Projection, Of Historical Proportions

I remember when believers
Showed a missionary zeal
They would meet you at your doorstep
Just to show you God was real
They would go to other countries
Cos they had to spread the word
They might learn a different language
To be certain they were heard
They attended church on Sundays
With their families in tow
They thought Jesus was the answer
And they had to let you know…

It was holy obligation
They believed they had no choice
Since your soul hung in the balance,
Why, they had to raise their voice
If you thought it was annoying
That’s a chance they’d have to take
Cos you had to hear the message
For your soul’s salvation’s sake
Though it sometimes strained relationships
And sometimes cost them friends
Their obnoxious means were justified
By God’s eternal ends

Yes, they trampled foreign cultures
And they treated them like dirt
But they spread across the planet
Finding peoples to convert
We remember them as heroes,
Brave explorers, righteous souls
And we didn’t often question,
So accepted were their goals
But these atheists are different
Cos they’ll get right in your face
With their “evidence” and “reason”
As they try to make their case

It’s a shameful situation
It’s a rude and thoughtless act
Such an arrogance, denying
What the faithful see as fact
It’s a forced indoctrination
It’s a form of pure abuse
It’s an antisocial act for which
There’s really no excuse
Could you live with such a monster?
Could you marry (God forbid!)?
We would never act so hatefully—
Except, of course… we did.

It’s the return of the Straw Atheist! This time, an abusive monster in the form of a hypothetical atheist man married to a quiet and well-mannered 51-year old hypothetical believer, in the article Can You Live with an Atheist?

She believes; he does not.

She attends religious services; he does not.

She is afraid to bring up the topic, because he literally gets in her face and screams like, well, the devil incarnate.

She is driven to tears because she cannot come home to him anymore.

She is quiet and does not try to convert him or anyone else; this is a new and private spiritual journey she is on, after many years of turmoil and stress and anxiety in her life. This new way makes her happy, calms her, gives her life renewed purpose at 51-years old.

He is getting more and more animated, growing nearly violent by throwing things about and slamming things down, all the while shouting about superstition and opium of the masses.

Hell, I couldn’t live with him, either. (Oh, but do go read the continuing story–you’ll love the punch line, and its setup.)

Fortunately, all six comments as of this writing are calling the author out for one reason or another–anecdotes of happy marriages, statistics on marriage success by belief, and perhaps most importantly, reminding the author that the problem here is abuse, not atheism.

I’ve known more families torn apart by conflicting religions than by conflicts between his generic “believer” and atheism. (She “believes”; in what? My sister-in-law believed, but had to convert to a different belief to marry her husband.) Mere anecdotes, of course, but still… Complaining about atheist proselytizing by writing a paper that is proselytizing is pretty cool.


  1. Randomfactor says

    She is driven to tears because she cannot come home to him anymore.

    I’m sure she could find some Biblical passage that’s appropriate. Ephesians 5:22 comes to mind.

  2. Trebuchet says

    Richard Davis is responding to the comments, claiming its a true story. Funny, I’ve never had an atheist stick his foot in my door while telling me I was going to hell. Christians have, however.

  3. Cuttlefish says

    That saddens me, Treb, but I hope he sees what the commenters have been telling him. From his title on, the significant characteristic of the man in the story was not that he was abusive, but that he was an atheist. The title generalizes it from this man to just “an atheist”, as if this was a decent description of any of us.

  4. smrnda says

    I actually hear that Fundie marriages are pretty likely to end in divorce, mostly since the formula of ‘everybody just pray and stick to gender stereotypes’ is shit advice in practice.

    The trope of the gentle, understanding Christian married to the disagreeable atheist. I’ve seen more marriages that went the other way, including a friend of mine whose mom started attending a fundamentalist church, when her husband didn’t show the same enthusiasm (they did weird stuff like speaking in tongues) she just got up and left with someone with a head full of godliness, and then regarded her former kids as ‘tainted’ and ‘ungodly’ and no longer worthy of her attention.

  5. says

    I’d love to respond to him, but I’m not signing up for another site just to make one comment. He can go on believing what he wants.

    But, as a family law attorney, it’s quite clear that the husband in the possibly fictitious story has inter-relationship problems with his spouse. His atheism doesn’t make him a bastard or a lousy spouse. His mental state does. Their religious differences are simply an excuse to verbally beat up on her. If they were of the same faith, he’d come up with a different reason, and act the same, and she’d still be walking out the door.

    Most likely he is suffering from a common personality disorder, probably narcissistic or borderline.

    This is just an excuse to blame atheism for something, anything. Atheism is a benign, emotionally neutral thought process. In conjunction with something else, it may appear to be the villain, but it never is. See Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot arguments, for instance.

  6. carpenterman says

    Even if this story is true, what does it prove? That you can be an atheist and still be a jerk? Well, duh. Every subset of humanity you can assemble will have a certain percentage of jerks. You can substitute the words “redhead” or “Canadian” for “atheist” and the story would be just as likely to be true, and just as meaningless.

  7. Cuttlefish says

    Last I saw, the author was doubling down–when people suggested that the important thing was the abusiveness, he took it as “so, no, you couldn’t live with an atheist”. Not “with this atheist”, which I would agree with–I would not live with either an abusive or a hypothetical atheist.

    Cuttlespouse and I are both atheists, and are a bit past the quarter century mark of “living with”. I can live with an atheist. So can Cuttlespouse. Neither of us, though, is living with this particular atheist. The author appears to have a tough time understanding that.

    He also takes pride in denying he is a “journalist”, apparently thinking he’s better than that.

    I nearly just said “what a delusional fool”… but I’ll leave such conclusions for you.

  8. Paul Murray says

    Churches are in the business of pandering to their congregations, and congregations these days tend to have a lot of divorced women and women gettin just a little bored with their relationships. It’s the duty of the preacher to give them an out – no matter how unbiblical.

  9. says

    I’m married to a Catholic, and the worst thing I’ve ever done is to call out “Bye sweetie, don’t worship anything I wouldn’t” or ” Have masses of fun.” as she leaves for church.

  10. Die Anyway says

    If it’s real and he’s throwing, slamming and shouting, then there’s no love left in that marriage. She *should* get out.

    My wife is an atheist so we don’t have that issue but she does tend to go in for some of the herbalist, alternative medicine stuff (loves Dr. Oz even on his woo days). But guess what? Even though I’m an atheist with strong alliance to evidence-based-medicine, I don’t throw things or shout in her face. Guys that do that are just crude and low class.

  11. N. Nescio says

    It’s amusing that the comments have added more value than the content itself.

    I want to buy ‘Bo Selecta’ and ‘Lynne B’ beverages of their choosing. It’s gratifying to see these kind of hit pieces publicly shredded.

    I’ve got to say I give the author respect for allowing (as far as I can tell) open commentary, even if pretty much everybody is telling him how wrong he is.

  12. David Hart says

    Sweet genius, that guy is being obtuse. I’ve been arguing with him for what feels like weeks now (I’m Bo Selecta, by the way – I clicked the lazy option and registered via facebook) and he is adamantly refusing to admit that his choice of title makes it sound like he intended to make a generalisation about atheists – all without ever actually saying explicitly that he didn’t, as far as I can see.

    Well, one can but try.

  13. says

    He (the author) also said they (the couple) were just fine until she “got more involved in her religion”.

    I wonder what that means in the context of their relationship. I wonder how much of the woman’s side isn’t being told. I know I’d feel betrayed by my wife (who’s agonistic) if she converted to a religion and started, say, giving a decent chunk of our paychecks to her new church.

    We really don’t have enough information to come to a real conclusion of what’s happening here, and what information we do have is coming from a massively biased source.

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