Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

April 14, 2009

Atheist Behaving Badly

Filed under: politics, religion — Tags: — codesmithy @ 9:11 am

In general, I don’t like criticizing other atheists. For example, I am not going to criticize Dan Barker and the Freedom From Religion Foundation for his display at the Washington state Capitol even though I would have added “We believe” as a preface. Nor am I going to criticize the atheist bus campaign of “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” although I would personally have preferred “almost certainly” as opposed to “probably.” My attitude is: at least they are doing something.

I understand that atheism constitutes a diverse set of people and views. As such, it is unlikely that one that there will be complete consensus on every issue. For example, I’ve criticized Hitchens for his stance on the Iraq war. I’ve also criticized Shermer for his assertions about free market capitalism. I was disappointed with Harris’ stance on torture.

In some ways this is unfortunate because if Hitchens deserves criticism for his support for the Iraq war, then William Kristol deserves as much if not more. There are many things I deeply respect about Hitchens. I think it was exemplified by his willingness to be water-boarded in order to determine if it were torture. I can only wish Harris had an iota of that integrity. But, I find these issues separate from advocacy for atheism, for which I want to show some degree solidarity even if I might disagree with particular tactics or would do things differently.

That said, I ran across these videos where an atheist was suing for libel over a bumper-sticker and I feel it would be disingenuous not to criticize it. One reason is that it is so beyond the par. The second reason is that it encapsulates the same line of reasoning that I criticize religious people for employing. Therefore, it would show a definite lack of integrity if I was aware of it and didn‘t criticize it.

Here is Patrick Greene explaining his lawsuit on the Atheist Experience.



Threatening baseless lawsuits is a bullying tactic and it is counterproductive. No one has the right not to be offended. We may think less of people who are unnecessarily provocative or offensive (Ann Coulter comes to mind), but the best way to handle it is to ignore them or to criticize them. Show these people that they have no place in civilized discourse until they change their ways. Don’t sue. A baseless suit gives them credibility as a victim and feeds into every negative stereotype one could have about atheists.

As it stands today, atheism only exists as an aspect of a free society. We are wholly dependent on our ability to hold and share views that others find offensive. While I do feel that criticism should be somewhat proportional to the size of a person’s forum, taking legal action is equivalent to using the nuclear option. Suing the state for violating the separation of church and state is one thing; suing individuals for expressing their views on their own property is another. Patrick Greene is a fool for thinking otherwise.

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