News & Blog

We are not ashamed of “blasphemy”

On our Facebook page, we received this comment about a picture we posted making fun of the Second Commandment for Blasphemy Day. In the picture, Muhammad just got out of the shower, and seeing his face in the mirror, yells “BLASPHEMY!”

A commenter, Matt Henderson, had posted previously, “More immature inflammatory nonsense from American Atheists.” He later followed up with this:

Matt Henderson

I think that it’s common for many people raised with a heavy dose of certain religious traditions who then fall away from faith to go through an “angry” phase, to lash out and announce their newfound skepticism. It’s a phase that I went through. And writers like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, although they make many important arguments that Americans need to be exposed to, have prompted and reassured many newfound skeptics that it’s okay to be an asshole towards persons whose philosophical beliefs differ from your own. And to say, capital-R Reason or capital-S Science demands that I believe x. No one has access to capital-R Reality or capital-T Truth.

What we have with science and with many other routes to knowledge, are methods that have yielded useful results. I fully support science and skepticism, but no one has a right to get on a high horse and say, this is how it is, end of story. Rather than painting all religious believers with one insanely broad brush and unjustifiably claiming that science proves that there’s no god, or whatever.. I think the trick is to show religious people how explanatorily successful science has been and how it’s useful to tend towards the simplest metaphysical and explanatory principles necessary in order to account for something.

Anyway, to get less philosophical, while I think there’s a place for shocking people out of their complacency, you’re not likely to change many hearts and minds if your tactic is to simply ridicule and throw bombs at people of religious faith. It’s arrogant and unjustified in this postmodern age. So what do I think the goal of atheists should be? I think that the goal of American Atheists should be to serve as a welcoming community and to protect atheists in the U.S. from discrimination. What it should NOT do is pretend that it’s this unassailable citadel of Reason and Truth that gets to judge the rest of culture. We tried that in philosophy and it didn’t really work out.

No one has a monopoly on truth. It’s fine for individual members to go at it, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for a national organization representing atheists to be engaged in this kind of dirty trench warfare on its official page. You may think you’re right and you may be right, but it breaks the respectful decorum that is expected in western society in this day and age.


My reply:

Being angry is not a phase. It is an appropriate emotional response to injustice.

People were KILLED because a Danish newspaper dared to publish some funny cartoons. Of course we are angry, and it has nothing to do with whether or not we were formerly religious. It has to do with people being murdered because they dared offend someone’s imaginary friend.

Note that this cartoon doesn’t make fun of Muslims. It makes fun of the idea that images of Muhammad are considered “sacred” by Islam, and it further implies that this idea is taken so seriously that it’s become comical. We’re making fun of the idea of sacrilege, of the idea that the Second Commandment has any authority.

Further, what makes you think this page is for religious people? We are not trying to “shock people out of their complacency” or “change many hearts and minds.” This page is for atheists. If we were attempting to deconvert people we’d probably go about it differently. We don’t go out and try to deconvert people; that is not what we are here for. We are here to fight religion, to educate people about atheism, and to help provide a sense of community for atheists.

Further, this “respectful decorum” you mention is exactly the problem. Religion deserves no respect. It is responsible for many deaths, for poisoning many minds, and for untold suffering. We will not be silent or silenced about this; that’s exactly why we do what we do. If it makes some people uncomfortable, that is too bad—These things are simply too important to just sit by and watch happen out of social expectations of minding our own business. Screw that! When people are being actively defrauded, physically and emotionally abused, and systematically traumatized, we cannot in good conscious be respectful or decorous. We do NOT respect religion and it is that simple. Respect is earned, and religion has not only done nothing to earn it; it has actively moved in the opposite direction.


Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director
(908) 276-7300 x7
[email protected]