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Nov 22 2011

Fair weather atheists and sunshine skeptics

The bigoted gelato guy has apologized again, and people are falling all over themselves to accept it. He was classy and sincere!

I don’t think so. I reject his apology.

The guy wrote to me to personally apologize. How nice. I don’t care.

I have never met you, but from what I understand you are passionate about the way you feel and I may have offended you. So, I wanted to personally reach out to you and apologize for my behavior. I hope this statement explains (not excuses) the reason I did what I did. I have posted my statement here: http://redd.it/mkw6h

This is what I wrote back.

Apology not accepted. What I see in you is a person who hates me for not believing in the nonsense of your religion; while you may now be in a panic because your actions were unethical and illegal, and you were caught out, and face economic consequences for them, I don’t see any sign that your attitudes have changed in the slightest.

You’ll just have to live with the fact that I won’t be buying your ice cream on the rare occasions I visit your town, while I have to live with the fact that I live in a country where my rejection of your religion makes me a pariah. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to make up for that.

There is an asymmetry here. GelatoGuy lives in one of the most religious countries on earth, in a particularly intensely religious part of that country, and in a moment of smug self-righteousness, felt he could openly discriminate against people who do not respect his beliefs. And now he thinks he can walk away, forgiven, and return to his blithe happy Christian pocket universe, just by saying a few words. And we, of course, will turn around and think he’s a nice , sincere, classy guy.

Meanwhile, we will still be regarded as the least trustworthy minority in the country; we still have to deal with the fact that we are excluded from the political discourse; we still have to walk into courtrooms with the ten commandments on display; we have to watch these nice, sincere, classy people elect gay hating bigots, anti-science know-nothings, and flaming misogynists to high office…but hey, they’ll apologize to our faces when they risk losing our business. And then go back to church to listen to their priests fulminate against the godless, go into the voting booth and vote against civil rights, go to their school board and piously try to ram their faith into our children’s faces.

I don’t give a good goddamn what they say, I care about what they do. And until 150 million Christians rise up and show some respect for common humanity and reason, and apologize to me and every godless citizen in this country, I will not be magnanimous. I do not call for a vendetta, and I’m not demanding that he be punished — it’s a guy selling ice cream — but I do not forgive. I do not forget. I set him aside, I ignore him, but I do not call him ‘friend’ or ‘brother’, I do not call him sincere or classy.

There’s another matter here that has arisen, and that makes me angry. GelatoGuy has explained what incident provoked him to criminal fury: it was Brother Sam Singleton (him, I’ll call brother), who put on a fantastic show, mocking revivalism and making an excellent point: his show was about gratitude, and how the Bible warps it and redirects it and has people shouting praise and thank you to an imaginary tyrant, at the expense of simple human decency to one another. He did it with far more flair and showmanship than most of us atheists can manage, but it was a message reflective of actual atheist attitudes. That’s who we are: we reject gods and faith and magical thinking, and increasingly, we say it out loud.

The response from some members of the atheist community? It must have been Sam Singleton’s fault.

Poor guy made an honest mistake. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. I mean, to be fair, he walked in AT THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME.

Because, of course, the worst possible time to see an atheist and skeptic is when they’re acting all atheistical and skeptical. Poor guy, it’s not his fault, he witnessed someone expressing atheist sentiments, and as we all know, we’ve all unconsciously absorbed as fact the idea that those are bad. Next up, let’s excuse sexual assault, because Lord knows, those women do dress provocatively. Maybe, at his next appearance, we should ask Brother Sam to tone it down a couple of notches, and praise religion a bit, just in case any other believers wander by.

Then there are the appallingly conciliatory suggestions.

I hope some of us take him a Skepticon 5 schedule and an invite next year come listen and to give US another chance as our community seems to be giving HIM another chance now.

It would be good for him to experience some of our speakers whom he would not find so quite so objectionable.

Perhaps, on the schedule, we could print little chili peppers next to the titles of the talks? No peppers means it will praise Jesus, five peppers means the content will send any Christian listeners straight to hell?

I find this whole idea far more offensive than what GelatoGuy did — it is atheists and skeptics rushing to self-censor themselves, to mark some of their ideas as publicly shameful, and to acquiesce to ignorant public opinion. I’m not going to support that kind of behavior at all: sure, welcome the public, including delicate Christians like GelatoGuy, to the event, but don’t coddle them. This is who we are. Be proud.

Also consider the unintended consequences. I gave a pure science talk at Skepticon, not mentioning gods or religions at all, and at worst ripping into creationism (it was a one pepper talk). If I were told that I was being advertised as one of the ‘safe’ ones for Christians to attend, if I had been informed that I was going to be used as a showpiece for accommodating believers, I would have felt compelled to drop my planned talk and pull up one that rages against the idiocy of faith, instead. Do not do that to me. I will not be the dancing bear trotted out to appease sappy ignorant believers, and I will stand in solidarity with Sam Singleton (and Dave Silverman and Greta Christina, who also gave ferociously godless talks that would have given GelatoGuy the vapors), and I will cheerfully blister the ears of any faithhead in range.

Then there is this fellow, who thinks atheists ought not to be uncompromisingly critical of religion.

To see that sort of hateful bigoted mockery of his core beliefs would surely cause him to react in an equally hateful and bigoted way. You say that this person wasn’t criticized – just his religion. That’s a little like saying that you weren’t mocking the transvestite – just the idea of gender switching. When we mock another group’s choices, we are guilty of bigotry. The anger and persecution you feel? It’s the exact unwelcoming feeling he felt when he encountered an atheist revivalist at a convention that (if it had lived up to it’s name) should have been promoting science and critical thinking. Hypocrisy!

Right, because whenever I hear Pat Robertson or Michele Bachmann, I run out and punch a Christian in the face. Sam Singleton exercising free speech and saying what he thinks is exactly like a Christian businessman refusing to serve customers who don’t love Jesus. How dare those atheists reject and mock a belief — excuse me, choice — that is antithetical to science and reason? Choosing to believe in a magic sky fairy, choosing to believe in evidence…they’re all perfectly equivalent, after all.

Which brings me to the third point that makes me rage. Skepticon did promote science and critical thinking. The hypocrisy lies in thinking that religion must somehow be exempt from that kind of examination, and I truly, deeply despise the idea that religion must be a walled garden that may not receive the same criticism as any other wacky idea. Dave Silverman summarized my opinion when he said, “You can be a theist, and you can be a skeptic. But if you’re both, you’re not very good at one of them.”

But let us consider this opinion from Jason Loxton, who apparently represents the tired old antique skeptics who strained fervently to formulate their skepticism to avoid tangling with religion. You see, GelatoGuy wasn’t at fault: he walked into Skepticon thinking he’d get a talk about UFOs, and instead got a bunch of people regarding his personal bug-a-boos skeptically. Oh no!

The root of the problem was precisely the brand confusion that those of us who have been long active in empirical skepticism, i.e., the classic CSICOP/Skeptics Society side of sketicism, dreaded when Skepticon adopted the term ‘skeptic’ for what is predominately an atheist convention. He thought Skepticon was about what it’s name implied.

I went to my first atheist convention in 1999. I go to plenty of skeptics conventions too. I wish Skepticon luck (as a conference; I really do hate the name), but on behalf of myself, religious skeptics, and confused individuals like this poor gelato guy, I’d like to remind people again that there’s a decades old tradition in North America of using the term ‘skeptic’ for UFO-busting and other testable claims.

Clear definitions, like fences, are good for neighbourliness. :)

And fuck your stupid smiley face too, Jason!

I am so fed up with skeptics who look down on atheists because they apply critical thinking to religion.

I don’t give a damn about your tradition. I call it institutionalized intellectual cowardice. This rationale was a roundabout excuse to tiptoe around the hulking monster of gullibility and foolishness that has dominated the US for so long, to nibble at the margins and pick off targets only supported by a minority. It was safe. It maximized the potential membership of the movement. It actually dealt with real issues in critical thinking and the evaluation of the evidence, I will give it that, and I still regard this limited ‘empirical skepticism’ as a valuable part of the movement, but somehow the old guard has gotten it in their heads that they are the gatekeepers of skepticism, and they get to dictate what may be criticized.

I’m quite sure they did dread Skepticon. It was an honest skeptical conference that wasn’t afraid to address big issues that matter, didn’t compromise on religion, and didn’t shy away from the elephant dancing in the room.

But oh, no, a real skeptic conference is supposed to limit itself to UFOs, and chupacabras, and bigfoot, and ESP. As if we have a gigantic problem with a Republican government diverting vast resources into the search for cryptids and mind-reading, as if our educational system is overwhelmed with demand to teach the controversy about little green men, as if religion is somehow on a completely different plane from beliefs about alternative medicine or quantum vibrations.

And just maybe Loxton should think about the implications of what he said, that “Skepticon was about what it’s name implied” — because he is admitting that he thinks the public should regard skepticism as something safe and toothless and unchallenging. That does deep harm to the skeptical movement — it makes it trivial.

792 comments

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  1. 1
    andrewcrawford

    You’ll just have to live with the fact that I won’t be buying your ice cream on the rare occasions I visit your town, while I have to live with the fact that I live in a country where my rejection of your religion makes me a pariah. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to make up for that.

    I agree with pretty much everything but this. There’s nothing he can do? You’ll NEVER consider buying his ice cream?

    I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. He may be a decent human being. In 10 years, he may be a skeptic and a rational thinker. He may have just made a dumb, dumb mistake.

  2. 2
    Glen Davidson

    But see, it’s people making fun of evidence-free nonsense. How are people who believe in evidence-free nonsense supposed to “have faith” if someone’s making fun of it and they’re clueless?

    I mean, it’s like adults believing in Santa Claus. Making fun of their belief without warning just can’t be done.

    Glen Davidson

  3. 3
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    It didn’t even occur to me when I read the new apology last night that it points out that the situation was even worse than I originally thought. He finally explained what it was that set him off, and it was something that didn’t even happen in his store! He went over to Skepticon, got all offended because people yelled “God damn”, then went back to his store and put up that sign. Major WTF there.

  4. 4
    andrewcrawford

    Further- when I’m not sure how to act, I try to go back on the “nice person rule”- what would a nice person do? I think in this case, a nice person can forgive the gelato guy while still understanding and being angry about the general lack of respect and decency provided to atheists in our society.

  5. 5
    PZ Myers

    I live in Minnesota. His business is in Missouri. What am I supposed to do, drive down every weekend just to show that I’m a good guy?

    I do not demand that he become a skeptic and rational thinker — that’s not my right. It is my right to reserve my respect for those people who deserve it, and he hasn’t earned it.

  6. 6
    Erülóra Maikalambe
    I have to live with the fact that I live in a country where my rejection of your religion makes me a pariah. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to make up for that.

    … There’s nothing he can do?

    What can a guy with a gelato store can do about that? He can address his own bigotry, but he can’t fix the nation.

  7. 7
    Somite

    And the claim that atheism and skepticism have traditionally been separate is obviously not true. Consider that the skeptics of the 70s, Randi, Clarke, Asimov, Sagan and others, were openly atheists and the philosophy permeated their writings. Heck, I am an atheist directly because of Asimov, Sagan and Clarke.

    The separation of skepticism and atheism is a new phenomenon that as Richard Dawkins pointed out in a recent POI podcast can only be for “funding purposes only”.

    Before you bring up Martin Gardner and his weird religiosity consider that he was the first to admit to his fellow skeptics he had no good reason or explanation for it.

  8. 8
    PZ Myers

    I don’t believe in the “nice person rule”, because those people who so enthusiastically embrace the title of “nice” also go into the voting booth and yank levers to deprive people of their civil rights. I prefer the “strong person rule” — I stand up for what I think is right.

  9. 9
    speedwell

    What can a guy with a gelato store can do about that? He can address his own bigotry, but he can’t fix the nation.

    Fine distinction. He apologized for his behavior, not for his bigotry.

    (Or, using an analogy, it’s nice that the master decided not to whip the slave this time even though the slave clearly deserved it, out of the master’s Christian charity.)

  10. 10
    Human Ape

    Then there is this fellow, who thinks atheists ought not to be uncompromisingly critical of religion.

    Wimps like this idiot are just as much responsible for this world’s out of control religious stupidity and religious violence as the Bible thumpers and the terrorists they suck up to.

    http://darwinkilledgod.blogspot.com/search/label/atheist%20wimps

  11. 11
    Rod Chlebek

    I’m not convinced he understands why he should be making the apology.

  12. 12
    djfav

    “And fuck your stupid smiley face too, Jason!”

    That loud thud you just heard was me falling out of my chair. Damn that was good.

  13. 13
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    Maybe if there’d been a bit more “traditional” skepticism at work 2,000 years ago we wouldn’t be dealing with Christianity now. Today’s religions are yesterday’s Bigfoot/UFOs/New Age Crystal Quantum Woo after they’ve been running around for a few centuries. Mormonism, Scientology and other more recent cults just haven’t quite picked up the patina of age and the undeserved respect which seems to adhere to simple longevity in the meme pool.”Walked on the water?” Yeah, I’ll bet. “Loaves and fishes?” Uh huh. “Back from the dead?” Puhleeez!

  14. 14
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    I think it’s in part a privilege thing. He’s never had to think about what it’s like for non-Christians in this country. Maybe if he saw Greta’s talk from Saturday he’d be able to pull the stick out of his ass.

  15. 15
    William

    Best. Rant. Ever. Made my day.

  16. 16
    andrea

    bravo for you, PZ. There is no reason to accept a apology from someone who did something intentionally and spitefully. Perhaps he’ll learn to think next time, but I doubt it. No, I suspect that he’ll piously pray and apologize to God and shame shame on the atheist that showed him he was a jackass.

    In a rather amusing turn, Christians do very well represent the attitude that it’s easier to get forgiveness rather than ask permission which would make them consider their actions. Their god may be an endless vending machine, giving out magical forgiveness every time a Christian intentionally “sins” yet again and expects to just say “sorry god” (how does that work when this god, being omniscient and all, knows that the sinner will sin again with no thought other than gee, god will forgive me, he “has” to). I, on the other hand, expect something far more from humanity, the ability to go far beyond this primitive ignorant superstition that they use to excuse their stupidity.

  17. 17
    andrewcrawford

    How about the “nice strong person rule”? I’m talking about the gelato guy, not the masses of theistic society. I know nothing about how he votes.

  18. 18
    DR

    I agree with you PZ. The fact that it even crossed his mind that he could bar non-Christians from his store says plenty about his mindset. And that mindset is highly unlikely to have been changed by the fact that his business suffered as a result. He still thinks that we are really bad people who should not be allowed to exist; he just thinks that if he bars those bad people who should not be allowed to exist from his business, he’ll get in trouble.

    It was an “I’m sorry I got caught” apology.

    And as PZ said, there are some who think that Atheists should only exist in the closet.

  19. 19
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Fine distinction. He apologized for his behavior, not for his bigotry.

    By ‘address’, I did not mean ‘apologize for’. I mean ‘fix’. Even if he apologized for being a bigot, I’m not sure it would mean much to me. But demonstrating that he’s willing to work on fixing it would go farther.

  20. 20
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    JT Eberhard made a good point. The thing that bothers me most about this apology and the reason I’m conflicted is that he takes the responsibility off of himself for being an offensive bigot and places it on Sam Singleton’s shoulders. It wasn’t his fault, he was only reacting to the offense he saw from a satirical piece of comedy!

    I want to accept the apology, but at the same time, I can’t.

  21. 21
    george.w

    If the only move he (as opposed to “they”) can make is to come all the way over to your position in a single step, you give him no reason to move at all.

    If the situation were reversed and we were the majority, I would disagree with Christians but still be happy to do business with them.

    Yes the situation is unbalanced in favor of the Christian side. And I’m delighted to see Christianity skewered in satire. But give the guy a chance to save a little face. He took down the sign and apologized. The point that discrimination is wrong was made crystal clear.

  22. 22
    Schenck

    People tend to think of atheists as being a little different from ‘other religions’ (keeping in mind of course that its not a religion in the first place), if this guy had walked into a jewish Temple and there was a reading from the jewish authorities around the time of jesus and they talked about his mother having been a prostitute who slept with a greco-roman solider and that’s why she made up a story about an angel, etc etc, clearly that’d be as ‘insulting’ to christianity as an atheist rejecting christianity, but equally clearly he’d be BONKERS to then say ‘no jews allowed in this christian store’. So he’s obviously 100% in the wrong here and an apology is pretty meaningless. And would anyone demand that all jewish people accept his apology afterwards?!

  23. 23
    Death Strudel

    I live in Bowling Green, KY, and earlier this year we had Brother Sam ‘preach’ at a bar downtown. The Sam crew triple checked the owners of the bar and made sure that he would be welcome and they would be able to accommodate this group. Everything was going great, and me and my two friends who went were excited…

    In total there were about 20 people there, including Brother Sam and his minimal crew. We were all drinking (drastically overpriced drinks, btw…) and several of us had opened tabs, buying for each other and for Sam. Then during the intermission, we were informed that we had to leave. The official excuse was that there weren’t enough people there to justify having the two people working the bar (even though the bar would have been closed had we not been there and one of the bartenders was the owner), and we needed to leave. Now.

    I tried to pay for my tab with my debit card and was told that I should just go. I tried to tell the bartender that if he was worried about not making enough money, then he should take the money that we owed him… a fair enough idea. He disagreed and gave me my card back. As a test, I insisted that I pay, and he refused. I made a comment that it seems odd that one who is worried about not making enough money wouldn’t take any from us… a group that disagrees with the little gold cross around his neck, and we were asked to get out and the bar was closed.

    We then went to a different bar and laughed at the drinks we essentially stole from a Christian.

    Brother Sam has been pissing off the faithful for a while, and I just felt I had to put in my $0.02. Please KEEP IT UP, SAM! That was a night I’ll never forget. Being a white male, I am never prejudiced against to any real extent, so this was a real eye-opener.

    Anyway… Back to your originally scheduled damnation…

  24. 24
    Amelia

    To me, that’s a superb apology. If you’re not used to having your beliefs challenged every day, I think it’s perfectly understandable that you might, in the heat of the moment, make a stupid mistake. He absolutely did make a stupid mistake, and it’s indicative of a much bigger problem, and I agree about that.

    But he did the right thing. That sign was up for ten minutes, he took it down, and apologized. That’s a whole hell of a lot more than most people would do – you never see people like Bachmann or Robertson apologizing. Now you’re blaming some insignificant ice cream store owner for all the bigotry we encounter? It’s too much, PZ.

    I don’t think anyone is advocating censoring ourselves, especially not at a convention meant for true skeptics. Inviting the guy to see what it’s really like – not to pander to what he expects to hear, which I don’t think was what anyone was suggesting – seems pretty charitable to me.

    If, as a community, we respond to every slight this harshly, we’ll never gain respect. We’ll just fuel more bigotry, and that’s something I’d hate to see.

  25. 25
    Alex

    I love how I got called a “reverse bigot” in the comments of that post because I support Sam Singleton’s absolute right to both call attention to the inconsistencies and holes in Christianity, AND to call attention to its inherent immorality.

    It’s good to know that, if I ever went on a rant about how White Nationalists’ ideas are completely wrong and unfounded, and have led to some pretty awful atrocities, I would be considered a bigot by the definition of “friendly atheists.”

  26. 26
    Fear Uncertainty Doubt

    What if this was an athiest gelato guy who walked in on a fundamentalist gathering, took offense at athiests being called pure evil or something like that, then went back to his store and put a sign up that says, “Fundamentalist Christians not welcome”? Can you imagine the outrage? Limbaugh, Fox News, Coulter, etc.? Do you think any apology by him would be welcomed?

    My initial reaction to this kind of apology would be, well fine then, glad you came to your senses. But I think PZ is onto something here. As the minority, we’re all conditioned to be quick to accept the apology of those in the majority who attack us. It seems wrong to just reflexively and uncritically say OK, it’s all better now, but I don’t think I would have stopped to think of it that way if PZ didn’t respond the way he did.

    This was about power. Gelato guy didn’t like what he heard, so his first instinct was to flex all the power he could to hurt those terrible people who made him feel bad. This isn’t just a bad judgement call, it’s the product of a feeling safe to tyrannize a minority group.

  27. 27
    Amelia

    Sorry, meant to quote this part of his apology at the beginning, and apparently put my whole comment in blockquotes instead:

    “I strongly believe that everybody is entitled to their beliefs. I’m not apologizing for my beliefs, but rather for my inexcusable actions. I was wrong.”

  28. 28
    Dave D

    Very well said.

  29. 29
    ACN

    Thank you PZ.

    Well said on virtually every point.

    We don’t have to advocate that the guy be publicly beaten, we don’t even have to go out of our way to break his business on Yelp, but we don’t have to publicly accept his contrition and pretend it didn’t happen.

    The bottom line, is that he doesn’t think it’s OK to mock evidence-free magical thinking. He belongs to a priviledged class of people whose delusions are only considered something other than madness because SO MANY people believe it. If they can’t deal with people mocking it, fuck them.

  30. 30
    Carlie

    It is my right to reserve my respect for those people who deserve it, and he hasn’t earned it.

    What can he do to earn it now? Sincere question; I’ve been mulling this over since yesterday and trying to reconcile my belief that no one ought to be accommodating if they don’t want to with my desire to make this a teaching moment™ for the guy. There are definitely people who do and say and think terribly bigoted things and then change their minds later on. Maybe he’s somewhere at the beginning of the road to doing that; maybe the backlash surprised him into realizing that atheists are people too, and that there’s something wrong with the way he sees and treats us. If that’s the case, how can he prove that he’s not just pandering? What would you like to see from him that would convince you that he’s becoming less bigoted?

  31. 31
    Ray Fowler

    A lot of Christians are simply ignorant of the number of people who fundamentally dismiss the worldview that their entire life is built around.

    When confronted, it is normal to expect them to respond irrationally. We are all human and all ultimately irrational, so we are susceptible to this kind of reaction.

    It’s how a person responds afterwards that is important. Although PZ is not satisfied, what nI read was a sincere and heartfelt apology from the guy. That’s good enough for me to know that he’s not of the bigoted ilk like Robertson and Bachmann. He’s just a normal guy LIKE ME AND YOU who just happened to be raised in a sheltered Christian environment.

    But when push came to shove, he overrode those tendencies and apologized. The fact that he took the sign down long before the backlash hit is evidence, to me, of his sincerity.

    PZ, I understand your desire to take no prisoners, but the vast majority of atheists in America are converted Christians. Many of us have been that guy.

  32. 32
    Cartomancer

    “You’re so nice. You’re not good; you’re not bad; you’re just nice. I’m not good. I’m not nice. I’m just right.”

    – The Witch from Into the Woods, by Stephen Sondheim, 1986.

  33. 33
    barfy

    Jejuneral.

    It has taken me a long time to figure out a term that would best describe PZ and his ilk.

    It is more than apparent to people of maturity, that PZ’s response to the apology is grossly out of proportion to the offense committed.

    It is also clear that PZ has a difficult time with criticism directed at him.

    PZ, we ARE a social species. Tone does count. And when people criticize yours and those of your commentators, often, they may be right.

    You can call me a tone troll, but your tone in this circumstance is wrong. Now, accept the man’s apology. And, better yet, send one of your own.

    Jejuneral = a liberal who would do well to grow up.

    And, I apologize for name-calling.

  34. 34
    Grimalkin

    Well that apology is atleast better than the originals, but still not great.

    Yeah he acted on impulse, but impulses tend to show what you actually think and this impulse showed that he thought he had a right to exclude people because they didn’t believe his nonsense.

    My big problem is that the kind of speech that offended him is the same sort of speech that we get from Christianity all the time. Him walking in on people saying “God Damn” in place of Amen has nothing on the kind of speech that Christianity imparts onto people who don’t believe in it. I’ve had good friends tell me I would go to hell for not reading the bible, I’ve had teachers tell me that homosexuality was an evil sin with a smile on their faces, and I’ve had people shout out “you don’t even believe in God!” at me like it was the worst insult in the book. All of those instances of hate were imposed upon me- he walked into his. There’s a crucial difference.

    When he makes note of that and actually shows that he understands how incredibly disproportionate it is to be upset- even impulsively -at Atheists for speaking their minds in an Atheist environment, that he in no way was forced to endure (like so many Atheists are), then his apology will be accepted. Until then this looks like he cares more about getting business back than actually making things right.

  35. 35
    andrewcrawford

    I guess I see it this way (forgive me for comparing the atheist struggle for rights/respect/decent treatment to the civil rights movement of the 60s- I know they are not equivalent in scale nor egregiousness of the bigotry)- my grandfather was a racist, a north-Florida Baptist who was strongly opposed to civil rights. He had many shouting matches with my father, who supported civil rights. It took years, but my grandfather changed his mind. He was a decent man. Perhaps he wasn’t a decent man for every part of his life, but he was when I knew him, until he died in ’95.

    He may have been guilty of worse things in his life than 10 minutes of a discriminating sign in his window- I genuinely don’t know. But he still became a better person.

    I think gelato guy could also become a better person, and if I were to take the time to reply to his apology, I would make an effort to help.

  36. 36
    ManOutOfTime

    Elevator Guy, Gelato Guy … every time folks get together to be rational some idiot Guy becomes a lightning rod that makes for great reading and deep thought. I was disgusted when I read about his sign and nonplussed when I read his public apology, and now back to disgust. And very unimpressed that liberal people who should know better don’t get the point about social power structures: GG is not like an offended cross-dresser, he is like a 1950′s diner operator in the South with a whites-only counter. No right- (that is, left-) thinking person sympathizes with racial discrimination – was the diner operator an elite? Probably not. Was he otherwise a “nice guy” with social graces and manners? Almost certainly – most people are “nice” in that way, especially down south. Do I have to sympathize or measure my words with a person who is a tool of oppression? Hell no! If Dr. King hurt Diner Guy’s fee-fees that is his problem, not Dr. King’s. Are we on the right side of history or not? We don’t owe anyone an apology and we are not obliged to accept them either.

  37. 37
    Alex

    #30. I should say that he would be better served saving the “I’m sorrys” and “I was wrongs” for AFTER he has gone a little further down that road and understands WHY it was wrong. There is nothing indicating that he, in any way, truly gets why what he did was vile; there’s nothing indicating what caused this sudden shift in how he feels vocal, unrepentant atheists who criticize his faith should be treated.

    I get the impression that he freaked out about a bunch of angry atheists emailing him, the possibility of a lawsuit, the possibility of lost clientele, etc, and backpedaled.

  38. 38
    penn

    I don’t like the victim-blaming is some of the responses you quoted here, but I do accept the guy’s apology. We all fuck up. We all overreact. He seems to have seriously re-evaluated his actions and realized his mistake. Telling him that no apology is good enough and that there is nothing he can do to make it right is just unreasonable.

  39. 39
    anthonyk

    I’m not convinced he understands why he should be making the apology

    Oh, he understands all right. He understands so well that he even apologised to PZ. I wonder if that’ll work?
    But what a wonderful rant! And what’s so surprising about it is that having been lucky enough to meet and talk to PZ, in real life he seems to be made almost entirely of mild.
    Yet give him an unwise cardboard sign and an internet and he goes all Yahweh on our arses.

    Though I am left wondering whether a silly little bigot and a graffito lasting all of 10 minutes justifies such a big fuss in the blogosphere.
    Still, if it does, PZ’s the man to channel it. Great stuff!

  40. 40
    ManOutOfTime

    Barfy: Malcolm X should have adopted Dr. King’s “tone” I guess? You absolutely are being a tone troll. If you want to be a “hey, we’re all God’s children” type of atheist to right ahead – Dr. Myers is onto something and his voice is important, along with the equally unapologetic Dawkins and Hitchens – PZ is just a bit saltier. Sometimes that’s what it takes! Salt!

  41. 41
    William

    When does the book come out? This is on par with The Hitch. Just plain awesome.

  42. 42
    darkmatter

    What he was offended by wasn’t just an actor and some people shouting profanity, it was the idea that someone could publicly and gleefully not believe in something that he believes. I don’t want his explanations; the fact that he, and others, thought that what he heard excused his discrimination against a larger group is the huge problem, not his silly little sign.

    He was afraid and he acted out of fear, and from a place of privilege. Fear doesn’t excuse discriminatory behavior for one solitary second, and privileged people have a duty to examine their biases more closely because generally speaking, their everyday actions affect everyone more than the actions of the minority. (I say privileged because he’s a member of a majority group dealing with rational people; if an atheist businessperson did something similar after seeing someone like Brother Jed, he or she would be more worried about arson than a few bad reviews.) More importantly, I see a lot of people – atheists too! – saying that what he saw and heard excused that fear and anger. He was afraid of words. Just words. Just a group of people, a fraction of the group he wanted to exclude, saying words he didn’t like. That’s not OK, and it doesn’t matter whether he apologizes or not – the fact remains that he took that action and I still don’t believe he genuinely understands why people were so upset. I don’t expect people not to be offended by things sometimes, but I do expect them not to react by excluding an entire group, and no apology excuses that initial reaction.

    And for what it’s worth, I think that people trying to redefine “skeptic” as something gentle and non-threatening is half the problem. If “skeptic” were widely defined as “skeptical of everything, including religion,” he wouldn’t be able to plead ignorance. If he’d attended, he would’ve attended with both eyes firmly open, which seems to me to be a more desirable state for attendees – merely curious or otherwise – of a skeptics’ convention.

  43. 43
    andrewcrawford

    As far as tone goes- I LOVE PZ’s tone (and Hitchens’, Dawkins’, and my favorite Dan Savage’s) when speaking to power. I think a different tone can be better when speaking to the non-powerful, a category I think this gelato guy falls into.

  44. 44
    Scott

    If GelatoGuy’s neighbor put up a similar sign tomorrow, would GelatoGuy stand up against that neighbor? That would tell me a lot about his sincerity.

  45. 45
    Steve LaBonne

    I’m sick to death of “sorry I got caught” not-pologies, and anybody who thinks Gelato Guy has come up with anything other than that is a fool.

    And the tone trolls can bite me.

  46. 46
    SallyStrange

    And for what it’s worth, I think that people trying to redefine “skeptic” as something gentle and non-threatening is half the problem. If “skeptic” were widely defined as “skeptical of everything, including religion,” he wouldn’t be able to plead ignorance. If he’d attended, he would’ve attended with both eyes firmly open, which seems to me to be a more desirable state for attendees – merely curious or otherwise – of a skeptics’ convention.

    QFT.

  47. 47
    KP

    I completely disagree with the way you’ve been handling this situation and , as an atheist, am a little bit embarrassed by your response given that you are a representative of our “community.”

  48. 48
    Didaktylos

    You can fix a broken plate with Araldite – but it will never again be what it was.

  49. 49
    SallyStrange

    “Jejuneral” sounds more like “general” than “liberal”–generals who need to grow up? Your insulting skills suck, barfy. It especially doesn’t help when you apologize for them. It makes it more insulting when you apologize for them–you’re insulting our intelligence by expecting us to believe that you don’t actually mean to be offensive–but it also takes the acerbic oomph out of the original insult.

    It’s a fine art, giving a good insult. If you’re going to apologize for it, you may as well not try–it just makes you look like a weak-minded fool.

  50. 50
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    The problem with tone trolls like Barfy is that they can’t prove that their method works, whereas we can. Any social movement that actually moved public opinion, be it woman’s suffrage, civil rights for people of color, or gay rights, all have one thing in common. First, a very vocal group to get peoples attention. Second, a not so vocal group using more sympathetic language, to reel people in when the vocal group has their attention. We here at Pharyngula are the vocal group. We get peoples attention. You tone trolls could be constructive if you, not us, take the next step of reeling people in. Both groups are necessary, and it is time to quit pretending otherwise tone trolls.

  51. 51
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    If I ever open an ice cream shop, the 700 Club is soooo not welcome. :-p

  52. 52
    God

    C’mon PZ, tell us how you really feel.

  53. 53
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    institutionalized intellectual cowardice

    You called it, Professor!

    I waffled through years of intellectual cowardice before Pharyngula helped me to admit ‘out loud’ that I am an atheist.

  54. 54
    vicarofartonearth

    Being nice to Maria Shriver helped kill the Disability Rights Community living movement. She did nothing as California’s first lady but cover for her ex while he cut things like all dental care for people with developmental disabilities yet feels because of Special Olympic’s fundraising she is a spokesperson for families supporting community living for their members.

    The right wing has won because instead of calling them on their religious-political bullshit, we had to be nice and nicely screwed we have been.

  55. 55
    Crow

    What I see about this whole situation is that Gelato Guy was sent in to utter shock at the idea of a group of atheists publicly blaspheming against his god.

    Obviously, there are way too many “nice and polite” atheists he’s come across who kept their mouths shut about why we think religions are for idiots, or else he’d be used to that sort of thing.

    His utter surprise just says that he hasn’t dealt with enough atheists in his lifetime and we need to be more confrontational until he’s no longer surprised to find atheists on the corner blaspheming on a regular basis.

    Imagine if we went in to shock at the thought of someone proclaiming god at the door to the grocery store, or on the street corner, or even *gasp* going door to door!

    Oh, wait. They do that. It just doesn’t surprise us.

  56. 56
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    You had me at
    And fuck your stupid smiley face too, Jason!

    Fuck yes, fuck yes, fuck yes, PZ.

    BTW…it turns out that oftentimes gelato (even in Italy!) is made with bovine sebaceous exudate. Nasty!*

    *I’m a traitor to all of mammalia. What can I say.

  57. 57
    Art Vandelay

    That was awesome.

    Gelato guy probably wasn’t even all that offended by the talk he saw. I would put more money on the idea that he did it to get some publicity and gain favor with the religious right. Skepticon is there one weekend a year. They are there the entire year. If he wants those people to know he was wrong, don’t post it on freakin’ Reddit.

  58. 58
    JT

    Thank you. I’ve been reading big happy “Let’s just forgive and have snuggles!” comments all morning. It feels good to read something that reflects my personal frustration over the issue. I would also like to echo William in demands to give you money for your writing. All this reading it for free on the internet is getting quite repetitive and droll.

    I’m actually not being sarcastic. I want to buy your book.

  59. 59
    Jenny Draper

    I do accept his apology. It seems to me that he really does know what he did was wrong and why it was wrong; it’s not your typical “notpology” full of “I’m sorry you were offended”s. He did something stupid on the spur of the moment, and once he calmed down he realised he was being a jerk. He knows that.

    Lord knows I’ve written complete tripe when I’ve been angry that I’ve regretted when I’ve calmed down.

  60. 60
    Alex

    #38. Penn – You’re right. We do all make mistakes. We do all overreact from time to time, some more than others.

    But I don’t think it’s as widely applicable to say that we’ve all overreacted and, as a result, discriminated against a certain group of people. It’s not fair to assume that, hey, we’ve all done that — many of us have not.

    Let’s replace ‘atheist’ (a widely mistrusted and hated group in America) with another historically mistrusted and hated group for a moment. Let’s say someone stole something from his storefront, or destroyed something, and he looked outside to see a black person suspiciously running off in a hurry. He reacts — someone stole/destroyed my property! How dare they!

    He then pastes a “no blacks allowed” sign on his door, because he believes the problem is attributable to the whole of the black community, not just one member.

    What kind of response does that ultimately merit, even IF he takes it down ten minutes later? You know full well the response it would generate, and that’s because of how long the conscious beating-back of racist ideals in America has been happening (and continues to happen because of those who clearly haven’t gotten the message that a group isn’t inferior just for their genetic makeup).

    In this case, nothing of his person or his property was even destroyed or harmed. He heard *words*. Not words about himself, or his family, about his race, or infirmity, or anything else. It wasn’t even about CHRISTIANS as a whole group — it was about CHRISTIANITY. It was a send-up of traditional hellfire-and-brimstone preaching and a criticism of Christian doctrine. Sam Singleton challenged an idea (an idea that is demonstrably false, to boot). That’s all. The fact that this guy lives such a privileged existence as to be not used to hearing those criticisms, as I see it, excuses nothing. Privilege is the problem of the person it belongs to, nobody else.

    And in response, what did he do? He bans atheists from his establishment.

    Kneejerk reaction number one would reveal an inherent racism that would not be easily excused, and might likely even be prosecuted. But kneejerk reaction number two? “Eh, lighten up; people make mistakes! Was it *really* that big a deal?”

    Yes. It was that big a deal. What he did was discriminatory. And discrimination, rightfully, has earned its place in the public consciousness as a vile and inexcusable act. Except when it happens to atheists, because apparently we’ve not yet reached a point where it’s okay for us to be outraged when we’re summarily dismissed because we 1. don’t accept their ideas and 2. may even criticize and publicly falsify them.

    Personally, I thank PZ for being one of the ones who agrees that we ARE at that point. We will not be treated as second-class citizens for not making exceptions for commonly accepted mythological nonsense; it’s not just a gaffe, or an unfortunate faux pas. What he did was showcase his obvious belief that atheists are not welcome if they’re going to challenge his ideas and indeed hold ones that are different from his. When he thought no one was looking and no one would call him on it, he demonstrated what he thinks of those who challenge his ideas. Now that he’s in the spotlight, he’s doing damage control.

    Letting shit like this slide just so we can all get back to handshaking and warm feelings is something that not everyone is prepared to do.

  61. 61
    Mox

    I must disagree. The guy was probably brought up with a lifetime of Christian indoctrination, and running into Sam Singleton was undoubtedly a troubling experience for him. It DOESN’T excuse anything he did, but the point is he seems to have realized what he did was wrong and has made a genuine effort to reach out to us. Like others have said, this is a hell lot more than most people would do, especially those of us with huge inflated egos. Admitting you are wrong is difficult.

    We all make mistakes. We all make rash actions based on emotion. If you claim not to do this you are a liar. Lets show some freaking compassion here.

  62. 62
    Bob

    You’re standing up for what you believe, which is great. But honestly, what do you really want from the guy? He fucked up, and admitted as much, and has made a concerted effort to apologize for it. What else do you expect him to do? It’s really fucked up that people have been bashing his business, not on the merits of that business, but for having a sign up for 10 bloody minutes that he took down and apologized for. You’re all offended, but you’re not doing anything to help the situation.

    You’ve rambled a great deal about what being a skeptic/atheist is all about, but your overall reaction is pretty IRRATIONAL on it’s face. Stop being a wanker and just get over it already.

  63. 63
    Steve LaBonne

    You know what’s really irrational? Obsessive tone trolling.

  64. 64
    Dave R

    This guy didn’t even discriminate against atheists, but attendees of that specific conference — is that okay? No. So he apologized. But this is *not* equivalent.

  65. 65
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    What can he do to earn it now?

    Say he’s a false prophet and God is a superstition?

  66. 66
    PZ Myers

    I want nothing from him. I’m demanding nothing, I’m not calling for any punishment. I reject his apology, nothing more — it seems to me that demanding that *I* bless his retreat is ridiculous, and I’m not going to do it.

    My response is entirely proportional to the crime, i.e., minimal and confined to commentary on the internet.

  67. 67
    Mark

    It is my right to reserve my respect for those people who deserve it, and he hasn’t earned it.

    Carlie said:

    What would you like to see from him that would convince you that he’s becoming less bigoted?

    That’s a very good question. Does Gelatoguy have to renounce religion and believe as PZ does to earn PZ’s respect?

    …we have to watch these nice, sincere, classy people elect gay hating bigots, anti-science know-nothings, and flaming misogynists to high office…but hey, they’ll apologize to our faces when they risk losing our business.

    C’mon PZ–that’s a cheap shot even for you. First, you have no idea how this particular guy votes; for all you know he could be a flaming liberal at the polls. Second, as you noted, this guy lives in one of the most religious areas in the country, and atheists still comprise a small minority in the rest. He is not apologizing to his own community, but to VISITORS and what is surely a very small number of future atheist visitors. Do you really think he’s concerned about the minor loss of a couple day’s worth of potential Skepticon business and future atheist business?

    Besides, if you really believe the majority of Christians are evil bigots, then keeping the sign up would meet with the approval of his community. Wouldn’t he expect that approval to result in higher future sales?

    Assuming the majority of Christians are evil bigots, logic would suggest keeping the sign up aligns much better with his financial interests than taking it down and not only admitting he made a dumbassed mistake, but (EGADS!) publicly APOLOGIZING to we filthy unbelievers.

    You’re out to lunch on this one PZ…

  68. 68
    William

    To the apologists lurking… Grow a pair.

  69. 69
    Craig

    And fuck your stupid smiley face too. couldnt have put it better myself

  70. 70
    boskerbonzer

    I just really don’t get the stink over this, and I can get rabidly offended at, among many other things, those stupid emails you’ll get every so often this time of year that lament the loss of Christian virtue in this country thanks to the godless Democratic politicians who are destroying our great nation.

    The theme I’m seeing here is that he apologized only for his behavior (and then there’s speculation that the apology is insincere and only a ruse to rustle up business), but he didn’t apologize for his beliefs or his bigotry. Why the hell should he? Seriously, why should he apologize for being Christian any more than I should apologize for being atheist? He apologized for making a rash, stupid, illegal decision, which he rectified, for whatever reason, within 10 minutes. Accept it or not; you won’t turn him into an atheist either way, any more than not having access to his store would turn me into a Christian.

    Granted, Christianity is shoved down our throats every day. I get it. I hate it as much as the rest of you, and we sit here ranting that we shouldn’t meekly accept that kind of bullshit, but in the next breath we condemn some guy for not meekly accepting our bullshit. I know that part of the frustration comes from being so outnumbered, but proselytizing is proselytizing whether it comes from a Christian or an atheist.

  71. 71
    Upright Ape

    This is the why I love PZ. The guy has not realized that there is such a thing as diversity of opinions. Furthermore Sam Singleton is absolutely fabulous and you cannot discriminate against people excercising their free speech rights.

  72. 72
    Anthony K

    The problem with tone trolls like Barfy is that they can’t prove that their method works, whereas we can.

    I don’t think that’s quite true, Nerd. I would pretty much guarantee that a carrot works sometimes, as does a stick.

    What they can’t demonstrate is that the Gnus do more harm to The Cause™ than good, though that doesn’t stop them from crying it as if it were true.

    But it’s shit like KP’s scolding that annoys me: “as an atheist, am a little bit embarrassed by your response given that you are a representative of our ‘community.’”

    Really? Who the fuck does this guy think he is?

    Fuck, “as an atheist”, I’m disgusted, let alone embarrassed, by some of the behaviour of certain ‘representative’ members of our community, like Mooney, like Matzke, like Rosenau, like others. But I don’t stand over their shoulders clucking my goddamned tongue at them like they owe me a standard of behaviour because I also don’t believe in gods.

    Such emotional ploys at shaming are absolute bullshit. I could say that they have no place among people who call themselves skeptics, but I wouldn’t, because that’s what douchebags do.

    KP, take your control fantasies and shove ‘em up your ass.

  73. 73
    Ze Madmax

    Bob @ #62

    You’ve rambled a great deal about what being a skeptic/atheist is all about, but your overall reaction is pretty IRRATIONAL on it’s face. Stop being a wanker and just get over it already.

    So… minorities/women should stop being “wankers” and get over modern issues with racism/sexism? I mean, after all, we’re over that! We’re all equal now!

    This is not about some idiot knee-jerk reaction and the following apology. It’s about the fact that there is a systemic acceptance of atheism as something that you can attack, and religion as something you cannot. And GelatoGuy is part of that system, and thus part of the problem.

  74. 74
    WithinthisMind

    I was talking to a neighbor (a devout Christian, though one of the good ones for the most part) about this, who didn’t really ‘get’ why what he did was a bad thing.

    I pointed out a simple truth:

    He puts up a sign saying ‘we do not do business with Atheists’, and the worst he gets is a ‘shame on you’, assuming anyone actually calls him out in the first place. Those who call him out will probably get vilified for it themselves.

    If I put up a sign saying ‘we do not to business with Christians’, someone would poison my flock, burn down my house, harass my child, cut the brake lines of my car, and egg me as I walk down the street.

    She thought about it for a moment, and realized…I was right. Her response? ‘There is something very wrong with this world’.

    She’s come around from ‘those OWS kids are all a bunch of spoiled brats’ to knitting a bunch of hats for the movement and trying to find a contact person to get the hats handed out, so progress is getting made. Baby steps.

  75. 75
    Don Quijote

    KP @47

    Who cares?
    What “community”?

  76. 76
    Dave R

    Man, this place is like the freerepublic of atheism. Bravo guys, keep on shouting at each other and everyone who disagrees or dares to ask for some basic decency towards each other.

  77. 77
    P. Utt

    PZ: After reading this post, and marveling at the clearheaded thinking it shows, my admiration for you has gone up. Please keep up Pharyngula. It is my daily invigorating breakfast.

  78. 78
    scriabin

    If we didn’t have the “strong person rule”, the extremes of the “other side” would win. Hands down.

    But we do need some people running with the “nice person rule”: we’re not *all* living in the geographical and cultural and political extremes.

    I enjoyed the rant, though.

  79. 79
    jolo5309

    This so much reminds me of the DBAD argument, but now, according to some of you, Sam Singleton and PZ are the dicks for a) mocking religion or b) not accepting an apology. After all, if Singleton had just made fun of moon landing denialists or yeti fans there would be no GelatoGate.

    Who decides who gets to be the dick?

  80. 80
    Stacy

    Not with you on this one, PZ. The guy saw religion, something he respects, being disrespected.* He was upset. He posted a stupid sign (which specifically disinvited convention-goers, NOT all atheists and non-Christians everywhere).

    He took the sign down ten minutes later and offered an apology. Several of them. He didn’t make excuses.

    He fucked up. He’s human. I’m letting it go.

    * I love Brother Sam and disrespect religion. Be that as it may, sustaining outrage over this strikes me as massive overkill–and a bit cruel.

  81. 81
    hyperdeath

    Barfy, the important thing is that you’ve found a way to feel superior to both sides.

  82. 82
    MrPendent

    A-fucking-men, PZ

  83. 83
    Max

    U mad bro?? Regardless of your stance, that’s a lot of anger to carry around. Did you play D&D when you were young?

  84. 84
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    I think part of the mindset comes from organizations like the Full Gospel Businessmen, where evangelical Christians agree to do business with each other and thus help each other to prosper. People are already primed with the notion that business and religion do mix.

    We have nothing but the owner’s say-so that this sign was up for only ten minutes or so, which is already being downsized to “a few minutes.” How about fifteen minutes? Twenty? Half an hour?

    So he went into the show and he didn’t like it. None of the Christian apologist suggestions we’ve read here were true, e.g. someone going into the shop and telling jokes about Jesus masturbating, or males kissing–heaven forfend! I’m doubly angry that someone thought that excused the illegal behavior, especially since someone in a supposedly civilized large city in Canada thought it was appropriate to dowse my step-daughter with beer for holding hands with her wife.

    You’ll notice that in the third apology, a little self-pity leaks out: “I’m only 28 and own a small business”–in other words, don’t punish me financially for being a hot-tempered jerk. Maybe he needs a new sign that read, “Gays and atheists welcome!”

  85. 85
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    First, you have no idea how this particular guy votes; for all you know he could be a flaming liberal at the polls.

    And you have no idea if monkeys are flying out of my ass as I type this. But you could evaluate the odds. He’s in Springfield, MO, and puts up a sign about his Christian business (with double underlines) when telling non-Christians to fuck off, so the odds of him being a flaming liberal at the polls are pretty slim.

  86. 86
    speedwell

    We all make mistakes. We all make rash actions based on emotion. If you claim not to do this you are a liar. Lets show some freaking compassion here.

    Sure, compassion. But note that you don’t need to have compassion for someone unless their conduct is such that you have to actually exert effort to understand why they’re obnoxious.

  87. 87
    Lakabux

    *sits in awe and silently mouths a ‘bravo’ for a truly epic rant*

  88. 88
    speedwell

    Blockquote fail (only the first paragraph was a quote). Plus I’m only referring to the narrow case of having compassion for someone who acted obnoxiously. Sorry.

  89. 89
    Alex

    @WithThisInMind

    I’m actually stunned that you didn’t get a “But, but . . . that’s different!” out of her, as I’ve gotten from (shamefully enough) loads of atheist GelatoGuy apologists since last night.

    Props to her for failing to intellectually writhe and wriggle in order to hold onto an irrational position. I wish some of the ‘skeptics’ in this issue were actually that rational.

  90. 90
    Anthony K

    As for Gelato guy’s apology; I don’t know what to say. Sincere, not sincere—there’s probably some of both. There’s definitely a cultural divide here: as a Canadian, the thought of someone doing something like this is ludicrous. But I don’t live under a theist tyranny, and I don’t face discrimination from them on any sort of a regular basis. At least, none that I feel. Perhaps I live in a bubble. Perhaps I’m naive.

    But I’m not going to tell those of you who saw that sign and genuinely felt the shaky fear of standing on shifting sands as a minority that’s discriminated against that you should just take the apology at face value and get over it, any more than I would say that to a woman overhearing a rape joke, or someone who’s gay overhearing a homophobic slur, or a member of an ethnic minority hearing a comment about how lazy/conniving/dirty their ethnicity is.

  91. 91
    gould1865

    I didn’t accept his apology either but that was not my fight then. There is no need to accept the apology and plenty of reasons not to, hypocrisy of Christians being foremost among them. The Christian pattern I know is big smiley face but then send all business to declared Christians, not me, and talk peace but be war mongers, oppressors, and encouragers of illusions, so they can get money. (In the end money is their god, watch closely.) They are a nasty piece of work.

    And they always have been.

    But their time is slipping away, to join the Zoroastrians, and Inca remnants. They know this (see Catholic bishops on tolerance this week). They will try to morph and hold power, and money, and an apology is just more of the same old story, which is one of many reasons not to accept the apology.

    So what would indicate sincerity, not make it but indicate it? A donation to skepticon of a couple of thousand dollars, probably would, then notify PZ, so gelato man should be put non-delusional money where his ice cream mouth is. If a client and lawyer go to the trouble, gelato might have to pay that anyway, if an open jury and judge can be found there.

    So, as they say, I can make it my fight. Gelato man can take his apology and in the end put it where the sun never shines, smiling of course.

    Furthermore, I would point out to some of you suckers that the apology is very like and worth no more than a prayer, so gelato can feel better about his money and then to hell with you.

  92. 92
    Carlie

    Maybe he needs a new sign that read, “Gays and atheists welcome!”

    You know, that might be a good way to indicate a real change of heart, because you know he’d have to answer for it in the community.

  93. 93
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @Brownian:

    But I don’t live under a theist tyranny

    Well not yet anyway.

  94. 94
    Anthony K

    @Max:

    That’s a lot of stupidity to carry around. If you’re not mad at your parents or teachers, or whoever made you a moron, you really should be.

  95. 95
    billygutter01

    A “gentle skeptic” and PZ Myers in a cage with a rabid grizzly:

    GS: Now if you look at the mouth, you’ll see a great deal of froth…

    PZ: Get that fucking door open! There’s a fucking rabid bear in here!

    GS: Watch your language, PZ, or you might make it angrier! Besides, we can’t be sure that it has rabies until the tests are in. What kind of a skeptic are you, anyways? I’m going to get a sample if its spittle…

  96. 96
    WithinthisMind

    Years ago I had a boyfriend. One day, he had a couple beers, and he took a swing at me after I beat him at a game.

    I knocked him on his ass, grabbed my stuff, and walked out.

    He called me to apologize, said he doesn’t normally drink that much, he was an idiot, it was dumb to get upset over getting beaten at a stupid game, and he was sorry.

    I did not accept his apology.

    But by the reasoning of a lot of folks here (and some folks then)…I not only should have accepted his apology…I should have continued dating him?

    He apologized…what more do you want?

    I read this book, where a boy screamed horrible things to his mother. His father took him out to the woods, set up a target, and had the boy shoot the target with an arrow. He walked the boy over to the target and said, ‘apologize, remove the arrow’. The boy did. The father took the boy’s hand and put it on the target. ‘Now remove the hole’.

    Hindsight is 20-20. I want people to gain a little foresight.

  97. 97
    andrewbissette

    And this is why I pretty much read Pharyngula for interesting links rather than PZ’s views. Forget that this bloke is an evil Christian who is keeping the atheists down; he is also a human being and as such prone to strong emotional reactions and stupid mistakes. We all do these things from time to time. As has been pointed out, it is possible to understand and forgive these things without “betraying the cause”.

    I follow events and speakers in this online skeptical community, and I also participate in a local Christian community in my city. The latter is a considerably more loving, charitable, and fundamentally more decent by far. A reaction as strong and bitter as PZ’s would simply not arise there, no matter how strongly I criticise their beliefs. Ditto the disgusting response of some to Rebecca Watson’s infamous elevator incident. I don’t really know what this means, but it certainly means something.

    Anyway. This blog post is yet another reason I’ll follow PZ’s links but not his approach to other people.

  98. 98
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Dave R

    Man, this place is like the freerepublic of atheism. Bravo guys, keep on shouting at each other and everyone who disagrees or dares to ask for some basic decency towards each other.

    People writing about something you disagree with is shouting? How do I know you’re not just shouting at people who disagree with you right now?

  99. 99
    cicely

    I actually was on-board with his apology right up until this point:

    For what it’s worth, an Atheist reached out to me to help me work through all of this and contact your community directly. I graciously accepted his offer.

    He graciously accepted an atheist’s help. Condescending, much?

    The “grace” was not on his part.

    This guy so desperately needs to have heard Greta Christina’s “angry atheist” talk, earlier in the day. Might have been an eye-opener for him.
    -

    Fine distinction. He apologized for his behavior, not for his bigotry.

    Yes.
    -

    I’m not convinced he understands why he should be making the apology.

    Yes. In spades.
    -

  100. 100
    Alex

    “Hindsight is 20-20. I want people to gain a little foresight.”

    WithThisInMind basically just won this entire thread, for me. Superbly stated.

  101. 101
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    anthonyk:

    Though I am left wondering whether a silly little bigot and a graffito lasting all of 10 minutes justifies such a big fuss in the blogosphere.

    Like certain other instances of * Guy, it’s not the specific incident, but the societal disparity it represents. In this instance, a person felt strongly about a show put on by a comedian. He just angry for the ten minutes in which the sign was up; he was angry from the time he heard the show, through his decision to return to his business and create the sign, and then the ten minutes for which the sign stood in the window.* So the bit in the apology of being angry for a few minutes is disingenuous. It wasn’t like he was reacting on-the-spot to a situation in which someone was a jerk to him.

    What the sign represents is a deep-rooted societal privilege enjoyed by Christians. They feel as if they can blame the gays, the atheists, or Muslims for any-damned thing. GG felt for several minutes (at a minimum) that he not only had the right to discriminate against others for their beliefs, but that he could do so with no blowback.

    So yes. This does justify the fuss. It’s time we stopped prostrating ourselves with the Jesus-skin jackboots at our throats. It’s time we started making a fuss, especially when “nice” people display their peacock bigotry. After all, we expect that kind of thing from the Falwells and Grahams and Haggards of the world. We shouldn’t have to expect it from “nice” people.

     

    * BTW: anybody know how long it was between Brother Sam’s show, and the point at which the sign was removed?

  102. 102
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    The first apology was all, “It’s not our fault you drew a picture of Mohammad and offended us.” He seems to be progressing. That doesn’t mean I ever have to matronize his place.

  103. 103
    cicely

    (I’ll bet he’d let an atheist use his restroom….)
    -

  104. 104
    WithinthisMind

    @Alex

    I give her another five years before she’s full on atheist. Less, if there was an atheist meeting hall where she could get community time and a good pot luck on Sundays.

    Seriously, we’ve got to get some pot lucks organized. She dragged me to one a couple weeks ago and I have to admit the baking of these ladies is the most powerful conversion tool this ‘god’ thing has.

  105. 105
    raven

    It always strikes me that hating atheists is sort of a losing game. For a lot of reasons.

    The No Religions, many of whom don’t quite fall into the atheist pigeon hole, run around 22% of the population, and score high in education and intelligence. Among the best and brightest our society has produced.

    That is a lot of people to hate. They are also growing rapidly.

    The No Religions aren’t a visisble minority. It’s not like they have any sort of color, ethnic background, clothing style, accent, or even an agenda. The only defining feature is not believing in Invisible Supernatural Entities.

    Of course, that has nothing to do with what actually happens. The haters have to hate somebody.

    There is another drawback. As their magic book says, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Polls show that one of the most hated groups in the USA are atheists. Two of the others are the Tea Party and the fundie xians. Humans are good at returning hate with hate.

  106. 106
    Brad

    There are elements of this that are similar to the “holy cracker” incident, in that I ultimately understand ridicule/mocking as a way to make a point about religion, but I’m not sure it’s very realistic to think that people won’t sometimes be offended by it. Or IS that the point: to deliberately offend people into rethinking their strongly-held beliefs?

    I have very mixed feelings about this: primarily because I’m in the middle of a “journey away from faith” myself. I couldn’t attend Skepticon, but if I had, I’m not sure I would have been able to attend Sam’s mock revival, just because it would have hit too close to home to my (very recent) evangelical past. Then again, maybe that should have been all the more reason for me to attend.

    My journey has definitely been a progressive one, with skepticism as a “gateway” into wrestling with questions about God. I became interested/involved in skepticism through Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog, where skeptical posts are sprinkled in among Hubble and Cassini photos. It was precisely BECAUSE they were on “safe/neutral” topics like UFOs, Moon Landing Hoaxers, and Astrology that I felt comfortable exploring them while still holding onto my faith.

    And yet it was Phil’s regular inclusion of “prayer” in his mentions of “provably wrong things that people still stubbornly believe” that led me to start questioning my beliefs, and learning more about stuff like confirmation bias that allowed me to continue believing in something with no real evidence.

    I’m not sure I have a proposed answer here, other than there is probably room enough for both PZ “get meaner, angrier, louder, fiercer” Myers and Phil “Don’t be a Dick” Plait in the skeptical community.

  107. 107
    latsot

    I don’t care at all about apologies of any kind. If you realise you’ve done wrong and your first instinct is to apologise rather than to redress the wrong or make sure you don’t do it again then fuck you.

    The apology – especially the special kind reserved for public figures – usually has nothing to do with actually being sorry or actually changing your MO.

  108. 108
    Anthony K

    Well not yet anyway.

    It’s unlikely to happen. (And if it did, it would come out of Alberta, and the rest of the country is already wary of us as bible-thumping yokels.)

    We just don’t have the religious support here for such things. Our respective cultures really are incredibly different on some fundamental levels, Katherine.

  109. 109
    Glen Davidson

    PZ @ 5:

    What am I supposed to do,

    A Kum Ba Yah duet with Gelato guy will do.

    Glen Davidson

  110. 110
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Uhm, that should be:

    He wasn’t just angry for the ten minutes…

  111. 111
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    It would be splendid if every time someone asked us if we’d found Jesus, handed out a pamphlet, or preached on a street corner, other people made it very clear that the bible-thumper was offending their sensibility by promulgating nonsense as fact.

  112. 112
    amethystt

    Well said, PZ. Totally with you on this one.

  113. 113
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    Sorry: “other people” should be “we”–I’ve switched person in mid-sentence.

  114. 114
    raven

    Man, this place is like the freerepublic of atheism.

    You say that like it is a bad thing. LOL.

    I’d be inclined to just drop it and move on.

    He at least has modified his position and pretended to apologize or even maybe really meant it.

    He is also vastly outnumbered at least in terms of keyboards and computer monitors. At some point it becomes bullying and angry cybermob action. Not saying we are there yet but we could be.

    No one changes their mind overnight about deeply held prejudices and beliefs. It took me years and some ugly incidents to drop xianity.

  115. 115
    Anthony K

    At Brad, 106:

    Good for you, man. I think you really, really get it.

  116. 116
    djfav

    *reads all the nice comments from nice people*

    I’m gonna need a bingo card for this one.

  117. 117
    SallyStrange

    I follow events and speakers in this online skeptical community, and I also participate in a local Christian community in my city. The latter is a considerably more loving, charitable, and fundamentally more decent by far. A reaction as strong and bitter as PZ’s would simply not arise there, no matter how strongly I criticise their beliefs. Ditto the disgusting response of some to Rebecca Watson’s infamous elevator incident. I don’t really know what this means, but it certainly means something.

    I think it means you’re delusional. There are reasons your Christian community hasn’t displayed any of the unpleasantness you’re currently witnessing. First, your Christian community aren’t a group of people who are marginalized and discriminated against by a majority. What opportunity, then, would they have for choosing between forgiving and forgetting an egregious display of bigotry against them? Second, your Christian community has obviously not seriously confronted issues involving sexism, misogyny, and sexual harassment. If it did, I predict that you would quickly see that there is a significant portion of that community that sincerely believes that women exist to be pleasing eye-candy to men, that women’s intellectual contributions should be disregarded, and that uppity women who have the gall to speak up about being made to feel uncomfortable by men exercising their male privilege should be shouted down and excluded from the community. I mean, the Bible and Christian beliefs are explicitly sexist; Christians who choose to be feminist are doing so in opposition to the commandments in their “holy” book.

  118. 118
    Scott Hatfield, OM

    Dave Silverman summarized my opinion when he said, “You can be a theist, and you can be a skeptic. But if you’re both, you’re not very good at one of them.”

    Probably true, in my case.

    Nevertheless, I agree with much of your critique. It’s unreasonable to expect that you or any other atheist should “forgive” an oppressive minority (theists) on the basis of one mealy-mouthed apology. Lord knows (heh) that I’ve encountered the same phenomena with creationists, who, when called on some act of mendacious misrepresentation, want to be let off the hook by simply saying ‘oopsy.’ Just once, I’d like to see them admit they were not only incorrect, but acting unethically, and commit to a higher standard of engagement.

    I now return to my weekly wrestle with magical thinking.

    Peace….SH

  119. 119
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    That’s a very good question. Does Gelatoguy have to renounce religion and believe as PZ does to earn PZ’s respect?

    Let’s look at what is more than words. For example he could “put his money where his mouth is”. He could agree next year to give away discount coupons to his place at skepticon. Even 5% off would show real remorse, or good public relations, bringing in more business.

  120. 120
    StarStuff, a soulless cunt

    poor gelato guy

    poor guy

    Aw, the poor bigot. All he did was try to refuse service to a minority group. It’s not his fault; those confrontational skeptics/atheists made him do it! They brought this hate upon themselves for… talking? Making fun of a certain kind of religion?

    But seriously, it doesn’t matter what he saw. He’s a fucking adult and is therefore responsible for his actions.

    He didn’t really apologize for his bigotry either. He only apologized for acting on it. If he wants to be a bigot, then fine, but I’m not obligated to forgive and forget just because he knows how to apologize and use the internet effectively.

  121. 121
    Zaphod

    Andy reacted to the legal actions of someone by taking offense (which if is right) and in his anger he took action which is illegal. If instead of that illegal action (posting the sign) if he had physically assaulted the person whose speech offended him, and ten minutes later calmed down, would that have made a difference, or would he still be facing assault charges?

    Andy sought out what ended up offending him, this was not something that an attendee did in his store.

    Forgive Andy if you wish, but I think he should still face the consequences of his actions. Christians too often think they can do anything and ask for forgiveness and that will end it. A small law suit will teach him to think before he acts. Letting him of because he wrote a few words of contrition (whether they were heart-felt or not) will only enable more behavior like that, from Andy or others.

  122. 122
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @Brad:

    Phil Plait was being a “dick” by refering to male genitalia as an insult.

    @Brownian:

    Was mostly riffing off of the Prime Minister being all “I wanna be America’s Hat :D” sort of stuff I keep hearing about. No offense meant.

  123. 123
    StarStuff, a soulless cunt

    I’m also pretty tired of people saying “Oh, look, he admitted he was wrong. You know that’s really hard! So we should forgive him.” You know what else is hard? Closing your business because of lack of customers.

  124. 124
    Randomfactor

    The bottom line, is that he doesn’t think it’s OK to mock evidence-free magical thinking

    The bottom line is he DOES think it’s OK. He was going down to the UFO-mocking conference to laugh at some UFO-nut beliefs.

    And found out they thought he, too, was a UFO-nut. He thought his particular brand of UFO-nutology should be protected from mockery, while he’s free to continue his mocking of others’.

  125. 125
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    I’m not sure it’s very realistic to think that people won’t sometimes be offended by it. Or IS that the point: to deliberately offend people into rethinking their strongly-held beliefs?

    That’s not an exhaustive list of the options. Let me suggest option 3: don’t give a fuck if people are offended.

  126. 126
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Scott Hatfield:

    t’s unreasonable to expect that you or any other atheist should “forgive” an oppressive minority (theists) on the basis of one mealy-mouthed apology.

    Theists aren’t really the minority, especially in that area of the country.

    Maybe oppressive theists are the minority, but if so, they have an inordinate political and societal influence.

  127. 127
    hyperdeath

    KP:

    I completely disagree with the way you’ve been handling this situation and , as an atheist, am a little bit embarrassed by your response given that you are a representative of our “community.”

    What have you done to represent our community? All I can see so far is sanctimonious whining.

  128. 128
    Anthony K

    Was mostly riffing off of the Prime Minister being all “I wanna be America’s Hat :D” sort of stuff I keep hearing about. No offense meant.

    No worries! I wasn’t offended, but neither did I realise you were riffing.

    Many of us here wish Stephen Harper the best of luck with his green card application. And he can take that dumb fucking Minister of State for Science & Technology, Gary Goodyear with him.

  129. 129
    andrewcrawford

    WithinthisMind @96-

    Abuse/Assault is different than posting a revolting sign, IMO. It’s a lot easier to come back from the latter. I think wat gelato guy did was bad, but what your boyfriend did was WAAAAAYYY worse.

  130. 130
    PZ Myers

    #96: Excellent.

    So far, I’ve been accused of wanting to torture gelato guy, of planning a persecution and pogrom, of hating beyond all reasonable bounds. None of it is true. I’m done with him, and have no interest in hounding him.

    I don’t like him, I don’t want to be pals, I’ll rarely encounter his store and wasn’t in the market for ice cream anyway. That doesn’t mean I have to accept his apology, which is the only thing I’m rejecting.

  131. 131
    screechy monkey

    This feels like an episode of Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. PZ simply says that he refuses to accept the apology,* and people go nuts like he’s the bad guy. Because you can’t mess with the sacred social conventions that Sorry Is A Magic Word and All Apologies Must Be Accepted.

    By the mere act of saying “apology not accepted,”* PZ is being accused here and on Twitter of advocating violence against the man, disgracing the atheist community, etc.

    *-Yes, I know the OP goes on to rant in some very harsh words, but those are directed against the atheists and “old school skeptics” who are lapping up the apology and acting appalled that everyone else doesn’t. As PZ has said again in the comments, he’s not demanding a boycott of the store, urging people to write the guy, or planning an ongoing series of posts to remind everyone about him. He just… declines to accept the apology! Shock and consternation!

  132. 132
    raven

    Discrimination and hatred towards atheists isn’t uncommon. It happened to Richard Dawkins recently, when the Wyndgate country club, owned by some wealthy guy with huge legal problems, cancelled a book signing.

    Fundie xians never, ever miss a chance to demonstrate their intellectual and moral bankruptcy.

    It’s great publicity really. It’s always nice when someone you oppose shoots themselves in the foot. Perhaps someone should send the bigots a Thank You card.

    BTW, don’t let these people get behind you and keep a close eye on them. They can be dangerous.

    wikipedia: TMOR:

    Wyndgate Country Club controversyDuring Richard Dawkins’ October 2011 book tour, its sponsor Center for Inquiry (CFI) signed a contract with Wyndgate Country Club in Rochester Hills, Michigan, as the venue site. After seeing an interview with Dawkins on The O’Reilly Factor, an official at the club cancelled Dawkins’ appearance. Dawkins said that the country club official accepted Bill O’Reilly’s “twisted” interpretation of the book without having read it personally.[12][13] Sean Faircloth said that cancelling the reading “really violates the basic principles of America … The Civil Rights Act … prohibits discrimination based on race or religious viewpoint. … [Dawkins has] published numerous books … to explain science to the public, so it’s rather an affront, to reason in general, to shun him as they did.”[14] CFI Michigan executive director Jeff Seaver stated that “This action by The Wyndgate illustrates the kind of bias and bigotry that nonbelievers encounter all the time.”[15] Following the cancellation, protests and legal action by CFI against the Wyndgate Country Club were pursued.[16]

  133. 133
    Enkidum

    Nope, most of you are being fucking idiots here. Dude did a really stupid thing, for stupid reasons. He apologized. We’ve all done stupid things.

    Doesn’t mean anyone has to accept his apology. But shouting about how it was clearly made in bad faith when you don’t know a goddam thing about why it was made, other than what he said, is fucking ridiculous. You look like a bunch of petulant whiners. Again, what the hell else could he do? Someone suggested donating thousands of dollars to the skeptical movement – he’s supposed to donate thousands of dollars to a movement he doesn’t believe in for putting up a sign for a few hours? Get serious.

    I think the point that he apologized for his behavior, not his bigotry, was meant to be a mark against him. But at the end of the day the only thing that makes a lick of difference in the world is his behavior, and it’s the only thing he can or should apologize for.

    Yes, he should be confronted for doing what he did. And no, the fact that he walked in on some comedian in no way justifies it. It was wrong. AS HE ACKNOWLEDGED.

  134. 134
    joed

    “they’ll apologize to our faces when they risk losing our business”

    Yeah, actually the economic boycott is the only action that will make a change in an individual, neighbourhood, city etc. but, sacrifice and hardship is the dues we must pay to change the bigoted ways of most folk.
    Seems the OWS people are doomed to fail because they haven’t begun economic boycott of corporate greed. It’s the only way.

  135. 135
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    A reaction as strong and bitter as PZ’s would simply not arise there, no matter how strongly I criticise their beliefs.

    How can you say this when PZ received *death threats* for throwing away a communion cracker and was told that his *crime* was “worse than genocide!”?

  136. 136
    WishYouWereHere

    #50.Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls said:

    “The problem with tone trolls like Barfy is that they can’t prove that their method works, whereas we can. Any social movement that actually moved public opinion, be it woman’s suffrage, civil rights for people of color, or gay rights, all have one thing in common. First, a very vocal group to get peoples attention. Second, a not so vocal group using more sympathetic language, to reel people in when the vocal group has their attention. We here at Pharyngula are the vocal group. We get peoples attention. You tone trolls could be constructive if you, not us, take the next step of reeling people in. Both groups are necessary, and it is time to quit pretending otherwise tone trolls.”

    ………………………..

    You’re right. Most successful revolutions start with hard-core, damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead, we don’t compromise types who, through various means, attract a following of (usually) more reasonable people who work to affect the changes desired, and yes, both groups are necessary.

    However, let’s be honest and call the leaders what they usually are: Jerks, Pricks, etc. Further, they’re usually bears to live with, so much so that they’re booted or (in extreme cases) executed by their own side after the revolution — they don’t make good post revolution leaders.

    So revel in the fact that we here at Pharyngula do indeed, “get people’s attention” but don’t overlook the fact that we’re also (including PZ) being pricks, and that’s ok.

  137. 137
    Walton

    Meh. If I were involved, I’d probably be happy to take his apology at face value; many people (me included) have said and done deeply stupid and hurtful things when under the influence of irrational emotional impulses. (I said far worse things than his sign years ago, when I was a bigoted and emotionally-unstable teen.) I believe in forgiveness, and it’s not up to me to judge him. But if other people feel differently, that’s understandable; again, it’s not my place to judge other people’s feelings or to tell them that they “should” forgive. The sign was certainly egregious and hurtful, and I understand why many atheists would be reluctant ever to go to his business in the future.

    (Of course I don’t go to sceptic conferences, have never been to Springfield and have no plans to ever go there, and I’m unlikely ever to meet this man. So it’s largely academic.)

  138. 138
    Anthony K

    So far, I’ve been accused of wanting to torture gelato guy, of planning a persecution and pogrom, of hating beyond all reasonable bounds.

    Do you have a third blog wherein you are advocating these things?

    None of it is true. I’m done with him, and have no interest in hounding him.

    So it seems the skeptical community needs to worry less about whether other people believe in UFOs and more on whether its own members can in fact, read.

  139. 139
    pedrotimoteo

    I can accept that GelatoGuy hasn’t done enough to “make amends”, but I have a problem with the idea that he can never possibly do enough. Reminds me a bit too much of the “denying the holy spirit” thing.

    OTOH, I get #96′s (and PZ’s) point.

  140. 140
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Walton: “Meh. If I were involved, I’d probably be happy to take his apology at face value;…”

    Ah, but which face would you choose?

  141. 141
    joed

    @133, Enkidum

    Yes! what is expected of this ice cream guy.
    seems his apology brings out the hostility in many folks.
    Maybe it was a long weekend for most, and they just need to ventabit. But, it sounds almost like a hen-pecking-party.

  142. 142
    darkmatter

    @24 – So “what it’s really like” is inoffensive? No. Brother Sam is what we’re really like just as Greta Christina is what we’re really like, Hemant Mehta is what we’re really like, or James Randi is what we’re really like. Skeptics are a diverse community and atheist evangelists are just as representative of our views as anyone else. I may not go around thumping a bible and shouting “god damn” for a living, but my beliefs are not fundamentally different from the people who do so and when this man is offended by them saying it, he’s offended by me believing it, even though it has no impact on him whatsoever. Not OK.

    The fact that he’s not used to having his beliefs challenged publicly is precisely the problem that people like Sam are working to address, and as long as apologists are non-confrontational then people like GelatoGuy will, by your rationale, have an excuse to be a bigot. Fuck that. There is no better reason for atheists to be outspoken.

  143. 143
    Anthony K

    I’ve got it!

    Gelato Guy can make it up to the community by creating a new flavour:

    Deep Rifts™!

  144. 144
    Greg Esres

    “Nope, most of you are being fucking idiots here. Dude did a really stupid thing, for stupid reasons. He apologized. We’ve all done stupid things.”

    I agree. Rejecting his apology and doubling down on the hostility is really tacky behavior.

    Atheists would advance our cause by demonstrating gracious behavior.

  145. 145
    Walton

    Forgive Andy if you wish, but I think he should still face the consequences of his actions. Christians too often think they can do anything and ask for forgiveness and that will end it. A small law suit will teach him to think before he acts.

    Er… no. Retribution for retribution’s sake is stupid and destructive. A much more rational attitude is to forget the whole thing and leave him alone.

  146. 146
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    So revel in the fact that we here at Pharyngula do indeed, “get people’s attention” but don’t overlook the fact that we’re also (including PZ) being pricks, and that’s ok.

    Oh, A hit, a palpable hit. So not. When we are reactive, as in this case, the pricks are the ones who caused the reaction. In this case. GG.

  147. 147
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    Another data point:

    Dear friends of The Brick Testament,
     
    I have just been informed that Sam’s Club is pulling The Brick Bible from the shelves of all of their retail locations nationwide due to the complaints of a handful of people that it is vulgar and violent. [my emphasis] This despite the book containing only straightforward illustrations of Bible stories using direct quotes from scripture.
     
    The Brick Testament has won tens of thousands of fans across a wide spectrum of beliefs who appreciate it as a fun, engaging way to get a better knowledge of the Bible’s contents. I know that The Brick Bible book will not be right for everyone, but it saddens me to think that a ban at Sam’s Club will prevent thousands of people from coming across The Brick Bible and being allowed to make up their own minds about it. And so the author’s profits are being slashed due to the actions of religious people who want to keep anyone from reading his book.
     
    If you disagree with the decision by Sam’s Club to ban the book, let Sam’s Club know your thoughts on the wall of their Facebook page. (Let’s try to keep the dialogue civil, polite, and reasoned.)
     
    The Brick Bible remains available at many other major retailers like Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, and at many independent bookstores as well. Thanks to everyone for your continued support.
     
    Sincerely,
    The Rev. Brendan Powell Smith

    I think this proves the point that people feel free to discriminate against atheists. The Brick Testament web site proves that the God of the Bible is violent, capricious, and punitive. It is not the product of a Christian sensibility.

  148. 148
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    Damn! The sentence, “And so the author’s profits are being slashed due to the actions of religious people who want to keep anyone from reading his book.” is mine and was supposed to be at the very end of my closing comments. It is not part of the quotation.

  149. 149
    Sastra

    I agree completely on the irrationality and inherent contradiction in trying to divide skeptical criticism of religion off from skeptical criticism of other forms of woo and pseudoscience. Damn it, religion and the sloppy habits of thought it encourages are at the root of most of the other stuff.

    But I’m a bit torn on whether or not I’d accept GelatoGuy’s apology. As has been pointed out numerous times, the apology as a whole is both better than it might have been and better than no apology at all.

    But yes, this whole situation has to be taken in context. And the context does not place GelatoGuy in the despised minority with the atheists sitting with the power of forgiveness in our majority grasp. I strongly suspect that the expressed contrition rests on GelatoGuy’s assumption that not ALL skeptics are atheists and not ALL atheists are as “bad” as Brother Sam. He’s not getting it.

    On the other hand, I do give credit to his endorsement of the secular principle which keeps religion out of how we do business in the marketplace. I think he does get that.

    So I reject his apology — but in the nicest way possible. This will satisfy no one but me, but from here it seems reasonable enough.

  150. 150
    WithinthisMind

    @andrewcrawford

    And yet, the reaction was the same.

    He apologized, it was the heat of the moment, he was drunk, he wised up and admitted what he did was wrong and apologized and what more do you want. It’s understandable for him to be pissed off after having a bad day and then come home to get thoroughly trounce at your favorite game, he just overreacted. His apology is sincere. What kind of heartless person are you not to take the apology.

    I’m not comparing gelato guy to my ex. I’m comparing the folks demonizing PZ for not accepting the apology of gelato guy to the folks who demonized me for not accepting the apology of my ex. And comparing some of them to the folks who thought the apology should have been sufficient for me to continue dating the aforementioned ex.

  151. 151
    john

    I am appalled. I am outraged by the whole affair. I am really indignant too. I am mad as hell. I am ready to explode. No forgiveness. What an outrage! I’d like to shred that ice cream man to pieces.

  152. 152
    longstreet63

    This is a ‘Bully’s Apology’. It’s the one given when the bully finds out that his target can fight back after all. His bottom line was being endangered and he doesn’t like that, so he’s trying to ‘fix’ it by saying he’s sorry.
    In fact, his first impulse was his true one–ban those heathens. He’s unhappy with the consequences of that, but there’s no suggestion that he’s learned anything other than to be quieter about his bigotry, so as not to cost himself money.
    I suppose if he gave that 10% to anyone who came into his shop and expressed a disbelief in all gods, I’d consider his personal growth more likely–seeking out those he wanted to avoid, regardless of the cost he might incur.
    He’s not changed. he just realized that our money spends just fine.

  153. 153
    WithinthisMind

    There is an article in here – http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/pdfs/1995Fall_vol4.pdf on the politics of forgiveness in the church.

    Apologies are used as weapons. ‘I screwed up, but I apologized. But he won’t accept my apology, so obviously, he’s the bad guy in all of this’.

    Except…why do you have to accept the apology? Why is it ‘necessary’ to forgive? Come on, we are skeptics here. Let’s address this bit of ‘wisdom’ with a skeptical eye. Why is forgiveness a ‘virtue?’ Why does refusing to forgive make the wronged party into the bad guy? Why is PZ a ‘bad’ person for not accepting an apology as though it did magically make everything whole and all better? Does the apology actually change anything?

    I don’t hate my ex. I don’t wish bad things on him. This thread was probably the first time all year I actually thought about him. I sort of hope his life has improved and things are better for him, that he has stopped drinking and cleaned up his act. But you know something? I still don’t see a reason why I should accept his apology. And I don’t see any reason why that makes me a bad person.

  154. 154
    strange gods before me ॐ

    If we want to win an asymmetric war, it is prima facie rational to decide that regardless of the sincerity of his apology, we should attempt to bankrupt his business as an example to others.

    If we want to win an asymmetric war, it is probably rational to avoid transactions with evangelical Christian business owners just for being evangelical Christians.

    What I find interesting is how many people seem unwilling to consciously embrace these tactics, instead needing to find moralizing excuses for uncompromizing treatment.

    His apology is apparently sincere. Those of you who need to declare it insincere are acting like you’re afraid of your own spite. To deny his stated emotions is indecent of you. The noble path is to accept his apology and punish him anyway. Crush his livelihood for the sake of crushing it.

  155. 155
    andrewcrawford

    WithinthisMind-

    I’m not sure if I’ve seen much “demonization” of PZ for this particular episode- it just seems like disagreement to me.

    And I still think the difference in the actions is significant enough to make the comparison pointless- if your boyfriend had said “damn it!” and then tossed the gameboard, then apologized, is it the same?

    The action that leads to the apology is what matters to me- and in some, an apology can be enough. In others (like taking a swing at a girlfriend), it’s not.

  156. 156
    john

    Oh, I forgot something. I am really peaved. I hope his town has a power outage and all his ice cream melts.

  157. 157
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I am appalled. I am outraged by the whole affair. I am really indignant too. I am mad as hell. I am ready to explode. No forgiveness. What an outrage! I’d like to shred that ice cream man to pieces.

    Yes! That’s what I’m talking about! Good man, John.

  158. 158
    sqlrob

    @Stacy:

    He posted a stupid sign (which specifically disinvited convention-goers, NOT all atheists and non-Christians everywhere).

    If it was specifically intended for convention goers, why add the “Christian Business” bit?

  159. 159
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    If anyone has a Sam’s Club near them (I don’t), perhaps they’ll walk in, optionally load up a cart with merchandise, then ask for the book; and when it’s not there, depart from the store without buying anything.

  160. 160
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    I need some Atheist “A” buttons–does anyone know where they’re for sale in Toronto?

  161. 161
    Rayna

    This sums up nearly perfectly my thoughts as an angry atheist defending what I feel should be common sense when the pot boils over. I loved reading this.

  162. 162
    Muzz

    In some threads of this discussion I can’t see there is any such thing as sincere regret anymore to some people, or none that they would acknowledge for any wrong under any circumstances.
    That is what accepting an apology means, right?
    That seems odd to me. Some even want to get legally absolute about it, even though regret and contrition are part of legal judgements. Atheists with an authoritarian absolutist streak strikes me as somewhat dissonant too, but I guess anything is possible.

  163. 163
    WithinthisMind

    @And I still think the difference in the actions is significant enough to make the comparison pointless- if your boyfriend had said “damn it!” and then tossed the gameboard, then apologized, is it the same?

    You’ve missed the point again.

    Ignore the words. Did his actions change? Would he ever again do the same (or similar) thing? Does he still express the beliefs that caused him to toss the gameboard in the first place? Would he still damage my personal belongings when he got his mad on? Is he still a sore loser?

    If yes – then what did the words mean? Nothing.
    If no – then were the words necessary? Not really.

    Actions speak much louder than words. He’s talked. Now let us see how he walks.

  164. 164
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Doesn’t mean anyone has to accept his apology. But shouting about how it was clearly made in bad faith when you don’t know a goddam thing about why it was made, other than what he said, is fucking ridiculous.

    Hm.

    This is a fair point. Perhaps I came to a hasty conclusion.

    I suppose there is more than one noble path. In addition to accepting his apology and flaunting your power to harm his business anyway, another noble thing to do would be to acknowledge that his apology is sincere but reject it and him as unworthy of you.

  165. 165
    ChasCPeterson

    Gelato Guy can make it up to the community by creating a new flavour:
    Deep Rifts™!

    Good idea–gelato is after all his raisin date.

  166. 166
    PZ Myers

    Let’s get this straight: I am NOT demanding that GelatoGuy make amends, or that he be punished.

    I am simply saying that I do not accept his apology. I’m not going to act like saying “I’m sorry” suddenly makes his past behavior or his current ideology vanish and become irrelevant.

    I’m also not personally interested in that guy — he’s one of hundreds of millions with that attitude. I’m actually more peeved at the atheists and skeptics making excuses for being ashamed of atheism.

  167. 167
    Serendipitydawg(rebel without paws)

    One is never under any obligation to accept an apology, the question of what PZ (or anyone else for that matter) expects GG to do is a non-sequitur: they weren’t bosom buddies from childhood and PZ didn’t ask for a personal apology to right the wrong.

    GG’s response to something he heard was squarely identified with GG and his business, he now sees the need to make amends.

    All of the other outraged xians who slash tyres and destroy atheist car badges, or vandalise atheist posters, remain anonymous so the buck cannot stop with them. They are all GG’s in their own way, anonymity simply allows them to continue without apology.

  168. 168
    Russell

    What really damns the Bigoted Gelato Guy is the beaky bits and ink blots in his bacon octopus spumoni.

  169. 169
    Sastra

    cicely at #99 pointed out something I missed on first reading:

    For what it’s worth, an Atheist reached out to me to help me work through all of this and contact your community directly. I graciously accepted his offer.

    I read this as “gratefully” — “I gratefully accepted his offer.” I suppose that might have been what GelatoGuy meant to write, but otherwise it does leave a rather nasty impression. As she said, condescending.

    Unlike PZ, I would now if given the opportunity go into this store and buy ice cream. But I’m not pretending to take the high road here. I like ice cream.

    Maybe we could all agree to patronize his store. And open that up to interpretation.

  170. 170
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    I suspect you wouldn’t get a legal judgement (Canadian spelling) against him since his scribbled sign was not a fixed policy and has been rescinded, not persisted with.

  171. 171
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Yes! That’s what I’m talking about! Good man, John.

    Not sure I’m wholly buying the sincerity of john.

  172. 172
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    This strikes me as eerily similar to the current FIFA dustup about racism on the football pitch.

    “There is no racism, there is maybe one of the players towards the other, he has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but also the one who is affected by that, he should say it’s a game, we are in a game. At the end of the game, we shake hands, this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination.” -FIFA president Sepp Blatter

    Former Brazil defender Robert Carlos walked off the pitch during a Russian league match after a banana was thrown at him from the stands, while the Malaysian Football Association was forced to apologize to Chelsea in July when their Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun was subject to racial slurs during a pre-season encounter.

    See if you shake hands after, then it’s okay! It was just the heat of the moment! Don’t take it so personally! It’s only a game!

    Come on PZ it’s just an ice cream stand and the guy is really sorry so can’t you just accept his apology so he doesn’t have to feel bad about being a bigot?

    *SMILEY FACE!* :D

    [note that I am not saying GelatoGuy is just as terrible as Blatter, just that the KIND of terrible is similar.]

    If nothing else, no one here has any right to tell PZ how he should feel like some kind of Thought Police. If PZ doesn’t want to accept an apology, that is his right, and frankly he’s not even obligated to explain his reasons for not accepting it if he doesn’t want to.

    Although I’m quite glad he did in this epic rant.

  173. 173
    The Lorax

    An ex-girlfriend of mine never hesitated to remind me that I rarely apologize for my actions. She had a point; I’m not a very socially intelligent individual, and I do things that… shall we say “normal” people might find offensive. I never intend to offend, I simply act naturally and make mistakes.

    However, long before I met this girl, I discovered something about apologies. They’re bunk. When I was a child, if I or my sister made a mistake, we had but to apologies and we got off scot-free. Where was the learning? Where was the fixing of the mistake? Where was the growth? Was the world really that simple, where you could apologies and all the bad things you ever did simply vanished? No, I did not like that. So, I stopped apologizing to people. Oh sure, I’ll drop a “mea cupla” now and then, but merely as polite nothings. When I make a mistake, I fucking fix it. I realize what I did, figure out the flaw in my logic or reasoning, and tell myself to not make the same mistake again. If I wronged someone, I tell them my findings, and sometimes ask them to help me improve myself. I genuinely make an effort to show that I am sorry, rather than just spew a few words.

    I doubt my ex-girlfriend is reading this, but if she is, that’s what a fucking apology is, Belle.

  174. 174
    Jennifer Keane (zenbuffy)

    Fully realising that this will probably provoke the ire of many commenters here, I have to say that I don’t agree. I don’t think that not accepting the apology will achieve anything, and I don’t believe that it will help anything or anyone involved.

    I tend to subscribe to the “don’t be a dick” philosophy, because being a dick doesn’t help get the point across, and mostly just tends to upset and alienate people. For anyone who would like to respond by telling me that they are a discriminated against minority who face abuse every day, and therefore have the right to be a dick, I will pre-emptively counter by reminding you that I live in a country which has, enshrined in it’s employment equality law, the right of a religious, medical, or educational organisation to discriminate on the grounds of religion, and where the vast majority of schools fall under religious patronage, meaning that it is almost impossible to educate one’s children without faith. With that said, please do me the courtesy of not dismissing what I say because I “don’t understand” the discrimination people face.

    I think that Andy, like all of us, is human, and that he responded stupidly to something that was designed to provoke a response. He is by no means the only person guilty of such a crime, and I would wager that, if we were to check our own blogs, emails, and Twitter feeds, we’d probably find messages that we regret posting, or that we think now, with hindsight, were posted too hastily. Many people who believe strongly in religion do not merely see religious criticism as criticism of the religion, but as a very personal attack too – I could talk here about the various regions of the brain thought to be associated with religious thought, and the psychosocio-development of religion, but it’s probably more succinct to say that religion and faith are very personal and important things to those who believe, and those who believe tend to identify that belief as a large part of themselves as a person. In short, Andy, as a believer, has an emotional attachment to his faith, and when he saw something that ridiculed that faith, it also felt like something which ridiculed him directly, and his feelings were hurt. He acted, like many of us with hurt feelings do – by lashing out.

    Am I aware that it’s irrational? Yes. Am I aware that it is illegal? Yes. Do we all sometimes do irrational, and possibly even illegal, things when we are feeling hurt and upset? If we’re honest, yes. Do we all apologise, publicly, for our irrational behaviour once the fog of upset has cleared? Well, no, actually. Mostly, we don’t. We shroud ourselves in a cloak of indignation, rights, beliefs, and other such emotional things, and declare that we were right anyway, or that it’s a matter of opinion, or other such placations. We use the cloak of indignation to bat away anything that might damage or tear the cloak, lest it expose the flawed logic beneath it. Privately, we might admit that we were hasty, but publicly, we do not want to lose face, so we gather our indignicloak about us and continue on. Does that sound like the kind of behaviour that skeptics revere, or more like the kind of thing that we are renowned for ridiculing? It is, I think, much easier to maintain an air of indignant offense than it is to accept that trashing a menu online or posting hundreds of fake bad reviews was also an emotional reaction that, in hindsight, may be unjustified.

    I’m not saying that what Andy did was ok – demonstrably, it wasn’t; it was offensive, and illegal. What I am saying is that he seems to have realised that his behaviour was offensive and illegal, and taken steps to remedy it. Frankly, he could have simply left the sign there, turned away patrons, and picketed the con for the rest of the weekend, and depending on the area he was in, he may well have received popular support for such actions. The fact is that that’s not what he has done. He took down the sign once his initial upset had cleared. He apologised, and has done so again, explaining (but not making excuses for) his behaviour.

    People like Andy don’t understand our beliefs (or lack thereof) simply because we browbeat them into submission. People like Andy may never understand how or why we don’t believe in Jesus or Mohammed or any other deity. It would be nice if, in the future, everyone understood everyone’s beliefs, but if we are honest with ourselves, we might realise that, while we know about the beliefs of Christians, for example, we don’t understand them. I can think of many reasons why someone might have faith, but I don’t understand them because, to me, they seem illogical or hollow or simply weak. I speak the language of science, and evidence, and proof, and they speak the language of belief and faith.

    I’m not saying that atheists should lie prone on the ground and allow people to walk all over them, but what I am saying is that responding like an aggrieved extremist group does not do anyone any favours. Do you honestly think that, if his shop goes out of business, he’ll suddenly have a conversion experience, become an atheist, and start attending Skepticon himself? Do you think that a non-acceptance of, what really appears to be, a sincere apology makes you seem like the better person? Do you believe that making a loud example of this person will help anyone, in any way? I don’t. Tiny steps matter, and he took one.

    http://www.zenbuffy.com/2011/11/tiny-steps/

  175. 175
    Enkidum

    @WithinthisMind

    Actions speak much louder than words. Yes, so the case of your ex-boyfriend really doesn’t fit – he ACTED, the other guy put some WORDS on a sign.

    And he has since acted by offering a discount to all attendees. Self-serving? Probably. But again, what the hell else could he do? What possible act could satisfy you, or anyone else here?

    Again, you don’t need to accept his apology. But there’s a difference between not accepting an apology, and being a dick for no good reason. And most of y’all are taking the latter path.

  176. 176
    andrewcrawford

    Ignore the words. Did his actions change? Would he ever again do the same (or similar) thing? Does he still express the beliefs that caused him to toss the gameboard in the first place? Would he still damage my personal belongings when he got his mad on? Is he still a sore loser?

    Don’t know. Don’t know. Don’t know. Don’t know. Don’t know.

    But based on the severity of the action, one has to make a decision whether to give him or her the chance to answer those questions. If you’re boyfriend had tossed your gameboard, it might be reasonable of you to give him that chance. Not so for assault. I hold that the gelato guys actions are much closer to the “gameboard tossing” than the assault, and as such, it may be reasonable to give him the benefit of the doubt in this particular case.

  177. 177
    MoonShark

    I live in a country where my rejection of your religion makes me a pariah. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to make up for that.

    This line stuck out at me, because if Mr. Gelato here joined up with e.g. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and spent a significant amount of his own time fighting for the rights of nonbelievers, I think I’d forgive him.

    But just words? Nah, for that, PZ nailed it.

  178. 178
    EternalStudent

    Delurking for a quick question…

    Lots of posts here giving props to GG for turning around quickly, and sincerely apologizing.

    I hear it was 10 minutes or so between putting the sign up and taking it down. But I’m curious: how long between putting the sign up and restoring his facebook page including comments he didn’t like?

  179. 179
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    I’m not sure if I’ve seen much “demonization” of PZ for this particular episode- it just seems like disagreement to me.

    Then you should look at Twitter.

  180. 180
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    Ugh, I apologize for my shitty grammar. Should be: “no one here has any right to tell PZ how he should feel, like some kind of Thought Police.”

    Commas – they’re important.

  181. 181
    Monado, Deployer of Precision F-Strikes

    Apologizing is not making amends. There’s a rather unattractive game in Games people Play, where one person habitually makes a mess, accidentally breaks things, etc. and then apologizes. They win emotional satisfaction when the other person is forced by politeness to accept their apology and reluctantly “forgive” them. The only way to disrupt the game is to say, “No, I won’t forgive you.”

    As I said, a nice way to make amends would be to put up the sign that welcomes atheists and gays. Stores where I live put a little rainbow flag decal in their windows to indicate that they are gay-friendly businesses.

  182. 182
    knottyoak

    PZ, I thought you were being a bit of a dick on twitter, after reading this, I realized that you are completely right! Thank you.

  183. 183
    garth

    Why can’t people get it’s and its right? It is not hard. If you see a comma, say “it is” in your head. If the sentence doesn’t work, don’t use its comma!

  184. 184
    waynetrembly

    PZ, this may be your finest moment. I couldn’t agree more. Gelato guy’s motives are clearly economic and his apology is bullshit. Strong trumps nice every time. I’ll always be nice to those who deserve it and never to sphincter boys like gelato guy. I wish him neither good or ill but I KNOW what he wishes me.

  185. 185
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    *twitch* that’s an apostrophe, garth. *twitch*

  186. 186
    Zinc Avenger

    Society has conditioned me to accept every apology I’m given.

    This kept me in an abusive relationship for six years.

    An apology can be poisonous. If you accept it, the transgressor can then continue the behavior that prompted the apology – it clearly wasn’t that much of a big deal if it can be fixed with a few mumbled words. If you don’t accept it, then you, the victim, are now the unreasonable one!

    Fuck insincere apologies.

  187. 187
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    I tend to subscribe to the “don’t be a dick” philosophy, because being a dick doesn’t help get the point across

    I tend to subscribe to the “don’t use gendered nouns as an insult” philosophy.

  188. 188
    speedwell

    I think the point that he apologized for his behavior, not his bigotry, was meant to be a mark against him. But at the end of the day the only thing that makes a lick of difference in the world is his behavior, and it’s the only thing he can or should apologize for.

    “Oh, I’m sorry I accidentally set fire to your home by falling asleep with a lit cigarette in bed. You have every right to be angry. I promise to be more careful next time I smoke in bed.”

  189. 189
    boskerbonzer

    @96

    A more apt comparison might be a boyfriend scenario where the two of you are having an argument. You say something along the lines that all men, him in particular, are stupid, illogical, useless pieces of crap. He can ignore it and just suck it up, or he might respond with something along the lines of all women being hysterical, moronic pieces of crap useless for anything but sex. And according to this thread, he would be the one owing you an apology, but you would be so outraged at his having the balls to stand up for himself that you would not even consider accepting it. I think this a little more closely follows what happened at the convention.

    Gelatoman didn’t assault anyone. He offended some people after being offended himself.

  190. 190
    WithinthisMind

    @ Monado

    Exactly. The purpose of the apology is to shut the other person up. You apologize, and then, if they don’t accept it, they are the bad, unreasonable, mean ones causing the problem.

    @ The Lorax

    Yep. It’s a game. And the only way to win is to refuse to play.

    So I ask again – Why does it make PZ the ‘bad guy’ to refuse to say ‘I accept your apology’?

    @andrewcrawford – You really like the red herring of ‘well what he did wasn’t so bad’, but would you mind actually addressing the point?

    @Enkidum – How about altering his thinking processes to include rationality, critical thinking, and a lack of bigotry? I don’t want jack shit from him. I want a world where it never would have occurred to someone to put a sign like that up in the first place. But Gelato Guy can’t give me that. So what is the point of accepting his apology?

    We have to eat shit like this every day. Does the apology actually get the taste out of your mouth? Does it actually make anything better? Does it actually change anything?

    Why are you so upset that some folks don’t want to play the apology game?

    I’m sorry that we are making hamburgers out of your sacred cow here. Why don’t you try reading the article I posted earlier, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll start to get the idea of why some of us are sick to death of this ‘apology’ bullshit.

  191. 191
    andrewcrawford

    WithinthisMind-

    I agree with your point. I didn’t think my point contradicted yours. I was hoping you would address mine.

  192. 192
    strange gods before me ॐ

    PZ

    I am simply saying that I do not accept his apology.

    Right, but,

    I’m not going to act like saying “I’m sorry” suddenly makes his past behavior or his current ideology vanish and become irrelevant.

    no apology in human history has ever accomplished anything like this.

    Therefore your rejection of his apology seems to be based on a flawed premise of what an apology actually is.

    Perhaps the justification you seek is more easily available, anyway: “I reject his apology because I do not want him to feel emotionally satisfied; angst is preferable.”

  193. 193
    andrewcrawford

    Then you should look at Twitter.

    Done. I stand corrected.

  194. 194
    john

    I am over my outrage, indignation, and general all around anger. I hope you all will accept my apology. The truth is I stubbed my toe just before reading about gelato man and I think that may have influenced my reaction. I have just taken a tramadol and I am feeling like it is time to forgive and move on. Can’t we all just het along. Geez, I love you guys. Did you know that?

  195. 195
    jaranath

    GawdDAMN, PZ. I was working up the courage to disagree with you and…I can’t. You’ve convinced me.

    I hope GelatoGuy actually reads your article. I’d like him to understand what he blundered into, and why he can’t apologize, but he can act.

  196. 196
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    I’d like to add… Gelato Guy has a name you know? Regardless of whether I accept Andy’s apology, it’s a bit dehumanizing to refer to him as “Gelato Guy,” no?

  197. 197
    Gregory Greenwood

    To be honest, GelatoGuy and his apology (sincere or otherwise) doesn’t really interest me, still less concern me. As PZ points out, it is the skeptics and atheists who rush to self-censor in the face of this series of events that are the problem.

    Statements like;

    I hope some of us take him a Skepticon 5 schedule and an invite next year come listen and to give US another chance as our community seems to be giving HIM another chance now.

    It would be good for him to experience some of our speakers whom he would not find so quite so objectionable.

    Just seem like attempts to cover up all that shameful godlessness that might offend delicate theist sensibilities,

    As for;

    To see that sort of hateful bigoted mockery of his core beliefs would surely cause him to react in an equally hateful and bigoted way. You say that this person wasn’t criticized – just his religion. That’s a little like saying that you weren’t mocking the transvestite – just the idea of gender switching. When we mock another group’s choices, we are guilty of bigotry. The anger and persecution you feel? It’s the exact unwelcoming feeling he felt when he encountered an atheist revivalist at a convention that (if it had lived up to it’s name) should have been promoting science and critical thinking. Hypocrisy!

    This seems like an unambiguous, self-righteous attempt to cram we ‘shrill’ gnu-atheists back into the closet at the earliest opportunity.

    Above all, I am most suspicious of the motivations of the skeptical ‘old guard’ that PZ mentions in the OP, who want to divorce scepticism from atheism entirely. The fact is that the cryptid-fetishists and idiots who believe in UFO abductions are fringe figures who present no real threat to society. While their irrational blather needs to be challenged, I won’t worry about them unduly until they are passing bigoted laws based upon the supposed edicts of their three-headed green masters from the Gabbleduck system, or they have power enough to marginalise those skeptics who challenge their woo and exclude them from public office.

    The kind of popular delusion that has the power to do such things is religion – it is the real threat to the freedoms of everyone who doesn’t share the irrational beliefs of its followers. Why on earth should we waste our time with fringe irrelevancies when it is very possible that the occupant of the White House come 2013 will be a creationist and an AGW denialist? And not just someone who holds such irrational beliefs, but someone quite prepared to base policy upon them? Society already recognises that UFO conspiracies and the like are bonkers, but religion retains its cache of not being merely a reasonable belief for a person of high public office to hold, but a necessary prerequisite.

    At the very least, challenging religion and its undue influence on politics and broader society is a valid goal of scepticism. If we fail to do that, sniping at UFO conspiracy theorists and bigfoot enthusiasts becomes somewhat moot.

  198. 198
    Enkidum

    @Within – as I’ve said on both my posts, you don’t need to accept his apology. And probably shouldn’t. And those excusing his behaviour on the basis of “he was offended” should be called out. But that’s not all that’s going on here.

  199. 199
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Regardless of whether I accept Andy’s apology, it’s a bit dehumanizing to refer to him as “Gelato Guy,” no?

    Can’t agree. I think its probably better for him that his real name isn’t being used. Who knows what would happen to him once the Fred Phelps of the world find out he apologized to evil, evil atheists.

  200. 200
    Carlie

    I read this as “gratefully” — “I gratefully accepted his offer.” I suppose that might have been what GelatoGuy meant to write, but otherwise it does leave a rather nasty impression. As she said, condescending.

    I did the same thing, and come to the same conclusion.

  201. 201
    Serendipitydawg(rebel without paws)

    I think this a little more closely follows what happened at the convention.

    Oh, really?

    Gelatoman didn’t assault anyone. He offended some people after being offended himself.

    Equally, Gelatoman wasn’t assaulted by anyone and wasn’t coerced into visiting the event that so grievously offended him. The offence he took led to a bigoted response that would once have been limited by word of mouth. Sadly for him, the modern world has camera phones and the intertubes, so in the time it took for him to establish a more rational response, the whole thing was loose in the wider world.

    Regardless of any apology and irrespective of the time it took him to cool off, his initial reaction to a cherished belief being mocked by others was bigotry: whatever happened to the xian tenet of turning the other cheek?

  202. 202
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    I have the solution, PZ. Don’t accept the apology, but apologize for not accepting it. And anybody who questions your sincerity is violating DBAD.

  203. 203
    WithinthisMind

    @andrewcrawford – I agree with your point. I didn’t think my point contradicted yours. I was hoping you would address mine.

    You don’t have a point. You have a red herring. You are hung up on the severity of the actions, as though the simple fact that it was putting up a sign rather than taking a swing means now we have to accept the apology. That’s the point you are missing. Nobody, not me, not PZ, nobody is saying that what GG did makes him irredeemable as a human being. He has all the chances in the world to make it right, we are just pointing out an apology, especially given all the societal factors that make apologies suspect, isn’t something we have to accept.

    If GG, instead of posting an apology, instead put up a sign saying 10% discount to all Skepticon attendees, would you be condemning PZ for saying, ‘I think I’ve lost my taste for gelato today’?

  204. 204
    LaymanSkeptic

    “I am so fed up with skeptics who look down on atheists because they apply critical thinking to religion.”

    Do such people actually exist? It’s my understanding that anyone who applies critical thinking to religion ends up becoming an atheist.

  205. 205
    WithinthisMind

    @Erulora

    Good point.

    Various folks, I apologize for not having the same opinion on the matter as you do.

    Now I have apologized. By your standards, as you have expressed on this thread, you are now obligated to accept my apology, shut the hell up so that there are no consequences to me, and modify your behavior so as to not offend me again in the future.

    Do you find that unacceptable?

    If so, you are starting to get the point.

  206. 206
    Dabu

    OK, let’s see if I can grok this.

    Gelato Guy sticks his finger in a light socket; an impulsive reaction to a minor incident, fueled by a lifelong belief that he can treat light sockets however he wants.

    Light socket bites back, and gives him a nasty shock he wasn’t expecting.

    Several other outlets say “Stop being so goddamned electric.”

  207. 207
    IncredulousMark

    The problem with GG is that he gets incredibly upset if someone says something bad about his fairy tale sky pixie. It is this belief in a fairy tale sky pixie that informs his “morality”. That morality includes vilifying anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his nutty beliefs…which include a proscription against saying bad things about the sky pixie. None of that has changed with his apology. He’s still a fundie fuckhead who would abridge the rights of all of us given half a chance.
    When he comes out with a statement saying that his anti-freedom, bronze age “morality” was wrong and he repudiates it…then I’ll accept his apology. Putting up the sign is not the problem…the beliefs underlying that sign are. And, dollars to donuts, they’re still there.

  208. 208
    Lycanthrope

    I accept the apology, and forgive his ill-considered action. I do not forgive the inherent bigotry that the action betrayed. He needs to know that this is not okay, and that his personal beliefs, no matter how deeply held, are not immune from criticism or ridicule just because they are personal beliefs.

  209. 209
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Isn’t it interesting that believers feel fully justified in taking issue with scientific facts and evidence–issues that are demonstrably true. Hell, they even get angry when you point out their idiocy. And yet when we take issue with their particular beliefs, fantasies and prejudices, it is somehow a frigging Constitutional crisis.

    Why is it that religion deserves special protection while the truth must fend for itself?

  210. 210
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Agent Smith: I understand it less having read your allegory. It really isn’t so complicated.

  211. 211
    Gareth

    It’s quite depressing that my regular reaction to what passes for comment in the “atheist community” is “shut the fuck up and calm down.” As infractions go, a stupid sign put up for 10 minutes in an ice-cream store is trivial in the extreme. Sure, getting angry is functional in many causes over which rationalists and atheists must fight. Acting like a raving lunatic over a 10 minute lapse into bigotry and idiocy by a fucking ice-cream salesman does not further those causes in the slightest. On the contrary, it inflates the trivial and thus obscures the important.

  212. 212
    andrewcrawford

    You don’t have a point. You have a red herring. You are hung up on the severity of the actions, as though the simple fact that it was putting up a sign rather than taking a swing means now we have to accept the apology.

    I never said we have to accept the apology. I don’t take issue with that part of PZ’s post. I took issue with his contention that there is “nothing he [gelato guy] could do to make up for that.”- ‘that’ being rejection of xtianity in this country making one a pariah.

    And then I took issue with your comparison of domestic abuse with this situation- you implicitly compared posting the sign (and apologizing) to taking a swing at you (and apologizing), whether you meant to or not.

    I think we pretty much agree, and perhaps I’m guilty of communicating poorly and misreading the intention of your post.

    For that, I apologize. :)

  213. 213
    LawnBoy

    I think the different reactions people are having might come down to whether one feels more empathy for Andy (the Gelato guy) or feels more anger for ones cause.

    I’m looking at this from Andy’s perspective. I found out something I’d signed up to sponsor was not what I thought it was. In a moment of anger, I did something stupid. I regretted it as soon as I cooled down, but I’m caught in a shitstorm.

    What would I do in that case? Probably what Andy has done. I don’t really see that there’s anything more.

    So, I’m thinking about Andy as a person and can accept his apology and move on.

    It seems that J.T. and PZ aren’t viewing Andy as a person, but as a representation of something they’re fighting. From that perspective, there’s no reason to accept Andy’s apology – the root evil from which Andy’s action came still exists, so forgiving and forgetting means losing a good example for debate.

    So, do you look at the apology and see Andy, the person, or do you see “Gelato Guy”, the gift that will keep on giving?

  214. 214
    CoderHead

    The bottom line is he DOES think it’s OK. He was going down to the UFO-mocking conference to laugh at some UFO-nut beliefs.

    And found out they thought he, too, was a UFO-nut. He thought his particular brand of UFO-nutology should be protected from mockery, while he’s free to continue his mocking of others’.

    This x 1,000. You get it, and I’ve been trying to tell people this for years. It’s not OK to demand unyielding respect for your crazy beliefs simply because they seem slightly less crazy than other beliefs.

  215. 215
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Gareth:

    On the contrary, it inflates the trivial and thus obscures the important.

    Exactly. Important issues such as, “What are the societal attributes that make a shopkeeper think it’s OK to discriminate against a group of people? Why do so many people think it’s OK for a shopkeeper to discriminate against a group of people?”

    And so on.

  216. 216
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    @Gareth

    The problem is that your “stupid sign put up for 10 minutes in an ice-cream store is trivial in the extreme” scenario is basically the same as saying that Michael Richards did an extremely trivial two-minute comedy bit that just happened to use the n-word.

    Except it wasn’t, and then Richards went out apologizing to all the big famous figures in the black community.

    Again, rather similar to the situation we find here, isn’t it?

    If you’re NOT racist, then no matter how angry you are, you won’t bust out the n-word. Similarly, if you’re NOT bigoted based on people’s religion, you won’t ban them from your business, no matter how angry you are.

    It isn’t the oppressed minority’s job to be all “oh sorry we got so angry when you trivially dismissed and dehumanized us, we understand that you’re really sorry that your bigotry was showing in public.” The guy may be sincerely sorry, but so what? Shit like this happens all the time, there is no reason to roll over and take it. Make an example so all the OTHER bigots will know that we aren’t going to take their shit any more.

  217. 217
    PeeJ

    “Your actions speak so loudly I can not hear what you are saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  218. 218
    you_monster

    Acting like a raving lunatic over a 10 minute lapse into bigotry and idiocy by a fucking ice-cream salesman does not further those causes in the slightest. On the contrary, it inflates the trivial and thus obscures the important.

    Who is acting like a “raving lunatic”? And this was no “10 minute lapse into bigotry”. For 10 minutes, Andy publicly expressed his persistent (and yet to be repudiated) bigotry, and furthermore discriminated against people as a result of that bigotry.

    So, discrimination and bigotry are trivial issues to you, I wonder what you think is an important topic?

    The whole apology was an attempt to explain why he reacted the way he did. Well, he succeeded in that attempt. I do understand why he acted the way he did, I just do not sympathize with it. He encountered people criticizing his faith and this was the straw that broke his bigoted back. He just couldn’t help himself from acting out his bigotry in the form of active, illegal, discrimination.

    I feel no compunction to make-nice with Andy until he shows that he is actually reflecting on, and attempting to change, his underlying prejudice.

  219. 219
    WishYouWereHere

    146. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls said: When we are reactive, as in this case, the pricks are the ones who caused the reaction. In this case. GG.

    If I’m ‘hearing’ you right, you’re saying GG’s prickish behaviour precludes us from acting like pricks because we’re simply reacting to him, we’re the offended?

    Hmmm, I think that’s being a little dishonest because both sides are being pricks but only one side is seeing they pulled a bad and is making any kind of effort to de-prick.

    I’m just saying, let’s be honest. If people feel GG deserves a prickish response then I say, “go get ‘im”. But, at least acknowledge that you’re being as bad as he is.

  220. 220
    consciousness razor

    ahs:

    The noble path is to accept his apology and punish him anyway. Crush his livelihood for the sake of crushing it.

    Ha! Sorry*, that takes too much fucking work, with not much to show for it.

    *Not really. That wasn’t an apology.

    ——

    Jennifer Keane (zenbuffy)

    I don’t think that not accepting the apology will achieve anything, and I don’t believe that it will help anything or anyone involved.

    Who the fuck cares? Look, “accepting the apology” isn’t some strategy I have planned out in advance. I don’t just decide that this apology is worth my time, so I will accept it to achieve some end or another. No, I just do or don’t fucking accept it, and that’s it. I don’t want to play the apology game at all. Is this hard to understand?

  221. 221
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    As infractions go, a stupid sign put up for 10 minutes in an ice-cream store is trivial in the extreme. Sure, getting angry is functional in many causes over which rationalists and atheists must fight. Acting like a raving lunatic over a 10 minute lapse into bigotry and idiocy by a fucking ice-cream salesman does not further those causes in the slightest. On the contrary, it inflates the trivial and thus obscures the important.

    Bull! Shit! What a fucking crock of bullshit. I will not give Andy a pass just because his sign was up for ‘only ten minute’. He felt that he was justified to put that sign up in the first place. And he had time between his being offended and putting up that sign. Poor impulse control that Andy displayed.

    Here is a counter example. In the US, racism and the idea that white people are superior to all is just as pervasive as the idea that christians are a better class of people. I have interactions with deeply racist people, have siblings who like to tell nigger jokes and (As much as it distresses me.) find that I have racist impulses.

    But I never called anyone a nigger nor have I refused to deal with anyone because they were not white. And, like anyone else, I have been in arguments with and been offended by people who are black. Even in those heated moments, I did not go for the cheap shot and dismiss any of them as niggers. And do not kid yourself, plenty of racists have used such encounters to justify their racism.

    If, in a moment of weakness, had I call a person that word; by what right do I have to ask and expect forgiveness? Why should any one think that I learned from my mistake just because I said I was sorry. The only way that can be taken care of is by time and action, enough time so that my actions shows that I have learned and have tried to change my ways.

    That said, if I lived in Springfield, it would be a long time before I would go in there and I would have to be convinced that Andy changed his ways.

    Sorry is not good enough.

  222. 222
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    His apology was a combo of “I’m sorry you were offended” and “look what you made me do”, so I am generally disinclined to accept either, if only on the basis of him clearly being more into ass-coverage than amends.

    That said, I think there is a place for apologies, and that is ALWAYS in concert with making amends. And even then? Nobody is obligated to accept them. And coercing/shaming/tone trolling/whining at the hurt group to do so means that the coercer needs a punch in the mouth with brass knuckles.

    The dude is a member of an outrageously privileged group that routinely actively oppresses the rest of us. It’s going to take more than a half assed “sorry I was caught”. Also? Even if that rectal tick doesn’t learn, others will. Knowing that atheists won’t just roll over and play nice WILL make a fucking difference.

    Skepticism must challenge nonsense beliefs, even those cherished by nice, smiling polite people. And there’s no way to do so that won’t get that nice, smiling, privileged group angry for being so meeeeeean and disrespectful. Golly gee, I’m fresh out of fucks to give.

  223. 223
    Jim

    Dear PZ:

    Thank you for having a backbone. I agree with your position one hundred percent. The gelato christian is the typical believer who expects that everyone automatically respect his mythology. It doesn’t matter that this mythology has intolerance at its base and theocracy always as its ultimate goal.

    I give this mythology no respect and it is now my habit not to capitalize christian. The word christian is not derived from someone’s name (christ = messiah), so I’m not violating any grammatical convention. And since no one capitalizes pagan it is logically consistent not to capitalize christian.

    In response to the gelato christian’s apology, I copied what I left on Ed’s blog:

    I’m even more annoyed at this guy than I was before I knew the specifics. I had thought that an atheist had come into his store and done something. Not at all: the christian went near the convention and saw an atheist engaged in his lawful freedom of speech. Being offended he then went back and threw a tantrum.

    Bachman, Perry, Ratzinger, and now some gelato douchebag. My contempt for christians used to linear. Somewhere around y = 10x, where y is my level of contempt and x is another act of christian intollerance, and x greater than zero. The function has changed to an exponential one with y = 10 to the x, where y is contempt, x is another act of christian intollerance, and x is greater than zero.

    Gone is my linear relationship with christians; the gelato christian has ushered in exponential contempt.

  224. 224
    WithinthisMind

    @Gareth

    Gareth, I apologized. Why won’t you accept my apology?

  225. 225
    you_monster

    I’m just saying, let’s be honest. If people feel GG deserves a prickish response then I say, “go get ‘im”. But, at least acknowledge that you’re being as bad as he is.

    This is stupid. Criticizing bigotry is not “as bad as” bigotry. Even when you are harsh in your criticism, they are not on the same level.

  226. 226
    Monado, Incompetent cut-&-paster

    Maybe someone with a Yelp account could point Mr. Gelato Guy towards Atheists and Anger by Greta Christina, to see why atheists might poke some fun at evangelical Christianity. To him it may be a holy book but to us it’s an instrument of oppression.

  227. 227
    screechy monkey

    Gareth @211:

    Acting like a raving lunatic over a 10 minute lapse into bigotry and idiocy by a fucking ice-cream salesman does not further those causes in the slightest

    Who is “acting like a raving lunatic”? Please be specific.

  228. 228
    consciousness razor

    I don’t think anyone has noticed this rather curious statement:

    The sign was posted for about 10 minutes or so before I calmed down, came to my senses, and took it down. For what it’s worth, nobody was turned away. [my emphasis]

    Lies aren’t worth much. Who took the picture? Did some Christian take it and alert the atheist blogosphere? Or was it a non-Christian, who then promptly got some nice, delicious gelato anyway?

    I haven’t heard what prompted him to come to his senses. Was it some kind of revelation from God? Were there people outside frowning at the sign while they passed by? Did someone come in to complain about it to him directly?

  229. 229
    isilzhaveni

    If the owner, Andy Drennen, can’t understand that what he did was blatantly illegal discrimination then perhaps people should file complaints with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights–

    http://labor.mo.gov/mohumanrights/

    I can’t accept an apology from him that refuses to acknowledge what he did was more than just wrong, but unlawful discrimination and a violation of others’ civil rights.

  230. 230
    greg1466

    Amen. Or maybe I should say Huzzah! Oh, maybe just, I couldn’t possibly agree more…

  231. 231
    Monado, Incompetent cut-&-paster

    Gareth @211:

    Acting like a raving lunatic over a 10 minute lapse into bigotry and idiocy by a fucking ice-cream salesman does not further those causes in the slightest.

    We had to go through this with the women’s movement. Remember “the personal is political”?

    Acting like a shrieking harpy, over who does the dishes, towards your hapless husband does not further those causes in the slightest.

  232. 232
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Who took the picture? Did some Christian take it and alert the atheist blogosphere? Or was it a non-Christian, who then promptly got some nice, delicious gelato anyway?

    I think the question was rhetorical, but I’ll answer anyway. The answer is neither. The correct answer is: An atheist who ended up not buying gelato because they were turned away by the sign.

  233. 233
    barfy

    Accepting an apology is NOT absolution for the mis-deed.

    The reason I accept an apology is because I have yet to find the circumstance where I wish I hadn’t been more empathetic, intelligent or generous to the person committing the offense.

    And, please, for your own sake, let’s not get into a battle of who has lived the most aggrieved life. Please, suffice it to say that I could easily out aggrieve the vast majority of the commentators, and could also be significantly ashamed at the survivability and privilege of my circumstances.

    I accept apologies because I can’t speak to the sincerity of the person making the apology. And even if I’m sure that the apology is clipped and insincere, my acceptance still has meaning…at least to me.

    I accept apologies because I want people to accept mine. Because, often, they don’t. They accuse my sincerity and understanding – and couldn’t be more wrong.

    Not all of my apologies are perfect. I haven’t always apologized for the right reason or with perfect sincerity. But, I have never regretted making one. And I have often wished I had done better – and on several occasions have gone back and amended the apology.

    The most difficult and bitter apology that I make, is the one for my trivial offense measured against the other person’s demonstrably major offense – especially knowing they will NEVER apologize or even recognize their fault. But, there is still no excuse. I have a job to try to be a better person (as I define it) EVERY DAY. Apologies are part of the job.

  234. 234
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Hmmm, I think that’s being a little dishonest because both sides are being pricks but only one side is seeing they pulled a bad and is making any kind of effort to de-prick.

    You seem to be going out of your way to make PZ a prick by any stretch of logic, instead of the person who instigated the whole nonsense by actually doing something obnoxious and illegal. I wonder where your priorities are… And being a tone trolling prick in the process. And you wonder why tone trolls are reviled here? PZ isn’t carrying anything forward, so I see where he has done nothing wrong.

    And NOBODY has to accept every apology. If you think otherwise, stick that opinion where the sun don’t shine with a rotting porcupine—sideways.

  235. 235
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    The reason I accept an apology is because I have yet to find the circumstance where I wish I hadn’t been more empathetic, intelligent or generous to the person committing the offense.

    Aren’t you Canadian???

  236. 236
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Fully realising that this will probably provoke the ire of many commenters here, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah

    *yawn*

  237. 237
    Tony

    Wow… he apologized directly to PZ?

    That takes some major humility and an effort that even the most sincerest people wouldn’t necessary feel the need to do. Sounds like he got a bit of culture shock, reacted impulsively then immediately regretted it and acted to correct it. Not only did he undo the immediate act of insult and bigotry, he stepped up and posted a public apology (which has gone as viral as his original act, so no BS about who’ll see it on his site) plus reached out to respected representatives of the atheist community.

    Sounds like a damn decent human being to me, even if we disagree on some fundamentals about life and the universe.

    It takes more integrity to recognize you’re wrong and own up to it than to hide one’s mistake and sulk away.

    With still further contemplation (the human mind doesn’t accept new truths immediately), he may not see Sam’s presentation as threatening or morally challenging (to him) as he initially did. I for one would be happy to engage him in this direction, while not agreeing or excusing his views to the contrary.

  238. 238
    john

    Did someone mention Hitler yet?

  239. 239
    Strider

    Beautiful. Made my day.

  240. 240
    PZ Myers

    There was a specific reason I referred to him as GelatoGuy and avoided mentioning his name or his business in the OP: I am not interested in retribution. If I put his name or his business at the top of the post, it gets picked up by Google, and then this article quickly becomes one of the top links in searches for his business.

    That could hurt. Or it could help, if some fervent Christian notices that atheists criticize him.

  241. 241
    Lycanthrope

    @consciousness razor:

    In Andy’s own words, he “came to his senses and calmed down”. And good for him. No, it doesn’t really fix anything, but it’s a start.

    @andrewcrawford (176) and boskerbonzer (189):

    I, and several others, disagree with your assessment of the severity of Andy’s actions. Yes, technically he only got angry, put up a sign, then took it down after 10 minutes. But these actions are indicative of some seriously dismaying beliefs and bigotry, in him particularly and the cultural zeitgeist generally.

    Forgiveness of his actions and forgiveness of the psychological and sociological underpinnings are two different things.

  242. 242
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Interesting article with an interview
    http://www.news-leader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011111220345

    Article from ABC with a lot of the skeptics’ responses removed
    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/mo-shop-owner-apologizes-religious-skeptics-15008159#.Tsv5S2OIkXm

  243. 243
    andrewcrawford

    I, and several others, disagree with your assessment of the severity of Andy’s actions. Yes, technically he only got angry, put up a sign, then took it down after 10 minutes. But these actions are indicative of some seriously dismaying beliefs and bigotry, in him particularly and the cultural zeitgeist generally.

    Could be. It could also just be ignorance, or poor anger management. I don’t feel like I have enough info to make that kind of judgement.

  244. 244
    WishYouWereHere

    221 Janine said, “Sorry is not good enough.”

    Ok, so what is good enough? What does Andy have to do to be good enough to meet your expectations for forgiveness, to meet the expectations of many commenting today?

    I understand and fully support your argument about why he shouldn’t get a pass, and he is certainly not getting a pass — his name and business are being publicly excoriated. So, what can he do or are we simply going to destroy this guy because we see him as a surrogate for those of the religious right we can’t touch, and what does that say about us?

  245. 245
    you_monster

    From JT’s post on the matter,

    If evil actions can be absolved by a few words then liars gain an advantage in the culture war, and I’m simply unwilling to let that happen. So in the interest of resolving my concerns I emailed Andy asking if he’d be willing to have a public discussion with me about those questions. He declined, saying he wanted this apology to stand for itself. And so I voice my misgivings.

    I find GelatoGuy wanting his apology to “stand by itself” conspicuous. As his apology currently stands, there is no mention of the fact that atheists have a right to speak loudly and publicly about what they believe. I see his apology as disingenuous, carefully crafted to avoid renouncing his bigoted prejudices against non-christians. Why was your reaction to Sam bad, Andy? Hint, it’s not just because it was discriminatory towards potential customers.

  246. 246
    Susannah

    Re “nice” vs. “God damn!”

    I was brought up “nice”. Mom, a strong fundamentalist, was still a skeptic and a thinker, as far as she dared. At home, she explained how wrong the preacher was about marriage/monogamy, about “woman’s place”, about “faith” as a virtue in itself, etc. But she also taught us not to speak up in public, not to offend. So she let these people teach us, just hoping we’d know what to accept and what to pretend we accepted.

    “Don’t rock the boat!” Law #1 of “nice” people. Also learned early and deeply internalized by abused children, like Mom had been, in her missionary school.

    It may never have occurred to her that her teachers (and their teachers before them) had been also applying that principle, and not speaking out against what they knew to be wrong. Maybe she would have learned to doubt her “The Bible is inerrant, God is good, obedience is supreme” fundamentalist beliefs.

    I wish they had rocked that boat. I wish she had dared to speak her mind, even if it would “offend”. I wish I had, too, so many years ago. So much wasted time, talent and work, all to be “nice”!

    “Niceness, Pah!”

    Preach it, PZ!

  247. 247
    Utakata

    Because I wasn’t there, this position is also purely academic. But I am not sure whether I forgive this GelatoGuy or not over this if I was in the same situation.

    However, I can say I still can’t trust him as far as I throw him. Evidence suggests he likely has ulterior motives; such as he’s in this business to make money, and what he did may have been illegal and thus the punishment could have hurt his bottom line. Not to mention publicity over this is negative which also effects his bottom line. There is also the religious aspect of this too, where he felt moved by “The Spirit” to ask for an apology or face punishment from his god as well if he didn’t. Therefore, he has plenty to gain making an apology outside of sincerity.

    …so then philosophically if forgiveness of this person’s discriminating actions is based on how much one can trust him afterwards, knowing his motives are likely less than sincere, then I say one hasn’t accepted his apologies what-so-ever. So in this regard I don’t accept his apologies either. But that maybe just me though…if that makes any sense. /shrug

  248. 248
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    It took more than one of you–PZ, WithinthisMind, and Brownian together–but I’ve changed my mind. I still think Andy was sincere about his apology, and I also think he has acknowledged that he had “no excuse” for his behaviour.* However, I’m privileged to live in a place where I don’t have to worry so much about being the object of religious bigotry. I don’t have the experience of having politicians kowtowing to religious fanatics on a scale so widespread (it still happens, but when it does, they try to do it in secret where the majority won’t notice). I wasn’t at Skepticon and so the sign wasn’t directed at me. I’m not in a position to accept or reject his apology and will not presume to disagree with those people who refuse to accept it.

    It really is like telling someone to get over the sexist slur or the racist joke (as Gareth demonstrates with his “Dear Muslima” imitation), and I’m not going to be that person.

    For the record, I’ve always agreed with PZ on the other points about religion being granted a walled garden status and all those milquetoast people who just want to hush up dissent.

    *Since we’re all prone to make mistakes, the apology-as-magic-words-that-act-as-a-reset-button is an attractive social convention, but admission of wrongdoing and sincerity is often not enough. Change is what’s needed.

  249. 249
    Pyronius

    People that are defending Gelatoguy just don’t get it.

    No compromise. Make him an example. NEVER buy from him again. Ever as simple as that. This isn’t about one mans feelings, and his numbers at the end of the month. This is about every bigots decision to act on their faith based absurdities and discriminate, from now until ever in the future.

    Don’t set the precedent that bigotry can go until you get slapped on the wrist then just say sorry, and life goes back as usual. Show that bigotry will end up getting you ostracized, falling into financial ruin, or just plain being tarred and feathered on the internet.. It will make people think before they act in the future.. And that’s the key..making people think.

    As soon as you start compromising on these things you end up with half bigotries being accepted… As soon as you compromise with creationism, you get ID… so on and so forth.

  250. 250
    Inaji

    I’m with PZ on this. I read GelatoGuy’s 3rd apology last night. Yes, he realized he fucked up, yes, he did damage control. I don’t much care if he’s sincere or not, the way I see it, he’s doing the same thing all Christians do with their god – they fuck up, send off a quick prayer asking forgiveness, and it’s all done and dusted. GelatoGuy isn’t dealing with his fictional god in this case, though. He’s dealing with human beings, ones who have every right to think and feel differently about his god than he does.

  251. 251
    unclefrogy

    as I read PZ’s post and as I read some of the responses I was reminded of Malcolm X and the civil rights movements of the 60′s and 70′s.
    It was not Dr. King’s no-violent movement alone that made the establishment political order relent. It took the militant’s additional agitation for civil rights, there demand for civil rights “by any means necessary” that helped to make it succeed as far as it did.
    I do not think I have heard PZ tell anyone else what he should do with regards to things like this with the exception of not being disruptive at the creation museum. He is very clear he speaks for himself and I appreciate that.
    one of the things I like the least about religion is the monolithic nature of it. It is top down, you will think this because I said so!
    PZ leaves it up to me to decide if I forgive this guy or not and what my response is.
    Even if he did not it is still up to me as an individual to decide what I will do or not do. Having been the recipient of apologies in the past I have learned that while I may accept an apology I am not obliged to forget the offense nor am I able to.

    To do so is to invite the repeat of the offense.

    I am not telling you to do what I do nor think like I do so do not tell me what I should do or should think.

    uncle frogy

  252. 252
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Ok, so what is good enough? What does Andy have to do to be good enough to meet your expectations for forgiveness, to meet the expectations of many commenting today?

    WishMyBrainWereHere, did you read what I said before that closing line.

  253. 253
    Ologies

    Anyone who says “fuck him into the ground” does not deserve my respect. That’s not constructive. That’s not helpful. Nobody sees someone say that about them and goes, “You know what? You have a point! Fuck me into the ground, I was so wrong!”

    You make good points, not all of which I agree with, but I would never, ever let anyone who says “fuck him into the ground” speak for me or for the group I identify with for that reason.

    You don’t have to accept his apology, you don’t have to give a shit about what I think or say, and you can feel as much righteous indignation about this as you’d like, certainly that’s your right, but you don’t have a shred of authority to deem who is and isn’t an “acceptable” atheist or skeptic based on what opinions you THINK we should hold. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but your words have actually embarrassed me.

  254. 254
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Anyone who says “fuck him into the ground” does not deserve my respect.

    Who is saying, “fuck him into the ground”?

  255. 255
    Anubis Bloodsin the third

    What are the odds that any atheist bus poster defacer, dumb enough to get caught red handed, would mutter the words…’sorry if you are offended’?

    Thus missing the whole point of the inane fatuous childishness they were and are involved in.

    That Andy thought throwing such a tantrum as being all righteous and was the thing that any god fearing cretin should do reveals more about his morality then he would, or indeed should, feel comfortable with!

    That act was akin to blatant racist behaviour reminiscent of the previous 150 years, even for a few minutes, it was actually publicly displayed discrimination which apparently was a ok by his invisible friend.

    In his apoplexy he presented to the world what his character truly was.
    I suggest as a character it is no more different from the majority of jebus droolers…certainly in attitude towards Atheism or just plain non-belief in a subjective sky fairy.

    That must have been an unfortunate slip…one he is desperately trying to damage control with excuses and apologies.

    Some folk have expressed the view that they hope he has learnt a lesson….maybe he has…next time spit the dummy where folks cannot pull you on it maybe.

    Any xian that immediately reacts in such a ridiculous way to criticism or a position that is not supportive of their world view is unlikely to realise that non-belief is a valid and honourable estate.

    He wanted revenge and retaliated …then realised it was illegal and as such made him criminally liable.

    The thing that is so obvious about xians is that they take offence real fast at the slightest excuse…then bleat they are victims of repression discrimination and hatred for a figment of their under stimulated imagination.

    Seems they squeal a little to readily, perhaps the delusion they pretend to hold is not as firm as they boast?

    They sure bruise easily for a delusion they swear is the one and only true version out there of an all powerful, all seeing. all dancing, all singing fairy of fairies, for such pompous confidence in such a claim, they seem exceedingly touchy about their hero. it is as if their sky fairy is actually threatened by rationality…less even…by free speech!

  256. 256
    Ichthyic

    You’ll just have to live with the fact that I won’t be buying your ice cream on the rare occasions I visit your town, while I have to live with the fact that I live in a country where my rejection of your religion makes me a pariah. There’s absolutely nothing you can do to make up for that.

    Bribery is a no go then?

    damn.

    Free gelato for life would be a good start…

  257. 257
    consciousness razor
    Anyone who says “fuck him into the ground” does not deserve my respect.

    Who is saying, “fuck him into the ground”?

    That was Ologies. Do try to pay attention. ;)

  258. 258
    Mika Hakonen

    Love the post! How is this difficult? PZ refuses to accept the apology, but also did not call for any action against the guy or his business.

    I would personally accept the apology if I felt the original insult related to me in any significant way. The only thing I don’t understand is the attitude that every public atheist should fall lockstep behind extending the olive branch, because apparently people think it’s bad PR for the community not to?

  259. 259
    Ray, rude-ass yankee

    I didn’t attend Skepticon and don’t live where it was held. I am in no danger of buying anything at gelato guy’s shop. Apart from his reaction to a perceived insult and his self professed religion I don’t know anything about his social views or how he votes. Unlike christians, I don’t believe in eternal damnation for every mistake. I hope this has planted a seed in his mind, in a way that reading it in the newspaper can not, that belief in gods is not universal. In the best outcome this incident will open his eyes and adjust his worldview to tolerate if not embrace others who do not share it. He fucked up, he admitted it and apologized. While the underlying attitude may not have changed completely, it is a start. My hope for him is that he can question those attitudes (and maybe his other beliefs?) and learn.
    I doubt we will ever be reading his “Why I am an atheist” entry, but tolerance can be learned and is (I think)a better, happier way to live.

  260. 260
    Ichthyic

    No compromise. Make him an example. NEVER buy from him again. Ever as simple as that. This isn’t about one mans feelings, and his numbers at the end of the month. This is about every bigots decision to act on their faith based absurdities and discriminate, from now until ever in the future.

    that’s a legitimate, if unpalatable, point.

    there IS value in using this situation as an example of “behavioral consequences”.

    I’d be a bit squeamish about doing so, but in the society the US is, it would have traction.

    at the very least, be VERY vocal about NOT directly punishing this man’s behavior, bad as it was.

    that is harder, but might work as a compromise.

    don’t forget people:

    Atheists are already the most hated group in America.

    Christians got where they did by showing that there are consequences for non-conformity.

    Atheism will likely only gain more ground by starting to show that there are direct consequences for discriminatory behavior against atheists.

    It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is.

  261. 261
    Anthony K

    Aren’t you Canadian???

    Haw!

    I tend to subscribe to the “don’t be a dick” philosophy,

    Oh, fuck: here it comes…

    because being a dick doesn’t help get the point across, and mostly just tends to upset and alienate people.

    Citation needed.

    Even the Zen Buddhists believe enlightenment can arise from amputation.

  262. 262
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Who is saying, “fuck him into the ground”?

    PZ on Twitter said “Fuck him to the ground” (not “into the ground”) in response to something Jen said. I think he probably meant “Fuck him totally” or something, but I don’t know what he was responding to and I’m not sure.

  263. 263
    Ologies

    “Fuck him into the ground” : http://twitter.com/#!/jennifurret/status/138846410098491392

  264. 264
    Ologies

    Sorry, yes, TO the ground, not INTO. My mistake.

  265. 265
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Who is saying, “fuck him into the ground”?
    PZ did, on Twitter.

  266. 266
    John

    CrackerMan vs GelatoGuy!!!! LET”S RUMBLE!!!!

  267. 267
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    I do not use Twitter.

  268. 268
    Anthony K

    You don’t have to accept his apology, you don’t have to give a shit about what I think or say, and you can feel as much righteous indignation about this as you’d like, certainly that’s your right, but you don’t have a shred of authority to deem who is and isn’t an “acceptable” atheist or skeptic based on what opinions you THINK we should hold. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but your words have actually embarrassed me.

    Wait, what? After writing someone doesn’t ‘have a shred of authority to deem who is and isn’t an “acceptable” atheist or skeptic based on what opinions you THINK we should hold’, you then claim you’re embarrassed by their words?

    You’re embarrassed by the wrong person’s words.

  269. 269
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    If never going to his store if I was ever in that town was enough “to fuck him to the ground”, I am all for it. Sorry is not enough. He let it be known what he thinks of people like me.

  270. 270
    Ologies

    Do elaborate. There is no great Atheist/Skeptic authority that gets to decide whose behavior is acceptable and what action should be taken. I’m allowed to disagree, and I’ve decided that someone who thinks it’s okay to say “fuck him to the ground” especially doesn’t represent me. If other people feel differently, that’s all well and good, but that’s my opinion of the matter.

  271. 271
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    I do not use Twitter.

    Good for you.

  272. 272
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Thank you for sharing your opinion. It is helping to form my opinion of you.

  273. 273
    Anthony K

    @jennifurret: No. Fuck him to the ground, let him be a lesson to others. I do not find his apology at all sincere — it’s pure venality.

    What the fuck? That certainly does sound like you’re interested in hounding and punishing him PZ.

  274. 274
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Good for you.

    I am old and set in my ways.

  275. 275
    Ologies

    Good talk, then. Thank you for engaging me in such intelligent dialogue.

  276. 276
    Anthony K

    There is no great Atheist/Skeptic authority that gets to decide whose behavior is acceptable and what action should be taken.

    Right. So why do the actions of another Atheist/Skeptic embarrass you? How come you’re now in the position to decide what behaviour is acceptable?

  277. 277
    otrame

    I don’t accept Andy’s apology either, even though I have some empathy for him. He is so used to living in a world where everyone “loves the lord” and says so at length at any excuse. He lives in a world where his co-religionists constantly refuse to take their God’s advice about keeping their devotions private, because the purpose of the devotion should not be to show other humans how devout they are (Matt. 6:6). In his world atheists keep themselves quiet, in the closet, and can safely be thought of as those others off in New York or California or somewhere. He is just not used to being confronted with blatant rejection of his comfortable superiority as a Christian. Given that, I can have a little sympathy for how he felt. Outraged. Appalled. Furious. Given the insular world he lives in (or thought he lives in), I can understand that.

    What matters though, is not what he felt. Feelings aren’t right or wrong. It’s what he did. His response was to discriminate against a group of people who disagreed with him. If, as others have noted, an atheist businessman had put up a similar sign when the Baptist Convention comes to town, Andy would have been…. Outraged. Appalled. Furious.

    It was the discrimination, Andy, not the anger. The anger was actually good for you. The fact that you came to your senses (whether from fear of the law or a genuine understanding that what you did was wrong) does not wash away the sin. What will?

    I’ll tell you what. Here is my forgiveness, to be held in escrow until the day you honestly understand that other people have a right to hold beliefs or lack of beliefs different than your own and that you should not reject their humanity because of it.

  278. 278
    IcecreamMakesYouFat

    The guy has milked this like any of the worst tv evangelists. He now has hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of free advertising for his business. He also now has an excuse to send emails to people without running into problems with the canspam laws, and he knows that people with post about it on their blogs and website… oh look who cool this guy turned out in the end, we should support his business. This has been a small business owners wet dream come true, and the type of marketing you’d pay a small forture for from any internet viral marketing companies. It’s a shame no one can see through this and how they are all been ‘played’. He has everyone scammed. He gets to keep his bigotry to himself while making a handsome profit.

  279. 279
    Ologies

    @277 (You’ll have to excuse me, I’m still figuring out the formatting for comments)

    You’ll notice that I prefaced my opinion with “Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way…”

    I don’t expect other people to agree with me. Other people don’t have to feel the same way, certainly you can disagree with my assessment, but I’m not deeming them better or worse skeptics or atheists or anything for it, because I’m frankly not qualified and I’m not interested in playing No True Scotsman.

  280. 280
    WishYouWereHere

    252 janine
    Yup, I sure did and nowhere do you say what he needs to do to make it good enough. So I’ll try once again, what is good enough?

    …………………………………….

    234 Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Troll
    Huh?

    “You seem to be going out of your way to make PZ a prick by any stretch of logic,” (Huh?) “instead of the person who instigated the whole nonsense by actually doing something obnoxious and illegal.”

    First, I don’t think PZ is a prick, I’ve been reading his blog too long, and I respect him too much to think that. However, I do think that kicking Andy while he’s down and then rubbing dirt into the wounds is prickish behaviour — there is a difference.

    As far as putting all the blame on Andy … oh, ok. You’re right. I’m not being a team player. Yes, I should act like a Conservative and stick to the talking points. I should ignore any bad behaviour by our side. Two wrongs do make a right – not!

    “I wonder where your priorities are…”

    Hmmm, I think my priorities are(truly)(1)OWS, specifically, buying more pizza for the OWS campers (that remain), (2)truth, and (3) promoting progressive social justice issues.

    “And being a tone trolling prick in the process. And you wonder why tone trolls are reviled here? PZ isn’t carrying anything forward, so I see where he has done nothing wrong.”

    You better take a look in the mirror. It’s not a matter of tone, it’s a matter of context, of false equivalence. It’s about anonymously attacking a human being who can’t defend himself (Andy). It’s about bullying.

    “And NOBODY has to accept every apology.”

    Agreed, and I’d give my life to support your right to act like a prick. But, it doesn’t mean that I have to agree with you.

    “If you think otherwise,” (I don’t) “stick that opinion where the sun don’t shine with a rotting porcupine—sideways.”

    Whatever.

  281. 281
    Anthony K

    people have a right to hold beliefs or lack of beliefs different than your own and that you should not reject their humanity because of it.

    I honestly don’t know what things like this mean.

  282. 282
    Achess

    Wow. That would have made an awesome speech.

  283. 283
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Yup, I sure did and nowhere do you say what he needs to do to make it good enough. So I’ll try once again, what is good enough?

    WishMyBrainWereHere, time and actions. Is that too fucking difficult for you. Sorry is not enough. In fact, sorry can be a way to excuse not doing a thing.

  284. 284
    Lycanthrope

    andrewcrawford, 243:

    Could be. It could also just be ignorance, or poor anger management. I don’t feel like I have enough info to make that kind of judgement.

    Even if I accept your premise, which I don’t, those are also big problems. Ignorance of what? That not everybody believes in God? Poor anger management? Sure, but that’s not much better. Obviously it’s distressing to have your beliefs ridiculed, but the proper response is dialogue and perhaps introspection (Why do I hold these beliefs? Am I justified in doing so?), not to fly into a rage.

    Poor anger management may have been a factor, but the fact that he got that angry tells us something. It speaks of his and society’s belief that religion is above criticism, above ridicule. The things you cite as possible alternative explanations are actually part of the problem of which I speak.

  285. 285
    Anthony K

    You’ll notice that I prefaced my opinion with “Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way…”

    I sure did. So what? I’m not accusing you of telling me or others that we should or should not feel embarrassed along with you.

    What I am asking is why you, Ologies, feels embarrassed by what another skeptic/atheist says or thinks, since you believe (as do I) there is no skeptic/atheist authority.

    In other words, why should what PZ Myers says or does embarrass you?

  286. 286
    BWE

    Um PZ, you might want to rethink this one. You had a chance to make a friend or at least be decent to another human being. Maybe do something that warmed your heart a little or generally added a bit of kindness into the world. Instead you insulted and judged as lesser the human value of the owner of an ice cream shop. Way to go chief. It’s like the far side what the guy says and what the dog hears. However you managed to assess the situation to support a justification for this response, it appears to those not afflicted with a fervor to force beliefs and truths on others to be an intentional act of either narcissistic maliciousness or runaway self-righteousness and blind privileged entitlement.

    Sorry for the cold words. They are how I assess the spectacle. Maybe I am wrong and that isn’t how I assess it I suppose. I can see that you assess it differently. I wouldn’t expect you to welcome me into your classroom immediately after I gave a presentation on the smallness and, in many individual cases, ridiculousness of the materialist-atheist point of view. Which I occasionally do. But I also would expect that you would apologize to me later for ridiculing people who think atheism is a movement since it really is comical. Normal people just go about the task of providing information, educating students, countering misinformation when it arises, and basically addressing the actions of others rather than their beliefs. Once you realized that I have a right to ridicule people silly enough to willingly accept being straightjacketed with a label, I have no doubt you’d apologize for your brief reaction and you know what? I’d accept it. You know why? Because why not? Hardly anyone is able to calmly accept insults to locked truths right there. The ability to calm down would demonstrate to me that you were the kind of person who could take responsibility for your actions and because in general, I try to be nice to people if they ask me to.

    Because, the materialist/atheist label is actually kind of small and ridiculous in some cases you know. Like, for example, the evangelistic atheists who can’t think of a rational and self-consistent alternative to religion being simply a scourge upon society with the available choices consisting of precisely two alternatives – magical thinking or rational thinking. Either with us or with the terrorists. With the terrorists, no value. No reconciliation. Accept our truths or we will exclude you and use you as a dumping ground for the random shame blame and cognitive dissonance we accumulate between encounters.

    While dogmatic religion is often funny in its rigid simplicity and at times presents potential hazards to a community, so is dogmatic atheism or indeed any group with a clenched claim to a truth which supersedes decency when the two conflict. That happened to you here. Humility and decency are your friends once you get comfortable with them. The ego which instructs this kind of behavior is like a drinking buddy who tells you sobriety is for suckers.

    It is easy to ridicule simple people who hold too tightly to simple ideas and it’s easy to ridiculr complex people handicapped to simplicity by narcissistic inability to accept shame, blame, or even register the occurrence of an unfamiliar challenge to their own clenched truths. Morton’s Demon is an equal opportunity affliction, blinding any who aren’t paying attention as it shifts the weight of personal values away from compassion and community and build fortresses around its chosen personal truths. Any who suffer from it are easy targets for ridicule by someone who knows how to identify the gate the demon guards.

    When life becomes a game of measuring self-worth by the number of people who fail to match your intellectual acumen, you will find yourself drawing the true believers in closer and you may not notice the others slowly move back. The true believer will help you maintain the justification you construct for treating a human being as lesser in intrinsic quality if they do not adopt your particular set of truths and hold them as tightly as you tell them to.

    I wonder if you can forgive me for writing this critical statement short of me adopting your personal truths to your satisfaction? I get that this blog is entertainment and I often enjoy it, but the appropriate name for this kind of attraction is freak show. Where you become the freak. Stare at the man who believes his particular personal truth is more valuable than an ice cream store proprietor! Important enough to think it justifiable to berate and devalue a human being for daring to be temporarily offended at witnessing someone ridiculing a truth he himself held too tightly! For being stupid enough to think a public apology and accepting personal responsibility for his action could ever be sufficient restitution for daring to challenge one of this freak’s personal truths! Look at the man who has become drunk on the aphrodisiac of untouchable truth!

    Come see PZ Meyers and the Morton’s Demon he carries!

    Admission $2. by paypal.

    And, as for harm to the skeptical movement… I can’t imagine anyone harming it worse than you just did. And WTF is the skeptical movement? A radio show where you create a one dimensional caricaturization, give it a label, do everything you can to devalue the label and then apply it to a group of people you disagree with using grotesque pantomimes and instilling fear of those who end up with the label pinned to them? Because I listened to Rush Limbaugh the other day for the first time all the way through and he’s got it down to a mechanical process. You could really gain ground if you just adopted the format wholesale.

    :) Sorry. I’m just calling it like I see it. Feel free to see it any way you like.

  287. 287
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    BWE, you make friend with Andy. Me, I have better company to worry about.

  288. 288
    Worldtraveller

    Zaphod @ 121:
    While I agree with what you say there, I don’t think the fact that what Gelatoguy did was illegal is the most important element of the story. What he did was immoral/unethical. The reason for the distinction is important, IMO, because often, immoral/unethical actions are completely legal.

    longstreet63 @ 152:

    This is a ‘Bully’s Apology’. It’s the one given when the bully finds out that his target can fight back after all. His bottom line was being endangered and he doesn’t like that, so he’s trying to ‘fix’ it by saying he’s sorry.

    That’s it!! The perfect term to describe this, and Gelato Guy’s reaction. I suppose a similar phrase would be ‘The Privileged Apology’.

    Hrmm, now I think I might like my phrase better. =P

    Not accepting his apology is not that big of a deal. It means that Gelatoguy now has to do something more to earn the trust/respect/business of a large part of the atheist/skeptical community. Why is that so bad? I think if Skepticon V is in Springfield, at the same location, he could pretty much earn all that back by putting a sign in his window that said ‘Atheists and skeptics welcome’, even better if he offers a discount with a ticket/pass. That would be a win/win for everyone. Hopefuly, because it would also show the other, majority xians in the area (that may have cheered him for the sign) that it is wrong to discriminate and people should show tolerance for others’ beliefs, even if they disagree (and do so vocally).

  289. 289
    screechy monkey

    Ologies@253:

    You make good points, not all of which I agree with, but I would never, ever let anyone who says “fuck him into the ground” speak for me or for the group I identify with for that reason.

    Ah, so what is it you propose to do to prevent PZ from “speak[ing] for [you] or for the group [you] identify with”? Considering that he hasn’t claimed to do so anyway….

  290. 290
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Haw!

    Well, maybe my memory is going, but there used to be a Barfy/Barfly that was in Nova Scotia.

    However, I do think that kicking Andy while he’s down and then rubbing dirt into the wounds is prickish behaviour — there is a difference.

    I don’t see PZ doing that. PZ has essentially dropped the matter, so how is he kicking dirt in the wounds, as he is over the ridgeline in the next valley?

    However, I do think that kicking Andy while he’s down and then rubbing dirt into the wounds is prickish behaviour — there is a difference.

    What exactly is PZ attacking at the moment? He is over the ridgeline…

    Agreed, and I’d give my life to support your right to act like a prick. But, it doesn’t mean that I have to agree with you.

    Nor do I, or anyone else, have to agree with you. The burden of proof is upon you to show that PZ not accepting the (pseudo?)apology is an aggressive stance, with further punishment to be meted out by PZ. I haven’t seen any evidence for that. What I see is that PZ has moved on, but you haven’t.

    I don’t have a real opinion on the (pseudo?)apologies. But I do respect those on both sides who understand their reaction is personal, like PZ has done, and don’t have a need to try to make people toe the line for atheism, which is what you are trying to do.

  291. 291
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @Janine PZ said that on Twitter last night. Kinda rapey if you ask me.

    —-

    Reading more of these comments, this situation reminds me so much of an incident that happened a few months ago in a completely different context. It might prove an interesting analogy to some. Beware, there’s [ice] hockey ahead.

    There’s a professional hockey player that is nearly universally despised for being a jerk. He’s been the object of many disciplinary actions for his behaviour (including an incident in which, during a pre-game media scrum, he vulgarly insulted the girlfriend of a player on an opposing team–a woman with whom he himself was once involved).

    In a pre-season game this year, a player who was the object of what was presumably some offensive on-ice trash talk, in the heat of the moment, on impulse, in anger, called the jerk player a “fucking faggot”. In this case, the offending player didn’t apologise at all, saying he couldn’t recall what he’d said and the NHL didn’t act because there were “conflicting accounts” of what happened (since it was taped and a referee was within earshot, all of that is BS), but that part is irrelevant to what I want to highlight here.

    The thing is, at the time there was a lot of discussion both among players and fans about whether what was said on the ice in the heat of the moment should be held against a player. Most people wanted to give the guy a pass. Much of the readiness to forgive and brushing off of the incident as “not that bad” or “not as bad as *real* problems” that was evident in that situation is also in evidence here with the gelato guy.

    My position was, and is still, that even had the name-calling player had apologised, it’s not enough. There should be consequences for being a bigot or for saying bigoted things, even if they happen in emotional circumstances. There ought to be change.

  292. 292
    Lycanthrope

    Brownian, 282:

    people have a right to hold beliefs or lack of beliefs different than your own and that you should not reject their humanity because of it.

    I honestly don’t know what things like this mean.

    I thought it was pretty clear. Things like George H.W. Bush’s comment that atheists should not be considered citizens – that’s “rejecting [our] humanity”. It’s a somewhat flowery way of putting it, but I see what otrame was getting at.

  293. 293
    consciousness razor

    And, as for harm to the skeptical movement… I can’t imagine anyone harming it worse than you just did. And WTF is the skeptical movement?

    Pure, unadulterated bullshit.

  294. 294
    otrame

    Brownian,

    I often don’t make myself clear. As Pooh said, sometimes a thing that was very thingish when I thought it doesn’t sound so thingish when I say it out loud.

    I don’t need people to agree with me on everything. I need them to treat me equally in the public square. I want to make the demonization of atheists become as much shunned in the public dialogue as racism has become. I need them to accept that other humans (not demons) can disagree with them and that, while there is clearly a disagreement, there is no need to discriminate against them for being wrong.

    I think Andy is mistaken in his belief in a god. I am perfectly able to treat people like him decently, even if they think I am wrong. I can stand that. I want Andy to learn to stand it too. When he doesn’t need to demonize those who disagree with him, I’ll be just fine with Andy.

    Well, until and unless he tries to get religion taught in science classes and helps those who want to demonize and discriminate against other humans, like gays, for instance. But that is another issue. Even then, I will feel no need to prevent him from getting some ice cream. I believe a fundamental right is the right to ice cream.

  295. 295
    cyberCMDR

    The problem seems to be that the atheist community is a minority, but not a “minority”. That makes us fair game, for some people.

    I remember when male jokes were popular, making fun of guys by implying they were dumb. They were considered safe because men were not an underprivileged “minority”. There was a story about this that seems pertinent. At some conference a female speaker told a male joke, and a man in the audience started booing loudly. When she asked him what his problem was, he told her to tell the same joke again, but this time instead of saying “man” insert terms like Jew, Polack, black, etc., and then tell him if the joke was in good taste.

    Perhaps the problem is that the bigotry against atheism has not been publicly noted and acknowledged. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  296. 296
    george.w

    That was 10 minutes of discrimination followed by a carefully written apology and the implicit promise not to do that again. I’m not exactly happy with the guy but it’s not as if I never did anything I regretted before.

    I was much more offended by unrepentant, final discrimination, in writing, sent through the mail as a decision by this billboard company: Billboard Backlash (before it ever started).

  297. 297
    Don Quijote

    Yeah, 10 minutes of discrimination backed up by a lifetime of bigatory.

  298. 298
    WishYouWereHere

    291 Nerd.

    What the fuck are you talking about?

    During our back and forth, I’ve been responding to you, not PZ. I found your first comment interesting. For Christ’s sake, this blog post IS about PZ’s disagreement with Andy and the comments are generally about whether or not people agree with PZ.

    You’re reading way too much into my intentions.

  299. 299
    echidna

    Sincere question; I’ve been mulling this over since yesterday and trying to reconcile my belief that no one ought to be accommodating if they don’t want to with my desire to make this a teaching moment™ for the guy.

    The teaching moment needs to include him realising that the shoe is usually on the other foot. Christians are no less offensive than Sam Singleton. Psalm 14 encapsulates the Christian take on atheists. At the moment, I don’t see any sign that he understands that Christianity is offensive at its core.

  300. 300
    george.w

    #298 Don Quijote: “Yeah, 10 minutes of discrimination backed up by a lifetime of bigatory.”

    Yes. I didn’t say he’d ascended to enlightenment or anything, only that he’d promised not to do that again. I don’t want to go hang out in his ice cream shop or anything; I just noted that he seemed a lot less committed to discrimination than that sign company.

    Simple approach a business can take is in the old joke: Man walks into a restaurant and asks “Do you serve crabs here?” Waiter says; “We serve anyone – sit down!” It’s all I really expect of a business.

  301. 301
    WishYouWereHere

    284 Janine

    Are you related to Michelle Bachmann?

    It was a pretty simple question and yet, like her, you’re giving me everything but an answer.

  302. 302
    Ichthyic

    Reading more of these comments, this situation reminds me so much of an incident that happened a few months ago in a completely different context. It might prove an interesting analogy to some.

    *crosses fingers*
    please don’t say elevatorgate.

    Beware, there’s [ice] hockey ahead.

    *whew*

  303. 303
    Gregory Greenwood

    BWE @ 287;

    Your concern is noted.

  304. 304
    Bob Becker

    PZ, sometimes… just sometimes… you can be a real tool. This is one of those times.

  305. 305
    andrewcrawford

    Lycanthroe said:

    Even if I accept your premise, which I don’t, those are also big problems. Ignorance of what? That not everybody believes in God? Poor anger management? Sure, but that’s not much better. Obviously it’s distressing to have your beliefs ridiculed, but the proper response is dialogue and perhaps introspection (Why do I hold these beliefs? Am I justified in doing so?), not to fly into a rage.

    Poor anger management may have been a factor, but the fact that he got that angry tells us something. It speaks of his and society’s belief that religion is above criticism, above ridicule. The things you cite as possible alternative explanations are actually part of the problem of which I speak.

    The same kind of ignorance of the majority of southerners before the 60s, or the majority of men before the same period, or (very likely) the majority of religious people now. They think all atheists are immoral/evil. But that’s just a guess- you appear to be much more confident in judging his state of mind/motives; I’m never confident in judging anyone’s state of mind/motives but my one.

    I condemn what gelato guy did; but I think that it’s possible that his (at least partially inadequate) apology shows that he may be open to properly-presented reason. I think the apology is actually better than nothing, and while it’s possible that it’s purely self-serving, it’s also possible that the guy is genuinely contrite.

  306. 306
    Anthony K

    @Otrame, and Lycanthrope:

    So, how do I go about not rejecting Bill O’Reilly’s humanity? Or Michelle Bachmann’s? Because frankly, I don’t understand what it means to say everyone has equal humanity without it being a simple speciesist tautology.

    Honestly, how do I look at Bill O’fuckingReilly and say, “there goes a human of worth equal to all other humans”? To mirror the discussion about souls and abortion ‘n’ shit, when does this ‘worth’ get injected, and how much of a shitbag does someone need to be to have it revoked?

  307. 307
    Therrin

    Sign, apology 1, apology 2; yep, that’s three. To the batporcupine dungeon!

  308. 308
    Anthony K

    BWE @ 287;

    Your concern is noted.

    Moreover, BWE’s disingenuous use of sorries and smileys are noted. I hope the fencepost he sits smugly atop works its way up his bowels and into the cavity where his brain should be.

    Sorry ;)

  309. 309
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    I’m posting without reading, so here’s my opinion.

    We should accept the apology. Because that’s all that can reasonably be expected of such a person, and that’s all we can reasonably demand. Discrimination is unlawful and wrong; he must stop it.

    What more can we ask? We can’t demand that he change society for us, he’s just one man. We can’t demand that he change his opinions and become an atheist, that’s beyond any reasonable expectation. So yeah, OK, apology accepted. You’ve done something wrong, go away and don’t do it again.

    That doesn’t mean we have to go further, and approve of him, like him, give him our business, hang out with him, buy him a drink, be his friend. No way. Accepting an apology doesn’t mean “forgive and forget” – that’s a massive extra, and I see no reason to go that extra mile.

    Now to read the rest, to see if I change my mind…

  310. 310
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    You’re reading way too much into my intentions.

    No, I’m reading your posts. Are you unclear of your intentions, and what you are really trying to do? You are trying to claim PZ is being unreasonable in not accepting GG’s (pseudo?)apologies. I don’t give a shit about the (pseudo?)apologies, but I do care about people being able to make their own decisions, based on the evidence as they see it. Apparently you are “DAH MAN OF TONE” who we peons must bow down to. Or, we do have the ability to make our decisions without your input? Your choice cricket, I grow weary of your idiocy. You aren’t as smart or as persuasive as you think you are cricket. I suggest letting the adults make their own decisions. I know I have…

    Are you related to Michelle Bachmann?

    Anybody who has been reading this blog for a while wouldn’t ask such an idiotic question…You prove my point…

  311. 311
    echidna

    andrewcrawford@35 said,

    I guess I see it this way (forgive me for comparing the atheist struggle for rights/respect/decent treatment to the civil rights movement of the 60s- I know they are not equivalent in scale nor egregiousness of the bigotry)-

    The atheist struggle for rights/respect/decent treatment is not a more recent, paler version of the civil rights movement of the 60s.
    If you frame it as the “non-Christian’s” struggle, it is much older, larger in scale and greater in the egregiousness of the bigotry, that included torture and the death penalty for simply being heretical, including, of course, atheist or Jewish or Muslim.

    The Inquisition was in part a response to the increasing secularization of Europe in the twelfth century, and lasted for hundreds of years. It was dangerous to be openly atheist until the Enlightenment, and I think we saw a throwback to the Inquisition in the events of WWII. The US kept fanned the embers of anti-atheism alive with the Cold War, and I think we are still seeing the effects of that with the shock and dismay that Andy displayed at Skepticon.

    How dare anybody criticise Christianity?

  312. 312
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    WishYouWereHere

    She gave you an answer. It was in the original post, and she was even nice enough to repeat it for you. Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean she didn’t give it.

  313. 313
    echidna

    Alethea,

    I’m posting without reading, so here’s my opinion.

    We should accept the apology.

    So, without reading the comments, you are perfectly happy to tell us all what we *should* do.
    Right.

  314. 314
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    We should accept the apology. Because that’s all that can reasonably be expected of such a person, and that’s all we can reasonably demand.

    That seems like a non sequitur to me. Why, exactly, is it unacceptable to say “Nope, fuck you” and then go on living my life in another state far away from this gelato shop, not having to even think about him again until next year’s Skepticon? Why must an apology be accepted just because one is offered?

  315. 315
    isilzhaveni

    Those who see the sign as unlawful discrimination can report him to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights:

    http://labor.mo.gov/mohumanrights/

  316. 316
    Lycanthrope

    Brownian:

    Don’t ask me; I was just trying to clarify what otrame said.

    andrewcrawford, #306:

    The same kind of ignorance of the majority of southerners before the 60s, or the majority of men before the same period, or (very likely) the majority of religious people now. They think all atheists are immoral/evil.

    I think we’re talking about different aspects of the same problem. This type of ignorance is indeed part of the problem; I was simply talking about more facets besides this.

    But that’s just a guess- you appear to be much more confident in judging his state of mind/motives; I’m never confident in judging anyone’s state of mind/motives but my one.

    Normally, I’m with you there. I try not to “make an ass of you and me”, and I certainly don’t want to oversimplify anyone’s state of mind or motives. But I’m making an educated guess about the psychological and sociological causes of Gelato Guy’s actions, and yes, I’m reasonably confident in that guess.

    I condemn what gelato guy did; but I think that it’s possible that his (at least partially inadequate) apology shows that he may be open to properly-presented reason.

    That’s why I’m separating forgiveness for his actions and forgiveness for the underlying bigotry. My response to Gelato Guy would be “I accept the apology for your actions, but that doesn’t make it all better. Here’s why what you did was not okay – let’s talk about this.”

    I think the apology is actually better than nothing,

    Absolutely.

    and while it’s possible that it’s purely self-serving, it’s also possible that the guy is genuinely contrite.

    I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is genuinely contrite, but he still needs to understand.

  317. 317
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    I know that this is tone trolling – give me my lumps should you desire:

    I believe that accepting an apology means something different that PZ *seems* to believe. I am perfectly happy to accept his apology. I have information about what happened. He said what he did was wrong in unequivocal terms. That’s what I needed.

    I *don’t* believe that accepting an apology means that I have to actually patronize his store. To me, it means something very different. It’s hard to say exactly what, specifically, because it’s different in different situations. However, in this case, I think it means treating him with more openness that PZ’s letter does.

    Now he didn’t accept the apology & he’s under no obligation to or to treat the man with more openness. However, even though I believe that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, that “gnu atheists” are necessary, etc., I think this guy did something that is at the very heart of skepticism and also at the very heart of making the world a better place: He admitted he was wrong.

    He had a big failure. I have, too. His big failure was massively public. Mine haven’t been. I had trouble admitting I was wrong in many situations… tho’ I think that massively declined earlier in my life that this man is in his. What would I have done? It’s an interesting question. It assumes that I would have excluded a marginalized community & I don’t think I would have done that at his age… but I might very well have at age 15 or so. So there’s some basis for comparison, then. He’s not beyond my ken.

    More important, if everyone’s first take on a situation, person, issue, or problem is their last take on that s/ p/ i/ p, it will be impossible to fix any ills, or even come up with proposed solutions that are evidence based.

    I would have been more conciliatory to the guy. I would have said something like, “While I don’t think I’ll be eating in your store, I think you’ve shown something that I greatly respect: the willingness to admit when you are wrong. That takes courage and I praise you for it.”

    Going on to say, I won’t be advocating for others to accept your apology and/or return to your store, etc. That’s all fine. I just feel like owning up publicly is both

    1) the heart of acting skeptically

    and
    2) the heart of creating a better world over time.

    He’s clearly on a different part of the path than I am, but I can’t actually say that he’s not on the same path. I would want to encourage that & I think that PZ fails to encourage something which is deeply, deeply important and too rarely encouraged in our individualistic society.

    ……

    Now, on to the people who think that skepticism shouldn’t criticize religion or that it should come with warning signs:

    Fuck you & the smiley you rode in on.

    There PZ has it exactly right, IMNSHO.

    Again, I know that I’m concern trolling when I talk about how PZ should have included that other piece in his response. Have a go. I’m a big girl. That one I believe is important & I’ll stand by it.

    –)->

  318. 318
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Oh, forgot this part too:

    That person totally missed the point of the Frost poem: Good fences do NOT make good neighbors, in Frost’s eyes. Anyone who is tempted to use a Frost paraphrase in support of that position needs to look elsewhere!

    I think the confusion lies in that personal boundaries are important in good relations, but walling oneself off from others is not, in fact, it’s inimical to good relations. So people who don’t know anything about the poem just feel free to interpret it as talking about positive boundaries without giving a flying fuck about what was actually said.

    That bugs me. Like or dislike Frost as you will (certainly not one of my top 10 poets), but his work has earned the privilege of not being quote mined to say the opposite of his intentions. To think otherwise is to think like those jerks who quote mine Darwin & Gould.

  319. 319
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Crip Dyke,

    To me, accepting an apology means forgiving. Some take it to mean forgive and forget, but I don’t think that’s as common. You’re free to accept it and forgive him. For me, that’s too much. To leave Singleton’s revival and make the walk back to his shop, then take the time try make that sign and hang it up, all because people were disrespectful to his faith? Gonna take more than words to get my forgiveness for that. He’s going to have to demonstrate with his actions that he’s willing to try to overcome that bigotry before I’ll forgive him (he can start by taking that 10% discount and shoving it up his ass and instead donating to a worthy secular cause). And he’ll have to succeed in overcoming it before I’ll forget.

  320. 320
    Anubis Bloodsin the third

    @310

    “What more can we ask?”

    Simple…to understand profoundly why discrimination is unlawful and wrong and therefore why he must stop it.

    It is not rocket science, it is the decent thing to do, it even eclipses apologies.
    Understanding…not bigoted xian martyr dreams of being repressed and being the victims of intolerance even hatred and being offended by a view point that does not drool to the jeebus fandango.
    Just an understanding that explains why atheism or scepticism whatever is not the enemy, just another way of looking at real substantial and extremely compelling scientifically tested and structured evidence.

    Atheists have just as much right to walk this earth as any sky fairy aficionado probably mose so because rationalism trumps wishful thinking at ant level, but with the attitude he so well demonstrated, it is atheist and atheism that is truly the repressed and the hated one.
    Simply because the religious fail to actually understand the atheist point…deliberately so in most cases.

    But even that is just an inconvenience…what really hurts is the theist claim that atheists are feckless, raping, baby eating, immoral nazis…or undermining the family or the country or whatever brain fart they smell at the time, it is time the lies stopped…it really is…it is not cute any-more.

    Is understanding really beyond them?..It would seem so!

  321. 321
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Wow, I left that squeaky wheel bit hanging didn’t I?

    I meant to wrap that into: I don’t believe in being nice for niceness’ sake. I don’t think that being ‘politic’ is always good politics. For the insiders to make progress, they need the outsiders for leverage. I think of the insiders as a fulcrum. It’s the outsiders that are the long arm of the level. It’s the outsiders that really force the movement of the other side. But without the insiders there isn’t a point of purchase to lever open the discussion.

    So, gnus – yay. Insiders: I often don’t like your tactics, but I think they (and you) are necessary.

    So I wouldn’t be nice to Gelato Guy for no reason. Instead, I advocate including some conciliation for a very specific reason, detailed above.

    Anyway, that’s what the squeaky wheel thing was **supposed** to lead into. Don’t know how I dropped the ball.

  322. 322
    Inaji

    Erulóra Maikalambe:

    And he’ll have to succeed in overcoming it before I’ll forget.

    Same here. I don’t accept his apology because it doesn’t mean diddly shit. The reason he’s worked up three different ones is because it didn’t all go away, like he assumed it would. In the latest version, he didn’t bother to address the deletion of critical comments at his FB while keeping supportive ones from other Christians, then deleting the whole thing when people didn’t stop commenting.

    I see the apologies as desperate cries of “Go away! What the fuck does it take to make you people go away! Here, an apology, now go away!”

    Of course he’s happy to take money from atheists, as long as they don’t do anything he deems as crossing the line. The next time he takes such offense, he’s just as likely to do something equally stupid and bigoted.

  323. 323
    strange gods before me ॐ

    consciousness razor,

    The noble path is to accept his apology and punish him anyway. Crush his livelihood for the sake of crushing it.

    Ha! Sorry*, that takes too much fucking work,

    Really? People have been giving his business bad reviews on various websites. That’s a great start, and takes little effort.

    with not much to show for it.

    What we might accomplish is to inspire enough fear in him that he tells other business owners “don’t fuck with atheists.” I think that’d be grand.

    If we can’t even accomplish that much, then I’m at a loss to see how this discussion can have anything to show for it (after the current apology; obviously getting this far constitutes something to show for it).

    And if we can’t accomplish anything further than getting this apology, then perhaps we’re wasting our time, and ought to be bugging monarchists instead.

  324. 324
    strange gods before me ॐ

    fucking blockquotes.

    “The noble path” thing was me, “Ha! Sorry” was consciousness razor.

  325. 325
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I see the apologies as desperate cries of “Go away! What the fuck does it take to make you people go away! Here, an apology, now go away!”

    If that is what poor Andy is saying, I, like PZ, will not accept his apology. The apology is only good if Andy realizes he was being a bigot, and he recognizes he must work on that aspect of his personality. I make mistakes, but until I fully acknowledge them, I can’t learn and move on. The reports I see indicate that poor Andy wants to move on without learning the lesson. I suspect PZ smelled that.

  326. 326
    strange gods before me ॐ

    In the latest version, he didn’t bother to address the deletion of critical comments at his FB while keeping supportive ones from other Christians, then deleting the whole thing when people didn’t stop commenting.

    What is there to address, though? We know why he did it. He lost his shit.

  327. 327
    Evader, the parasite-infested branch on the evolutionary tree

    This made me laugh very hard:

    And fuck your stupid smiley face too, Jason!

    Brutal delivery. Instant win.

  328. 328
    Ichthyic

    I think the apology is actually better than nothing,

    *girds loins*

    not only is it better than nothing, it’s the best of all possible worlds, if we wish to exploit the issue to our own gain.

    by pointing out exactly WHY many of us reject such apologies, it gets the message out that needs to be heard:

    discrimination?

    not ok.

    not acceptable.

    I can most assuredly see the value in using this case as an example to pound on.

    regretting, all the while, the fallout that will happen to the person who started it.

    OTOH, as others have pointed out, we’re in a huge minority, and might end up doing the guy a favor, as far as his business goes, by making an issue of it.

    in that case…

    win win.

  329. 329
    Ichthyic

    We know why he did it. He lost his shit.

    irrelevant in the grander scheme of things.

  330. 330
    strange gods before me ॐ

    The reports I see indicate that poor Andy wants to move on without learning the lesson.

    What do you mean by “reports”? Maybe I misunderstand you, but it sounds third-hand. You can read his apology yourself. Excerpt:

    I strongly believe that everybody is entitled to their beliefs. I’m not apologizing for my beliefs, but rather for my inexcusable actions. I was wrong.

    Guys, I really don’t know what else I can do to express my apologies. I’ve received dozens of calls and hundreds of emails since the incident, and have done my best to reply to each and every one and express my regret for what happened. For the thousands of you whom I’ve offended, I sincerely apologize. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me. This is me as a human being sincerely apologizing for my actions.

    He explicitly says his actions were inexcusable.

    +++++
    His apology is apparently sincere. Those of you who need to declare it insincere are acting like you’re afraid of your own spite. To deny his stated emotions is indecent of you. The noble path is to accept his apology and punish him anyway, or acknowledge that his apology is sincere but reject it and him as unworthy of you. Crush his livelihood for the sake of crushing it.

  331. 331
    Hoya

    How is it possible to be a fair weather atheist? By definition an atheist simply means not believing in god. You’re talking about fair weather activism. They are quite different.

  332. 332
    strange gods before me ॐ

    irrelevant in the grander scheme of things.

    As is the insistence that he answer for taking down his Facebook page.

    I really don’t get what people don’t understand about this, or why they need it explained to them. He lost his shit. He flipped the fuck out and deleted it. That’s perfectly obvious. Do you need to hear him say “I lost my shit” to comprehend it?

  333. 333
    Ichthyic

    The reports I see indicate that poor Andy wants to move on without learning the lesson.

    I doubt we can expect Andy to actually learn that lesson.

    But that shouldn’t stop us from using this as a tool to teach OTHERS that lesson.

    sorry, but this is war, and if you think not, you’ve never been discriminated against as an atheist.

    I have friends in the South that have literally been forced to move from their homes because they were atheists.

    this shit simply has to stop, and if it takes exposing Raggedy Andy in the media like as the stuffed doll he is, so be it.

    It needs to be done.

  334. 334
    Timaahy

    Nevermind whether or not we should accept his apology, why should he apologise to anyone other than those turned away during the brief time the sign was up?

  335. 335
    echidna

    From his own apology, Andy claims he was so affronted by an aspect of his religion being ridiculed that he lost his judgement and did the wrong thing. He is sorry for doing the wrong thing. I’m sure he is.

    I am also sure that he still feels that atheists are completely beyond the pale in not giving Christianity its due deference, and that he has not made the connection that anything that Sam Singleton said was mild compared with the standard Christian comment to atheists are necessarily immoral.

  336. 336
    Ichthyic

    why should he apologise to anyone other than those turned away during the brief time the sign was up?

    he shouldn’t, if he were being honest.

    what’s more, IIRC, nobody actually DID get turned away.

    at this point, it’s irrelevant.

  337. 337
    Ichthyic

    why should he apologise to anyone other than those turned away during the brief time the sign was up?

    also (mucho apologies for the wording, but necessary):

    why should I apologize for putting up a sign in my business that says:

    “no niggers”

    I mean, I even took it down, just to appease the niggers.

    do you get that?

  338. 338
    Hoya

    Either way, I’m an atheist scientist and think this whole “skeptic” thing is quite foolish. I think religion is nonsense just like I think cosmic unicorns and leprechauns are nonsense but you sure as hell don’t see me having conferences or clubs about either of those. I prefer to deal in reality and not even think about stuff I don’t believe in. To each his own I guess.

  339. 339
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I doubt we can expect Andy to actually learn that lesson.

    Until I see reports (no, I’m not interested enough to click on links), that Andy acknowledges his belief in his imaginary deity needs to be reconsidered, and those who doubt his imaginary deity’s existence need to be treated as fully human, Andy hasn’t learned his lesson. End of story from my perspective.

  340. 340
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    I’m taking the risk of posting after reading only about 1/3 of the comments, and just skimming the rest… but this from Erulora way back @14…

    I think it’s in part a privilege thing. He’s never had to think about what it’s like for non-Christians in this country.

    …deserves a hale and hearty QFT!!

    Coming as he does from the “Christian” heartland, he may well have been shocked (in an almost literal, physiological sense) to learn that atheists actually exist in the flesh, and not just as vaguely unreal seeming foreigners on the (Fox) news. I was never the sort of theist who would’ve denied atheists my trade to begin with, but even so, I had never personally (even virtually pesonally) met someone who identified hirself to me as an atheist before I started posting here, and even as an emerging nonbeliever myself, hearing people apply that term to themselves was disorienting. I can well imagine that a True Believer™ encountering someone cursing the Bible might have a moment of something close to clinical craziness.

    But, of course, that doesn’t excuse it, or compel anyone to take a quick apology (or three) at face value: Just because you’re shocked to learn a certain kind of people (or set of behaviors) exist doesn’t mean they don’t exist, nor that they don’t have a right to exist, nor that you can reasonably, morally deny their fundamental worth.

    Let Andy say (or preferably do) something that indicates a genuine change in how he understands the world, and we can talk.

  341. 341
    Ichthyic

    You’re talking about fair weather activism. They are quite different.

    you’ll have to address PZ’s arguments to the contrary on that.

    let me see if I can find it for you.

  342. 342
  343. 343
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Until I see reports (no, I’m not interested enough to click on links), that Andy acknowledges his belief in his imaginary deity needs to be reconsidered,

    Haha! What? I don’t get this. Are you demanding that he become an agnostic in order for you to consider his apology sincere?

    and those who doubt his imaginary deity’s existence need to be treated as fully human,

    You just did see that report:

    “I strongly believe that everybody is entitled to their beliefs. I’m not apologizing for my beliefs, but rather for my inexcusable actions. I was wrong.”

  344. 344
    Inaji

    ahs:

    What is there to address, though? We know why he did it. He lost his shit.

    I don’t think so. You want to simplify everything down to “he lost his shit” but I don’t think that’s the case with his business facebook account.

    I would like to hear him explain why he started deleting comments from non-christians. It seems to me it was more of a “la la la la I can’t hear you!” move than losing his shit. He obviously did not want to pay attention to what people atheists were saying, which takes me back to my thought that the apologies were simply long form “Here! Now Go Away!” exercises.

    I’ll grant you the “he lost his shit” when he scrawled the sign, but after that, no.

  345. 345
    echidna

    Nevermind whether or not we should accept his apology, why should he apologise to anyone other than those turned away during the brief time the sign was up?

    Because the sign is not just a private message from him to his local customers. It’s gone very public.

  346. 346
    Ichthyic

    Either way, I’m an atheist scientist and think this whole “skeptic” thing is quite foolish. I think religion is nonsense just like I think cosmic unicorns and leprechauns are nonsense but you sure as hell don’t see me having conferences or clubs about either of those

    yes, scientific conferences are useless wastes of time.

    who needs to compare notes?

    pah.

    oh wait, you said atheist conferences…

    totally different.

    *rolleyes*

    being an atheist scientist myself, I find your thoughts on the matter most ignorant and shallow.

  347. 347
    andrewcrawford

    The atheist struggle for rights/respect/decent treatment is not a more recent, paler version of the civil rights movement of the 60s.
    If you frame it as the “non-Christian’s” struggle, it is much older, larger in scale and greater in the egregiousness of the bigotry, that included torture and the death penalty for simply being heretical, including, of course, atheist or Jewish or Muslim.

    The Inquisition was in part a response to the increasing secularization of Europe in the twelfth century, and lasted for hundreds of years. It was dangerous to be openly atheist until the Enlightenment, and I think we saw a throwback to the Inquisition in the events of WWII. The US kept fanned the embers of anti-atheism alive with the Cold War, and I think we are still seeing the effects of that with the shock and dismay that Andy displayed at Skepticon.

    How dare anybody criticise Christianity?

    I was comparing the civil rights struggle of the 60s (which you might frame as part of a long-term struggle for racial equality that started with slavery centuries before, though I was just talking about the 60s) with the 21st century struggle of atheists/humanists/non-religious folk for respect/tolerance/non-discrimination. The risks we face are not comparable to the risks southern black protesters (and their white supporters) faced in the 60s. That doesn’t negate or diminish our struggle or cause, but they are not the same in risk or scale.

  348. 348
    Ichthyic

    The risks we face are not comparable to the risks southern black protesters (and their white supporters) faced in the 60s.

    wrong.

  349. 349
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Haha! What? I don’t get this. Are you demanding that he become an agnostic in order for you to consider his apology sincere?

    Nope, just that he really is looking at the (il)logical underpinnings of his bigotry. If his imaginary deity got him into the problem, might it not be the cause. He may conclude otherwise, but he should look at WHY he said what he did.

    “I strongly believe that everybody is entitled to their beliefs. I’m not apologizing for my beliefs, but rather for my inexcusable actions. I was wrong.”

    Are those just crocodile tears, or real introspection? I’m sure of the diagnosis was available when I was young, Asperger syndrome would have been mentioned. There’s no way I can tell from the printed word. And if that is his third apology, I frankly don’t believe the words. YMMV.

  350. 350
    echidna

    Either way, I’m an atheist scientist and think this whole “skeptic” thing is quite foolish. I think religion is nonsense just like I think cosmic unicorns and leprechauns are nonsense but you sure as hell don’t see me having conferences or clubs about either of those. I prefer to deal in reality and not even think about stuff I don’t believe in. To each his own I guess.

    That would be all fine, except that our society is deeply constrained and damaged by people who believe in this nonsense.

    The conferences are, in part, about ameliorating the damaging effect of religion, such as the encroachment of creationism into schools.

    Have you not noticed how US science schoolbooks bury the kids with facts, but give scant treatment to the age of the earth? Science teaching has been sabotaged by religious considerations, and it is important to fight it.

    I prefer to deal with reality too, and religion’s impact on society is real.

  351. 351
    strange gods before me ॐ

    It seems to me it was more of a “la la la la I can’t hear you!” move than losing his shit. He obviously did not want to pay attention to what atheists were saying

    Bad logic, Caine. That is not obvious at all. He had to pay attention to what atheists were saying in order to know which comments to delete.

    It’s a business. People were disparaging his livelihood in a place where he could control the discussion. He responded as any young capitalist lacking a P.R. department would.

    which takes me back to my thought that the apologies were simply long form “Here! Now Go Away!” exercises.

    Here’s the part where you pretend like you’re unable to acknowledge that people usually have multiple motivations for the things they do. It’s not “simply” anything.

    It is most likely that he was:

    1) frantically trying to preserve his livelihood, like any ape would, and
    2) trying to manage his social reputation — “please don’t think I’m a bad person, everybody, I do care about others” — and
    3) sincerely expressing his remorse for behaving in a way he realized was unfair to people who, in his own words — words he didn’t have to choose out of a vast constellation of possibilities — were “entitled to their beliefs.”

  352. 352
    Tom Foss

    Has no one here heard “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”? GelatoGuy made a mistake, but his mistake–his first impulse on having his privilege threatened–was to post a sign (of at least questionable legality) to discriminate against anyone associated with that privilege-threatening.

    He has since come to his senses, and I think he’s genuinely had his consciousness raised a little bit. He’s apologized, and that’s great–that’s more than usually happens when privilege gets threatened, where the privileged person doubles down and plays the martyr. But no one–PZ, JT, whoever–is under any obligation to accept his apology. He’s revealed an ugly, reactionary bigotry, and while he may be realizing its ugliness and working to correct it, while he may be figuring out the boundaries of his privilege and the rights of others, he’s going to have to deal with the consequences of his bigoted actions.

    Consequences like bad reviews, consequences like people not accepting his apology, consequences like people thinking he’s a bigot. That’s the impression he made, through his choices and his actions, and that’s the impression that he’s going to have to live with. And no matter what he does in the future, even if we all forget about this incident and move on to BusGuy and CakeGuy and NewspaperSalesmanGuy, he’s going to have to live knowing that he was a bigot, and that his bigotry cost him respect, cost him potential friends and customers and business. Hopefully his response with having to live with that will be to work tirelessly to correct it, to decide to fix his bigotry and work to improve his image. But he’ll always still be the guy whose first response to being offended was to proudly display his privileged prejudice.

    I’m speaking from some experience. In high school, I was a raging homophobe. There were reasons for it, of course, but not excuses. Eventually, I had my consciousness raised (and again, and again) and figured out what a bigot I had been, what sorts of terrible things I had said to various people in person and online, and when I think back on that time, I’m still ashamed. I apologized, of course, to the people I could still apologize to, but there were those who never received that apology, and there were plenty with no reason to accept it. Since then, I’ve been a frequent advocate of LGBT rights and causes; I’ve spoken at rallies and made donations and voted and signed petitions and done outreach and education.

    But I was still a bigot. And there are still people out there who, if they remember me at all, may remember me as a hateful homophobic bigot. And that shame, that black spot in my past, is something that I’ll always have to live with–even if it was only ever words. Hateful, bigoted words. Knowing that, knowing that I probably missed out on relationships and respect because of my idiotic prejudice, is part of what drives me to be a better person than I was. Hopefully it’ll drive GelatoGuy to do the same.

  353. 353
    Timaahy

    Ichthyic:

    I see where you’re coming from, but I’m not sure those two situations are the same.

    He didn’t use a derogatory, historically-loaded term, and while there are no good reasons to discriminate on the basis of race, there can be good reasons to discriminate on the basis of someone’s beliefs (I am not suggesting that this is one of those times).

    Yes, his actions are symptomatic of a wider problem, but I don’t see how his small contribution warrants a worldwide apology to every atheist / sceptic.

    P.S. Just while I think of it, how do you pronounce your nym? Been wondering for a couple of years now…

  354. 354
    Inaji

    ahs:

    He had to pay attention to what atheists were saying in order to know which comments to delete.

    :laughs: No, he didn’t. There’s no need to pay actual attention to a post to see if it’s critical or non-critical. A glance is generally sufficient. You don’t know that he was carefully reading each critical comment and giving each of them due consideration. It’s rather obvious at this point that he isn’t giving the non-theist view due consideration, he simply wants all those non-theists to go away.

    You’re free to keep excusing his behaviour all you like. I disagree with you.

  355. 355
    nooneinparticular

    Good grief, PZ. Not every interaction with the god-besotted needs to be an object lesson in how you think the battle against oppression of the godless should be waged. This was one man who was sincere (IMO) in his apology. Yeah maybe his apology doesn’t address the cultural asymmetry you note nor does it change the way atheists are treated as a whole. But it was one guy who tried, however ham handedly, to make amends for causing offense. A gracious atheist would thank him for his thoughts, if not for his religious beliefs. We all can still (and ought to) point and laugh at those beliefs, but he tried to be a nice guy. Spitting in his face only makes you look bad. You could have thanked him for his apology then howled at him for his lunatic beliefs (which you do so well). Instead you just spit in his eye.

    Oh, and don’t anyone give me any crap about being conciliatory or…what is it?…a fair weather atheist. I won’t listen to you anyway. Sometimes it’s more important to be a decent human being and recognize when another is trying to be one too.

  356. 356
    Timaahy

    Echidna:

    Because the sign is not just a private message from him to his local customers. It’s gone very public.

    That’s not his fault, though.

    I gather you’re Australian…? I think it’s like when one of our idiotic footballers (pick a code) pisses in the street or something. If a newspaper finds out, he ends up having to apologise to the entire nation.

  357. 357
    Ichthyic

    Good grief, PZ. Not every interaction with the god-besotted needs to be an object lesson in how you think the battle against oppression of the godless should be waged.

    why not?

    I say he should stop when people think it just as repulsive and wrong to post a “no atheist” sign in their business as it is now to post a “no niggers” sign.

    when we get to THAT point, I’ll consider your request to be more in line with my own.

    for now, sorry, but I have to disagree with you, vehemently.

  358. 358
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Nope, just that he really is looking at the (il)logical underpinnings of his bigotry. If his imaginary deity got him into the problem, might it not be the cause. He may conclude otherwise, but he should look at WHY he said what he did.

    Ah. You’ve got high hopes. Well, you’re certainly entitled to insist upon whatever you want above and beyond an apology. This demand isn’t about the sincerity of the apology he gave, so I’m surely not going to argue with you about it.

    Are those just crocodile tears, or real introspection?

    I don’t think they’re either of the above. He grew up in a society which indoctrinated him with the notion that people are entitled to their beliefs. He probably believes it like he believes in George Washington, Mom, and apple pie. I don’t think it takes hardly any introspection to notice when we’ve acted contrary to our social identities as Americans, but the shame of such a realization can be quite real without any fancy introspection.

  359. 359
    Anthony K

    I prefer to deal in reality and not even think about stuff I don’t believe in. To each his own I guess.

    I hope to fuck someone whose head is jammed so fucking far up his own ass doesn’t fucking teach, as students need someone willing to disabuse them of erroneous beliefs rather than pretending they don’t exist.

    I mean, you know that people with erroneous beliefs exist, right?

    And I hope you have others carefully review your papers, given this tendency to conclude the exact fucking opposite of your thesis.

    Jesus: whoever told you that you’ve got opinions worth sharing is an idiot and/or a liar. Stick your head back in the sand, moron.

  360. 360
    Ichthyic

    I think it’s like when one of our idiotic footballers (pick a code) pisses in the street or something.

    then your thoughts on this issue are readily dismissable.

  361. 361
    Anthony K

    Oh, and don’t anyone give me any crap about being conciliatory or…what is it?…a fair weather atheist. I won’t listen to you anyway.

    How very decent of you.

  362. 362
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Ichthyic:

    The risks we face are not comparable to the risks southern black protesters (and their white supporters) faced in the 60s.

    wrong.

    To be fair (and without having paid for the full collection of narratives), the case summaries at your link really don’t describe contemporary atheists suffering anything quite as bad as lynchings or church bombings or being dragged behind cars (or, for that matter, being tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die, to shift to yet another civil rights issue).

    But so what? Are we going to start ranking civil rights causes according to the level of physical brutality suffered by the oppressed? Rights are rights; they don’t gain extra value according to pain levels.

    And, of course, as has already been pointed out, if you expand the geographical and historical scope of the question a bit, nonbelievers have suffered their “fair share” of brutality, and then some.

  363. 363
    Ichthyic

    He didn’t use a derogatory, historically-loaded term

    idiot.

    at one time, nigger wasn’t a historically loaded term, either.

    nor was jigaboo, jungleboy, spearchucker; spic, dago, wetback….

    are you unwilling or unable to learn from history?

  364. 364
    Timaahy

    Ichthyic:

    I’m not saying what he did is comparable to pissing in the street. Just the apparent need to issue a worldwide apology.

  365. 365
    Timaahy

    at one time, nigger wasn’t a historically loaded term, either.

    That’s exactly why your analogy fails, numb nuts.

  366. 366
    Inaji

    Here’s a shining example of why GelatoGuy’s bigotry isn’t acceptable: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/11/22/another-wildly-successful-billboard-campaign/

    GelatoGuy is just one of the Christians in this country who helps to shore up such idiocy.

  367. 367
    Ichthyic

    suffering anything quite as bad as lynchings or church bombings

    church bombings?

    uh…

    and I did relate that I personally know people that have been forced from their homes.

    I’d add that their pets were murdered and the corpses left as messages on their lawn, their kids beaten up at school, their cars first damaged, then stolen, house windows smashed, etc etc.

    if you think this isn’t similar to the kinds of experiences associated with racism, you’re an idiot.

    even in the 60s, with the issue of racism, this kind of intimidation was the norm; actual killings the rare exceptions.

    (yes, because even then, killing a person would get you jail time; it wasn’t the fucking 1800s after all)

    I would say I’m sorry you can’t see what I’m talking about, but actually, I’m GLAD you can’t see what I’m talking about. It means you likely never experienced directly any real discrimination, and that’s a good thing.

  368. 368
    Ichthyic

    That’s exactly why your analogy fails, numb nuts.

    because there is no such thing as the future.

    goddamn you’re dense.

    *killfiled*

  369. 369
    echidna

    The risks we face are not comparable to the risks southern black protesters (and their white supporters) faced in the 60s. That doesn’t negate or diminish our struggle or cause, but they are not the same in risk or scale.

    I can see what you mean, and you are right that I would frame the 60s as part of a centuries long story as well.

    I would just like to say that the perception of immediate risk and harm is less, but so it was for atheists and Jews in Vienna from the 1880′s to the late 1920′s. The freedoms of the enlightenment seemed great, but nonetheless there was a backdrop of anti-semitism and anti-atheism that was easily fired up again in the 1930s in Europe.

    McCarthy was not that long ago, and our society is not all that different. All you need is a population that is scared and desperate, and they are putty in the hands of a charismatic politician.
    Atheists are still being run out of town in the USA, as well as the odd murder on religious grounds. The perception of danger will depend on your situation and how you assess the historical threads that run to the present.

  370. 370
    andrewcrawford

    Icthyic, if you think that we atheists/non-believers (in America) today face anything close to the dangers and discrimination that blacks faced in the 60s and before, then I’m not sure if we live on the same planet.

    But that doesn’t mean that our struggle doesn’t have meaning and value. We’re majorly off topic here.

  371. 371
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Caine

    There’s no need to pay actual attention to a post to see if it’s critical or non-critical. A glance is generally sufficient

    A glance is attention, silly. Most people don’t have new ideas. You yourself know you can get the gist of an argument as you scroll past it, and this constitutes more than noticing whether it’s critical or supportive.

    You don’t know that he was carefully reading each critical comment and giving each of them due consideration.

    I do know that they were largely repetitive, though.

    It’s rather obvious at this point that he isn’t giving the non-theist view due consideration, he simply wants all those non-theists to go away.

    No, again, this is not obvious. That is what you want to believe, probably because you think you can only be morally justified in treating him harshly if he was insincere. But your whole premise is wrong. You can treat him harshly even though he was sincere!

    Embrace the hate, Caine!

    You’re free to keep excusing his behaviour all you like. I disagree with you.

    What you disagree with is not what I’ve actually said, if you think you can characterize anything I’ve said as “excusing his behavior”. I said we should absolutely bankrupt him for his behavior. PZ said this would be going to far. If I’m excusing him, then you should complain to PZ for being even more an accomodationist.

    Try dealing honestly with my words instead of making shit up, thanks.

    +++++
    If we want to win an asymmetric war, it is prima facie rational to decide that regardless of the sincerity of his apology, we should attempt to bankrupt his business as an example to others.

    If we want to win an asymmetric war, it is probably rational to avoid transactions with evangelical Christian business owners just for being evangelical Christians.

    What I find interesting is how many people seem unwilling to consciously embrace these tactics, instead needing to find moralizing excuses for uncompromizing treatment.

    His apology is apparently sincere. Those of you who need to declare it insincere are acting like you’re afraid of your own spite. To deny his stated emotions is indecent of you. The noble path is to accept his apology and punish him anyway, or acknowledge that his apology is sincere but reject it and him as unworthy of you. Crush his livelihood for the sake of crushing it.

    What we might accomplish is to inspire enough fear in him that he tells other business owners “don’t fuck with atheists.” I think that’d be grand.

  372. 372
    Timaahy

    because there is no such thing as the future.

    You’re right… sorry. My crystal ball just told me that “Skepticon” will one day be as loaded as “nigger”.

    *killfiled*

    Boo-fucking-hoo.

  373. 373
    andrewcrawford

    (yes, because even then, killing a person would get you jail time; it wasn’t the fucking 1800s after all)

    Except, of course, for the dozens of murders that went unprosecuted (and are still unsolved).

    http://www.thedefendersonline.com/2010/08/10/doj-concedes-most-civil-rights-era-murders-will-remain-unsolved/

  374. 374
    Walton

    Strong trumps nice every time. I’ll always be nice to those who deserve it and never to sphincter boys like gelato guy.

    I’m not interested in arguing about the issue (not because I don’t have an opinion, but because I can’t be bothered to deal with the stress of wading into these kinds of debates), but this comment really pissed me off. Not because of its nastiness, but because of its dishonesty.

    It takes five minutes of rational consideration of the question to figure out that one “deserves” anything, in any objective sense. The idea that there are “deserving” and “undeserving” people, and that some people “deserve” to be hurt because their actions make them morally impure and unworthy, is an irrational conceit. There is no transcendent moral order, and no objective criterion which makes some people “deserving” of punishment. Indeed, the notion of “just deserts” is a religious concept in its origins; evangelical Christianity, for instance, is founded on the belief that we all “deserve” to be punished for our “sins”, and that we can only be “saved” through God’s forgiveness. Going further back, early legal codes like the Mosaic law prescribed ritual retributive punishments, “an eye for an eye”, as a way of placating an angry deity or rebalancing the moral order of the universe – in other words, supernatural justifications. When we realize that there is no god and no transcendent moral order, we realize that there is no argument by which it is possible to argue that anyone “deserves” anything, good or ill.

    If you hate a person for hir past actions, and you want to make hir suffer because it makes you feel better, then for nonexistentgod’s sake be honest enough to admit that. I can’t, after all, prove that you’re “wrong” to do so; moral statements are not susceptible of objective proof. (I can say that I think it makes you an asshole, but that’s a subjective personal opinion, not an objective or provable truth about anything.) But don’t pretend that there’s some kind of objective intellectual or moral justification for it.

  375. 375
    Walton

    Self-correction:

    It takes five minutes of rational consideration of the question to figure out that one “deserves” anything, in any objective sense.

    It takes five minutes of rational consideration of the question to figure out that no one “deserves” anything, in any objective sense.

    (Sorry. Typing error.)

  376. 376
    consciousness razor

    ahs:

    Really? People have been giving his business bad reviews on various websites. That’s a great start, and takes little effort.

    Okay, but that’s hardly the same as “crush his livelihood,” don’t you think? I thought you were suggesting something more extreme beyond all that. (But to be honest, that’s probably because I expect extreme ideas from you, not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

    What we might accomplish is to inspire enough fear in him that he tells other business owners “don’t fuck with atheists.” I think that’d be grand.

    I guess it could be. I’m trying to think of what would make me so afraid as to tell people “don’t fuck with theists,” and many of those don’t imply something grand. In fact, I don’t have to think very hard, since that’s close to how I feel now, except I think we have no choice but to fuck with them, so to speak.

    If we can’t even accomplish that much, then I’m at a loss to see how this discussion can have anything to show for it (after the current apology; obviously getting this far constitutes something to show for it).

    And if we can’t accomplish anything further than getting this apology, then perhaps we’re wasting our time, and ought to be bugging monarchists instead.

    Perhaps so. I didn’t want an apology, so it feels like no kind of accomplishment. I just want this kind of shit to end. It’s the same with monarchist apologetics, I guess. I didn’t want it, just for it to be over.

  377. 377
    Ichthyic

    more…

    http://atheism.about.com/od/attacksonatheism/p/AtheistBigotry.htm

    more…

    http://atheism.about.com/b/2006/07/10/just-another-salem-christian-persecution-of-atheists-in-the-american-heartland.htm

    more…

    http://atheism.about.com/b/2005/12/20/harassment-of-and-assaults-on-atheists-book-notes-the-atheist.htm

    Pat Tillman also comes to mind.

    killed for being an atheist by his own troops?

    probably.

    what’s more, atheists are hugely in the minority in the US.

    you would expect most violent crimes against them to be underrepresented in the media.

  378. 378
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    OK, I see that I am making a distinction that a great many other people don’t. Accepting an apology is a bare minimal social move, while forgiving is a very much bigger thing, and an entirely different concept.

    Things people have mentioned that I think are waaay beyond merely accepting an apology are:
    * forgiving him
    * respecting him
    * pretending it didn’t happen
    * sympathising with him
    * having compassion for him
    * not criticising him
    * singing Kumbaya
    * being pals with him
    * granting absolution
    * trusting him not to do it again
    * supporting his business
    * demanding that everyone else accept the apology

    Nup. Apology accepted, but not one step further. So on the further reading I promised (and FU too, echidna, for not even reading my whole post), I haven’t changed my mind, but perhaps I am playing a John Morales role here?

    Am I quibbling over verbal technicalities? I think not, because there’s a point where it matters. I claim that an apology and retraction is a reasonable requirement for an organisation or social movement to make of such an offender. It’s a point at which we can accept victory and move on to the next problem – it’s not like there’s any shortage of issues to tackle. Movements and activists need to have clear goals, so we don’t get bogged down and waste our energies beating dead horses.

    I hope it’s obvious that individuals acting for themselves can make their own call. If pepper-spraying cop gets sacked, publicly apologises, makes reparations, and the cops get a better crowd management policy, then that’s a win for the movement. The people who were pepper-sprayed can refuse to forgive all they like. They are not obligated to forgive, not even if they accept an official apology complete with financial reparations.

    Also, props to Lycanthrope @208 for this beautifully succinct statement.

    I accept the apology, and forgive his ill-considered action. I do not forgive the inherent bigotry that the action betrayed.

  379. 379
    Ichthyic

    Those of you who need to declare it insincere are acting like you’re afraid of your own spite.

    I can’t speak for others, but I think you’ve got yourself a strawman there.

    AFAIC, I could give a fuck if his apology was sincere or not.

    as I said, it is not even a significant issue if it is or isn’t.

    it’s simply not relevant.

  380. 380
    Jessie

    Overreaction begets overreaction, I see. What the Gelato guy did was stupid and uncalled for, but cries of “Fuck him to the ground!” come off as being over the top, too.

  381. 381
    strange gods before me ॐ

    consciousness razor,

    Really? People have been giving his business bad reviews on various websites. That’s a great start, and takes little effort.

    Okay, but that’s hardly the same as “crush his livelihood,” don’t you think? I thought you were suggesting something more extreme beyond all that.

    You’re right, I am, but every little bit helps. I’m a pragmatist at heart. What I was trying to get at, albeit not clearly enough, is that everybody should do what they can to hurt his pocketbook. You’re quite right that bankrupting him would/will be a lot of work; I really just wanted to rhetorically salvage your earlier response as a segue to talk about what’s plausible and practical. :) I hope you don’t mind too much.

  382. 382
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Zinc Avenger #186:

    Society has conditioned me to accept every apology I’m given.

    This kept me in an abusive relationship for six years.

    An apology can be poisonous. If you accept it, the transgressor can then continue the behavior that prompted the apology – it clearly wasn’t that much of a big deal if it can be fixed with a few mumbled words. If you don’t accept it, then you, the victim, are now the unreasonable one!

    Fuck insincere apologies.

    Absolutely. However, there exist such things as sincere apologies. I know that I have had difficulties in the past that I surmounted. I know that I’ve done things in the past that I will never do again. Therefore, I believe that there must be other people who experience the same things.

    I’m willing to accept the first apology from any given individual (even if it’s for something that others have done many times).

    The second apology’s acceptance is conditional on actual demonstration that things are different.

    I never accept the third apology for the same thing from the same person. Sorry, you had your chance. 3 is enough (for me) to establish a pattern.

    So I get where you’re coming from, but I choose to act differently for the first apology. I think that there are empirically supported reasons to believe that doing so has practical benefits. Clearly accepting apologies for the same thing over & over has dramatic practical drawbacks/penalties. But I don’t know that GG has ever done this before, so I still on the side of accepting his apology – this time.

    Y’know, from this thread & it’s focus on GG, I take it that we really are all pretty much in agreement on how effed up it is to engage in the behaviors that some of the atheist-bashing skeptics have produced.

    That’s something, anyway.

  383. 383
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I can’t speak for others, but I think you’ve got yourself a strawman there.

    AFAIC, I could give a fuck if his apology was sincere or not.

    That’s cool, Ichthyic, then my statement doesn’t apply to you.

    My arguments are summed up as: his apology was sincere, and we should make an example of him anyway.

    If you agree we should make an example of him, and you’re not interested in the sincerity of his apology, then I have no argument with you.

  384. 384
    echidna

    U too, echidna, for not even reading my whole post

    You assume too much.

  385. 385
  386. 386
    Dark Jaguar

    I believe in being nice, I try to do so as well, and I try to see the best in people when I can. I don’t see basic kindness as “worthless”, because heck, a lot of the time major movements are all ABOUT kindness, getting it at least.

    However, I don’t believe in “empty” kindness. This is my compromise between the the values of truth and kindness, neither of which I will ever abandon. In real life, it’s difficult to actually state outright what I think of someone’s ridiculous beliefs, because I know it won’t get me anywhere and there’s no point in making the entire world my enemy (that is, my tiny slice of the world). Online, I’m much more free to call a spade a spade, and I do. I value online anonymity because of this.

    Aside from that tangent, I would likely say something like “I believe you are being honest about what you say, but you must actually demonstrate it before I’m willing to call you friend. There are consequences for this sort of behavior, and I can’t in good conscience simply forget what’s been said. You are invited to continue engaging me in honest discussion, but I won’t mince words.” It’s possible to be blunt and not compromise one’s opinion without directly insulting the person, though sometimes that too is needed if the person is clearly scum.

    In this case, PZ has written this guy off and for good reason.

    PZ, you mention the various marginalized nonsense that skeptics have typically challenged instead of going after religion. Well, I could mention that many skeptics do go after the very specific supernatural claims like the shroud of Turin or bleeding statues or faith healing, but yes, they tend to dance around that itself. There’s a place for that sort of tactic. It’s what started me down the path to atheism after all. Sometimes you don’t want to “muddy the waters”. However, a convention that wants to directly tackle religion itself is also very useful. Talking about atheism directly is also important. I feel that talks addressing specific parts of every step in the way are what’s needed. While general skepticism addressing fringe bugaboos started me on the path, when I was at a certain point, I was glad to have plenty of people directly addressing the major underlying faith of religion to hear from. It all helped. If the atheism side of things had been suspiciously silent and the only criticism I could find at all was of the generic kind, I most likely still would have become an atheist, but would never admit it to anyone, online or off. (As opposed to now, where I admit it to SOME people in the real world but not all. No I wouldn’t call that cowardice, sometimes it’s just the only move one can make.) That’s no way to change anything.

    Lastly, I object to the idea that alternative medicine is “fringe”. I think that’s probably a problem almost as big as religion itself. It certainly seems incredibly wide spread in my own small social circle. In fact I wonder if there’s some instinctive need to resort to a primitive witch doctor thinking of medicine in people. After I wonder that, I tell myself that without any actual science to go on I’m just writing a “just so” story for myself.

  387. 387
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Ichthyic responded to:

    He didn’t use a derogatory, historically-loaded term

    with:

    idiot.

    at one time, nigger wasn’t a historically loaded term, either.

    nor was jigaboo, jungleboy, spearchucker; spic, dago, wetback….

    are you unwilling or unable to learn from history?

    This would be a much more compelling argument if we weren’t campaigning to make atheist a word socially acceptable to mention.

    The words you use here were always understood by the minority to carry contempt – typically, if not in every case. Atheist is much more likely to go the direction of ‘gay’ from rarely used term that is considered an insult merely because being gay itself is considered an insult to commonly used term that understand that since it isn’t an insult to be an atheist, it isn’t at all problematic to use the word atheist.

    We use “atheist” in the names of advocacy organizations, including the advocacy organizations that go mainstream. Name a single, mainstream rights-defending organization that used any one of those terms in its name.

    yeah. I thought not. There are always going to be organizations like the Lesbian Avengers (and thank goodness), and some of them might use otherwise insulting words in their names (think Queer Nation), But a National Association for the Advancement of NJJSSDWs? Fuggeduhboudit.

    …..

    On another point, the risks that we as atheists face don’t come close to what Black southerners faced in the 50s & 60s.

    That doesn’t make a rights movement for atheists less important or necessary. It just means that the risks we take are less. That’s all. No moral value attached. Just a fact. We still get to fight for rights of conscience, even if their weapons are schoolyard bashings and verbal harassment and not firehoses and firebombs. Why the need to equate two different movements? We are the people we are in the situation we are in. There is abuse of the rights of conscience in the US. Let’s fight that.

  388. 388
    Walton

    My arguments are summed up as: his apology was sincere, and we should make an example of him anyway.

    What we might accomplish is to inspire enough fear in him that he tells other business owners “don’t fuck with atheists.” I think that’d be grand.

    Il est bon de temps en temps de tuer un amiral pour encourager les autres?

    I do not like the places where the notion of “mak[ing] an example of X” leads us. It leads us to treat individual human beings as instruments in the service of a political cause; it leads us to the view that we can sacrifice people to achieve a goal. That line of reasoning leads us inexorably to the conclusion that it could be justified for a mob of revolutionaries to hang their enemies in public as an example to others, if they were certain that doing so would effectively advance their desired social agenda.

    Of course, you might very well be fine with that conclusion. (I know you’re not averse to endorsing revolutionary violence in certain circumstances.) I am not. For me, compassion for the individual human being in front of me, and an abhorrence of any act which deliberately inflicts suffering on a human being, overrides everything else.

    I am agnostic as to whether “his apology should be accepted”; I don’t even think it’s a meaningful question. Whether his apology is sincere is a question of fact, and I suspect it probably is sincere, though I cannot be certain. But how we should behave towards him is a moral question. Like all moral questions, it does not have an objectively correct answer; all I can say is that I believe in compassion and kindness, and that I would oppose any attempt to put him out of business, or to do anything else nasty to him, as an “example to others”. (I note that PZ has advocated no such thing; he’s simply saying that he’s not inclined to patronize this man’s business should he ever find himself in Springfield. If that’s an act of censure, it’s a very minor and inconsequential one, and something with which I would not waste my time arguing.)

  389. 389
    Anthony K

    all I can say is that I believe in compassion and kindness

    Given all of your other claims, I have to ask why.

    As you note, there’s no objective morality: “When we realize that there is no god and no transcendent moral order, we realize that there is no argument by which it is possible to argue that anyone “deserves” anything, good or ill.”

    Okay, so why?

  390. 390
    Dark Jaguar

    Human Ape, I have just read a few entries on your blog. I tried posting a response there, but here will have to do as it is rather locked down. I’m responding specifically to what you say about holding ALL religious people in complete subhuman contempt.

    ——
    All religions incorrectly describe the world. That is a fact, and it’s also what I think. All religious believers are mistaken. That too is a fact, and what I believe. I would go further and say that merely “finding comfort” is no excuse to believe something false.

    All religious believers are responsible for the actions of other believers… I don’t believe this, because so very many have no possible way to influence or even be aware of the decisions others make. Those who believe but aren’t killing people being somehow worse than those who believe and also kill people? That doesn’t make any sort of sense to me at all. The person who makes an excuse for a murderer is not high on my list of respectables, and certainly should be criticized, but I certainly would prefer they be free than the person who actually DID the killing.

    More to the point, the believer who condemns the actions of another believer can’t, on those grounds alone, be considered responsible. Now, there are ways they CAN be found responsible. If the former is advocating violent policies in public and the latter, either hearing directly from the former or simply hearing the same rhetoric parroted repeatedly by others, DOES such violence, well, the former can be found responsible, at least in part, for creating that sort of environment. The believer who just ignores all the violent immoral part and just likes the fluffy nice Jesus stuff? The worst I can say is they aren’t consistent.

    It goes way too far to actually hold the average believer as sub-human scum sharing in the guilt of all murders in religion’s name. Am I to understand that my own mom is as guilty as a suicide bomber, or my own sister is as guilty as a gay basher? Really? I’m to cut off all relationships and publicly condemn every single person I know just because they all believe something stupid? Further, if I don’t, I’M part of the problem? No thanks. That’s just stupid.

    —-

    I’ll add that pity is what I feel for most religious, but they are still human beings.

  391. 391
    feralboy12

    Given that he thinks an ice cream shop is somehow a “Christian Business,” I think we can assume he isn’t giving up his religion.
    And that religion derives from a holy book that not only would consider barring atheists from entering a store to be perfectly justified, it would justify doing much worse things to those who don’t believe. He apologizes for putting up a sign, but not for supporting the religion that led him to doing that.
    He didn’t just do something “wrong” after getting angry, he has subscribed to a set of beliefs that encourage him and many others to get angry and do wrong stuff. His belief system usually marginalizes and often demonizes people who don’t share the beliefs, and he hasn’t shown any willingness from what I’ve read to examine that system. I’m not sure you can apologize sincerely for such an action and continue to support institutions that insist such discrimination is God’s Law, and hold as sacred a book that describes the worst atrocities imaginable as having been ordered by God.
    As long as he calls himself Christian and refuses to examine Christianity in the light of what it actually teaches, I wouldn’t trust his apology.

  392. 392
    WithinthisMind

    I apologized.

    Why the hell are you people still talking about this?

  393. 393
    WithinthisMind

    http://feministing.com/2011/11/22/uc-davis-chancellor-apologizes-but-will-not-resign/

    An apology was made for the pepper spraying incident.

    Everything is fine now, right?

  394. 394
    Walton

    Brownian: I guess I’m a nihilist in theory and a Tolstoyan in practice. :-)

    I believe in a strong set of moral values based on compassion, kindness and forgiveness for everyone, individual freedom, and a commitment to peace and non-violence. What I cannot do is prove to you that those values are objectively “right”, that they reflect some kind of transcendent moral order or universal truth, or that those whose values are different are in any objective sense “wrong”. Since I don’t believe in a god, or in any kind of “natural law” or “natural rights”, I’m not convinced that moral statements are susceptible of absolute objective proof in that sense.

    Rather, I can only say that being kind and compassionate makes me happy, and that living in a society where other people are kind, compassionate and forgiving makes me happy. So, out of a rational desire to maximise my own happiness, I’m going to keep advocating kind, compassionate and forgiving actions. I would also add that a kind, compassionate and forgiving society is generally nicer, on balance, for most people to live in than any other type of society.

    But of course I can’t prove to you, in any objective sense, that you should care about what makes other people happy. If a sociopath were to reply with “So what? Why should I care about what’s good for other people? Making people suffer makes me happy, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t torture people if I want to,” then I wouldn’t be able to prove to him absolutely that his feelings are objectively “wrong” and that mine are “right”. I could only say that I find his ideas unappealing and that I don’t want to live in a society in which they hold sway.

    (But of course people who hurt others are rarely so honest as our hypothetical sociopath; rather, most of the time they make up poorly-reasoned pseudo-moral justifications for their desire to hurt others, based on incoherent ideas like “just deserts”. Which is why it’s worth having debates about this.)

  395. 395
    consciousness razor

    Il est bon de temps en temps de tuer un amiral pour encourager les autres?

    No one’s saying we should kill an admiral, Walton.

  396. 396
    'Tis Himself

    I don’t care if Gelato Guy’s apology is genuine or not. What concerns me is Gelato Guy’s bigotry is widespread in the US. Another concern is folks like Jason Loxton’s wish that us nasty atheists go back into closet so Gelato Guy isn’t given cause to exhibit his bigotry.

  397. 397
    Walton

    No one’s saying we should kill an admiral, Walton.

    Cute. But I’m sure you understood why I quoted Voltaire.

    (After all, the Royal Navy certainly “made an example” of Admiral Byng, and they had an entirely coherent practical justification for doing so. Just as ahs’ argument for putting the gelato-shop owner out of business to “make an example of him” is, in itself, entirely coherent. The methods advocated are rather less nasty – thankfully, we live in a more civilized age than the time of Queen Anne – but the reasoning is the same. I’m trying to illustrate why I am always morally uncomfortable with the line of argument that one should sacrifice an individual in order to send a message to others.)

  398. 398
    Anthony K

    Rather, I can only say that being kind and compassionate makes me happy, and that living in a society where other people are kind, compassionate and forgiving makes me happy.

    Right. And yet, when I point out evidence that punishing cheaters has the effect of promoting cooperation, thus increasing the likelihood that others are kind, compassionate, and forgiving (essentially, reassuring others that the world is ‘just’), you say that punishment is irrational.

    So, perhaps you need to stop saying punishment is irrational, or admit that rationality in this case, is less important than how you subjectively feel about punishment.

  399. 399
    consciousness razor

    But of course I can’t prove to you, in any objective sense, that you should care about what makes other people happy.

    You also can’t prove that maximizing your own happiness is a “rational” basis for your values. It looks like you’re trying to have it both ways.

    Which is why it’s worth having debates about this.

    But you can’t prove such debates have any worth. But does that stop you? No, and it shouldn’t. So why is it relevant?

  400. 400
    Walton

    thankfully, we live in a more civilized age than the time of Queen Anne

    … who, of course, had already been dead for more than forty years. *headdesk* The king at the time was George II. It’s rather embarrassing when I, of all people, get my monarchs wrong. But still.

  401. 401
    Institute for Advanced Rationality

    This has generated an interesting and lively discussion over at the atheist message board Talk Rational. At first I was glad that people were discussing the fact that we’re the last minority it is acceptable to discriminate against, but it turns out several of these atheist posters are milquetoast fence-sitters. The atheist movement is going nowhere until we can convert these people into a more aggressive mindset:

    http://talkrational.org/showthread.php?p=1606207#post1606207

  402. 402
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I am agnostic as to whether “his apology should be accepted”; I don’t even think it’s a meaningful question. Whether his apology is sincere is a question of fact, and I suspect it probably is sincere, though I cannot be certain.

    Yeah, I made a mistake in my first post by failing to distinguish between accepting the apology and acknowledging the apology as sincere. In my defense, it only took me 11 minutes to realize my error.

    I would alter Alethea’s useful list by one degree:

    Things people have mentioned that I think are waaay beyond merely acknowledging the prima facie sincerity of his apology are:
    * accepting his apology
    * forgiving him
    * respecting him
    * pretending it didn’t happen
    * sympathising with him
    * having compassion for him
    * not criticising him
    * singing Kumbaya
    * being pals with him
    * granting absolution
    * trusting him not to do it again
    * supporting his business
    * demanding that everyone else accept the apology

  403. 403
    Anthony K

    The atheist movement is going nowhere until we can convert these people into a more aggressive mindset

    I doubt there are many here that would advocate that.

    I think I can honestly characterise the viewpoints of most gnus as “You deal with believers your way, and we’ll deal with them ours. Just don’t stab us in the fucking back while you do it.”

  404. 404
    Walton

    Right. And yet, when I point out evidence that punishing cheaters has the effect of promoting cooperation, thus increasing the likelihood that others are kind, compassionate, and forgiving (essentially, reassuring others that the world is ‘just’), you say that punishment is irrational.

    Punishment isn’t always irrational. (Of course I am sometimes guilty of imprecision in my use of language.) Many of the punishments administered by the state today are irrational – mass imprisonment and the death penalty, in particular – insofar as they come at a human and financial cost far higher than the amount of crime, if any, they effectively prevent.

    This doesn’t mean that punishment is never an effective way to reduce the occurrence of an undesired activity; sometimes it is. (It’s hard to dispute that parking fines reduce the amount of illegal parking, for instance.) But much of the time, in practice, the desire to punish is primarily driven not by a rational plan to reduce the occurrence of an undesired activity, but, rather, to take revenge on a person who is perceived by others to “deserve” to suffer.

    Revenge – that is to say, punishment for punishment’s sake – is by definition irrational , insofar as it doesn’t achieve any social goal other than making the revenge-taker feel better. Of course, it depends what one means by “rational”: one can say that making oneself feel better is a perfectly rational goal from the revenge-taker’s point of view. But from my point of view, since I derive no satisfaction from taking revenge on people or from seeing others do so – in fact, I feel a deep-seated horror and sadness at the idea of ever making anyone suffer deliberately – it is rational for me to oppose revenge.

    But you can’t prove such debates have any worth.

    They have subjective worth, in the sense that

  405. 405
    Walton

    Sorry, I accidentally pressed Enter at the wrong time and submitted an unfinished comment. Here’s the finished version.

    Right. And yet, when I point out evidence that punishing cheaters has the effect of promoting cooperation, thus increasing the likelihood that others are kind, compassionate, and forgiving (essentially, reassuring others that the world is ‘just’), you say that punishment is irrational.

    Punishment isn’t always irrational. (Of course I am sometimes guilty of imprecision in my use of language.) Many of the punishments administered by the state today are irrational – mass imprisonment and the death penalty, in particular – insofar as they come at a human and financial cost far higher than the amount of crime, if any, they effectively prevent.

    This doesn’t mean that punishment is never an effective way to reduce the occurrence of an undesired activity; sometimes it is. (It’s hard to dispute that parking fines reduce the amount of illegal parking, for instance.) But much of the time, in practice, the desire to punish is primarily driven not by a rational plan to reduce the occurrence of an undesired activity, but, rather, to take revenge on a person who is perceived by others to “deserve” to suffer.

    Revenge – that is to say, punishment for punishment’s sake – is by definition irrational in this sense, insofar as it doesn’t achieve any social goal other than making the revenge-taker feel better. Of course, it depends what one means by “rational”: one can say that making oneself feel better is a perfectly rational goal from the revenge-taker’s point of view. But from my point of view, since I derive no satisfaction from taking revenge on people or from seeing others do so – in fact, I feel a deep-seated horror and sadness at the idea of ever making anyone suffer deliberately – it is rational for me to oppose revenge.

    ahs’ arguments on this thread for punishing the store-owner are not, in themselves, irrational; he’s not arguing for revenge for revenge’s sake. Quite the opposite: his arguments are coldly rational. He argues that punishing the store-owner would advance the cause of achieving greater acceptance for atheism in American society. And, indeed, it might actually work; I’m agnostic on that question. But the more important question is whether, assuming that it would work, it is morally right to deliberately hurt an individual in order to “make an example” that will change others’ behaviour.

    But you can’t prove such debates have any worth.

    They have subjective worth, in the sense that they help me achieve my personal goal of discouraging people from using meaningless terms like “just deserts” as though they had any meaning, and from adopting a mindset of distinguishing between the “deserving” and the “undeserving”. Of course I can’t prove that that goal is the “right” one; I can only say that it’s a goal I personally want to achieve.

  406. 406
    tsig

    OK, I’m tired of the ‘don’t be a dick” theme. It’s sexist. Why is it wrong to call a women a cunt but OK to call a man a dick.

    I was born with one, it came with the model, am I now supposed to be ashamed of it?

  407. 407
    Walton

    Why is it wrong to call a women a cunt but OK to call a man a dick.

    Women, qua women, have a long history of being oppressed and marginalized in our patriarchal society, relative to men. Men, qua men, have no such history. (This is not to deny that many men are oppressed and marginalized; but they are not oppressed and marginalized purely because they are men, whereas women have been oppressed and marginalized purely because they are women.) Gendered insults directed at women thus reinforce an existing pattern of oppression, while gendered insults directed at men do not necessarily do so. It’s the same reason that I’m much more comfortable with mockery of Christianity than with mockery of Islam.

    I don’t advocate the use of the term “dick” and wouldn’t care to defend it. But it is not equivalent to the use of the term “c**t”. Both are rather nasty and tasteless, but the latter has the added characteristic of contributing to gendered oppression.

  408. 408
    Walton

    I don’t advocate the use of the term “dick” and wouldn’t care to defend it. But it is not equivalent to the use of the term “c**t”.

    …that is to say, as an insult. Obviously, using these words as factual descriptors of one’s naughty bits is a different kettle of fish.

  409. 409
    charityrowell

    I’ve been reading this blog over my boyfriend’s shoulder for about a year now. I saw this, and just had to register and respond. First of all, let me say I am disappointed that I missed this year’s Skepticon in Springfield, MO. Instead of relying on my boyfriend to track down the annual Skepticon schedule, I will track it down myself so we can attend the 2012 convention.

    As a business student, I am appalled by this jackass; there isn’t any room in small business for impulsive thinking, or impulsive behavior for that matter, simply because such thinking or behavior causes small business owners to contribute to the 40% increase in the small business failure rate. The letter appears to be a “text book” apology letter at best; one that he would more than likely receive an “F” for from any English professor I’ve encountered. Here are the rest of my thoughts on his letter:

    1) He claimed that he wasn’t trying to make excuses for his behavior, but he discounted this when he stated, “I’m just a 28 year old small business owner who made a big mistake.” From where I’m sitting he is using his age, and ignorance, as an excuse for his behavior.

    2) As a small business owner in Missouri, he should be aware of some business law. While Missouri doesn’t look kindly upon discrimination, proprietors have the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. In other words… He didn’t need to put up the sign to begin with. He could have politely declined to serve anyone from the convention, and done so without stating a reason.

    3) He claimed he was being sincere. It is too bad that he couldn’t just be honest about the purpose of the letter and stated, “Please don’t sue me for being an ignorant idiot.” This would have been more sincere than stating, “This is me as a human being sincerely apologizing for my actions.” It would have been more appropriate for him to state, “This is me as a human being an ass…”

    For those in the atheist community who are excusing his behavior under the assumption that he’s been indoctrinated since childhood, please stop. While I’m not an atheist, I am someone who has left a belief system that I was raised with. It is difficult to listen to someone criticize what you believe in, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to act in a retaliatory or discriminatory way. I would also like to point out that many Christians in this area wouldn’t (and don’t) excuse how you believe, they wouldn’t even bother to show sensitivity towards your beliefs if you attended a revival in this area, and they sure as hell wouldn’t censure what they said about you and your beliefs during the revival itself. They aren’t ashamed of what they believe, they go out of their way to share their pride with everyone around them; so why should you be (or act) ashamed of your beliefs, and why shouldn’t you be proud of your own beliefs?

  410. 410
    strange gods before me ॐ

    ahs’ arguments on this thread for punishing the store-owner are not, in themselves, irrational; he’s not arguing for revenge for revenge’s sake. Quite the opposite: his arguments are coldly rational. He argues that punishing the store-owner would advance the cause of achieving greater acceptance for atheism in American society. And, indeed, it might actually work; I’m agnostic on that question.

    To be clear, in case anyone’s wondering, attacks on his body or physical property are extremely likely to be counterproductive, because they’d make him very visibly a victim, and a photograph will easily incite bystanders’ sympathy.

    Dirty tricks at the financial or reputational level are what I’m advocating.

  411. 411
    Anthony K

    Revenge – that is to say, punishment for punishment’s sake – is by definition irrational , insofar as it doesn’t achieve any social goal other than making the revenge-taker feel better.

    I’m arguing that this claim is untrue.

    Individual cooperation benefits the individual in cases of reciprocal altruism. It is, by definition, a long game: I reduce my fitness now in the interest of recouping greater fitness in the long run. Now, for this to be a viable strategy, I have to have some guarantee that defectors won’t regularly prosper at my expense by not reciprocating. To achieve this, potential defectors need to believe that the risks inherent in non-cooperation are greater than the potential benefit of getting away with defection. Revenge satisfies this by signalling to the individual and others that defection isn’t worth the risk.

    That’s what punishment for punishment’s sake does: it’s a method of communicating to all members of the group that the risks of defection outweigh even the short-term gain.

    Of course, we largely agree on the inappropriateness of our current systems of punishment in our respective cultures based on their achievement of the objectives you outlined in 396.

    (And even in the link I provided, the paper discussed notes that punishment is effective in promoting cooperation when ‘rare’. And of course, we both know punishment isn’t the only tool in the box, as you’re probably more familiar with restorative justice than I am.)

  412. 412
    Pogsurf

    Roll up! Roll up! Get your victims’ manifesto right here!!! More signatures needed …

  413. 413
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Aw, shit, I was afraid of this.

    Ichthyic (@369), I (@364) really wasn’t arguing with you; I was making the same (or at least a very similar) point from a slightly different angle. Nothing I said was meant to (nor in fact did, I’m convinced) suggest that atheists are not oppressed; clearly we are (perhaps I should say “they,” because I, personally, have been fortunate enough not to have been persecuted in any direct way… but then probably many blacks could’ve said that in the 60s as well).

    Instead, I was simply saying there’s no need to compare physical injuries with other oppressed minorities; the case for the rights of nonbelievers stands on its own merits. You disagree? I didn’t think so.

    A couple specific points:

    church bombings?

    uh…

    My reference was to bombings and arsons of black churches by (nominally Christian) white supremacists… which is to say, acts of racial violence that had really very little to do with belief or nonbelief. I was never suggesting that atheists had ever attacked churches; if you or anyone else took it that way, you were mistaken.

    if you think this isn’t similar to the kinds of experiences associated with racism, you’re an idiot.

    Of course it’s “similar”; every case of a minority denied its civil rights is similar to every other, at some fundamental level. But if you think the scope and scale of oppression faced by American atheists in the 2000s and 2010s is equivalent to that faced by American blacks in the 1950s and 1960s, then you’re the idiot.

    even in the 60s, with the issue of racism, this kind of intimidation was the norm;

    Really? 1100 atheists just convened in a smallish city. How many of them were clubbed? How often were they dispersed with fire hoses? How many arrested? Were they allowed fair access to public transportation? To restrooms and drinking fountains?

    We’re having this conversation because one business owner briefly threatened to turn away atheist customers… in the midst of a town that (by all accounts) otherwise generally welcomed them (or at least their wallets). If this had been an NAACP convention in Georgia in 1964, a majority of white-owned business in town would’ve turned the attendees away, or at least segregated them from white customers. And they all would’ve been in credible fear for their safety (if not their lives) throughout the event.

    actual killings [were] the rare exceptions.

    (yes, because even then, killing a person would get you jail time; it wasn’t the fucking 1800s after all)

    Unless, of course, you were white and your victim black and you did your killin’ in Mississippi. In that case, you might go for decades without even being arrested, and you might die of old age before you did any significant jail time (if ever).

    I don’t pretend to have numbers on the point, but I suspect it’s a fair bet that there were more racially motivated killings of blacks in the American South in any single year between the end of WWII and 1965 than there have been religiously motivated killings of atheists in total from the end of WWII until now. And let’s not even start on the murders and bashings of gay men, shall we.

    But the real point is that all of this is a red herring: The case for rights, in every case, is fundamental; it depends on principle, and not on the size of the wound. Comparing whose hurt is (or was) bigger makes enemies where allies are needed.

    I can’t — I don’t — believe you actually disagree with that.

  414. 414
    consciousness razor

    Of course I can’t prove that that goal is the “right” one; I can only say that it’s a goal I personally want to achieve.

    I have no problem with that. I’m going to quote you here:

    So, out of a rational desire to maximise my own happiness, I’m going to keep advocating kind, compassionate and forgiving actions. I would also add that a kind, compassionate and forgiving society is generally nicer, on balance, for most people to live in than any other type of society.

    There isn’t some boundary where everything happening in your head is “rational for you” and everything outside is rational for everyone. That’s not how rationality works, as should be clear enough to you already.

    Whatever your reasons, and whether or not morals can be objective, some nihilist arguments seem to depend on some leftover dualist assumptions: that stuff happening in your mind is on some separate plane of existence, that it just isn’t logically possible for there to be any physical fact about such things. Thus, all that mental stuff gets tossed into the “subjectivity” bin without much more than a second thought. That may be a strawman for you, considering your past comments against dualism, but I think it’s worth mentioning.

    Anyway, if you think morality isn’t rational, then to be consistent you should evaluate your own moral judgments as irrational.

  415. 415
    Janine, Clueless And Reactionary As Ever, OM,

    Great. Pogsurf is here.

    Flush yourself down the drain. It is long over due.

  416. 416
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    I was born with one, it came with the model, am I now supposed to be ashamed of it?

    Only if you let it think for you, to hold other women and minorities down through privilege. Or you are just a hard ass…

  417. 417
    Anthony K

    Okay, Walton covered it while I was responding to a different topic, but I largely avoid the use of ‘dick’ as much as I avoid the use of ‘pussy’ or ‘cunt’ to describe people or their behaviour.

    Topically, I will use it in reference to Phil Plait’s “Don’t Be A Dick” speech, and the values shared by the DBADers, but other than that, I’m not fond of it. (Though I do miss calling people ‘pricks‘.)

  418. 418
    Walton

    Ha. ahs, I should have known better than to write half-a-paragraph which could be understood as supportive of your argument.

    To be clear, in case anyone’s wondering, attacks on his body or physical property are extremely likely to be counterproductive, because they’d make him very visibly a victim, and a photograph will easily incite bystanders’ sympathy.

    This illustrates my point perfectly. Your analysis necessarily implies that it would be justified, in your eyes, to engage in “attacks on his body or physical property” if the circumstances were such that doing so would best achieve your desired political goal. Your refraining from the advocacy of violence is thus strategic rather than moral (though I know you would dispute that it is even meaningful to distinguish morality from strategy). And I know your opinions well enough by now to know that you’re perfectly comfortable with that conclusion: indeed, you’ve argued more than once that you would consider executions to be justified in certain circumstances, for instance.

    You once said…

    “Your analysis may be accurate but I can’t assent to your prescriptions” is a typically Waltonian formulation

    And you were right. This is pretty much the story of our interactions. You’re invariably perfectly rational in your analyses of how to achieve your desired goals; but you’re so cold about it, and so able calmly to sacrifice the interests (and even, in certain imaginable circumstances, the lives) of people who stand in the way of those goals, as though we were all pieces on a chessboard.

    For me, empathy and compassion for the individual human life before me are more important than the achievement of strategic political goals. Maybe that makes me a sentimental idealist and an impractical dreamer; maybe it means that the people who think like you will always defeat the people who think like me. But I’m fine with that. I’d rather be a Thoreau than a Lincoln.

  419. 419
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Revenge – that is to say, punishment for punishment’s sake – is by definition irrational , insofar as it doesn’t achieve any social goal other than making the revenge-taker feel better.

    I’m arguing that this claim is untrue.

    And I suspect Walton is accidentally arguing revenge into nonexistence, the way that “but then it’s not reeeeally altruism” arguments tend to go.

  420. 420
    Walton

    I’d rather be a Thoreau than a Lincoln.

    …even though Lincoln, it goes without saying, did far more to free the slaves.

    (Sorry. I just felt I should clarify, since it occurred to me that my own cryptic references to historical figures are not necessarily obvious to anyone outside my own head.)

  421. 421
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Walton:

    I don’t advocate the use of the term “dick” and wouldn’t care to defend it. But it is not equivalent to the use of the term “c**t”. Both are rather nasty and tasteless, but the latter has the added characteristic of contributing to gendered oppression.

    I disagree, at least to a point: I grok your argument about the gendered asymmetry of social power making cunt a more egregious usage than dick… but I think using either term supports the whole trope of gendered/sexually anatomical insults. That is, dick may be less damaging in some sense, because men benefit from a power imbalance and therefore can take more “hits” without injury, but dick makes the linguistic world safe for cunt; therefore, the former shares the culpability of the latter.

    IMHO, of course.

  422. 422
    Walton

    I’m arguing that this claim is untrue.

    I think you misunderstood what I meant (which is unavoidable, since the language we use to talk about such things is so imprecise).

    What I meant by “punishment for punishment’s sake” is punishment that serves no social purpose at all; punishment that isn’t even intended or expected to reduce the incidence of undesired behaviour. I’m talking about a kind of punishment that is free from any instrumental justification at all. The traditional example is Kant’s Last Murderer

    Even if a civil society were to be dissolved by the consent of all its members (e.g., if a people inhabiting an island decided to separate and disperse throughout the world), the last murderer remaining in prison would first have to be executed, so that each has done to him what his deeds deserve and blood guilt does not cling to the people for not having insisted upon this punishment; for otherwise the people can be regarded as collaborators in his public violation of justice.

    Or, to put it another way: suppose you and Bob are the only two people left alive on a desert island. Suppose Bob is terminally ill and too weak to move, so he isn’t a threat to you. And suppose you know for certain that Bob is a serial rapist, murderer, war criminal, and a whole host of other nasty things, and that he is completely unrepentant. If you decided to kill Bob – not to deter others, since there are no others to deter, and not to protect yourself, since he is no threat to you – but simply because you think he “deserves” to be killed, then that would be pure revenge, in the sense that I am using the term.

    Of course this is a contrived scenario. Real life is never as simple as that, and in real life, punishments tend to serve both the desire for revenge and the perceived instrumental goal of deterring crime. Nonetheless, ahs is wrong when he says…

    And I suspect Walton is accidentally arguing revenge into nonexistence, the way that “but then it’s not reeeeally altruism” arguments tend to go.

    Take the death penalty in modern industrial societies, for instance. We know that there is no evidence that the death penalty has any extra deterrent effect on crime, over and above the deterrent effect of life imprisonment. (Of course it’s impossible to test this directly, since we don’t have the counterfactual – we don’t know how many crimes would have been committed if not for the death penalty – but we do know, empirically, that jurisdictions without the death penalty do not, on average, exhibit higher murder rates than jurisdictions with the death penalty, even after controlling for other factors.) Indeed, there are strong theoretical reasons for thinking that the death penalty probably doesn’t have a deterrent effect, because murder is not generally a rational act; murderers don’t conduct a cost-benefit analysis and accurately quantify the risks before “deciding” to stab someone. Rather, most murders are committed in the heat of the moment and without rational thought.

    With this in mind, deterrence-based arguments for the death penalty are obviously and transparently stupid; they rest on the assumption of factual claims that simply aren’t backed by strong evidence. And the death penalty, as currently administered in those industrialized countries which still use it, doesn’t save money or other resources, in comparison with lifetime imprisonment; nor is it necessary in order to contain dangerous people, since lifetime imprisonment achieves substantially the same goal.

    Yet, despite this, a great many jurisdictions still employ the death penalty. Why? The only obvious reason is revenge – because people have a bloodlust, a thirst for vengeance, and it gives them a kind of twisted emotional satisfaction to see “bad” people suffering. This isn’t rational. Yet it’s a very powerful emotional force. That’s why it’s worth arguing about revenge – not because punishment is never rational, but because the punishments administered by the state in our society to those labelled as “wrongdoers” are more frequent and more severe than are justified by their claimed social objectives.

  423. 423
    Inaji

    No gendered insults should be used, including dick. For those who have a problem with the whole Don’t Be A Dick business, please take it up with Phil Plait.

  424. 424
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Your refraining from the advocacy of violence is thus strategic rather than moral (though I know you would dispute that it is even meaningful to distinguish morality from strategy).

    Specifically I would say that ineffective strategies toward a moral goal are likely to be immoral, to the extent that they fail.

    You’re invariably perfectly rational in your analyses of how to achieve your desired goals; but you’re so cold about it, and so able calmly to sacrifice the interests (and even, in certain imaginable circumstances, the lives) of people who stand in the way of those goals, as though we were all pieces on a chessboard.

    Mm. But my goals are that the most powerful should not hold down the less powerful, and I contend that both action and inaction constitute sacrificing someone’s interests.

    I think favoring an aesthetic of bourgeois justice over a practical justice which could really improve people’s lives—which I detect in your condemnation of my suggestion about executing Jefferson Davis—is itself cold, the admiration of an ideal, personally exciting to the pursuer of purity, like tweaking out over the digits of pi or the golden ratio.

  425. 425
    Walton

    There isn’t some boundary where everything happening in your head is “rational for you” and everything outside is rational for everyone.

    Of course that’s true. I’m not really sure which of my arguments led you to believe that I thought otherwise.

    Anyway, if you think morality isn’t rational, then to be consistent you should evaluate your own moral judgments as irrational.

    Here, we should define our terms more carefully. When I say that morality is “not rational”, I do not mean that it is more rational to be amoral than to be moral, or that a “truly rational” person (if such a creature were imaginable) would be free from moral compunctions and would act purely according to hir material and biological self-interest. That’s not what I am saying, and I think that position is wrong.

    It’s the caricature of nihilism that a great many people hold in their minds, but I think it’s a consequence of failing to think through the logic of the position properly. If behaving in the way I call “moral” – that is, being kind and compassionate to others, and trying to induce others to do the same – makes me happy and increases my emotional fulfilment, then it is rational for me to behave in that way. Emotional fulfilment is as real and as important to us as physical fulfilment; and just as it is rational for me to seek to satisfy my desire to eat regular meals or to listen to the music I like, it is rational for me to seek to satisfy my desire to behave towards others in ways that make me feel emotionally-fulfilled.

    Rather, what I mean is that there is no absolute or universal “right” morality, and that we cannot conclusively prove one conception of morals to be the “right” one through reason alone. There is no conclusive argument through which I can prove that my morality is “right” and that ahs’ morality is “wrong”. In the end, it boils down on both sides to emotional reactions and to the kind of society we want to live in.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that moral debate is useless – because some moralities rest on false factual claims. For instance, let’s suppose that X claims that gay relationships are immoral, because X believes that the King James Bible is the inspired word of God and that it is morally obligatory to live by a fundamentalist interpretation of its words. Here, X’s morality is premised on a false (or at least unsubstantiated) factual claim: namely, the claim that the King James Bible is the inspired word of God. Once one casts away that factual claim, we can see that X’s morality is increasing suffering and reducing happiness (by motivating X to condemn and ostracize gay people and to cause them emotional pain), and that his morality does nothing good for society that would make up for the harm it is causing.

    So moral debate is not useless. But we also must accept that there is no absolute or universal morality. After all, in criticizing X’s morality, we’re assuming that the goal of morality is to increase human happiness and reduce human suffering. But that isn’t an incontestable assumption (and, indeed, some people disagree with it). We can’t prove that the “right” morality is one which maximises human happiness; we can only assert it as axiomatic.

    Of course, I will admit that I’m often guilty of failing to evaluate my own moral beliefs by the same standards I apply to other people’s. After all, if A has no objective basis for judging or condemning B, then by the same token I have no objective basis for judging or condemning A for judging and condemning B. It’s turtles all the way down. And at some point we have to admit that there is no right answer, and that we’re just going with our own gut emotional cues as to how people should and should not behave.

  426. 426
    strange gods before me ॐ

    More concisely, I say you favor your clean hands above all in trolley problems.

  427. 427
    Anthony K

    Or, to put it another way: suppose you and Bob are the only two people left alive on a desert island. Suppose Bob is terminally ill and too weak to move, so he isn’t a threat to you. And suppose you know for certain that Bob is a serial rapist, murderer, war criminal, and a whole host of other nasty things, and that he is completely unrepentant. If you decided to kill Bob – not to deter others, since there are no others to deter, and not to protect yourself, since he is no threat to you – but simply because you think he “deserves” to be killed, then that would be pure revenge, in the sense that I am using the term.

    Ah.

    Then I suppose, if Bob is terminally ill and too weak to move (he’s a liability to me since I’ve got to feed him), I consider him going unpunished as an affront to a just world (a value I hold as dear as you do compassion), he’s pretty much got until I sharpen this shell and make our tiny society a mite more just and happy.

    Do you have a non-silly example of this terrible revenge that serves no rational purpose and yet still exists in the context of society in which perceptions of justice exist among members of a group?

    Because, if it’s just me and an asshole albatross on a deserted island…well, let’s just say you shouldn’t put a nihilist on a deserted island with an incapacitated mass murderer that begs for another pre-chewed mouthful of fish in between bad-mouthing women, the Jews or the Bosnians or the Tutsis or whomever.

    If you want this jerk to live through the week, at least give me Seinfeld reruns for crying out loud.

  428. 428
    Ing

    I find it hard to take the apology seriously given it came in the face of a lot of facebook bad feed back and down votes and bad reviews of the business.

  429. 429
    Anthony K

    “Hey, Bob! Guess what! I found some cilantro growing wild! You like Mexican? No, I guess you don’t.” [Continues to knap a large, obsidian blade.] “No, I’m pretty sure you don’t.

    “Well, no matter. You see, I like Mexican, and I found some cilantro.” [Examines the meat on Bob's thigh.]

    “Bob, tell me of your crimes again.” [Holds the obsidian blade against Bob's thigh.] “It’ll make this a lot easier on both of us.”

  430. 430
    Carlie

    Wouldn’t it be more vindictive to watch Bob die slowly of dehydration? Killing him would be a kindness.

  431. 431
    Mr. Fire

    It’s rather embarrassing when I, of all people, get my monarchs wrong.

    *PSSSST*

    They’re always wrong.

  432. 432
    Michael

    I personally want to accept his apology… however at the same time I can’t help but feel that were this something else, say a banning of Blacks, or Jews, or some other more publicly sympathetic group, no one would be accepting his apologies.

    So personally… I don’t accept his apology.
    I’m glad to hear there are atheists who have, and apparently an atheist working with him to understand how at fault he was.

    However, something that to me is so offensive… I can’t just accept a simple apology.

  433. 433
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I find it hard to take the apology seriously given it came in the face of a lot of facebook bad feed back and down votes and bad reviews of the business.

    A common psychological tragedy, this. For you see, it allows no out; once negative consequences become plausibly apparent, the offender is assumed to be acting only in the interest of self-defense. And there is absolutely no way for them to demonstrate otherwise to those who think like you.

    But weren’t you ever once punished in school for causing harm that you also felt sincerely regretful for causing?

    People are complex, they have many motivations. It’s very likely that he was:

    1) frantically trying to preserve his livelihood, like any ape would, and
    2) trying to manage his social reputation — please don’t think I’m a bad person, everybody, I do care about others — and
    3) sincerely expressing his remorse for behaving in a way he realized was unfair to people who, in his own words — words he didn’t have to choose out of a vast constellation of possibilities — were “entitled to their beliefs.”

  434. 434
    Jim Mauch

    Don’t over-analyze this gentlemans motives. More will be gained by showing that we are forgiving enough to accept whatever apology he has given. We don’t need to turn this into a holy war.

  435. 435
    Anthony K

    Wouldn’t it be more vindictive to watch Bob die slowly of dehydration?

    I’m not a monster.

    Killing him would be a kindness.

    Indeed. Even this ‘irrational’ revenge-for-revenge’s-sake maximises net happiness.

  436. 436
    Walton

    I think favoring an aesthetic of bourgeois justice

    Are my reluctance to accept that the ends always justify the means, and my empathy and compassion for the human being in front of me, necessarily bourgeois values?

    Perhaps they are; perhaps I’ve internalized class-based bourgeois moral sensibilities to such an extent that I no longer recognize them as such. I’m open to the possibility that this is true. After all, if there’s one insight that both Marxism and radical feminism have given us, it’s the pervasive role that internalized consciousness plays in shaping the way we think about the world. But I’d need to see some analysis beyond a mere assertion to convince me that this is true in this case.

    But my goals are that the most powerful should not hold down the less powerful,

    True. But power is contextual. In our society, the rich are more powerful than the poor. But if you and your armed revolutionary movement seize control of the reins of the state and put a gun to the head of a rich man, you acquire the power of life or death over him; you have, however temporarily, power, and he, however temporarily, does not.

    and I contend that both action and inaction constitute sacrificing someone’s interests.

    I’ve always loved it when you quote my own words or citations back at me.

    Of course both action and inaction involve sacrificing someone’s interests. But few people apply such a starkly utilitarian morality to their everyday lives; if we did, as Peter Singer points out, we would all be guilty of murder every time we spend a dollar on a luxury for ourselves instead of donating it to, say, lifesaving medications for people in sub-Saharan Africa.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned trolley problems. I have long found that particular set of moral dilemmas both irresolvable, and emotionally stressful even to think about. What I do know is that I could not push a man off a bridge into the path of an oncoming train to save ten lives. I can’t necessarily justify my unwillingness to do so; as a purely empirical prediction of my own behaviour, I can tell you with certainty that I couldn’t do it.

    ====

    Brownian, I’d point out that you’re more than clever enough to understand that Bob-on-the-desert-island, like Kant’s Last Murderer, is a deliberately contrived scenario intended to illustrate a conceptual and philosophical distinction – in this case, the difference between deontological and utilitarian justifications for punishment. I wasn’t actually asking you what you would do in that scenario; I don’t really care. I’m trying to illustrate the fact that you misunderstood what I meant by the phrase “punishment for punishment’s sake”.

    The point of it was to illustrate the difference between the Kantian deontological argument that we should punish people simply because they “deserve” it, and the consequentialist argument that we should punish people because it helps to reduce the incidence of undesired behaviour in future. They are different arguments with different rationales, notwithstanding that they always overlap in practice. And the latter is a rational argument, whereas the former is not.

  437. 437
    consciousness razor

    It’s the caricature of nihilism that a great many people hold in their minds, but I think it’s a consequence of failing to think through the logic of the position properly.

    I understand that, and it wasn’t my caricature. You don’t act like a moral nihilist in a strict sense, so it’s hard for me to get a handle on exactly what your claims are supposed to be. Take a gander at the meta-ethics page on wikipedia, if you think it’s worth your time to do so. To me, you seem like you fit much closer to the Emotivist position.

    Rather, what I mean is that there is no absolute or universal “right” morality, and that we cannot conclusively prove one conception of morals to be the “right” one through reason alone.

    That isn’t the only claim to which moral nihilism is opposed. There are a variety of moral realist theories you might look into (even if you don’t accept them), and they don’t all amount to absolutism. For example, take an analogy to the scientific method: we consider that “objective” and “rational” but we wouldn’t be correct to think science gives absolute proof, or that it isn’t subject to revision in the light of new evidence or theoretical progress.

  438. 438
    strange gods before me ॐ

    You’re invariably perfectly rational in your analyses of how to achieve your desired goals; but you’re so cold about it

    Not to passionately dispute this while in the company of self-proclaimed rationalists, I nevertheless wonder if the reader who called me a sensualist finds it at all amusing. :)

  439. 439
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    I don’t have any argument against people who won’t forgive GelatoGuy. If “accepting an apology” means “forgiving” to you, then we just a semantic disagreement that I don’t want to waste time on. So if this is you, then where I wrote “accept apology”, could you read it as functionally equivalent to “formally accept surrender”? kthx.

    If you still disagree, then please tell me, what is the victory condition? We’ve got a public declaration that his action was wrong, a retraction, and an apology. The enemy has surrendered. We’ve won this particular battle. Yeah, sure, we haven’t won the war, or taken out the Final Boss, but this specific encounter is already won.

    What more do you want, 50gp and a +3 frostblade?

  440. 440
    Walton

    You don’t act like a moral nihilist in a strict sense, so it’s hard for me to get a handle on exactly what your claims are supposed to be.

    I know. Originally, at the beginning of this thread, I applied that label half-tongue-in-cheek (when I described myself as “nihilist in theory but Tolstoyan in practice”); I don’t know what to call myself, because I’m fully aware that the view at which I have arrived doesn’t fit neatly into existing philosophical schools. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have used the word at all, and it confused matters far too much. All I should really have done is to explain my position and my reasons for it, and let other people categorize me as they wish; I don’t really care what school of thought you think I fit into.

    (I’m also not very well-read at all in pure moral philosophy. I’ve read a fair amount of political and legal philosophy, but I’m largely, and admittedly, ignorant of the literature in meta-ethics. In truth, it’s not a subject I like, or one I would claim to understand very well, and I don’t enjoy these discussions in the slightest and would rather not have them. (I’d far rather talk about things I actually know about, like immigration policy or the failings of the justice system.) But it’s one I have to keep grappling with, because, like more-or-less everyone else, I have to make moral decisions and engage with moral issues every day of my life, and I need a coherent framework for doing so.)

  441. 441
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Are my reluctance to accept that the ends always justify the means, and my empathy and compassion for the human being in front of me, necessarily bourgeois values?

    The question assumes a bit too much. The rich are not abstractions to me; they are my friends and have been my lovers.

  442. 442
    Mr. Fire

    It’s interesting that you mentioned trolley problems. I have long found that particular set of moral dilemmas both irresolvable, and emotionally stressful even to think about.

    The Trolley Problem is easy.

    Find Human Ape and put them in the way every time.

    Hell, put them in the way even if no-one’s actually in danger.

  443. 443
    Anthony K

    Brownian, I’d point out that you’re more than clever enough to understand that Bob-on-the-desert-island, like Kant’s Last Murderer, is a deliberately contrived scenario intended to illustrate a conceptual and philosophical distinction – in this case, the difference between deontological and utilitarian justifications for punishment.

    And I’d point out that the ‘rationality’ of either of these cases is moot, since we’ve both granted that utilitarian concerns, such as happiness, can’t be rationally justified to begin with. If I can’t justify why the desirability of some future behaviour merits working towards it, what matters whether or not I can account for every step of the behavioural algorithms I use along the way?

    We’re both free to assert that we like compassion, or whatever, but so what? Then we “like” compassion.

    But here’s the rub; we “like” compassion because humans tend to as a species that’s evolved to be social. We “like” revenge for similar reasons. We can claim, just as unjustifiably, that one is ‘better’ than the other, but these are just part of the package that made us human.

    As you previously wrote, “If you hate a person for hir past actions, and you want to make hir suffer because it makes you feel better, then for nonexistentgod’s sake be honest enough to admit that.”

    So be honest to admit your desire for compassion, for nice, for all these things are much the same: behavioural impulses that you’ve evolved to have, and only rationalise post hoc because again, it makes you feel better to do so.

    (You should also know by now that given the choice between funny and philosophy—especially dry philosophy that’s been unsolvable by those far smarter than I for centuries now—I’ll dress left every time.)

  444. 444
    Flakko

    If I owned a business and if it were financially viable to do so, I would gladly and vigorously discriminate against Christians. I guess knowing this about myself makes me not give two shots about what this guy does. At least this guy apologized when confronted whereas I would probably piss on their holy book.

  445. 445
    tielserrath

    Walton:

    The concept of ‘making an example’ speaks to a wider issue.

    I read a lot here about how atheists are discriminated against in the US. Having to pretend to be religious so that their businesses don’t go under, so their kids don’t get bullied, so their windows don’t get broken.

    Gelato guy is just one small part of this issue, but he’s emblematic of it.

    It’s easy to talk about taking action against a monolithic entity such as a corporation or government agency that discriminates. But this is what it comes down to – individuals choosing to discriminate, perhaps in the heat of the moment, perhaps not. And it’s a hell of a lot harder when it goes from ‘punish the corporation’ to ‘bankrupt this individual and his small business.

    But it is, on the whole, individuals who practice discrimination. It is individual businesses refusing to serve atheists that bully individual atheists. Saying ‘oh, but he seems like a nice guy and he’s sorry’ comes across as some weird form of Stockholm syndrome.

    You have to decide what is more important – letting people get away with this shit because on an individual level, they seem to be nice people, and they apologise, or taking the broader view that this shit needs to be stamped on, hard, and that a few christian bigots will lose their livelihood as a result.

    I can’t see a resolution where everyone goes home with a party bag.

  446. 446
    Walton

    The question assumes a bit too much. The rich are not abstractions to me; they are my friends and have been my lovers.

    I didn’t assume otherwise, nor did I intend to imply otherwise. I would have been surprised if this were not the case.

    ====

    But here’s the rub; we “like” compassion because humans tend to as a species that’s evolved to be social. We “like” revenge for similar reasons. We can claim, just as unjustifiably, that one is ‘better’ than the other, but these are just part of the package that made us human.

    As you previously wrote, “If you hate a person for hir past actions, and you want to make hir suffer because it makes you feel better, then for nonexistentgod’s sake be honest enough to admit that.”

    So be honest to admit your desire for compassion, for nice, for all these things are much the same: behavioural impulses that you’ve evolved to have, and only rationalise post hoc because again, it makes you feel better to do so.

    Yes. I wouldn’t dispute any of that. Indeed, I believe I made this clear much earlier in the discussion:

    I believe in a strong set of moral values based on compassion, kindness and forgiveness for everyone, individual freedom, and a commitment to peace and non-violence. What I cannot do is prove to you that those values are objectively “right”, that they reflect some kind of transcendent moral order or universal truth, or that those whose values are different are in any objective sense “wrong”. Since I don’t believe in a god, or in any kind of “natural law” or “natural rights”, I’m not convinced that moral statements are susceptible of absolute objective proof in that sense.

    I can’t prove that compassion is “better” than revenge; I can only say that one makes me happier than the other, and that one is more likely than the other to produce the kind of society I want to live in.

    When I speak of revenge as “irrational” in the context of debates about the criminal justice system (which is not what we’re talking about on this thread, of course, but you’ve often seen me debating the subject in the past), I mean something narrower: namely, that revenge-based punishments are not tailored to the objective of actually reducing crime or making people safer. Of course you’re right that, strictly speaking, I shouldn’t contradistinguish “rational” from “irrational” motivations for punishment, because utilitarian arguments for punishment are also based on unprovable, arbitrarily-chosen moral axioms; it isn’t self-evident or provable that we should care about reducing crime or making people safer, any more than it’s self-evident or provable that we should or should not want to exact revenge. But it is useful in some practical political contexts to draw this distinction, because politicians and law-and-order advocates often claim that the objective of the criminal justice system is to reduce crime and protect public safety, when, in actual fact, it is very poorly-tailored to achieving this goal.

  447. 447
    WishfulThinkingRulesAll

    Oh you people, this thread is too long for me to read. Be more concise! :P

    Anyway, my brother recently opened up an ice cream store – he makes all of the ice cream himself. It has been extremely well received in his town and the business is doing great. Part of the reason he continues to do well (besides the great product) is that he is not a dumbass. He’s friendly and nice to all customers, and would never in a million years, never ever ever, consider putting up a sign to turn people away. Because that is just dumb. GelatoGuy is dumb. Are people who agree with him really going to swarm to his store and make him rich? No. It’s freaking dessert. They’ll eat ice cream wherever, especially since pretty much all the stores in that area are assumed to be run and staffed by Christians. So the upside is small to nonexistent. The downside of course is hugely negative publicity for being a bigot. Hell I bet many freedom-loving Christians are pissed off at this guy for discrimination. So what was he thinking? He let getting annoyed at some freaking little show threaten his business and livelihood. Totally failed business 101.

  448. 448
    strange gods before me ॐ

    [Is] my reluctance to accept that the ends always justify the means [...] necessarily bourgeois

    I suspect so, but I will not be able to prove it yet. What I can say is that elites have produced most of, and disseminated nearly all of, the values we learn.

    In the beautiful parts of Thoreau’s self-reliance, there is a tempting call to exalt one’s own moral purity. Tempting, but to what part of the psyche? Why is an “above all else, be true to yourself” ethic distributed for mass consumption in nearly all our novels and movies? Why does it even extend into the trivial aesthetic, such that to accessorize one’s body as a jock or a goth is lauded as bravery?

    If individuals can be atomized, each is told “you’re different and better than those others who go along with the herd; unlike all the rest, you think for yourself”, then each one’s hopes of uniting for a common good is stifled, while each one’s bourgeois aspirations become the last available route to success.

  449. 449
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Find Human Ape and put them in the way every time.

    I hereby award you an honorary doctorate in pharyngulology.

  450. 450
    BWE

    Wow. I’m impressed with the level of blind allegance you are capable of maintaining to the cause of converting the unbelievers toyour non-negotiable truths. Which, since they are truths after all, puts them in a more important position than people.

    Sometimes a little collateral damage is unavoidable in the course of spreading enlightened thinking eh? I am kinda surprised that thethreat to humanity posed by ice cream shop owners who do not respect the newTruth® has been overlooked so long. Jesus christ. Like Einstein said of the 100 german scientists who signed a statement saying he was wrong about relativity. If i was wrong, it would only take one.

    I hear there are some sketchy seven eleven owners who dont believe in the right things up near tuscaloosa.

    Go get em guys! The war will take time but the glory of newTruth® shall echo from the halls of the the unwashed before the year is through¡

  451. 451
    Ichthyic

    Wow. I’m impressed with the level of blind allegance you are capable of maintaining to the cause of converting the unbelievers toyour non-negotiable truths. Which, since they are truths after all, puts them in a more important position than people.

    I wonder if you would have said the same thing to African Americans in 1960.

  452. 452
    Anthony K

    BWE, if you’re going to be a smug, sarcastic, disingenuous fuck, become a better writer.

    Hacks on the internet are a dime a dozen. I believe there’s a million of you this very moment posting “fake_gay” on a YouTube video.

  453. 453
    Ichthyic

    I was making the same (or at least a very similar) point from a slightly different angle.

    you’re right Bill. I get it now.

    apologies for pissiness.

  454. 454
    Anthony K

    By the way, that’s $2 for the freak show, as per your previous suggestion.

    So pay up or get the fuck out, asshole.

    Also, would being honest once in a while kill you? I can guarantee that some people close to you can’t stand you.

  455. 455
    Ichthyic

    I take it back, I don’t wonder if BWE would have been stupid enough to say the same thing during the Civil Rights movement.

    I’m sure of it.

  456. 456
    Anthony K

    Of course, one must wonder how much navel-gazing one must do to attain the level of obliviousness it requires to insist that a group of people recognise the truth that they don’t have a stranglehold on truth.

    Why does it bother you so that we believe the wrong thing, BWE?

  457. 457
    Anthony K

    “Ha-ha! Stupid atheists, why won’t you acknowledge the truth that you don’t have to force everyone to acknowledge the truth?

    I’ll be back again in a few hours to insist that you have to acknowledge this.”

  458. 458
    tielserrath

    Oh, hell, sorry, that wasn’t supposed to be addressed to you, Walton, and now I’ve checked back upthread and can’t figure out *who* it was addressed to.

    Lose my place in a teensy-weensy thread like this? How did that happen?

  459. 459
    Ichthyic

    Why does it bother you so that we believe the wrong thing, BWE?

    Between BWE and Cookoo for Jumbopufs telling us what we do and don’t believe, I can’t keep it straight anymore.

    which wrong thing is this one now?

  460. 460
    Ing

    A common psychological tragedy, this. For you see, it allows no out; once negative consequences become plausibly apparent, the offender is assumed to be acting only in the interest of self-defense. And there is absolutely no way for them to demonstrate otherwise to those who think like you.

    No it just means I’m skeptical and not going to presume all is well right off the bat.

  461. 461
    strange gods before me ॐ

    [Is] my empathy and compassion for the human being in front of me [...] necessarily bourgeois

    Not necessarily, no. It depends on the degree to which you surround yourself with the bourgeois classes.

    When your empathy and compassion is directed at the person in front of you, who then is out of sight and relatively out of mind?

    But if you and your armed revolutionary movement seize control of the reins of the state and put a gun to the head of a rich man, you acquire the power of life or death over him; you have, however temporarily, power, and he, however temporarily, does not.

    And if we do not, then … you know the rest.

    Some questions: is levelling the field possible by revolutionary force? If revolution could be achieved on an international scale, such that imperialist powers are toppled before they can again harness and subvert competition from the third world, could a classless society eventually be achieved? Can we ever ensure that there are no rich and no poor?

    For if we do not, then the rich shall forever hold guns to the heads of the poor.

    As with my question about Reconstruction, we already know the consequences of doing it half-assed.

    Of course both action and inaction involve sacrificing someone’s interests. But few people apply such a starkly utilitarian morality to their everyday lives; if we did, as Peter Singer points out, we would all be guilty of murder every time we spend a dollar on a luxury for ourselves instead of donating it to, say, lifesaving medications for people in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Perhaps he is right, though. Whether unnecessary suffering and death results from our actions does not depend on whether or how we choose to think about Singer’s argument.

    It’s interesting that you mentioned trolley problems. I have long found that particular set of moral dilemmas both irresolvable, and emotionally stressful even to think about.

    I suspected you would

  462. 462
    Ichthyic

    Sometimes a little collateral damage is unavoidable in the course of spreading enlightened thinking eh?

    I thought spreading democracy was the issue where we weren’t supposed to worry so much about collateral damage?

    That’s what they kept telling us about “spreading democracy in” (read: blowing the fuck out of) the Middle East, right?

    oh wait, civil rights and spreading democracy aren’t equivalent issues though.

    my bad.

  463. 463
    strange gods before me ॐ

    No it just means I’m skeptical and not going to presume all is well right off the bat.

    Uh huh. So, what are your demands, then?

  464. 464
    Anthony K

    which wrong thing is this one now?

    Why, that we think other people think the wrong thing, of course.

  465. 465
    Eric Paulsen

    Regarding the Gelato guy: I have, over the last few days, read quite a few questions that seem like the poster is actually gobsmacked that he would think he had the right to bar atheists from his establishment. Why wouldn’t he think that? Churches have a special exemption that allows them to discriminate when it comes to hiring. Pharmacists seem to think they don’t have to provide birth control or abortives if it offends them and nothing seems to happen. Family planning clinics and legal abortion providers are forced out of town by religion friendly pols. The Evangelists have infiltrated and have all but taken over the military. Why wouldn’t he think he could discriminate without repercussions? Everybody seems to be doing it and nobody in charge seems to care.

  466. 466
    Timaahy

    I know you were going to killfile me, Ichthyic, but just in case you haven’t… I don’t suppose you’re going to respond to Crip Dyke’s comments at 389, are you?

  467. 467
    Ichthyic

    Why, that we think other people think the wrong thing, of course.

    so…

    other people actually think the right thing, but it’s actually wrong?

    or

    other people think the wrong thing, but it’s actually right and we just think it’s wrong?

    or

    other people actually think the right thing, and we do too, but we think they think it’s wrong?

    Should I keep going, or would that be wrong?

  468. 468
    consciousness razor

    Should I keep going, or would that be wrong?

    Hmmm… I don’t know anymore.

    I thought it was that we think what we think is right, which is the wrong thing to think. I assume we also shouldn’t think that what we think is wrong, because then we’d have to change what we think to being the right thing, which leads us back to the first horn of this little “dilemma.” Apparently, we just shouldn’t think.

  469. 469
    Ichthyic

    Apparently, we just shouldn’t think.

    no, no.

    that’s BWE’s job.

  470. 470
    Walton

    What I can say is that elites have produced most of, and disseminated nearly all of, the values we learn.

    True.

    Not necessarily, no. It depends on the degree to which you surround yourself with the bourgeois classes.

    When your empathy and compassion is directed at the person in front of you, who then is out of sight and relatively out of mind?

    I didn’t mean “in front of me” in the most literal sense. (I should have been a lot clearer about that; it was a confusing choice of words.)

    FWIW, I agree with you completely that coercion, violence and marginalization are built into the existing social order. And of course you’re absolutely right that class and power-hierarchies define who we see and who we do not see, whose suffering and needs are hidden from us, and which forms of marginalization and suffering we are socialized to perceive as normal rather than exceptional. There’s a reason why I’ve chosen to work in immigration law and to study issues of refugee rights and immigrant equality. Our society makes it easy to ignore the suffering of others; I think I have a duty not to ignore it.

    Rather, I meant that when someone confronts me with a narrative which endorses sacrificing an individual to achieve a future social goal – as you have, on occasion, when you’ve advocated executions of “enemies of the people” – I cannot agree with you. Because in my mind, the person in front of me is the person who you’re saying should be dragged from a cell, unarmed and helpless, and killed in some way or another by armed thugs. I don’t care who that person is or what he or she has done; in that moment, my sympathies lie with the person you’re about to kill, and the practice of deliberately killing an unarmed and helpless person is so vile and dehumanizing that I can’t imagine ever endorsing it. And this feeling isn’t just restricted to the extreme example of execution. Whenever anyone discusses deliberately humiliating someone in order to “punish” him or her for a wrong, or deliberately inflicting suffering of some kind or another on “bad people”, I can’t help putting myself in the shoes of the person thus being harmed. (After all, I’ve done some shitty things in my life, and I’ve said things far more bigoted than the sign in the gelato store.)

  471. 471
    Walton

    (Sorry the coherence of my writing has deteriorated somewhat. It’s the middle of the night and my brain is not at its best.)

  472. 472
    consciousness razor

    no, no.

    that’s BWE’s job.

    Oh, right. Sorry, I was confused. So, I’m not sure — is my job picking on Walton some more?

  473. 473
    strange gods before me ॐ

    And I know your opinions well enough by now to know that you’re perfectly comfortable with that conclusion

    I would prefer to be understood a little better: my grand-scope utilitarianism, compounded by some of my psychological idiosyncracies, make it impossible for me to be perfectly comfortable with anything.

    My conclusions, when I finally settle on them, are what I determine to be the least worst options.

    For me, empathy and compassion for the individual human life before me are more important than the achievement of strategic political goals. Maybe that makes me a sentimental idealist and an impractical dreamer; maybe it means that the people who think like you will always defeat the people who think like me.

    Worse yet, people who act like me but talk like you might defeat both. Even the most radical individualism, echoed by the wealthy across the mass media, becomes a bland domestic sentimentality which can win like Thomas Kinkade wins at art.

    At least keep in mind that any argument we make in defense of any person or group will be twisted as far as possible toward a defense of entrenched powers. This is not a reason to avoid making those arguments and retreat from the polis, of course! It only means to keep it in mind; try to make it prohibitively difficult for them, imagine sabotage when possible, try to pound rhetorical spikes into the decision trees.

  474. 474
    Ichthyic

    Because in my mind, the person in front of me is the person who you’re saying should be dragged from a cell, unarmed and helpless, and killed in some way or another by armed thugs.

    unarmed; helpless; none of your adjectives are relevant.

    here’s a scenario:

    you’re holding a person in a temporarily airtight room that is carrying a 100% terminal airborne disease.

    there is no cure, and you know that this person will inevitably infect others, and the disease will spread like wildfire throughout the population.

    you have two choices:

    Incinerate him completely, right there, in the room, before the containment collapses and he contaminates everyone around.

    or, do nothing and wait for the containment to collapse.

    ONLY YOU can make this choice. you can’t rely on someone to make it for you.

    are you saying you will not incinerate the person to save all of humanity from a horrible disease?

    here’s another one:

    you are a forest ranger, charged with maintaining the health and biodiversity of your local forest.

    you notice that deer populations are getting very high, due to the lack of natural predators in your forest.

    what do you do?

  475. 475
    consciousness razor

    And this feeling isn’t just restricted to the extreme example of execution. Whenever anyone discusses deliberately humiliating someone in order to “punish” him or her for a wrong, or deliberately inflicting suffering of some kind or another on “bad people”, I can’t help putting myself in the shoes of the person thus being harmed. (After all, I’ve done some shitty things in my life, and I’ve said things far more bigoted than the sign in the gelato store.)

    Did anyone do something you’d otherwise consider harmful, as a result of you saying these shitty things? If so, did that make you change your behavior?

    And does it being bad depend on the person’s motivations for reacting to your shitty behavior? What I mean is this: would it be justifiable to react to such behavior that way (e.g., let’s say they slapped you for being a bigot), if and only if one thinks it will change your or others’ future actions a particular way?

  476. 476
    Walton

    I would prefer to be understood a little better: my grand-scope utilitarianism, compounded by some of my psychological idiosyncracies, make it impossible for me to be perfectly comfortable with anything.

    Fair enough. I shouldn’t have put words in your mouth, and for that I apologize.

    Incinerate him completely, right there, in the room, before the containment collapses and he contaminates everyone around.

    or, do nothing and wait for the containment to collapse.

    ONLY YOU can make this choice. you can’t rely on someone to make it for you.

    are you saying you will not incinerate the person to save all of humanity from a horrible disease?

    That’s basically another variant on the trolley problem. Rationally, I can understand all the reasons why one “should” or could or would kill him. But, as a matter of prediction, I don’t have a clue what I would do. I’d love to lie and tell you that I’d make a coldly rational utilitarian calculation on the spur of the moment, but the reality is that I don’t have that much faith in my own rationality to be able to guarantee that I could do anything of the kind. I’m a very emotional creature, and am much more driven by emotion than by reason. Perhaps you are more certain of your own moral judgements than I am of mine; and perhaps you think me simply sentimental, sheltered or weak-minded. But I’m being honest about how I would probably feel. I can’t help it.

    Even despite this, it’s not quite the same as an execution; because part of the horror of an execution is the deliberateness, the premeditation and coldbloodedness, the ritual nature of the whole process, the veneer of legality (the form of which is often maintained even by kangaroo courts in repressive states), and the public condemnation and denunciation of the individual you’re about to kill. It’s what makes the death penalty more horrible and vile, on a pre-rational emotional level, than the idea of killing someone in a fair fight where both participants are shooting at each other.

  477. 477
    Ing

    Uh huh. So, what are your demands, then?

    I don’t have demands, trust isn’t quantifiable.

    If it was someone I’d personally have to deal with then a consistent pattern of behavior reflecting actual change and improvement.

  478. 478
    Ichthyic

    That’s basically another variant on the trolley problem.

    of course it is.

    ALL DECISIONS ARE.

    but the reality is that I don’t have that much faith in my own rationality to be able to guarantee that I could do anything of the kind

    I would pity you, but somehow, I think that’s what you really want.

    *sigh*

    what a tiresome game.

  479. 479
    Walton

    At least keep in mind that any argument we make in defense of any person or group will be twisted as far as possible toward a defense of entrenched powers.

    That’s true. And I often miss this potential for twisting of my words. As much as I’ve always had strong (albeit contradictory and constantly-shifting) political beliefs, I’ve never been a political animal in that sense; I’m not naturally inclined to think strategically. I’m much more suited to haranguing people from the sidelines than to the actual exercise of power.

    This is not a reason to avoid making those arguments and retreat from the polis, of course!

    Well, as a practical matter, I have retreated from the polis to a great extent in the last couple of years: I’m not involved in party politics any more, and so forth. (For good reasons, and ones of which you’re well aware; you yourself were once fond of pointing out to me the moral evils in which I was tacitly acquiescing in the days when I supported the Tories. You were absolutely right. And that’s why I no longer support any party, or the system of partisanship in general.)

    But there’s a limit to how far I can isolate myself from engaging with the political mainstream. I can’t make a difference to the big issue of social justice in which I’ve developed a particularly great interest – immigrants’ and refugees’ rights – without writing and talking and engaging in various kinds of political or quasi-political activism, and at least trying to counter the xenophobic anti-immigrant messages that are everywhere in Anglo-American society. And I can’t work to help people in my chosen profession without engaging with, and tacitly accepting the legitimacy of, the legal system (and all the defence of established power and privilege that it embodies).

  480. 480
    Walton

    I would pity you, but somehow, I think that’s what you really want.

    *sigh*

    what a tiresome game.

    Fuck off.

  481. 481
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Uh huh. So, what are your demands, then?

    I don’t have demands, trust isn’t quantifiable.

    If it was someone I’d personally have to deal with then a consistent pattern of behavior reflecting actual change and improvement.

    Well then, it turns out I was correct in effect:

    A common psychological tragedy, this. For you see, it allows no out; once negative consequences become plausibly apparent, the offender is assumed to be acting only in the interest of self-defense. And there is absolutely no way for them to demonstrate otherwise to those who think like you.

  482. 482
    Walton

    If you seriously think I’m playing a fucking game when I’m talking about moral issues that I grapple with in my mind every day, that involve issues that I’ve studied and worked on as a student and activist, and that involve human beings’ lives

    seriously, fuck you. I shouldn’t have to deal with this shit.

    What do I have to do to prove to you that I am sincere, Ichthyic? Yes, I was an idiot three years ago when I first started posting here. I’ve changed. I’ve recanted pretty much everything I said or thought then. I’ve done my best to learn and make up for my past. I’m now trying to pursue a career that actually helps people. Are you going to judge me for the rest of my life on the fact that you took a dislike to me when I was nineteen?

    You’ve been taunting me like this for years. And you know that it hurts me.

  483. 483
    Timaahy

    What do I have to do to prove to you that I am sincere, Ichthyic?

    I don’t know your history with him/her, but based on my dealings with him/her above, the fuckwit’s not interested in changing their opinions.

  484. 484
    Timaahy

    of course it is.

    ALL DECISIONS ARE.

    Far out… deciding what to have for dinner just became a moral conundrum.

  485. 485
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Rather, I meant that when someone confronts me with a narrative which endorses sacrificing an individual to achieve a future social goal – as you have, on occasion, when you’ve advocated executions of “enemies of the people” – I cannot agree with you. Because in my mind, the person in front of me is the person who you’re saying should be dragged from a cell, unarmed and helpless, and killed in some way or another by armed thugs.

    But they often shouldn’t be the only person in front of your mind, because they’re often not the only one who’s in danger. I’m morally obliged to not let you portray this so simply. Therefore:

    [Walton:] At the time of Eichmann’s execution by the Israeli government, what threat did he pose which could not have been adequately addressed by imprisoning him for life without parole?

    [SC:] He was a well-known Nazi leader. We can’t know what his continuing to live (also with the possibility of escape, however remote, and of communication with organizations) could mean in terms of threats. There is never “no possibility” of future harm. (Just as that possibility exists from killing.)

    [Walton:] I don’t think you can seriously claim that Eichmann’s execution could have been justified solely by the need to stop him committing further atrocities in future.

    [SC:] Possibly. I don’t think it can be discounted entirely, and I don’t think I can speak knowledgeably about Israelis’ experience of threats from living Nazi leaders in this era.

    In quite another context I once made the point that we sometimes have fairly stressful fights among ourselves as feminists precisely because at some level of consciousness we expect each other to respond reasonably, and so an argument with a fellow feminist is rightly expected to have a higher marginal utility than an argument with a misogynist. We focus our attention where we hope to make a difference.

    I think a similar effect occurs here. You don’t expect to be able to do much to prevent capitalist-sponsored violence. You learn to accept it as the way of things, bloody tooth and claw. And of course their institutions have hundreds of years of practice now at abstracting the violence so that it’s sometimes hard to call it exactly what it is.

    But when the third-worlder picks up a gun, or a first-worlder defends her choice to do so, then you see an opportunity for your words to have an effect.

  486. 486
    Ichthyic

    If you seriously think I’m playing a fucking game when I’m talking about moral issues that I grapple with in my mind every day

    yes, yes I do.

    I don’t believe you.

    seriously.

  487. 487
    Hillary Rettig

    Wow, PZ, I think you’re so wrong on this. Understanding and forgiveness are core progressive values, It is possible to decry his action, and fight strenuously against his beliefs, while still behaving decently to him and recognizing the decency in his apology. (And also that maybe he has smug self-righteousness BECAUSE he lives in, and quite possibly grew up in, a “particularly intensely religious part of the country.”)

  488. 488
    Walton

    yes, yes I do.

    I don’t believe you.

    seriously.

    What part don’t you believe? That I take social justice issues seriously? Why do you think I’ve chosen a career in immigration law? Why do you think I talk and write about the oppressive effect of immigration restrictions and the marginalization of immigrants (something which intersects extensively with racism, gender oppression, and oppression of LGBT people)? Do you think I’m lying about the fact that I work on these issues and care about them? What more would you like me to do to prove it to you?

    (I’m not mentioning these things because I think I deserve a cookie or something. I don’t. Like I said, I used to be a horrendous bigot years ago, a part of my past I can never wipe away. And I’ve said and done plenty of stupid, obnoxious and offensive things in the past. I admit that. I can’t change that fact or wipe it away, and I haven’t tried to hide it. I’m mentioning my activism because I am pissed off that you are accusing me of not caring. Have I done as much as I should to help fix the shitty world we live in and make up for my own past stupidity? No. Nowhere near. But I’m trying, and it’s hurtful that you don’t believe that.)

    Or do you not believe that I’ve sincerely changed my opinions since I was nineteen? I can’t expect you to read my mind, but I can only point to the things I write and the things I do. I am not the person I was then.

    Or that I’m emotionally affected by these issues, and that I have a serious mood disorder (which I’ve had for my whole life) which affects my emotional reactions? Are you expecting me to produce a note from my psychiatrist before you’ll believe that?

    I know how these discussions go, with you. You also always trap me into talking about myself, rather than the actual issues (which I was quite happily discussing with other people until you interjected), because you always insult me personally and lie about my motivations and my character. Of course I respond to your hurtful comments, and this plays perfectly into your plan, because you like to portray me as a whining pathetic narcissist who’s only interested in himself.

  489. 489
    Walton

    Now I’m quitting this discussion. The way Ichthyic treats me is severely triggering, it’s the middle of the night and I’m feeling like shit (and wishing my new medication wasn’t so slow-acting), and I’m also angry at myself for being so fucking stupid as to let him bait me yet again and for getting involved in this conversation in the first place.

  490. 490
    dug

    I think you all may be missing the wider perspective here.

    10% discount on ice cream. All is forgiven.

  491. 491
    Dabu

    That’s right dug. A free icecream sandwich, from a religious android near you.

  492. 492
    Hibernia86

    It should be noted, though, that he said “Skepticon”, not “atheist” in his sign. He saw someone mocking his belief, got angry, assumed everyone at Skepticon was like that, and posted the sign saying that he was of the group that he felt was being mocked and that he wasn’t going to serve people who mocked his faith.

    Imagine it the other way around. An atheist sees the members of a Fundamentalist council mocking atheists as egotistical brats who hate everyone but themselves. He gets angry and offended. He posts a sign in his store saying “The Fundamentalist Council is NOT welcome in this atheist’s store”. He says this not because he hates all fundamentalists, but because he is insulted by the mocking of his philosophy in what he feels is an unfair way.

    Yes it is wrong for the Atheist to post such a sign, but it is understandable how he might make such a mistake. He assumed that all the Fundamentalists discriminated against atheists and mocked them instead of having a serious conversation with him. He was wrong to assume that, but we can see how he might.

    No, I am not saying that we should give up Atheist revivals like those that Sam Singleton did. But we should give people time to understand what is going on, rather than taking their first impressions as their final chance to learn. Criticize what happened, but keep in mind that the goal is to change his mind, not to add him to our enemies list.

  493. 493
    strange gods before me ॐ

    yes, yes I do.

    I don’t believe you.

    seriously.

    Ichthyic, it is publicly available information that he is now studying at the graduate level in immigration law, and such behavior is consistent with his long-expressed concerns about the treatment of immigrants. A minimal amount of effort would allow you to confirm this for yourself, or you could just, you know, ask anybody.

    So the evidence indicates you’re wrong, Ichthyic.

  494. 494
    John Phillips, FCD

    405.‬ Brownian says:
    22 November 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I think I can honestly characterise the viewpoints of most gnus as “You deal with believers your way, and we’ll deal with them ours. Just don’t stab us in the fucking back while you do it.”


    QFFT

  495. 495
    Anubis Bloodsin the third

    #494 Hibernia86

    “He assumed that all the Fundamentalists discriminated against atheists and mocked them instead of having a serious conversation with him.”

    That would be no assumption that would be a cast iron certainty…

    Bad analogy by the way…any atheist that pulled that stunt would get fire-bombed in less then 10 mins.

    This is not really about a deluded clown called Andy, it is applicable to any state in the USA.
    Given the same circumstances the same act of pious bigotry would be proudly displayed…in some places the sign would probably stay up…

    This is not about an ice cream salesman…it is about the mind set that religion works hard to instil in its victims.

    Andy is just as much a victim of religion as those he decided to discriminate against.

    It might be an act that prompted a viral response from the t’inter tubes…but it is just xians being the lovable little scamps we are accustomed to but appalled by!

    Not unusual…just par for the lack of integrity, intelligence and rabid discrimination that religion promotes.

  496. 496
    Imbecile Heureux

    @Walton

    I have only skimmed through much of this, but I find myself in agreement with much of what you have posted (in particular the difficulty of doing legal theory without it collapsing into moral philosophy!).

    The point you made on “rationality” is an important one: “irrationalists” do not argue that rationality isn’t important in terms of having all of our commitments hang together to the greatest degree possible; it is simply the rejection of the idea that they can be ultimately founded on reason (this is why I baulked at your early suggestion that your morality was based upon the “rational” goal of maximising your own happiness – seemed to me an argument of the second kind, when you only want to affirm the first).

    One point that puzzles me, though: you seem to be adopting a fairly standard non-cognitivist position in meta-ethics (i.e. ethical claims are not truth-apt); how, then, do you justify your apparent absolutism? – that compassion to individuals of necessity trumps broader social goods (apologies if I have misunderstood here). I have difficulty in seeing the legitimate path from meta-ethical non-cognitivism to moral absolutism…

  497. 497
    BWE

    This is not about an ice cream salesman…it is about the mind set that religion works hard to instil in its victims.

    No. Actually it is just about a kid selling ice cream that PZ apparently felt entitled to intimidate.

    It could just as easy have been a girl scout selling cookies in front of safeway.

    I can’t bel;ieve the serious effort in ratiuonalization for a shithead move by PZ. He’s gotten stupider, nore self absorbed and now he’s using hkisn swollen ego as a story itself when he travels.

    Jesus PZ. Shave, take a valium and quit writing. You’ve lost your integrity and don’t know it because the moron chorus which sings your praises here but only manages to use enough reason to decide that shoving a fencepost up my ass would prove me wrong.

    This is the thread which I plan on using as an example of fundamentalist atheism for my next project. You have become what you set out to destroy and in the proce3ss sold your integrity for a headline.

    I’m just telling you what you can’t see from inside. Your cheerleaders should be embarrassing to you by the way. That they aren’t just adds to the scorn you heaped upon yourself here.

    >In before ‘fuck you’

    Icthyic, you were my first facebook friend. Go blow a goat you feeble minded tape-recorder. I always kinda thought you were the type to think for yourself well enough to refuse to endorse this kind of cult behavior.

    Sad really. Was it Lenny Flank who made you quit when he wouldn’t suck your cock?

    Why don’t you dredge through that braincell and see if your recollections of me fit the stereotype which you filed away as the entire universe of infoprmation on me.

    Jesus.
    Amateurs.

    This is called indoctrination and marketing. You are buying intop a sports team not reading a source of information. Trying to justify PZ’s shameful behavior here is cheerleading, not thinking.

    ETA: Whoever said I needed to learn to write, oooh. Learn to think you fucking moron.

    Goodamn. Tenure ruined you PZ.

  498. 498
    Pogsurf

    “.. to use enough reason to decide that shoving a fencepost up my ass would prove me wrong.”

    You think you’ve got it bad, huh? I have to disappear myself down a drain.

  499. 499
    Mr. Fire

    Ichthyic @488:

    I will vouch that Walton is in every particular the same person in real life that he is online. Right down to his sincerity and earnestness.

  500. 500
    Richard Eis

    The buck has to stop somewhere. Why not here? Or should we once again accept a face saving apology and once again be “nice” and not rock the boat until next time. Yes, NEXT TIME we will do something!!!

    There are a lot of doormats here. Even worse, a lot of doormats extolling the valuable service they do cleaning peoples boots and pointing out to everyone what a great career move this is for a minority. Unlike those nasty doors that stop the shit from getting into the house by blocking the offending shoes completely.

    Wipe your feet on a doormat, you’re still going to be treading some shit into someone elses carpet.

  1. 501
    stocks and shares blog

    stocks and shares blog…

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  2. 502
    Mr. Java BVMC-SJX33GT

    Mr. Java BVMC-SJX33GT…

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