Sniveling milquetoast rebukes mean atheist!

Now this is a different categorization of the differences between bold, brave assertive atheists and the spineless, gutless apologists for religious lunacy: we’re “mean”, and they’re “nice”.

When the mean atheists and the nice atheists get together, it’s not so much that it annoys the mean atheists to be asked to play nice. It’s more that they just want to be able to call the nice atheists names like “sniveling milquetoast” and the like. Y’know, while they’re at it. Because when it comes right down to it, the mean atheists just want to have fun. And I respect that.

Yeah, we just want to have fun, like a cat with a mouse. And we do feel obligated to earn those titles assigned to us.


  1. Strider says

    Did you see the former marine biologist turned episcopal lady priest on Bill Moyers’ Journal last night? He asked her about squid! She had the same tired answers when Bill asked her about how she sees things as a scientist v. priest. You can see it online at

  2. says

    The nice atheists, by contrast, believe that religion is more complicated than the stupidity-plus-con-artists model and/or that we should at least make an effort to get along with religious people.

    I think there’s a third category (what can I say? I’m a Canadian): many of us ‘mean’ atheists do understand that historical, political, socio-cultural, and psychological complexities play a role in influencing people to adopt or reject theism, and we can respect that. We know that it can be difficult for many to rigorously question what they’ve been taught to believe as children, and we can respect that.
    But it can be done.
    What we do not respect is the refusal of some people to honestly question their beliefs just because it’s hard, or they’re afraid.

    We will not try to get along with them because they can’t be gotten along with. They must actively spread and poison others with their fear so they can continue to refuse to confront it.

  3. says

    I must be one of those “mean” atheists. One of the high points of my high school career was when I reduced my religion teacher to tears of frustration in front of the entire class.

    I just do it because it’s more moral than pulling the wings off flies. When you pull the wing off a fly, it feels the pain and eventually dies. But the woo-woo heads just come back for more! “Hey! Pull my wing off again! This time I have a cool quote from Thomas Aquinas to bolster my position!”

  4. Sonja says

    I think I’m a nice atheist — however while I’m having a reasonable discussion about religion and philosphy, the person on the other side of the conversation may start screaming at me and accusing me of being “mean”. I don’t get it. I haven’t called the other person any names — I’ve just been talking about the subject matter.

    I guess meaness is in the eye of the beholder.

  5. says

    I’m afraid the term ‘militant atheists’ must refer to those types who dare to mention uncomfortable truths about religion when talking about religion, and nothing more.

  6. Janine says

    Funny, in my day to day life, I do not tell people that I am an atheist. But when asked, I am very straight forward about my lack of belief. This can be enough to insult some people. So I guess I fall in between being a nice atheist and a mean atheist.

    But for some people, expressing your atheism is enough to make you a big fat meanie.

    But my all time favorite was the guy who asked me my opinion on a religious debate that I walked into. When I stated my belief, he asked if it meant I worshipped Satan. He was serious.

  7. says

    Criticism of religion — any criticism — has been defined as inherently “mean”. Therefore, it’s practically impossible to be an atheist who isn’t mean, because your very existence is an insult and affront to the vast majority of sniveling milquetoasts brainwashed masses hateful bigots religious idiots, uh… people who don’t agree with me. So there!

  8. says

    i must have different social circles. when i declare atheism, i tend to get this “Poor confused sot” kind of response.

  9. Patrick says

    “But my all time favorite was the guy who asked me my opinion on a religious debate that I walked into. When I stated my belief, he asked if it meant I worshipped Satan. He was serious.”

    My favorite was a guy on an internet forum I visit, who asserted that the mere act of publicly calling yourself an atheist was rude and uncalled for, because it disrespected all the people who died for Christianity. I called him an idiot.

  10. RamblinDude says

    “When I stated my belief, he asked if it meant I worshipped Satan. He was serious.”

    I got news for ya: a LOT of true believers think that we worship satan. If not actively, then passively.

  11. Chris Hudson says

    You have to remind them that if we don’t believe in a god then it goes without saying that we don’t believe in satan either. They don’t get that because they are ignorant, and I don’t mean that in a “mean” way, just that they don’t know any better.

  12. Mark Borok says

    I don’t mind sticking it to the obnoxious God-botherers, and I won’t mouth platitudes about religion, but I also don’t care for going to some Christian message board (for exampe) and telling them they’re all wrong to believe as they do. IOW, I don’t care for haranguing people who are minding their own business. Does this make me a “nice” atheist, or can I call myself “mean”?

  13. Carlie says

    Just today I read some H.L. Mencken, commenting on the Scopes trial. A couple of excerpts, long, but very to the point here:

    “What the World’s [New York newspaper] contention amounts to, at bottom, is simply the doctrine that a man engaged in combat with superstition should be very polite to superstition. This, I fear, is nonsense. The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous. Is it, perchance, cherished by persons who should know better? Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame.”

    [one paragraph later]

    “The meaning of religious freedom, I fear, is sometimes greatly misapprehended. It is taken to be a sort of immunity, not merely from governmental control but also from public opinion. A dunderhead gets himself a long-tailed coat, rises behind the sacred desk, and emits such bilge as would gag a Hottentot. Is it to pass unchallenged? If so, then what we have is not religious freedom at all, but the most intolerable and outrageous variety of religious despotism.”

    [one more paragraph later]

    “What should be a civilized man’s attitude toward such superstitions? It seems to be that the only attitude possible to him is one of contempt. If he admits that they have any intellectual dignity whatever, he admits that he himself has none. If he pretends to a respect for those who believe in them, he pretends falsely, and sinks almost to their level.”

  14. Crudely Wrott says

    Is mean atheist/ milquetoast atheist equal to or congruent with bad cop/good cop? Or possibly that’s not fair. I’m not sure, from situation to situation. That is, the devil is in the details. That’s why I play it by ear.

    My atheism is usually lost in the background noise of more immediate concerns during the course of my daily business. In such cases the problem seldom, if ever arises. Nothing happens.

    My atheism is occasionally exposed if I am at an event that involves a prayer or a hymn or something equally innocuous. In such cases I can plead inattention or simple ignorance. Nothing happens, hardly ever.

    My atheism is occasionally expressed in my comments regarding events that have been commented on by religious poobahs and then offered to me by some other party. Something frequently happens, usually harmless though sometimes memorable.

    My atheism is sometimes freely expressed during rare occasions when my listener is well disposed to non-orthodoxy. Neat stuff frequently occurs. Good humor is often attendant.

    My atheism is sometimes only hinted at, such as when a young proselytizer should mistakenly gain my full attention. Here I am listening closely and setting snares, unlike the above examples. It is unfortunate that some of these moments were not recorded.

    Only under circumstances that could be interpreted as slanderous, accusatory or threatening do I bring the larger guns to bear (after a couple warning shots across the bow). In those scintillating moments I know the power! Results normally include voices raising in volume and pitch, stumbling and fumbling, appeals to human ignorance and supernatural wisdom. These are often punctuated by dark, lingering glances at parting, strangely unsettling, and exhortations to some spook, soft or loud . More unsettling is that this is predictable; familiar territory. I was once them, once. That is, I was young and silly. So reacting as described in this paragraph is sort of like smakin’ down my old self, an ironic replay of a previous “putting off of the old man.”

    Be wise, kind, and a little bit blind. It is rarely necessary to assert, in a militant or evangelical manner, anything. At least nothing I can think of right now. And this under normal circumstances like normal life. But there are most reliably those times when, publicly and with an audience, someone will spout off the dogma of correctness that they hold above all that other stuff we have already dealt with. (Examples include the Magna Carta and the US Constitution. The Principia.) The immediate effect of such drivel is to start small minds to spinning. It is in this moment that a bit of militant or forceful atheism can be profitable and influence the spin.

    In other words, to the best of your ability as a free thinking, human centered human being, unencumbered by the baggage of myth, be all things to all people!

    You already know how to be politic. You speak to your mother differently from your boss or drinking buddies. You comport yourself differently at a backyard BBQ than you do in criminal court. This is stuff we learn (I hope) as children and becomes second nature shortly thereafter.

    I admit I can’t do this all the time or in all situations. But I do it well enough to have been complimented for my ability to be diplomatic. The thing is, dealing with other peoples beliefs is pretty academic. The tough part is discerning that thin line between being harmless or being predatory.

  15. Crudely Wrott says

    Addendum: I meant to end my previous post with a large grin showing teeth like the herbivorous dinosaurs in Ken Ham’s brand new muse-ium.

  16. Crudely Wrott says

    Not to mention Timothy’s New Testament (2nd Timothy?) instruction to be as “cunning as a serpent and as harmless as a dove.”

    running thoughts and run-on posts
    it’s not that I’ve just seen a ghost
    or hadn’t
    ideas and memories cohere
    among those rampant here.

    Dammit, boy!

  17. Rick T. says

    I don’t believe in Snow White. That also means that I don’t believe in the Wicked Witch. In case your confused, you silly Jebus freak, I don’t believe in Sneezy and the others either. I may sound grumpy but I,m not, I’m just plain mean. And you’re not dopey, you’re just a complete dumbshit.

  18. Peter Kemp says

    Ridicule is the best, associated with a liberal dose of humour, theists are so often offended no matter how criticism is presented, so what’s the point of pulling punches?

    Right now, Downunder, we had our Cardinal Pell (refer PZ’s last blast) threatening State catholic politicians to vote against embryonic stem cell research. The arguments for Pell degenerated on this blog:
    into typical theist temporal/spiritual red herrings when it came to the legal position of contempt of Parliament, an old doctrine (actually based on the divine right of Kings not to be insulted) sometimes codified but in NSW reliant on common law.

    In the course of declaring my atheism, and general banter,attracting the usual b/s on atheism being a belief unto itself, I constructed a story where the roof blows off a brothel next door and lands on Pell’s Cathedral. In the ensuing legal case, keeping in mind the ban on condoms:

    I’d also be arguing from that scenario, in Pell v Knocking Shop (2007) 69 Commonwealth Law Reports 69 in defence of damages for the latter, a chain of causation and plaintiff’s contributory negligence: obeying Pell’s rule on condoms and the freak simultaneous coming together of the participants which blew the roof off.

    Now my point is, if theists (and catholics) can’t laugh at that, it means they are so imbued with delusional false values that we can never break through. OTOH, those on the borderline between say agnosticism and belief, may be assisted by humour to realise that the ridicule had some solid foundations. I really think humour can be a circuit breaker that cuts through the nice/nasty atheist approach, for the benefit of borderline theists.

    (I guess in the final analysis I’m a mean atheist who wants to have fun.)

  19. says

    I think it’s weird that atheism provokes such defensiveness in believers. I do believe in God, but I also believe that my relationship with God is just about the most personal thing there is, and I almost NEVER discuss it. This is maybe the second time this year that I have. I find being asked to pray for stuff as offensive as being asked to go home and jerk off my boyfriend. My belief in God is MINE, and no one else is going to tell me what to do with it. No one else should be telling you what to do with your nonbelief in God.

    On a side note, another thing I’ve noticed that provokes defensiveness is when I tell people I don’t have cable. I haven’t had it for two years, because I don’t want to spend my money or my time that way. I really, truly, don’t give a damn what other people do with theirs, but they start in with the defense the minute they find out about my lack of cable. “I almost never watch!” “I only have it so I can watch The History Channel!” Um….ohhhkay, back when I had it, my personal tastes ran more towards E! True Hollywood Stories and MTV True Life, but whatever!

    I don’t understand why others can’t respect the fact that people’s choices and beliefs are their own and have nothing to do with others. I don’t have cable because I don’t want it, just like lots of other stuff I don’t want (a gun, an RV, a turkey deep fryer, a gravy boat, a sherry decanter, etc.). You guys don’t believe in God because you just don’t, not as a personal slap in the face to anyone else. As a believer, I certainly don’t take it that way.

  20. says

    I am a “nice” person, having learned early on that courtesy & politeness generally have positive benefits to me. (A fine example of atheistic ethics based on the result of interacting with reality rather than the proclamations of a Fairy.)

    But I am also a firm believer in the method of “tough love”, which I define as “always speaking truth to nonsense” albeit with an open mind & heart.
    (This has nothing to do with “ToughLove” type programs which are based on a superior power demanding obedience with harsh consequences for not complying.)

    In order to be truthful to others, you have to actually listen to them and here is where I think both “mean” and “nice” atheists really fail.

    The “mean” atheists, like the more fundamentalistic Believers, often have contempt for the other party’s ideas. This contempt obscures the positive aspects of the other’s ways of dealing with reality. This contempt can be based on “willful ignorance” of the other.

    The “nice” atheists fail in not being fully truthful and open with their Believing counterparts in the interest of apparent social harmony. This might be considered to be a form of self-contempt; not trusting one’s own ideas or ability to convey them.

    The “mean” atheists often lack compassion. The “nice” atheists often lack courage.

    I try to be just an atheist.

  21. KarmaPolice says

    Well, as you know who said, it is safer to be feared than loved.

    Just an aside, but claiming ideological brotherhood with Tiberius…. Maybe not such a great idea.

    Just sayin’.

  22. KarmaPolice says

    The “mean” atheists often lack compassion. The “nice” atheists often lack courage.

    I try to be just an atheist.

    Nice. Very nice. Hats off, and such.

  23. ConcernedJoe says

    #17 Carlie — thanks for sharing … sums it up wonderfully

    yet I must admit I feel

    #23 Library Diva is right on too (no come-on here LD .. but you sound like my type of person) and I don’t see myself justified to get in her business (even though I feel tremendous urge to give a puzzled “why?” re: the god thing I would not — no need for conflict with a good and benign (NOT pejoratively said) person – and as she said it is HER business)

    yet again for different reasons – mainly that I cannot bring myself to add conflict to already troubled people can I bring myself to challenge believers for example:

    a) Old Aunt Tizzy dying and expressing her peace with meeting her maker, seeing her husband again, etc. I mean I wouldn’t agree at all and do think it would be a fantasy – then again as long as I am not being asked to participate who am I to needlessly cause distress in Old Aunt Tizzy who kept her believe a private thing through her life any way (like LD)
    b) However when I encounter the godiots who gather around a terminally ill child and mouth off it’s “god’s plan” etc etc – gag gag gag gag .. and I have to just take all that sickening stuff and bite my tongue to save the parent further torment and conflict .. well it makes me sick but I do it.

    Point is – I suspect most of us mean-atheists in (a) or (b) would avoid conflict … yet in my mind – re: (b) .. we’d have a lot of justification for taking up arms against the NOT so benign godiotcy .. but don’t because of other “polite” concerns. Then again we atheists are not supposed to care about others, morals, etc. etc…. maybe I am not an atheist because while a very imperfect person – I just do – A LOT!!

  24. Graculus says

    Just an aside, but claiming ideological brotherhood with Tiberius…. Maybe not such a great idea.

    What Nick was writing was descriptive, not prescriptive, and it was pretty much the exact opposite of ideology.

    He also wrote: “when the people are intrusted with the care of any privilege or liberty, being less disposed to encroach upon it, they will of necessity take better care of it; and being unable to take it away themselves, will prevent others from doing so.”

  25. Raging Braytard says

    PZ thinks he’s mean, but Ed could easily beat him up with his superior logical abilities and whatnot.

    I’ll take overused jokes for $1,000, Alex.

  26. says

    When my sister died (nearly 20 tears ago), I was backpacking in the Hetch Hetchy wilderness and did not find out until I was back. They kindly waited for her funeral until I could attend.

    At the funeral I was appalled at the religious garbage that was presented, not because of my beliefs, because of my sister’s beliefs. I was outraged as she was presented as a believer in this tripe. But, despite my anger at what I felt was a defamation of her character, I bit my tongue and said nothing.

    I did, however, let my brother in law know how I felt after the funeral. He is an obsequious ass (and was my HS poly-sci teacher) and said essentially that what she believed was unimportant. That the funeral was for “us”, the people present, most of whom did believe in Fairy worship.

    I am still sorry that I wasn’t a meaner atheist that day.