Our world in a photo

This picture is all over the place, so I don’t have the original source to credit, but it’s still wonderful. At the Global Atheist Convention 2012, we were picketed briefly by an angry mob of Muslims who wanted us all to go to Hell, the sooner the better. So in response, two gay men…

Love vs. Hate, Tolerance vs. Intolerance. That’s what it’s all about. I’m glad I’m on the right side.

(Whoever took that photo, let me know and I’ll update this. I met the two subjects of the picture too — very nice guys, but I didn’t get your names. Fill me in!)

Got the info: that’s Gregory Storer and Michael Barnett.


  1. Charlie Foxtrot says

    That’s all sorts of awesome!
    I got a few photos of the beardy, shouty guys, but I missed that classic moment. I wish I’d been there to cheer and clap as well. :)

  2. ibbica says

    I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the pose of that third guy from the left in the back (the one in brown) made me laugh XD

  3. platyhelminthe says

    Beautiful. I wonder how many of the ostensibly disgusted onlookers were secretly jealous at that moment? Further, I wonder how many had erect penises?

  4. Gregory in Seattle says

    The Global Atheist Convention… always in Melbourne, mid March? I would really like to go next year, and the more planning time I have, the better.

  5. says

    I love the final destination sign in the back ground, because it always reminds me of Carlin, “All destinations are final! That’s what it means, destiny-final. If you haven’t gotten where you’re going, you aren’t there yet.”

    And the reaction of the man dressed in brown in the background to the left of the kissing couple is great.

    The Stegotetrabolodon of Famine

  6. says

    The last GAC was in 2010, this one is in 2012; it’s unlikely that there will be one next year, and no guarantees for 2014. These things take tremendous work on the part of the hosting organization.

  7. Gregory in Seattle says

    @PZ Myers #11 – Thanks for the info. On the off chance of 2014, I will start saving my frequently flyer miles.

  8. Epinephrine says

    I think the 3rd sign from the left reads, “We are the Son’s of ADAM Not the Son’s of APES”.

    The misuse of apostrophes! It burns!

  9. scottportman says

    Yup. Love wins over hate, most of the time. I feel obligated to point out that I know a few very religious Muslims who are quietly and courageously helping gay men escape from Iraq, and who feel a great deal of shame when their religion is reflected in the scowling hate on the faces of those idiots in the back of the photo. I have some sympathy for the position that religiosity is a sort of social or cultural disease – that it can parasitize otherwise good people and stunt them.

    One of the men is holding a sign that says “Atheism is humiliation of reason”. Islam had a claim to reason – it was supposed to be the logical alternative to bizarre Byzantine orthodoxy. Jesus is god? No, jesus was just a man. Islam was supposed to be the rational, enlightened alternative. Too bad it ossified in the 7th century. The scientific revolution fueled the industrial revolution, which fueled the European domination of the Muslim world, which put the lie to Islam’s superiority as a way of understanding the universe. That still hurts and it fuels vast insecurity. I think in part the chronic insecurity within Islam gets projected as shame with gay people, who are stereotyped as weak and lacking the sort of virile manhood that most of those guys holding signs wish they had. Gay men in the West are disliked by Islamists, but gay men within Islam are even more demonized. They exemplify a sort of shame and powelessness that ties in with this vast insecurity with respect to the west. It’s easy to demonize gay people as a foreign influence, feminizing and weakening Islam from the inside. That’s why these idiots parade around with signs about humiliation, and that’s why Sadrist militia thugs beat gay men to death with bricks in Baghdad.

    But love wins out. The Muslims who are quietly helping these guys survive know this. I’d hope that as critical as we are about the nature of religion itself, and the perverse effects of religion, that we remember that some of those who are still within the religion are kind and decent human beings. One might say they are that way despite the religion, but let’s bash ideas rather than people.

  10. lexie says

    Beautiful photo. Really does illustrate the truth of our movement.

    I hope there is a GAC in Melbourne in 2014. I’m a relatively new at being an open atheist (have really been one quite a while before I came out last year). Unfortunately I couldn’t come to this years due to being a poor student so I really hope there is one in 2-3 years time by which time I hope I have at least a little money.

  11. robro says

    Note the sign on the left: Islam — The Only Monotheistic Religion. Amusing. Now the other “monotheistic” religions will start arguing with them, so we don’t need to. You could probably even get Muslims fighting one another over which version of Islam is the true monotheism.

  12. says

    Scott Portman: Great comment. The humiliation you describe is also common among fundie xtians, who are disproportionately represented in poor and ill-educated regions. Rather than make the obvious connection, because lifelong belief is a sunk cost, they lash out at places and people doing better than they are — but, of course, they take their aggressions out on the vulnerable among themselves.

  13. robro says

    @scottportman — It seems simpler to say that it’s the unquestioning adherence to belief systems that leads to repression, bigotry, and hate. Homophobic bigotry is widespread in Western Christianity.

  14. Gregory in Seattle says

    @scottportman #16 – The Muslim view of Christianity was set, not by “reason”, but by the fact that the Christians living in Mecca at the time of Muhammad were Nestorians. The Nestorians (who still survive today as the Assyrian Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church) held that Jesus had two distinct and entirely separate natures, one human and one divine, which opposed the inseparable-two-in-one theology proclaimed at the First Council of Ephesus in 431. Where most Christian groups emphasized Jesus’ divinity, Nestorians tended to emphasize his humanity.

    Also, either the Christians Muhammad knew were also Docetists (a set of gnostic doctrines found in many early Christian communities) or Muhammad had contact with different Nestorian and Docetist groups and conflated the two sets of doctrine: Sura 4:157–158 says

    … they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself.

    This was a typical belief of Docetists: The material world was evil, so God could not possibly have wrapped himself up in a physical body. Without a body, Jesus could not have actually been crucified. The most common explanation for the Crucifixion among Docetists was that it was actually Simon of Cyrene, the man that Matthew, Mark and Luke claim helped Jesus carry the cross. For his self-sacrifice, Simon became the first Christian to “shed his body” and return to God.

  15. Dick the Damned says

    robro #18, Islam is no more monotheistic than Christianity. Both the Bible Bogey & the Koran Kacker are merely chief gods, & the angels are minor gods. It’s how these religions evolved out of their precursors.

  16. Rieux says

    Do we know the foreground guys are actually gay (or bi)?

    I mean, it seems pretty likely, but maybe they’re merely (1) heterosexual but (2) nevertheless awesome.

    Hell, I’m an admitted heterosexual, and I’d be happy to do some liplock with a fellow male in the interest of sticking it (ahem) to religious idiots in the manner depicted.

    …Or cheer on an actual gay couple doing so. ’Tsall good.

  17. Brownian says

    Why does one of those guys have a sign mentioning ‘Allan’?


  18. IslandBrewer says

    Dear Gregory and/or Michael,

    My most profuse apologies for mistaking one of you for Sigh the Slimy Motherfucker.


  19. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    This pic gives me the happies. I didn’t even see the garbage bigots in the background at first. Just saw the kissers in the front and smiled.

  20. stonyground says

    I think that religious folk feeling the need to trot along and protest or prosletise at atheist events is interesting. At the moment it appears to be only Christians and Muslims, unless anyone knows differently. They don’t seem to want to do this to each other, at least not in the West, presumably if they tried it there would be some kind of fight. Has anyone seen Christians and Muslims encounter each other at an atheist meeting? I could imagine that being entertaining whatever happened.

  21. says

    Nothing reveals the lie of Christian/Jewish/Muslim love like their utter revulsion of two people falling in love and making each other happy.

    Guys, I feel like going crazy. I do not understand how the RCC can rape children for centuries, demand immunity for it, spend money fighting statute of limitations for child abuse, and then STILL be considered good and moral and be allowed to testify to Congress on women’s health care. That the majority of people can look at the behavior of the very religious and not see it for the insanity it is only makes me feel like I must be the one that is insane.

    I’m sick of being a gaytheist in this country. The lowest of the low in everyone else’s opinion. And yet, I feel like my moral compass is demonstrably better than those who would denigrate me.

  22. robro says

    Dick #24 — Oh, I know that :–) In fact, I started to say that the Whabbi sect, the Saudi state religion, started out as a purification of Islam from “idolatry”, saint cults, tomb worship, etc. That was the mid-18th Century…not so long ago really and well after the conversion. I would wager that if you dig around in the back roads of Muslim countries you’ll find lots of vestiges of pre-Islamic religions that are polytheistic, much like you do in Christiananity.

  23. says

    If you watch the video, they even managed to spell “Atheism” wrong.

    And yes, two people showing their affection to each other with a sweet kiss should always just make everybody else just happy because of more love in this world.

    Unless one of them left you for the other, then you’re allowed to be unhappy

  24. crocodoc says

    I just found this comment on youtube when I looked for the GAC protesters:

    Arab scientists have invented a time-travel device that can transport an entire country back to the 7th century.

    They’re calling it ‘Islam’.

    You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUWw2EI1J80 if you want to give it a thumbs up, ivel Athiests.

  25. says


    I do not understand how the RCC can rape children for centuries, demand immunity for it, spend money fighting statute of limitations for child abuse, and then STILL be considered good and moral and be allowed to testify to Congress on women’s health care. That the majority of people can look at the behavior of the very religious and not see it for the insanity it is only makes me feel like I must be the one that is insane.

    No, you’re not.

    You can see the bullshit for what it is, which is something that most people cannot. As far as I can tell, this is simply the unwillingness of most people to challenge authority*– especially “divine” authority. To the common layperson, the crimes of the RCC are excused as “a few bad actors”, because otherwise, they would have to call their entire worldview into question. As immature as it is, most Catholics aren’t ready to let go of that identity.

    Anyway, if your moral compass is based on not harming others (or the golden rule or what-have-you), you most definitely are a better person than anyone that would excuse this kind of criminal behavior. Never fear, baryau, you’re not alone.

    *Go ahead and insert the appropriate Godwinning argument here.

  26. says



    There… is no glob but Allan and Mondo Hammond is his probate?

    (/I just will never understand religion.)

  27. says

    I was luck enough to share a table with these two at the Gala Dinner. They are awesome. Follow them on Twitter: @gregorystorer and @mikeybear

  28. hypatiasdaughter says

    Well, at first I was all icked out & disgusted by this picture.
    But then I realized it wasn’t Lush Limpballs kissing a woman and the feeling went away.

  29. gregorystorer says

    Michael is very kissable, I’d kiss him anywhere, even in front of a bunch of rabid muslims.

    Yes, yes, we’re gay, love each other and are very keen about equality.

    And we like men with beards…

  30. gardengnome says

    “The only monotheistic religion” Every time I read that I can’t help but mentally add “Gets your soul whiter than white!” Prob’ly just me…

    Seriously though, a group of grim men (no women that I can see) in beards and medieval clothes carrying signs on sticks – it’s not a great advertisement for Islam.

  31. RFW says

    #34 robro:

    I would wager that if you dig around in the back roads of Muslim countries you’ll find lots of vestiges of pre-Islamic religions that are polytheistic, much like you do in Christiananity.

    Sheerly by chance, at the moment I’m browsing an abridged, illustrated, one-volume edition of Arnold Toynbee’s “A Study of History” (OUP, 1972, ISBN 07-065129-9)

    I note that Toynbee has some very interesting points to make about both Christianity’s and Islam’s debts to Judaism, and all three of them to the Syrian polytheistic religious milieu ca. 1000 BCE.

    I’ve no idea if Toynbee’s model of history is valid or not, but he appears to have compiled in one book an extraordinary “history of the civilized world”, much like James Frazer’s extraordinary history of religion and myth in “The Golden Bough” (a one-volume abridged edition of which I am also slowly working my way through).

  32. Kristof says

    I always thought that best response to stupid protesters would be mass impression of Nelson Muntz and his famous “Ha-Ha!”.

  33. jnorris says

    Goodness! Every religious nutcase protest must be counter-protested by multiple gay kiss-ins.

  34. Furr-a-Bruin says

    I love the idea of a same-sex kiss-a-thon as a counter to hateful theist protests. ;)

    “Manuel! I need more snogging bears!”* And of course, I’d be happy to join the osculating ursines.

    *A take off on Gene Balboa’s catch phrase from Yacht Rock, of course.

  35. robro says

    RFW — Yep, there’s no question that all the “monotheistic” religions had their start in a swarm of gods and goddess.

    In The Secret Origins of the Bible Tim Callahan has some interesting linguistic analyses of the names of several important Old Testament characters connecting them with various gods in the region. This includes Adam, Eve, Caine, Abel, Seth, the sons of Noah, and many others. That’s why those folks lived so long…they were semi-immortal demigods.

    However, my point is that polytheism is still practiced in one form or another by the followers of monotheistic religions. The Catholic and Orthodox sects are the most obvious with their pantheon of God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Mary, Apostles, and Saints. And, of course, the two most important Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter, are alive with paganism with trees, eggs, and bunnies.

    I know less about Islam, but I suspect that some of the adoration of various figures, such as Ali among the Shia, is essentially polytheistic worship, though I suppose a Muslim would deny that vehemently.

    Perhaps even more to the point is that even traditional demigods and practices still survive, particularly in rural areas among less educated people. There are a number of ancient cults in Iraq, for example, where I suspect many of the followers are also Muslim. The Druids in the Levant are similar. Likewise, there are obscure cultural practices all over the Christian world that harken back to totemistic cults, ancestor worship, and so forth.

    The past dies, but hard and slow.