Jul 18 2013

Don’t be a Dick – new from Jezebel!

Over at Jezebel, there’s an article on how to be an atheist without being a dick about it.

Ironically, I have yet to read an article or hear a talk about atheists being dicks that didn’t include a few examples of the author or speaker actually being a dick. Lindy West is not an exception. Are there atheists that are making the movement look bad? You bet. Does this article cite any specific examples, name any specific names or even address a real problem? Not as far as I can see.

We begin with the standard unsupported claim…

“so many people insist on being such condescending dicks in the name of atheism. “

Who? Where? Examples please. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are atheists dicks – but “so many”? I think you need to define terms and cite some actual examples.

“I didn’t settle on my belief system because…”

If you’re referring to atheism, it’s not a belief system but your confusion is understandable.

“I grew up with godless parents in a godless home at godless schools with godless friends…”

So maybe, just maybe, you’re not deeply familiar with the actual harm that religious thinking inflicts on real people. Like people who wake from nightmares of hell after living for decades without religion, merely because they were raised on those fears. Or people who continually make bad decisions because the decision-making parts of their brain are polluted with gears the make the irrational appear rational…and those gears can’t tell the difference between ‘god helped me feel whole’ and ‘god wants me to play these numbers in the lottery’ and ‘god will help my child heal from this disease without the need for doctors’.

“Atheism—especially in its incarnation as a movement—can so easily transform into smug hostility and dog-whistle classism. “

Especially the movement? You mean the movement that is focused on ensuring church-state separation and ending religious privilege? Where is this classism? I see a movement focused on equality and freedom…what movement are you talking about? I need to know exactly which atheist movement, that you’re not a part of and see no use for, is filled with so many dicks that you felt the need to vaguely reference them. Thanks.

“Actually, I’d go as far as to say that many religious factions ARE tools of control rather than enlightenment. And I believe passionately in calling out that destruction in every one of its fucked-up facets—from tiny internal shames to unspeakable mass horrors.”

Agreed. Be careful, you’re sounding just about as dickish as movement atheists, here.

“Whatever your views on Christianity, you have to acknowledge that at least the Bible tells people to be nice. There are a lot of people who really love that book, and they only follow the “nice” parts. Those are the people I’m talking about here. “

I was unaware that there was an epidemic of people being nasty to those who only follow the ‘nice’ parts of the Bible. Can we have a source, please? Also, which parts of the Bible are nice? Do you know much about what the Bible actually says? I do and I’m betting that those parts that you think are ‘nice’ are parts that apply to how Christians should treat each other, and not how they should treat you. That said, there are a few nice verses (some even written by a non-believer)…but they’re nice irrespective of whether they’re in that book, and no one needs that book to recognize how nice it is.

I wonder if you’d be so charitable to other books. What’s the percentage of niceness in the Bible? How bad does a book need to be before you’ll stop making excuses for it? Why is it that “But I don’t really like the parts about slavery and misogyny…I just like turning the other cheek” somehow disqualifies their thought processes from criticism?

Meanwhile, is it wrong to try to help those people escape to reality? Is it wrong to point out that the liberal and moderate Christians, by pointing to the same holy book provide support and cover for the nastier Christians? Is it wrong to point out that they donate money and time, in the name of those good parts, to organizations that should rightly be considered criminal organizations?

“To a person of genuine faith, my atheism (my contention that they’re incorrect) shouldn’t be any more offensive or threatening than their beliefs are to me.”

I’m pretty much convinced that this line can only be written by someone who has absolutely no experience in the movement and who has never bothered to actually engage with theists. As someone who has been doing exactly that for nearly 8 years on live television and as someone who has actually looked at the study that ranked atheists as the least trusted minority – I have a decidedly different view. The mere existence of atheist, especially vocal atheists, is an offense to many theists. Our mere existence challenges many of the theological underpinnings of their beliefs. This isn’t true for all Christians, but it’s pretty true.

Additionally, few of them tend to think of us as nice, but misguided, people – we’re immoral and untrustworthy.

And when it comes to the conversations about what they believe, many of them simply cannot tell the difference between ‘you attacked my beliefs’ and ‘you attacked me, personally’ – because these beliefs define who they are.

To them, any criticism of their belief is almost beyond dickish.

“If you really believe in something, who cares? What matters—what is potentially offensive and threatening—is how we translate our convictions into real-world actions and attitudes.”

That would be a great sentiment – if beliefs lived in a vacuum and couldn’t affect actions. Unfortunately, beliefs are brain states that do affect actions and the methods that you use to determine which claims are believable don’t normally apply to a single claim. If you believe one false thing for bad reasons, that claim influences actions and the reasons behind that claim influence whether or not you accept other claims.

Beliefs matter because they inform actions and actions have consequences. Caring only about actions is akin to only treating the symptoms.

“Tell me—ME—I’m a degenerate who deserves to spend eternity getting poked a red goatboy with a trident because I think consenting adults should be able to lovingly caress each other’s bodays? Now we have an issue.”

Agreed….and, once again, you’re starting to sound like the atheists in the movement.

“I have no interest in being nice when it comes to actual issues.”

I’d almost agree, but I actually would try to start by being nice – even about serious issues. I just don’t remain nice if the situation calls for action. Now…which issues?

“It’s not my nice neighbor’s fault that some Twitter troll called me a baby-murderer.”

And I wonder what that nice neighbor’s views are on abortion. A lot of those cafeteria Christians who only focus on the ‘nice’ parts of the Bible are still opposed to abortion. A lot of them may think you’re a baby-murderer, even if they don’t say it to your face. They’ll vote for the same people as that troll. They’ll donate to the same organization. At a minimum…they’re unlikely to stand beside you and agree with you.

Some will. There’s no doubt that some will. I happily stand along side champions of Church-State separation like the Reverend Barry Lynn…but that doesn’t keep me from pointing out where we disagree.

“I think a “YOUR BOOK OF ANCIENT PARABLES HAS NO BEARING ON MY GOVERNMENT OR UTERUS” is more than justified. It’s relevant to the debate. “Ur stupid god is fake dummy” is not.”

So is this merely a question of style? Because a lot of believers would hear very little difference between those two statements. In fact, some would find the first more offensive because they can dismiss the second as unworthy of response, but the first statement is simply, to them, wrong and evil.

Additionally, you began by talking about the atheist “movement” – which movement, which part of the movement is comprised of people primarily using statements like that second one? Are you just talking about internet comments or are we actually talking about the thriving, meat-space movement, too?

“it all comes back to punching up instead of down.”

Agreed, which is why it’s rather shocking that you’re coming to the defense of people who are part of the largest religious demographic in the U.S. The fact that you think it’s punching down… the only reasonable context in which it COULD be punching down is if YOU view those people as inferior.

That’s pretty dickish of you.

“Criticizing an individual’s harmless, personal road to solace and peace is about as low as it gets.”

What makes you think those beliefs are harmless? And what’s wrong with criticising their ‘road’ or path? You’ve switched from saying it’s wrong to attack the person, to claiming that it’s wrong to attack their path.

“Evangelism in any form always seems to be partially about convincing oneself, over and over, of one’s rightness—and that goes for evangelical atheists too.”

Nope, nothing smug or dickish about that statement.

Someone who isn’t a part of the movement and doesn’t see this as a cause is claiming that those of us who do, those of us who are working to protect religious freedom and oppose religious privilege while helping to free people from delusions that harm us all…we’re just out to convince ourselves that we’re right. Careful, you’re treading deep into ‘dick’ territory…

“And I get the impulse to want to replace one lifelong club with another. “

Aaaaand, strike two! Maybe if you got involved in the movement before pretending that you know what we’re all about, you wouldn’t be making yourself look like such a dick. Yes, there are folks who are moving from one club to another – but that’s not the motivating factor.

One of my co-hosts is a fifth generation atheist. He’s active in the movement. He’s the reason I can’t simply blame this massive display of ignorance on the fact that you had an atheist upbringing. Which club did he replace when he started working with us?

“What I’m not sympathetic to—what I resent—is using atheism to perpetuate exactly the same negative cultural forces that make me dislike organized religion: Shaming. White supremacy. Unbridled, rabid misogyny. “

And, we’re agreeing again. Though I’m wondering where is this movement that is using atheism to perpetuate those things. I’m also wondering how one *could* use atheism to perpetuate those things. You simply can’t get from ‘I don’t believe a god exists’ to ‘white supremacy’ or ANY other position, without adding something else. The fact that one could be an atheist and be racist, etc. doesn’t mean that those are values derived from atheism or that atheism is being used to promote them.

An atheist promoting x is not the same as an atheist is using atheism to promote x…which is not the same as atheism promotes x.

“If faith is what certain people need to feel okay, then who the fuck am I to tell them otherwise?”

If heroin is what someone needs to feel okay, who the fuck are you to tell them otherwise? I’d like to think you’re a person who cares. That said, where are these atheists who are actively going around, knocking on doors and saying “Hello, I suspect you’re still using religion as a crutch, I can help you with that…”? I don’t know about every other atheist in the movement, but our show is a call-in show, we don’t make outgoing calls. When I’m in debates and religious discussions, it’s because I’ve been invited to do so. When I post online, it’s on a public forum that people can read or disregard…or in an e-mail where they’ve asked for my thoughts.

Where is this massive intrusive group of troublesome atheists who feel compelled to go after people who just want to feel okay? How did they even find these people, without them beginning a conversation?

“You’re going to tell that girl that she’s an idiot for believing in god?”

Is that really what you think happens? Do you have examples of this? Is this really a massive problem? There are atheists running around telling people like the girl in your story that they’re idiots? Or did you just pick a dramatic example where it might be a bad idea, even though no one actually did that?

Your exaggerated scenario simply doesn’t fairly represent anything I recognize in the atheist movement. It seems to be another quixotic, speculative straw man to support your larger point.

What I take away from that story is that she still needs a lot of help – and that the ‘Christ’ that she’s clinging to clearly isn’t helping her. While the goulish Christ-lovers will try to lead her further into that comforting delusion in an attempt to hide her pain, I’d be advising her to get proper, secular counseling. I’d be explaining to her – if she asked and was interested in my thoughts – that it’s understandable that she might reach for comforting delusions, but that there may be better ways for her to heal. I’d be helping her understand that this wasn’t her fault, that it wasn’t “God’s will”, that she has value and can find help and compassion in real people rather than in religion or superstition.

Hands that help vs. hands folded in prayer. Real help vs. comforting delusion.

In her case, it doesn’t sound like the delusion is very comforting.

“There are a lot of people in the world who have nothing. Faith in a higher power gives them one thing. You know what we call people who try to take away other people’s one thing?”

Ah, the final fallacy. You see these efforts as trying to steal away people’s ‘one thing’ or their ‘hope’…it’s nothing at all like that. A fan once asked a co-host, “When you rid the world of religion, what do you replace it with?” Without missing a beat, my co-host replied “When you cure cancer, what do you replace it with?”

Truth is its own reward. Helping people employ skepticism and exercise critical thinking to free themselves of superstitions and religious thinking isn’t merely taking away their ‘one thing’ any more than it would be if their ‘one thing’ was a thorn; it’s helping them to think and live better lives. If your internal model of reality is inaccurate, your decision-making skills are going to suffer.

Finally, your broader point implies that while you don’t need religion to cope, other people do. The arrogance and condescension in that line of thought is just about as dick-ish as you’ve accused others of being. It’s actually the second time in your article that you portray believers as inferior while lashing out at others for purportedly doing exactly that.

It’s a pretty common line of thought, though. There are atheists who view religion as a relatively harmless, necessary evil that they’ve risen above – but their neighbor is just incapable of rising to their level. Some will go so far as to say that it’s pointless to argue with religious folks.

Those of us who were religious and were freed from it because of comments (including comments some may consider dickish) from atheists…? To quote my friend and comedian, Keith Lowell Jensen…”I think we were fucking worth it.”

Who are you to take away their delusions? Well, first of all – you can’t. They have to give those up on their own – but you can help, if you care. But first, you’ll have to stop thinking that they ‘need’ those delusions…and that those delusions aren’t harmful to them…and that they aren’t harmful to others…

And then you’ll have to learn to do it productively – even if some people might think you’re a bit of a dick.


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  1. 1
    Neil Merchant

    Spot on, Matt. I hear so many people making generalizations about atheists like this. Middle-ground fallacy I guess?

    1. 1.1
      Atheist Lover

      Who gives a shit? Atheists are arrogant pricks.

      1. Alicia

        And Christians are any better? At least we aren’t barring folks from marrying one another based on a 2,000 year old book.

  2. 2

    Have enjoyed much of what West has written. Was unfortunate to read this. I’ve seen a lot of this recently and much of it seems to be in response to people on the internet responding to certain topics with essentially “God? Lol”. Reddit’s atheism subreddit is a part of this it seems as well for some people. That subreddit is boring sure, but it’s a place that is pretty clearly for atheists to give an opinion (young ones in particular). Someone’s friend dies? Talk shit about God unprompted? Yeah you’re a dick. Tell that girl she was wrong to choose Jesus? Yeah you’re a dick. Does she know people in real life who constantly bring up God in situations that don’t need it?

    For most of this article I sort of agreed. This is good advice for people to follow if indeed there is an epidemic of these ass holes. Yet by the end it essentially becomes a guide for atheists to just keep shut entirely about the very concept of unjustified belief and dogma being dangerous. I saw the same thing from a film critic I respect who after a few tweets responding basically said we can’t know everything so shut up you smug annoying skeptics.

    Look I get it. There is a group of internet atheists who are sexist, rape apologists. There are ultra free market objectivist ass holes who are only interested in the status quo. I try to distance myself from them as much as possible, but it sometimes seems like perhaps those people while not helping ultimately aren’t the only issue for some people. Thinking magical thinking is is harmful is perhaps not acceptable.

    1. 2.1

      The atheists you speak of are hardly outspoken atheists, they’re just trolls using the ammunition provided by the situation. There is a pretty obvious line between going for someone’s goat and intellectual anti-theism, so please stop generalizing me with them.

      1. bricewgilbert

        That was my point. I don’t think we can just ignore some of these people who some consider to be harmless trolls. We need to moderate and make sure it is not tolerated, but yes it’s important to recognize that the entire group doesn’t consist of these people. I don’t think Lindy’s message was about trolls though. It’s about people who honestly will respond in certain situations with ridicule of religion, even when it is not warranted. These people exist largely on the internet and they aren’t trolling.

        The problem I have with the article is that she turns a sensible position of being nice to people into criticism of religion for nice people is wrong. Essentially saying every single person on this blog network is a dick. As if that criticism requires me to walk up to every person I know and tell them they are stupid. As Matt so brilliantly pointed out it also has this perspective of white middle-to-upper class privilege. “I don’t get bothered by religion personally in my Pacific Northwest life and while i’m the right person for it some people just can’t take the truth.”

        1. Alicia

          And they act as if religion is harmless to the good believer. Even the supposition that it can be helpful to a rape victim is disengenious. Churches are largely mysogynistic and tend to blame rape victims for their rape. What benefit the woman may get from her church could be also underscored by the, “You are also sinful and deserving of what happened to you”, psychological mind fuck that could be far more damaging then seeking secular counselling that makes no such judgements.

    2. 2.2
      John Eckesrly

      Wow, you’re as delusional as Lindy West. She’s a terrible person (hence her working at Jezebel) who is mind-numbingly unintelligent and wants nothing to do with gender equality.

      How about her use of the word “dick.” Why such a sexist term.

      Why not call them “cunts”?

      Oh, yeah, because that would be sexist toward women, but somehow using “dicks” is okay.

      This lady (like everyone at Jezebel) has never been interested in equality.

      1. Martin Wagner

        Oh my. Are we about to get an influx of MRAs from this one? Something tells me that the whole “See! A feminist is wrong about something! Therefore they’re all evil hypocritical Nazis!” logic so typical of them is about to kick into high gear.

        1. Cole Richardson

          Martin, I have only read a few of Jezebel’s articles, but overall I say it is somewhat sexist. It’s sexist in the same way that a website geared toward a particular slice of males might be sexist. I don’t find anything particularly harmful about it, since I do not tend to read the site.

          1. Martin Wagner

            There may be the occasional article there that is sexist in that way, but I do not see the same kind of overall pattern of sexism there that you’d see from sites like, oh, A Voice for Men.

            I do recall one piece on Jezebel where a male rape victim was mocked. That’s as bad as I’ve seen them get.

      2. bricewgilbert

        Go back to your room. The adults are talking.

      3. Seth B.

        Sexism, like racism, is prejudice plus power. Prejudice without the power to inflict it upon others (through marginalization of those you are prejudiced against, etc.) is just prejudice. “Dick” is not a sexist term because the image it conjures – that of an aggressive, overly assertive alpha male type – is not a thing that is stigmatized by our society. Calling a woman a “cunt” or a “bitch”, which implies SHE is being aggressive or overly assertive, is stigmatized. If you don’t understand established societal gender roles, and what is considered “good” vs. “bad” behavior for both, then you really shouldn’t comment on this.

        You MRA types crack me up. You think they’re some EVIL FEMINAZI CONSPIRACY against you, when in reality, you’re all victims of the patriarchy too. There are 3 common examples of EVIL FEMINAZIDOM that I hear from MRA “activists” all the time. I’d like to address those:

        1) “Why do women get preferential treatment in custody battles? Clearly this is sexism against men!” No. It isn’t. The patriarchy has defined the roles of women as “care givers” and men as “providers”. Thus, when it comes to providing care for children, the patriarchal attitudes that “women are better at it” rear their ugly heads. Blame the patriarchy.

        2) “If you see a woman sitting at a playground watching children play, people assume she’s there with her kids. When they see a man sitting there watching kids, they assume he’s a pedophile! SEXISM!” Again, no, this is because the patriarchy has defined a woman’s role as “care giver/child rearer” and has defined your role, as is relevant to this situation, as “non-care giver”; additionally, your implied role in sexual situations is that of the aggressor. Again, blame the patriarchy.

        3) “You always see commercials all the time where the woman is portrayed as the super smart housewife and her bumbling husband is portrayed as klutz who ruins things. SEXISM!” LOL. This one is my favorite. MRA types always “conveniently” leave out the part that the woman is always the fucking HOUSEWIFE, but leaving that aside, again, her implied role is that of the “care giver” who’s job is to take care of the house. The husband is portrayed as bumbling and klutzy (and forever spilling drinks that the woman then has to wipe up with whatever brand of paper towels is being hocked) because the understanding is that he provides for the family and is therefor inept at keeping the house clean. Again, say it with me now, blame the patriarchy.

        Poor widdle MRA’s. You recognize the effects but are blaming the wrong group for the cause. Why don’t you get off reddit and actually go pick up a book or two on deconstructing gender roles or understanding the patriarchy? Maybe then you wouldn’t be such a fucking dick.

        1. Conor

          “Sexism, like racism, is prejudice plus power”

          From a sociology dictionary:

          The attributing of characteristics of inferiority to a particular racial category. Racism is a specific form of prejudice focused on race.


          Here’s another one:

          Racism is the perception and treatment of a racial or ethnic group, or a member of that group, as intellectually, socially, and culturally inferior to one’s own group. It is more than an attitude; it is institutionalized in society. Racism involves negative attitudes that are sometimes linked with negative behavior.


          And another one:

          The belief that one race is supreme and all others are innately inferior.


          As near as I can tell, the formulation “Racism = Prejudice + Power” originated in a book by Pat Bidol in 1970. Titled “Developing New Perspectives on Race,” in it Bidol explicitly makes the formulation as stated and then uses this definition as the basis for an argument that in the United States Blacks cannot be racist against whites, they can only be racially prejudiced against them. This makes an important connection that matters as far as this particular nonsense is concerned, which is that this stipulated definition exists as an excuse to defend members of racial minorities against accusations of racism and it has always existed for this reason. The definition was largely popularized by Judy Katz, who referenced Bidol explicitly, in her 1978 book “White Awareness” which presented a course of counter-racist training for organizations. The book was highly influential and through it the formulation, for those who were searching for such a tool with which to deflect accusations of racism, gained popularity.


          What you’ve done is picked a very narrow definition from a social movement from within sociology and applied it for the very same reason that it was invented in the first place: to create a semantic (and therefore meaningless) argument in order to defend your own bigotry while simultaneously decrying bigotry directed at others (perhaps yourself). There is no consensus whatsoever in the field of sociology that racism has any qualifier with regard to which races the term can apply to. Nor are there any non-racial qualifiers such as privilege or power because they are irrelevant with regards to racial discrimination and are relegated to the other types of discrimination, as they should be. Many many reject your definition outright because it’s actually racist according to the standard definition. Now, if you want to qualify racism, you can do that all day long. Racial discrimination is what it is, but if power and privilege are important to you, they should be discussed parallel to each other, not one arbitrarily negating the other. Further, the new definition has no argument backing it. It’s simply an assertion which is either accepted or rejected without reason. However, there are plenty of good arguments which preserves the original definition to the exclusion of incorporating power as a necessary qualifier for racism.

          Keep in mind that the argument is semantic. You’d have to redefine several other words as well to try and make any kind of ideological separation. For example, even if there was a consensus that accepted that somehow that the word “racism” can’t apply to instances of racial discrimination against white people in the United States, it still doesn’t make it not racial discrimination and it still doesn’t make it not wrong. It only means that we don’t accept the word “racism” as applied to what used to be called racism with consideration of a majority population. It’s an intellectually bankrupt argument and I wouldn’t make it if you want anyone to take you seriously. It shows that you’re willing to “win” using reasons other than ideological fortitude and as such can be perceived as an admission that you believe that your own point is fallacious if not outright incorrect.

          I think I know why you came to believe in such a definition. I would urge you to use your internet search skills to try and find information counter to an extreme ideology rather than accepting it at face value and then only searching out information that confirms it.

        2. Drew

          @ Seth B.

          I don’t particularly agree with John; this is borne more out of my pedantic nature.

          “Dick” is not a sexist term because the image it conjures – that of an aggressive, overly assertive alpha male type – is not a thing that is stigmatized by our society.

          This sentence was nonsense. If indeed the image it conjures “is not a thing that is stigmatized by our society” then it wouldn’t be a pejorative: That is, the very fact that the word is used as an insult is proof that it is something that is stigmatized, otherwise it would not be an insult.

          I’m not certain whether or not I agree that the word “dick” is a sexist term (I’ve not really thought about it), but the argument you’ve presented in this statement is particularly bad.

          I also take issue with the definitions you’ve given for sexism and racism, specifically that they require power, I find these definitions to be sociologically and logically unsound but someone already beat me to that (though I feel that post includes values judgements upon your character that I can’t necessarily support).


        3. Alicia

          Wow, thanks for this Seth. Food for thought.

    3. 2.3

      I don’t get it. Somebody religious’ friend dies and they go to r/atheism to write about it? That seems to be a bit of a self-inflicted problem. Either way, until somebody claims that atheism cures puberty I wouldn’t recommend judging atheists by what teenagers write on the internet.

      1. Alicia

        well said

  3. 3

    Oh, I know some Atheists who can be dicks. Just remove the comment section of TAE on youtube to see the claws come out. Or the woman hating feminist backlashers who use every opportunity to oss the word cunt at every strong, opininated woman that disagress with them. BUT I hardly think they define atheists as a whole, in fact, MOST I know are loving, civic minded, moral; I can passionately disagreee with them and still maintain friendships while traveling towards common goals. This writer is probably responding the crybaby Christians who think not accpeting their versions of historic events is some kind of personal insult. No huns, it is just a difference of opinion and if you push it your views on me or my body, you will get both barrels. If that makes me a dick then I’ll proudly wear my testicles thanks.

    1. 3.1
      Tenrai Hogosha

      I believe it would make you “Great Jupiter’s Cock” since dick seems to be sexists. HA.

      I tried to find a derogatory comment for Dick on wikipedia. However, I could not.

      However, Cunt has quite a history.

      Cunt is also used as a derogatory epithet referring to people of either sex. This usage is relatively recent, dating from the late nineteenth century.[3] Reflecting different national usages, cunt is described as “an unpleasant or stupid person” in the Compact Oxford English Dictionary, whereas Merriam-Webster has a usage of the term as “usually disparaging and obscene: woman”,[4] noting that it is used in the U.S. as “an offensive way to refer to a woman”;[5] and the Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English states that it is “a despicable man”. When used with a positive qualifier (good, funny, clever, etc.) in Britain, New Zealand and Australia, it can convey a positive sense of the object or person referred to.[6]
      The word appears to have been in common usage from the Middle Ages until the eighteenth century. After a period of disuse, usage became more frequent in the twentieth century, in parallel with the rise of popular literature and pervasive media. The term also has various other derived uses and, like fuck and its derivatives, has been used mutatis mutandis as noun, pronoun, adjective, participle and other parts of speech.

      1. Alicia

        Interesting and a little comical. We assume the origin of cunt had to do with vulvas…makes me wonder about the origin of the word dick as slur. Still, my stance is as always–take away the power of such negative words and you rather quickly eradicate their usage.

  4. 4
    chris lowe

    Lindy West seems to have a chip on his shoulder, but is trying to self correct by explaining it away blaming others. If you are going to accuse other people that they are wrong or misguided, and fundamentally so based on their beliefs, then he should expect some pushback.

    If that pushback is rude or equally accusatory don’t be surprised. Don’t think that the degree of nicety used by either party has any bearing on why one is not winning over the other.

    Know thy enemy. Also know thy own shit. If you just start pulling things out of your ass then it’s going to be handed right back to you in all it’s steaming, smelly glory.

    And don’t confuse attitude with conviction. If you’re honest and forthright about what you are trying to get across, nobody is going to disrespect you personally, but if you are going to be a dick about it………

    1. 4.1
      chris lowe

      Oops, the only Lindy I know personally is a guy.

    2. 4.2
      John Horstman

      West has been writing boring, uninspired, uninsightful snark for a while, with the occasional worthwhile piece. The irony is that her style in writing pro-feminist pieces is to be a total dick, and often justifiably so. The lack of awareness concerning similar dynamics in atheist activism would be hilarious if it wasn’t harmful.

      1. Alicia

        I’d bet if she thought about it, she would have to admit that she has indulged in the very behavior she is saying the whole of the atheistic community indulges in.

  5. 5

    “dog-whistle classism”?

    West seems fond of this phrase (the vast majority of the few Google hits are to the same author). Are we supposed to know what it means?

    1. 5.1

      “dog-whistle classism”…. the assumption being of course that there is no such thing as a working class atheist.

      Which if of course – toooooootal crap.

      Identity politics can at times be less valuable than a pile of dogshit…though I understand the impulse.

    2. 5.2

      “Dog-whistle” refers to a statement or action that is sexist, racist, homophobic or, in this case, classist but which is done in a way that is invisible or “silent” to the discriminated group. You know, like those whistles that only dogs can hear? It supposed to be code that members of the in-group can use to humiliate, exclude, etc. members of the out-group.

  6. 6

    I thought it was pretty terrible. If you are going to claim that you are embarrassed to be an atheist because other atheist are being dicks, you need to support this. From the title I had thought it might be one of those “Isn’t Richard Dawkins mean, he makes us all look bad” articles, but I don’t think it is, it was ore a criticism of some unnamed atheist doing something that was sort of covered by the things West specifically complained about.
    I think there was also an undercurent of “only educated whites are atheists”, hence suggestions of “classism” and racism

    1. 6.1

      I suppose the fact she thinks Atheists like me don’t exist is in a way, a subtle type of racism of its own.

      1. cityzenjane

        Right? Everyday Feminist posted something on Feminism needing to be respectful of religious feminists… um NO. I am not going to erase everything I ever cared about because someone is uncomfortable with my critical view of religion…which springs directly from my experience as a woman…

        and yes…the implication of this person’s framing was that there are no women of color who are atheists or women in Muslim countries who oppose Islam lock stock and barrel…

        feminism is a big tent…and I am pretty sure it acommodates atheism much easier than religion…logically anyway…

        1. Alicia

          Among the many reasons why I left religion was the nasty view and treament of blacks and women in the churches. I couldn’t stick my head in the sand any longer in that regard. It was there in print, over and over again. That any self respecting person who read the damned bible would stay under god’s umbrella is saddening. Do human beings really have that low an opinion of themselves that we believe self flagellation before a diety is a good thing?

      2. BryanSebeck

        She must also have never heard of AJ Johnson, or the entire series that Hemant (another non-white guy) ran on Friendly Atheist called ‘Shades of Black Atheism’.

  7. 7

    This takedown is as beautiful as it is brutal and thorough. You should consider writing a book.

    1. 7.1

      I agree, I would totally buy a Dillahaunty book!

  8. 8
    Brian Lee

    Not sure what word I’m looking for with this one… I guess… ironic.


    Same author.

    Seems kind of dickish to me.

    1. 8.1

      Don’t you love how it is okay to be dickish when you feel it is applicable and yet, without knowing context, claim others are being dicks in a given situation…

    2. 8.2

      This is a common theme with Jezebel articles. Coming from someone that reads damn near every article that is published on the site… the authors are nearly always dead on when it comes to feminist issues, but are often off the mark when it comes to racism, skepticism, and religion.


      1. John Horstman

        In general, I agree with this assessment of Jezebel’s content.

      2. Alicia

        I don’t read Jezebel, not that I have anything against feminism, but I don’t like gender focused movements…I tend to be an overall humanist in more ways than one.

    3. 8.3

      After that Fuck the Pope article, you would think she should have oodles of specific reactions, insights and thoughts not only why she was or wasn’t being a dick when she wrote it. And also how her readers were wrong for complaining if she was. Even better, if she learned something new about that boundary line between dickishness and non dickishness that would bring something new to the discussion. But no, she used the stereotype “Ur stupid god is fake dummy” comment to justify this article.

  9. 9

    Yeah, classism? Most of the time when I have heard atheists mention the wealth level of a country being inversely related to the level of atheism, they talk about how the religious beliefs are being used as tools to keep the people down. They aren’t saying that ‘low class is stupid’ – they’re saying that there is good to be done in disabusing the people of the religion that sets them up to accept ‘their lot in life’

  10. 10

    They have NOTHING. You take away faith, what do you replace it with? Well, how about work and dignified life conditions? The lack of those things is what made them turn into religion for solace.

    Same as asking: if you take away traditional medicine from the poor who can’t afford an insurance plan, what do you replace it with? I replace it with universal healthcare.

    1. 10.1

      Yep, how about a minimum wage you can live on, affordable health care and free education?

  11. 11
    Laura Lou

    Was disappointed to see this article from Lindy West, a really important secular feminist to me. While she makes points that I can agree with (like “try to be nice to your fellow human beings”), it really felt like it was written by someone new to the atheist movement who hasn’t discussed the “Being a dick” topic with a lot of other atheists. People active in the movement have been discussing this for a long time–her complaints aren’t new and her suggestions are not that helpful.

  12. 12

    Very good work on this post. Thanks.

  13. 13

    Sharp. Nice job Matt.

  14. 14

    seriously why are you doing this. lindy wrote an article that basically says people should be nice to each other, and you respond by nitpicking away at her conclusions so you can feel smart.




    1. 14.1
      Matt Dillahunty

      Is that sarcasm? It’s hard to tell, though the QED makes me lean that direction. I’d like to assume it is, as otherwise it’s a rebuttal that is actually weaker than the original article, and that’s a level of irony that I’m too tired to deal with.

    2. 14.2
      Monocle Smile

      If you actually read the article and came to this conclusion, I would call your literacy into question.

      This is an article written by a person who spends too much time in YouTube comment sections and r/atheism and thinks the voices there represent the whole. The atheists she’s bitching about are probably just assholes in general and this has nothing to do with atheism.

    3. 14.3

      To put things in perspective: Many clueless whites who either have one black friend (or none at all) let the popular media define the black race. To them, we are a bunch of ebonic speakin’, shifty, malcontented ne’ er-do-wells who blame “the man” for everything. In the south, this seems to be the prevailing stereotype, as I am often accosted with the “You seem real smart-like for a black chick” backhanded compliment. Statistically speaking, there are more blacks who hold down jobs than not and most are not on welfare. But of course, the negative characterization rules the day. So, if I wrote an article entitled, BLACK FOLKS STOP BEING THUGS AND GET OFF WELFARE in an effort to combat that image, well now, I think my brethren would have more than a bit of a rigth to be pissed off at me.

      1. jeffnussbaum

        I do not know you, ma’am, but I have read your comments in this thread and therefore like you already.

        1. Alicia

          *bows* why I thank you kind sir! :-)

      2. serena

        Alicia may I just say, you are my personal “Badass of the Day” for that comment.

        1. Alicia

          Thank you Serena :-)

      3. Amanda

        Alicia, your comments are awesome. Any chance you have a blog or Twitter I could check out?

        1. Alicia

          Aww shucks, thank you. I don’t at present, I mostly vent here which the hosts so graciously allow me to do and I thank them profusely–keeps me sane. Well. Reasonably. *ahem* Was toying with writing a book from the black bisexual female atheist position–a POV peice that would be a somewhat comical take on being an atheist in the South. Think black mama Carlan style–lol.

        2. Alicia

          Amanda girl you just inspired me–I am gonna do a blog–why not–I am opinionated and angry enough to keep it going–lol.. will keep you posted if you want me to :-)

          1. cityzenjane

            You should. More sanity on the web….always welcome!

          2. No One

            I’d read it.

          3. Alicia

            Oh. I do thank you for the idea–very liberating–now I am going to get addicted to the blog high…LOL *hugs* I do indeed, INDEED, thank you.

          4. johnnevill

            How does one like a comment on here? Why is there no like button!?

        3. Alicia

          Hey Amanda CHECK THIS OUT–I did it–thank you so much–I am going to have fun with this as I already have a TON of idea for topics–let me know what you think:


          Again thank you for the idea… :-)

          1. Andrew Ryan

            You’ve got an extra reader.

          2. RickA

            Make that two!

          3. ethanmyerson

            Years ago, I was a Yankee Jewish Atheist living in South Carolina. The only people I felt safe with were the Black Female Atheist Bisexual Humanists. ;) Your blog is bookmarked.

          4. Alicia

            Ahahaha! Thank you! :-)

      4. Jason Rebelato

        Jeezuz…I find it utterly jaw-dropping that people still talk like that. Mind you, I live in Vancouver, Canada where racism is rare and pretty much every ethnicity is represented and respected.

      5. smhll

        The “real smart-like” compliment puts the DIS in cognitive dissonance.

        1. Alicia

          Oh you have no idea…I would be weeping on the daily if it weren’t for the fact that–well–I actually love my secular existence in spite of living in the South ,or heck, maybe because of it…lol

      6. Alicia

        Guys–oh my gosh, ya’ll gonna make a hardened, old-ish gal cry…LOL. Thank you. An extra shout out to Matt for being gracious and allowing me to post the link here…*group hug, group hug!*

      7. MikeTheInfidel

        I think you just put your finger on what bothers me about Bill Cosby whenever he talks about how black men need to stop being such thugs: he’s playing off of that image that says “this is what black men are like.” And I’ve seen lots of racist people use his own words as a demonstration of how black people are lazy, shiftless criminals. I don’t know a single member of my family who is like that, and yet all these folks who know one or two black people tops are happy to talk about how black people are all prone to being criminals and so on.

        1. Alicia

          Exactly, when someone who plays on your particular team says, “Yeah, we really need to stop doing (insert negative thing) then you are endorsing stereotypes…all groups have their positive and negatives, but playing up the negatives is not the way to let people know about the positives.

    4. 14.4
      John Harrington

      “seriously why are you doing this. lindy wrote an article that basically says people should be nice to each other, and you respond by nitpicking away at her conclusions so you can feel smart.”

      Best. Comment. In. Thread. Exactly my thought.

      1. Martin Wagner

        Then neither you nor Ernie are especially good at reading for comprehension. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with telling people to be nice. But like any other premise, you can’t support something even as unobjectionable as that with poor reasoning. Matt picked at her arguments because they were poorly reasoned, you see.

        1. Bruce Gorton

          Actually, there is something wrong with telling people to be nice.

          Something so deeply, badly wrong that it always shows the person telling people to be nice to be a complete asshole.

          It takes the emphasis off of any complaint somebody may raise, and puts it on the manner in which the complaint was raised, and it does this no matter how legitimate the complaint may be.

          Thus for example, “Be nice” was employed during the civil rights era to try and get MLK Jnr to be less “agressive” in his calls for racial equality. Gay rights activists are enjoined to not be “So in your face about it” about gay rights, feminists are accused of being “radical” and “shrill”, and the atheist community are told to stop being “Jerks” and “punching down”.

          “Be nice” is the motto of the worst people on Earth.

          1. Monocle Smile

            This practice is typically called “tone trolling” and it happens here on the AXP blog every so often.

          2. John Horstman

            There is also deep, deep irony in West herself tone-trolling others, given that her preferred tone is snark.

          3. Alicia

            Precisely. I was told to “show a little love” in a situation where Christians were being absolute assholes and I let them have it. I replied that they are the ones who belong to a religion that admonishes them to turn the other cheek. I, on the other hand, have no such restrictions, so game on!

      2. Alicia

        So, you think it is okay to cater to a stereotype than to actually point out that these asshole type o’ folks are in the minority and to present facts in this regard?

    5. 14.5

      She did no such thing. She created a straw man so she could write an entire article pissing and moaning about it. Apparently it’s OK to be a dick as long as she’s the one doing it.

      1. Alicia


      2. DonnaFaye

        So much straw in her article it should be declared a fire hazard. The last part about the rape victim clinging to Jesus was puzzling. Was she claiming that atheists are seeking people like her out to mock them or that atheists should just be quiet in general so the woman never encounters anything that would make her doubt her faith?

        1. Alicia

          A curious sentiment anyway, seeing how many religions are mysogynistic and tend to blame rape victims for thier own rapes …how would we know if the woman isn’t getting some screwed up messages from the folks in her church. We know how the church loves to give mixed messages of love while trying to make you feel like shit simultaneously. If I knew a woman that was brutually raped who was finding solace in a hate group that targeted men and felt it was okay to go up to random males and kick them in the junk, would I not intervene? Many people who cling to religion do so after trauma–but what many will find is they have replaced one horrible thing for another…I mean, it’s far from simple but I don’t think a caring person is being “dick” if they wonder if the woman is indeed in a more positive mental place after rushing into religion.

          1. DonnaFaye

            Yep. And I wouldn’t assume she is really getting comfort from her faith. More likely than not she’s in some fundie church that is filling her head with Bible bullshit and not helping her at all. I agree with Matt that if someone like her asked me for advice I’d tell her to find a good secular counselor and victims support group and stay as far away from godbaggery as possible.

          2. Alicia

            I second that!

    6. 14.6

      Maybe she should do a better job so that her rant can’t be picked apart so easily. I doubt Matt even broke a sweat picking this one apart.

    7. 14.7
      Dylan Edwards

      She seems to feel that atheists in particular need to be reminded not to be dicks.

      I haven’t noticed atheists being particularly mean to others, or seeking out rape victims to harass them about their beliefs.

      If she titled her article “How to Internet without Being A Dick” I would have no problem… but then again, we really don’t need an article about that. Anyone that uses the internet is aware that it is full of trolls.

  15. 15

    Well, you *could* be a Dick. Or a Stan. http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2010/08/27/dont-be-dick-or-stan/

    1. 15.1
      chris lowe

      “Richard”s of the world unite! They can’t help being Dicks.

      1. Houndentenor

        All this talk about people being “dicks” reminds me of this song…

        1. Monocle Smile

          “Uncut” in the title of that video made me lose my shit.

        2. Raymond

          Thanx. Funniest thing I’ve seen in ages.

  16. 16

    “Ironically, I have yet to read an article or hear a talk about atheists being dicks that didn’t include a few examples of the author or speaker actually being a dick. ”

    You can usually tell something is wrong by the fact that they frame their message of thoughtful respectful conduct around… calling people dicks. There’s little sincerity there, just a target they feel can be safely insulted. After that, you just get the normal pleas to stop criticizing religion in place of actually refuting those criticisms. Like this:

    “Criticizing an individual’s harmless, personal road to solace and peace is about as low as it gets.”

    Are the criticisms correct? Who knows, what’s important is that they’re “low”, and described in the most flowery way possible so that criticisms can be seen as “low” and therefore not worthy of being addressed.

    1. 16.1

      That which you most hate in others is that which you most hate in yourself.

      1. Alicia

        Nail to head….

  17. 17

    Uh, love the takedown, but can we avoid the word “dick?” Yeah, I know it punches up the power gradient, but It’s still a gendered slur that suggests sex is dirty or bad, and still reduces someone to their genitals. Why not compromise on “asshole,” or “jerk” if it needs to be PG-13?

    1. 17.1

      Dick doesn’t have to be a reference to genitalia no more than pussy does. A man named Richard that happens to be nicknamed Dick is not being referenced in that way. A cute kitty being called a pussy is not being referenced by female private parts. Dick is a slang for a jerk off and when I see the word I don’t think of penises.

      1. pj

        If you’re going to complain in comment 3 about the use of the word “cunt,” you can’t turn around and defend the use of “dick.”

        1. Tenrai Hogosha

          I don’t believe she was defending the use. Just how it might be use. The article is more about PR than anything else.

        2. Alicia

          But did I say one shouldn’t be insulted by the word dick, or that cunt was a reference to pussy? “Cunt” is a derogatory term just like “dick” is, yet I still don’t think of either of them in terms of gentalia no more than motherfucker is a slur meant to denigrate folks who sleep with mothers. They are negative slurs–but I think they have gone beyond their base meaning. In other words, I think we are going a bit into crazy land when we try to base naughty, derogatory language on anything other than the intent itself, to insult or demean. Respond accordingly to taste.

        3. John Horstman

          [Singing and dancing] Context context con-TEXT, context context con-TEXT.

          1. Alicia

            and the context is always negative and nasty at it’s heart…in all cases…no matter the slur….

            Riddle me this. If we granted that the context in question was the only one used when the word was applied as a slur, would that cause people to stop using the word dick to apply to a man? Nope. No more than the word Niggah has stopped being used to apply to black folks–or cunt to a woman…

            So, all the splitting of hairs gain us nothing. We can point out what we dislike about a given slur–but we won’t be able to stop the usuage from those who wish to apply it in any context they wish.

            Instead of focusing on langauge, we need to go after the attitudes that foster and fuel the negative connotations of those words . That is how language changes–not by trying to distill words to their purest form.

            Example, the word Niggah has lessened in its every day, casual application for a host of reasons, primarily social ones. In time, the word will hopefully find its place alongside other outdated slurs.

            As for today, in cases where the N word has been used against me, I choose to ignore the offender, who obviously only used it to get a rise. I will give them no such satisfaction. Besides, knowing the context of the word did nothing to stop its use.

            The protest is moot and is not going to end up with the result that is desired. Focus on battles you can win.

      2. hjhornbeck

        A man named Richard that happens to be nicknamed Dick is not being referenced in that way. A cute kitty being called a pussy is not being referenced by female private parts.

        Context is everything. We don’t call people “Dick,” we call them dicks. Even if a Richard liked having his friends call him Dick, that doesn’t automatically permit random strangers to do the same.

        Dick doesn’t have to be a reference to genitalia no more than pussy does. [...] Dick is a slang for a jerk off and when I see the word I don’t think of penises.

        If “dick” was the only word synonymous with “jerk off,” you’d have a point. But we already have plenty of other synonyms, like “jerk” and “ass.” Both say the same thing, but can’t be construed as a gendered slur. Why not use those?

        1. Alicia

          Cunt is a gendered slur too–do you thnk it is wrong to use it? Bitch is as well–is it wrong to use it? I have used both terms–I generally use asshole in regards to males but I have heard even other dudes call men dicks ( I think this is a white thing–most black folks don’t use the term dick to describe other males)… I don’t think they are trying to call the man a penis or imply sex is dirty (what?)–I think they just understand it is an a insult just like asshole. At the end of the day an insult is an insult regardless of what terminology is used and why. Either we do away with all profanity from our language or we use it–but to nitpick what is proper profanity based on intent or orgins is almost comical. All profanity and epithets are meant to belittle and put others down, with a host of subtext associated with usage.

          1. Intercaust

            I pretty much use ‘cunt’ to insult men because they just dont know what to do with it. Its fun to watch their face contort as their mind tries to make sense of what just happened, Conversely, I call girls ‘ass holes’, although it doesnt have the same effect.

          2. Alicia

            @ Intercaust LOL — priceless — to be honest I only use foul language against a person when I get top notch pissed off and usually I regret it, However, I am starting to come to the knowlegde that words only have the power that you give to them, so I have decided to adopt bitch and cunt as badges of honor–lol.

          3. hjhornbeck

            Cunt is a gendered slur too–do you thnk it is wrong to use it?

            Yep, for the same reasons that it’s a bad idea to use “dick.”

            Bitch is as well–is it wrong to use it?

            Comparing people to female dogs used as breeding stock sounds rather wrong to me, though for different reasons than “dick” or “cunt.”

            I generally use asshole in regards to males but I have heard even other dudes call men dicks

            And because men use sexist slurs, it’s OK for everyone to make sexist slurs?

            I don’t think they are trying to call the man a penis or imply sex is dirty (what?)–I think they just understand it is an a insult just like asshole.

            Exactly. No-one has pointed out to them that it’s a sexist slur, and so they treat it like any other slur. If they realized what they were really saying and implying, however, would they say it?

            At the end of the day an insult is an insult regardless of what terminology is used and why.

            As a person with black skin (I think), I’m sure you can think of a few counter-examples to that.

            Either we do away with all profanity from our language or we use it–but to nitpick what is proper profanity based on intent or orgins is almost comical. All profanity and epithets are meant to belittle and put others down, with a host of subtext associated with usage.

            Have you heard of the concept of splash damage? When you say something is “gay,” you’re not just insulting the object in question, you’re insulting all homosexuals by implying they’re bad or evil. There are other ways to say the same thing that don’t also denigrate an entire class of people, so why not use them instead?

            Nor am I calling for an end to all profanity, either. While “fuck” carries some of the same anti-sex connotations as “dick,” decades of abuse and overuse have greatly muted the splash damage. While I rarely use it myself, I don’t think it’s worth the effort to steer people towards “shit” or even “douche.”

          4. Tenrai Hogosha

            Sounds like an xenomorph.

          5. Alicia

            wrong on far too many levels–lol

          6. Alicia

            I wasn’t making the point that sexist terminology used by certain individuals excuses slurs on the other end of the spectrum, so thanks for allowing all my points to go completely over your head.

            Heck, I am not even arguing that the use of the word dick isn’t wrong, or that your perceptions of how dick is applied as a slur are wrong. I was simply making the point that slurs are meant to be hurtful, no matter their context, period.

            That is why I have learned to take the power of certain words away so they can’t’ be used as a weapon.

            If a man says “you cunt”, I know he is trying to be belittling and I am, of course, insulted. When I use those words, I am using them as an insult as well. But when the slur is directed at me, I might say in retaliation, “Yep and I am great, big fat one too!.” That guy is usually like, “WTF?” as he is used to women losing their shit over that word.

            Reminds me of when I was talking up my hubby on a forum and this one guys was like “Your hubby is probably banging the secretary”, to which I responded, “Oh hey, that’s awesome–I hope he video taped it cause I’d like to watch.”

            Taking away the power of a nasty, negative word helped me lessen its impact. If people did that as opposed to explaining ad nausea why something is offensive, you would see a faster decline of certain terminology as it would cease to be an effective tool.

            This is what kinda has happened with the word Niggah.

            Even today, the slur is used, and no amount of explanation as to why it isn’t a word folks should use to reference me is going to make people not use it. Do I find it insulting? Sure, that is it’s INTENDED purpose.

            HOWEVER, the word only has the power I allow it. In most cases, I simply ignore the person who used the N-word, as his end goal is simply to get a rise out of me. If enough brothers and sistahs left those idiots to their own devices the word would die off quickly, to be replaced with the new slur du jour.

            Rush Limbaugh comes to mind.

            You think if I went up to that loser and said “Hey that word had a hurtful history don’t use it” that he’d give a shit? That would be a highly naive move on my part.

            Telling folks why a slur is wrong will not make people not use it, no more than feminist who complained about the usage of cunt made people stop using it , in fact , they used it more (please see YT comment streams).

            See, if someone wants to insult they are not going to say “Now that you have explained to me why Dick has sexual connotations and can be belittling to men I think I’ll use another slur…” A man can know why Cunt is a jacked up word and still use it. In other words, if they know it offends you for a specific reason, they will probably use it more. The word then had the power they want it to because you gave it that power.

            In the end, I am just saying that it is a bit naive of you to think that by explaining to a person why dick is a horrid slur will make people stop using the term. People know why niggah is bad—but that hasn’t stopped anyone from using it against me. However, the n-word has been lessened as a casual slur due to changes in society. If you want to eradicate certain types of words, alter perceptions, don’t become the word police. That aggravates folks as much as grammar Nazis and only creates a backlash as humans hate to be preached at.

            Look at your own example about the word gay. Again, I agree with you, which is why I don’t say things like, “that’s so gay” yet, I could probably take you to a Conservative site where people use that terminology often. They KNOW that they are being nasty, mean and hateful when they do it. If you explain to these cretins why they shouldn’t use that word, how it affects the gay community, etc., etc., they would really not give a rat’s ass. More than likely, they’ll tell you to stop being such a politically correct liberal pussy as their friends proceed to use the slur just to aggravate you.

            See what I’m sayin’…

            To win this kind of battle you need a broad overhaul of perceptions in various arena’s, not a simple acknowledgement of why the word is wrong…In other words, if you want folks to stop using the word dick in this context, you are going about it all wrong. Your heart is in the right place, just not your head, no pun intended (couldn’t resist).

          7. hjhornbeck

            I wasn’t making the point that sexist terminology used by certain individuals excuses slurs on the other end of the spectrum, so thanks for allowing all my points to go completely over your head.

            That question mark wasn’t just for show, I was making sure you weren’t headed down that path.

            Reminds me of when I was talking up my hubby on a forum and this one guys was like “Your hubby is probably banging the secretary”, to which I responded, “Oh hey, that’s awesome–I hope he video taped it cause I’d like to watch.”

            Taking away the power of a nasty, negative word helped me lessen its impact. If people did that as opposed to explaining ad nausea why something is offensive, you would see a faster decline of certain terminology as it would cease to be an effective tool.

            This certainly happened with “gay.” To be homosexual is far less of a social stigma today than just a few decades ago, and it all happened because a lot of people stood up and said “this isn’t a bad thing!” Reclamation can be an awesome thing.

            But note: “gay” referred to homosexual people. By removing the nasty stigma around them, the phrase “that’s gay” also wound up being defanged. It didn’t happen the other way around, we didn’t overcome the negative stigma by calling everything gay. Applying this to “dick,” the best way to take the power away from that phrase is to become sex-positive, to work harder at removing negative stigmas from sex and sex-related body parts. Being proud of being called a dick doesn’t accomplish that, if anything it reinforces it.

            Equivocation flows both ways, too. If everything you call “dick” is in a negative context, then you’ve reinforced the notion that dicks are bad without explicitly saying as such.

            Look at your own example about the word gay. Again, I agree with you, which is why I don’t say things like, “that’s so gay” yet, I could probably take you to a Conservative site where people use that terminology often.

            Culture is set by people, and unfortunately there’s a lot of us around. While the negative stigma around “gay” has dropped dramatically in pop culture, there are pockets where it’s still a powerful slur. The only way to clean up an entire culture is to roll up your sleeves and point out, repeatedly and with careful arguments, just why “gay” shouldn’t be a slur. You’ll come across as a nitpicking asshole, but there’s no avoiding that.

            HOWEVER, the word only has the power I allow it. In most cases, I simply ignore the person who used the N-word, as his end goal is simply to get a rise out of me. If enough brothers and sistahs left those idiots to their own devices the word would die off quickly, to be replaced with the new slur du jour.

            I’m glad you’re strong enough to shrug off that slur. But what about the people who aren’t as strong? Should we let them be aggravated by something that even we acknowledge is wrong? Should we risk driving them out, because they can’t handle what you can?

            I say no. While taking a punch is impressive, it’s better to take that punch to protect someone else, and best of all to take that punch to help ensure fewer punches are thrown in future.

            Telling folks why a slur is wrong will not make people not use it, no more than feminist who complained about the usage of cunt made people stop using it , in fact , they used it more (please see YT comment streams).

            Only a fool would think that they can change a culture single-handed in an instant. I’ve looked at atheist stories, and I’ve yet to find a single one where the person deconverted immediately after being presented with an argument. It was always a long process with many little arguments slowly wearing them down, and if there was a moment of insight it was usually in realizing how far they’d unconsciously drifted.

            I’ve taken that to heart. I have little hope that you’ll change your mind, or even stop using “dick.” My primary audience isn’t you, though, it’s the ten people silently following along as we argue back-and-forth. They are far more likely to be persuaded, because they don’t have public statements on the line. Even if that doesn’t happen, hopefully the arguments I’ve put forward will percolate around in everyone’s brains, leading to a future change in behavior.

            And if not, that’s still cool. I just love to argue, especially when I’m outnumbered and up against a strong opponent! ;)

          8. Alicia

            But you see, as I’ve said earlier, I don’t use the word dick in my every day conversations…well–not as a descriptor of persons anyways. Youmight well imagine where I might use it, but generally it is in the fun, happy, sexy context *ahem* LOL. I use it here primarily because that is the word being picked apart in this thread. I don’t have a use for it myself and I rather prefer jerk or asshole. LOL!

            You are right, people should define for themselves what they find insulting, just, too much of the time others may fail to agree and even decide amp up the wattage just to be all “counter culture” and cool *rolls eyes.*

            I think we both have the same goals, we just have different ways of trying to get there…

            Stay strong mah brother–stay strong *hugs* ;-)

        2. Alicia

          “I say no. While taking a punch is impressive, it’s better to take that punch to protect someone else, and best of all to take that punch to help ensure fewer punches are thrown in future.”

          But that is precisley what I am doing–by being strong enough to shrug off that word, even though it pisses me the hell off, I in turn, help that word to die a slow death so that others DON’T have to deal with it in the future. In other words, I am not taking that punch to seem kewl–I am taking that punch to kill the monster.

          And you are right, people are watching and will decide for themeslves what approach toward change works best for them–The Malcolm X brand or the Dr King.

          –Again–same goals–different methods.

  18. 18

    Jezebel is well known for embodying the rude, attitude-soaked bitchyness which all of its articles rail against. New topic, same contradictory sass.

    1. 18.1

      Yep–which is why I don’t read that trash.

    2. 18.2
      Tenrai Hogosha

      Well, went out with a Jezebel girl. They are very sassy, driven, and oh so hot.

      1. Alicia

        *sigh* bad bunny

        1. cityzenjane

          I love Jezebel a full 50% of the time…other times I want to burn my laptop to the ground because it’s so off and not in a good way… but when it’s good it’s great.

          1. Lorraine

            Yes, I feel the same way about Jezebel. I enjoy almost all of their writings related to feminism, but when they venture into most science or health-related topics I just wince and hate-read.

          2. Alicia

            ROFLMAO! :-)

          3. sambarge

            Jezebel breaks my heart whenever they stray from pure feminism. I learned a long time ago that they don’t like atheism there (or Taylor Swift or criticism of Johnny Depp). I haven’t commented there in a long time but this article by West brought me back.

          4. Alicia

            Hey, I like Taylor :-)

  19. 19
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    This is a weird sort of flashback to the accommodationist arguments of a few years ago. It certainly feels like Lindy West formulated a critique of atheism by asking a bunch of her theist friends what made them angry, and without talking to a single atheist at all. That’s made even more clear by her reaction to the criticism, which is to just double down on the “atheists are dicks” position without engaging with any atheists at all.

    1. 19.1
      chris lowe

      To Lindy, Why should style prevail over substance? Be judged by what you say and not how you say it. If P.R. is your major concern, then you’re not getting your point across. You don’t know how. If you are uncomfortable or embarrassed with someone’s stridency, that’s your problem and you shouldn’t project that on anyone else.

      Critiquing someone’s style, in the context of this blog’s subject and general intent is fluff. It is irrelevant. It belongs on ET or TMZ. Just smile, say what you have to say, and let the chimps fall where they may. Don’t presume to apologize for anybody else.

      1. Alicia

        Now see, that is what I am talking about!

      2. Ron

        I’m picturing a group of primates fainting and tumbling to the forest floor. Thanks for that.

  20. 20
    Shadow of a Doubt

    I think a lot of the “dickishness” from the article is real when it comes to younger atheists, I can say for certain that I was one of these dicks myself in high school (Yes I know this is anecdotal), before the internet was mainstream, my experience with atheism was largely a small group of locals who would constantly bash religious lunacy in our conversations. Also go back 10 years and a great deal of the atheism on the internet was dedicated to the mocking of religion (Though I think it was done better without entirely being manufactured “memes”). There’s still a lot of that, and I can see how someone would regard it as being dickish, especially among younger atheists. That being said, I would agree that the movement as a whole, especially the more prominent members tend to stick on topic and actually work towards goals as opposed to simply spouting “u god suxorz”. 100% spot on with the fact that some atheists being dicks does not equate atheism or the atheism movement causing dickishness though.

  21. 21

    This being the only thing from her I have read, it feels like there are undertones of an apologetic mindset. Possibly a misandry undercurrent….I wonder how she would respond to the same article if we changed the word “dick” to “cunt”?

  22. 22

    ‘I’m a Nazi. Mein Kampf is my book. BUT I only follow the GOODS parts, like trains running on time. So why do you people keep trying to stop me from promoting my nook and ideology?”

    1. 22.1

      A frickin High five sir!!!

    2. 22.2


  23. 23

    This analysis post by Matt is excellent. I especially like his point about the comfort and “personal road to solace and peace” that some derive from heroin.

    In contrast, West says: “Faith in a higher power gives them [people with nothing] one thing. You know what we call people who try to take away other people’s one thing? A … dick.”

    If someone wants to get inner peace privately through heroin or drinking or religion, I can accept that if it truly affects only themselves. But if someone is serving as an airline pilot or a pediatrician, then they should not be allowed to be delusional. If someone is serving as a parent, then it is their responsibility to call a real pediatrician when their kid needs it, and not to allow their kid to die needlessly. Society has a right to prohibit regular heroin use by pilots or parents. Society has a right to say this, without being called a dick.

    If Jim Jones or some other preacher is telling pilots and parents to take lots of heroin, or to drink the cyanide flavor-aid, society has a right to object to this, without being called a dick.

    If your friendly neighbor next door says they encourage everyone to go listen to such a preacher, but that they personally only take seriously the “nice” parts from the preaching, and ignore the pro-child-abuse parts, I think that is reprehensible as a position, and I think I should be allowed to say so, without being called a dick.

    It seems as if West wants to be nice to everyone (except a few atheists), by saying she feels we shouldn’t object to people handing pilots free samples of heroin, or handing parents the child-abuse-flavored kool-aid. Well, I do object, and I claim the right to do so, and I even claim the right to do so without being called a dick.

    Dickish behavior is enabling drunk driving, or enabling delusionally deadly parenting, and NOT objecting to it. Even the people in the “nice” religions need to decide if they want to be promoting the abuse of needless child deaths. To that extent, West is supporting the dicks, and she should stop it.

  24. 24
    Seamus Ruah

    Well written sir…

  25. 25
    Andrew Kilian

    Personally I can cite examples of perhaps not dickishness, but wrongheadedness. I remember instances where Atheists in PA put up the Colossians quote where the Bible endorses slavery with a stock art pic of a Black slave in a torture collar and were surprised at the reaction demonstrating their ignorance or White privilege at how it would be received and actually shot themselves in the foot. David Silver has come across as a dick a couple times; walking on the religious monument in FL.

    That being said, living in a heavily fundamentalist and polygamist area I recognize where and when to engage in discussion and ride my personal hobby horse and when not to. I agree with Michael Shermer that public shaming is a sometimes necessary and good evolutionary societal tactic of keeping people or groups in check. People sometimes can’t imagine living without their chains and sometimes fight to keep them. Removing them without making enemies or getting your face bit off is key.

    “When you cure cancer, what do you replace it with?” Great line! Regrettably like a stopped clock even religion is right twice a day and the parts they get right do need to be replaced with something else, but as to how to create an organization that performs therapy and social services on donations that doesn’t abuse it’s position… well, even gov’t doesn’t do that, but what organization does?

    1. 25.1

      Cult of Dusty’s recent drama …around a similar appropriation has blown up the Youtubes recently.

      It’s not that there are atheists who are dicks… it’s that she seems not to pay attentiont o the fact that if you are an atheist (public) and you are a dick….the first people who will tear you a new asshole over it….are your fellow atheists…

  26. 26

    You are making a bad name for us non-theists

    1. 26.1
      Martin Wagner

      Who is?

      1. Lord Narf

        The Amazing Atheist? Patrick Greene?

    2. 26.2

      By setting your comment as stand-alone, I must guess you are addressing Matt.

      If so, then I emphatically disagree. Matt does a pretty good job of standing up for atheists and I’m grateful that he does.

  27. 27

    This was one of the greatest things I’ve read all day.

  28. 28

    “Who? Where? Examples please. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are atheists dicks – but “so many”? I think you need to define terms and cite some actual examples.”

    i’m assuming you’ve been on reddit and are playing dumb

    1. 28.1


      Are you just talking about internet comments or are we actually talking about the thriving, meat-space movement, too?

      1. f88cii

        yeah i see that this article is very attractive to the kind of person who says things like “meat-space”

        1. Alicia

          meat space???? WHAT???? hahahaahahaha!!!!

          1. Dylan Edwards

            Meat-Space is a bit of an older term, stemming I think from William Gibson. It has been replaced these days by the term IRL (In Real Life)

  29. 29

    Splendid takedown, Matt.

    Jezebel needs to look at the writing of Madalyn Murray-O’Hair and Annie Laurie-Gaylor to see how proudly dickish women atheists can be.

  30. 30


    Come from Jezebel (lurker there) and this is an interesting read. Gotta say a significant lot of your criticism is valid; which probably is connected to Jezebel’s tone. It can very often be rude / abrasive / all out offensive.

    That said, a lot of people here mentioned what I considered the crux of the matter; I think this is a broad stroke delicately tailored for Youtube commenters, or Redditors, or– basically, young Internet Atheists with plenty of bitterness to spread around. The kind of atheism without respect for different human beings– the kind of atheism aiming not to teach people about the non-existence of divine beings, but laughing at religious people and their silly beliefs.

    I have seen it around my own Facebook feeds– people who troll under the banner of atheism, or atheists who dismissed everything religious and its impact and how it affect people as ‘pfft psh religions they’re lame’ that sort of thing.

    Criticism is one valid thing, but dismissing is….another.

    I understand that it is just a small loud misguided number of (beginner) atheism, but they can be pretty aggravating at times. Sometimes they are creepily similar with obnoxious religious believers IMO.

    She is wrong to use broad strokes in claiming ALL atheists are dicks, but I cannot say I disagreed with both of your points. I actually think learning both is good for nuance and facets of learning.

  31. 31

    Reasons Intercaust is a total dick about religion –

    1. Under a religious delusion I thought I was possessed by demons. So instead of seeking help from trained professionals for my bi-polar disorder/depression it went untreated leading to severe addiction and suicidal tendencies.

    2. I believed that the one true gawd himself had called me to preach the truth as he the almighty saw it. My delusion caused me to have a compassionless hardline attitude about the struggles, suffering and civil rights of “The Others”. It was “Us & Them”. “Black & White.” In other words I was ‘superior’ because gawd(who you couldnt talk to) spoke through me. I was much more of a dick as a Xtian zealot than I Am as an atheist. And I Am a total dick of an atheist.

    3. I wasted the first 20 years of my life serving a gawd that wasnt there. When I left the church and gave up getting a divinity degree i was left with nothing but untreated mental illnesses and a hatred for myself, my life and my health. I had built my castle on sand and it had crumbled.

    4. Now, this is an important reason. Religion lied to me ABOUT SOME VERY IMPORTANT THINGS. It caused me to put barriers in my mind that stopped critical thinking and I lived in constant fear of going to hell. Someone taught me to fear and they used that fear to manipulate me.

    To summarize, I might be one the “atheist dicks”. When someone says “So-and-so was in a car wreck. They need prayer”, I will often reply, “Too fucking late. Should have prayed BEFORE the accident.” The Armies of Gawd harmed me in ways that can never be undone. If I could burn every fucking church down on the planet I’d be buying gas and matches right now. I would love to make sure no other kid has to grow up with the torment of religion in their mind. Hitch was right “God is NOT Great”. Religion is a cancer and I fucking hate it way too much to be nice about it.

    1. 31.1

      We are in the same band wagon my friend and I feel the same way……

    2. 31.2
      Dylan Edwards


  32. 32

    As for the initial statement being unsupported I dont think its at all extraordinary to think a woman who speaks on feminist issues and happens to be an atheist has come across more than her fair share of atheists being “dicks” … I’d be surprised if she hadn’t!

    As for the rest, well that line of argument comes uncomfortably close to classism for me. Not saying Lindy did in her post but so many atheists are total assholes when they go on about “some people” needing religion. It comforts them and it’s all they’ve got in their plebeian world so let them have it. Somewhat ironic that her point was on condescension and superiority of arrogant atheists and that comfort argument is often itself deployed in just that way.

    1. 32.1

      The problem is that it comes off as atheists, in general, are dicks. It’s an unfortunate stereotype that is only further spread with Lindy’s poorly thought out article. See Alicia’s amazing point above where she likens Lindy’s article to an article titled “BLACK FOLKS STOP BEING THUGS AND GET OFF WELFARE” written “in an effort to combat that image”

      1. Alicia

        Sad thing is, once a particular stereotype reaches the mainstream, it is hard to combat, espeically when a member of your own teams starts to uderline it.

    2. 32.2

      I agree to an extent. Exmaple–a good Christian friend of mine has Cerebral Palsy. He is such a wonderful, smart, sweet and funny guy and his religion is extremely imoprtant to him. He knows I am an atheist, however, I would never take that away from him or spit onhis beliefs. However, there are those who use religion as an excuse to condone horrible behavior and bigoted ideals. One southern preacher for example, said me and my sis were going to hell for meeting and marrying white men. Another made the bold declaration that nothing good ever came out of Africa…need I even mention the stance of homosexuality?

  33. 33

    The writer of the Jezebel article has done an excellent job in reminding us that straw-man atheists are obnoxious jerks who go out of their way to make believers miserable. Pulitzer material, to be sure.

  34. 34
    Snivelling Little Ratfaced Git

    xkcd dealt with this already – simply replace Cueball with Lindy:

  35. 35
    Rachel G

    She clearly has not had to feel what it’s like to be atheist in the middle of religion. To be afraid to “come out” to family because of fear of backlash and all the crap you know you will have to deal with.

  36. 36
    Carl McCoy

    Theists skirt around our queries for evidence and logic, then call us dicks for starting to yell. I mean when a theist just won’t listen there’s not much you can do besides stress the issues or back out of the argument/debate. And if you give up they assume they have won and don’t learn a damned thing.

    Anyways, it was a good article and definitely worth the time to read

  37. 37
    John Kruger

    There is a certain trap that atheists can fall into, being emboldened by getting out of religion it can be tempting to think you did it because you are so much smarter that everyone around you who is still soaked in it. Ironically, the problems to be found in religion are intellectually very easy, it is the emotional and social aspects that are difficult. As Shadow of a Doubt says, I get the feeling that this is a more common failure in newer and younger atheists. Reddit and Youtube comments do seem to be driven more by a younger and less sophisticated audience, so you get a lot less civility all around, atheist and otherwise.

    Even so, I find that movement atheists do a pretty good job on calling each other out on bad stuff like reckless ad hominem attacks or otherwise “being a dick”, at least around FTB and the like. Fortunately people who become so full of themselves as to get sloppy with their reasoning can usually be identified and called out by their alignment with other bad ideologies (MRAs come to mind). I have to agree that there is no great need for a large scale “call to action” against the “dicks”, the internal policing seems to be fairly good already.

    I would never endorse civility at all costs, that is one of the oldest theist gambits there is, but it can be a good thing to force a bit of hubris on yourself and take specific efforts to have empathy for those who disagree with you. Most veteran movement atheists already do this, and the exceptions tend to get push back and grow out of it naturally.

    1. 37.1

      excellent point!!

  38. 38

    Prepare yourself for another feminist witch hunt Matt.

    1. 38.1

      Haha and the prats come out of the woodwork! Yes the “witch hunt” is underway as we speak, for some reason Matt managed to have a perfectly reasonable chat with Lindy on Twitter and they are taking it to email to get more depth…. Wonder why those who are subject to “witch hunts” like Shermer, Thunderf00t etc are not able to elicit the same response? Could it be more them and not the “irrational feminists”? Nah.

      1. Alicia

        Indeed, when Matt and Steve Shives gives a feminist a bit of nudge nudge they know it doesn’t come from a nasty, hate filled place, that it could be legitimate disagreement. Amazing A on the other hand, so often blasts the oragnization, even when some of thier viewpoints are valid (it’s T J Kirks one major blindspot–he really knee jerks when it comes to woman related issues. They could set an innocent woman on fire just for being raped in Oklahaoma and he would freak out if feminist spoke out about it) Tehse kind of male atheists become lightening rods of wrath. I don’t agree in all cases with that particualr move, but I do see the why of it. I suppose its the difference between a good friend who disagrees with you and a known enemy coming after you yet again.

  39. 39

    Why is it, I wonder, that I’ve never seen ANY articles on “How not to be a Christian dick?” :)

    1. 39.1

      I read a blog post like this recently. It was pretty interesting:


    2. 39.2

      THANK YOU!!!! I mean, they are the in the majority here–we are the little guys on the playgound. That is like telling little Timmy to be nice to the bully that beats his ass everyday.

  40. 40
    Heina Dadabhoy (@futilityfiles)

    While I agree with your overall message, I have to take issue with one point, just personally speaking. I’ve experienced a great deal of classism in the movement (mostly in the way of “why help people because BOOTSTRAPS” and “we assume that you can afford this awesome expensive thing. oh you can’t afford it? LIES Y U HOLDING OUT ON US!” but sometimes even worse, verging-on-Social Darwinist crap). I’m sure that a lot of that has to do with my area — Orange County atheists are usually libertarian. Obviously, atheism doesn’t make you a classist asshole, but there are plenty of classist atheists who let the classism leak into their atheist activism and interactions with fellow atheists.

    1. 40.1
      Jasper of Maine

      Sounds like the Objectivist atheists… not too popular around here… but more about their objectivism than anything else.

    2. 40.2

      Wow, really? I haven’t run into that but then, I am a minority within a minority here, so I don’t run into many atheists in my neck of the woods.

    3. 40.3

      I saw a debate with Richard Dawkins and a very well spoken, attractive and intelligent supporter of Creationism. She made the point(which didnt have a fucking thing to do with evolution being true) that Social Darwinism was bad. Dawkins agreed and stressed the point that Darwinism is a horrible thing to use as a social system. He even threw George W. Bush and his ilk(so-called Xtians who love their neighbor) under the bus since the worldview of the Xtian elite in this country is 100% Social Darwinism. Classism is a natural condition for the elite whether they are Xtian or atheist . All thats left is to convince the “unwashed masses” that they deserve their lot in life – and for that they use the lies of religion or Social Darwinism. Its either The Holy Babble or Ayn Rand. Make your choice.

      Warning: If I didnt make my point well its because I Am stoned as fuck.

      1. Alicia

        Heck, you made your point better than some theists have done when they were sober of mind.

  41. 41
    John Osborne

    For me, a very good and instructive article. I had decided that logical argument with a “true believer” was pointless, because religion exists outside of logic, and that religion provides believers with a level of comfort that logic can’t, and often the believer’s life requires comforting. I felt that arguing with a believer was like arguing with a barking dog – you’re just scaring the dog, which doesn’t understand you, making it bark louder.
    I can see from this article that this is wrong. While “true belief” is comforting, so is alcoholism – and there is merit in trying to prevent or cure someone of alcoholism. Like alcoholism, true belief cannot be cured by confrontation. A more supportive, but not enabling, approach is needed. So while argument and confrontation are not useful and may result in the atheist being called a “dick”, clearly trying to free the believer from delusional beliefs has social merit.
    The problem, not addressed by either Lindsey West nor Matt, is: HOW? I think the atheist community needs, if we are going to be activist in “curing” true believers, a strategy which works, and works reliably. In the book “The God Virus”, the author argues that the true believer cannot be “cured”. This leads to an interaction which amounts to “Sorry about your affliction: I’m immune, and you’re incurable.” Not helpful.
    Karl Marx was right: religion is the opiate of the people. Opiates are painkillers, as well as addictive. We need to find a non-addictive painkiller that will substitute for the comfort of religion, or, more effectively, strengthen the victim’s ability to deal with pain, and remove the pain (e.g., poverty, loss, fear, injustice) altogether.

    1. 41.1

      “I felt that arguing with a believer was like arguing with a barking dog – you’re just scaring the dog, which doesn’t understand you, making it bark louder.”

      So gonna steal that.

    2. 41.2

      I was a “true believer” of the highest most-brainwashed order. What finally got me to face the truth was a combination of the failure of my religion to rid me of the “demons” in my mind, the book 1984(which taught me about how your greatest fears can be used against you; read: Hell), just how easy it was to logically destroy the concept of a benevolent gawd who sends his son/himself to die for our sins and then sends you to eternal hell for not “believing” and the ridicule of atheists(mostly comedians) I saw speaking on TV.

      The thing about arguing with Xtians is that what you tell them during the argument does not effect them at that moment. The natural reaction is for them to recoil in horror and vehemently disagree with you. But, and this is a HUGE BUT, in those quiet times when they are all alone and they see horrible tragedies occurring to good Xtian people or children they wonder where their gawd is. When I was an Xtian there was a church(full of the ‘right’ kind of Xtians) that had collapsed and killed a bunch of people who were there doing what gawd had commanded and I wondered “where the fuck is gawd”. Turns out he was just in my head and he had no power over nature or gravity or anything that could have helped those people.

      1. Alicia

        Poignantly put

      2. John Osborne

        I wish Christians would read the bible – ACTUALLY READ IT, cover to cover. If they did, they would know that the god described is not loving, supportive, forgiving. The god invented by the Israelites some 3000 years ago is capricious, vengeful, arbitrary – in fact, all the things Richard Dawkins claims in “The God Delusion”. That God would let a church collapse on his faithful would be no surprise to anyone who has read, for example, Kings or Chronicles or Job.

        Religion is how ancient (and, sadly, modern…) people dealt with the random bad things that happen – why good people experience bad things. Our minds want to make “sense” of the world, to have justice – and unfortunately the world does not want to comply – accidents, illness, suffering, death come to us all. In such a world, we need comfort and support, and many turn to belief in the supernatural. The supernatural provides someone to blame: “acts of God”, as insurance policies state, and so a sense of justice, I guess.

        The real answer, I’ve come to believe, is to provide that comfort and support in a non-religious way, to those who need it – logic is necessary, but not sufficient. What is really needed is compassion without superstition, understanding of the world and acceptance that not all things are knowable, let alone just.

        1. Alicia

          precisley but I think that is just unaccaptable to some

  42. 42

    I agree with you Matt about “movement Atheists” generally are a community of nice, welcoming freethinkers. But there are a lot of dickish Atheists and they hang out on the internet where anonymous commenting is an option and moderation is rare. Most notably, the Atheism subreddit on reddit.com (recent changes in moderation have improved the subreddit) and certain YouTube channels.

    Another thing is that internet Atheists tend to be dickish to theists only when talking to other Atheists in their community. I would be willing to bet it is much more rare to see Atheists go to say, a Christian discussion and bad mouth the Christians there, than to see Christians go into an Atheist discussion and attack the Atheists.

    1. 42.1

      You are right and yes, I have been on the recieving end of jerk off Atheists on Youtube (not so much on reddit and other forums as I don’t hang out there). I even made the mistake of friending a Facebook atheist only to find him to be a wretched, obnoxious human being. I quickly unfriended said atheist….Makes me refrain from commenitng in such places, although I still do so from time to time.

    2. 42.2

      Ha! This comment made me think of Charles. Mr. “I am such a better atheist than you. I’m on a different level of atheism.” Good times.

      1. Alicia

        I recall him–wasn’t he really just a Xtian troll?

        1. Raymond

          You know, I don’t know whatever his story ended up being. I just remember laughing hysterically when he pronounced how he was at some advanced “level” of atheism. I still chuckle just thinking of it.

  43. 43

    “Or people who continually make bad decisions because the decision-making parts of their brain are polluted with gears”

    That metaphor is a little bit clunky. (Sorry, sorry. I couldn’t help the pun.)

  44. 44

    That said, there are a few nice verses (some even written by a non-believer)

    I’ve never heard that before. Which and who are you talking about in particular?

  45. 45

    “so many people insist on being such condescending dicks in the name of atheism. “Who? Where? Examples please.

    Allow me to present a few examples that appear to have escaped your notice.
    Example 1:

    helping to free people from delusions that harm us all

    Using the word ‘delusion’ to describe religious beliefs is dickish. It has connotations of crazy. The word ‘illusion’ would be a better choice as it lacks those connotations but still expresses your belief that god is not real. It’s also more accurate IMO. Nobody accuses someone who sees rainbows as being delusional.

    Describing atheist evangelism as ‘helping to free people’ is very comparable to Christians claiming that belief in God will set you free. It’s condescending in both cases

    BTW, I find the claim that religious beliefs harm us all to be an unsupported claim of your own. Some religious beliefs harm some people, yes. The idea that all religious beliefs are harmful or that religious beliefs are harmful to all are exaggerations not supported by evidence.

    Example 2:

    Or people who continually make bad decisions because the decision-making parts of their brain are polluted with gears the make the irrational appear rational…and those gears can’t tell the difference between ‘god helped me feel whole’ and ‘god wants me to play these numbers in the lottery’ and ‘god will help my child heal from this disease without the need for doctors’.

    This is a dickish and condescending description of religious believers.

    Example 3:

    Meanwhile, is it wrong to try to help those people escape to reality?

    It is dickish and condescending to assume that religious believers are not living in reality. It’s dickish and condescending to assume that they need help to escape.

    Example 4:

    those of us who are working to protect religious freedom and oppose religious privilege while helping to free people from delusions that harm us all.

    I hope these examples help you understand what many people mean when they complain about atheists being condescending dicks in the name of atheism.

    And then you’ll have to learn to do it productively – even if some people might think you’re a bit of a dick.

    I think this is often true for anyone working for any cause. It may well be impossible to change cultural attitudes on anything without pissing some people off. The question is, are dickish and condescending remarks like my examples above productive in achieving the change you want to see in society?

    1. 45.1
      Rodrigo Sousa

      I see your favorite phrase is “dickish and condescending”. Maybe you should try making better points than just saying that over and over.

      1. Beth

        That was the phrase Mr. Dillahunty used in expressing his disbelief that it was a common occurrence. I thought it might be helpful to point out places in his own writing where he was contributing to such a perception as I thought it possible he was unaware that he was doing that. See response 45.2 as another example of behavior that is perceived that way by many.

        1. jacobfromlost

          “See response 45.2 as another example of behavior that is perceived that way by many.”

          It’s not behavior. It happens to be my actual view.

          1. Beth

            You say that as if one description invalidates the other. The act of writing it down and posting it to the internet is a behavior. The phrasing you have chosen to communicate your view is well, behavior of the type I described.

          2. jacobfromlost


            The phrasing I have chosen is the phrasing that BEST illustrates my view. Why would I choose phrasing that least illustrates my view?

            Don’t you think it is a bit condescending to say, “See response 45.2 as another example of behavior that is perceived that way by many,” or insinuating that explaining my view is a “behavior” that is inappropriate to the discussion.

            Describing a clearly explained rebuttal of your claim as a “behavior” is condescending. I’ll not mention the d-word.

    2. 45.2

      I don’t find any of those examples to be dickish or condescending, unless you think that religious beliefs actually have merit (or that we are supposed to pretend they do while pointing out that they don’t).

      If you swap out “religious beliefs” with “conspiracy theories”, or any number of other baseless and elaborate myths, it’s really hard to see how pointing out how they are baseless is dickish (although very easy to see how those who cling to them will see that as dickish no matter what).

      And as an aside, “delusion” is a much better word that “illusion” in this context. “Illusion” has the connotation of magic tricks, or mistaken perceptions. That’s not what we’re talking about here. Delusions are false beliefs fueled by one’s personal desire for them to be true DESPITE ALL THE EVIDENCE. That is exactly what we are talking about. It certainly has some connotation of “crazy”, but that’s because it is crazy to insist on believing something that cuts against all evidence. This doesn’t mean such a person is “crazy” in every aspect of their lives, but only in the aspect in which they are delusional. And ANYONE can be delusional about any number of things. (And a hallmark of delusion beliefs is being instantly insulted and defensive when one points out the delusion. I wouldn’t dream of thinking of someone as “dickish” or “condescending” if they were to tell me that the earth is not really round, but flat, because the bible says so. I would just think they are wrong.)

      1. Beth

        That you don’t find those examples to be dickish or condescending is why I indicated them as examples that other people may interpret that way. When people like Matt ask why atheists have that stereotype and want some examples to illustrate it, I suspect it’s because they don’t perceive the examples I’ve given as coming across that way to others. They do.

        Now, if you or Matt don’t mind or even want your writing to be perceived that way, that’s fine. But it’s one thing to be aware of that perception and decide it’s worth it to make your point. It’s another to be ignorant of it.

        Telling someone that they in wrong in perceiving atheist writings that way isn’t going change that perception. In fact, it tends to reinforce the perception of atheists as condescending. It’s sort of like telling women not to worry their pretty little heads about the inherent sexism implied by commonly used expressions.

        1. Alicia

          If someone calls me niggah and I respond negatively, am I being dickish. Or if I write paper explaining, in not too pleasant terms, how stupid and ignorant that is–am I being dickish then? The point is, when a certain group indulges in negative behavior like, I dunno, trying to create laws around a belief system that not everyone shares in an attempt to make others kow tow to that religion THEY are the ones being dicks. And if those folks cry foul and try to say my behavior is somehow dickish, that is on them. Just know that many racist feel that they should be able to use racial slurs with impunity and claim that I am the intolerant one when I say that just shouldn’t be the case. Should I care what such people think?

          1. Beth

            Q1. I don’t know. Depends on your response. That it is negative is not sufficient to be dickish.

            Q2. Most likely. Hard to craft a response of that nature that isn’t. If that is the message you want to communicate and you don’t care or even want to be perceived as dickish, that’s your choice.

            Q3. IMO No. But why should you care what I think?

          2. Alicia

            Sometimes, one has to put up one’s dukes and fight. To the person being confronted, you will seem like a douche even if they were the one who instigated that aggression. I do not go out of my way to be a bitch–mah real life buds know I am the kind of gal to give my last dollar to a person in need, but I also know that if you don’t draw a line in the sand somewhere, folks will take advantage and walk all over you. Been there, done that. Not doing it again. When you stand up and refuse to be taken advantage of, the people who desire to harm you or use you will claim you are a bitch. How far do you have to accomodate the entire world just so you won’t be called names?

            We are debating here, so it ‘s not so much that I care what you think, I just find it curious that someone would assume we should all just put out heads in the sand and allow ourselves to be ass fucked sans vasaline in an effort to appear “nice”.

            To quote a recent film I just saw, “If someone is going to get fucked, I’m the one going to be doing the fucking.”

          3. Beth

            @ Alicia:

            How far do you have to accomodate the entire world just so you won’t be called names?

            It doesn’t matter who you are or how you behave, you can expect to be called names by those who don’t like who you are or how you behave. If you decide that “I’m the one going to be doing the fucking.” then you can expect to be called a dick.

            What matters is what you think of yourself. If you feel your choices are limited to being a dick or a doormat and you prefer to be a dick, that’s your choice.

            The reason I pointed out the examples above was not to say that atheists shouldn’t ever be dicks, but to inform people who do not agree with that common perception of atheists why it is that atheists have that reputation. In particular, because Matt felt that it wasn’t accurate, I wanted to help him realize how he and others are contributing to that perception apparently without realizing it.

            It is just as condescending and dickish to write with an underlying assumption that all religious believers are delusional idiots who can’t be relied on to differentiate between reality and fantasy as it is for theists to write as though it were a given fact that all atheists are immoral and untrustworthy or that all homosexuals are depraved degenerates. While such theists are properly called out by atheists, many of those same atheists don’t seem to understand why others perceive their attitudes/writings as c & d. While I doubt my poor attempt at explaining it has helped much, I have some hope that the examples I’ve given may aid those who do not want to unknowingly contribute to that atheist stereotype.

    3. 45.3

      I find the claim that religious beliefs harm us all to be an unsupported claim of your own

      Go read “God Is Not Great”

      It is dickish and condescending to assume that religious believers are not living in reality.

      If an adult believes in Santa Claus, do you think they’re living in reality? If so, why? If not, why does it change when you replace “Santa Claus” with any other fictional being, say, for example, “God”?

      Every single one of your examples is just giving deference to religion. That’s it. It deserves no deference.

      1. Alicia

        None at all–well said.

      2. Intercaust

        God Is Not Great should be required reading for atheists.

    4. 45.4
      Jacob Schmidt


      Using the word ‘delusion’ to describe religious beliefs is dickish. It has connotations of crazy.

      The fact that you think “mentally ill” is an inherently bad thing is telling. The reason “illusion” is incorrect is because it isn’t passive. A delusion is belief held contrary to evidence; an illusion is at least minimally evidenced.

      I find the claim that religious beliefs harm us all to be an unsupported claim of your own. Some religious beliefs harm some people, yes. The idea that all religious beliefs are harmful or that religious beliefs are harmful to all are exaggerations not supported by evidence.

      Point to a religion that hasn’t been used to enable atrocities. Even if you could (with the exception of very minor ones, you can’t; no, not even Buddhism or Taoism), at best religion can be said to be like driving a car with no seat belt. Sure, you might not get hurt, but it’s safer to employ rationalism (as well as your seat belt).

      This is a dickish and condescending description of religious believers.

      This was a description of a specific set of religious people. you realize it was part of list of different types, including ex-believers, right? And what, exactly, is condescending about it? The religious who pray to their god in lieu of medicine are most often proud to do so. It is no source of shame for them.

      It is dickish and condescending to assume that religious believers are not living in reality.[1] It’s dickish and condescending to assume that they need help to escape.[2]

      1) They aren’t, as long as you take the phrase figuratively. They are wrong; they maintain a delusion; in at least one aspect of their lives, they do not recognize reality for what it is.
      2) Who says they need it? Some will, some won’t. And in case you haven’t noticed, no one is forcing help. Most (all?) atheist campaigns are passive. Billboards, blogs, podcasts, local tv shows, etc.

      I hope these examples help you understand what many people mean when they complain about atheists being condescending dicks in the name of atheism.

      That’s the bloody problem, isn’t it? Accurately describing the issue constitutes “being a dick.”* In case you haven’t noticed, the religious right have been attacking religious freedom for centuries. Literally. Look into how long it took for religious tests for holding office to start propping up in the US.

      What’s amusing is that this bit is absolutely condescending. We know why religious people and the general population think we’re mean. Pretending we don’t so that you can talk down to us in a comment complaining about atheists talking down to others is just cute.

      The question is, are dickish and condescending remarks like my examples above productive in achieving the change you want to see in society?

      You’re writing to someone who was convinced by them, at least in part. Clearly the answer is yes.

      *I second the avoidance of gendered slurs. Yeah, I know, men aren’t an oppressed class. It’s bad form regardless.

    5. 45.5


      Using the word ‘delusion’ to describe religious beliefs is dickish. It has connotations of crazy. The word ‘illusion’ would be a better choice as it lacks those connotations but still expresses your belief that god is not real. It’s also more accurate IMO. Nobody accuses someone who sees rainbows as being delusional.

      You’re just completely wrong.

      “Illusion” in this context means “optical illusion”. Insofaras one might think that a rainbow is a real material physical solid object, they would be wrong. It might look like the rainbow is a solid object in the sky, but it’s not, and that’s why we might call it an “optical illusion”. However, there is still a real, objectively verifiable, objectively verified, sensory experience going on here to which all reasonable observers will agree. The sensory experience of “seeing a rainbow” is not a mere artifact of the mind, but is the result of real light incident on the eyes of the observer. It would be unreasonable to say that you do not have the sensory experience of “seeing a rainbow” when in the proper situation where a rainbow is visible. In fact, in a environment where reasonable people have the sensory experience of “seeing a rainbow”, it would be delusional or “crazy” if someone denied that they were having the same sensory experience.

      Religious beliefs generally are unsubstantiated by known evidence, or contradictory to known evidence. That is the textbook definition of a delusional belief. Thus it is true that religious people are delusional. This is an objectively true, objectively verifiable, and objectively verified statement of reality.

      Your analogy simply lacks all merit.

      PS: The difference between “crazy” and “delusional” has some nuance.

      It is true that if we lived in a different world where our religions were not there, if there was some guy who believed any of the dogma of our world’s religious, that guy would have to be crazy to do so. Paraphrasing Sam Harris: If you think that saying a certain prayer in Greek over your breakfast cereal would turn it into the blood and body of Julius Caesar, then you’re crazy. However, if you believe that a certain Latin prayer can turn a cracker into the body of Jesus, then you’re not crazy. You’re just a Catholic.

      Notice how the two beliefs are just as detached from material reality. Excluding eye witness testimony, both are just as insane – excluding eye witness testimony.

      However, eye witness testimony is still evidence, as bad as that kind of evidence is. The Jesus-cracker guy has bad reasoning. He still trusts his peers and pastor way more than he should. However, it requires a whole stronger kind of crazy to hold to those beliefs without peer support and further in face of peer ridicule. The Julius-cereal guy clearly has a much larger break with reality, and that’s why we call him crazy and delusional, and why we merely call the Jesus-cracker guy delusional.

      1. jacobfromlost

        I second the idea that “delusion” is a better word than “illusion”.

        There is a main idea in psychological counseling called “cognitive restructuring” that focuses on using rationality to help people recognize their irrational beliefs (about themselves, the world, other people, etc, which lead directly to dysfunctional behaviors).

        “Cognitive restructuring” isn’t “brainwashing” as it relies directly on reason and evidence. Look at what you believed would happen when you did ABC. What really happened? Was it rational to believe what you believed? Probably not as the outcome was not what you expected. What kind of behaviors might lead to more functional outcomes? Let’s try those behaviors and see what the results are. (With the goal to eliminate the irrational beliefs that cause dysfunctional behaviors and replace them with rational beliefs that lead to functional behaviors in reality. Obviously there is much more to this than what I just said, but you get the idea.)

    6. 45.6

      I really haven’t seen this mentioned, but don’t you think that people can be jerks about anything they feel passionate about. People who are passionate about cars will insist, often like a jerk, that their idea about what makes a great car is the only valid view. People who are passionate about food will insist, often like a jerk, that certain flavors are “better” or “classier” or other nonsense. People who are passionate about Star Trek will insist, often like a jerk, that Spock was smarter than Kirk, or vice-versa. And this goes on and on for any passion.

      The problem isn’t atheists or theists or deists, it’s a human tendency to align yourself with your passions and feel personally threatened when there is a perceived attack on the subject of your passion. The reason it tends to happen more in youth is simply because youth have not yet formed the filters built by years of defending their views amidst critics. Though I must say that some people never develop these filters, even into old age.

      1. Alicia

        We all have triggers, heck I know I do and when my passions are stirred look out, but it is the very folks who stir up a hornets nest, knowing it may raise other folks danders, who try to cry foul when they get stung.

      2. jacobfromlost

        There is something to that–ie, defending what you feel passionately about.

        But I think another aspect of it is that many (a few? some? most?) believers DEEP DEEP DOWN suspect that what they believe may not be true. And since so much of the meaning of their lives hinges (in their minds/hearts) directly on this belief, they get scared and offended immediately when someone points out very good reasons why its not true.

        The better the argument against their belief, or the harder the evidence…the more offended they will get, and the more they will accuse you of “arrogance” or “condescension” or “dickishness”.

        It’s almost as if their mother is on trial for murder, and you are the prosecutor, and you point out the bloody ax found in her hand, the video tape of her slaughtering the victim, and her name written in blood by the victim moments before they perished.

        And they tell you, “You’re so condescending and dickish [because how dare you force me to see some harsh truth that I just don't want to know and is very painful for me to contemplate]“.

        Of course, outside viewers will NOT think this is condescending nor dickish because it isn’t their mother–they’ll just think your mother is a horrible danger to society and guilty of murder.

        And oh-so-very-rare would the view be that the prosecutor should just not point out the bloody ax, the video tape, or the bloody name because that would be condescending and dickish to her children who just can’t believe she is guilty. How could that possibly work in convincing them, this view would say, because you are just pushing the children more to believe that their mother is a saint?

        So you apparently need to NICELY say that she had a bloody ax, NICELY play the video tape of her slaughtering the victim, and NICELY point out that the victim wrote her name in blood moments before death. Then maybe suggest that she was framed, the video tape might have been faked by evil doers, and the victim never really liked her anyway so probably lied in her bloody writing.

        And if you do all this nicely, the children will then realize their mother is guilty of murder?

        1. Alicia

          Be nice is just another way to say “be quiet”….

      3. Beth

        Yes, absolutely. People can be dickish about anything. They don’t even have to be passionate it about it although I think that passion may correlate with people being unaware of how their behavior is perceived by others.

  46. 46

    Good article Matt, thank you for speaking so eloquently on my behalf. You have my 100% support for your top notch public outreach work, which is desperately important.

    It doesn’t matter how many people think atheists are dicks simply for existing, because they are factually wrong, and we are just unwelcome messengers. And for that I see no need to be overly surprised or upset, or indeed give much of a damn what they think of us. It is sufficient that we do honestly try to be excellent, not dicks, and that to the greatest extent we succeed, regardless of perception. We will make enemies here, and will do an honest best to minimize their numbers.

  47. 47

    “Atheism—especially in its incarnation as a movement—can so easily transform into smug hostility and dog-whistle classism.” (Lindy West)

    A trap which she then walks right into, as she counsels atheist activists to keep forthright and unapologetic secularism and skepticism among the Science Fair crowd and leave those we regard as pity objects – the wounded, the broken, the credulous and uneducated – to their own devices. Hey, they “need” mysticism and irrationality. It makes them feel good.

    After all, what’s the harm?

  48. 48

    I think her next attempt at literary excellence should be titled.

    How to be a feminist and not be a cunt about it.

    That would seem to be an appropriate follow up.

    1. 48.1

      Love it! Well played.

    2. 48.2

      I wonder how she would react to some guy telling her to shut her trap and go fix her a sammich? I bet she would be a dick about it. I know I would.

  49. 49


    You ask over and again for examples.

    I assume you neither have TV or electronic communication of any kind and this post was built on a stone tablet.

    Google search 2nd result is exactly the sentence you ‘challenge’.

    The religion of atheism is just that. If you don’t believe or do believe who cares. It is really unimportant.

    If you are a comedian, Stephen Fry for example, you don’t need to point out there is no God. You choose to do so.

    Why do it? Well because you are trying to convert people to your religious belief of atheism . The overwhelming unshakable belief that there is no God, even without proof is the very definition of faith.

    But if you really don’t believe it and you really want people to understand there is no God. You should start in Mosques. Islam is a massive and fast growing fake religion perpetrating crimes and blah blah.

    Or do you not because some nut job will cut your head off?

    We could of course do something more drastic and just leave each other alone.
    By alone I mean this. If you want an abortion and it is a right to choose. Then foot the bill yourself. Dont take my tax dollars for it. If you want to go to a christian school do it. Dont take my tax dollars for it. If you want to destroy two towers and kill 2500+ people. Go for it, just dont use my tax dollars as you study to smash into the buildings. If you want police, hire them. Stop taking my money to fund the mob. In fact stop, just stop 99.9% of our laws are built to take from us not to give us. You want to be strip searched at the Airport fine, but I dont care. My faith in no God will protect me from the ills of the world, because I partially aborted the problem at 6 months by stabbing it in the head.

    Dont worry, every one should do it at least once, cause well if you are not an atheist then you are wasting your time.

    Overall take your time, enjoy your lack of God. however if you really want the world to be a better place we should stop worshiping politicians, lobbyists and police. These seem to be the 3 most detrimental things to our society.

    1. 49.1

      My response to the bull shit idea that we are trying to convert others is this. I don’t go around telling folks I am an atheist, in fact, many long time friends are just finding out. Yet, when I run into Christian who happen to find out for some reason, as in a recent case when I was asked my religious affiliation by a doctor, I am preached at. I am not pushing shit on anyone–CHRISTIANS are pushing shit one me. What you are seeing online is the frustration of dealing with THE MAJORITY religion trying to bully around folks who don’t think like them via the LAW. Guess what–the LAW wasn’t designed to try to push around others who don’t think like you and make them kow tow to your belief systems. Keep your laws out of folks bedrooms. Get your hands out of chicks pants. STOP making laws that tell others what they can do with their own bodies. In other words, we’ll stop taking about god and religion and being “quote, unquote” DICKS the second your side stops beings asshole and shuts the hell up!

      And if you think Christian can’t be assholes then I suppose you think some Christian telling me to “Shut up you nigger cunt” was the very epitome of Christian love? NOT an isolated incident, in fact, most racial slurs I encounter come from religious folks, so yeah, peddle that privileged, Christian victimization crap elsewhere.

    2. 49.2

      You should start in Mosques. Islam is a massive and fast growing fake religion perpetrating crimes and blah blah.

      That isn’t growing particularly fast here in Texas. Why shouldn’t I concentrate close to home?

    3. 49.3

      So according to you, if I went to my friend and tried to get them to stop doing heroin, that’s a religion. I’m clearly trying to get them to convert from their way of thinking “heroin is good” to my way “heroin is harmful.” It’s like you are saying that “not playing football” is a sport. I really wish that people would think about what they are saying before they say it.

      On your second point, “Why don’t we focus on the ‘fake’ muslim religion?” There are so many things wrong with this, it makes my head hurt. First, I find it ironic that you call atheism a religion and muslim not. The discontinuity in your thought process is astounding.

      Second, I’m gonna tell you two things, tell me which you are most likely to focus on. 1)There is a person in your house stealing everything you own, or 2)there is a tornado in Oklahoma. The tornado is bad, probably much worse than you getting robbed. But I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t focus solely on their home robbery first.

      Right here in the U.S.A. christians are trying to force their dogma into our schools, our government, and even our homes. What makes you think that we would ignore that and focus our attention 10000 miles away from home?

      Finally, you have the right to whatever wild flights of fantasy you want. I have several friends who are christian, and we talk about it civilly all the time. You have the right to believe what you will right up to the point where it infringes on any life but your own. There is real harm in the christian beliefs. Harm that is becoming more pronounced the more influence the christian right gains in government. Now that your belief system has begun to infringe on my life, I now have the right to fight its influence. Be wary, this fight just may lead to the destruction of your entire belief system.

      1. Alicia

        I knew one of my atheistic brothahs would back it up RIGHTGEOUSLY –thank and YOU!

    4. 49.4

      “But if you really don’t believe it and you really want people to understand there is no God. You should start in Mosques. Islam is a massive and fast growing fake religion perpetrating crimes and blah blah.

      Or do you not because some nut job will cut your head off?”

      I dont worry about losing my head to some Islamic wack job because there arent any around me. They have no power here. What worries me are the Xtians who are blinded by their faith to climate change, science, the suffering of others and the harm Xtianity causes right here where I live. They are the ones with the power here.

      So you want us to ignore the crimes of Xtianity and go after the “fake religion” Islam. Thats called “deflection”. Its a form of “denial”. Xtians good, Muslims bad. Both religions are based on stories written by flawed human beings whose ideas may have been helpful in their time(though I doubt it) but are very harmful in the modern world. Things like genocide, slavery, the subjugation of women(which are Bible and Koran approved) can cause way more damage with the tools that modern tech has given us. 2000 years ago if gawd told me to slay the infidels for their non-belief I could only kill as many as I could stab a sword through. Now, if you are a Pakistani radical in charge of their nuclear arsenal or a Xtian Air Force officer who works in a nuclear missile silo you have the ability to kill thousands. Faith is the greatest danger to modern civilization. There are so many examples I can only scratch the surface.

      1. Alicia

        It is a smoke and mirrors game–get us to be afriad of OTHER whilst they come in and strip non-believers, gays, and women of their rights.

      2. DonnaFaye

        Climate change is the area where my patience with magical thinking of any kind is wearing very thin. It’s bad enough there are so many fundies in the general population and in positions of power who are openly disdainful of the science but there are also a lot of liberal believers who, while they do take it seriously and support action, don’t see the urgency. Like their right wing counterparts, they have the “faith” that “something” will take care of everything.

    5. 49.5

      People call atheism a religion simply to goad us. The “atheism is a religion” people do not support atheists enjoying the same privileges religious people get: tax exemptions, automatic respect and deference, ability to proselytize., etc. It’s disingenuous bullshit.

      1. Raymond

        I think you are correct most of the time. It just so happens that, while arguing with a theist, I was directed to this web site:


        From what I can tell, the organization is founded to provide secular “ministers” to do weddings and whatnot. I haven’t finished exploring the reasons for it being a church, but it is an unfortunate name for atheists everywhere.

        1. DonnaFaye

          That looks like Universal Life Church, which was where my bf and I got our ordinations so we can perform services. I agree it’s an unfortunate name that provides fodder for theists to goad us with the religion label.

        2. Alicia

          I think that is awesome–good go!

      2. Alicia

        Oh, I am never kind to any idiot who pulls that easy to destroy card–guess that makes me a “cunt?”

  50. 50

    > Who? Where? Examples please. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are atheists dicks – but “so many”? I think you need to define terms and cite some actual examples.

    Have you been to reddit.com/r/atheism?
    Since your first point is now wrong, no reason to read the rest of what you’re saying.

    1. 50.1

      If you think the atheists on reddit are representative of the whole, you have a lot to learn. Also, refusing to read an entire article because you disagree with a single point is . . . childish. Read the whole article. Meet some IRL atheists. Then come back and give us your opinion. At least then it might be constructive.

    2. 50.2

      The point he is making is don’t make generalized statements without supporting it with evidence. In other words, a good start in the Jezebel article would have been to link to reddit comments….so what about providing proof for a claim is so wrong that you would not want to read a person’s entire argument?

  51. 51

    I’ve seen many videos pop up on YT like this where atheists are admonishing the “atheist movement” for similar reasons. It’s hard to believe they ARE atheists in some cases due to their generalized judgments and, often times, hypocritical accusations that are given without specific examples. They’re easily mistaken for fundy theists. Regardless of that, I hate to see us all runnin around makin the same argument that theists make about how not all (insert religion here) are the same or he/she is not a real (Christian, Muslim etc.) and that we can’t clump them all together since our response to that is usually…even if that’s true you’re still believing in and therefore upholding something that can cause toxic behavior that includes immoral teachings whether you ignore those immoral parts or not. Gladly, atheists have no doctrine full of immoral bs in which theists could likewise point to as a means to make the same point we do. But fair is fair…if many atheists act like dicks then people will point that out and judge atheism as something negative albeit a knee jerk reaction. Our response should be very loud to atheists who are disrespectful altho I’ve always thought we WERE pretty loud about that. It’s become apparent, however, that what one atheist views as disrespectful or dickish another may view as necessary roughness. As with any thing else, if you’re gonna make a claim…be prepared to support it.

    1. 51.1

      Are they not getting that it is religion in general that is the pain in the ass of non believers and that even the so called good ones (who in majorrity believe that we deserve to roast in hell for not playing on their team) enable a church that creates laws that make it easy for a doctor to not give a 14-year-old rape victim emergency contraception because it was against her beliefs. This happened recently and I hope, if that little girl gets pregnant, that she comes back to that hospital and tells that doctor to adopt her baby since she forced her to have it. Yeah, I bet that doctor is one of the good ones too. Atheist like this are ENABLING the bullshit that religion creates. They are as bad as women who claim to be anti feminist but don’t even know what feminism is. They say things like “Isn’t it hypocritical to want equal rights but still want men to open doors and pay for dinners?” Uhm. Newsflash. REAL FEMINISTS don’t want those things. They don’t want men opening doors or paying for dinners–they pay for their own shit. They don’t even believe in the concept of alimony or any of that stuff. All the men who hate that crap need to marry feminsists. Besides, what does equal rights have to do with being nice to one another anyway. Women simply want the right to make choices about their own lives to be treated as an equal human being. This doesn’t mean we do away with civility and common courtesies, hell I open doors for men, have gone Dutch on a date or even paid for the meal on more than one occasion throughout my whole life. That shit has nothing to do with equality, so stop it, damn. *Okay, rant over but I now what my next post is gonna be about.*

    2. 51.2

      Yeah, they remind me of “lifelong Democrats” who call into Washington Journal on CSPAN to spout right wing talking points.

  52. 52
    Robert White

    The delusion hypothesis, e.g. the “But first, you’ll have to stop thinking that they ‘need’ those delusions…” referenced in your closing paragraph is, in my opinion, incorrect. It’s not even the right place to begin the discussion, let alone bing the right place to end it. The precondition of those delusions is set. It exists. It is a cultural fact reaching back uncertain distances into the past.

    I prefer to think of the entire episodes-of-faith nature of our history as the kindergarten rules. (yes, that sounds superior, but please hear me out). When we are young we are given rules that, when we are older, are directly contravened. “Don’t touch the stove!” becomes “this is how to cook.”; “don’t bang on the piano” becomes music lessons.

    If you think back to our genesis, our cultural infancy and early childhood, you will find a time when we needed rules like “thou shalt not murder” even as we fought off foreign tribes with lethal violence. It drew, with overwhelming cultural force, a distinction between killing ones neighbor and killing someone who wanted your land, or the genocide of your kin.

    So too, “the god(s) did it”, was a valid cultural place-holder for the question(s) of “why” while we learned to deal with the more intimate questions of “what really happened”. That is, the theocracy principles let us develop the shape and structure of inquiry. This is identical to the way that human development on the individual basis – e.g. each child, while growing – uses various games to develop game-theory and then the ability to model systems in their mind.

    So I believe that we _did_ need theocracy as a culture, but that we are now culturally mature enough that we don’t need it going forward. We are making the transition from the simple absolute, dictatorial rules implicit in childhood, to the fully rational rules of the theoretical adult. And as is the case of real life, many people don’t want to leave the simplicity of childhood. So to many people are unready or unwilling to move beyond the simplicity of theocracy.

  53. 53

    Great article. Agree 100%.

  54. 54

    as a non believer in any kind of deity or afterlife, i completely avoid applying the term “atheist” to myself for the precise reason that more often than not you guys present yourselves as being a bunch of dicks. i have had muslims, christians and jews be tolerant, compassionate and generous towards me in the full knowledge that i don’t share their beliefs. i guess my main question to the atheist movement would be; in the all the years that you’ve been arguing with these people, has a single one of them ever changed their minds? if not, perhaps it might time to try a different approach.

    1. 54.1
      Martin Wagner

      Care to give any examples of this dickishness you see, and how would said examples compare to your own comment? And yes, The Atheist Experience gets emails from viewers every week thanking us for helping them abandon theism.

      Goody gumdrops that you’ve met all these tolerant believers. So have we…and yet we’ve also met the ones who are a bunch of dicks! Looks like, out in the real world, no one group can claim a monopoly on any one attitude.

    2. 54.2
      Lord Narf

      i guess my main question to the atheist movement would be; in the all the years that you’ve been arguing with these people, has a single one of them ever changed their minds? if not, perhaps it might time to try a different approach.

      Yes! There have been a crap-load of people who have realized how insane their stance is, after enough exposure to the science and tha anti-religious arguments. David Smalley was talking about one guy who was spewing creationist crap all over his Facebook page, who came out to him as an atheist.

      “So, you were trolling me all that time?”
      “Sadly, no.”

      … or something to that effect.

      Hell, Leo Behe went into The God Delusion with the intention of defeating the “leader of the atheist movement” by refuting his most popular book. It shook him, and shortly after, he was an atheist. The aggressive stance of the New Atheist movement is definitely having an impact and is freeing minds.

    3. 54.3

      Wow–you’ve met tolerant theists? Well point them out to me. I live in the bible thumpin’ south and I rarely bump into that variety….

      1. Lord Narf

        New England is a bit better that way. You don’t get many fundies in Chicago, either. Most of the Catholics in my family are unobservant, because they’re disgusted with their cardinal.

  55. 55
    William Dasilva

    it took an atheist celeb being a dick to me on myspace for the message to finally get through my head. after that I started questioning things and now here I am…. an Atheist and a lover of science. Religion doesn’t deserve a free ride or to be dealt with kid gloves. you have to pound the message into their head. and yes you will come off as an asshole. but it worked for me.

    1. 55.1

      And of course it is a case by case. Some folks you can talk to reasonable–others? Well..yah know. Thanks for this comment though–I think some people forget that it takes a multi-prong approach to change minds.

  56. 56

    I found this prime example of dick-ish attitude. Be warned, staggering hypocrisy contained within…


  1. 57
    Colin's Folly

    [...] Don’t be a Dick – new from Jezebel! » The Atheist Experience. [...]

  2. 58
    Matt Dillahunty’s Excellent Response to ‘How to Be an Atheist Without Being a Dick About It’

    [...] Matt Dillahunty has done an excellent job of breaking the article down and responding to her (lack of) points. [...]

  3. 59
    Matt Dillahunty drops the hammer on Lindy West.

    [...] an article in Jezebel titled How to Be an Atheist Without Being a Dick About It.  Matt Dillahunty went through it with a scalpel, opening with the [...]

  4. 60
    Atheists being “dicks” | Plastic Exploding

    [...] Lindy West at Jezebel recently posted a piece called “How To Be an Atheist Without Being a Dick About It.”  Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Community of Austin posts this reply. [...]

  5. 61
    Conservative Free Thinkers

    […] (read more) […]

  6. 62
    The argument from solace | Plastic Exploding

    […] time ago I linked to an article on Jezebel about atheism and dickery, and Matt Dillahunty’s response to it. One of the issues that article brought up was the issue of the solace many people derive from […]

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