Atheist response to Christian chain mail

First post :) Sorry about the spacing, I can't seem to get it to cooperate.

I decided to post this after getting a positive reaction out of a bunch of my other atheist friends that I forwarded this around to for their own amusement. Also, I noticed there seems to be a lack of atheist chain e-mail - or better yet, quick and easy resources for atheists to respond to people with (chain e-mail I normally detest - hey, send this to 30 people now and the phone will ring in 23 minutes - it'll be your crush!).

I don't know if this will help anyone, but if you do find it helpful, feel free to use it, or bits and pieces of it. My second reply with the links and quotes is basically just stuff from my favorites folder that I've collected through the years. I know it's not a perfect response. Putting my writing style and methods of argument/arguments aside, it's too long, and most people who got it probably didn't read/watch/understand - I address that throughout. On the other hand, it's too short - there are way more things I thought about adding, and wanted to add, but I was in a hurry, knew I was wasting my time to a degree, had to speak in basic/general terms and consider my tone, etc. But I also wrote this for myself - it's practice and you know what they say... practice makes perfect. Each of us can be an ambassador for or a defender of atheism... and I think that's important.

So, a little background. My aunt (we'll call her Judy) is one of those people who forwards around ridiculous e-mail all the time - it doesn't matter how devoid of content or thoughtless - she hits forward. She kept forwarding me religious-tinged junk mail and I got tired of it, so a few months back, I replied to her (and only her) politely and directly and said hey, I'm an atheist, could you please stop that. I analogized for her that in the same way she gets upset about a certain conservative member of the family (another aunt) forwarding her republican chain e-mail knowing that she's very liberal (she'd told me before how it feels like my other aunt is rubbing her conservatism in her face), sending religious e-mail to an atheist is kind of annoying too.

She claimed to not know I was an atheist - I thought that was probably a lie, since my Facebook profile has several atheist images and beside religion it says "Proud Atheist," but I ignored that and went with it. She apologized and promised not to send me any more, and I said that's cool, no biggie, thanks. We went into how her son (my cousin), who died the year before, was also an atheist - she had asked me to speak at his funeral, I think because she liked my speaking/writing ability - she'd seen my reply alls before during election season. Interestingly, since my cousin's death, my aunt has become very religious.

So the months pass by and she doesn't send me anything - I figured she took me off a particular e-mail list and that was great. But then I suddenly started getting Jesus mail again.

When the latest e-mail arrived, I decided to hit 'reply all.' I'm no stranger to reply all as I mentioned above; during election season when I got those "Obama is a terrorist/Muslim/anti-Christ" i cheerfully hit reply all and confronted the stupidity leaks publicly as they came. This e-mail from my aunt was some sap about "just look up" the next time you have a problem (as opposed to living in reality and confronting your issues directly) and trusting "in our Creator who loves" us, complete with animated cartoon attachments.

Here's what I said in my 'reply all':
No thanks, I'll trust in facts, logic, and science. Once again, atheist here - have been for a long time and always will be, and proud of it. I've asked you not to send me this kind of tripe before; once again, please stop. Thanks.

I thought it was polite enough but clear that I meant business. My aunt replied quickly and only to me with a "Sorry Ava." I thought that would be the end of it. Nah.

One random guy from the reply all - we'll call him Calvin - thought it appropriate to reply with a joke. I have no idea who this dude is. The subject of the e-mail was "Just For The Atheist."

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods. "What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!" he said to himself. As he continued walking alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes. Turning to look, he saw a 7 foot grizzly charging towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. Looking over his shoulder he saw that the bear was closing in on him. His heart was pumping frantically and he tried to run even faster. He tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up but saw the bear raising his paw to take a swipe at him. At that instant the atheist cried out: "Oh my God..."; Time stopped. The bear froze. The forest was silent. It was then that a bright light shone upon the man and a voice came out of the sky saying: "You deny my existence for all of these years, teach others I don't exist, and even credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?" The atheist looked directly into the light, "It would be hypocritical of me to suddenly ask you to treat me as a Christian now, but perhaps, could you make the BEAR a Christian?" "Very well," said the voice. The light went out. And the sounds of the forest resumed. And then the bear lowered his paw, bowed his head and spoke: "Lord,bless this food which I am about to receive and for which I am truly thankful. Amen."

I replied to all:

Indeed, fairy tales do make for good jokes. And it's very Christ-like to laugh about the death of a human being, isn't it? But in my experience, life is far too short to spend it living in fear based on a 2000-year-old nonsensical and plagiarized myth - but the choice is entirely up to you.
To respond directly to the line of thinking (or lack thereof) from Calvin's joke, here's world renowned atheist and brilliant evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins answering an audience member's question regarding atheism - "What if you're wrong?":
(His reference to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster might also interest you: If you'd like to know more about the origins of Christianity and all the other religions that it stole concepts from, you can watch this short video. Atheist statistics in the United States: and
An analysis of the practical dangers of unquestioning religious faith by neuroscientist Sam Harris:

'Believing the Unbelievable: The Clash Between Faith and Reason in the Modern World' by Sam Harris:

'A Universe From Nothing' by physicist Lawrence Krauss, which is probably the most amazing thing I've ever heard on the origins of the universe and a well-stated case against religion without making much mention of it. It's mind-blowing and will should put anyone who is able to listen and pay attention to the complexity of the discussion on intellectual overload.

And finally, a sampling of atheist quotes:

"I contend we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." -Stephen Roberts

"I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul.... No, all this talk of an existence for us, as individuals, beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life – our desire to go on living … our dread of coming to an end." -Edison

"Religions are all alike – founded upon fables and mythologies." -Thomas Jefferson

"Religion is based . . . mainly on fear . . . fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. . . . My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race." -Bertrand Russell

"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism." -Einstein

"Faith means not wanting to know what is true." Nietzsche

"If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities." -Voltaire

"The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma." -Lincoln

"Religion is a byproduct of fear. For much of human history, it may have been a necessary evil, but why was it more evil than necessary? Isn't killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity?" -Arthur C. Clarke

"Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile." -Kurt Vonnegut

In any case, I quite doubt that you actually feel like taking the necessary time to think very deeply about any of these issues - but I can't help you there.

My aunt then replied to all.

Ava, I sent the email to you and meant nothing by it. Dad sent it to me, and I enjoyed it. Your name is on my list and I just added it. Sorry if you are offended by it. It is an email and you can take it or leave it.

The gentleman that sent the "Just for the Atheist" is a dear man, and I assure you is not laughing about the death of a human being, quite the contrary. We look for humor where we can find it. Death is very real, as we know. I assure you, that Calvin is not mocking death. He does live in a form of fear however, his 19 year old son Steve, has been battling the same form of cancer that your cousin died of. He has been through every form of Chemo and radiation, and surgery that a young body can and should have to tolerate. He has been fighting for over 3 years. He is now in clinical trials. His dad is an amazing person, just as the rest of his family is. Steve, on the other hand, is a hero.

Calvin was a part of my healing when your cousin died, and I think he is truly an inspirational man. I hope that if you had known where his heart and head are you may not have been so quick to prove your position. I think we do have things to discuss and concern ourselves with in this life we live, but this is not one of them. Calvin remains one of my true friends and I say a prayer daily for Steve, and his family.

I wondered if she read anything I wrote.

Quickly after she sent me that, my aunt sent this to me only, quoting me from my 2nd reply:

And why would it be living in fear if you have faith?

"life is far too short to spend it living in fear based on a 2000-year-old nonsensical and plagiarized myth - but the choice is entirely up to you."

While I was typing a response to my aunt's e-mails, Calvin did an about face and became the moral authority. I laughed.

Thank you Judy I appreciate your thoughts and that I could have helped provide some or any comfort during a difficult time for you. Ava, be the best Atheist you can but also remember to be the best human you can as well.

I tried to be kind in my reply :) It's kinda long.

Calvin, those two things are not mutually exclusive; I assure you that atheists are easily among the best human beings I've encountered in my life. Honest, sincere, intelligent, strong, loving, and genuinely interested in the greater good - all without a mythical deity to magically force them into behaving that way :) They are that way because they want to be that way.

Judy, that's fine. But I've discussed this with you in some detail before. (Thinking back to that conversation, I recall that you also told me that [my cousin] was an atheist.) I understand that people are religious and I don't force my atheism on anyone, but I will stand up for it when it's attacked. Those videos explain why.

When I told you my position last time, I related it to your sensitivity about receiving asinine conservative emails from people who know you're a liberal and your being offended by it, and rightfully so - I said that likewise with religious emails, I get irritated when people who know I'm an atheist send me religious email - it's insensitive at best and intentionally rude at worst to pretend that everyone thinks alike on important issues. You said you didn't know I was an atheist, and I said that's cool, no biggie. I told you then, in brief and general terms, why I'm an atheist and that I found it incredibly comforting. I figured that if you wanted to know more, you'd ask for info, so I didn't say anything more - people get there own their own.

I don't understand what the background on Calvin was provided for because it has nothing to do with his responses to me. I don't know who he is as a person and can only base my response on what he sent me. Nor do I know why he found it necessary to send an email which most definitely was a joke about a person (an atheist, in particular) dying - and directly to someone who just said "Hey, I'm an atheist." I'm sorry for his personal situation and hope that his son makes a complete recovery thanks to the doctors and scientists treating him and developing everything being utilized in his care, but again, it is completely irrelevant to what was said. He provided no other info on his mindset was when he sent it so I can assume it was at least somewhat malicious - if he meant it "nicely" (and I don't know how that's possible) I would think he would have noted it. No such luck. If he wants to engage in a respectful dialogue, I'm more than willing, but based the joke that doesn't seem like his intent. His latest response attempts to do a 180, as suddenly he's set and fit to make a character judgment on me simply for being an atheist, after sending a joke like that as a probable "morally superior" "Christian." A tad hypocritical and a lot funny.

When you say, "I think we do have things to discuss and concern ourselves with in this life we live, but this is not one of them," I have to disagree. Religion completely affects the way people live their lives and it doesn't get a free pass simply because it deals with "belief." The reason for all those links is so that if anyone actually cares to see what I'm getting at (and most people probably won't because they don't mind having their heads buried in the sand - it's easier, and I know that because I've been there myself), they can look and hear someone much more articulate than myself voice excellent reasons behind everything I've said. Regarding the importance of questioning faith, especially see this one by Harris: It's only like 20 minutes long. I can't count how many religious friends have seen this on my Facebook and have spoken with me about it because it actually got the gears turning and really, really makes you think. All the links I posted are quality stuff, and I know not everyone has time for them or will be sold on them, but if you get the chance, you really should check out a couple. They are worth your time. When I mentioned "living in fear" regarding faith I meant what the heart of Calvin's joke is about. His joke tells of the non-believer suddenly being confronted by god and the moral of the story is, you better hedge your bets - believe in god because it's the only way to get into heaven. Lots of people I've spoken to are reluctant to declare themselves atheists because they're scared that they might be wrong - the *only* thing preventing them from being honest with themselves about what they perceive in the world, and in reality, is fear. And fear is a powerful motivator. They know religion doesn't make a lot of sense and are well aware of all the logical, factual, and scientific problems with it, and the intellectual side of them tells them there's probably no god, and if there is, it's certainly not the Christian or whatever god. But just in case, they're going to "play it safe" and believe. And when you're brought up from the day you're born to believe in god, it tends to get ingrained - it's like brainwashing. Unlike Santa, it's a little harder to simply stop believing in god because your parents don't ever give up the myth and just tell you the truth when you get older!
Think about it in terms of waste of time, under a "life is short and time is precious" theory. How many Christians do I know who have held out on doing something very important and necessary in their life because it's categorized as a 'sin' - and only because it's a 'sin'? Lots. Like getting divorced even though their marriage is hurting them in some way (perhaps they're being abused or they don't love their spouse anymore and are extremely depressed)? What about people who spend countless days of their lives feeling immense guilt about a 'sin' that didn't actually hurt anyone, like premarital sex (assuming no one was cheated on, etc.)? How many people only do certain "good" things (go to church, apologize, help the poor) because of fear? (I've heard many people complain about tithing, for example.) There's certainly right and wrong, but religion isn't necessary to figuring it out. If the only motivation someone has for living their life a certain way is based on the reward (in particular here, heaven), is that really "right" or "good"? The answer is obviously no.

And more to the point on waste of time - suppose the day you die, it's lights out. Imagine that what we see is what we really get, and that's all - we all really are just specks in the universe. How angry would you be if you spent your whole life behaving based on what the bible said was "the only right way", and not doing what was actually right or what you actually wanted or would have done, had you known that it was all a lie? How many Christians are on their death beds right now worrying about whether they were "good enough" to get into heaven and repenting to nothing instead of worrying about something that they know is real - their family and friends around them, showing as much love as possible before it's too late? That's what's real. That's what we know we have. This moment, and that's it. Nothing promised in the future. Just think about it.

I'm not saying that people should just do whatever they want by any means - right and wrong still exists, like I said, and it exists regardless of religion.

(And speaking of right and wrong, how many times has religion been used to justify some of the most disgusting things in American history? Racial segregation? Yep. Anti-miscegenation laws? Yep. Anti-women's suffrage? Yep. All these bigots trying to tell gays what kinds of civil contracts they can and can't enter into? Yep. In world history? Don't even get me started... the Crusades are an obvious example. All those people standing up for those "Christian values" and "God's will" were "Christians." For anyone who's read this far who wants to attack atheism as "godless" or "evil" baselessly, I challenge you to name one thing that's ever been done in the name of atheism. Good luck :))

It's sad that in this world, we only get a few decades to see what goes on in this little planet, and to enjoy life, and to learn what there is to learn - and that some people don't even scratch the surface of what life has to offer because they're too worried about what an old fictitious book says that they probably don't even understand that well, but have been brought up to believe, and don't even have the willpower to think about critically. Life is too short not to enjoy it - and to do right, for the right reasons. I don't like the idea of people suffering, or missing out, because of some fiction that when you think about it and are brutally honest about the facts, seems to have as much promise as Zeus or the tooth fairy. I don't like that people rely on things out of fear or because they don't want to think about it - not just because I have to deal with them and their ignorance and how that ignorance affects my life, but also because I feel sorry for them (not all Christians are like that, of course - I'm generalizing in a big way). Realizing that I was an atheist was both was one of the toughest yet most liberating things ever. I can't imagine life any other way and I regret that I spent so many years lost in the fog of being brought up "Christian." I don't claim to have all the answers, but to quote what I once saw at a Van Halen concert during the song 'Right Now,' "Nothing feels better than the truth."

And one more: “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will get neither comfort nor truth, only wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."

I'm sorry this was so long, but I want to make sure I explain so as not to be misunderstood. Plus it's very important to me. Again, the videos do a much better job. :)

My aunt Judy replied to all. She's perhaps a little passive aggressive this time. Oh, and she also decided to include my grandfather now - I noticed he'd been added to the recipient list. (I forgot to mention it in my next reply, but I did mention it later.)

Your beliefs were not attacked. On the contrary, I tried to have a conversation, and you found it intolerable. That is what is wrong with this world. Sorry again.

Ah, so that's what's wrong the world, eh? Here's my reply to all, including my grandfather. Also, my aunt sent another e-mail to me only, and it's quoted in this as well.

Good morning Judy. You've replied to [my other aunt] in the past about e-mail that was offensive to you, but this is somehow different?

Atheism (a lack of belief, notably - again, it sounds like you didn't watch any of the vids or think about one word I said, and it's really hard to talk to someone about this if they don't even attempt know what's going on) was certainly attacked. You didn't try to have much of a conversation - in sum, you sent a chain e-mail, got indignant, provided a bunch of irrelevant information and asked some questions. You got thoughtful answers that you didn't like or didn't want to take the time to read and think about. My first reply essentially said 'stop' and my second was links to information and quotes from some notable people, including early Americans like Lincoln and Jefferson, on atheism. And my third answered your questions in some detail. If you think that's somehow intolerant, you need to buy a dictionary.


On Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 6:45 AM, Judy ****** <*******> wrote:
Everything need not be an arguement, and every argument is not yours to win. It is your opinion, documented, with more opinion. You do have some life to live, and grow from. I trust you will. I will not speak of this again.

It might be the case that atheism is more important and more deserving of careful thought and analysis to me than your religion is to you - I don't know - but that appears to be what's going on here. I've thrown out information and no one has tried (or probably wanted to) meet it with counterinformation of any real substance. How can you "win" if you don't even try to discuss things (not that there's anything to be "won" - it's called the free exchange of ideas)? Should I just not say anything about the heart of the issues you asked about - be totally nonresponsive? Should I defer instead to irrelevant information that only appealed to sympathy for a probable Christian who had just joked about the death of another human being (who just happened to be an atheist)?

I think about these issues all the time because it's that important to me - they affect the world everyone lives in - religion has set us back severely for centuries. There is no argument to be had because I'm not fighting - I'm talking about reality. There really wasn't much opinion (I actually can't think of any off the top of my head without going back and looking) in the text of my long reply - more like important philosophical considerations and facts that I've observed in my daily life - and it didn't even scratch the surface of what's wrong with religion. The videos aren't anything close to opinion either - watch them and you'd know that. They are facts about world events related to religion, statistics (i.e. facts) on atheists in America, facts about the universe and its origins, and so on - you know, science. I immerse myself in this kind of information, once again, because it's important. It might be the most important thing to the human race. People should recognize that. But people are intellectually lazy.

Then my aunt replied only to me. The courtroom reference is about the fact that I just finished law school and passed the bar. Past experience has revealed that she has a problem with this for reasons that have nothing to do with disliking lawyers - I think you can probably guess :) This one is even more nonsensical than the response of hers filled with irrelevant background about Calvin.

I was not indignant. Once again, your opinion. This is not a courtroom. Who says you know what is going on, anymore than me? Where is it written that you have the answers. Please do not attempt to have all the answers, you will surely be wrong. You were not attacked. If you think you were, get thicker skin.

No, the difference is you are just right. You don't have all the answers, maybe you should realize that you will not always be right, and should not always have to quote others and their words. Think for yourself at the risk of feeling what you feel, not what your hear or read. I respect all those you speak of, but this is too much about you are right and the rest dumb. I do not need a dictionary. I did stop and you sent it back reply all. You opened the door. Open the door, and expect company.

My reply. She didn't respond to this :)

Okay, then pick a different word for indignant, because you didn't think it was acceptable that I defended myself against Calvin and you jumped to defend him for acting like an idiot. Are some people less human than others (atheists, maybe)? You completely mischaracterized the nature of his response and then thought it appropriate to make it personal and condescendingly lecture me about the need to grow as a person when I've already grown out of Christianity - I won't go backwards. Let's turn it around: what makes you think you know more than I do? What do you do everyday to learn? I spend a lot of time on these issues, constantly questioning what I learn. I always want to learn more. Like I said, you've put forth nothing of substance to show what you know. Am I supposed to just ignore that and say, "Oh, you're right, you've said nothing - but you're right?" Do you have anything to counter anything I've said aside from personal attacks? Then you can show me if you want. If you think you know more or different than I do, explain if you want. I'm willing to listen - again, it's important to me. If you don't want to, then don't get mad at me simply for being willing to engage and putting good information on the table. But how dare I provide information, right - how dare I "prove my case"? You certainly don't ignore it when [my other aunt] does it to you, and I don't blame you - we've discussed it before.

I never claimed to have all the answers, so now you're putting words in my mouth. In fact, if you look, towards the end of my long reply email I explicitly said "I don't have all the answers." But people need to think about things. If they don't want to, they don't have to, but I'm going to, and I will encourage others to do so - it's what's right. There is nothing dumb about thinking about what we are in the universe and in the grand scheme of things. There is nothing dumb about considering the fact that Christianity stole its main concepts from other religions before it before you dedicate your life to it and before the world makes policy around it. There is nothing dumb about assessing the fact that religion is at the forefront of holding back scientific progress, responsible for periods like the Dark Ages and now campaigning (some religions are, at least) against rational thought and things like stem cell research, which has the ability to save lives - all in the name of god. All these people claim to know god's will. Like the guy in the white coat says at the beginning of the first Sam Harris video, that's the definition of arrogance.

You also hit reply all and found it necessary to send it to [my grandpa] - why, I don't know, but I assure you, my response would've been the same had he been originally included. Did you think you were outing me as an atheist when I've already hit reply all, and some recipients are family members that he regularly speaks to? If so, that's pretty silly.

And I'm fine with company (why else would I have hit reply all?), but when that company responds with stupid jokes attacking something they seem to know nothing about, they're going to get a response. If it blows them out of the water, that's how it is. If company wants to respond legitimately, they can, and if they don't, well, that's what they get. I've handled it directly and sincerely which is all I can do.

Finally, you have a problem with me quoting others; is that why you send out chain e-mail all the time where you just hit forward and send? Where's your original input? Why should I spend my time typing out more than I already did when those videos explain it better than I ever could and in a more entertaining fashion, and when people like you and Calvin don't even take the time to actually pay attention or just respond thoughtlessly? I tried, in case the rare event occurred that someone actually did pay attention. I don't predict that they will, but information can't be received unless it's first given by someone else. Unless you want to discuss the merits of atheism or religion, this conversation should be over.


Views: 4228

Comment by Shawn D. Hubbard on December 27, 2009 at 2:42pm
Very nice! I enjoyed it all. Thank you for sharing. I know I'm going to reference it.
WTG on passing the bar! It must be an awesome feeling to realize the fruits of what I can only imagine as a lot of very hard work. Congratulations!
Comment by Danielle on December 28, 2009 at 6:37pm
Wow, I can't believe you had the patience to go through all of that! Very well done :)
Comment by Kevin Friend on February 23, 2012 at 4:44pm

Oh, and three years later.  WTF? ?

Comment by Warren on November 16, 2013 at 6:33pm

Long read but interesting. Your responses would make Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and others proud.

Comment by Noel on November 17, 2013 at 11:04am

I'm bookmarking all the videos!!!

Good job...


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