Bill Donohue and the Catholic League: You Will Be Assimilated… Er, Converted


“As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who ‘believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.'”

That’s Bill Donohue, of Catholic League fame. The “they” in question are atheists. And the special treat for which not being despised is a “bonus” is, of course, converting to Christianity.

Chances are you’ve heard about the Catholic League’s new “Adopt an Atheist” program, in which Christians are being encouraged to contact the local American Atheists affiliate and find an atheist to convert — or, as Donohue put it, help to “uncover their inner self” and “understand that they were Christian all along.” The story has been all over the atheosphere. Greg Laden at The X Blog thinks atheists should return the favor and adopt Christians, except not in a douchy way; Digital Cuttlefish is baffled at the idea that someone could be a Christian and somehow not know it; Bentley Owen at Friendly Atheist points out some of the most glaring flaws in Donohue’s thinking and understanding about atheists; JT Eberhard at What Would JT Do? is going ballistic — and is offering himself up for adoption, and begging the Catholic League to bring it on.

So here’s the thing that’s jumping out at me about this.

“As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who ‘believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.'”

What’s jumping out at me is the “looked upon” part.

Donohue is freely acknowledging here that atheists are seen as lesser human beings. He’s not saying that atheists actually do “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.” He’s saying that we’re looked upon that way. He’s freely acknowledging that life as an atheist can be hard; that we routinely get treated as cynical, cowardly, and worthless.

And his response to this is not that we should stand up against this sort of bigotry — but that we should give in to it, and assimilate.

How messed-up is that? What would he say to, say, a Jew who was looked on as someone who believes in nothing, stands for nothing, and is good for nothing? Would he tell them that the answer to anti-Semitism was to convert to Christianity? Would he tell an immigrant who was seen as worthless because of their heritage that they should deny it?

And if not — then how is it a remotely acceptable thing to say to atheists? How is it appropriate to tell atheists that we should convert to Christianity because, in addition to getting to “celebrate Christmas like the rest of us,” we get to be treated as having meaning, integrity, and value to our lives?

Anti-atheist bigotry is no joke. Atheists get denied custody of their children explicitly on the basis of their atheism. Atheist kids in public high schools trying to organize clubs routinely get stonewalled. Atheist veterans got booed in a Memorial Day parade. Atheist teenagers get threats of brutal violence and death for asking their school to obey the law and not proselytize about religion to students. Polls consistently put atheists at the bottom of lists of who people would vote for or trust. Towns get hysterical about atheists playing “Jingle Bells” on vuvuzelas in a Christmas parade. It’s no joke. (Okay, the thing about the vuvuzelas is sort of funny…)

And it is profoundly screwed up to tell us that, because we’re looked upon as people who believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing, we should knuckle under and assimilate. It is profoundly screwed up to tell us that, instead of standing up for ourselves and our rights, instead of showing the world what we do believe in and stand for and are good for, we should live a lie, and con ourselves into believing things we don’t really believe.

Fuck that noise.

So for the record — I’m with JT on this. Bring it on. I, for one, will happily let a Christian take my conversion on as a project. I’ll post their persuasion attempts to my blog, and will reply to them here. And I’m sure many of my readers will happily reply as well. (Boy, will they ever.) I strongly suspect that, within a year, my Christian adopter will either have fled for the hills, or will have become an atheist. (One at a time only, please. I only have so many hours in a day.)

And I encourage other atheists to do this, too. Especially public atheists, or atheists with some sort of public forums like Facebook pages. Let’s put ourselves up for adoption!

Because we’re not afraid. Our arguments are better. Our ideas are better. We’re right.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    What would he say to, say, a Jew who was looked on as someone who believes in nothing, stands for nothing, and is good for nothing? Would he tell them that the answer to anti-Semitism was to convert to Christianity?

    Given that this is Bill Donohue we’re talking about, I’m going to go with “Yes. Yes, he would tell them exactly that.”

  2. Rod Chlebek says

    I tweeted them and contacted them through their website offering myself for adoption. Crossing my fingers!

  3. Simon says

    Talk about being self-absorbed. The line they use in their press release belongs to Bill Donohue from last year:

    Mr. Donohue said he thought American Atheists singled out Christianity over other religions, noting that their billboard was “not attacking Ramadan.”

    “They believe in nothing, they stand for nothing, and they think we came from nothing,” he said, “so they have to crib off Christians.”

    Source: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/catholics-fire-back-in-christmas-billboard-battle/

  4. jamessweet says

    Hmm, I interpreted the “looked upon” as a simply CYA, so that he can freely call atheists “good for nothing” but then deny it if somebody calls him on his merciless bigotry.

  5. jamessweet says

    Ah hah, and Simon’s find confirms what I was thinking: The “looked upon” was not intend to acknowledge that atheists are view negatively and that this is unfair. He was actually saying that about us, the bigoted fuckwad.

  6. scottportman says

    I’d really like to be “adopted” by the Catholic league, as I’m not willing to get into it with in-laws. If the Catholic League reads this and decides to send me a sparring partner, please let it be an intelligent one. Any Catholics out there who want to convert me? I won’t insult your intelligence as long as you don’t insult mine. It will be harmless and fun. Believe it or not, I have a number of Catholic friends and am a Graham Greene fan. I’ll only do it by email. Use my user name and add yahoo dot com to it.

  7. says

    BTW: They do have a contact page. I went straight to that. Apparently, you should contact them if you observe persecution of Catholics.

    Should we inform them if we see Catholics persecuting others… I mean that doesn’t set a very good example for us atheists now does it?

  8. Steve Jeffers says

    How are Catholics ‘looked upon’? Think of the phrase ‘Catholic priest’ and what’s the first thing that springs to mind? Obviously, it’s the holy sacrament of the Eucharist. But what’s the second? OK, I admit it, it’s apostolic succession.

    Where does Donahue stand on the child abuse scandal? Imagine the most appalling thing you could say. Double it. Double it again. No, double it again.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKLlxAgMO-w

    That’s Bill Donahue’s position.

    I would love to hear from Catholics who want to convert me. I’m at steveatone@gmail.com, and I’m an atheist. I’d love to hear from you. Come and get me. First, though, I’d ask you to watch that video and state, for the record, that you’re on the same side as that guy. That you are trying to convert me because that guy told you to. That you agree with that guy.

    Do that, then try to tell me you’ve got the secret to a moral life. I double dare you.

    Here’s the most relevant statistic:

    http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=494

    10% of the American population have left the Catholic Church. There are more ex Catholics than Methodists and Lutherans put together. A full third of the people who’ve tasted the very flesh of God Himself have walked away.

    1.6% of Americans call themselves atheist. If this initiative managed to somehow convince every one of us, then it would be only 1/6th of the number of people who’ve fled Catholicism.

    The churches are emptying, the monasteries and nunneries are all but deserted. The Church is selling off property, declaring bankruptcy. Priests are being shipped in from abroad because so few Americans now attend seminaries.

    Here’s what a Catholic theologian and old friend of the current Pope says about Catholicism in Germany:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,787325,00.html

    Anyway, here, as a Rorschach test, is a picture of Pope Rottenfuhrer with a child. What do you see in this image?

    http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/44847000/jpg/_44847291_44847274.jpg

  9. says

    Because we’re not afraid. Our arguments are better. Our ideas are better. We’re right.

    Not just that, but lately I’ve been thinking that perhaps one reason for us not being afraid, for our arguments being better is that we don’t have mental no-fly zones. We can contemplate thoughts like “What if there’s a god?” “What if there’s a god, but it’s evil?” “What if there aren’t any gods?” “What if Dawkins is wrong and Donohue is right?” and so on, without an internal bouncer saying “no, you’re not allowed to go there.”

  10. savoy47 says

    How about a nation wide adoption Sunday? Imagine some Sunday a group of 50 or 100 atheist walk into Catholic Churches and announce that we are atheist and we are hear for our adoption. We can tell them that Bill Donohue sent us.

    Just the word spreading around that Atheist are gearing up for the event would cause one hell of a ruckus. Maybe a few press releases will do the trick.

  11. felicis says

    Since the Catholic church hasn’t yet excommunicated me, but I am an atheist, can I adopt myself?

  12. Steve Jeffers says

    Perhaps we should come up with some recruiting slogans to help Mr Donahue:

    Catholicism: Firmly Against The Extermination of the Jews Since March 2005.

    If There’s Room For Hitler and Bill O’Reilly, There’s Room For You!

    Become a Catholic: Kids Don’t Rape Themselves!

    The Vatican: You Don’t Have to Be An Ex-Nazi, Hate Women or Systematically Cover Up Pedophilia to Work Here … but it helps!

    Scared of Vaginas? Ring 1-800-CATHOLICISM

    The Pope’s Infallible, And He Says You Should … checkmate.

  13. Steve Jeffers says

    “Since the Catholic church hasn’t yet excommunicated me, but I am an atheist, can I adopt myself?”

    I guess that depends if you’re straight.

  14. says

    Sadly, I wouldn’t take it on. I would have to actually buy some Bibles first. Unlike bloggers, I don’t get them sent to me regularly. lol

    Seriously though, there are bound to be more things in my house they would go “Aha!” over, than, “Why they hell do you have that, if you don’t believe?”, unlike a lot of the other people that post to these blogs. Now, the chance to visit someone else’s house who would be a good host for these idiots, and laugh my ass off over it…

  15. geocatherder says

    I spent 20 years shaking myself free of the Catholic Church. That early training is hard to let go, even when doing so frees you. They can take their adoption program and shove it.

  16. mingfrommongo says

    If Donohue or one of his minions tries to adopt me, he’s gonna get to meet ‘St. Patrick’ & ‘St. Michael’ quickly and repeatedly.

    The emphasis on hurrying this for Christmas backfires a little. The numbers at the website say that 16% of Americans already celebrate Christmas w/o being Christians. So the only benefit to conversion that is mentioned is being looked upon with favor by bigots. I’ll pass, thanks. And why is the Catholic League using the ghost word ‘Christian’? Are they OK with their adoptees becoming Baptists?

  17. Jeff Sherry says

    Yesterday Miranda Celeste sent a request/challenge to Donohue for adoption.

    I welcome adoption. My mother’s parents tried to push Catholicism on me as a child and they failed. I doubt Donohue’s minions will be anymore successful.

  18. Mike de Fleuriot says

    But you all know that these cowardly Catholics would never dare try and engage any of the publicly visible atheists, like the bloggers on these forums.

    Anyone of the writers from these forums, trying to get in contact with Bill Donohue, will never get a meaningful reply from him. I would like to see an Occupy Catholic League starting, even for a couple hours. Get some volunteers for the adopt-an-atheist thing of these, and lets see how they do the converting, youtube it.

  19. Besomyka says

    I offered myself to be ‘adopted’ as well, mainly on the odd hope that a conversation could occur. I imagine we’ll all just be ignored, though.

    I will shed no tear for the loss.

  20. says

    “As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who ‘believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.’”

    This is the religious equivalent of those plastic surgeons who make women feel ugly and then offer their surgical services to make them feel beautiful.

  21. Midnight Rambler says

    What would he say to, say, a Jew who was looked on as someone who believes in nothing, stands for nothing, and is good for nothing? Would he tell them that the answer to anti-Semitism was to convert to Christianity? Would he tell an immigrant who was seen as worthless because of their heritage that they should deny it?

    Can’t speak for Donohue, but since that’s been the standard line to both Jews and immigrants for a long time, I wouldn’t suprise me if that’s where he picked it up from, if he didn’t still believe it for them. My Italian grandmother pretty much did exactly that, for that reason.

  22. sisu says

    If Donohue or one of his minions tries to adopt me, he’s gonna get to meet ‘St. Patrick’ & ‘St. Michael’ quickly and repeatedly.

    You call those fist names? Say hello to Bono and Sandra Day O’Connor!

    /30 Rock. Sorry, couldn’t resist. :)

  23. says

    No way I’d wanted to be adopted back into the religion I left.

    Unless, of course, my new parent is wealthy, old and names me as the primary beneficiary of his estate in his will.

  24. stonyground says

    Don’t you all think that it is a generous gesture by Billy to offer himself up at the festive season as a chew toy for the atheist community? He is self evidently too brainless to even recognise how brainless he is. Does he really think that if Catholics pair up with atheists in order to convert each other that his side will win? The best that he can hope for is that every single Catholic in the race is so completely unteachable that there is a draw, or possibly stalemate would be a better word. In reality his side are going to have to defend belief in zombies, magic food, talking animals and the notion that the Earth has edges, corners and pillars, against informed opponents living in the twenty-first century.

  25. False Prophet says

    “As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who ‘believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.’”

    Pot to kettle, Bill.

  26. sunnydale75 says

    Can we make a deal with them? In exchange for full accountability for all those in the Catholic Church involved in the child rape cases across the world, they can adopt a an atheist. Heck, they can adopt me twice: atheist and gay man. They don’t have a chance in hades of converting me in either case, so it’s a win all the way around.

    Tony

  27. sunnydale75 says

    Steve @ #12

    -Why oh why did I click on that link. I don’t recall ever hearing such revolting comments from another human being. I still feel like I want to puke from listening to Donohue.

    Tony

  28. Cynthia says

    I’m in – adopt me Bill! I’d love to hear your defense of the foolishness that is your “church”. Greta, feel free to send them my name if they inquire…

  29. F says

    How about an atheist-Catholic prisoner exchange?

    All the nominal Catholics who really are atheists are free to come out, with total amnesty, and cannot be harassed for doing so. And all the atheists who are really closet Catholics can go back to Catholicism and the atheists won’t poke fun at them.

    Deal?

  30. says

    A big fat “word” to False Prophet’s comment #34. The fact that Bill Donohue retains the use of both legs and his vocal cords is testament to the restraint displayed by atheists in general, and Christopher Hitchens in particular.

  31. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    @14 – How about a nation wide adoption Sunday? Imagine some Sunday a group of 50 or 100 atheist walk into Catholic Churches and announce that we are atheist and we are hear for our adoption. We can tell them that Bill Donohue sent us.

    I’m all for that idea! Can we send them out gift list ahead of time?

  32. Steve Jeffers says

    “A big fat “word” to False Prophet’s comment #34.”

    While the Catholic Church moans about secularism and liberalism and atheism, every single one of its wounds is self-inflicted. It wasn’t a crack in the wall that let the child abusers thrive, it was the wall. It’s not atheists who talk about ‘the reality of spirit attack’ (translation: it’s the devil). While much of what comes out of the Vatican sounds like they’ve hired writers from The Onion, it’s the senior people at the Vatican who say pedophilia was ‘theologically acceptable in the seventies’ (the Pope, last week). It’s not outsiders who are forcing the Church to be homophobic or misogynistic. All opponents are doing is reporting the lies and tallying the bodycount – ‘condoms have holes in them’, ‘mental reservation’, the Cloyne Report, the plain facts of the current Pope’s life and career, his role in the abuse scandal, neutrally stated. In the US they claim to have no money to pay legal settlements … yet they’re the second biggest religious lobbyists in Washington.

    And, for that matter, and to be fair, it’s not brilliant new arguments from atheists that get lay Catholics to rethink, it’s stupid old ones from the Church.

    There are half as many ex-Catholics in the US as Catholics, now. In Germany, there are more people leaving the Church every year than being baptized.

    Please keep up the good work, Bill Donahue. Many of the ex-Catholics I know name you as a reason when they say why they left. A single Bill Donahue serves the atheist cause better than a legion of Dawkinses would.

  33. Sastra says

    I suspect that Donohue has mixed up his categories of “liberals,” mistakenly assuming that the identity outrage of the Spiritual Left (“how dare someone try to convert me, my views are deeply personal!”) is shared by the secular humanists. Heheheh. As you say, bring it on.

    Of course, he’s obviously trying to counter the recent “you may be an atheist who finds it hard to admit this to yourself” message — a message which was invented to respond to the pervasive and ancient “everyone knows in their heart there’s a God” message found in popular belief and the Bible. In other words, he’s screaming out the status quo even louder and pretending it’s a clever payback for an unprovoked attack.

  34. says

    Just wrote a message to the Catholic League and my local American Atheists affiliate, figuring hopefully one of them will be able to connect me with a hopeful adopter. I really hope they follow through with this — seems like it could be fun.

  35. says

    Since the Catholic church hasn’t yet excommunicated me, but I am an atheist, can I adopt myself?

    Wouldn’t that make you your own father? Jesus, is that you?

  36. Alan Macphail says

    Update:

    Responding to some concerns from atheists who have considered the campaign to be offensive and condescending, he (Jeff Field, Director of Communications for the Catholic League) says that campaign should be viewed as “lighthearted, humorous and tongue-in-cheek. If people can’t be good-humored, that’s their own problem. We’re not being condescending at all. People need to have a good sense of humor.”

    Kinda like the lighthearted bigotry and racism your grandmother would serve with her warm apple pie.

  37. christopher says

    I for one do not want to be “adopted.” I’ve put up with enough harassment and badgering and proselytizing from my actual Catholic family. I’ve been ministered to enough.

    My family doesn’t know I’m an Atheist. Every couple years I have to tell them again, and they go through the same denial, attempts to laugh it off “no you aren’t!” etc. and then get angry and wring their hands and say “We had no idea you felt that way.” This has gine on since my early teens. I’m 42 years old.

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