  • Terry Firma

    Thank you Lizard. This is the hardest I’ve laughed all week.

  • rhodent

    This is an argument for raising your kid to be a Christian? So he can be killed for his berries?

  • 3lemenope

    “Verily I have laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good only because they had no claws.”

  • KeithCollyer

    I guess this would be the same Paul that so shat on the teachings of jesus

  • Kay McMann

    I’m not surprised to see that’s in Illinois. I am surprised though that it’s not in more downstate locations.

  • baal


    Fwiw, he’s dead now. He was found hanging in his jail cell. The prison asserts it’s suicide but I don’t think anyone will look too hard in his case.

    In other news, teachers regularly thank my wife and I for having one of the nicest and most helpful kids* in their classes.

    *raised freethinker!

  • Travis Myers

    Actually, at best it’s a redundancy. It’s logically possible for babies to be born with a built-in belief in gods. That just happens not to be the case in the world we live in.

  • islandbrewer

    I demand that you double my editing wages!

  • DesertSun59

    “beats Peter to death the first time he lays eyes on him, in a squabble over some really delectable berries”

    So very amusing. This will work ONLY on those who have never once read the Bible. Anyone who has knows that Cain MURDERED his brother in one of the first tales ever described in that book. This happened despite the fact that an omniscient deity was present from before the universe was created, and who could have stopped said murder.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    UNtil he became old enough to talk, whereupon they realised he was a heretic, so they burned him on the stake. Or is that steak?

  • Layla13

    ***A God who is love, who is the creator and who continues to have a vested interest in his creation.***

    God is love and that’s why the bible is full of murder, slavery, genocide, rape, incest, and war.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Are you sure about that?

  • Jennifer Bourne

    …and “Paul” doesn’t rhyme with “growl” :D

  • Terry Firma

    Consider them quadrupled.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    What a stupid story. The mountain range dividing the island is “impassable,” and yet somehow Peter and Paul both manage to get to the same spot. This guy needs a lesson in topology.

    Peter, whom we are supposed to believe is good, selfishly picks “every last berry available.” What a douche.

    … the liberty of Western thought, wholly based on Christian morality…

    Yeah, because the classical Greeks weren’t contemplating ethics centuries before Jesus H. Christ was born. And Western morality is identical to what Jesus preached. We all remember his rousing speech on the immorality of slavery and rape, don’t we?

  • GloomCookie613

    I had a very similar thought:

    Did he miss Sunday School when they discussed Cain and Abel?!

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    The argument starts with “imagine” so it’s no big surprise that its conclusion is imaginary as well.

  • GloomCookie613

    So nice I wish I could like it twice!

  • WallofSleep

    The addition of Baldwin was genius. Well done.

  • Virginia in Barre Town

    Me. My wife and Me. (Sorry, I’m an editor – I can’t help myself.)

  • WallofSleep

    Yeah, but the Greeks were pagans, PAGANS!!!11ty, and therefore irrelevant.

  • Bitter Lizard

    Yup. Ariel’s with Jesus now. In Hell.

  • Tainda

    “Stephen Baldwin” hahahahahahasnorthahahaha LOVE IT!

  • raerants

    Makes his day ordinary?

  • ganner

    “Our young atheist, named Peter by the kindly monks, learns to respect
    their moral code, even going so far as to live by it. Peter can see that
    the Christian moral standards bring happiness, peace and prosperity to
    this side of the island.”

    And here, without meaning to do so, the author of this piece has made an airtight argument in favor of secular humanism.

  • Joe Walsh

    He, like all formerly devout (dead) Christians is most certainly not in Hell with Jesus!
    they’re just bloody dead and rotting!

  • Tyson Chicken

    They they would go back to their lair and worship the Festivus pole.

  • Ida Know

    Guess the wolves had just as much empathy and decency as the Christians. Or more, seeing as how the human baby wasn’t even their species yet they looked past that and spared his life, shared their space and resources with him…

  • Nowthatsaniceachart

    And congrats: you, sir or ma’am, have officially won all the Interwebs today!

  • mcquestion5000

    God bless those wombats.

  • GregPeterson

    I was looking, and hoping, for something like this–a reference to the Euthyphro dilemma. It really misses the point to discuss how religions and ethical systems have a “Golden Rule,” since that is not what the (idiotic) writer is saying. He is NOT saying that religion is necessary for a moral compass–he is saying that a GOD is necessary for morality–at least objective morality–to exist. But as GubbaBumpkin rightly points out, the existence of a god has nothing to do with objective morality. If there is such a thing, it would necessarily be independent of a god’s opinion about it and the most a god could be is a source of information about an objective morality. If the source of morality is the god itself, then that morality is precisely not objective. On top of being a really stupid parable in several other ways, it shows no understanding of moral philosophy.

  • trj

    Cain was not a True Christian™.

    (And this time the statement is even true).

  • Anna

    Ugh, this is pretty sickening. I think people who write articles like this one are beyond hope.

  • Guest

    Wait a minute, not fair. I grew up in Urbana. I didn’t meet my first creationist until I was in my 20′s. I went to one of the best high schools in the country and I studied evolution at the U of I. Please down paint the whole downstate area with the same brush.

  • Jessica

    Wait a minute, not fair. I grew up in Urbana. I didn’t meet my first creationist until I was in my 20′s. I went to one of the best high schools in the country and I studied evolution at the U of I. Please don’t paint the whole downstate area with the same brush.

  • Katarn

    Forget the clear prejudice, this is most offensive part
    “They name him Paul (rhymes with growl)”
    Wait really? I don’t think so. Is there some weird Illinois pronunciation of ‘Paul’ or ‘growl’ that make them rhyme? Like Powel? or Graul?

  • Georgina

    Every time a christian tells me I can’t have morals without god – I reply “Exodus 22″.

  • Verimius

    “Atheist baby” is a tautology.

  • Ron Stephens

    This was written by Morgan Dubiel, a person that is recognized as a guest columnist for this paper.

  • TCC

    It’s not an Illinois thing, no. I’m a lifelong resident, and every “Paul” I know pronounces their name to rhyme with “call” or “ball.”

  • Ron Stephens

    This is written by a person who has written many guest editorials to this paper. One other editorial was titled Is atheism rational?

    So, this is not just one letter-to-the-editor at all, but one in a series of editorials by a person that writes crap like this on a recurring basis.

  • Pepe

    I have tears in my eyes from laughing.

  • Oranje

    Stop it! My sides hurt!

  • Oranje

    Not so much small-town newspapers and suburban. The DuPage county papers don’t surprise me on this (they brought us fun like AFTAH), but the more southern suburban papers (and especially Joliet) have me scratching my head.

    In other news, someone still prints newspapers (Full disclosure: I really miss getting paper copies of the Financial Times.)

  • Oranje

    I agree; I was thinking western Chicago suburbs, honestly.

  • Oranje

    Yeah, but Christian moral standards apparently didn’t bring the editorial’s author a serial comma.

  • A. Noni Moose

    Wouldn’t that be “me and my wife?”

  • Bitter Lizard

    Whenever I say something like that, there’s a little voice in the back of my mind reminding me that everyone’s going to take it literally. I ignore it.

  • Sennju

    Yay! That Mitchell and Webb sketch is brilliantly funny and a clever stab at God given morality, gotta love those guys.

  • Mark Long

    Worked out well from Romulus and Remus

  • wmdkitty



  • wmdkitty

    I know I should feel something about that… but I can’t summon enough givashit for anything beyond “good riddance, he’s saved the state a lot of money.”

  • IDP

    Yeah, I saw Joliet and was like “that’s not small town”…but at least my small town paper wasn’t on the list!

  • Lori F

    Don’t be silly. No self-respecting wolf-raised person would bother killing over berries.

  • Darrell

    the editor got his ass handed to him by his readers. check out the comments on the papers web site

  • Kiwi Dave

    I think the claim is not so much that God’s opinion is objective, but that God’s nature defines goodness, at least that was the response by the one Christian with whom I’ve debated this issue. Unfortunately, I was quite unable to get him to explain how he, a subjective human, knew that God’s goodness was objectively good other than by circular definition.

  • Gitte

    It wouldn’t work then either, as neither Cain nor Abel were brought up by Christian parents

  • Anna

    The same wolves from The Jungle Book, I imagine.

  • Anna

    I’d guess it was a legitimate suicide. He’d been suicidal before. In any case, at least now his victims can start to move on with their lives.

  • ItsAlwaysLupus

    “Atheist baby” is not a tautology. A tautology is a type of argument; this is just a redundancy.

  • rg57

    Someone must make the atheist-baby-horde-raised-by-wolves film!

    I would pay to see it, if someone with the skill of Lars von Trier treated it seriously.

  • Anonymous_Persson

    So, let me get this straight… an atheist child… can have morals? And yet the author is saying that you need god to be moral?

    I’m not really getting the logic behind this editorial. It’s making my brain hurt.

  • rg57

    We can take wolves or foxes, and after several generations of selective breeding, change their behavior to something we would consider to be more “moral” (e.g. not trashing everything in sight, not biting familiar humans, etc.)
    I think this tells us something important about the roots of morality.

  • Terry Firma

    You’ll be pleased to know that in Dutch, his last name means “moron.”

  • DougI

    It’s amazing none of us have killed him already. After all, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? I don’t know why anyone is able to post comments, we should have all been thrown in jail for our huge list of crimes.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Guest columnists are quite often bigoted cranks. Many are the type who write letters to the paper every two weeks (because they can’t get published more often) and who send in manifestos guest columns every three months, which is typically how often a newspaper will allow longer guest pieces.

    As a sample, I’ve seen “guest columnists” who have unjokingly (as if that could even be an excuse) advocated rounding up and gassing liberals, murdering Nancy Pelosi – details of said murder included!, and sterilizing black teenagers unless they can show proof of stable employment. And the papers published all of those and more…

    In other words, the title may be best translated as meaning “A more functional Mabus.”

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    I don’t know where the hell YOU claim to find time to murder. I can’t even keep up with porn, jackassery and worshipping false idols! Goddamn overachiever godless, always ruining the bell curve…

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    beats Peter to death the first time he lays eyes on him, in a squabble over some really delectable berries.

    Wolves… wolves don’t do that. Is he thinking of werewolves, maybe? Because if he’s thinking of werewolves, that would pretty much explain the whole thing.

  • DougI

    I outsourced my daily routine of Bible burning to India, that frees me up to outdo my murder quota.

  • LonesomeDove

    Gee – does the story of Cain and Able ring any bells? Might as well plagiarize the bible when you have no ‘author’ to sue you…this jerkoff story has to get a rebuttal from somewhere…I know some religious folks who have less morals than a 5 year old, and when they get caught, they like a 5 year old – try to blame someone else and say they didn’t do it – or “the devil made me do it” – they take no responsibility for their actions -

  • Oswald Carnes


  • abb3w

    This really isn’t fair to the wolves, from what I understand of the biological and sociological studies of them. While their norms are subtly different from human ones, wolf culture has concepts of reciprocity, equitability, authority, in-group identification, territoriality (including recognizing it in others), and even the sophisticated concept of status negotiations with outsiders. Disgust is pretty much lacking; and feral children will have less developed verbal and associated reasoning abilities, and thus may not be as subtle in the nuances of their reactions. However, otherwise an encounter between Paul and Peter would much resemble any other meeting between two humans raised in different cultures.

    Even by the measure of “Just So Stories”, this one is terrible.

  • Joe Walsh

    yeah, but I can be a little pugnacious bastard…

  • Mark W.

    In further defense of wolves, not one has ever tried to get into my house to shit on my carpets. Can’t say the same for christians.

  • Junoh315

    I actually think that this will further complicate the mental trauma of the victims. They can not get closure by having him convicted.

  • Junoh315

    At least name him Howel. It’s a name that would suit a baby raised by wolves.

  • Anna

    He had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to life in prison, so the victims were never going to have to sit through a trial. I can’t imagine they wanted to go through that. If they had, I don’t think a plea deal would have been struck.

  • Savpunk

    Hee hee!