Back when Skepticon was getting on its feet, I received nine death threats over the space of two years. One of them actually made the threat by showing up on my front porch. Anyway, I decided then that when I hit my tenth death threat I would throw a huge party. I was certain that Skepticon 3 which, up to that time, was the biggest of them all would earn me my tenth death threat. But the threat never came, and I’ve been sitting on nine for the last three years.
Earlier today Jesse Galef, the SSA’s Communications Director, was on CNN. The anchor took a negative position and Jesse handled it with aplomb. At one point she said some people would consider doubt in god to be dangerous. Jesse stayed on point: that SSA groups are there to empower and protect atheist students, which is the opposite of dangerous, since nobody at that age should have to deal with intimidation.
Then my office phone rang.
It was a man asking me very pointedly what SSA groups do. It was obvious about five words in that this guy was not a happy camper. But I was good. I channeled Jesse. When he asked what we provide these groups, I gave him the link to the services page and even read him off a few.
He asked if I was enlightened. I said it wasn’t my call.
It was then that he informed me that I was a faggot. I snorted. He didn’t like that. I guess I wasn’t taking him as seriously as he would’ve liked.
I explained to him that my sexual orientation was none of his business, but that it wouldn’t matter if I was gay because there’s nothing wrong with it. He told me I was responsible for the moral decline of our youth. If only they could grow up to be as moral as this guy.
I asked him, “u mad, bro?” He said he wasn’t.
He told me I didn’t know who I was dealing with. I guessed an angry guy on the phone. He said he wasn’t angry. I told him I was out of guesses.
He said he was a well-known musician with a lot of money and influence and that he was going to shut us down. I laughed because it was funny. Maybe he’ll write a song about how mad he is.
He explained to me that biologically, homosexuality doesn’t work. I told him sex was also for fun and that they seem to enjoy it. He said he was tired of us pushing the homosexual agenda. I asked what that was. He said to remove god from the country. I told him that “homosexual” probably didn’t mean what he thinks it means.
He said that’s the problem with us atheists, that all we do is laugh at Christians. I explained to him that I wasn’t laughing at him because he was a Christian, but because the things he said were so silly.
He asked how I’d feel about sweeping my teeth into a dustpan. I said that was either an implied threat or a terrible argument. He said it wasn’t a threat. I said it was a terrible argument then. He said it wasn’t an argument.
I said he should just send his army of lawyers after me. He asked if I was mocking him. I said I was.
Then he went back to how I’m a faggot and how he’s going to take us down. I laughed uncontrollably. He then said I’d better not be in a place with dark shadows and that he was going to show up at the SSA office today at 1pm and tear my head off. I thanked him for being lucky number 10 and invited him to the party. He called me a smartass.
He said we were destroying these kids to which I gave an adamant, “No!” I explained to him, very firmly, that people like him were the justification for my job. If not for believers whose knee jerk reaction was to try and win by intimidating others, who believed this to be acceptable because they believe in Jesus, then students wouldn’t need the safe haven of an SSA, or a place to be with their peers safe from bullies like him.
Then it was full-on that I’m a fucking faggot and he’s going to tear my head off. I said I’d take his eloquent counsel under advisement. He said I was mocking him. I told him he was right. He said it was because he was Christian. I said it was because he was saying funny things.
Then he hung up. I guess he was mad.
Here’s the deal. Did I push him? Sure. Should I have done it when I work with a whole office of people who have to worry that some dude’s actually going to come to the office and try to hurt me? Probably not. Short sightedness on my part.
But god dammit, religion does not win by having good arguments. It never has. It wins two ways: the first is by demanding that we take them seriously which is why, when we don’t, it drives them up a tree. Sorry brah, you don’t get to demand I take you seriously when you say those kinds of things.
The other way religion wins is by intimidation. It wins by creating an environment where people aren’t out of the closet for fear of losing their jobs. It wins by constructing an atmosphere of bullying and ostracism in public schools. It wins by telling us over and over that rejecting a clearly fallacious story is something for which we should be ashamed. It wins by keeping us silent out of fear or disgrace.
That’s despicable. It’s a weapon that must be taken away from religion. And it’s exactly what this man was doing.
When I didn’t buy his story of having the influence to harm me, he went to violence hoping that would get to me. Something I’ve learned in my years of receiving death threats is that if somebody’s going to do something, they’re just going to do it. People who aren’t going to do a thing bluster and go through all the ways to intimidate hoping one of them sticks.
And I’ll be damned if I let someone like that intimidate me. I’ll be damned if I let religious people win that way. Nothing short of evidence is good enough, and anybody going the avenues of the guy who called me loses all right to call anybody else immoral or depraved.
So…that being said, death threat #10 party at Skepticon 5? Seems like a fitting place since that’s what got me started getting phone calls like these.
So…he hasn’t shown up yet. Either he’s late or he bore false witness. Were I a betting man, I know where my money would be.
Maybe he meant 1pm Pacific Time and he planned to hop on his private jet to come tear my head off. I should’ve taken his wealth and influence into account.