Guest Post: A Kindler, Gentler Me…Well…

My friend Elliot wrote to me about an experience he had the other day and asked if he could post it here.  I suspect it may generate a fair amount of discussion, so here it goes.

Just about every morning I get up very early and go to my convenient local coffee shop, chat for a few minutes with the folks that work there, get a large dark roast, sit in my favorite spot, read my kindle and pretty much keep to myself. I enjoy the solitary time of viewing interesting blogs and getting pissed off at the latest political news. And…being a creature of habit this is a ritual for me… up until this morning.

Today, everything went as usual, almost.

As I got ensconced in my favorite spot, dark roast and kindle in hand, a small group of religious catholic compatriots sat next to me, popped open their bibles, and in not necessarily quiet voices, started to discuss scripture, loudly. Now, up until about a year ago I was a liberal live and let live kind of non believer. I would have thought everyone is entitled to their own opinion about whatever, no matter how misguided and just ignored them. That was a year ago. However today…I immediately yearned for the music of Tim Minchin and on impulse fired up my YouTube Ap and put on…The Pope Song, loud  enough for them to hear but not to disrupt the coffee shop. Oooops. I think they got pissed off because next thing I know the manager comes over and says I am offending the group with the song and could I please either put in ear buds or lower the volume or move.

Out of the blue a conversation I used to have with my grandfather, who was an extremely religious and learned man in his own right, came to mind. He used to say to me in Yiddish, that sometimes you can reason with people gently and easily and sometimes you need to use a coal shovel, metaphorically speaking. Today, was a coal shovel kin of day, metaphorically speaking.

So with that in mind I said to the manager, “Nope, can’t do any of that stuff.” I did say loud enough for the little group next to me to hear and looking in their direction that if they are not comfortable with my taste in music that they can either move or leave but I had no intention of changing my musical selections as a matter of fact I like the song so much I intended to listen to it for the remainder of my time there. This coincidentally, was probably going to be as long as they were there. Then I offered to buy them coffee because they looked thirsty. They declined my offer and at that point I wished for them to have a nice day. One of them, the leader of this merry band I believe said they would pray for me.. I asked if they take requests because if they were going to invest the time I would like them to pray that they all became atheists. Ooooops again. With that they got up to leave and I asked if it was something I said.

I guess the moral of this story is that not everyone appreciates Tim Minchin the way that I do or if people are going to review religious beliefs near me they need to expand their musical horizons. All of a sudden I have an overwhelming urge for Gelato.

POLITICS: Boehner calls Obama an “anti-war President.”
On Disproving Abiogenesis
Evolution destroyed in under 5 minutes: The Ad-Hoc Constraint – Pt 1
PERSONAL: Cancer sucks.
About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • papango

    The important thing is that people who express beliefs you don’t agree with in public places deserve to be annoyed and offended, and you should go out of your way to make sure they are. And if someone calls you on it, you should ignore them, even if it is their business (where they make a living by providing a welcoming environment and are not allowed to discriminate). Nothing is more important than being able to go about in public and not be disturbed by other people and their ideas.

  • Casimir

    I would have asked the owner why it was okay for them to talk loudly about scripture but not okay for me to listen to music at an equivalent volume.

    It seems like in many contexts, loud conversation is perfectly acceptable, but the second those human voices come from a mechanical source like speakers, it becomes a “nuisance” if played at a volume where anyone but the listener can hear it.

    Why is that?

    • v1ctor1a

      Well for me actual voices of multiple people tend to blend into indistinguishable noise and so its fairly easy to ignore unless someone has a particularly annoying voice or is speaking really loud. Music on the other hand seems to catch my attention and I find it very difficult to tune out. I don’t know why it makes a difference but for me it definitely does.

  • RW Ahrens

    Bravo! Excellent move! I wish I’d been there to see it. Are you telling us the manager wimped out? If so then, so much the better.

    • papango

      This man is expressing opinions different to mine. I would like him to be forced to leave or stop commenting. Failing that, I would like to be able to cover up his opinions with pictures that might disturb him. Don’t wimp out on me now.

  • Gayle Jordan

    Oh my goodness…this sounds like pretty aggressive behavior, almost as if you are an activist or something. Did they ever get it? Did you ask them what was the difference in their behavior and yours?

    I think making someone turn it upside down and look at it from the completely opposite point is how to get people to think.

    And the Pope song from Tim Minchin?? Well played.

    Sexy. as. hell.

  • Ramel

    I’m sorry but the religious parts of this story are completely irrelevant. People who insist on playing music on their iPads (or mobiles/iPods/laptops/whatever) in public places such as coffee shops, or on public transport, deserve to be beaten to death with their own severed limbs. It’s annoying, it pisses everyone off, and it’s just a shitty thing to do.

    • gbjames

      But not any more annoying, imo, than a group of Xians using a coffee shop for bible study.

      I hate it when my brother comes over for family visits and sits listening to youtube videos on his laptop without ear buds. Annoying as hell. But at least he doesn’t play Xian codswallop.

    • Eliott

      Actually, the religious part of this narrative and the responses are the only things that are relevant.
      …and as for your violent overreaction to playing music, babe you need to get back on the meds.

      • Stuart Taylor

        “babe, you need to get back on the meds”?

        Seriously? What is this.

        There is a valid point about playing music in a public place – it’s disruptive to other people – that’s why people have earphones, so that they can enjoy their music privately. Especially if you’ve got a song that says “motherfucker” every few seconds. It’s a great song, but I think you’re being a bit of an ass to expect to play your music out lout in a cafe

  • RW Ahrens

    It’s annoying, it pisses everyone off, and it’s just a shitty thing to do.

    So is talking loudly enough to disturb others, especially about a subject as sensitive as religion. Gent’s point was to make it clear that the behavior of the group was unwelcome. I am sure that as soon as they left, he turned it off to avoid disturbing others in the shop.

    So, no, the religious part of this story is actually at the center of the issue, although the group could have been loudly discussing anything and could have been disturbing the entire shop. That kind of behavior is frowned upon just about anywhere.

    • papango

      No doubt you would be comfortable if you and a few friends were discussing atheism loudly enough to be heard at the table next to you at a cafe (which is usually less than a foot or so distance, there is no indication anyone else was disturbed by this) and a religious person sitting there started playing hymns and insisted on doing so until you left. And I applaud your sense of fairness and manners.

      • RW Ahrens

        No, I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that. When one is in public, one needs to calibrate one’s conversations to allow for where you are and how many people are near you.

        And I don’t give a shit what your subject is.

        • papango

          Right, we can do it to them,. They can’t do it to us. Got it.

          • RW Ahrens

            Are you acting deliberately stupid? Go back and read my comments. It isn’t an “us” vs. “them” issue, it is a public nuisance issue.

        • papango

          How is this a public nuisance? They were sitting at the table right next to him and he could overhear it. That’s not an unreasonable scenario when you are in a public place.

          • RW Ahrens


            Is that so hard to understand?

        • Eliott

          ahhh the point…my reaction was calibrated, I made a decision to respond at the same volume level as them with a musical selection of my choiceThe content of either conversation is moot. They were exercising their right and I exercised right back. If they hadn’t complained it would have been played only once. When they did, I felt compelled to exercise more.

          • papango

            And you know what, if you’d chosen to play some of the testimony from the victims of the catholic sex abuses, or a documentary on church abuses in general, I’d be applauding your actions. But you went with a profanity laced piece of music, and then when the manager (who’s establishment you are in) asked you to turn it off you refused and drove his customers out of the cafe.

          • John Morales

            Profanity, eh?

            Remember, “People don’t have a right to be shielded from ideas they don’t like or agree with in public places.” :)

    • Ramel

      Taking the story at face value, then yes those Catholics were being inconsiderate. But as they would have qualified as equally inconsiderate if they had been discussing football or Shakespeare religion is still irrelevant, and our story teller acted like a dick.

      How would you have viewed this story if those Catholics had in fact been Celine Dion fans (one of the few creatures known to be just as irrational, annoying, and just plain wrong as Catholics), and he had started playing Slayer tracks to annoy them?

      • papango

        Were they, though. The tables were right next to each other. That’s not a huge distance. If they had been a couple of tables away, or across the room, maybe. But have a listen next time you’re sitting next to a group of people at a cafe, you’ll probably be able to hear every word.

        I don’t really see how this is any different to the atheist billboards. People don’t have a right to be shielded from ideas they don’t like or agree with in public places. And acting like a dick about it, playing the Pope song over and over again or vandalising the signs, is just that, acting like a dick.

        • RW Ahrens

          The tables were right next to each other. That’s not a huge distance.

          Now go read what he said about THEIR conversation.

          sat next to me, popped open their bibles, and in not necessarily quiet voices, started to discuss scripture, loudly.

          Pot, kettle, black.

          He was just showing them how rude they themselves were being. Again, WHAT their subject was really isn’t germane. A billboard is one thing, talking loudly, probably deliberately, in a coffee shop right next to someone is another. A billboard one can look past, a loud conversation at the next table not quite so much.

          • papango

            ‘Probably deliberately’? Really? He was deliberately offensive, so now you’re suggesting that they must have been too so it’s fair. That’s pretty ridiculous. I get the impression that if this writer felt anything deliberate was going on he would have mentioned it.

            And how loud is too loud. Groups of people talking about things they are excited about can be quite loud. That’s why shushing was invented, to remind people who are ‘not necessarily quiet’, that maybe they should be. And also why laptops have headphones, so you can block people out with something you’d prefer to without getting the manager over.

            I still don’t see how this is any different from a religious guy trying to drown out a Skeptics in the Pub meeting (we get rowdy) with hymns.

  • v1ctor1a

    I agree with Ramel, people who play music in cafes are annoying no matter what the music is. My opinion, the whole interaction was rude and unnecessary. If they were being too loud there was no reason you couldn’t have just asked them to lower their voices and if you wanted to be constructive you certainly could have engaged them in a conversation but they’re in a cafe where they (I’m assuming) bought drinks and wanted to have a discussion. There’s no reason they can’t do that and if you take offense to someone talking about scripture in your general area, you’ve got a problem. They weren’t proselytizing, they were simply talking amongst themselves (perhaps loudly, but again you could have asked them to speak quieter.)

    I’m not opposed to offending religious people. I think they take offense way too easily (for the most part) but offense for the sake of offending is just silly and doesn’t do anything worthwhile except piss people off and make them feel vindicated in their assumptions about atheists. Plus, the pope song in a public cafe? I can swear like a sailor, but even I wouldn’t drop that many F bombs in a public venue like that. It’s just inappropriate, regardless of the topic. I probably would have asked you to kill the tunes if we were in that cafe shop. Then we could have had a great discussion about the ridiculousness of believing in god and pissed them off in a much better way.

    But thats just my two cents.

    • Eliott

      And I value your 2 cents but I think it would have been inappropriate to shush them. They have every right to discuss whatever they choose. It was offensive to me. My choice is to no longer turn the other cheek. It was to play a song at an acceptable volume that I enjoy. If they find that offensive…oh well.

  • Dhorvath, OM

    I dunno. Religious people get cut a lot of slack about the shit they spew, where they do it, and who has to listen. I think that some pushback is necessary to oppose that. I wouldn’t have done the same thing, but I would have done something: get a church if you want to be holy, just like you get a room to get slippery, or go to a playground if you want to climb shit. Respect should be earned, not assumed.

    • Jurjen S.

      It’s worth noting in addition: Catholics carrying their own Bibles, in the vernacular, and discussing scripture? Since when is that allowed?

      • Dhorvath, OM

        My familiarity with Catholics is lacking, so I wouldn’t have noted that.

  • RW Ahrens

    I get the impression that they were loud and offensive first. Which was the entire point.

    We can disagree with his tactics, which is fine. But the other group started by being deliberately loud. Personally, while he may have been equally rude, he was making a point, which I’d say they got loud and clear. Which is why they left, their entire purpose was foiled, so why stay?

    And I’ve got no problem with that. People who deliberately hike the tone and/or volume of their conversation in a deliberate attempt to make it heard by others in public deserve what ever rudeness they get in return.

    • papango

      According to what is written here, they were loud enough for him to hear them at the table next door, there isn’t any information to suggest they were deliberate in that, or that anybody else was annoyed. If you have more info about this incident then please share it, it would make a difference to me if their action was deliberate, but there’s just no evidence to suggest that it was. They can’t have known he was an atheist, and discussing scripture is hardly an effective way to push your religion on the unwary.

      As for the ‘why stay’ gambit. Some guy at the table next door was playing profanity laden songs and making it clear he was going to continue to harass them for the remainder of the time they were there even though the manager asked him not to. I’d leave.

      He didn’t make any point to these people about loudness. He just drove them out of a cafe with his boorish behaviour. Nobody who left is going to think about what they say or how loudly they say it. They’re just not going to go back there.

      • RW Ahrens

        Sure there was. When you sit down right next to someone and begin talking loudly, that isn’t a mistake.

        I think he did make a point. Whether they paid attention is another thing. But I don’t think he was any more rude then they were.

        We’ll just have to disagree.

        • papango

          Your argument only works if you ascribe motivations to this group that there is no evidence for. There’s not even any evidence the writer felt it was deliberate. That’s not a strong argument, that’s pretty close to a straw man. So I guess we’ll have to disagree.

          • RW Ahrens


            Of course there’s evidence. They walked into a public coffee shop, sat down right next to another patron, and began talking LOUDLY.

            Again, that is NOT a mistake or an accident. It shows a deliberate attempt to extend their conversation beyond their own group. They were, at the very least, attempting to show off their piousness.

            And of course the writer thought it was deliberate, or he would not have done what he did.

            I’m sorry you can’t see that.

          • papango

            Citation required. Show me actual proof rather than conjecture about what is ‘obvious’ and we’ll have a conversation. I don’t accept ‘it’s obvious’ from the skeptic community. If that’s the new standard then we can all pack it up and go home, it’s over, we lost. I’m sorry you’re not able to make your argument on the evidence available or without shouty caps.

        • Eliott

          It was obvious to me that they were there to have a discussion. Regardless of what it was about at a volume level comparable to theirs I played a song. Some have opined I was boorish or inappropriate for my musical selection…in other words, a song reflecting on the most despicable acts in humankind, hidden by the organization the people sitting next to me were discussing. They chose to complain, not me. I chose to play music. Was it boorish, was I a dick, am I a badass…well OK. I can live with all of that.

          • papango

            Dude, you are not a badass. You are an obnoxious guy in a cafe. And honestly, when I pause before I tell people I’m a skeptic and atheist, this sort of bullshit is why. It’s a fucking embarrassment to be in a movement where this sort of juvenilia counts as ‘activism’ and ‘badassery’. You want to be a badass for atheism, get up to Colorado City and do something for the people up there, or out to Uganda, or even just to your local Planned Parenthood before they shut them all down. Pick a target that isn’t just a group of people in a cafe, and a task that requires more than your natural ‘charm’, and then you can talk about badassery.

            Also, apologise to the manager. He’s running a business and you’re driving away paying customers.

          • Eliott

            I appreciate and value your feedback and will endeavor to make myself a better person for it but for the sake of clarity you made several incorrect assumptions leading to incorrect conclusions but no matter. In the end I made a decision, obviously one you would not have made, on reacting to a group of folks that in my view made a conscious decision to invade my space. Your answer to this issue differs from mine. You believe my answer was rude and boorish and I’m an asshole and an embarrassment to you. Well, I can live with all that but what I can’t live with and won’t live with any longer are these types of intrusions in my space without a reaction from me. And, I’m not an activist just your basic non believing guy that won’t walk away anymore.

          • papango

            Your space? Are you kidding me? They sat next to you in a cafe. Having read what RW and others have said I can see that these people may have intended to be overheard, and quite possibly they did need to be told that that was not appropriate (I don’t think you did that, I think you had a little tantrum and communicated nothing of value, but that’s by the by). But your entitlement is showing if you really think a person sitting next to you in a cafe is in ‘your space’.

          • Eliott

            I have to give you credit for being consistent and predictable. Thank you again for your counsel.

  • RW Ahrens

    Oh, come on. “Citation”? Look at the words the OP posted. Its right there.

    You can give these guys whatever pass you wish, and we’ll just be interpreting it differently. I think their actions were deliberate. You don’t. Neither one of us were there and we’ll just have to see if the OP steps in to fill in any blanks. Your argument isn’t supported any better, caps or not.

    • papango

      I guess I’m also arguing that arguing without evidence is probably a mistake. Religious people frequently ascribe motivations and characteristics to atheists that support their campaign to keep us quiet. And I have a big problem with it.

      • RW Ahrens

        We’re arguing about a story that is posted on this page. It is all the evidence we’ve got. You can interpret it however you like. I’ve been accosted by plenty of christians in my life (and was part of that scene) enough to have a pretty good idea of what was going through those fellas minds when they sat down and started talking “loudly” right next to this guy.

        Most likely, they wanted to impress with their piety – or their knowledge of scripture – but likely weren’t interested in witnessing unless someone noticed (how could they not) what they were discussing and made a comment or asked a question. Otherwise, why be loud enough to be overheard?

        I’ve sat in enough coffee shops, both noisy and quiet, to know how one can set your volume to where you won’t disturb others. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be overheard, but it does mean that others will know that you aren’t meaning to disturb them with your discussion. I’m sure you know how this works too.

        If you are going to be loud, you go somewhere that you know being loud is normal so nobody cares. (Like your own group). Different establishments have different atmospheres. From this guy’s remarks about his normal routine, I am assuming that he does that on a regular basis and rarely sees this kind of loud conversation occur. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so from the description.

        Again, to me and from my own experience, if you go into a place where quiet conversation is the norm and talk loudly, someone will take exception.

        Yeah, most folks will go to the manager and complain. This guy took a different tack, though, and from my own past experience of the types he was apparently faced with, I think his reaction wasn’t too far out of line – assuming he turned off that music after they left. It sure was funny! Also, if the manager felt he was out of line, he could well have continued to press the issue and insist that this guy leave. The fact that he didn’t is telling.

        Yeah, that is all speculation. But it is informed speculation from my own past, which, yes could be different from the reality of the situation he describes.

        Interpret that however you like.

        • papango

          I can see what you’re saying, and I think the different places we’re coming from probably are important to this.

          The idea that of anyone impressing people with their piety is pretty alien. I can’t really imagine a group of people talking loudly about religion in any of the places I go in the hopes of being overheard and making a good impression.

          Religion in NZ is a matter of mumbling embarrassment. Rick Perry’s recent ‘I’m not ashamed to be Christian’ outburst would make a sort of sense here because religion is not discussed in politics at all. It would also make him unelectable, but that’s probably as it should be. Our Prime Minister referred to the fact that nobody was killed in a local earthquake as a ‘miracle’ and was widely mocked for not understanding the building codes and standards.

          Because of that I probably underestimate the pressure that Christians in the states are exerting on atheists, and how it feels to be on the receiving end of that.

          • NancyNew

            “The idea that of anyone impressing people with their piety is pretty alien. I can’t really imagine a group of people talking loudly about religion in any of the places I go in the hopes of being overheard and making a good impression.”

            Here in the US, I live in a conservative religious area and the bible-thumpers here ARE looking to engage. It’s hard to get away from it here.

            Let me put it this way: remember the Dover trial? 20 miles away. Local branch of a large religious organization tried to get the Harry Potter books removed from public schools.

            I also have an ex-brother-in-law whose “look at how holy I am” attitudes are enough to make you gag.

          • Aquaria

            This happens ALL the time in Texas. You’ll be sitting in Starbucks when it’s slow, reading your book (remember this fucking fact here, asshole), the christards will come in and sit, not across the cafe from you–oh no–they come right for the table next to yours, plop their gelatinous fat asses down on the chairs and start talking as loudly as they can about their genocidal scumbag deity. And when you give them a dirty look for being a bunch of loud, stupid, thoughtless fuckfaces, they ask you if you’re interested in becoming a fucking deluded moron like them. To which I always say that if I’m going to throw away my brain, I’d rather do it on drugs than become a braindead piece of hateful shit like them.

            The religitards have honed in on me when I’m minding my own fucking business so often at one of the Starbucks I went to that I had to find another one to patronize.

            So fuck you for thinking they don’t do this.

            They do it.





            Get out more, asshole.

          • papango

            Aquaria, I don’t now if you actually read the comment, but if you did you’ll notice that I live in New Zealand. It’s not in America (it’s not even in Texas), and things are different here (I know, that’s hard to understand, but stay with me). So, thank you for your advice to get out more (and your interest in my asshole), that’s probably meant well. But you should be aware that my getting out will be done here, in New Zealand (which is, again, not in America or Texas) where, as I explained in my comment about my perspective on this, religion is different matter and is not expressed in the same way. We do things differently here and that informs my outlook on these things. After RW set out his experience on why he felt like he did, I thought it was relevant to set out mine so he could see I wasn’t being disingenuous, it is genuinely alien to my culture. I’m sorry if it offends you that my experiences and perspectives are different. But I’m also sorry you have to put up with people constantly foisting their unpleasant beliefs on you. If you get the chance, come down to the land of sheep and clouds and we’ll go out and see what it looks like when that doesn’t happen. You can read your book in any cafe you like and I can pretty much promise that the guy at the next table will be more likely to get his dick out than to start talking about Jesus.

          • rwahrens


            It would have been helpful had you noted in the beginning that you were from NZ. It would have helped me understand where you were coming from.

            Aquaria is right, the atmosphere here is something you have to experience to understand. My wife is German, and if she hadn’t lived here for thirty+ years, she wouldn’t understand it either.

            It is a common phenomenon among christian society here for people to loudly pray and/or discuss scripture in public just to show how religious they are. In many circles, that isn’t frowned upon, it is admired!!

            Of course, among the larger society, it isn’t admired, but still, some folks are clueless enough to ignore that and do it anyway. Which is why the OP reacted the way he did, and why I support his reaction, even if he was nominally as rude as they were. They were acting from a sense of privilege, and he knocked them off that pedestal.

          • papango

            The experience of New Zealand is just so different. We do have religion and there are some crazy evangelicals here (my sister-in-law comes from an evangelical upbringing), but it’s just not seen as automatic or deserving of unthinking respect. At my niece’s christening (which was held outside in a garden rather than in a church) the pastor said before he led a prayer that people not comfortable praying should just take the moment to reflect on what a great day it was to have the whole family out together in the sunshine and what a great future the baby had in front of her with all of us to support her. And afterwards he played Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ on the guitar and we all sang.

            I wasn’t being facetious when I suggested Aquaria come to New Zealand. I’m often horrified at the treatment dealt out to atheist in the US and I think a savvy travel agent could look into an God-free holiday package for beleaguered non-believers. Come to our lovely islands and experience Easter as it was meant to be experienced, at a garden centre sale (April is bulb season). Have a warm and Jesus-free Christmas on the beach.

          • John Morales

            “We do have religion [...] but it’s just not seen as automatic or deserving of unthinking respect. At my niece’s christening [...] the pastor said before he led a prayer [blah]”

            Um, you do know what a christening is and what a pastor is, right?

            (No automatic, unthinking respect there, nosiree! ;) )

          • papango

            Yes. We have religion and some people, some of whom I’m related to, follow it. But even the pastor at a specifically religious event, was aware that there would be unbelievers in the crowd and rather than assume we would be happy to nod along, or trying to get us to ‘come to jesus’, he acknowledged our point of view and made space for our atheism in his religious ceremony.

            I’m not entirely sure I follow you, thoug. I guess because I know a family with a pastor I must therefore automatically and unthinkingly respect religion? Is that where you’re going. I know a guy in prison, so I guess I also automatically and unthinkingly respect crime? Maybe?

          • John Morales


            You really don’t see it, do ya?

            Here you write about some mumbo-jumbo religious claptrap as if it were the most natural thing in the world, whilst telling us how such things are not unthinkingly respected where you live.

          • papango

            Dude if somebody acknowledging your existence and then expecting you to move to suit them is the sort of respect you’re getting, then you need new friends, because that’s not respect. As I said, religion is a thing which exists here, the religious have ceremonies, I’m a member of a large family and I’ve been invited to many such occasions. When I go I expect my position as an atheist to be respected by those participating if that’s a problem, I don’t attend.

            I’m sorry if you see this as accommodationist or if you believe that an atheist must be so pure of purpose as to never engage with the believing (or even admit they exist) without being tainted with their irrationality. As I said, I have a large family and I am not yet ready to sit in the car outside a party just because it has a religious element, if my brother wants a christening or my aunt wants a tapu-lifting or my cousin wants to not serve meat because she’s Hindi, that’s fine with me as long as nobody is asking me to compromise my principles.

            I’m also sorry you missed my point. Which is that while these things occur here, piety is not seen as an outright virtue. It’s a private thing, people will not respect you more if you are a believer, it gets you no brownie points in politics or public life, it will not advance your career.

  • wscott

    A lot of commenters seem to think the Christians were deliberately talking loudly, presumably to “minister” to those around them. If that was the case, then yes – they were being dicks. But it sure sounds to me like they were just over-caffeinated and probably didn’t realize how loud they were. I say this because over-caffeinated people talking a little too loudly are pretty damn commonplace in coffee shops; damn-near ubiquitous, in fact. By contrast, Loudmouthed Preachy Christians are certainly not unknown…but are far less common. So Occam’s Razor points me in the direction of They Were Being Inconsiderate, rather than They Were Intentionally Being Dicks.

    Given that, the non-dickish way to respond would be to simply ask them to tone it down a notch or move to another table, since the OP was there first. Works surprisingly well 90% of the time. Now if they’d blown him off, then dickishness might’ve been an appropriate response. But he didn’t try that; he went straight to Be A Dick, mainly because – by his own admission – he didn’t like the topic of their conversation. You know how we’re always telling Christians they don’t have a right to not be offended? Cuts both ways.

    And yes, there is a difference between loud conversation and playing loud music. Many people go to coffee shops to have conversations; that’s one of their primary functions. And unfortunately sometimes you have to talk a little loudly if you want to be heard by the people you’re with. But playing loud music (sans earphones) is entirely selfish and serves no purpose other than to be a dick. And while there are absolutely times when being a dick is called for, I just don’t see where this is one of them.

    Lastly, as much as I love Tim Minchin in general and The Pope Song in particular, I doubt the Christians even knew what the song was about – it probably just sounded like a ton of profanity. Personally I don’t have a problem with profanity either. But let’s be real – both the Christians and the manager had a valid complaint just based on that alone. (I once had someone complain that I was playing a profanity-laden Chris Rock video too loud. Know what? They were right – I was being a dick. I put on headphones and everyone was happy.)

    Obviously none of us were there, and even the OP can only speculate what the Christians’ motives were. If they were in fact intentionally being Preachy Assholes, then some amount of dickisness might’ve been called for. But it seems more likely to me that they were just being unintentionally inconsiderate, in which case the OP’s response was uncalled for and accomplished nothing other than to make him feel like a badass.

    • Eliott

      Let’ s consider our volume levels were the same. The content of that song was no more offensive to me than what they were discussing was to them…but they chose to make a distinction…that what they were saying was appropriate and what I was playing wasn’t. That’s the issue.

  • James Croft

    I’m rather enjoying papango’s interventions here: let’s not be too swift to ascribe malicious motivations to the Catholic group for which there is no evidence. If they were talking loudly and disturbing others, then there are many ways to deal with that without creating an unpleasant, oppositional situation. Asking them to keep it down is one example. When groups (religious or otherwise) occupy a public space with the express purpose of proselytizing I do consider it legitimate to “counter-proselytize” (I never miss a chance to take on Scientologists in a public park, for instance), but this doesn’t seem the case here.

    • Aquaria

      Get out more.

      This is an established tactic of fungdagelitards.

      • James Croft

        Think more. That X is an established tactic does not mean that anything that resembles X is an instance of X.

  • Irreverend Bastard

    Right or wrong, I’m going to put The Pope Song on my mobile.

    Just in case, you know.

  • Stephen

    I like hanging out at the local Starbuck, enjoying my Pikes and reading my Kindle. However, the local semi-mega church crowd comes in and my enjoyment dwindles. What I do now is make sure I have some non-tracts from the FFRF, (sorry, copies, don’t have enough to buy as many as I need). Then make sure the loud believers each get one as I ask them to lower their voices.

  • Sastra

    I’d probably begin by interpreting their actions charitably and politely request that they either lower their voices or allow me to join in, as I’m reading The God Delusion and I’m afraid I’m having trouble concentrating.

  • alisonmeyer

    I’m afraid I’m on papango’s side here. Being just as bad as someone else to show them how bad they’re being is passive-aggressive, and just pisses off everyone else who has to deal with this back and forth. It takes a lot of self-confidence and chutzpah to actually confront someone who’s causing you a problem, but it’s much more effective. Up until my 40s, I wouldn’t have been able to do it, and am guilty of the same kind of ineffective pushing back.

    Now, I assume the best, and approach people with that in mind. More often than not, a few words, and the problem is solved. Sometimes further action is needed, but at that point I’ve already established a human contact, and can direct it again at the guilty parties. If there are any repercussions for bystanders, it’s already been established who’s the good guy, and I win again.

    • Eliott

      Now I have passive/aggressive behavior to add to my resume. Along with boorish, badass, asshole and rude and lacking self confidence and chutzpah. Oh, almost forgot an embarrassment for some Atheists. Interesting. When I was younger and back in my forties I may have had a conversation with them or just got up and left. Regardless, I chose not to have a conversation with them or get up and leave. I chose to play music. At a volume comparable to theirs at a level only they could hear and not disrupt any others in the shop. In all candor, I don’ see how any of this is bad behavior but what do you expect from a passive/aggressive, boorish, badass, asshole, who is rude and lacks self confidence and chutzpah. And, is an embarrassment. But I did so enjoy it.

      • papango

        Or course you enjoyed it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Everyone likes to wallow in bad behaviour occasionally. I once took a shit on someone’s lawn out of pure malice and I don’t mind saying it was one of the most satisfying and gleeful things I’ve done. But I what I didn’t do was then write it up and ask a friend to post it on their blog so that everyone could come and read it and see what a ‘badass’ I was.

        I actually don’t really know what your motivation with this was, but you keep refer to yourself as a ‘badass’ although no-one else here has called you that, wscott thought what happened might make you ‘feel like a badass’, but that’s pretty much the opposite of actually being one. So I guess that’s what you’d like people to think?

        • Eliott

          I thought I was pretty clear what my motivation was . I said it several times. Regardless, I have enjoyed our discourse and certainly appreciate your point of view.

          • papango

            Sorry, I meant your motivation posting your story here. Your write up of the incident made your motivation for your actions pretty clear.

      • alisonmeyer

        Now, this brings up a point I made in another post here about the difficulty people have in separating criticism of an act with criticism of themselves as human beings. I did not call YOU passive-aggressive, I called your ACTION passive-aggressive. What you DID quite clearly fits the description of a passive-aggressive response to a T.

        There are a huge number of reasons why we humans respond to others this way. The big reason I did it for years was that my ADD made me prone to impulsively blurting out exactly the wrong thing in a confrontation, with being incapable of defending myself against a physical aggressor running a close second. My SIL and MIL use it to put people in their place, since their self esteem is not sustainable in the face of others’ success. And your assertion that it’s far better than what you really wanted to do has been used as an excuse and/or justification by many people I’ve known over the years. Regardless of the motive, though, it’s still an act of passive aggression, and is generally less effective in getting you what you want than nonthreatening confrontation.

        Rather than becoming angry and defensive, you could actually benefit from viewing the critical comments as responses to what you did and not judgments upon who you are. We can’t always anticipate how we might be perceived, but if we know that doing something will make people think we’re not as (insert positive adjective) as we are, we can keep that in mind next time we’re tempted to do it.

        • Eliott

          alisonmeyer, Thank you for your comments but I must respectfully disagree. First I don’t think I am being either angry or defensive, but I understand why you make that point. In all candor I enjoyed the responses. I was glib in some of my respnses and apologize for that. I should have been more thoughtful. Second, I believe we are exactly what our behavior reflects. From your perspective I exhibited passive/aggressive behavior. You can’t in my view separate the act from the person. We are what we do. We may not agree on how to classify the behavior but that doesn’t alter the action. And, I got the reaction I wanted from the group which differs from the reaction you may have wanted. Others may have chosen to do things differently at which point you might categorize them in terms you thought described their behavior and my point is we are our acts and our behaviors. In my view what you do defines you. Could I have chosen a different course regarding this event and have I in the past? Yes. No more. Your way works for you. Not for me and if that behavior is passive/aggressive, that’s OK with me. Respectfully, candidly it is. I will not “go gently into that goodnight” with this type of religious behavior in my presence ever again. I do appreciate your responses and opinions and the time you’ ve taken to share them.

          • alisonmeyer

            Eh. . .dunno about that, Eliott. We change our behaviors and our selves all the time. I’ve been doing that for as long as I’ve been self-aware. I evaluate how well something I do or say brings about the result I want, where a behavior falls in the balance of positive vs. negative outcome, and take into account the opinions of people whose thoughts are of value to me, and change what I feel I need to change based on those assessments. I also change what I do and say based on my situation and what experience tells me might occur, so I’d be many different people if what I do is who I am!

            It’s just that as the mother of two young adults and “Mom” to a couple hundred other kids (long volunteer history. . .) I’m used to looking at things from many different sides, and giving lots of advice. Sometimes I can keep my opinions to myself, but that’s not so easy on the internet. . .

  • Eliott

    Papango, I’ve given serious consideration to your posts and I believe you need a better response from me. You may know this but just for the sake of edification I want to add some color.The catholic church in my view has committed some of the greatest atrocities in the name of religion since its inception. Consider the torture of non believers and the degradation of women for centuries and yet these acts pale in comparison to the current day abuse of children and then the cover up. Not just in the US but throughout the world. By the pope. Then when these bad acts of child abuse went to court several parishes claimed bankruptcy to avoid large judgements. They are the largest landlord and owner or private property in the US. Again in my view, this is the most morally bankrupt organization in current times in the World. Interestingly, in the neighborhoods I grew up in if anyone but a priest had perpetuated these acts that person would have been held accountable in the most dramatic terms. Regardless, I hold the catholic church accountable for this unspeakable tragedy and specifically this pope. So when a group representing this organization starts to have what in my view was a proselytizing bible discussion next to me I exercised my “entitlement”. I shit on their table figuratively speaking by playing the pope song. No one else but this group heard that song. Not other patrons and not the manager. Just them. Then they complained. So was my behavior childish and sophomoric and did I wallow in it? Compared to what I wanted to do I actually was pretty restrained. Now some would walk over and shush them or enter into a nice civil debate about the insanity of religion. Not me. Not now. Not ever again. Now if you are embarrassed or offended by my acts, that was not my intent but I appreciate how you feel. Each of us respond in our own ways. Some of us play the pope song and some of us write responses to posts. Our tent is a huge one and if there is one thing I have learned it’s that there are as many opinions as non believers. Viva la difference……..

    • papango

      Yes, I am very much aware of the acts of the catholic church (priests and laity) and of the impact that has had on the victims. I’ve sent an email to JT with a thing to pass on to you about my involvement with that. You wouldn’t think there’d be much I wouldn’t make public, but while I made the decisions and didn’t technically break any laws, there were other people involved and they’re having a tough enough time as it is. Also, I’d like to keep my job. So, assuming you got that, I can appreciate that having this particular group of people sit next you and start flashing their faith around (and having heard what RW and others have had to say I do now believe that you had good reason to thing their behaviour was deliberate), that they don’t see the need to show even a little humility, was rage-inducing. I feel very strongly that a message needs to go to the catholic believers who continue to excuse and support an organisation that has destroyed the lives of so many, but in this case all they got was a reinforcement of the propaganda they’re getting fed about enemies using the ‘scandal’ (a politician’s affair is a ‘scandal’, this is something orders of magnitude beyond that) to attack the church and god and jebus and apple pie and everything good. I can see your motivation, I just can’t see what this achieved for anyone other than yourself. And good for you, you got mad and you weren’t going to take it any more. But I think, if something is going to be put up as activism, or badassery, it has to do more than just make the person doing it feel good. That’s what I find embarrassing, not that you did what you did, but that this counts as ‘political action’, or ‘taking a stand’, when it clearly is not.

      It won’t shock you to know that I think ‘compared to what I wanted to do I actually was pretty restrained’ is pretty weak sauce. Is it really okay to steal someone’s wallet just because what you really wanted to do was beat them to death? Probably not (IANAL).

  • alisonmeyer

    Pfft. If I’d been in the cafe, I’d have walked over and just asked them to keep it down because I was trying to enjoy my relaxed morning routine, and left out the mention of their topic of conversation unless they pressed the issue. And I probably would have walked over to you and said something along the lines of I know they’re being stupid and I happen to love Tim Minchin, but don’t stoop to their level. . .and I’d be smiling pleasantly at both you and them. Maybe that wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve been practicing it for about 30 years, and it almost never fails to get the results I want.