Some questions make atheists feel second-class — and make you look like a jerk for asking them.
Asked of Hispanic-Americans: “Are you in this country legally?” Asked of gays and lesbians and bisexuals: “How do you have sex?” Asked of trans people: “Have you had the surgery?” Asked of African-Americans: “Can I touch your hair?”
I think every marginalized group has some question, or questions, that routinely get asked of them — and that drive them up a tree, questions that have insult or bigotry or dehumanization woven into the very asking. Sometimes the questions get asked sincerely, with sincere ignorance of the offensive assumptions behind them. And sometimes they get asked douchily, in a hostile, passive-aggressive, “I’m just asking questions” manner. But it’s still not okay to ask them. They’re not questions that open up genuine inquiry and discourse: they’re questions that close minds, much more than they open them. Even if that’s not the intention And most people who care about bigotry and marginalization and social justice — or who just care about good manners — don’t ask them.
Here are nine questions you shouldn’t ask atheists. I’m going to answer them, just this once. And then I’ll explain why you shouldn’t be asking them, and why so many atheists will get ticked off if you do.
Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 9 Questions That Atheists Might Find Insulting (And the Answers). To find out what these questions are — and why I think people shouldn’t ask them — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!