Please stop showing off how stupid atheists can be

Once upon a time, the growing atheist community was shattered by the emergence of a disruptive faction who thought there is more to this business than just disbelieving in gods. They were tyrants who wanted to force atheists to do more than yell slogans about how religion is a cancer, and maybe build constructive communities. These were the wicked Social Justice Warriors, or SJWs. They committed the abominable crime of bringing feminism into atheism, of being anti-war and anti-racism, of supporting equality with even LGBT people, and tainted the idyllic purity of true Reason and Rationality with…with values <hack, spit> and ideology (atheism was free of ideology before, existing in a realm of pure thought). These SJWs dared to dismiss the great good Old Guard of Atheism when all they did was exhibit a little light misogyny or xenophobia or corruption. They dared to criticize other atheists! They must be punished!

Well, I confess: I am one of those SJWs. Some people think I’m one of the ringleaders of this diverse group of terrible egalitarians and idealists, and therefore, they are entirely justified in coming to my blog and…actively demonstrating that I was right all along, and there’s a deplorable subset of atheists who aren’t very rational at all? I don’t get it, but regular readers of Pharyngula have noticed a series of abusive, nasty, misogynistic & homophobic & transphobic & anti-semitic & just plain vile comments showing up lately. Like these:

Just so you know, these are all from one lone vigilante, out to prove that he is a smart, reasonable, logical representative of modern atheism by going on an obsessive crusade against SJWs, using obscene slurs against everyone who is not a white Anglo-Saxon cis het man. He’s gone through dozens of hotmail accounts and made hundreds of these short, thoughtless posts to make his point, whatever it is, and I’ve just been blacklisting his accounts and deleting his obscenities almost as fast as he makes them. I don’t understand why, but he seems bound and determined to prove that some atheists can be deplorable, hateful, and illogical by making an example of himself.

So, I’m sorry to say, I’ve switched on the commenting feature that holds a new commenter’s first post in a queue awaiting my approval. This shouldn’t affect regular commenters, but if you’re new here, there might be a delay in your comments appearing. All because one atheist is an asshole.


  1. barry21 says

    Thanks for doing so, PZ. The troll’s overnight comments on your Pity Party thread sucked.

  2. strangerinastrangeland says

    I have only seen the first comment on the list – and it doesn’t seem I missed much – but is there any indication that this person is anything else than your bog-standard troll? I mean, what makes you believe that this guy is an atheist? Could be of course, but all I saw in that list of bile is obviously an issue with your promotion of social justice and general humanistic value. In my experience, people that are afraid of changes to their beloved world order in which white cis-het men are on top can come from both an atheist and a religious background.

  3. =8)-DX says

    @stragnerinastrangeland #2

    He’s gone through dozens of hotmail accounts and made hundreds of these short, thoughtless posts to make his point,

    if you read the OP carefully, you’d have seen PZ has read many more comments by this person. Presumably somewhere in there was information the person is an atheist. Also, what meaningful distinction are you trying to make with “bog-standard troll”. A hateful bigot is a hateful bigot. Also the atheism is relevant here, since it was the atheist movement loudly proclaimed how its humanist values were so much superior to the religious ones, which is the hypocrisy of “there’s a deplorable subset of atheists who aren’t very rational at all” PZ is pointing out.


  4. says

    strangerinastrangeland: he made hundreds of comments, and you only saw one, so you question whether he was an atheist?

    He flat out announced that he was. And declared his worship of Hitchens. And was familiar with all of the Deep Rifts and various events of the last decade, which is indicative of an ungodly interest in the soap-operaish infighting among atheists in all that time.

    Charlotte Benton: I wouldn’t go that far, but I can say that the atheist community has far outdone the Catholic community in their irrational hatred.

  5. Russell Glasser says

    Reminds me of the old days, when Dennis “Dave Mabus” Markuze used to obsessively follow a bunch of prominent atheists and post these creepy, unhinged, rambling screeds threatening hell and murder on everyone he talked to. Mostly he just seemed like a joke at the time. He must have thought he was doing a really great job of shaking up the atheist world and making them question their whole foundation. Everyone who got his messages just thought “Who is this loser and why doesn’t he have better things to do?”

    Of course, now comments sections everywhere seem to be filled with thousands of Dave Mabuses. The behavior has practically been validated and normalized by the kind of media they consume and the people they voted for.

  6. Russell Glasser says

    Reminds me of the old days, when Dennis “Dave Mabus” Markuze used to obsessively follow a bunch of prominent atheists and post these creepy, unhinged, rambling screeds threatening hell and murder on everyone he talked to. Mostly he just seemed like a joke at the time. He must have thought he was doing a really great job of shaking up the atheist world and making them question their whole foundation. Everyone who got his messages just thought “Who is this loser and why doesn’t he have better things to do?”

    Of course, now comments sections everywhere seem to be filled with thousands of Dave Mabuses. The behavior has practically been validated and normalized by the kind of media they consume and the people they voted for.

  7. says

    Is this thing on? One two three four.
    It astonishes me that the haters keep on hating, without any end in sight. One hater I’m aware of (in the radfem world) has been hating for nearly my entire lifetime, and I’m nearly at the half-century mark. Why waste your finite time on this planet making other people as miserable as this particular vile specimen?

  8. birgerjohansson says

    The blog Aardvarchaeology once got mail from wossname, the guy with the reptilian shape-shifters living in Buckingham Palace .
    At least that stuff was interesting.
    Maybe PZ could put together a bestiarium of trolls, displaying their individual quirks for study.
    Are they anti-semites or do they blame the eskimos?
    Can they spell? How many errors per sentence? Are they into rape threats or murder threats? How many arguments do they borrow from Benito and Adolph?

  9. birgerjohansson says

    BTW I follow several ex-muslims at Youtube. The hate mail they receive from true believers do not differ significantly from the stuff PZ and his colleagues have received over the years.
    The thinking processes of haters seem truncated to toddler level leaving limited scope for cultural differences.
    And for some reason, I started thinking about Rush Limbaugh.
    Xanthe @9
    “Why waste your finite time on this planet making other people miserable?”.
    They leave behind an empty space. There is no plaque saying “David Duke went to school here”.

  10. DonDueed says

    Not sure if I’m a regular-enough commenter to avoid moderation. I’m just popping in to point out the irony of the fact that the uber-troll is hating on everyone who’s not a white Anglo-Saxon cis het man, here on the blog of a white Anglo-Saxon cis het man.

  11. spinynorman8 says

    @PZ #5 post:

    It sucks to be the target of such irrational hatred and stupidity. I probably speak for a lot of us when I say that we admire you for continuing to speak truth and reason despite the toll it must take on you to be one of the leading public voices on this topic. It is true bravery.

    However, if I might provide a gentle critique: I think your reply to stranger’s very reasonable question was a bit snarky. I had the same initial reaction, so probably many others did as well. It would have been more than sufficient to skip the outpouring of frustration in the first paragraph and just simply tell everyone what you left out that led you to that (also reasonable) conclusion.

  12. raven says

    Well, I confess: I am one of those SJWs.

    SJW since I was a teenager and proud of it.
    What brought me in was the Vietnam war. I saw kids not much older than I was getting killed by the thousands in Vietnam for no visible reason. Also, a million Vietnamese getting killed.
    Oddly enough, at that time and for many decades after, I was a xian.

    Atheism is the low hanging fruit and it is easy,.
    The gods do nothing because they don’t exist.
    Once you think about it and examine the data, it is obvious.
    You get a cookie and then what?

  13. Sean Boyd says

    Sorry you had to go this route, PZ, in the sense that it sucks that you can’t trust people on the Interwebz to be, well, decent. Hopefully this is cutting back on the amount of time you need to spend pushing these trolls back under their bridges.

  14. says

    birgerjohansson: all of the above. It’s crank magnetism all the way through, and there’s a weird kind of shared pathology to all of the trolls.

  15. raven says

    Maybe PZ could put together a bestiarium of trolls, ..

    It’s been done already, at least partly. The internet is decades old by now.
    These trolls are simple and simple minded. That is why they are trolls.
    What I posted last night.

    I’ve seen a few notorious trolls outed due to police activity.
    Three ended up with criminal convictions.
    One was killed in a shootout with the police during an inept robbery of a jewelry store.
    Most of us know about another persistent FTB troll in Canada whose name is not typed and what happened to him.

    The lesson is that they are all mentally fogged up to a great extent.
    The other lesson is that what you see is what you get.
    These people aren’t hiding anything. They are just smearing what passes for the contents of their brains on other people’s computer screens.

  16. Artor says

    The idiot troll, not only despite his worst efforts, but because of them, has managed to drive up the traffic numbers on the blog, while having what little substance there was in his excretions deleted almost immediately. I expect his efforts in the rest of his life are equally as useless and counterproductive to his goals. He seemed really, spectacularly stupid.

  17. says

    I don’t come to the comments often anymore but darn.
    I just don’t get it. Why waste such time on posting that crap in comments, cycling through emails and ip’s to be able to do so. It’s so.. futile. Imagine your life being so filled with hate you spend time doing this.

  18. R. L. Foster says

    I must have read 40 of that troll’s one liner putdowns yesterday. It was so unlike what I usually read here that I found it weirdly engrossing. Kind of like sitting in on someone else’s disturbing therapy sessions. I found his obsession with all things gay sex revealing. He’s a one note troll. Glad PZ pitched him overboard.

  19. outis says

    Well, it’s a pity that PZ has to expend time and effort to rid the section of that particular little pustule, but such things seem inevitable.
    “There’s a weird kind of shared pathology to all of the trolls”: that’s the main problem. One thing the internet managed to do is bring into existence a constellation of novel mental conditions, few of them pretty. Mmm.

  20. birgerjohansson says

    ‘”A shared pathology”
    I am thinking of the “black ice” anti-hacker algorithms in “Neuromancer” by William Gibson.
    Fine-tune it to troll brains and fry them without hurting anyone else (it requires people to have their neural systems physically wired to internet, a minor obstacle to the scheme).

  21. whheydt says

    Hmmm… Does Danish-German (with–probably–French in the #3 spot…some Huguenots in the woodpile…) cis het man count in there somewhere?

    Actually…a forum I read (and post on) has had a “first post to moderation” policy for at least 6 years now. Since that forum permits one to edit ones posts later, the moderators have to fairly constantly edit/lock/delete post-edit spam links, but it’s a real boon for fixing typos or other errors if used responsibly.

  22. davidc1 says

    I must apologise to you doc ,I didn’t realize how stressful it must be for you to keep dealing with these foul mouthed batshit crazy ,barking mad wackalons .I don’t agree with “Don’t Feed The Trolls ” ,I think that if you carry on taking the piss out of them they will finally either give up ,or what passes for brains with them will finally melt and run out of their ears .

    Wots this CIS Het i see on here ?

  23. says

    Ha. Whenever I feel down like I have accomplished nothing of value and my presence on this planet is of no worth, people like this troll are always a reminder that there always are more pathetic beings than me.

  24. says

    I haven’t posted in a while so I’m curious…

    Also, its unfortunate it needed, but its for the best really. Although, I confess, I enjoy reading a bit of tolling now and again, just to shake it up some, but it needs to be good trolling. Not that hateful boring ass kind of crap.

  25. beholder says


    I am thinking of the “black ice” anti-hacker algorithms in “Neuromancer” by William Gibson.
    Fine-tune it to troll brains and fry them without hurting anyone else

    Judging from the oceans of fascist tears spilled on the subject, any acknowledgment of minority identities in pop culture seems to do the job.

  26. Tethys says

    I’m happy to see the troll has been removed, and that the end result was a bonus of more blog traffic. Most of their comments were basic cretin gender based insults, but it’s slightly concerning when the trolls up their attention seeking by escalating into violent fantasies.

    I appreciate that Owlmirror and John Morales both joined me in a round of filling the Levar Burton thread with any bit of on topic trivia, while pointedly ignoring the copious troll droppings. Judging by its now deleted frantic burst of troll attention seeking, the virtual shunning was quite effective at annoying the troll. I must admit, the schadenfreude was delicious.

  27. John M. Osborne says

    I remember Dave Mabus and the rest. I am sorry you’re going through this PZ.

    The kind of trolling is also unhinged – are they deliberately misgendering you or is this a regular anti-SJW thing I haven’t encountered (outside of one guy who insisted on calling Bill Clinton Billary).

    Well, stand up for what you can against these assholes, I am sorry you’re going through it though because it does take a toll.

  28. says

    I’m not suggesting a specific solution because there may be more than one needed and it’s a tough problem. Part of the challenge is naming a social dominance behavior can be enough to engage doubling down with the same or related behavior in the same category. Poke at the homophobic slur and see an antisemitic use of Jew appear. The intensity and repetitiveness of the response is because they want to be so much trouble that others won’t try to call out the behavior.

    I’ve had multiple instances of it at the nexdoor politics board I am on. In some cases the behavior has decreased and I’ll have to think about specifics but for now one example is the conflation of “left/liberal/socialist/communist/democrat” has massively decreased because people do get tired having their ignorance pointed out as ignorance. It feels bad. Some dramatically go elsewhere, and there are other rationalizations (“just an opinion”/”freedom of speech”) but people don’t have to stop pointing out deliberate insulting political misidentification.

    One poster likes to make references to the Ds and demons, they have largely stopped because I always ask to see the demon-related things. Lots more but it’s hard to expressively organize right now.

  29. says

    I think “my right to critisize your opinion is separate from your right to an opinion” and “what does your right to an opinion have to do with my right to critisize your opinion?” tweaks for ” freedom of speech” are good responses to the “just an opinion”/”muh freedom of speech” as rhetorical defensiveness.

  30. unclefrogy says

    I do not know if I can claim honestly to be a SJW not having done much in the way of combat except on the personal level. although I have always supported the ideals I thought that was what the U.S. was founded upon regardless of the actual results sorry to say. It was primarily what eventually drew me toward disbelief along with the study of what science has uncovered of the nature of existence.
    there one comment that got through by the last visitor and antagonist that reminded me of the old days.
    he “screamed” calling us all freaks among other things. i am of an age that I was there back in the day the 60’s , the press generally called a certain percent of the population hippies but that is not what those who identified with the “ideals and vision” of those being called “hippies” it was the term freaks that held as the truth “wave your freak flag high” so I am still a f’n freak get use to it It is not an insult to me and I am pretty sure much of the insults thrown were not really seen as much of an insult by those it was aimed at either.
    i have been privileged to have a say in the ongoing conversation here and am grateful for that. It has been a place of solace and I can say hope that places like this still exist. what ever you have to do to keep it going I thank you.
    uncle frogy

  31. jillianemergent says

    Well, the Social Justice War rallying cry caused me to register here. So there’s that.

    Actually, I was a very occasional commenter here, many years and a gender ago. I’m back, with improvements on the factory settings.

  32. chrislawson says

    Russell Glasser@6–

    DM was not a joke and didn’t seem like it at the time (not to me at least). He posted many thousands of horrific threats — not just death threats, but threats to rape and mutilate people’s children — and the Canadian police refused to do anything about what was quite clearly a frequent recurring felony…until he started turning up unannounced to scout out atheist conventions.

  33. says

    …and yep, I did. Is cool.

    “First-time posters go to mod queue” is a sensible, relatively low-effort response to unhinged trolls. Applaud PZ for implementing it.

  34. publicola says

    How empty inside these people must be. They struggle so hard to matter, yet always fail. I don’t know whether to ignore them or pity them. It’s too bad there isn’t someone, like Spock’s half brother in Star Trek 5, who could just walk up to them and take their pain away.

  35. favog says

    I never really understood that whole conflict between/over “dictionary atheism” and “atheism plus”. If I stand up and say, “Hey, you know, I thought about it and this whole God thing is pretty much nonsense”, isn’t my next obvious step that, even if I think I’ve just made a Single Statement On a Single Subject, I have to rethink all of my opinions about morality and the workings of society that were derived from my old opinion? Isn’t everything that I believed was true because God says so now needing a reexamination and probably new answers because if God isn’t real he couldn’t have said any of those things? Technically, I’m a “dictionary atheist”, but I’ve never thought that I didn’t need to understand my roles and interworkings with society in moral, real and practical ways.

  36. says

    You might be amused to know that he is still knocking at the door. He has created a couple of new email accounts — they include words like “Gandhi” and “feminism” in the account name — and tried to make innocuous comments to get his foot in the door, but he’s just too recognizable at this point. He’s clearly frustrated, because his latest blocked comment, under “”, is “Myers is a FAG”. That’s it, just “Myers is a FAG”.

    I know it’s not fair that I get to bathe in his tears every time I check the approval queue, so I thought I’d share.

  37. unclefrogy says

    back in the day those kinds of guys would call me a “N*******R lover” I understood the aggression but I could not argue with the phrase I did not know how to safely answer them then.
    uncle frogy

  38. some bastard on the internet says

    It’s been some time since I’ve dropped my two rusty, lint-covered pennies here, so I don’t know if this’ll get held up.

    Just wanted to pop in and say that I do enjoy the blogs on this site, and I very much respect the work you all do (both professionally and socially).

    Cheers to you, FTB!

    -some bastard on the internet

  39. tacitus says

    Being called names by religious fanatics is more fun. Someone on the Christian subreddit called me a child of Lucifer yesterday.

  40. blf says

    @55, I just asked good old Luci if she recognised you. Flipping through the biggest Rolodex I’ve ever seen, she’s… not sure. Maybe her wife, Chris of Nazareth Stables, can recall (Christy is currently helping with microchipped Covid-19 vaccines and hasn’t replied yet).

  41. davidc1 says

    @49 No ,he is a lower form schoolboy at an English public school ,for you Americans ,that means private school .
    I remember the days at my public school ,midnight night feasts in the dorm ,and roasting the fags .

  42. Rowan vet-tech says

    @55 tacitus –

    My aunt called me Satan’s daughter when I was 11 years old because I didn’t want to play with her home-schooled, only-child, 5 year old son for a fourth day in a row and wanted to just read a book instead.

  43. Rob Grigjanis says

    Susan @58: Yes, fagging (being a personal servant to sixth form boys) was done by fags.

  44. PaulBC says

    Rowan vet-tech@59

    My aunt called me Satan’s daughter

    You just triggered The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde in my head, and I am going to blame you if it stays in my head the whole day.

    ♫ Bonnie and Clyde were pretty lookin’ people
    But I can tell you people They were the devil’s children ♫

    (I must have heard this a lot at an impressionable age, also “They left him lying in a pool of blood/And laughed about it all the way home.”)

  45. says

    @60. Thanks Rob :) I remember reading something about that (I think it was Orwell reminiscing about jolly old English customs. But I didn’t want to Google the term not knowing what else I’d find.

  46. says

    As time goes on I’m figuring out the use of always having a new place to argue politics. I’m always trying to get better control of political conflict oriented tension. I’m working on choosing the tension level in one place and extending that control. I have a lot more control but I’m still getting better objective awareness of the instincts.

    Another recent situation on the nextdoor politics board worth mentioning. Condemnation of “uncle tim” without even an attempt to engage with the meaning of “uncle tom”. I pointed out the policing of Black Culture without any reason even attempted, and pointed out that in-group political pejoratives aren’t bad just because (see RHINO/Never Trumper).

    Today I have pointed out that 2 responses were entirely R partisan sarcasm in place of an actual response.

    I’m starting to see responding to slogans instead of policies as a big problem. Lots of attacking of “defund the police” and emphasizing of what is being removed/defunded, and political defiance regarding questions about proposed policies connected to “defund the police” . It has elements similar to avoiding the messages associated with BLM.

  47. PaulBC says

    Brony@63 I can’t even imagine talking politics with people on NextDoor, i.e. the worst of both worlds: people who I don’t know enough to trust but who could probably figure out my address and where my kids go to school, and walk right over there.

    In fact NextDoor is bad enough when it’s just the nosy neighbors’ society complaining about stepping in dog shit. FWIW, I try to be a good neighbor and I appreciate others doing the same, but I am not interested in turning it into a virtual fishbowl.

  48. PaulBC says

    me@64 …and I live in community that NYT’s dashboard identifies as a Democratic bubble. I still just don’t want to trigger the intramural squabbles, or worse, uncover one of the Trumpies that NYT assures me are out there.

  49. says

    @PaulBC 64
    It’s useful for figuring out new political complications. Did you know that if someone is banned from a discussion board that isn’t set up to be private you can’t permeanintly ban them (my take on the issue so far)? All they have to do is click back in. One person who has had posts deleted for pandemic related misinformation has been an object example in abusive behavior.

    They’ve started their own “general politics group” and make posts advertising this board that include personal and partisan accusations, without even a pretense of showing anything. Just gossip. They posted and yesterday I pointed out that they were representing a group and did not give any examples of things like “threats” that were allowed to be posted.

    It’s quite an education in our nature.

  50. says

    I’ve been able to better articulate several political strategies.

    One has to do with people who display political defiance when asked to support their claims (or demands to support them when the claims are disparaging), and the same individuals are happy to use demands of support themselves. I have individually told about 5 people that I’m not letting them use my ethics against me and they get reciprocal “opinion mode” until we have explicit discussions about claims and support.

    Another has to do with asking people with strong feelings about things to show me what they have feelings about. I’ve started mentioning it as switching to a mode of communication other than gossip. And I tell them that as their political opponent it’s advantageous if they can’t or won’t support their claims.

    There is a whole sub-section about just bluntly referring to us as political opponents. Some people have not seen arguing and critisizing on a politics board as inherently political because of how some people see politics as this bad thing and not general human instinct.

  51. Louis says


    I remember Ray.

    From the Before Time. When these new-fangled blog things had not taken off yet. Back when the internet was good, and free, and there were no tro…

    …Yeah that part didn’t happen.


  52. PaulBC says

    Brony, Social Justice Cenobite@67 When I was in college in the 80s, I was willing to engage Reagan Republicans on things like economic incentives or even their callous disregard of the AIDS crisis. It could get annoying, and they could get smug, but the hostility did not rise to the level of a threat. I would probably do a lot better now if I could go back in time and present my side. I might even “win” an argument, like that really matters.

    But even then, their genteel conservatism could include the idea that anti-Apartheid protesters were foolish and the best thing the US could do is maintain friendly trade relations with South Africa and not push them on something like that (implicit assumption that white people are probably better at running the country anyway). I would have disagreed, but my own disagreement wouldn’t have risen to hostility, and we could have a “friendly” political debate. Again, if I were transported back in time, I’d be saying what evil assholes they are. Have they listened to what they’re saying? My working hypothesis is that most of the Reagan supporters I knew became Trump supporters seamlessly and are still Trump supporters now.

    Another thing that’s different is I perceive an actual threat. My family took a trip on the Central Coast (before the pandemic) and think we made it as far as Ventura. We walked past a very large pickup festooned with Trump stickers, though nothing overtly hostile (or I doubt they’d think so). Without even thinking I told my kids “Just keep walking.” as if I were hustling them past a drug deal in progress. I mean, I just had alarm bells going off in my head. It was literally a parked pickup truck.

    So I think two things have change. I don’t discount that I have changed. I am protective, particularly around my family. Even if Trump supporters aren’t going to harm me, they fail a risk/benefit test by providing zero benefit along with indeterminate risk. I love my bubble. I love my neighbors.

    But I do think that the overall hostility is greater. Even with Trump out of the White House, his supporters are no conceding defeat, and they do post a greater threat to me than a Reagan supporter would have in the 1980s. I am too busy protecting myself to even consider engaging… though I agree that political discussion is not in itself a problem.