Answering the Question ‘Don’t You Atheists Have Something Better To Do With Your Time?’

A few days ago, a commenter who goes by Susan_G1 brought up an interesting question in response to this post of mine. She addressed it to all frequent readers of the blog:

It seems to be that you spend an inordinate amount of time defining yourselves as who/what you aren’t … instead of who/what you are. … Do you not have any better things to do than laugh at theists, or is this your primary identity?

Susan wrote elsewhere that “I don’t think it’s a great idea to criticize Christian brothers and sisters in public,” and given that preference, I suspect that she is not going to find a whole lot to like on Friendly Atheist.

Nonetheless, where readers could have jumped down her throat, more than a few answered her without getting overly defensive, and it turned into a halfway illuminating discussion in which both sides, overall, showed restraint and understanding. Pretty cool.

 

Now, as the source of Susan’s discomfort (she thought my quiz post was pointlessly mocking; I say there’s definitely a point!), I’ll confess that my atheism has lately become a bigger part of what I think of as my “primary identity.” But that’s only since I started blogging about the topic this past February, at my own place, Moral Compass; a few months later, I began contributing here, at Hemant’s invitation.

Both blogs demand content. I’m happy to provide it, even if, yes, it can take a bit of time.

Before that, atheism was just one of dozens if not hundreds of interests that defined me in the sense that Susan means.

I hasten to add that in the United States, I’m in a minority even among atheists, as I didn’t grow up with religion as a factor of consequence. Presumably because I was born, raised, and educated in a rapidly secularizing country in Europe, I never thought about my godlessness back then. Like me, my working-class Dutch parents were atheists, but religion (or the absence thereof) likely didn’t occupy more than 0.001% of their thoughts. As far as I recall, it was never a topic of conversation at home. My mother liked to occasionally make mild quips about the Pope’s birth-control pronouncements, saying “If that old coot doesn’t play the game, maybe he shouldn’t interfere with its rules, huh?” And that’s as far as it went.

My slumbering atheism gradually took on sharper edges after I emigrated to the United States. I saw how pervasive Christianity is on these shores, and how frequently people of faith enjoy perks and privileges — some government-supported — that are out of reach for atheists. At first, that merely surprised me. After some years, as I became less European and more American, it rankled me, because it literally hit me where I now lived.

As a journalist, I’ve long tried to learn from the best of my peers to scrutinize arguments and opinions (including my own); to corroborate assertions whenever possible; and to not be intimidated by those wielding power (which means that a dash of mockery is often OK). It’s a lifelong process, and I’ve certainly failed at every one of those things more times than I care to recall. But I try. Over time, my bullshit meter became better calibrated, I guess, and it started to go off more insistently when the topic of religion came up.

It’s fair to say that my basic outlook in life has long been shaped by nothing so much as skepticism. Lots of people probably think that’s a negative, but I find beauty and satisfaction in it. In fact, skepticism is the one thing I most want to impart to my two kids, 8- and 11-year-old girls.

By the time they’re ready for real life, I’d love for them to have internalized these intertwined strands:

  • Educate yourself.
  • Use your brain and your very best judgment.
  • Separate fact from fiction.
  • Most people have agendas. Don’t take what they say at face value.
  • Partisans are boring, and probably wrong.
  • Be pleasant and kind, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Question authority.
  • Play devil’s advocate a lot, even if it’s to test your own arguments and find out what you really think.
  • Knowledge trumps belief.
  • Seek truth even if it comes at the expense of not being universally liked; popularity is overrated.
  • Don’t stay quiet in the face of nonsense and hypocrisy. Especially hypocrisy.
  • When you see inequality and injustice, do something about it.
  • If doing something isn’t within your power, at least say something, so that the problem is identified and can be fixed.

As a whole, these aren’t atheist values per se, but they are at least partly incompatible with most forms of religion. I don’t teach my girls to mock or dismiss religion (my wife of 19 years is a progressive, non-church-going Christian, and we’ve easily managed to find a middle way, with neither parent too keen on exerting undue influence). You’ll notice that the words religion and faith aren’t even mentioned in my little list. Why? Because I don’t have it in for religion as such. However, I do hate poppycock peddlers of all stripes, and religions happen to be very good at attracting inordinate numbers of them. It’s gratifying to occasionally knock ‘em down a peg.

So, in response to Susan’s query, yes, all that is a pretty big part of my identity now — and it’s nothing I’d care to to apologize for.

Then again, I’m also a father, a husband, a brother, an entrepreneur, a photographer, a tennis player, a traveler, an educator, a language lover, a graphic design aficionado, a songwriter and home recordist, a coffee enthusiast, a cinephile / audiophile, a homeowner, a driver, a consumer, a taxpayer, an American, a European, a classical liberal, a voter, a reader, a friend, and a slew of other things.

I don’t spend my waking hours thinking about which halfwit to take on next; but if deserving targets present themselves through chance or serendipity, as they often do, turning my back is never my first instinct.

(Top image via the Real Revo)

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.

  • C Peterson

    I spend almost no time at all defending my atheism. It isn’t something that requires defense. I do spend some of my time attacking religion (although seldom do I attack individuals for their religious beliefs, unless they put themselves out publicly for ridicule). As an educator, a humanist, and somebody concerned with the ultimate success of our species, I consider that time very well spent.

  • Bitter Lizard

    Lack of belief in unicorns isn’t a big deal to anybody because we aren’t constantly assailed with stupid, violent, evil bullshit because of belief in unicorns. I agree that atheism shouldn’t be a big deal either, but it has to be because theists exist. Without theists, we wouldn’t even have a word for it. Nobody would give a shit about religion if people just stopped believing it. That would be a compromise I’d be glad to accept.

    • allein

      Unicorns exist! I dealt with unicorns today at work. Apparently we had a shipping issue with some of them.

    • Raising_Rlyeh

      Clearly you have never had to deal with fans of my little pony.

      • Bitter Lizard

        I am aware of the existence of bronies, but haven’t knowingly interacted with one. I think this article was my first introduction: http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/4-insane-pieces-my-little-pony-fan-art-by-grown-men/

        • Intelligent Donkey

          I’m a furry, and I’m shocked.

          And happy. There are bigger perverts than me! Woohoo!

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            *pawbump*

          • Matt D

            I find furries tame compared to my own fetishes, so yes there are indeed bigger perverts!

      • Fentwin

        I have a second cousin who’s daughter is fanatical about those little beasts. I have a plan;

        I am thinking about designing a “My Little Pony Glue Factory” and a “My Little Pony Pet Food Factory” play sets.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        http://mlp-gifs.tumblr.com/post/7594328874/last-post-for-today

        (too many of these exist to just pick one.)

        • Raising_Rlyeh

          I don’t hate MLP:FIM it was just an easy joke to make.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Heh, I know that bronies and even young fans are easy targets, and accept it. It just amuses me to put up MLP “haters” gifs, because the gifs themselves are pretty ridiculous.

            Also this one:

            • Kevin_Of_Bangor

              The above is the work of 4chan and the folks who hang out in /b/

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                *nods* I’ve read and enjoyed the story of it, though I don’t bother with those sites.

      • Joshua White

        Twilight mod for Ponychan here (I moderate our discussion board). There are skeptics, atheists and humanists among us. Though I will admit that there are some factions that this would apply to ;)

        • Joshua White

          Well that was a poorly chosen image.

      • John H

        Disparaging an interest you don’t share and universalizing a stereotype: how enlightened. *sigh*

    • Jasper

      I don’t even have to comment here lately. I just scroll down to whatever Bitter Lizard is saying, upvote it, and move on.

    • grumpy_otter

      Once again, the irascible animal community speaks wisdom.

    • AntonioPeYangIII

      Unicorns do not exist? Heathen!

  • Stev84

    >”a rapidly desecularizing country in Europe”

    The “de” should probably go

    • Terry Firma

      Yep. Fixed now. Thank you.

  • Tainda

    This is the only place I come to talk about atheism. I live in Missouri and there aren’t many of us around and I only know a few personally. I post here at work when I have a free second or two. Do I have something better to do than mock theists? Probably but it’s so much fun!

    I am a mom and a very young (har har) grandma first and foremost! Other than that I’m a gamer, a Trekkie, a metal head, tat enthusiast and love my friends to the limit!

    Very cute kids, Terry!

    • Eliot Parulidae

      A lot of people visit the atheist blogosphere for the “Fundie Science Theater 3000″ element. I know liberal Christians who do!

      • Buckley

        Fundie Science Theater 3000…lol. I’m picturing 3 against the background of a screen making comments…”Oh You Look So Gloomy. Would you like some Prozac?”

    • Truthmatters

      I’m in Missouri too. Also a music loving tat enthusiast and a grandparent too! Good on you!

      • Pofarmer

        Nother Missourian here. Middle aged father, farmer, and 4H instructor.

        • Lee Miller

          Likewise in Missouri, the rural central part. New grandfather, although on the verge of not being able to say I’m “young” any more. And I have no problem with scorn and mockery when people believe foolish things. In spite of all the supposed “good” that religion does (or at least takes credit for), it’s really a noxious influence in the modern world.
          [When the tornado hit Joplin, MO a local church got huge press for their participation in the relief effort, when in fact all they did was make their parking lot available for a group of volunteers to meet the bus that took them to Joplin. Meanwhile this same church invests its money in an ever-growing physical plant that is totally self-serving.]

          • Tainda

            Well damn, go all of us Missouri people! lol

            • debbiedoesreality

              Missouri here also. Good to know we are legion. ;)
              I’m not a grandmother, but I do have a small tat and I’d be lost without music.

            • BeasKnees

              Missouri for me too! Also a gamer and Trekkie. :)

              This is one of the only places I feel safe to talk about my atheism. Hopefully that changes one day, but for now, I’m happy here.

    • Persephone

      Northwest Missouri, checking in.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Geez, 95% of the people I want to hang out with seem to live in Missouri or Wisconsin. Damn you, unintelligently designed planet Earth!

      • Tainda

        Well, if you lived in MO you would be in the middle of it all!

  • Art_Vandelay

    As a person that has emancipated himself from the evils of religion, I truly feel that I have a moral responsibility to criticize, demystify, and even mock religion when necessary. There are way too many people that are in no position to criticize other people for using their religious faith in dangerous and pervasive ways. Even if they do criticize it, it rings hollow because they’re still promoting this insidious idea that religious faith is a moral virtue. One of the kindest things that you can call me is a blasphemer and no…I don’t have better things to do with my time.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Do you not have any better things to do than laugh at theists

    1) If you don’t want to be ridiculed, be less ridiculous.
    2) Yes, including keeping theists from using the force off government to impose their religion on other people.

    • randomfactor

      The laughing part is just comic relief from the more serious aspects.

  • Eliot Parulidae

    My view is this:
    1. An atheist is simply someone who does not believe in God.
    2. New Atheism is a political movement made up of atheists. Associated causes are maintaining a secular government, securing social acceptance for American and European atheists and basic human rights for atheists in places like Iran and India, and bolstering scientific education (satellite political causes such as women’s rights are controversial in the movement, although New Atheists are mostly liberal or libertarian.) Some New Atheists speak out in a brave and reasonable way, others in an obnoxious way. Not all atheists are involved in New Atheism – in fact, the majority may not be. Opinions vary on whether atheists are morally obligated to be New Atheists.
    3. It seems no one can tell the difference between these two, and it’s very irritating.

    • evodevo

      You’re a wood warbler?? Good on you – I love my wood warblers.

  • jeffj900

    The only reason atheists have to be busy with religion is because there is too much of it in the world. After 9/11, attacks carried out in the name of religion, and after hearing many American Christians making apocalyptic noises and war between Christianity and Islam type noises, I figured religion was not harmless and could not be left alone to stew in its own juices. It affects us all, and atheists need to fight to resist the stupidity that religion breeds.

    It’s sort of like when gardners spend time pulling weeds. They don’t want any weeds in their garden. They don’t plant them. They would wish them out of existence if they could. But the sad reality is that if they aren’t pulled out, they take over and destroy the garden. For atheists, religion is like an out of control weed ruining everything.

    • Blacksheep

      Good analogy – but to put another spin on it, (as a gardener myself) I’ve often felt that when I weed I’m pulling out the things that are robust and healthy and grow with no help at all in favor of plants that are prettier but less suited to the environment. Natural selection (at least in my garden) seems to favor the weeds.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Not really because you are part of their environment and you’re also part of nature. Having limited nutritional and/or aesthetic value to humans, there’s actually an evolutionary disadvantage to being a weed in a human’s garden, provided that the human is a good gardener of course. I suck at weeding so they just go to town in mine.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        What Art said, but “Apples” and “Pigs”.

        Being a delicious fruit or animal appears to be a distinct evolutionary advantage. Confusingly so at first glance for pigs, but points out why it’s not really “survival of the fittest”.

      • Sweetredtele

        Remember that it was artificial selection for those pretty, tasty, plants, although sometimes viruses can come in and change some things, such as color.

        • John H

          I’m with Art on this one. The concept of “artificial selection” is a result of the (false) concept of human exceptionalism. Humans are animals, we are part of our biospheres, we are part of ‘nature’. Human selection *is* natural selection.

          • Sweetredtele

            I would disagree that Natural and human artificial selection are the same-simply for the fact that what we select for does not have external environmental pressures. We mostly chose things we wanted which may actually be detrimental to the organism in an environment not controlled by ourselves.

  • Keyra

    For staunch nonbelievers, alot of them sure love to talk about God. But attacking what you don’t even believe in is kind of a waste (as an atheist, this is your one and only life, no need to waste it on irrational ridicule). Atheism is just a viewpoint, a naturalist perception of reality, an opinion. All the chaos done in God’s name, doesn’t make the faith any less true, but it’s the result of misrepresentation. Religion is never gonna go away no matter what anyone does; but if not religion, it’s just be politics or government issue. Atrocities done in Jesus’ name, went entirely against everything he taught; so what does that tell you? It’s all about power, to the warmongers. And fixating on Christianity almost always alone (even when there’s Islam [far more violent] and others, it’s as if they’re threatened by Christianity…of course that may not be the case but that’s certainly the impression

    • baal

      ” But attacking what you don’t even believe in is kind of a waste”
      As already noted, most of us are on about the real world impacts of your false beliefs. Please stop saying the problems your beliefs cause are beyond your religions ability to fix as they are the ones with the power that created the harms in the first place.

    • C Peterson

      I don’t believe in child abuse, but I attack it. I don’t believe in militarism, but I attack it. I don’t believe in religion, but I attack it.

      I attack belief systems that I feel are harmful.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        You are playing on two different definitions of “belief.” I believe in child abuse. I have seen it. But I do not support it.

        • C Peterson

          Yes, that was my point.

          I don’t attack any gods because I don’t “believe” in them, but I do attack religion because I don’t “believe” in it.

    • Aureliano_Buendia

      “But
      attacking what you don’t even believe in is kind of a waste”

      As some commentators noted, the “attacks” are usually pointing out the more irrational (or dangerous!) parts of religion in an effort to show why religion should be taken less seriously. Something is only “sacred” because a person believes it to be, not because it’s supernatural.

      “All the chaos done in God’s name,
      doesn’t make the faith any less true”

      No one questions if people have faith. They question if that faith has truth behind it. So far, it’s a pretty poorly supported hypothesis.

      “Religion is never gonna go away no matter what
      anyone does”

      Neither will traffic accidents. Should we not point out that it’s a bad idea to stand in the middle of the street?

      “And fixating on Christianity almost always alone”

      There have been many articles here about other religious faiths, but this is a US-centered, English-speaking blog, and over 70% of this country’s citizens identify as Christian – it is simply a matter of statistics that most of the issues US atheists will face come from the religious majority.

    • Eliot Parulidae

      The “at least Christians aren’t Muslims” fallacy once again. Please do not insult our intelligence this way. We’ve studied history. We know what’s going on in Uganda and Russia. Christianity in America is like a vicious dog on a leash: only relatively harmless because of the control the strong secular government imposes on it.

    • smrnda

      If it was all about power, why wasn’t the power of Jesus or the Holy Spirit enough to keep his followers from doing horrible things? Given that pretty much *NOBODY* is a *True Christian* maybe the whole Jesus thing is just an unworkable fantasy.

    • Bitter Lizard

      We don’t “attack what we don’t believe in”, except occasionally as the evil fictional character it is because some people view this evil fictional character as a perverse sort of moral guide. Normally, we are attacking things that are very much real and are the result of people believing this storybook villain actually exists. These things include pretty much every sort of inhumanity that humans can think up.

      Would there still be problems without religion? Sure. There would still be problems without rape, or cancer, or Fox News. It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be better off without them.

    • Art_Vandelay

      And fixating on Christianity almost always alone (even when there’s Islam [far more violent] and others…

      Oh, bullshit. Name me one immoral act that you can justify with a Qur’an that you can’t justify with a Bible. Go ahead…just try. Christianity is less violent in this country not because of it’s scripture or it’s dogma but only because we have a secular government that doesn’t allow you to control society the way it did for so many years and still does in many places.

    • islandbrewer

      For staunch nonbelievers, alot of them sure love to talk about God.

      And Republicans talk about Democrats a lot. Doctors and public health advocates talk about the dangers of anti-vaxxers a lot.

      What’s your point?

      But attacking what you don’t even believe in is kind of a waste (as an atheist, this is your one and only life, no need to waste it on irrational ridicule).

      So if I don’t believe in racism, I shouldn’t attack it? If I don’t believe in inequality, I shouldn’t attack it? I should ignore it and let it continue?

      Bullshit. Religion harms me and the society that I live in. I and my country are poorer because Ken Hamm’s Creation Museum exists. That the state of Texas has a generation of children growing up with no significant grasp of biology because of the power of religion in the Texas State BoE harms me and my country.

      It’s a bunch of ridiculous ideas that harms me and my country, and my children, and the country they’ll likely live in. And you know that Jefferson quote about ridicule and ridiculous ideas?

      Atheism is just a viewpoint, a naturalist perception of reality, an opinion.

      … an opinion backed up by facts and evidence, and the best available explanation for reality.

      All the chaos done in God’s name, doesn’t make the faith any less true, but it’s the result of misrepresentation.

      And all the “chaos done in God’s name” may not be evidence against the existence of a god, but it makes theists (such as you) less credible.

      Religion is never gonna go away no matter what anyone does; but if not religion, it’s just be politics or government issue.

      I agree! But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to argue about politics without a belief in “end times prophecy” being an actual talking point or a factor that influences policy? Shouldn’t political questions about Israel be about human rights and politics, and not some bible-thumper’s idea of what a magic man in the sky wants?

      Atrocities done in Jesus’ name, went entirely against everything he taught; so what does that tell you?

      That if Jesus existed, it didn’t do any good.

      It’s all about power, to the warmongers. And fixating on Christianity almost always alone (even when there’s Islam [far more violent] and others, it’s as if they’re threatened by Christianity…of course that may not be the case but that’s certainly the impression

      Yes, my goodness! How dare an atheist blog talk about … atheism!

    • Tainda

      “religion is never gonna go away no matter what anyone does”

      True but could YOU at least go away?

      • Bitter Lizard

        I wouldn’t be surprised if she already has. Hit-and-run masochist troll MO: drop in, say something stupid, get eviscerated by like twelve different people, and walk away with your jollies intact because you enjoy being dominated.

        • # zbowman

          That or a mentality that’s starting to seem more prevalent among them lately: drop the comment and then just *not care* what other people say. The believer has spoken. They don’t need to hear dissenting opinions, they’ve dropped their Truth into the thread in a big steaming brown pile and as far as they’re concerned that’s all they need to do. Conversations, followups, seem less and less frequent – it’s a drive-by faith-hosing, and it’s hilarious to watch. The only kind of thread-haunting I’ve seen that’s funnier is when the Brave Upholders of the One True Faith downvote comments as hard as they can without ever saying anything.

          • Bitter Lizard

            I wonder how they think God feels about it.

            “Hey, way to downvote a bunch of comments without engaging with anyone–you sure showed them! It doesn’t matter if your case for my existence is a laughing stock, I’m proud of you anyway, you special little guy. Way to call atheism a religion for the fifty-billionth time–you wouldn’t be able to do such brilliant things if you weren’t infused with my awesome holy spirit! I wish more of my followers would troll the Internet like you do–you are a martyr and a saint.”

            • # zbowman

              I think it betrays something about the whole mindset they have, actually – it makes it look as if what they care about is appearances rather than truth. As long as they can make the nonbeliever *look* bad, it doesn’t matter so much whether they’re right. My girlfriend’s mother is the same – purportedly devout Muslim, wants me to give up bacon and get my genitals ritually scarred the way Allah apparently likes it, but plays Candy Crush through her laptop’s (obnoxiously loud) automated calls to prayer and engages in the haram practice of gambling through her poker nights. Doesn’t matter whether she’s *doing* what her god wants, she’s got her laptop blaring the calls to prayer and is hassling her daughter’s boyfriend – it’s all about the look of the thing.

          • Tainda

            True. Someone has it in for me because I usually get at least 1 down vote per comment lol

            Edit: Damn you person and your down vote! Though I know one of the smart asses around here did that one lol

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Keyra NEVER sticks around to respond to any of us pointing out her(?) bullshit.

          • The Other Weirdo

            I was sure that I saw he/she/it argue on a particular thread, but that may have been Discus weirdness.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            It stayed once. It got its head handed to it in argumentation and learned the wrong lesson, as they all do; not to think before speaking, but to hide from consequences better.

    • Truthmatters

      “All the chaos done in God’s name, doesn’t make the faith any less true, but it’s the result of misrepresentation.” Really? Give me a fucking break. This is why you get “attacked”.

    • Taz

      <blockquote.For staunch nonbelievers, alot of them sure love to talk about God.
      We’ll stop if you will.

      • Taz

        Sorry, HTML failure and not able to edit.

    • KeithCollyer

      Amazing that so many respondents seem to have missed the point in responding to “attacking what you don’t even believe in is kind of a waste”. It is god we don’t believe in, and very few atheists attack god. Some (many) attack belief in god and many (most) attack stupid, hurtful things done “in the name of” god.
      As for “as an atheist, this is your one and only life”, well, most atheists believe that this is true for you as well, and if we are honest, none of us knows if it is really true or not because of the total absence of any evidence whatsoever of a life after death. I’m willing to grant this may be because those in the after life have no means to communicate, but I think Occam’s razor should be applied here.

    • Matt D

      You’ve made so many drive-by posts on this blog, I’m starting to think you’re a Christian gangbanger.

    • SansDeus

      All the chaos done in God’s name, doesn’t make the faith any less true, but it’s the result of misrepresentation.

      Faith:
      1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
      2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

      Based on the definition, faith has no basis on actual truth. Read it carefully, it basically states you can believe it’s true with as much confidence that you want, but doesn’t mean it is actually in fact, true.

      In my opinion faith can be OK when it’s based on a record or history of something a.k.a. evidence.

      For example I have faith that my friend will pay me back money owed or return my car because of prior history and evidence based on his character and our interactions. He has previously exhibited trustworthiness.

      Think of this scenario:
      Would you rather loan out your car to a complete stranger or someone who you have a history with and who has proven themselves reliable?

      The faith of a christian god lies in a book written by mostly anonymous authors that say he’s good, though a great deal of the passages in that same book are extremely contrary to showing goodness.

      With just that “evidence” the scenario changes. it’s now more like trusting a moderately known acquaintance with your car but you just watched them smoke crack and you know they have mental instability.

      Would you still loan it to them?

      Though this goes on at a much larger level. When you have politicians who believe in something so sternly that they are able to force others into obeying their faith through the passing of laws. Of course the laws don’t bother or effect the majority of people who elected those people since they share the same beliefs, but this alienates those who don’t believe or have actual evidence to support an actual truthful claim. Such as creationism in schools, restrictive abortion laws and climate change.

      And fixating on Christianity almost always alone (even when there’s Islam [far more violent] and others, it’s as if they’re threatened by Christianity…of course that may not be the case but that’s certainly the impression

      It is not all focused on Christianity, it’s only that we’re in a christian majority in English speaking countries, so it’s discussed more. Islam is also awful and you’ll find plenty of articles on this very site that decry Islam, Judaism or any manner of religious ridiculousness that harms others or forces people to not think for themselves.

      Additionally, with the voting example, who puts those warmongers you speak of in power? The answer is it’s the people who support the warmonger. Often through the same manner of faith they put in that individual.

      Now back to your original statement:

      But attacking what you don’t even believe in is kind of a waste (as an atheist, this is your one and only life, no need to waste it on irrational ridicule). Atheism is just a viewpoint, a naturalist perception of reality, an opinion.

      Do you think it’s a waste to stand up for the oppressed? Or to voice an opinion that someone is wrong when their faith (belief of truth of something without evidence!) harms society and possibly even the world?

      I don’t. I think it’s necessary because how else are people to learn that what they are doing is wrong or misguided?

      Atheism is actually the starting point for everyone. Babies don’t know a thing about religion until they are indoctrinated, even then it takes time. This happens through trust in the people who brought them up or in their adult life the people who convinced them to believe in a faith other than the one they were raised.

  • smrnda

    I mock religion a lot, but I do many other things as well. Living in a liberal, educated, secular region of the States religion isn’t shoved down my throat, but I know that not all unbelievers are as fortunate as I am, so I have an obligation to stay aware of abuses done in the name of religion and attempts to turn the government into a theocracy.

  • Mario Strada

    Cute Kids Terry. Mine is a bit older and I am afraid yours will be mine’s age way too soon for your liking.

    It’s also amazing how many other things we have in common. We are both European, both grew up in a secular family. I am also a “home recordist”, although after realizing that I suck at composing “modern” music I am focusing on orchestral music.

    I was also a ranked tennis player, I work in graphic design and I love language and writing ( I am just now listening to a series of lectures on language from TTC).

    I love Coffee and I love tea (I love the Java Jive and it loves me) and I am also a bunch of the other stuff you are. Homeowner, friend, etc.

    Like you, my atheism has always been there, but it has been growing the more I realize the stranglehold religion has on our fellow citizens and society at large.

    I always enjoy reading your articles (here is one difference: I was never published on “Rolling Stone”) and I think now I know why.

    • Terry Firma

      Ha. Thank you Mario. Nice to e-meet you! I was tickled by your mention of the Java Jive. It was THE song that I used to sing with my youngest (the one on the left in the picture) back when she was very reserved and quiet around me in the first 12 to 18 months after we adopted her. She loved that song for some reason, so I played it for her many times a day, for many months … and when she was old enough to get the words, we’d turn it into a silly little duet that made her smile and get closer to me (literally and figuratively). Today she is the OPPOSITE of shy and withdrawn, and I think that singing the Java Jive with her old man had a little something to do with it!

  • Eliot Parulidae

    Terry, this post is formatted all wonky. I thought I’d let you know.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      There’s a center tag above the first image that needs to be closed.

      (and center is a deprecated tag… but maybe Patheos is doing that.)

      See: http://www.w3schools.com/css/css_text.asp

      • Terry Firma

        I noticed. Thanks guys. Fixed now!

  • Blacksheep

    “It seems to be that you spend an inordinate amount of time defining yourselves as who/what you aren’t … instead of who/what you are. … Do you not have any better things to do than laugh at theists, or is this your primary identity?”

    …I’ve asked the same thing 100 times.

    • Art_Vandelay

      And you’ve probably been answered 500 times and continue to ignore the answers so that you can keep asking your great “gotcha” question. We’re not exactly dodging this question.

      • Bitter Lizard

        Yes, just because you’re incapable of retain‌ing information after countless attempts doesn’t mean you win. It just means your mother probably shouldn’t get you that bunny you want so much because we all know how that story ends.

    • Edmond

      Who/what we are: People who don’t like to see national legislation, educational and science standards, or social services hijacked by the superstitious for the purposes of fulfilling whatever agenda they’ve personally interpreted from their personal favorite scripture.
      Better things we have to do than laugh at theists: Fight theists to keep the above institutions secular, so that they are fair and equitable to all citizens regardless of personal relgious choices, and reflective of reality rather than myths, to better produce reliable, real-world results.
      But all of that doesn’t mean that there’s not STILL time to laugh at theists, in between the fighting. Keep in mind, we aren’t just laughing at theists because we think they’re funny looking. We’re laughing because of the funny things theists do and say, things informed by ancient books featuring magic and talking animals. Things they call “moral” based on books featuring slavery, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia.
      Sometimes, all you can DO is laugh, because crying gets tiresome and depressing.

    • Anna

      Blacksheep, I know you’ve been around for years, and we’ve had several thoughtful conversations in the past, so if you really don’t know the answer to that question, it’s not because we haven’t addressed it.

      • baal

        this ^

      • Bitter Lizard

        He’s been posting his nonsense on an atheist board for years and still lectures atheists on not having “something better to do with their time”? Yeah, that sounds about right.

    • phantomreader42

      And every time you asked, it was just as dishonest and passive-aggressive. And every time you asked, people answered you, but you refused to learn anything from their answers.

      • Blacksheep

        Not at all passive aggresive, I have honestly never gotten a good answer to the question. It’d odd to define oneself as what one is not, it’s that simple.

        • DavidMHart

          No, it is not odd to define oneself as what one is not if one is being constantly bombarded by nonsense, bigotry and harmful distorions of public policy and law in the name of what one is not.

          The reason we define ourselves as atheists, and not as ‘non-astrologers’ or ‘non-believers-in-vampires’ is not because we think the claims of astrology, or the belief in vampires are any more credible than belief in gods, it’s because the people who believe in gods keep trying to do harmful stuff in the cause of those beliefs that we need to organise against, whereas the people who believe in vampires or astrology have an utterly negligible influence on public policy.

          If people were passing laws against having pointy teeth, insisting that those who didn’t go vampire-hunting were unfit for public office, mandating that everyone had to carry garlic at all times etc, you’d quickly start to identify yourself as an avampirist.

        • Bitter Lizard

          So you’ve admitted a lack of understanding as to why someone would actively oppose something that results in the rape, torture and murder of innocent people on a global scale. Since this would not be possible for someone with even the most fundamental grasp of human empathy, you have basically outed yourself as a full-on sociopath, and should probably be in some sort of public database for the edification of those in your community who have children or pets.

        • Edmond

          Mine was no good?

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          In the USA, some people are Republicans and some people are Democrats. A few are Libertarian or Green or something else. And some people, like me, do not feel an affiliation for any party, or vote along party lines.

          Officially I’m ‘decline to state’.

          Does that mean my primary identity is “Decline to state”? Well, if I’m answering a poll, or filling out a voter registration form, or hanging out in a political blog, then yes, it is.

          But if I’m commenting on a blog about parenting? Probably not.

          So, Blacksheep, it seems to me like you’re drinking plain water in a bar. And you’re asking everyone why the only thing they ever drink is alcohol.

        • Anna

          It isn’t odd if the society you live in considers the “not” to be of paramount importance and tries to push the “not” into all aspects of the culture.

          Besides, as I said to Susan and as I’ve no doubt said to you in the past, my primary identity isn’t atheism. It’s way down on the list of things that define me.

  • Buckley

    Christians and other religions INVITE the mockery. If Christians were commanded to keep their religion to them selves, I wouldn’t care one bit what you believe. But because you (and other religions) are commanded to spread your religion and you’ve taken that command to mean “make all people believe what I believe by enforcing my beliefs with laws” I will fight to the end of my life to stop you. So yes, I do focus a lot on religion, but in reality it’s the people that force their religious BS on me. I just want to live in a secular society, why is that so wrong?

    • gkadams69

      Christians ARE commanded to keep their religion to themselves, but they tend to forget that.
      “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.…” Matt 6:5-6

      • Buckley

        You are so correct, but like with everything else, they don’t know or care about this. I am curious where in the Bible that witnessing comes from because that is the outlet that Christians use when proselytizing.

        • Anna Marin

          The “great commission” Matthew 28:16-20 – Jesus told them to go out and spread his teachings in the world… Sometimes I wish I could forget some of the crap I was taught, and other times (like now) I am glad that I remember so I can tell you. :-)

          • Buckley

            Thanks! I wasn’t raised very religious so I don’t have this knowledge at my fingertips. Funny, working in a Catholic school all these years, you think I would have picked this stuff up.

            You just prove what I also suspected and we all know: Contradictions galore, and right in Matthew!

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            But they are also told, in Matt 10:14, to leave when they are unwelcome or told to go away.

            “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.”

      • getz

        That was nearly 2000 years ago, refers to prayer and isn’t about keeping things to themselves so much as it’s about trying to get attention from the best audience ever. The gospel is full of that kind of doublespeak. It doesn’t matter though, because even if it said “NEVER TELL ANYONE OF CHRISTIANITY, EVER” They’ve had plenty of time to make up new things to believe in. They tend to believe Jesus is an immortal who can communicate with them at any time, so they’re to give him all kinds of new things to say. Hell, they’ve been doing it since before the bible was compiled.

        There’s no way to determine that the immortal Jesus actually said anything, and if there is no immortal Jesus then there are no actual sayings, and nothing for Christians to actually follow. As such, Christianity doesn’t really refer to any specific commands to follow so much as it refers to the belief that such commands are out there. Those commands can be… whatever they’re willing to believe.

        If sticking strictly to religious teachings meant anything, Christianity never would have formed. Same goes for Islam, the Latter Day Saints and any other Jewish sects. Should go for Judaism as well if you hop back far enough.

      • Archer

        Christians
        are commanded to spread the Gospel to all nations of the world. It’s called The
        Great Commission. (Matthew 28:16–20.) The command is taken seriously. In
        fact, the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant
        denomination, uses “Great Commission Baptists” as
        an alternative name.

  • http://gadlaw.com gadlaw

    Well, our time is spent in the company of others and if a number of those people are spreading irrational dangerous beliefs as they do it is a moral obligation to stand up and not let it spread without a fight. Dangerous belief structures that convince the convert to cease rational thinking and to put their lives and the lives of their children in the hands of irrational and sometimes insane ‘spokesmen’ for the nonexistent entity who conveniently believes whatever set of nonsense the spokesman is selling is entirely something that needs to be confronted. It’s true that many of the religions will happily tell you to obey the laws, be good to your fellow man, help others and will do that for the totally reasonable 10 percent tithe of all that you earn. Less harmful than other more extreme examples of the many religions but still you have created a whole class of human beings who do not know how to think rationally and in fact can be made to believe in insane morally bankrupt positions some of which put other human beings in various degrees of danger. Ask Jews, atheists, gay and lesbians, sikhs, muslims and other people who are ‘not of the body’ and who are therefore less than human and can then be harasses, harmed and killed in the name of Jesus.

    Why do we spend any time at all fighting against religion? It’s the only sane and moral thing to do. And as those of us who are rational know – morality comes from ourselves, not an invisible and nonexistent man in the sky.

  • grumpy_otter

    First–what absolutely beautiful girls! Second–how the hell can you have been married for 19 years? I thought you were about 20!

    • Bitter Lizard

      I like your alias.

    • Terry Firma

      Re #1: Thank you man. I agree! ;-)

      Re #2: In my mind, I still am. In the mirror, though, there’s some mildly paunchy middle-aged dude with graying temples who says it ain’t so.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Adorable sprogs, there.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Don’t you atheists have something better to do with your time?

    Yes. I have plenty to do. I make my living traveling around doing science performances for children about Dinosaurs, Volcanoes, and Astronomy. I take care of my 93 year-old invalid mother. I take care of other family members with health issues. I’m the only strong, healthy person in my family, but I have the usual annoying stuff 63 year-olds have to put up with. I do all the maintenance for two houses. I give a pint of blood every 56 days. I set up telescopes in public places to show people amazing things in the sky. I create figurative sculptures to help raise money for the local theatre and for a martial arts history museum, which helps to turn troubled kids’ lives around. I write an advice column for atheists who are having serious difficulties living in a hostile religious environment. I speak at churches and public discussion panels trying to make that environment less hostile. I review psychotherapists for the Secular Therapist Project which refers people to counselors who won’t just tell them to “get right with God.” I’m one of the leaders of my local atheist group, and we do outreach projects to benefit the whole community. There’s a lot more I could list, but I have to rush off to take my mom to one of her many doctor’s appointments.

    But like Joe Klein, if Susan G_1 doesn’t personally see it, it isn’t happening.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      If I were to judge by my recent visit to WND, all Christians ever do is proclaim that there is absolutely no evidence for evolution whatsoever. It’s nothing but dogma.

      I really wonder what this person expected on an atheist blog? Muffin recipes?

      • HS

        Mmmmm . . . Godless muffins!

    • Mitch

      Joe Klein jokes are like that hump day insurance commercial: still funny.

      • allein

        You mean I’m not the only one who still likes that stupid camel?

        • baal

          You never see Joe Klein humping camels.

          • allein

            Thank god… O.O

  • Mick

    When the snake handlers tone down their idiotic behaviour. When the faith healers start sending the sick to a real doctor. When the preachers stop raping children. When evangelicals stop using charity funds as a source for interest free loans that are eventually forgiven. When Christians stop telling me that I have no morals. That’s when I’ll stop slinging shit at the dopey useless bastards!

  • Shengatron

    well, maybe theists shouldn’t make themselves so laughable

  • Dennis Cabarle

    Big foot is real. I saw a video of him on some documentary.

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

    I’ll stop making fun of theists when they stop doing and saying such ridiculous (not to mention mean-spirited as well as stupid ) things. If you don’t want to be mocked, stop making yourselves such easy targets.

    • Derrik Pates

      I dunno, for the most part, I’m even fine with people believing what they want to believe. The problem is, most theists aren’t satisfied with them being able to believe what they choose – unless they can find a way to force it on others (through force of law or social means), it’s never enough.

      And of course, things like faith healing – mainly when it’s pushed on kids, who are too young to know better, and usually have been brought up in an environment where questioning that sort of thing isn’t permitted, so they can’t or won’t call their delusional parents out. (Kara Neumann, for example.)

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Susan_G1* claimed that was a sincere question. Look at the phrasing of the second half. It was not sincerely asked. It was a petulant gripe. But the responses and this post were quite sincere and intelligent.

    *It would amuse me for some reason if that stood for “Generation 1″ and she was a hardcore old-school My Little Pony fan.

    • SeekerLancer

      Or G1 Transformers maybe.

    • islandbrewer

      It’s obviously the Gap 1 phase (G1), and she hasn’t completed mitosis, yet!

  • Matt Bowyer

    Only one person outside of the internet personally knows that I don’t believe in God. My atheism is limited to the internet, for the most part. Even then, it’s mostly limited to blogs like this, or Facebook pages.

  • Glasofruix

    Everyone needs some fun, i like eating popcorn reading Keyra’s comments for instance, they’re highly entertainig when you avoid thinking that she’s serious.

  • Debra Massey

    Eh, we atheist are just doing what theist do which is what he have in common and can agree about. I propose a new topic. Pizza. I mean, who doesn’t like pizza?

  • treedweller

    There is a wide range of attitudes here regarding atheism and religion. I understand why some openly mock religion, but I do not. What I will do every time I see the need is stand up for secularism. You can believe in any or all the gods you like and I’ll never say anything about it unless we are in a real conversation and you seem to genuinely want my opinion. But as soon as you try to insert it in OUR schools and OUR government, I will challenge you on it. This is not a Christian nation. That is by design, and it was brilliant of the founders to see the need.

    To answer Susan’s question: My children should not be taught a religion that contradicts our family’s beliefs at school (where I must necessarily hand over authority to the teachers and administration while I am away). I should not be forced to silently listen to a prayer that I think is BS in order to participate in government meetings. Your right to free worship ends at the line where you begin to insert it into my life uninvited. It’s that simple. I am not ridiculing you; I am defending myself against your assault. That may not seem like a good use of my time to you, but I can’t think of anything more important.

    • Spazticus

      I’d like to give you more upvotes for this, but one will suffice. I agree wholeheartedly.

    • Art_Vandelay

      So parents with young children that attend churches that promote faith-healing…you don’t see any need to criticize their religion because it’s not affecting you in any way? People can practice religious beliefs in completely secular ways and still have them be harmful to those that they’ve indoctrinated.

      • treedweller

        There are lines, and I am glad I don’t have to draw them. But I’m reluctant to hold “religion” or “god” responsible for the actions of specific people in specific sects.

  • ByTor

    Awesome!

  • compl3x

    Of all the well known atheists I can think of, none of them make their bread and butter off of mocking or even criticising religion. They all have “better things to do” and are apparently quite good at them.

    I do find it funny that a religious person who essentially mortgages this life for the promise of a better one in the next is questioning how we spend our time.

  • sdfgsdfg

    My response would be something along the lines of “Don’t you Christians have something better to do with your time than demonize everyone that ISN’T a Christian and trying to indocrtinate/convert/proselytize to other people”?

    I imagine that if there were a way to do an accurate count, the amount of time spent by Xtians trying to spread their beliefs, would outstrip the time atheists spend letting people know that its ok to NOT be religious by at least a few orders of magnitude.

  • Dave

    Definition of atheist: some one who makes fun of theists and their stupid beliefs. No theists, no stupid beliefs, no one to to mke fun of, therefore no need for atheists.

    • blasphemous_kansan

      Definition of Dave: One who gets definitions wrong while attempting, and failing, to insult a demographic of people.
      See also; troll.

      • DavidMHart

        I don’t think Dave’s comment was trolly – it wasn’t the dictionary definition of ‘atheist’, but I think Dave’s point was that it’s only because religious beliefs are so absurd and so pervasive that we even need to have a word for people who don’t espouse them.

  • Al Dente

    To me the ideal world would be one where one’s religion is a personal matter. It shouldn’t be a big deal and other than perhaps polite curiosity it shouldn’t come up much. The problem as I see it is believers who feel that not only do they have to follow their conscience but they have to force their own rules on everyone else. Because their religion tells them the universe is thousands rather than billions of years old they demand thinly veiled religion taught in science class as creationism. Because they think sex is evil they only want abstinence taught in health classes. Because their religion tells them a soul magically enters every zygote they feel that abortion and perhaps even birth control is tantamount to murder so they want them outlawed. When believers quit trying to force their religion on everyone else I’ll be perfectly happy to shut up about my atheism. As long as they keep trying to make everyone else live according to their religion I’ll do my best to be a burr in their side.

    • Derrik Pates

      This is pretty much what I meant to say. Well put.


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