Stoning Atheists At Penn State

If you’ve ever seen an atheist,
And wished you could have simply chucked a stone
You’re not alone
If it nearly feels reflexive, like
The rock was waiting, wanting to be thrown
Well, that’s well-known

If your holy book commands it
Or your sense of self demands it
You can send a stone in transit toward a head
If you’re faithful, you can show it—
Buy a rock or two, and throw it
And pretend that heathen know-it-all is dead!

Since it’s being done for charity
Just tell yourself your money is well placed
And not a waste
And because the “stones” are water-filled
Balloons, there’s no real danger to be faced…
It’s just bad taste

What is it about Pennsylvania atheists and pushing the envelope of taste? Last year, the Halloween parade, where “Zombie Mohammed” was clearly in the right (in terms of free speech), while being clearly (this is a matter of taste, so I speak only for myself here) a tasteless attempt to offend.

This year, the Atheist/Agnostic Association at Penn State is holding a charity fundraiser–Yay! It’s a “stone an atheist” fundraiser, which substitutes–alas–water balloons for rocks, selling the considerably safer projectiles for 75 cents each, or 2 for a dollar, with proceeds going to an organization that provides medical care in third-world countries.

Christian? Pelt the atheists. Jewish? Pelt the atheists. Muslim? Pelt the atheists. Any member of any religious group can pelt their religious opposites in he name of charity.

College can be a time of such insensitivity. I remember WWIII-themed parties, a cannibalism-centered campus party (celebrating Alferd E. Packer, to be specific), and probably much worse. This “stone the atheists” fundraiser cannot help but remind us that there are still stoning deaths–real stoning deaths–each year. I have chosen not to embed a video of one here, but the fact is that I could have, and that you could do a quick search and find such videos.

Ah, but these kids are in Pennsylvania. That’s a world away from real stoning deaths, isn’t it? They don’t stone people to death in PA, do they?

Well, not since last year. And that was for being gay, not for being an atheist.

I suppose the good news is, the A/AA is also providing information and answering questions about themselves at the event. I personally would like to see students refuse to buy and throw “stones”, but still learn about the organization… which will do a bit of introspection and pass the hat among themselves for a really big donation to their charity. And maybe come up with a different fund-raiser for next year.

And yes, I know, humor is individual and subjective. You may find this completely appropriate. Feel free to defend it; I won’t.

(edit–I do support their right to do this, as protected free speech. They should not be punished by the University, or censored. But while you may be free to tell a bad joke, your audience is under no obligation to laugh.)


  1. says

    “Oh the Black folks hate the White folks,[sic] and the Poor folks hate the Rich Folks [sic]..Alle your folks hate my folks and ever body hates the Jews.-Tom Leher, “National Brotherhood Week”

  2. hexidecima says

    from PA here, and yes it does seem we have a bevy of atheists who don’t quite get it when it comes to obnoxious ways to get messages across. American Atheists seem to be the usual guilty party in this. I find this “stoning” about as “tasteful” as having a lynching for charity.

  3. Stevarious says

    What is it about Pennsylvania atheists and pushing the envelope of taste?

    I’m sorry. :(

    Though you might note that the guy who was assaulted for dressing up as Zombie Mohammed is Ernest Perce – American Atheists’ Pennsylvania State Director.

    I have no idea if AA was involved in any way with the stone-an-atheist thing though.

  4. says

    The atheist group at my university in North Carolina recently did the same event. I’m not a member (their meting times last year conflicted with a prior engagement) but since I’ve always been pretty open about my atheism I still felt pretty awkward about it. I might go check them out at some point to see if they’re otherwise ok.

  5. Rodney Nelson says

    Alferd E. Packer

    The story about Packer I like best is how he became Alferd. He was originally named Alfred. When he was in the Union Army during the Civil War, he had his name tattooed on his forearm (possibly so he wouldn’t forget it). The tattoo artist misspelled the name as Alferd. Packer liked that so much he went by Alferd for the rest of his life.

  6. machintelligence says

    You should be aware that the food service area at Univ. of Colorado (Boulder) student union is named The Alferd E. Packer grill.
    The reason for the tattoo was probably more grim. There were no “dogtags” in those days, and identification of bodies was often difficult.

  7. Nancy New, Queen of your Regulatory Nightmare says

    I confess to a strong fondness for ol’ Alferd, partly familial.

    Check out the Alderd Packer Memorial String Band, out of Lawrence Kansas…

    That’s my brother the banjo player in the derby and handlebar ‘stash.

    Alferd fits right in with the surrent redublicans… “At the conclusion of the trial, the judge’s exact words were, “Alferd Packer, you voracious man-eater, there were only seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you done et five of ’em.”

  8. geoffmccoury says

    I just know that everyone currently suffering under unimaginably horrible living conditions deeply appreciates your gesture. Your first-world indignation is worth more to them than any aid they could obtain through a charity event.

  9. Cuttlefish says

    Thanks for missing the part where I want them to still get the money. Don’t let reality get in the way of your first-world right to poke fun.

  10. Kylie Sturgess says

    Geoffmccoury – if that’s all the defence you have for it, then feel free to add “Dear Muslima” to the start of your opinion.

    I thought it was poor taste too, but I’d be happy to send a donation to a college group (in fact, I support my alma mater despite graduating and a number of other Aust university groups) if they had put a bit of forethought into their fundraising. This could have been done better.

  11. Cuttlefish says

    You are quite right. It is harmless, if tasteless, fun. And if it were the group’s only way of fundraising, I’d keep my mouth shut. But I suspect that even you who defend it could easily come up with a dozen alternative activities–even if you don’t agree it would be worth switching.

    There are people in the comments at the article I linked, who find the fundraiser offensive. By choosing this fundraiser, the group misses out on these people’s contributions. But they do get to have their harmless fun.

  12. Cuttlefish says

    I agree, hannanibal, but with the recognition of the flip side of that: If they could have just as easily made more, then the better comparison is not to “nothing” but to what they could have done.

    In one of my classes, I specifically address the “we’ve got to do somethinganything is better than nothing!” notion. When you have limited resources and time, doing something minimally productive necessarily gets in the way of your chance to do more.

  13. F says

    Huh. I don’t know. Sounds like a mockery of stoning to me. And I can’t see anything wrong with that; it’s a perfectly useful tool.

    Maybe some others are aware of something of which I a not.

  14. johnpepperphd says

    I think reminding people that the atrocity of stoning still continues is one of the points as well. Perhaps those religious people will be reminded that their religion condones this kind of action and do some introspection of their own.

    Probably not, but it’s a lot more likely a result than replacing a fundraiser with information and hoping the organization gets anywhere near the same kind of monetary support.

    So long as there’s a good charity on the receiving end, I’d rather see a fundraiser in bad taste than none at all.

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