YouTube, where atheism goes to rot

I haven’t been on YouTube for quite a while. I wonder why?

Oh. This is why.

I stopped bothering because I didn’t want to be associated with these goons, and it didn’t matter what I said…any video would be swarmed with abuse. Every once in a while I tell myself I shouldn’t surrender the medium so easily and that I should at least make a little effort now and then, but meh…I’d have to come up with a vainglorious name, figure out how to animate a goofy avatar, and learn how to overlook a lot of gross logical fallacies.

Maybe I should take up some invitations to appear on more youtube podcasts, but the latest one I got just today…hoo boy. I don’t accept blindly, so I looked up some of their recent videos, and first thing I saw was one announcing that transgenders are mentally ill, and decided that no, I can just ignore that person forever and not miss anything of interest.

We might be able to get a few of us on FtB to try a joint project, but again, I think they all share Steve Shive’s impression of the youtube atheist community.


  1. Siobhan says

    We might be able to get a few of us on FtB to try a joint project, but again, I think they all share Steve Shive’s impression of the youtube atheist community.

    We could probably pull it off if we disabled YouTube comments and sent them back here instead. I know 99.9% of them wouldn’t make it through my filter, plus having to sign up for an extra website might deter some of the trolls.

  2. tkreacher says

    I’ve thought about going in on YouTube to deal with some of those goons, but my computer is too low budget to handle editing.

    So instead I just have to not watch them. :P

  3. Great American Satan says

    I still wouldn’t want to do it because youtube would start filling my sidebar with the scum of the universe. I’ve got uBlock so I can hide those things from view, but it still grosses me out that google has a profile of me where they imagine I approve of those libertarian philosophy dudebro shitstains on any level.

    Totally off topic, but wouldn’t it be nice if the corporations that try to read our minds with secret metadata would allow us to correct misconceptions in them? Like, because I watched a slomo video of a watermelon exploding, it doesn’t mean I think Anita Arkeesian wants to add my genitals to an idol in the Temple of Misandry.

  4. Paulino says

    Number 3 was pretty much prevalent throughout atheism in general, and still is. Only recently, I’ve seen a few voices criticizing religion in a more civilized manner, and calling for a bit of restraint.

  5. Great American Satan says

    paulino@4 –

    It isn’t a civility thing for me. Probably most FtB people are (gack) similar to youtube scum in finding civility toward religion overrated/oppressive. We’d just be less likely than them to drop a bunch of ableist slurs, misogyny, and creepiness in the progress of flipping priests all of the birds.

    Though I am open to reconsidering my position on civility, it’s off topic. For me the breakdown of what I’m hatin’:

    Libertarian: Willful ignorance of the realities of oppression in favor of a philosophy that justifies absolute greed.

    Philosophy: A fine pursuit in theory, but when everything is treated as academic and subject for debate, as an amusement to be held up under a glass jar, the passion of the oppressed ends up being disregarded as “emotional” and “irrational.” Meanwhile, somehow the choices of subject and approach in their philosophical discourse somehow magically end up reinforcing the racist sexist etc status quo.

    Dudebro: The boys club mentality

    Shitstain: A lot of these people take pride in essentially being movie villains. See: the “dark enlightenment.”

    Also, your statement could be true of “atheism in general” if by that you only mean anglo cultures where atheists constitute a minority. I don’t know what atheism is like in Mexico or Mongolia, and seriously doubt it’s quite as strongly associated with being a narrow-minded bully everywhere.

  6. Great American Satan says

    Paulino@4 – my need to comment there was based on the assumption you were addressing me at comment 3, but i realize you were addressing item 3 in the video, which i didn’t watch (because i don’t want atheist videos in my recs on youtube). Oops! :-P

  7. says

    I like that guy!

    @great American Satan.

    I don’t disgree that libertarians, in general, come across as assholes. But there are good(ish) libertarians out there.

    As for your dig at philosophy:

    actual philosophers are aware of using philosophy to justify the status quo is a huge problem. See section 2. Every single actual philosopher I know that deals with political theory is deeply concerned about ideology in Marx’s sense.

  8. tbtabby says

    Youtube atheists got the notion that they’re smarter than everyone else from their years of dealing with creationists. Little did they realize that they were only smart compared to the creationists…and so’s yeast.

  9. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    political corrector here:
    mental condition is preferable to m___ illness
    EG: autism is a condition not an illness (oh my!, excuse me making that assumption, tssk tssk).
    Gender disphoria is a condition, not an illness [raising hand].
    none of the above are illness that can be cured. Treatment does not require a cure to be effective.
    uhhh, oh no …. excuse me getting above my allowed status.
    gosh. The above is my preference not necessarily universal. sorry for appearing to be an authority.
    gee that’s my opinions might as well stand by them. so here goes…posting…

  10. says

    slithey tove

    No. Mental illness is perfectly acceptable, terminology wise. And no, calling it an “illness” does not imply it’s curable — there are these things in medicine called “chronic illnesses”, and mental illnesses are very much chronic in nature.

    Autism is not a “condition”, it is a recognized DISABILITY, and should be referred to as such.

    Euphemistically calling these things “conditions” DOES imply that they are changeable and curable. I’ll thank you NOT to do that.

  11. Ruby says

    I was under the impression that the creation of “Neurodiversity” language was to acknowledge that, while mental illness is most certainly a very real thing, Autistic people are not mentally ill and should not be referred to as such.

    (Also, can someone whose watched the video tell me, is that a real YT Atheist vid or a parody/take-down of YT Atheist vids?)

  12. says

    For those who aren’t watching because “YouTube Atheism” (which is absolutely legit, BTW… I fucking hate it, too)…

    Steve Shives is actually one of the (very very rare) good ones. He’s a feminist, supports Black Lives Matter, intersectional… a bonafide SJW. honestly, IMO, he’d fit right in here at FTB.

  13. says

    (Erm… Steve Shives is the one who made/narrated the video. It’s actually worth watching, although it’s also, at least here, preaching to the choir.)

  14. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 11:
    sincerely, sorry.
    I tried to fill that note(11) with pre-apologies.
    I am stuck with “illness” being a stigma, no matter how appropriate it may be to use for a particular condition. [sheesh still stuck at using that terminology]
    11 was trying to respond to the excerpted quote that “transgender is a mental illness”. Which I assumed was used for the stigmatic implication.
    I guess I got defensive for no reason.

  15. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    oops, all references to 11 in 17 were intended to refer to @9. [left as an exercize for the reader]

  16. Vivec says

    Mental illness is perfectly acceptable, terminology wise.

    Speak for yourself =/

  17. =8)-DX says

    PZ, please continue to have your lectures and interviews recorded and uploaded (also on your channel would help), it’s always a pleasure to hear you speak, on both biology and religion. In times like this I think it should always be mandatory to mention the “good” (mostly – intersectionality is hard) YouTube Atheist channels: apart from Shives, people like Rebecca Watson, Zinnia Jones, Laci Green, Matt Dillahunty, Foxy Jezebel, Kristi Winters, Kevin Logan and many others. No one is perfect but there are many more decent people, who just aren’t as popular because they couldn’t cash in on the “angry white dudebro atheist” market. Also I’ve seen many channels not focussed on atheism which nonetheless are atheist and put out an occasional video in support of feminism/LGBTQ rights/BLM (vihart – a maths channel who came out with amazing videos on just those topics). Which reminds me I have to go on a YT channel search again soon.

  18. wzrd1 says

    I think that one suggestion would work effectively, use YouTube, but disable comments and direct them to this site.
    The comments area on YouTube is nearly as bad a cesspool of trollery as Facebook is.

  19. rorschach says

    Good one.
    One objection. “it (youtube atheists) reflects poorly on the rest of atheism”.
    Not true. The vast majority of organised atheism is afflicted and rife with cocky ignorance, sexism and misogyny. This is the normal atheism.
    Socially aware atheists are the exeption to the sad rule. As of now, avoid atheists if possible, you are likely to encounter assholes.
    If you are looking for atheist contributions on YT, I suggest PZ lectures/talks, anything by Greta Christina, Sikivu Hutchinson, Yemisi Ilesanmi, or selected Hitchslaps. Or Jaclyn Glenn if you’re 12.
    And don’t read the comments. Ever.

  20. w00dview says

    While I would normally agree that Youtube comment sections are some of the most vile toxic sewage dumps on the net, the comments for this video have been pretty damn reasonable and very few arseholes are having tantrums on there.

    Either they are not aware of it (which I doubt, the mere mention of social issues on Youtube attracts the bigot crowd like blood in the water does to sharks) or Steve actually moderates the comments on his video (if it is possible for the video uploader to have that control on the comments section). If it is moderation, then Youtube comments section might be worth a damn if there was far stricter enforcement on how to behave. In my experience, the moderated comment sections tend to foster actual discussion and I come away learning new perspectives or cool facts while the “free speech uber ailes” approach taken to places like 4chan tend to be about as insightful as looking at the graffiti on a bathroom wall in a pub. I will take “censorship” any day of the week, thanks.

  21. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    I’d have to come up with a vainglorious name

    My vote? Justicebeard The Proclaimer.

  22. w00dview says

    John-Henry-Beck @ 25

    Thanks for the info, moderation really does make a lovely difference. I can imagine it would be soul crushing sifting out the garbage though.

  23. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    ugh. strange thought just occurred. so I’ll spew it out regardless:
    Metaphorically, YouTube comments are a bowl of M&Ms with many actually disguised poison tablets.

    When the metaphor is applied to Muslims being M&Ms, the bigot advice is to avoid the whole bowl (flushing the whole lot)
    but when the M&Ms are metaphorically YouTube comments, bigots advise picking and choosing, do not even consider dumping the whole bowl.

    something’s escaping my rationality.

    I see some value to allowing reasonable comments to random amateur [literally] videos, yet how to filter reasonableness is a problem. So to allow good comments, inevitably awful comments will occur. so gosh IDK

  24. says

    I believe there is a setting that allows your to review all comments before they get published (on a video you published), but I’m not sure if there’s much control beyond that. i.e. banning, etc.

  25. Siobhan says

    My comments policy is informed by the observation that most people with strong opinions on a subject are unlikely to change those opinions because of internet comments. The second observation is that the stronger your opinions, the more likely you are to comment. My conclusion is that the comments section is seldom a constructive location for dialogue, as a good faith dialogue would require some suggestion that either party is actually fact-checking the evidence presented (or indeed, presenting evidence, another thing that seems rare) and keeping personal attacks out of the conversation. As most comments slapping fights do not observe these characteristics, most trolls and blockheads are filtered and never seen by my commentariat, unless I let them through to refute their point myself.

  26. Pierce R. Butler says

    Great American Satan @ # 3: … wouldn’t it be nice if the corporations that try to read our minds with secret metadata would allow us to correct misconceptions in them?

    Pffaugh. Facebook (where I have an account for convenience of info coming in but post practically nothing going out) attributed to me graduation from a high school I’ve never heard of, in (I strongly suspect) an attempt to get me to name my actual alma mater so they could spam me and my former classmates alike with more “do you know …?” come-ons. So sly & clever, Mr. Zuckerberg!

    My advice: if you can’t ignore ’em, tell each one wildly divergent stories and remind the advertisers they’re paying for very dubious mined data.

  27. MetzO'Magic says

    tbtabby @ 8
    “Youtube atheists got the notion that they’re smarter than everyone else from their years of dealing with creationists. Little did they realize that they were only smart compared to the creationists…and so’s yeast.”

    Spot on.

  28. says

    @chigau — Yep, gender dysphoria is a mental illness. It just happens to be treatable by fixing the physical parts that are causing the mental illness.

    @vivec — Shut up. You don’t get to insist that you’re “not mentally ill” when you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness. Don’t sugar coat it with feel-good bullshit, because that way lies dehumanization and denial.

  29. Vivec says

    Fuck off, just because I fall under the diagnosis doesn’t mean I have to agree with the diagnosis’ existence as a mental illness.

    Also, you are aware that the current DSM criteria don’t necessitate physical dysphoria, right? You can qualify for the diagnosis with purely social dysphoria.

  30. Vivec says

    For the record, I do think I’m mentally ill, but not because I’m trans. The mere act of not-identifying with your assigned gender (ie, being transgender) isn’t a mental illness, and I don’t even agree that gender dysphoria is one.

  31. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Having a mental illness of my own, I don’t much like the idea of arguing that it’s bad to call something a mental illness or acknowledge mental illnesses. That said, given how often I’ve heard or read people argue that, “actually, there’s a good reason to believe that being transgender is a mental illness,” not as a reason to support trans people, but to deny their gender, oppose treatment, and label them as delusional and dangerous, I think I’d argue that that way lies dehumanization and denial.
    Maybe the answer to that is better education for people about what mental illness actually means, but I can’t say I’m convinced that being transgender actually counts anyway. I don’t consider myself trans, but I am non binary, and that’s mostly not a problem for me, except when dealing with societal expectations of how I should think and feel and act. Some physical things are uncomfortable, but I’m pretty much fine with myself except when dealing with other people’s ideas and expectations of gender. On the other hand, my anxiety has incapacitated me on many occasions, and it was only through counselling that I found a way not to be so strongly effected by it. Maybe it’s different for people who do experience a significant degree of physical dysphoria and who are trans, but as far as my experience with it goes, it seems far more like a problem of societal norms and intolerance toward those of us who don’t adhere to those norms than it does one of mental illness.

  32. says

    @vivec — Your disagreement doesn’t magically make gender dysphoria not a mental illness. I could sit here and argue that anxiety isn’t a mental illness until I’m blue in the face — won’t change the fact that it is. (Nor will it change the fact that I need medication for it.) Denialism doesn’t help anyone.

    @Athywren — Exactly. Treating the term “mental illness” like it’s an unspeakable slur on par with n*gg*r only serves to further stigmatize those of us who are mentally ill. Euphemisms and dancing around it just make it easy to brush MI off as no big deal. IOW, it’s Not Helping.

  33. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says

    Exactly. So we shouldn’t support using it to apply things that don’t actually appear to be mental illnesses in order to dismiss them as delusions.

  34. Vivec says

    @36 Oh yeah, because there’s never been cases of natural human behavior being labeled “mental illness” just because they violate current social norms.

    Your exact same logic could be used to uphold the treatment of homosexuality as a mental illness. Because hey, you can say that being gay is normal until you’re blue in the face, but that doesn’t change that it’s a mental illness, right?

    I can’t imagine being so desperate as wanting to appeal to the same logic that led to gay people receiving shock treatment just for being gay, just to have dysphoria taken seriously, so I legitimately hope that you eventually get some help with that.

    In the meanwhile, I will continue to deny that it is a mental illness, and will continue to actively campaign to have it no longer be considered one.

  35. Vivec says

    Also, still not seeing how it necessarily being an illness even makes sense.

    Under the current DSM diagnosis, you can qualify with purely social dysphoria, which doesn’t require any sort of treatment. If social dysphoria – people refusing to treat you as your identified gender – counts as a mental illness, why not every other form of oppression?

    Is “being the target of racism” a mental illness?

  36. The Mellow Monkey says

    Self-identification is incredibly important, particularly for populations that have been historically pathologized. I consider myself disabled due to my auditory processing difficulties. Other people who are capitol D Deaf reject the label of disabled. Rejecting the label disabled does not necessarily mean that those people who are Deaf are saying people with disabilities are bad, inferior, less capable, or furthering any other ableist stigma. Similarly, saying that being transgender is not a mental illness and we reject being labelled as such is not necessarily slandering people who are mentally ill and find that label helpful. Ableism is rampant and so it’s entirely possible for someone to be perpetuating it while also doing the above, but fighting ableism doesn’t mean we have to identify in any particular way to do so.

    WMDKitty, telling the trans community how we must identify is taking away the self-determination that people who are politically Deaf, many autism activists, and others fight for. Some trans people may find the mental illness label useful. A whole lot of us do not.

  37. says

    @TMM — I’m not telling anyone how they must identify, I’m simply pointing out that DENIAL OF MENTAL ILLNESS, which is what Vivec is doing, is HARMING PEOPLE. Gender dysphoria is absolutely a mental illness, because it AFFECTS AND OCCURS IN THE MIND, AND IMPAIRS FUNCTIONING. Vivec’s denialism doesn’t change reality.

    @Vivec — Seriously, just stop. Lecturing me about a subject I LIVE ON A DAILY BASIS is not helping. And don’t start whining at me about being trans, either — I’m genderqueer, and I refuse to participate in denialism that HARMS ME.

  38. Vivec says

    Oh, so you get to be the arbiter of what is and isn’t a mental illness because you’re trans, but I can’t disagree despite also being trans?

    Fuck off, I’m not willing to let people pathologize a normal part of who I am just to make it easier to get treatment.

  39. Vivec says

    Being gay occurs in the mind and affects functioning in a homophobic society, just like social dysphoria occurs in the mind and affects functioning in a transphobic society. By your exact logic, being gay should still be considered a mental illness. So, y’know, fuck off again.

  40. says

    *sigh* Let me spell it out really slowly.

    DYSPHORIA IS REAL. Yes, it’s quite literally all in your head, but it’s not, you know, “all in your head” in the “you’re imagining things” way. (Important distinction!) I explicitly affirm that this is a thing that exists.

    IT IS ENTIRELY IN YOUR MIND. Triggered by all kinds of shit in society, sure, but it’s still all in your head. (The dysphoria part, not the “being trans” part.) The one unique feature of gender dysphoria is that successful treatment can (and in many cases does) involve fixing the “bodily wrongness” to the degree desired by the patient. Can’t do that with anxiety or depression, no matter how much I wish I could.

    IT NEGATIVELY IMPACTS THE SUFFERER’S DAILY FUNCTIONING. I’d go so far as to argue that for some, gender dysphoria is outright disabling. Society insisting you’re [A] when you’re really [B] is anywhere from frustrating to completely brain-breaking. Just like anxiety can be disabling for some. Or depression. Or OCD. There’s no shame in having a mental illness or a disability — it’s just one more thing life throws at you.

    By all reasonable definitions, it is a mental illness. (With, yes, very physical components, but it’s still all mental in nature.)

    You are directly contributing to the stigma against mental illness when you deny these simple facts. You’re essentially saying, “Dysphoria can’t be a mental illness because mental illnesses are bad things to have.”

    You’re hurting people with your stance.

  41. Athywren - not the moon you're looking for says


    Society insisting you’re [A] when you’re really [B] is anywhere from frustrating to completely brain-breaking.

    If society were to stop insisting we’re one thing when we’re another, would being trans stop being a mental illness?
    Going further, if society were to start insisting that cis people are trans, would being cis start to be a mental illness?
    I ask because, while there are social components to my anxiety, neither it nor how debilitating it might be on any given day stems from society insisting anything about me – it is entirely within me. If people actually were gathering around, staring at me whenever I left the house, loudly criticising me and tearing me down… that wouldn’t be me suffering from anxiety. That would be me being the victim of a weird local bullying campaign. At that point, it’s not an overactive fight/flight mechanism at work in me, it’s the world around me actually being utterly shit to me, and I don’t think it would be fair to continue to say I’m mentally ill in that situation, when the problem is about people treating me badly.

  42. The Mellow Monkey says

    DYSPHORIA IS REAL. Yes, it’s quite literally all in your head, but it’s not, you know, “all in your head” in the “you’re imagining things” way. (Important distinction!) I explicitly affirm that this is a thing that exists.
    IT IS ENTIRELY IN YOUR MIND. Triggered by all kinds of shit in society, sure, but it’s still all in your head.

    Drapetomania, the mental illness that caused slaves to flee their masters. Unhappiness with being enslaved is “all in your head”. Triggered by all kinds of shit in society, sure, but it’s still all in your head.

    That was pseudoscience because the only necessary “cure” was to fix stuff that was, in fact, not in your head. Being stressed out because I’m poor and need more money is entirely different from my anxiety, even if both situations have an impact on my mental state. Being sad because my best friend just died and I need to grieve and work through this is entirely different from my depression, even if both situations have an impact on my mental state. There’s a difference between bad feelings and mental illnesses and recognizing this fact is one of the ways we can start to alleviate the underlying problems.

  43. Vivec says

    You’re essentially saying, “Dysphoria can’t be a mental illness because mental illnesses are bad things to have.”

    That’s not my argument at all and you’re an idiot if you think it is.

    Explain how social dysphoria, which is included in the current DSM diagnosis, can be a mental illness when it wouldn’t exist in a less-transphobic society.

    Further, explain how your criteria for mental illness would not also include “suffering from racism” and “being gay” as mental illnesses.

  44. says

    @Chigau — Irrelevant.
    @Athywren — Fair point, I suppose. But it still doesn’t change reality.
    @Vivec — Except, you know, IT WAS your argument. As for social dysphoria, you don’t know that it “wouldn’t exist” in a less-transphobic society. You’re guessing.

  45. Vivec says

    You’re guessing.

    You’re an idiot.

    In a society where people treated me as my identified gender, I wouldn’t have dysphoria from not being treated as my identified gender.

  46. Vivec says

    Once again, how would your criteria for mental illness would not also include being gay or something like drapetomania as a mental illness.

    Being gay is in your head and can severely impact your quality of life in a homophobic society, just like social dysphoria.