Why don’t atheists just shut up and stay home?

This question was asked by an audience member at about 116:20 in the Hitchens v Turek debate posted yesterday: “If there is no god, why do you spend your whole life trying to convince people that there isn’t? Why won’t you just stay home?”

The audience member who posed this question was clearly on the side of Turek through the debate — applauding him heartily, crossing his arms and giving not a whit of applause when Hitchens spoke. It could be that he said “why WOULDN’T you just stay home”, he was not miked and the question was slightly unclear. However, I strongly suspect it was posed as an imperative as above, and if it wasn’t, I also suspect the questioner would not take offense at this characterization.

In a moment of synchronicity, @josefjohann tweeted thusly:

I think the twitter #atheism crowd is doing it for sport. we won’t save the world, we prob. won’t change minds. so what does it accomplish?

At the same time as Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshbaum flog their book on the book circuit wherein they accuse “New Atheists” of being too outspoken, a British debate show called The Big Question talks about atheism as being an intolerant belief system, and the atheists who show up to defend their lack of faith are often drowned out even by the host who’s obviously made up his mind as to the topic of the show prior to a single atheist speaking.

While we’re being told not to speak up, the scientific advances that have been made in the name of reason and rationality are being co-opted right under our noses. An ostensibly ex-atheist Christian by the name of Dr. Andrew Parker, a biologist at Oxford University, who evidently works on the side for the Templeton Foundation (a religious organization that offers prizes to theists who write papers that support the bible and sound sciencey enough to fool the general populace), wrote a book claiming that the Bible is scientifically accurate — in an effort to post-hoc fit everything we’ve learned about the universe into the Biblical framework, claiming that Bible has been right about all these scientific discoveries all along, if you only look at each verse sideways and squint real hard. One of the examples Dr. Parker gives is that the phrase, “let there be light”, refers to the evolution of the eye. That’s right, there’s only light if you can see, so that’s when God designed the eye. You have to ignore the fact that, apparently, eyes would have to have evolved long before land animals were created. Before plants, even, in fact. Right there in Parker’s explanation of Genesis being scientifically accurate, God would have to have done things in the wrong order for his hypothesis to be correct. It’s shameful.

In the States, evangelical Christians like Francis Collins are appointed to positions of influence over scientific matters, and when atheists demand that the separation of church and state is honoured, and/or Collins refused the position of head of the NIH, theists claim that our opposition to him is entirely due to him being a Christian.

Children die while their parents pray over their prostrate bodies rather than taking them to hospitals where medical science can save their lives. And when they are convicted of negligence, the fact that they were doing what their religion prescribes, apparently absolves them of any sin from their direct actions killing their children, and they get a slap on the wrist at worst.

So in the face of how prevalent religion is in our society, in the face of how much power and benefit they confer their own, why don’t we atheists just go home, sit down, and shut up about our beliefs, while the religious folks go about their business of running our countries in a theocratic manner? Why don’t we just allow everyone to believe in their God and proselytize and witness and convert (and even grade one another on how many they manage to convert!), while we kick our feet up and enjoy our godless solitude from the privacy of our own homes? Why not stay, so to speak, “in the closet“?

I can’t answer for all of us, but I can answer for myself.

Religious folks, despite already being in the majority, fight daily to push their religions further into the public sphere, to push back the separation of church and state that most democracies wisely build in. They have TV shows and radio shows where they are free to talk about their deities. They talk trash about atheists, telling people that they are incapable of morals, that they are incapable of love, that they are as bad as Stalin or Pol Pot or Mao Tse Tung. They do so both in the privacy of their own homes, as is their right, and they do so from the pulpits of their congregations, as is their right. Their smears may be wrong, pig-headed, and discriminatory, but they have the right to say them. But these smears go unchallenged if atheists are silent.

We atheists have been silent for a very long time; our voices are understandably rusty. For every encroachment into our personal space — for every incentive that discriminates against faithless — for every demand that people be allowed to share their love of God with others — we are being told to shut up, to stay silent, to dare not demand the same right to share our love of reason, our love of logic and our love of science. We do not speak up to evangelize atheism, for that is antithetical to our position, and we have bigger issues presently — buffering an outright attack on us by the religious.

Your right to swing your fist ends at the point of my nose, yet when your fists connect with the noses of atheists we are told to accept it and dare not swing back. I am tired of being a punching bag. I am tired of being told that I am immoral, that I am evil, that I am an abomination against society.

That is why I do not merely allow people to preach their faith on my doorstep without an answer. And that is why, when I AM at home, I reserve the right to occasionally shut the door on their faces. And that is why when I am NOT at home, I reserve the right to counter people’s vociferous shouting or unfair double standards or ridiculous pandering or antiscientific nonsense with my voice — rusty though it may be. I reserve the right to scream out, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!

My voice is the only weapon I have against this encroachment and viral spread of religion and antiscientific thinking. And short of death, my voice will not be silenced.

Why don’t atheists just shut up and stay home?
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76 thoughts on “Why don’t atheists just shut up and stay home?

  1. 51

    I’ve had a really bad day (almost got into a big crash on the highway going to work, and got stung by a bee while at work) but reading all of your comments is really helping.
    Cyberlizard, Dan, Stephanie, Clifton, Jason (:P) you all rock. Seriously rock. It makes me happy that there are people like you guys in the world, gives me a shred of hope for the planet.

    Things I learnt today: Arguing with creationists is like getting drunk, fun and tasty at first but not worth it in the long run.

  2. 53

    Holy fucking christ, you got you a live fucking loon here, one who, like Denny, cannot comprehend what an offensive piece of shit he is…

    Daniel –

    They obviously didn’t get enough information to make an important decision about their faith.

    If your own child is kidnapped and exposed to things unspeakable, let them know that it’s all part of that mans instinct and since life doesn’t mean anything since we are all random…don’t worry about it. I am sure you’ll tell them that.

    Go fuck yourself, you sick fucking twat…Seriously, lets play a game of hide and go fuck yourself – you hide first…

    Now if you’ll all excuse me, the sweetest 20 month old in the world is chewing on my ear…

  3. 55

    A sizable portion of the “tone” of that post can be attributed to the fact that I’m on my third day without a cigarette, and I’ve had copious amounts of sugar and caffeine today.

  4. 56

    DuWayne : And your 20 month year old is a completely meaningless part of life because of how random life is. Thats not my view buddy, so don’t get all mad and act like I am trying to say that I agree with that view. No, instead I am insisting that your 20 month old is one of the most precious and beautiful things a human can create and an incredible design from a God who loves her. And before you suggest that I think you think this of your daughter, I am not. I am suggesting that your love for her is no mistake and that your support for the theory of evolution would negate that love because there is no basis for it logically.
    “This is a random world, which by chance happen to be, and through a series of random mutations and natural selection. Through brutal death and survival of the fittest, we came to be from small infinitesimal changes over billions of years beating all of the mathematical probabilities which say that this is near impossible. But my sweet daughter is full of purpose and life because I say so and thats all that matters. But I am not being hypocritical because life is random and purposeless. ”

    Seriously give me the most compelling evidence that evolution is the process by which all biological things came to be. Your best evidence please. Serious request.

  5. 57

    That’s not my fucking view either, you sick fuck. That is your assumption based on fucking ignorance about love. My sons are most certainly not meaningless in the least – that is not and never has been my view. Nor are they are designed by any gods.

    And I am not going to play your stupid fucking games – I have better things to do with my life than spend it arguing about the origins of life. I know how that one plays out…I make an argument based on evidence – you move the goalposts, I refute every argument down the line and you start full circle at the beginning and run through them all again.

    I have better things to do, than beat myself up trying to convince you of something that you are simply not going to believe. You are obviously happy to wallow in ignorance – why the fuck would I have any desire to try to fight such profoundly powerful willful ignorance?

  6. 58

    Walking with Cavemen Episode 3 – Savage Family
    part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhAoFeRODQc
    part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIEnPI0oyr4
    part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_pCzP5AB_Y

    This isn’t an attempt to show you the evidence for evolution. This is merely an explanation of how relationships and love came to evolve. If you want the evidence for evolution, I’d suggest you click on some of the links in this thread. Or go to http://www.talkorigins.org and search for the specific things you are having trouble understanding.

    As for love of children, it is easily explained — animals that do not love and protect their children die out when their children are neglected. When humans neglect their children, not only do their own genetic lines get ended, but they are punished and stigmatized and/or removed from society, thus harming their ability to propagate their genetic lines as well.

  7. 59

    And just to be clear about why I think you’re a sick fuck, it’s due to your pornographic fascination with the ideas you have about atheists and their children. Your imagining someone doing horrible things to a child and a parent just not caring. While there are sick fucking people out there who have little or no compunctions about the reprehensible abuse of their own children, there are few people who can so gleefully imagine and describe people like that.

    That you can, indicates you are sick fucking excuse for a human being.

  8. 60

    Hey Daniel, why is it that you moderated my comment on your blog so that only you can read it, then you reply to my comment on your own blog, but still allow no one to see my comment? It makes it look as though you’re talking to yourself.

    Daniel said:

    Seriously give me the most compelling evidence that evolution is the process by which all biological things came to be. Your best evidence please. Serious request.

    Daniel, you are being rather ignorant when you ask questions like that. Notice I said “ignorant”, not “unintelligent”. That simply means that you haven’t learned or understood a few things.

    The theory of evolution explains the diversity of the life on our planet, not its origins. To engage in a discussion of the origins of life on our planet, you must ask someone about abiogenesis. People who believe in the literal biblical interpretation of the universe frequently make this mistake, but rarely admit that it’s a mistake, even when it’s pointed out to them.

  9. 61

    Sorry to jump in late, but I just wanted to comment on something Jason stated much earlier in the discussion:

    A person who rapes people, causing untold trauma to women and hurting them physically as well as mentally, is objectively evil.

    According to Deuteronomy 22:28-29, a rapist isn’t really objectively evil, but rather could be considered a future husband. At least, if he’s raping a virgin female.

    Carry on!

  10. 62

    Yeah, sinned, but that’s in the Old Testament, which “good Christians” pretty well uniformly say “we take it back, that wasn’t really seriously part of our religion anyway”.

  11. 63

    Every sin, including lying, is deserving of death. The reason we dont do it is becuz of jesus.

    That sounds a little bit extreme, Daniel. If I were to say something like, “I’d like to bang that Mary Magdalene. I get the impression she was pretty hot. Do you think she charged more than one or two drachmas?” then I deserve being put to death?

    You’re still picking and choosing what you want to follow and what you don’t want to follow. You’re a homophobe, so you follow the part about a man not bing with another man, but you really like bacon, so that proscription against unclean animals really doesn’t fit your lifestyle, so you’re going to ignore that part.

    You’re still a fucking hypocrite, Daniel.

  12. 64

    Ita funny when you say Christians supposedly say it wasnt part of our religion. The fact that you make that comment proves you know nothing of the Christian faith and the difference from the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Your ignorance in the area of Christianity and how it relates to the old testament makes me wonder how you can present an argument like that without properly understanding the reason we dont stone people for certain sins. Every sin, including lying, is deserving of death. The reason we dont do it is becuz of jesus.

  13. 65

    You don’t get it Dan, talk back to your folks – doesn’t matter if you are an adult – fucking die for it…

    The problem that I have, is not the whole notion that this is not what Christians believe now. My problem is, that they worship a god who claims to be the same, yesterday, today and forever – yet he changed his mind about how this all should work and used to be a homicidal, genocidal, infanticidal maniac, who commanded his people to commit these same acts and throw some rape and incest into the mix. And these rules for which the punishment is death – that only counts if you’re a fucking peon. If you’re – I don’t know, king, you can pretty much do as you wish.

    But hey, what’s a little hypocrisy among Christians?

  14. 66

    Hmm, just a few hundred years ago, people in the West were still getting murdered by Christians for breaking “Old Covenant” commandments. When exactly did this “New Covenant” actually begin?

    Daniel, I’m fully aware that many (but certainly not all) Christian sects no longer consider the Old Testament punishments for sin valid, but I want to hear you justify God’s order that rape victims should be forced to marry their rapists. Does that really strike you as the demands of an all-loving God of Justice?

  15. 67

    Daniel, oh Daniel. Didn’t you read Exodus? (specifically 31:16-17 and 12:14-17) The First Covenant is eternal, and will never be replaced or added to.

    I guess you didn’t get God™’s memorandum about that one.

  16. 68

    Since you insist, lets deal with the rape issue. First, before you woo everyone here into thinking God suggested a woman who is raped must marry her rapist, you must understand the Bible in it’s entirety. We are so familiar with rape now that we insist on reading things in a perspective that identifies with our paranoia with such things. But, when you understand the Bible you need not have any sort of subjective perspective to correctly interpret it; it’s self explanatory. Let’s first examine the text in question. Deut. 22:28-29
    “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.”

    Wow! It doesn’t say rape! Of course not, in fact the word you are insisting is rape is translated “lay hold on her” which can be cross referenced with the same law in Exodus (which Moses is reiterating here in Deuteronomy which means “Second Law”) 22:16
    “If a man ENTICES a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife.”

    So you are clearly mistaken on this verse and you have skewed its purpose and idea to make it sound like God insisted the ridiculous. So please, lets move on.

    Dan J, good job, the First covenant IS ETERNAL. What did Jesus say? Matthew 5:17-18 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

    We are not under Old Testament law, but under the law of Christ. Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly and when his disciple asked as follows: Matthew 22:31-40 “36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?

    Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’(Deut 6:5) This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18) On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’ ”

    Pay close attention to the last verse. Jesus fulfilled the law, ultimately with His blood sacrifice, and His command was the two greatest commandments which all the law hang on. We fulfill the law COMPLETELY through Christ. For example: Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us”

    Christ is in me and I in Him; Him fulfilling the law completely and perfectly I am fulfilling it also. Not because I am perfect, because as you well know I am not, but because like the Bible says: Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”

    So when people bring up this argument about how Christians like my self are hypocrites because the Old Testament says one thing and we don’t do it, I simply smile. I give them the benefit of the doubt because they don’t know the fullness of wisdom from God to see these things inside of the Bible because they simply don’t read it.

    God’s plan never intended for the Old Law to be upheld for ALL people forever the way they used too. Instead, the burden of the law was lifted by Christ who bore that burden for us, hence the blood sacrifice on the cross. Also to elaborate, read Romans 7:7-28 to give you an idea as well.

    All laws in the OT served different purposes one showing people how to obey God, another showing how to atone for sins, and the other to make the Israelites distinct from other cultures around them. On top of that there are all of the obvious culturally beneficial reasons for certain laws in regards to health and community. One being STD’s and other diseases. For example, not having sex with animals or staying a virgin before you are married. Homosexuality is obviously not a natural form of human behavior (even though they are forcing it to be) and everyone instinctively knows it. Do i really need to go through the statistics of homosexuality and it’s negative effect on society? They are thousands of secular psychiatrists who support the idea that homosexuality has a negative effect on a societies health over all.

    Overall a person who objectively reads the Bible with a pre conceived idea that it’s just a bunch of spiritual junk meant for idiots; when they open it up and read a random verse without thoroughly studying the Bible, what do you think they are going to get out of it?

  17. 69

    Daniel mentioned (emphasis mine):

    Homosexuality is obviously not a natural form of human behavior (even though they are forcing it to be) and everyone instinctively knows it.

    What evidence do you have for this statement? Same-sex couplings have been noted in many different species from around the world, not just in humans.

    Do i really need to go through the statistics of homosexuality and it’s negative effect on society?

    Yes, please do.

    They are thousands of secular psychiatrists who support the idea that homosexuality has a negative effect on a societies health over all.

    Please provide evidence to back up this assertion.

  18. 70

    So you are clearly mistaken on this verse and you have skewed its purpose and idea to make it sound like God insisted the ridiculous.

    Wrong. Women during the bronze age were chattel. The passage that you are trying to spin as being punishment for seducing a virgin is in fact actually talking about paying a 50 shekel fine to the father for having despoiled a girl that otherwise would have provided him with a sizeable dowry when he married her off; if a woman is not a virgin, it’s nearly impossible to marry her off properly. So, God in this passage punishes the rapist by demanding both that he pay restitution to the father, and that he restore the family’s honor by marrying the girl. The surrounding verses most certainly also deal with rape, because they use the same that you misinterpret to mean seduction. It prescribes different punishments for whether it happens in the town or in the country; in town, it is presumed that if the girl was raped and nobody stopped it, it is because she didn’t cry out loud enough, and therefore she should be stoned to death too as it was obviously an affair that she was okay with. (Imagine if she had had her mouth covered, or was knocked unconscious, or was being strangled so she couldn’t cry out until after the deed — she’d still be killed. Too bad, victim of rape — you now get to also be a victim of murder!)

    Your reading of Deuteronomy is at odds with pretty well every interpretation by every religious person from either Judaism or Christianity. You are whitewashing your own bible so you can feel better about believing in such distasteful and disgusting proscriptions.

    the First covenant IS ETERNAL

    God’s plan never intended for the Old Law to be upheld for ALL people forever the way they used too.


    It’s eternal but the blood-sacrifice-by-proxy means we don’t have to follow it any more. But it’s eternal. No srsly. So don’t do the things that the first covenant says are un-kosher, and do the things that the first covenant demands:

    Deuteronomy 5-26 is composed of two distinct addresses. The first, in chapters 5-11, forms a second introduction, expanding on the Ethical Decalogue given at Mount Sinai. The second, in chapters 12-26, is the Deuteronomic Code, a series of mitzvot (commands), forming extensive laws, admonitions, and injunctions to the Israelites regarding how they ought to conduct themselves in Canaan, the land promised by the God of Israel. The laws include (listed here in no particular order):
    * The worship of God must remain pure, uninfluenced by neighbouring cultures and their ‘idolatrous’ religious practices. The death penalty is prescribed for conversion from Yahwism and for proselytisation.
    * The death penalty is also prescribed for males who are guilty of all of the following: disobeying their parents, profligacy and drunkenness.
    * Certain Dietary principles are enjoined.
    * The law of rape prescribes various conditions and penalties, depending on whether the girl is engaged to be married or not, and whether the rape occurs in town or in the country. (Deuteronomy 22)
    * A Tithe for the Levites and charity for the poor.
    * A regular Jubilee Year during which all debts are cancelled.
    * Slavery can last no more than 6 years if the individual purchased is “thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman.”
    * Yahwistic religious festivals—including Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot—are to be part of Israel’s worship
    * The offices of Judge, King, Kohen (temple priest), and Prophet are instituted
    * A ban against Asherah next to altars dedicated to God, and the erection of sacred stones
    * A ban against children either being immolated or passing through fire (the text is ambiguous as to which is meant), divination, sorcery, witchcraft, spellcasting, and necromancy
    * A ban preventing blemished animals from becoming sacrifices at the Temple
    * Naming of three cities of refuge where those accused of manslaughter may flee from the avenger of blood.
    * Exemptions from military service for the newly betrothed, newly married, owners of new houses, planters of new vineyards, and anyone afraid of fighting.
    * The peace terms to be offered to non-Israelites before battle – the terms being that they are to become slaves
    * The Amalekites to be utterly destroyed
    * An order for parents to take a stubborn and rebellious son before the town elders to be stoned.
    * A ban on the destruction of fruit trees, the mothers of newly-born birds, and beasts of burden which have fallen over, or are lost
    * Rules which regulate marriage, and Levirate Marriage, and allow divorce.
    * Purity laws which prohibit the mixing of fabrics, of crops, of beasts of burden under the same yoke, and transvestitism.
    * The use of Tzitzit (tassels on garments)
    * Prohibition against people from Ammon, Moab, or who are of illegitimate birth, and their descendants for ten generations, from entering the assembly; the same restriction upon those who are castrated (but not their descendants)
    * Regulations for ritual cleanliness, general hygiene, and the treatment of Tzaraath
    * A ban on religious prostitution
    * Regulations for slavery, servitude, vows, debt, usury, and permissible objects for securing loans
    * Prohibition against wives making a groin attack on their husband’s adversary.

    Your religion is a mishmash of obsessive-compulsive habits and misogynistic and homophobic prescriptions and protection of the people in power at the time. It is not about STDs, because the people of the time had no idea what disease was except as some kind of divinie punishment by God; though the side effects of some of these laws may actually have helped bronze-age tribes avoid these diseases, they were passed down by men who thought the disease was a punishment as a matter of non-experimental observation. They saw someone who got sick off seafood so they banned seafood and said God said so because a guy got sick once. They saw that sometimes sleeping with a prostitute resulted in your dick getting boils and such, so they said “God says don’t stick it there”. Likewise with homosexuality, they saw a gay guy get sick and said “God says don’t put it in poopers”. And they started stoning to death anyone they saw breaking any of these post-hoc laws. Some of these laws are beneficial to your tribe’s survival, but it is merely a happy happenstance, not because of any kind of divinely inspired knowledge.

    These laws were written by men. The fact that there’s a book proves only that men wrote a book, not that the book was divinely inspired. If you want to try to prove that these laws are worth following, first you have to prove they were NOT written by mere men, but by men divinely inspired by God. And to do that, you’d first have to prove an interventionist God’s existence.

  19. 71

    They are thousands of secular psychiatrists who support the idea that homosexuality has a negative effect on a societies health over all.

    Name one. Not one who also happens to be religious, though there are few enough even in that category. Name one psychiatrist, or even a psychotherapist – hell, name one person who qualifies for full APA membership (i.e. anyone who works in any aspect of psychology, including neurology) who is not religious, who actually believes that. You might note that the DSM was changed, two years before I was born, to reflect that homosexuality is not a mental illness and that attempts to “cure” homosexuality are actually damaging to the individual.

    And guess what? You can’t even present evidence that homosexuality has negatively affected society either. The damage that is caused to society, is directly related to the attitude society has had about it. And as that attitude of society’s has declined, so have the related problems.

    So when people bring up this argument about how Christians like my self are hypocrites because the Old Testament says one thing and we don’t do it, I simply smile. I give them the benefit of the doubt because they don’t know the fullness of wisdom from God to see these things inside of the Bible because they simply don’t read it.

    I’m glad you smile, shows you for the sick fuck you are. Because regardless of any changes in your god’s ways of doing things, you worship a genocidal maniac. One who condoned all sorts of atrocities and committed many directly.

  20. 72

    Courtier’s Reply.

    Ohhh, that’s GOOD. I’m adding that to my argument repertoire. Why the hell DO we have to read all the latest fashion magazines’ reviews of the emperor’s new clothes, before we’re allowed to point out the emperor’s dangly bits are clearly on display?

    And this is omitting the fact that I have read both the King James version cover to cover, and at least skimmed the Old Testament.

  21. 73

    Since you insist, lets deal with the rape issue. First, before you woo everyone here into thinking God suggested a woman who is raped must marry her rapist, you must understand the Bible in it’s entirety.

    Courtier’s Reply.

    Everything after that is the semantic gymnastics of a desperate liar.

  22. 74

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