Something is Rotten in Atheism: The “Amazing Atheist” and Secular Racism

TJ Kirk, aka "The Amazing Atheist"
TJ Kirk, aka “The Amazing Atheist”

Comment policy: Comments telling me to “show you the evidence” of TJ’s racism will not be published; if you haven’t been convinced by Martin Hughes’s thorough, science-based critiques, you’re so deep in denial that it’s not worth my time to try to convince you. Similarly, comments that are primarily insults or just telling me to “kill myself” will be tossed straight down the hole.

Watching atheists start to talk about — or desperately deny — the racism of “The Amazing Atheist” (aka TJ Kirk1) has made me feel both despondent and hopeful about the future of organized atheism. I’m flashing between extremes after recovering from a week where I’ve already spent a lot of time depressed as fuck.

I’m not going to go into laying out reasons that Kirk’s videos were racist. First of all, that should be both obvious and unsurprising to anyone who’s familiar with Kirk’s history or thinks about racism on any level deeper than “the KKK are bad people.” Second of all,  Martin Hughes has done a much better job of tearing Kirk apart than I ever could. The masterful skill of his writing in his original piece and then in his follow-up after Kirk responded with a 37-minute tirade makes me envious. It also gives me hope. Knowing that we have people with that degree of skill and integrity still willing to speak up in our communities means that we may yet heal ourselves of the disease that “The Amazing Atheist” represents. Have no doubt: He is a disease, and if left untreated, he and his fans may kill any hope that atheism can make the world a better place.

Watching any of Kirk’s videos is difficult under the best of circumstances, and I have to give props to Hughes for getting through both of those things and managing to critique them in such a cogent and precise manner. Even after less than ten minutes of the second one, I could feel my brain cells dying off en masse. I didn’t want to write a critique; I just wanted to throw my laptop across the room and scream in grief and horror that this venomous asshole is the person shaping so many people’s idea of what it means to be an atheist.

But when my brain and heart were able to do their usual functions again, I thought a little more about TJ Kirk and his followers. The problem goes beyond Kirk’s basic lack of humanity and bigotry. At root, he’s a fraud: No matter how much he prances and rants about the virtues of skepticism and atheism, he’s lousy at both. He lacks the humility that secularism needs to thrive.

The Humility of Atheism

Humility is not what most people immediately associate with atheists. The stereotype most beloved by theists is that of the prideful, arrogant atheist, so completely blinded by their loyalty to science and reason that they can’t see the plain truth (i.e., God) sitting in front of them. And in fact, the reverse is true. Probably the hardest thing about atheist and skeptical philosophies is that you’re always going to be haunted by one constant, disturbing whisper lodged in the back of your brain saying: “I could be wrong about this.”

The Amazing Atheist is for people who don’t want to hear that whisper, and don’t want to satisfy it by asking those questions. He is for the people who crave the unquestionable truths and solid moral ground that priests and preachers hand out from the pulpit, yet for whatever reason don’t quite feel comfortable saying “God.”

So they turn to The Amazing Atheist and give him the same place in their hearts and minds that a fundamentalist Christian would reserve for Pat Robertson. Like Robertson, TJ Kirk comforts his viewers by reassuring them that their bigotry and hatred is reasonable and good, and they don’t have to ask that unsettling question that the rest of us hear in the backs of our minds: “Am I wrong on this?”

Although they seem different at first glance, Pat Robertson and TJ Kirk serve almost the exact same function in their communities.
Although they seem different at first glance, Pat Robertson and TJ Kirk serve almost the exact same function in their communities.

I ask that question a lot, and that one fact is what separates me and TJ Kirk. If Martin Hughes had written that essay about me, it would have prompted a long period of self-examination and doubt while I tried to look honestly at my words, my motivations, and what they really sounded like outside of my head. So far as I can tell, such a period of contemplation would be against the most fundamental elements of TJ Kirk’s character. The entire 37-minute rant, ugly and vile as it is, is a poor example of reason or skepticism, but it is an excellent demonstration of faith-based doctrine. The entire thing breaks down into a single referential loop: “I’m not racist,” TJ Kirk is saying, “Therefore what I said is not racist.” Kirk can take this article of faith to be as true as the Book of Genesis is to a creationist. It is solid and certain, and need not be questioned.

In some ways, that must be a very nice way to live. TJ Kirk doesn’t have to keep satisfying that little voice in his mind, demanding evidence that you’re actually doing the right thing. He probably sleeps more comfortably than I do at night. But as an ethos, it’s rotten. It results in the unabashed selfishness that he flaunts just as eagerly as his atheism. The problems of black people being driven from their homes by gentrification are not his problems, he gleefully reminds us at multiple points.

In a way, TJ Kirk’s failure as a skeptic is even worse than merely being a bigot. It’s one thing to have prejudices; we all do. But with the tools of skepticism, Kirk and his fans would at least have the chance to become better people. They could look at those prejudices, test them, and discard them. If Kirk has his way, they won’t. The message of his channel is that we shouldn’t ask questions about racism or rape culture or any of those other messy social justice issues. If you’re a fan of The Amazing Atheist, you can be assured that you’re not a bigot just “because”.

Sometimes I do wish I could get that question out of my head and live with stable certainty about my own morality. I would sleep better. I would enjoy movies and television more, and I could eat food without wondering where it comes from or buy my shirts without wondering what kind of sweatshop they were manufactured in. I would enjoy myself more.

But not really. To stifle that little question, the one that insists you always question yourself, would mean that I had decided to live with a comforting little fantasy world, as unreal and unbelievable as the one that theists construct.

The reality is that in the world we live in, being racist is the default. It is natural for white people to believe all the things that TJ Kirk spews in his videos. He and I and every other person in this society were raised on myths about the pathology of the black family, or the neighborhoods swarming with thugs, or any of a million other slanders against people of color. They are as pervasive in our society as the water surrounding fish. We inhale them every day of our lives until they become part of who we are at a cellular level.

To not be racist (or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic) requires that you take positive, deliberate action. It demand that you look at all those racist stereotypes and look at them like a good skeptic, holding them up against the facts and then discarding them when it’s obvious that they’re molded out of the same bullshit as Heaven, Hell, and the Garden of Eden.

And it means that you have to let that question keep playing over and over in your head, even when it’s uncomfortable: “Am I wrong on this? Am I being racist?” Even for the best of us, the answer will sometimes be “Yes.” I can’t think of anything more terrifying than to acknowledge that one fact.

There are some who will say that this is me flaunting my liberal white male guilt and encouraging other white men to be ashamed. They’re wrong. Yes, I have a straight flush of societal privilege: I’m a cisgendered white man, but I don’t feel guilty about that. Guilt is something about the past, about what you’ve done. What I am is responsible, which is about building the future. I am taking responsibility for being a better person than my culture requires me to be.

If any of TJ Kirk’s fans are reading this, I’m not asking you to be ashamed or guilty. I’m just asking you: Please be skeptics.

The Amazing Atheist Isn’t the Real Problem

That brings us to the final point, and perhaps the most disturbing: The Amazing Atheist is not the real problem. We are. TJ Kirk is all of organized atheism’s problems about race and misogyny writ large. He is the reflection of issues that go far deeper and farther than his single YouTube channel. To paraphrase Voltaire, if TJ Kirk did not exist, it would be necessary for atheists to invent him.

I think that a lot of us have screwed up by treating Kirk as an annoying, disgusting crackpot who could be benignly ignored. He can’t, any more than Donald Trump can be ignored as a serious candidate. Just as a Trump presidency could kill democracy in the United States, TJ Kirk and his ilk could kill atheism. There are already large numbers of people — especially people of color, queer, women, and non-binary people — who avoid organized atheism because we regularly allow people like Kirk to thrive. It breaks my heart, for example, that the brilliant trans blogger Kat Blaque has said that she avoids atheist communities because they’re too toxic.  It breaks my heart in part because I know that it is absolutely true. I know also, that there are countless others just like Kat Blaque who would say the same thing. The fact that we have thousands of people who are just fine with losing the contributions of Kat Blaque and people like her is the part that makes me feel despondent about the future of organized atheism. We cannot survive becoming irrelevant.

On the other hand, we have people like Martin Hughes and like my colleagues here at The Orbit. They give me hope that we can be something more than a club for white guys who want to stroke their egos. Let’s hope that the latter are our future.


Further Reading:

Martin Hughes’s Original Pieces on Patheos:

Niki responded here on The Orbit: Stale Bread Atheism

  1. Just for the sake of this essay, I’m going to pretend that I believe this pathetic little Star Trek reference is actually TAA’s name. Apologies to William Shatner, James T. Kirk, and anyone who’s ever geeked out on the Starship Enterprise and its fellow vessels serving in the Federation. 
Something is Rotten in Atheism: The “Amazing Atheist” and Secular Racism

84 thoughts on “Something is Rotten in Atheism: The “Amazing Atheist” and Secular Racism

  1. 1

    “If Martin Hughes had written that essay about me, it would have prompted a long period of self-examination and doubt while I tried to look honestly at my words, my motivations, and what they really sounded like outside of my head.”

    I think this is one of the most important sentences in your post. Emotions don’t translate well in the written word. The reader’s own emotions will be mixed in with what you’re trying to convey. Last week I wrote an email to my RPG group trying to explain something. The details aren’t important. What is important is I asked a gaming co-worker to read the email first. What she told me about the tone was horrifying. I did have to do some introspection and extensive revision. But even then I decided not to send it. It was just too emotional and better said in person.

    I know this had nothing to do with racism, but it does deal with how words are interpreted and what it says about the speaker and the listener. I have the self-awareness to realize intent can get misinterpreted. But in a way AA doesn’t have that problem. I think he knows full well what is words mean. He just doesn’t want to get called out on it.

  2. 2

    The thing is, you can’t “be a skeptic” or declare that you are “rational” or “logical” or any of the other titles people like to bestow upon themselves. You can apply skepticism or rational thinking or logic… or not. Those are things that have to be worked on every time a new situation presents itself. Too many people withing atheism have decided that because they got one answer right, they know the answers to every other question without having to devote any work towards understanding the issues.

    You can’t “be a skeptic” and then pretend that your every unfounded bias is correct because you hold that title. Yet that’s exactly what a huge chunk of the people in these so-called movements do. They say “I’m logical” and never actually apply any thinking again, and just assume that their preferences must be fact based because they’re brains only do “logical” stuff. It’s also how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created literature’s greatest detective and was also fooled by every paranormal fraud he ever met.

  3. 3

    Nice work. Thanks for addressing this common, prevalent issue within atheism communities. Unfortunately, many of his Twitter followers are blind to his racist. In fact hundreds, if not thousands, of his Twitter followers are people of color.

    I think this happens because many people will follow any Twitter users that are atheists, and they never bother to check TLs and tweets of account they following.

    I always check TL, profiles, and tweets before following an account.

    Hopefully, this work by you and Martin will fire a broadside across Twitter about this guy and his ilk.

    But there are many that follow this same pattern on Twitter. Commonly, they all follow @colinflaherty (If you want more fun, check him out!!).

    So if he is listed in Following or there are tweets to him or retweets of his tweets, that is a good indicator of this strain of racist atheists who seems to target black people and tweet about black racism and white privilege.

    Thank you

  4. T

    The whole problem with this story and several others like it, is that all communities have idiots like TJ in them, or “Thunderf00t,” or Dawkins, you name them. It doesn’t mean “atheism” has a problem, it means those individual atheists have problems, and it has nothing to do with their lack of religious belief. TJ bringing his bigotry into his YouTube page, unfortunately, conflates the issue, and therefore, “atheism” now appears to have a sexism and racism problem.

    By and large, the atheist community is much more sensitive than most others, to the problems plaguing minorities and women.

    However, sadly, the duty unfairly falls on the responsible members of the community to repudiate his behavior until he realizes that he’s making us all look bad.

    1. 4.1

      But the problem is that TJ, Thunderf00t, and Dawkins aren’t just random assholes in the community. If they were, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation. They are prominent figures with thousands of people who are influenced by their words. Because he’s fucking huge on YouTube, TAA is often one of the first public faces that people see when they start to explore atheism, and that’s a pretty serious issue.

      1. Well, as a outsider to the US, I don’t really pay much attention to what happens to the US and with Blacks. (though I was always taught that judging people based on their skin colour was wrong).

        After watching TJ’s videos and reading the responses to him, I can honestly say that I lean much more towards his side. Yet somehow, I don’t have anything against Blacks. Sure, I will grant that he is kind of a ass in his bluntness. But I will take that over the “Oooh, you so racist. Atheist KKK!” that the left likes to use. And I used to be left but SJWs ruined it for me.

      2. And do you want to know why people like TJ, Thunderf00t and Richard Dawkins are such prominent figures with thousands of followers? Because they are reasonable people with mostly good thoughts and they know how to express themselves. The only people I see raging against Dawkins etc. are SJW-assholes who get offended by anything people say. I just don’t get it.

  5. 6

    not a fan of TJ nor of martin but I did watch the video and read martins post. he seems skilled at taking what people said and extrapolating them to be racist. this of course does not mean the extrapolation is valid.

    1. 6.1

      So, if I understand, you think that Martin Hughes is exaggerating TAA’s racism? That he’s twisting his words to make them seem racist? I think that this is a pretty low bar here. If you don’t think that the things TAA said in his videos are racist, I have to wonder what you would consider racist.

      1. The reason why many, many people believe TJ isn’t racist is because he’s never been shown to dismiss and/pr belittle someone based solely on race.
        TJ will always go after ideas and claims, whether he is a blunt asshole about it is besides the point.
        Yes he will belittle people with Hyperbolic imitations but he is without bias as he does it to Everyone.

        Kevin’s comment was very fair and raised a good point.
        You can interpret something to have a certain meaning, it doesn’t mean that was the intended or even correct meaning the creator was expositing.
        Calling someone Racist based on ONE person’s personal interpretation is reckless and belittles the word and it’s impact.
        (Not to mention sweeping thousands of POC who agree with TJ under the rug)

        You’re back handed response is an example of this, you don’t like that Kevin disagreed, you don’t provide an example of TJ’s racism and instead just offhandedly accuse what is a benign commenter of racism as well.
        How can anyone take you calling TJ a racist seriously when it seems you’ll throw the accusation around like rice at a wedding?

        No doubt you think I’m a racist because I agree with TJ, you won’t listen as to why I agree or even who I am, your mind is made up.
        You’re standards for what is racist is separate to the majorities, yet you’re happy for people to think TJ is a racist in the traditional sense of the term, even though you KNOW he’s not.
        All because you don’t like him.

  6. 7

    I’m glad I was able to read up on atheism before YouTube vlogging existed, and before twitter existed period. I’m not sure I would have stuck around had I come across this chode, or read Dawkins’ twitter instead of his books.

    I cringe every time some racist bigot who also doesn’t believe in god calls himself “reasonable,” therefore every racist, bigoted thought that crosses his mind must be reasonable as well. Not believing in god doesn’t make you a reasonable, intelligent person anymore than believing in god makes you a loving, generous person.

  7. 8

    As the Anarchist Shemale (and an outspoken atheist), I’ll be the first to admit that issues aren’t always clean cut and dry. The fact is that there IS a regressive agenda being pushed forth, particularly on the left, aiming not to give equality to blacks, LGBT people, and women, but to give superiority to them. By turning them into “protected classes” inundated from criticism, for example, because any criticism of them immediately becomes racist, homophobic, or misogynistic. While this certainly is the case, it doesn’t mean that criticism against them isn’t actually racist, homophobic, or misogynistic.

    There have been several times as I watched “anti-regressives” speak out against these things when I noticed them crossing the line, in full disregard of the fact that there is a line there, and they are not allowed to cross it–socially or morally. It’s very easy, when calling up the inherent racism involved with something like Black Lives Matter, to cross a line and become a racist oneself. As someone who also speaks out against that Faux Progressivism, I fully appreciate that line, and I think a lot of people who speak out often forget about it, or think that they can say things as divisive and bigoted as these “protected groups” can without facing reprisal. Indeed, they cannot. That battle was already fought, and the straight white male lost. Their only hope now lies in people like me–us members of the “protected classes” who genuinely DO want equality, and not superiority, who think that qualifying for a government grant just for being LGBT is every bit as deplorable as 50 years ago, when being LGBT would have disqualified you for a grant.

    So while speaking out isn’t the problem, I think that much more consideration and care should be put into HOW they are saying things, because… Whether they like it or not, they simply don’t get to play by the same rules that I can play by. I want to see that changed, as do many others, but they will not be the ones who are able to see it changed.

    1. 8.1

      While I appreciate the acknowledgement that there are “lines that should not be crossed” (I’m reading this as “don’t be racist” and “don’t be LGBTQphobic”), I have no idea what you mean by inherent racism in BLM, and protected classes being made into “superior” classes. You seem to be appealing to strategy used in changing society and in such an effort different people WILL have to play by different rules in order to do such a thing. That’s how one deals with bigotry and xenophobia. The rules for interacting with a historically dominant group with individuals consciously and unconsciously trying to maintain that dominance will be different from the rules for interacting with disadvantaged groups. Human psychology requires this. If I have you wrong I would appreciate knowing how.

  8. 9

    A few notes on this article:
    – The autor should do more research. Rationalwiki is a biased source and not taken seriously by anyone outside the SJW cult. The Amazing Atheist’s name actually is Thomas James Kirk, named after his father who was a notorious diploma mill scammer.
    – The author should learn how to write and argue properly. Much like Hughes, the author makes bold claims about TAA (e.g. calling TTA and his followers racist, dogmatic, bigoted and sociopathic) without providing any evidence, logical reasoning or even sources. He uses funny ambiguous language (“The problem goes beyond Kirk’s basic lack of humanity and bigotry”) and non-sequiturs that actually go against his own assertions (“hundreds if not thousands of his twitter followers are people of color”).
    – The author comes across as emotional. He writes sentence after sentence about how disgusted he is with TTA and people like him. This is childish and irrational. It won’t convince any sound-minded reader.
    – The author comes across as smug. On the one hand, he flatly condemns people following TAA as racists and bigots, on the other hand he elevates himself and his peers as being especially rational and unbiased which they are obviously not. Ever heard of, “He that praises himself spatters himself”?

    1. 9.5

      “Bias” is not an argument because every source is biased. What matters is if the bias is rational or irrational. The psychological thing that we call bias has the same form when it drives us towards correct conclusions. It is in fact an irrationally biased view that asserts that mere bias is a reason for rejecting a source.

      Since Chris Hall stated that they were not going to lay out the arguments for the racism you are basically admitting that you are not responding to what they are saying. The ambiguity you point to is related to this, you simply are not the intended audience. As for the “hundreds if not thousands” bit, that is not even in the piece.

      Emotion is implicitly part of all human communication. The very act of using reason and logic requires emotion as part of how we choose to apply it. You will have to provide more than you have to be remotely convincing with respect to demonstrate why the emotion present in Chris Hall’s piece is a problem, and why I should care about your own emotional response to it.

      Finally I don’t really see the smugness, and even if it were there offering a cheap saying is not an argument. See my above bit on bias, if you believe this will lead to a problem you will need to point out how.

    2. 9.6

      -I mean, I guess RationalWiki is biased. I suppose Hall shouldn’t have linked there. Maybe? But bringing that up as a point of contention after all these words? And using SJW as a pejorative in the process? Okay.
      -He absolutely provides sources for his assertions and actually explains why he doesn’t list the evidence: because it’s already been done elsewhere… in the links he has left for you to click on.

      Also, when Hall says that TAA may have thousands of followers who are people of color, it does not go against his assertions of Kirk’s racism. It’s possible to be a racist and have people of other races like you. In America, this is kind of a survival mechanism for many people of color. This is actually a very complicated issue which deals with nuanced concepts like how members of a minority group can be racist against their own minority group. In other words, black people sometimes hate black people, too. And, it’s not uncommon. Some of the most vocal critics of “black culture” are black.
      -Emotion isn’t childish. It’s human. And, given the right context, it’s compelling, too. Given that, this is not a terribly emotional piece. I’d call it “measured.”
      -You’re accusing Hall of smugness when you spent your time criticizing his “research,” writing ability, and emotional state without even bothering to address him by name? Okay, buddy. Good one.

  9. 10

    I don’t think you guys realize that TJ is a comedian. He’s an asshole, that’s his shtick. TJ started out as a way to express feeling of anger towards those of religion. That’s his thing; anger. The thing is, that anger towards religion is getting old, dried up. It has to go elsewhere. Hence, the transition of anger towards the PC, etc. He does it for YouTube, he does it for views. I’m not saying his video wasn’t racist, I’m a fan of his and even i was shaking my head in disagreement non-stop. That doesn’t necessarily mean HE’S racist. In fact, most people who meet him are reportedly charmed by him. Almost everyone TJ argues with on skype, etc almost ALWAYS become friends with him “off-air.” Why? Because TJ is a nice guy, when he’s not recording. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t believe in half the things he says. The moral of the story, The Amazing Atheist is racist, TJ Kirk is not. It’s called a persona.

    1. 10.1

      Except Martin did have a long conversation with him, and if anything disliked him more. You know that if someone adopts a persona of a racist, that is indistinguishable from himself, then he is most likely a racist. Or a very incompetent “satirist” and “comedian” who is perpetuating racism.

    2. 10.2

      That he is a comedian does not matter. Comedy is about transforming emotions related to things we feel negatively about. The manner in which a comedian does this matters because if done badly people get pissed off because the negative feelings merely get more intense. That’s why racist and sexist jokes are a problem, they often reinforce stereotypes and that implicitly will make people feel negatively about such humor (and humor at the expense of racists and sexists themselves will make them feel bad, as they should).

      Doing it for the views/numbers is even more reason to respond to this because if it does get views that is evidence that society has a problem.

      If someone does racism consistently and doubles down on it they build a reputation and racist becomes a rational label. His reaction to his racist video is good evidence that the label should be used. And sometimes racists can and are charming as they are not racist at every moment and many will not be racist in every social forum. Not to mention if they are in a social circle less inclined to call out racism people unable to recognize implicit racism are more likely to see them as charming. That does not make the people who see his racism go away.

      If his persona is racist I suggest that he discard it as it is doing damage to his reputation for good reason. I’m sure many performers using blackface were different when not performing and that does not make such a performance less racist.

  10. 11

    Right at the start of this you say you won’t lay out the reasons what TJ said was racist. Do you not think this might be an important point to cover when accusing someone of racism? What am I, someone who disagrees with you and does not think TJ is racist, to take away from this? You’ve not done any analysis of what he’s said or explained why you have come to the opinion that you have. How am I to reconsider my opinion if you refuse to even provide an example of something racist TJ has said? I can’t apply skepticism or come around to your way of thinking if you won’t even explain your position to me. Instead there are a lot of vague assertions about how terrible TJ is and attempts to poison the well by comparing him to Pat Robertson. It seems to me that this is just an attempt to get a bunch of high fives and congratulations on how great and enlightened you are, because you don’t advance any arguments, you just proudly declare yourself in opposition to TJ and act as though it should just be obvious to everyone that he’s dreadful. Well it’s not obvious to me. I’m willing to listen to your point of view, after all what kind of skeptic would I be if I never considered other points of view, but you need to take at least some steps to convince me.

    1. 11.1

      I’m letting this one comment through just to make a point: I said in the piece that Hughes did an exceptionally detailed job of research and analysis. If you want the basic case for TAA’s racism, go there. I’m not going to rehash the territory that he already covered so excellently. Further comments along these lines will not be approved.

      1. But what if you are wrong though? Have you asked yourself that question? Because you show a degree of certainty while accusing someone of racism that seems troublingly antithetical to the skeptic ways you are ascribing to yourself.

      2. Chris, you mentioned how important it is to ask “What if I’m wrong?” This is something I do every day in my life, and I still agree with TJ. If you’re concerned at all with skepticism, then why would you limit discussion in your own comments section?

        Racism is a serious accusation, don’t you think you have a moral obligation to at least defend your position when challenged? Saying “just go read Martin’s article” is no different then a Christian saying “just read the Bible”.

  11. 12

    So, you deny those that demand the burden of proof because they disagree with you and with Martin? Seems childish to me. You use biased sources, Martin himself is a poor credit with a past of scandals, which like you put in in your comment policy “I decline the to prove the evidence.
    Here is a thought you could toss around and hopefully you consider it, talk to the amazing atheist yourself. Instead of hiding behind biased information formulate your own ORIGINAL opinion by interviewing and talling with him but judging by how crude and closed minded you are I doubt you will consider this avenue since you are afraid of confrontation according to conclusion I see based on the evidence presented to me

    1. 12.1

      The calls for “proof” are a sterling example of moving the goalposts. They’re easily worthy of creationists who keep insisting on “transitional forms.” Martin has laid out proof, including scientific studies on the effects of institutional racism on people of color in the United States. If you have a problem with the points he presents, start addressing them specifically instead of claiming that several thousand words of text provide no “proof.”

      1. It’s not about moving the goalposts man, it’s about a simple observation:
        You say the problem with TAA is his dogmatic “Im not racist” “argument”, but you are applying an equally dogmatic “he IS a racist (and if you think he isn’t, you are a racist too), sounds exactly like the very thing you are criticising, if you are such a superior skeptic, then be that skeptic and provide the evidence, if you don’t, you are just calling yourself one.

      2. No, that is proof that Racism:
        1. exists.
        2. has effects.

        That is not proof that TJ is a racist.

        Proof that Kirk is a racist cannot be that someone else is a racist. Unless you’re proposing that Kirk is a racist because he is white. And all white people are racists. Because if that’s the case, I don’t think it’s TJ that’s the racist here.

  12. 13

    It doesn’t appear that the author’s research of TAA actually involved reviewing any TAA content. If the readers with to look for examples of his supposed racism, all they have to do is watch his videos to look for them. I don’t expect the author’s accusations to hold much weight if that happens, mind you, but I’d love for someone to prove me wrong.

      1. Chris, TJ has hundreds of videos which he’s put out over a time span of almost 10 years, and in addition he’s written a number of books. Don’t you think it’s a bit rash to call him a racist (a serious accusation) over a handful of videos?

        Did you watch TJ’s video where he takes the racist literacy test to highlight how it was impossible to pass and stopped black people from voting for years?

        Why would a racist do that?

        Have you really asked yourself “Could I be wrong?” on this one?

      2. Chris,

        If you did not know it by now (which I think you do), many comments in this thread show why it is very difficult to get people of color, particularly black people, active in the mainstream atheism movement: They distrust white atheists.

        And this not a good position to be in because the mainstream atheism movement can be very useful to help many blacks break through the shackles of the conservatism of the black church.

        Very troubling indeed.

    1. 13.2

      Can you point me to the content in Chris Hall’s piece that suggests he is unfamiliar or misrepresenting TAA’s work? Chris Hall cited Hughes’ piece because it makes sense to listen to black people when it comes to racism, so if there is a problem with the source pointing out the racism perhaps you can get specific?

  13. 14

    I’m not sure if TAA is really racist or if he’s just saying this to get a rise of people, but I hope people don’t make him out to be the face of atheism.

  14. 15

    This is a remarkable and cogent piece, and I have to admit I am not ordinarily a contributor to this or any other atheist-related community. As you’ve cited, the self-congratulatory often drowns out the self-reflective and self-critical for many of these folks. Adherents to various Faith tradions are often the first to aggressively deny and counter-attack any mention of the dark histories of their religions, and in that way many atheists are no different when it comes to addressing historical issues like scientific racism.

  15. 16

    “Just for the sake of this essay, I’m going to pretend that I believe this pathetic little Star Trek reference is actually TAA’s name. Apologies to William Shatner, James T. Kirk, and anyone who’s ever geeked out on the Starship Enterprise and its fellow vessels serving in the Federation.”

    You can go ahead and get rid of this annotation. His name is Thomas James Kirk.

    Your ignorance on the subject matter you write about in this case is astounding.

  16. 17

    Truth should lack humility. It should be visceral. Quite often it is harsh and disturbing.The worth of it is not found in being universally palatable.

    If the goal is to shake people out of their fairly tale world and into reality, you need people like TAA. He is an asset to the cause, not a hindrance. One controversial spokesperson should not and realistically CAN NOT detract from the value of the movement. I’m sure TJ will revel in the fact that you’ve conflated his power over the atheist movement to such a ridiculous degree. But the fact remains, atheist and secular world views are more compatible with modern society.

    One other thing I’d like to mention. Good writing uses specific examples to bolster general ideas. Whenever you find yourself speaking only in generalized terms and refusing to give specifics, you are engaging in sophistry and you should rethink the choices that led you to it.

    “I’m not going to go into laying out reasons that Kirk’s videos were racist. First of all, that should be both obvious and unsurprising.” Yeah you don’t have a unsharpened intellectual axe to grind.

    1. 17.1

      So we need to excuse racism or tolerate racism because TAA is good at being confrontational?

      In that case I’ll point out that your first two paragraphs lacked any specific examples that demonstrate that we need TAA beyond mere assertion. I think we should shun TAA because he is a racist wretch and that we don’t need him. I look forward to your examples that demonstrate that we need him for more than attracting more racists to atheism.

  17. 18

    It seems to me that the current acid test for being a racist/bigot is that you criticize a person in a group or the whole group for unhealthy behavior. Is there a better way to provoke new ideas and thoughts on self improvement when the old methods aren’t working? Unsupported derogatory attacks are just another example of the hyperactive shooting gallery that we live in today.

    1. 18.2

      They were not in my opinion. Were they safe and happy? Nope.

      My point is that the tactics used were cheats – I won’t use any citations to support my point, instead I’ll say he’s a racist, now prove me wrong!

      If Chris’ objective was to spin a lot of people up then I guess it worked but that might be worse than trying to address problems with a sarcastic style video. At least TAA made a few more people aware of several serious issues. How arrogant must he be to draw attention away from issues that affect real people and onto a personal pissing contest with a YouTuber?

      1. You seem to be missing the point, John. I did give citations: I linked to Martin Hughes’s extensive fisking of TAA, and there was a massive chorus of TJ’s flying monkeys crying out, “But where’s your proof?” Since Hughes already did such an excellent job, I chose not to cover the same territory and instead built on his efforts.

  18. 20

    Anyone who actually follows TJ knows he isn’t a racist. He’s made multiple videos, over his near decade long of posting videos decrying racism and racists. This is either a hit piece and/or Chris, you’ve been mislead by people on the regressive, authoritarian left who are overly sensitive beyond reproach. Being for gentrification, is not in of itself racist. Saying that some stereotypes are true is not racist. Saying that blacks commit more crime in the US – when they most certainly do – is not racist. Now, is there reasons for that? Sure and TJ has discussed systemic racism and the effects of it as well. The reason your being lambasted by people defending TJ isn’t that they’re all racist, or that they’re all blind, it’s that you’re wrong. You’ve been mislead. You’re trying to assassinate a person’s character. TJ could literally sue you for this article, and since there isn’t any evidence of him actually be racist, I’d suspect he would win.

    Source: I am a lawyer.

    1. Bob

      Thank you Jeremy for your calm and pointed retort to Chris.

      Hopefully what you’ve said here will roll around in Chris’ head long enough for it to get him to at least question the accusations and insults he’s made here in this supporting hit piece to Martin Hughes first hit piece about TJ. This is whole ordeal is just sad to see. This kind of witch hunt behavior needs to be stopped in it’s tracks. Calling others racist when you have no evidence of racism is downright ignoble.

  19. 21

    I’m happy to say, you haven’t shown why TJ is a racist. You can’t just say that he’s a racist and then proceed to omit any evidence to support your claim and give the excuse that it’s obvious. Let’s say that for the sake of argument he is racist, you haven’t proven it to me or anyone else you’re trying to convince who doesn’t share your biases; so now I’m led to believe you don’t have any real argument other than you think he’s stupid. Now again I’ll grant you the claim he’s a racist, that has no bearing on the state of atheism what so ever. It’s like me saying I don’t like apples therefore physics is wrong. This is just sloppy thinking from someone with extremely transparent motives.

  20. 22

    I love how you criticize the guy without ever really citing him. You just say “Oh, he’s SOOOOOOOOO racist”, but you don’t write which part of what he does/did is racist in your opinion. And you paint with a pretty broad brush here, my friend, just sayin’. Personally, I would give your article a 2/10, would not read again.

  21. 24

    This is tripe. TJ Kirk is not a racist; he’s just not a regressive leftist and he doesn’t believe this insane and evil assertion that “everyone is racist by default.” I guess the times on campus are a-changing. In my day, being a “racist” meant that you disliked another race, felt physical anger or revulsion towards members of that race, and desired to live in a community devoid of them. These days, all you have to do be become a racist is a.) be born and b.) fail to become brainwashed by the regressive left. When I really think about it, it’s you guys who are far more similar to Pat Robertson than TJ is — haven’t Christians always peddled the myth that people are simply born bad, born with Original Sin, and only by kowtowing and paying homage to Christianity one can be absolved of this evil? Sinful by default; eat the cracker, drink the wine, give us 10% of your money, bow to the priest, become saved.

    Same hustle. Do as we do, speak as we do, elevate us, or be deemed a racist.

    Humility. Humility can be good, I suppose, but let’s not confuse humility with being weak, insecure, uncertain of yourself, plagued with imaginary guilt, and open to coercion by self-styled authority figures. These mewling leftists who have allowed themselves to be bullied and shamed into a life of neurotic self-doubt and virtue-signalling would do themselves a favor by standing up, looking at themselves in a mirror, and saying — “hey, I got one life to live, so I’m going to have some fun and be myself, whether other people like it or not. And you know what? I don’t like L’il Wayne’s music. That doesn’t make me racist, it just means i have excellent taste!”

    1. 24.1

      “In my day, being a “racist” meant that you disliked another race, felt physical anger or revulsion towards members of that race, and desired to live in a community devoid of them.”

      That particular definition doesn’t include the possibility (let alone the reality) of institutional racism, though.

      ” These days, all you have to do be become a racist is a.) be born and b.) fail to become brainwashed by the regressive left. When I really think about it, it’s you guys who are far more similar to Pat Robertson than TJ is — haven’t Christians always peddled the myth that people are simply born bad, born with Original Sin, and only by kowtowing and paying homage to Christianity one can be absolved of this evil? Sinful by default; eat the cracker, drink the wine, give us 10% of your money, bow to the priest, become saved.”

      There are important differences though which make this more than a bit of a bad analogy:

      1) Original sin refers to an extraordinarily abstract state of moral lapse that can mean practically anything-especially behaviors that nobody outside of a particular denomination would otherwise consider to be wrong.

      2) Original sin is regarded as something that is permanent and unavoidable.

      3) In comparison, racism refers to behaviors that are volitional and in the case of institutional racism, can be eliminated or at least diminished through human action.

      4) Racism also refers to behaviors that are clearly deleterious to the people that are being abused through it and advantageous to the people either acting in a racist manner or manipulating those who have racist views. In other words, it’s not like original sin that just blames people for existing, or claims that the ‘wrong people having sex’ is an expression of their sinful nature.

      “I don’t like L’il Wayne’s music. That doesn’t make me racist, it just means i have excellent taste!””

      No, but saying that black people can’t make music would make you racist (if you had actually said that).

  22. 25

    So I’m sure this will be deleted but basically your using someone who’s arguments against tj where all debunked by multitudes of tj’s previous videos and couldn’t bother to do even the basic minimum of research before spouting off about him as evidence of his racism. Ya real logical love how far down the shit hole people will go to push their agendas on others

  23. 26

    Putting all the comments in this thread aside (whether rational, irrational, or racist apologetic), the fundamental issue is WHY?

    Why would issues of concern black people be a major concern for a white guy, particulary under the guise of atheism?

    On Twitter, I follow dozens, probably hundreds of atheist of all colors, and there is no atheist who is not a POC (person of color of any background) that finds time to tweet this kinds of racial rhetoric.

    In the secular arena, just advocating against religion is an infinite, never-ending subject matter. One can never run out of material, just pointing out the silliness of the bible would yield years of writing.

    Someone wrote: “Anyone who actually follows TJ knows he isn’t a racist.” I assume this person has had a deep, in-person, personal relationship with TJ.

    If he does not, then TJ should be judge, for this matter, based on his racist rhetoric, since it seems we all have only a virtual, via social media, relationship.

    And words matter, just look at the rise in attacks on racial and ethnic groups in the UK after the Brexit vote last month.

    On matters of social issues (whether anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, etc), I always apply the pregnancy test, which is straightforward. That is, a woman cannot be half pregnant or almost pregnant.

    So TJ by his rhetoric is a racist. He can’t be halfway, as some on this thread wish to believe.

    1. 26.1

      “Why would issues of concern black people be a major concern for a white guy, particulary under the guise of atheism?” – Rick Marx
      I would say that TAA can not solely focus on Religious videos for revenue anymore, which results in more of his Social Justice taking hold on the channel. He plays a character (TAA) on his own channel and The Drunken Peasants Podcast but I do believe that on DP he is more true to himself than TAA. His Abandon Hope series is another great show that shines a little more light on what he wants the world to think he is, But the bottom line is you probably just have to go to a DP meet up to find out who he really is behind the camera.

  24. 27

    I am so glad for the feminists in the atheist movement. I used to watch this guy’s videos, back when I was first getting into organized atheism. Nowadays I shudder to think of what opinions I might’ve developed if not for my exposure to feminist ideas. Granted, I had a bit of an edge, coming from a reasonably progressive household, but thinking “feminism is good” is not the same as actually understanding what feminism entails.

    I credit secular feminists with this influence because, while I might have stumbled upon such ideas on my own, the fact that I was already investigating and internalizing secular values meant that I was able to become educated in feminism and social justice at the same time, through a lens that accounted for my existing views. It could easily have gone the other way. If I’d been exposed only to the reasonable-seeming “dictionary atheism” alone, I might never have turned my skepticism on topics other than religion. I might have fallen into the orbit of one of these intellectual black holes, and might never have thought my way out again on my own.

  25. 28

    Personally I would remove the link about TJ as a source. I dont think you should be sourcing a Wiki that clearly does not have a neutral stance about the subject at hand. I dont know a lot about the Amazing Atheist persona but that Wiki page has a lot of assumptions and Inaccuracys. Sure I could be bringing my personal believes into this but… Why should someone get their donations back even if they lied? Do people not donate because they believe in that Idea/Person? Its like “Shark Tank” not every idea will pay out in the end. Sorry for the random tangent.

  26. 29

    I hate qualifiers but its important that I start off by saying I am a black follower of TJ, because I doubt anybody would believe my views if I didn’t. The same way Hughes has to start off saying as ” a black member of black culture. “I’ve been watching his videos for quite a long time time now. I’ve heard him drop the N bomb, certainly say some things that some people might find mean, or offensive. I’m sure I was probably offended at one time or another. Yet, I never once thought of TJ, or the Drunken Peasants as racist. I never found their arguments to be slanted to one side or the other merely by the color of the person their are arguing with. I never found any rhetoric against any particular race or in support of any particular race. And its clear the Author hasn’t found the same.

    Merely disagreeing with a black person or some black people on a topic isn’t racist. Given that Mr. Hughes in his articles conceded every point to TJ, except continuing on arguing whether gentrification (which Mr. Hughes admits in his own article also affects white communities) is racist or not. A debate, but hardly within the extreme KKK and Trump references that Hughes is hiding behind.

    Are there racists in TJ audience? Sure, just like any large group of people. If you have 913k subs, the law of averages will win out. The problem is Youtube doesn’t have specific metrics to measure that sort of thing. So these are just presuppositions based on the idea TJ makes racist content, which nobody has proven to be the case. If we start slinging the racist tag around what about Steve Shives in the video where he and a friend of his come out as growing up as a racists, within a family of racists. That video got a bunch of like as well, should we therefore assume, that Steve and his followers are racist? The obvious answer should be no, but according to the logic in this article, Steve should be run out of town.

  27. 30

    The fish is rotting from both ends, and it’s unwise to only point at one and declare it the sole problem. TJ and his ilk are driven by the sureness that their viewpoint is the only viewpoint that can be reached by the application of logic, and that makes them inflexible and blind to the very concept that they could be mistaken about anything. They’re not the only ones that keep people from attending atheist events.

    I was in an interesting position to watch the events of a few years ago unfold. I watched it from freethought blogs, I watched it from the atheism+ forums as they became an exercise in Orwellian censorship and thought control, I watched the insane attacks against other women by the so-called “skepchick” movement hiding behind the guise of feminism, and I even saw it unfold from the slymepit before it became a circlejerk of people like TJ is now. I have to say, the attitudes of prejudice and blind faith in their correctness look exactly the same on either end of the zealot spectrum. They each feed off of one another. As one gets more extreme, so does the other up the arms race in vitriol. It’s easy to point at what TJ has become without being willing to look at the very similar attitudes that made him that way. He exists as an equally extremist reaction to an extremist movement from yesteryear.

    It was a very divided marketplace of ideas, and both sides bashed in the metaphorical shops of anyone who wouldn’t pay the protection fee of lipservice to their ideals. That’s about the point where I checked out, and it had more to do with the so-called feminists attacking women than it did with anything you claimed to be driving women away above. I can’t speak for everyone, but that was my experience. I don’t follow any of the youtube channels I once did as everyone has become so extreme after all the infighting of years past. I have no idea what the current politics are, what the current imagined slights are, or even what events are still going on. I find no joy in it anymore, and it wasn’t just one side that took that from me.

    You can’t cite a symptom unless you’re willing to root out the cause of that symptom as well. Fail to do that, and we’ll get the next generation of extremists trying to push back against TJ and the like and then the next generation will push back against them, each time escalating until there’s nothing left that resembles what we once had.

  28. 31

    Hey dude I have been watching the Amazing Atheist for quite a while and am not gonna lie I am a Fan! Most of the stuff he says is deeply sarcastic and sometimes even he himself has problems bringing across exactly what it is he means but he does very well generally! He is not racist or against any groups he merely points out the flaws within them! The only time he does go against groups is when they contradict themselves and what they stand for! I do no wish to argue but if you are interested in a civil discussion about this I would be happy to do so!

  29. 32

    Who is to say that “organized atheism” ought to even exist? What successful or cohesive social/political movement in history has ever been based on the LACK of a belief? It’s simply not possible as long as atheists remain a politically diverse group. It may even be foolish and counterproductive to assert the existence of “organized atheism”, as this would only reinforce the idea that atheism is a private group of heterogenous figures and/or that it should be that way.

    But aside from this, is it not hypocritical to demand that others be skeptics, yet resort to strawman, ad hominem attacks by calling TAA “sexist” for rejecting feminist dogma when it fails to provide evidence for its own claims?

  30. 33

    Lovely, I like how you disregard a non-white’s view on your bias.

    I’ve read Hughes’ original article. He talks a lot of about a lot of things, and gives zero proof to how Kirk discriminates people based on their race. zero.

    Slavery, blah blah blah, I don’t give a shit. I’m not white or american, I don’t suffer from your guilty conscience about ancestors who owned slaves (by the way, every culture, from black to blue, owned and traded slaves, so fuck African culture for being slave owners).

    Where is Kirk’s discrimination of people based on race? does he only target black people? has he never decried a white person for anything, are you suggesting perhaps that Kirk only goes after black religions? (whatever the hell that even means).

    Some black people are whiny as fuck.
    Some white people are whiny as fuck.
    ALOT of progressives are whiny as fuck regardless of race; if you’re putting forth that the majority representation of “African” culture in America is progressive then I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you but it means that “African”-American culture is a victim culture.

    By the way, I don’t know how much money you’ve donated to Israel but unless you do I have to wonder why you hate Jews? I’m not surprised mind you, I’ve rarely met a progressive self-styled social justice warrior who wasn’t an anti-Semite.

  31. Ben

    Great article but as a small critique let me say that I feel like you are falling into the same pitfall that many theists fall in to by assuming that just because one is an atheist that means more than just ‘they lack a belief in god or gods.’ TJ is an atheist, but what does that tell us about his world values? Why do we assume that atheists are more skeptical or more rational just because they don’t believe in god? TJ’s problem has nothing to do with atheism and any rational person should be able to see that. Is it disheartening, yeah, but should you doubt the future of atheism as a whole simply because one asshole can’t be intellectually honest? Probably not bro.

    Then again…I’m a straight, white, cis-gen male….the fuck do I know?

  32. 35

    It surprises me that you laud those articles written by Martin, since I thought they were whiny and illogical. Gentrification is not a race problem, it’s a class and economic problem. It happens in countries and neighbourhoods where almost everyone is white, too. Unfortunately, in America everything has become racialized, including class problems.
    Also, TJ is one man. I disagree with his stance on gentrification. He is not the representative of the atheist community at large. He is one man and these are obviously his honest opinions, and as such, should be respected.
    It is not at all racist to say that the problems of black people are the problems of black people. On the contrary, it’s an empowering message. To say that black people should stop looking to the wider culture for affirmation and encouragement is just common sense. Martin alleged in his article that all white people are unconsciously racist, and he describes a range of real problems, but he offers no solutions.
    So I ask you too, what is your solution?
    What I would say to black people in poor neighbourhoods is the same as I would say to people of any colour or nationality in poor neighbourhoods; take control of your own lives. Economic self-determination is vital. Get class-conscious. Reject the capitalist paradigms that dictate that you prey on each other, kill each other. Have zero tolerance for the drugs and gangs. Stop trying to get the wider culture to like you or help you. Help yourselves.
    That’s a much more positive message than the one you’re giving out, which seems just like worthy virtue-signalling, trying to ingratiate yourself in the eyes of others and gain P.C. points. All I know is that nothing good can come from self-hatred, and people like you who insist that white people must somehow take responsibility for black people are repeating a P.C. version of the old “white man’s burden” bullshit. All you are doing, ironically, is strengthening the right with that kind of thing. White people are not responsible, individually or collectively, for the present-day plight of black people in America, or for what their ancestors did. Individuals are responsible for what they do, that’s all. If you want to change poor people being treated like shit, (which is demonstrably not a race issue, though in America it has become racialized), then you have to change the system, not just patronisingly lecture white people and try to make them feel bad about themselves for things that they didn’t even do. The only effect that will have is to strengthen the right, and maybe contribute to a resurgence of white nationalism. And the ironic thing is you don’t even notice you’re doing it.

  33. 36

    Firstly, tl;dr, which means this’ll likely go unread, but, it’s a pretty grand presumption to infer that every atheist has a doubting voice in their heads, causing worry about being wrong. TJ isn’t the kind of person that would have that issue: I imagine he’s like me, where, if/when there is actual, observable, non-anecdotal evidence, I will take that into account, but I’m not going to lose sleep over not having that evidence.

    Gentrification hurts poor blacks, yes. It affects anyone in poverty – encroaching on “their” neigbourhoods, as it were – but it’s not racist. By claiming TJ is racist because of his views on gentrification implies that gentrification itself is racist, which it isn’t. Classist? Sure, of course, but it isn’t racist. Now, I concede that TJ’s explanation is insensitive and inelegant, but it’s a projection of a situation based on statistical data. Stats aren’t racist: it’s an unfortunate reality that, statistically, impoverished neighbourhoods have a higher rate of crime, have, statistically, a higher population of minorities, and are, statistically, underdeveloped, encouraging more crime. It sucks, but it’s not racist.

    1. 36.1

      “By claiming TJ is racist because of his views on gentrification implies that gentrification itself is racist, which it isn’t.”

      So is the part where he praises gentrification because it gets rid of neighborhoods filled with thugs that’d just as soon shoot him also not racist?

  34. 37

    I have this guy trolling me on Disqus. Aron Ra posted about vitriolic comments in response to his choice to be a feminist. My response (as a newly minted atheist) was that I find the hostility against secular humanists who stand with feminists & BLM to be mystifying. He was so venomous in his replies, he ended up calling me a murderous bigot. It occurred to me later that I am a bigot in one area–conservative Evangelical leaders. I have to be super careful because I get hostile & snarky with those who hold to far right versions of Christianity. It’s because I was raised as such, & I was really angry that it took until I was 60 before I found my way out. I’m the only person in my family who is atheist. I’m not a woman of color, so my lot isn’t as bad as those atheists who are, but it’s a struggle. I lost a few friends over this. We all have biases for various reasons. It’s good to keep that in mind.

  35. 38

    oh my this comment section is just painful. I’m reminded of Jay Smooth’s discussion around “is a racist” and “did/said a racist thing”. We don’t have any mechanism to see into TAA’s heart of hearts and don’t need one to point out the racism in his video. Things that do not erase a racist comment/action:
    1. Having said things that were not racist in the past
    2. Clamming loudly to be against racism
    3. Not considering oneself to be a racist
    4. Being popular
    5. Being critical of everyone
    6. Doubling down on the thing multiple people pointed out was problematic
    7. Having friends who don’t consider you a racist
    1000. Anything other than the content and impact of the thing you said/did

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