How to confront bigotry against atheists without sounding strident/angry

or being accused of sounding so.

 

To start at the beginning, I am active on several discussion boards including ActiveRain (which is by and for people involved in the real estate industry) and another general board that is just a casual mix of people.

 

On ActiveRain, there are periodic *joke* posts that are very bigoted against atheists. I'm sure you've all seen the "April Fool's Day" one - that is one example. For years I have ignored this sort of nonsense, mostly because I really didn't want to be "out" in a business/career setting. I've felt like I couldn't risk the loss of business from other people's prejudices.

 

But I am reaching a point where I can't stand not speaking up, so I did comment on two recent posts. I asked why people found the "jokes" funny and wondered if they would also be cheering on similar jokes about other minority groups. One "joke" teller simply deleted my objection while leaving all of the agreeing responses. The other replied with the typical condescending "I'm sorry if you didn't like the joke" type reply, refusing to acknowledge the blatant bigotry on what is supposed to be a professional business related board.

 

So then I posted about my frustration on the general board. I said that I was thinking about starting a new discussion on ActiveRain to discuss why this sort of bigotry was allowed to continue without adverse comment when we all know that similar "jokes" about any other group would be roundly censured by the majority.

 

I was told, among other things, that "He has the right to say it" and that "I find your tone to be very strident and combative." I feel like these people (Christians) are really saying "Just shut up if you can't take the joke."

 

Maybe I should just shut up. But it makes me sick to my stomach to stay silent (and I don't) when people are making bigoted jokes against gays or blacks or other groups that I don't even belong to, so why should speaking up against bigotry in this situation be any different.

 

Of course, people don't like being called on their trash talk against gays or Jews or Blacks or any other group either. But if they are NOT called on it, how will it ever change?

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I try to keep it even-toned, matter-of-fact and unemotional.  It's just a matter of strategy.  It's the most defensible position, and you probably will be playing defense any time you open up such a conversation.  In my experience, three general replies are to be expected if you're arguing as an atheist minority.  

  1. Some people will give you a 'fair enough', and admit that they understand why you find the jokes offensive or in poor taste.  They probably aren't going to champion your cause, but at least they will be civil.
  2. Some people will simply not respect your atheism regardless of what you say.  If you respond to them with frustration, you'll lose face in the end.  Doesn't really matter who is right or wrong as a number of people will be looking for any excuse to condemn your case, even if by fallacy alone.
  3. Some will feel a tinge of guilt at being called on poor behavior.  Instead of turning that guilt towards self-reflection, they're going to channel it as resentment towards you.  Nobody likes to think of themselves as a bigot.  If you stick to things that you can factually assert, avoid getting too much into emotions and are civil, you can usually score some points with these people, even if they never openly admit to being wrong or to being douche bags.  

 

Group number one should be acknowledged and thanked.  Group number two is kind of hopeless.  I'd ignore them as much as possible.  I usually track group number three the most and simply neutralize bad arguments.  As much as it pains me, I'll almost always leave them an out.  I'm not trying to tear their case down; I'm trying to build my case up.

 

Of course that's generalized and nothing new or radical, but these things often require patience and vigilance.  Calling attention to this issue may pull some other atheists out into the open and rally a bit of support.  It may call some of the true haters out of the woodwork and cause other theists to distance themselves from the real bigots.  In the very worst case scenario, you may just realize that the community is full of people you don't really respect.  Push come to shove, it's nice to know upfront who is decent and who is a tool.

 

If none of that works, my alternative suggestion is to track them all down one by one and take out their knee caps with a lead pipe.

ROFL!!  Good advice overall and the last line cracked me up!  Thanks!

I felt the need to search out the site.  I don't care about people making fun of atheists, but there seem to be a lot of insecure theists taking half assed potshots.  I don't know why they don't just go to a Christian forum to post that stuff.  I don't mind the 'Atheist in the Woods joke with the grizzly bear (kind of funny), but this one is just lame:

 


A young woman teacher with obvious liberal tendencies explains to her class of small children that she is an atheist. She asks her class if they are atheists too. Not really knowing what atheism is but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode into the air like fleshy fireworks.

There is, however, one exception. A beautiful girl named Lucy has not gone along with the crowd. The teacher asks her why she has decided to be different.

"Because I'm not an atheist."

Then, asks the teacher, "What are you?"

"I'm a Christian."

The teacher is a little perturbed now, her face slightly red. She asks Lucy why she is a Christian.

"Well, I was brought up knowing and loving Jesus. My mom is a Christian, and my dad is a Christian, so I am a Christian."

The teacher is now angry. "That's no reason," she says loudly.

"What if your mom was a moron, and your dad was a moron. What would you be then?"

She paused, and smiled. "Then," says Lucy, "I'd be an atheist."

 

yes, that may have been one I replied to. The one that really bugged me though is this one:

 

If you don't know GOD, don't make stupid remarks!!!!!! 

 

A United States Marine was taking some college courses between assignments. He had completed 20 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan . One of the courses had a professor  who was an avowed atheist, and a member of the ACLU. One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, "GOD, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform... I'll give you exactly 15 min." The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, "Here I am GOD, I'm still waiting." It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.  The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned, and sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, "What in the world is the matter with you?  Why did you do that?"  The Marine calmly replied, "GOD was too busy today protecting America's soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid stuff and act like an idiot. So He sent me." The classroom erupted in cheers!

 

It was bad enough that the joker was trying to make atheists look bad, but why are people cheering (in the joke and on the board) for a violent thug of a "Marine" who clearly doesn't understand the idea of "freedom of speech" at all?

One of the (many) things that annoys me about that particular joke is that the tellers never really comprehend the poor light it puts their religion in. Someone is disageeing with my religious views? Quick, physically attack them!!

Not to mention that any professor that pulled this kind of stunt (outside of a philosophy class, maybe) would be censured and maybe fired. Or the fact that the typemof ignorant bigot that sets up this type of joke assumes that anyone who is a member of the ACLU is an atheist and therefore bad (I am surprised there was not a comment about the professor being a communist, too), because as we all know protecting the civil rights of the citizens is a bad thing.

Authoritatian thugs, that's all they are.

LOL  Yep!  I brought up every one of your points on the other general board (EXCEPT calling them "authoritarian thugs" or even "ignorant bigots" ;-) ) when I was trying to decide if I wanted to post a full response on ActiveRain.

 

I was told I sounded "strident" and "combative"

 

I feel like it is their method of trying to shut me down - shove me back in the closet. I have a bit of a temper anyway, so I am really trying to figure out how to calmly but pointedly object to both the "jokes" and the BS accusations that immediately follow my objections to said "jokes" without letting them push my buttons.

 

I really admire atheists that can seem to keep their calm in the face of the most stupid ad hominem attacks.

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