Nathalie Rothschild thinks atheists have it fine

I’m always happy for an opportunity to tear into HuffPo.  Nathalie Rothschild is an absolute peach and gave me one.

She doesn’t like those gnu atheists and she sure doesn’t like that rally they’re holding at the end of this month.

Mr Silverman, for instance, believes that the Christian Right “has unleashed an unparalleled slew of efforts aimed at Christianizing the country”. The same kind of shrillness is heard among those religious people who imagine that atheists are tearing down the social fabric of America and are conducting a “war on religion”.

Well Nathalie, when the majority, like religious leaders, cries persecution it doesn’t really resonate.  However, when the minority cries it, and when we’re bringing evidence to the table, maybe you should listen.  Remember Cranston, when a whole city was willing to spend government dollars to try and break the law in favor of their religion?

Or what about the personhood bill in Oklahoma?  Or the invasive anti-abortion bills in Virginia and Alabama?  Or the ten commandments in court houses?  Or creationism legislation?  Hell, look at Rick Fucking Santorum!

Hell, it’s enough that I can generally post about something new every single day.

Silverman was right about a large mob attempting to Christianize this country.  To raise awareness in the woefully ignorant minds of people like Nathalie Rothschild is precisely why this rally is so necessary.

But are Mr Silverman’s sentiments even borne out by reality? Are atheists really a beleaguered minority in the US? Is it really a great taboo today to profess that you do not believe in God?

I don’t know.  Let me just open up this New York Times article titled “Student Faces Town’s Wrath in Protest Against a Prayer” talking about the death threats a sixteen year-old received for asking a town’s religious denizens to stop breaking the law.

Let me ask Damon Fowler, whose school, family, and entire town turned on him for asking its pious citizens to obey the law.

I’m here to tell you that most high school students who want to form secular clubs must deal with subversive resistance from their administrators.  Atheist students are bullied, ostracized – and adults are often slow to come to their aid, if they do at all.  This is what they do to kids who tend to draw some extra protection from the compassion of our human, paternal instincts.  You don’t think it happens to adults?

This is how religion wins.  They do not win by having the best arguments, they win by keeping people afraid: afraid of the social penalties for coming out, afraid of hell.

Yes, it’s hard to come out as an atheist.

The so-called “new atheism” movement has been headed up by esteemed writers like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens, and supported by famous people like Bill Maher, Tim Minchin and – unsurprisingly – the band Bad Religion. In other words, this is an outspoken crowd that does not need to cower in fear or meet behind closed doors. The Reason Rally will take place on the Mall, for God’s sake, on the doorsteps of the US political establishment.

Yup, six people with the added protection of fame have managed to be bold, so what the hell is everyone else’s problem?  C’mon black people!  You’ve got Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, W.E.B. Du Bois, Angela Davis, and Jackie Robinson.  King Jr. even gave a talk at the Lincoln Memorial!  Yes, all of congress is white, but are we really supposed to believe there’s a problem with oppression here?

Listen Nathalie, civil rights movements have prominent leaders.  Their prominence is often indicative of the problem, not evidence that it’s smooth sailing for minorities.

No doubt there are Americans growing up in religious communities who do not feel like they belong there. Some of these communities are very closed off, including the Jewish orthodox neighbourhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where the American Atheists are putting up their signs. And no doubt many politicians are antagonistic to the idea of completely separating church and state.

That’s pretty much what I was thinking.


But atheists are not being persecuted for denying the existence of God or prevented from holding secular values and expressing them in public.

Read above for a short list of the ways atheists are being persecuted by Americans for denying the existence of god (and especially for trying to keep church/state separate).  I have teachers who want to be a faculty sponsor for student groups who have to withdraw their aid from having their jobs threatened.  I receive several emails from people worried they will lose their job if it’s found out they’re an atheist.  Children get ostracized from their families for it.

Atheists are despised in America.

American Atheists and other supporters of the Reason Rally say they want to promote secular values, but in asserting that they are beleaguered and ought to forge a sense of togetherness based on that, they reveal that their true roots lie in therapy culture and in its relative – identity politics.

The hell?  By taking steps to make being a frowned upon minority more comfortable, like banding together, we prove our motives are not making being a minority more comfortable?  In what universe does this even begin to make sense?  Would it be fair of me to say, “By writing this article, Nathalie Rothschild just proves she’s part of the atheist-hating faith-drenched majority”?  No!  That would be stupid as all hell if I wrote that.  I take her arguments at face value and rebut them.  That’s what honest discussion is all about, but that’s not what Rothschild is doing.  Trust me, Nathalie, our motives are exactly what we say they are.

Her whole piece amounts to “nuh uh!” and doesn’t even do that well.

It seems, in fact, that the very thing that irks today’s atheists about religious people is that they have a strong, unifying vision of good society and that they are willing to live by it, well, religiously.

More motive-assault.  What irks us about religious people is that they’re fucking wrong.  Ask Jessica Ahlquist and Damon Fowler how good religion is for strongly unifying entire cities.  Take a visit to Michelle Bachmann’s district in Minnesota to visit the graves of LGBT teens dead from suicide and take a moment to reflect on religion’s power to unify communities.  It unites them alright, against people they hate.

Religion unifies large groups of believers against gays.  It united them against civil rights and against women’s rights.  It unites them against those with the power to drag their children into hell with their vocal disbelief – the atheists.

“Good society” my ass.  Religion is a fable taken seriously that allows Americans of the 21st century to live like the nomads of the 1st century.

But those of us interested in advancing a human-centred vision of the future would do better focusing on important things like wealth creation, liberty, scientific advancement and creating great art.

Yes, because atheists don’t care about those things.

Did you say liberty?  I wonder how the LGBT community’s appeals to the faithful for liberty have worked out.  How has religion contributed to their liberty, Nathalie?

And scientific advancement?  Find me a more efficient inhibitor to the developing scientific mind in the United States than religion’s well-funded offspring; creationism/intelligent design.

Human-centered is great!  It’s the whole point!  Sadly, there is a force working against it, a force that tells us being human alone is a sin, that we should trust in the lord with all our hearts and lean not to our own understanding.  That force is religion, and we work against.  We work against its agents like Nathalie Rothschild.

And we rally to show the world we can win.

  • JT (Generic)

    In one of my past jobs, the employer was asking each job candidate for the job opening whether he/she was a Christian.

    My soon-to-be co-workers said “Wait wait you can’t do that. That’s illegal”, and his response was “Well I don’t want any devil worshippers in my company”.

    He ended up behaving after that, shortly before I was interviewed.

    So I call bullshit. If he had asked me that question, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the job, whether it was the official reason or not.

  • Gordon

    I’d like to invite Ms. Rothchild to sit with us at an “Ask an Atheist” table sometime, and watch the faces of passers-by contort and wince with anger and disgust as they parade past. Then she can tell me how easy it is to be an out atheist in America.

    • Michaelyn


  •!/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    I can’t get past the fact that her last name is Rothschild, and that she and Alain de Botton might have played together as kids.

  • feralboy12

    It seems, in fact, that the very thing that irks today’s atheists about religious people is that they have a strong, unifying vision of good society and that they are willing to live by it, well, religiously.

    Given that the entire history of religion is one of divergence into new faiths, denominations, and sects, this statement is so full of deliberate ignorance as to be laughable. The world’s religions have failed even to unify themselves, much less society as a whole.

    • Sastra

      Well, to give credit where credit is due, religions are pretty good at coming together to fight the enemy of Secularism.

  •!/TominousTone Thomas Lawson

    I’ve been trying to find out more about Nathalie de Rothschild and am getting disgusted. I love her diatribes about the Occupy movement, especially. Because having the name Rothschild makes you such a non-biased observer.

  • Supermental

    Nathalie Rothschild is just awful. What a horrific article.
    Great response JT.

  • jamessweet

    Well Nathalie, when the majority, like religious leaders, cries persecution it doesn’t really resonate. However, when the minority cries it, and when we’re bringing evidence to the table, maybe you should listen.

    Yeah, like when minorities complain about racial profiling, they are exactly as bad as the scared white people who complain about their neighborhoods being overrun by “people from the inner city”. It’s two identical sides of the same coin!

    • Beth

      Not really. Whites have the power to do something about their delusions. Blacks on the other hand don’t have power in America to do anything about racial profiling. Law enforcement is a decidedly white establishment in America.

      Hate to break it to you, but in America, racism is a white thing. You may want to check for the primary definition of racism. That is white people all day long in the US.

      • skepticallydenpa

        I’m pretty sure sweet’s remark was meant to be facetious… But racism works both ways. We all need to stop bickering over our differences in areas of race, sex, age, disabilities, nationality, etc… and shine a light on issues of importance. Discrimination is certainly one of the main issues, as it creates a sense of tribalism that unites us, only against our enemies, as opposed to a true union of the human species.

        Of course, if we ever wish to reach such a stage, we need to reboot the way people reason. We need a world that makes decisions based on logic and sound reason. The path is long and strenuous, and the end may even be unachievable; but it’s certainly a goal worth perusing.

        • Ze Madmax

          But racism works both ways.

          Except it doesn’t. While individuals may be able to discriminate against one another, only minorities have to deal with structural-level issues of discrimination. This means that society as a whole is set up in a way that provides a clear advantage to certain groups over others, and these advantages are maintained by social norms, media portrayals of minorities, unequal distribution of resources, etc.

          Because of this, the idea that racism works both ways is dangerously simplistic. Society is set up in a way that ensures this is not the case.

          We all need to stop bickering over our differences in areas of race, sex, age, disabilities, nationality, etc… and shine a light on issues of importance

          I would argue that the structural racism is an “issue of importance”, particularly given how easy it is to be unaware of it.

  • Anonymous

    Has Ms Rothschild not been taking notice of the Republican Presidential Primaries ?

  • Marijn de Jong

    Hear hear! Excellently written rebuke.

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