The answer fatwa envy

We’ve all seen fatwa envy.  It’s when someone asks us why we spend so much time on the sweet, innocent Christians and not on Muslims.  The answers up until now were automatic: we do also touch on Muslims and other faiths, and Christianity is the most prevalent religion here, so it is the most relevant.

But now, thanks to American Atheists, we have another answer: look what we did.

Why, being written in Arabic and Hebrew, I’d say those are pointed at Muslims and Jews.

Rest assured, there will be backlash.  People will be offended and their offense will likely manifest in the form of some threats.

Just like this was so offensive it got rejected by the ad company.

This is what makes waves in the minds of enough believers that the company couldn’t erect the billoard for fear of offense.

Meanwhile, billboards like these can be found all across America.

To my knowledge there has been no outcry about these billboards.  No shrieks of offense from the faithful even though the first implies non-believers are dangerous sociopaths and the second directly threatens us with hell.  No concern that atheists are being disrespected.

But you put up two billboards that tell people they’re wrong and people shit their pants like defiant two year-olds.

This is why, when asked if I worry about offending believers, the answer is an emphatic “NO!”  It’s because I care more about the world having this conversation than I do about people’s feelings, and “I’m offended” is a conversation-stopper.  It is an aegis behind which many believers shuffle their beliefs to hide them from criticism.

“You’re wrong!” says the atheist.

“I’m offended!” says the believer.

And then some atheists are so quick to apologize; to prioritize not offending believers over the accuracy of ideas.  I just don’t get it.  I’d be far more offended if people placated me as though I couldn’t handle being told I was wrong.  That seems far more disrespectful to me.

Billboards like the American Atheists’ ones acclimate the religious to being told they’re wrong, and clearly assures them that “I’m offended” will not stop that message.  The faithful must be made to defend their beliefs with arguments, not by side-stepping that burden by telling us how offended they are.

While we should not offend for the sake of offending people, we need to stop treating every offended person as if their feelings are justified.  They’re not.  Faith in Jesus, Yaweh, or Allah is wrong.  Those beliefs are so absurd that people should be ashamed.  And when asked to defend those statements, we can (and will) defend them reasonably without waving our arms, yelling about how offended we are, and considering the matter closed.

We should demand the same of the faithful as we demand of ourselves.  That’s real respect.

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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.


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