The Atheist Academic

The Atheist Academic: I read the comments you guys leave, you know…

I like when people leave comments on my articles; I really do. Most of you leave them where the article is posted (i.e. Facebook) instead of on the actual article, and that’s okay. I mean, it makes it look like nobody reads my articles if you just look at the School of Doubt page, but I can look at the statistics. I know.

Sometimes I get angry comments, and I think maybe I like those the best. I try not to argue back with people, because that’s just not my thing, but I really do read them. I like making people angry because that means that you’re engaging with what I’ve written. It’s like I tell my students: love something I’ve given you to read, hate something I’ve given you to read — just have an OPINION. And then support it with facts so that you don’t look like an idiot.

But there’s one thing that I’ve gotten as a comment a number of times (thank you, Facebook Atheist page) and that is this: Why do you feel the need to bash people who are just trying to live their own life and practice their religion? You are the type of atheist that makes everyone think that we’re assholes.

I feel like there are two ways that you can be an atheist. The first way is to live as an atheist, but with your head in the ground. You can silently believe that there is no god, but just go about your life and ignore (or join in with!) the religious people around you. You may go to church just for the socialization. You might notice a religious play at your child’s public school and think, “Well, it’s not THAT big of a deal…”. And that’s fine. If that’s how you’re comfortable being an atheist, good. You’ve gotta be good with yourself.

But there’s another way you can be an atheist. You can let other people know that intelligent people just like them are atheist, too. That it’s not something weird to be ashamed of. That atheists are your doctors, your teachers, your neighbors, your gas station attendants, your lawyers… everyone. You don’t have to shove it down their throats, but you can answer, when you’re asked, that you’re not religious. You can post an atheist link on Facebook.  And if you’re in the right place — say, an atheist page on an atheist website — it’s honestly okay to poke fun at religious people. To exercise your camaraderie with your fellow atheists by giggling together at how silly the religious people are. How hypocritical they are. I’m not being an atheist asshole (not that there’s anything wrong with that, Anton!) — I’m just sharing with likeminded people.

Either way of being an atheist is valid. You can blend in, if that’s how you feel comfortable. Or you can speak out, and let the world know that atheists are around them, and they’re good people.

So, go ahead and leave your comments. I’m curious — do you feel that you’re  one type of atheist more than the other? Can you be one in certain situations and the other in other situations? Is there a third kind? Let me know what you think!

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Tori Parker

Tori Parker

Tori is a high school English teacher from Ohio (insert cheerleader kick here)! She is emphatic! She is skeptical! She is nifty! Her boyfriend says that they can get a potbellied pig someday and name him Bacon. She has a little boy whose pseudonym is SC, although he has recently asked that his name be changed to Henry. When asked for a comment to add on this bio, he asked, "Why do we sound like a bad '70's cop show?" So there's that.


  1. September 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm —

    I used to be much more vehement in my atheism. I am much less likely, now, to start an argument. I will, however, allow myself to be drawn into an argument and/or take up the position of the skeptic in an argument when someone asserts something, especially something demonstrably untrue or controversial.

  2. September 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm —

    I am not good at being an asshole. I have a friend who is very good at it–very cutting and brilliantly harsh, but I am not that good. I tried a bit, and I just come off like a bullying jackass. I also am not good at shutting up, so I tend to make comments when other people bring up religion or woo. Clearly simply having facts or reasons isn’t adequate or we wouldn’t have use for sites like this. I am going to start trying Rebecca’s agreement jiu jitsu some more, I think, because it’s a little more my speed. Mocking without the direct affront that a good, caustic asshole employs.

    And now I can’t scrub the phrase caustic asshole from my conscious brain. My apologies if you are now afflicted, too.

    • September 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm —

      Having said that, I have and will continue to straight up laugh in the face of a cryptozoologically-credulous, moon-landing-denying coworker. Because seriously. I feel a little bad, but not so bad that I won’t do it every time. Loudly.

  3. September 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm —

    I feel like, instead of “miserly old man”, your sn should be “caustic asshole”. Because haha 🙂

  4. September 29, 2013 at 5:24 am —

    I don’t do asshole very well, and I don’t like myself much when I try it, anyway. Also, Some of my Best Friends™ are theists who aren’t trying to convert everyone (me in particular), so I feel no need to convert them.

    That said, I don’t bury my head in the sand when militant theists try to force their belief system and practices into spaces that should remain secular. As long as the theists keep their religion in the privacy of their homes and places of worship, I’m not going to shit on their belief system, but if “liv[ing] their own life and practic[ing] their religion” means trying to shove it down my throat or to shove it down the throats of the students at my kid’s school, then I will push back.

    I don’t much care for Heinlein’s politics, but I do like this one quote from one of his books (*To sail beyond the sunset*):

    “The only thing that preserves religious freedom in the United States is not the First Admendment and is not tolerance, but is solely a Mexican standoff between rival religious sects, each sect intolerant, each sect the sole custodian of the ‘One True Faith,’ yet each sect a minority that gives lip service to freedom of religion to keep its own ‘One True Faith’ from being persecuted by all the other ‘true faiths.'”

  5. September 30, 2013 at 8:09 pm —

    This is where I get to chime in as the obnoxious foreigner and say “in civilised countries this is much less of an issue”. It’s kind of amusing to watch the USA fight about how much it’s a secular state and how much a religious state with nominal freedom of religion (similar to Israel and Turkey).

    It might actually be better for you lot to switch to our system. Pick up some spare royalty from Europe (there are a lot of them about), appoint one as head of state, make them head of the official state church, have a national contest to design said church, then move on to more important things.

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