My Response to Nice Atheist Girl, in regards to my Pribble response…

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So recently, I came across this sweet little rebuttal to my Martin Pribble response post from some time back. Apparently, a blogger named “Nice Atheist Girl” didn’t take too kindly to my response, and posted her own special kind of diatribe on her blog.

Apparently, she did it a long time back, but I only got wind of it now. You can read the whole meandering, self-righteous post via the link above. I’m going to take this space to reply to her points (Mine are in bold italics):

…The other rebuttal, written by a guy named Tony, apparently during an apoplectic fit brought on by self-induced umbrage. Here’s a breakdown, paraphrased for the sake of brevity. [Bold, bracketed comments are my own interjections.]

Martin: …I have considered myself an “activist atheist” — [someone fighting]against the evils of deliberate misinformation [by trolling online for theists, telling]them why they are wrong and ridiculing their unreasonable beliefs. [It] could be extremely satisfying [when I could]come to a level of agreement with a believer [but]the times of satisfaction are outweighed by feelings of frustration and hopelessness.
Tony: Are you serious? [Did you come to be] a vocal atheist…out of some egotistical sense of satisfaction, or…to make a real difference in the way people…understand their existence? [Did you think] that there was going to be some kind of self-serving, self-satisfying payoff…?

[Either Tony misread or willfully misinterpreted what Martin was conveying. Martin said that he experienced “times of satisfaction” when he felt that he’d made a positive impact. Tony is taking the effect and twisting it into the cause. Feelings of frustration and “hopelessness” are a normal when you are unable to broaden someone’s worldview.]

Actually, I didn’t misread anything. I also find it hysterical that you felt the need to ignorantly paraphrase what I said to suit your own silly argument. Who does that? Oh yeah, believers do that.

What, are you too lazy to post my response in its entirety?

Here is what I actually said: 

“Seems to me that you’ve seriously lost sight of why it’s important to be vocal as an atheist. “Frustration and hopelessness”? Are you serious? I think you need to figure out why you even became a vocal atheist in the first place. Was it out of some egotistical sense of satisfaction, or was it to try to make a real difference in the way people view, discuss and understand their existence? Were you thinking that there was going to be some kind of self-serving, self-satisfying payoff in being vocal? Could you be any more egotistical? All this, in my opinion, means you obviously became “vocal” for all the wrong reasons.”

Read it more than once if you need to. Without paraphrasing. 

Martin: I will no longer be dragged into debates with theists [who make ludicrous claims]. There is no point in it.

Tony: Why would you get into endless loop debates with theists…at all? Why do some atheists let themselves get sucked into self-defeating, life-sucking debate[s]where one side is of it is completely founded on FANTASY! MYTH! BULLSHIT!

Did you never learn that in your five years of being an “online atheist”? I’d be embarrassed to admit that if I were you.

[Tony just agreed with Martin that those types of “debates” are self-defeating and best avoided, while his unnecessarily patronizing tone is a good example of why the atheist “community” is currently so fractious.]

“Unnecessarily patronizing?” I simply called him out on the obvious. That endless debating with theists is an utter waste of time. He went into a diatribe about this being a reason why he is stopping to be an “online atheist”. What, you don’t think that’s a relevant point to discuss? Even if it may come across as “unnecessarily patronizing”. Much like your point about the atheist “community” being so fractious. Which, quite frankly, is exactly how it should be. What part of that do you not get?

Martin: All this back-and-forth sniping serves to do is to make us feel a sense of superiority [and confirms the preconceived idea that]“atheists are all mean.” Faith overrides knowledge and truth in any situation.

Tony: Again… are you kidding me? You are just figuring this out now? Took you long enough. [Again…sheer disdain rarely strengthens an argument.]

It wasn’t an argument, it was an observation. Usually people with some modicum of common sense figure stuff like this out a lot faster than over a period of five-odd years. 

1. Basing your opinions on tangible facts, logic, and science DOES make your opinion superior to someone’s [sic]whose opinion is based on fiction…[Your opinions may be rationally and factually superior, but expressing them doesn’t mean YOU are superior.]

Hmmm… that’s funny, I don’t think I ever claim that at all. What gave you the basis to make such a silly assumption? Thanks however,  for agreeing with me on the point that I actually made.

2. When I engage in a debate based on facts (which is always)…I don’t feel smug afterwards. I don’t need to come away…with some strange buzz of victory or satisfaction. That’s not why I debate. [Nor do most of us. We question beliefs out of an honest desire to educate and possibly inspire others to rethink their beliefs.]

Oh, so now you think you speak for all atheists as to why they debate or don’t debate? Really now? 🙂

3. Faith does NOT override knowledge or truth in any situation… If what you were saying was true, people would not pay their bills on the basis of their “faith”. The reason they are so [sic]clinging to their “faith” even against the most damning evidence debunking it is cognitive dissonance, and denial. Believe it or not, that’s really your only job as a vocal atheist.

[If Tony had read Pribble’s post, without that chip on his shoulder, he would have understood that in a believer’s mind faith does supersede known facts. Believers have often been indoctrinated to reject challenges to their belief system. They may actually be afraid to entertain doubt and need reassurance, not ridicule.

Apparently I read Pribble’s post better than you did. First of all, suffice to say, that I’ve had SEVERAL believers tell me over the course of my time as a vocal atheist tell me, that whatever I said to them (whether it was a tacit response to something silly they said, or yes, blatant ridicule) made them think. It at least made them reconsider what they believe.

Not that I seek this kind of validation, but I’ll gladly take it over your silly, general notions about how to handle believers, any day of the week.  

Once again Tony just repeated what Martin said about faith overriding facts. Contrary to Tony’s proclamation, as atheists it is not our job is to “point out [the]obvious hypocrisy and silliness” of someone’s faith with the self-righteous condescension of a preacher.]

It’s one thing to be condescending on the basis of facts and evidence vs. being condescending on the basis of myth, legend, and fear-mongering. If you don’t know the difference, that is an issue you should probably deal with before trying to tell someone else how they should behave. 

And how do you do [debunk their beliefs]? Simple [show them]that what they believe…is completely… LUDICROUS. It’s the 21st century for fuck’s sake. There is simply no room [for]archaic, bronze age, divisive, silly, and nonsensical beliefs. And dare I say that those beliefs are inherently and directly DANGEROUS.

[Many long held beliefs are indeed “inherently and directly dangerous” and need to be firmly addressed. However, venting your impotent rage may not be the best way to do it.]

There you go again with the EXTREMELY poor paraphrasing…

Here is what I said in its entirety:

“All we need to do is point out the obvious. The reason they are so clinging to their “faith” even against the most damning evidence debunking it is cognitive dissonance, and denial. Believe it or not, that’s really your only job as a vocal atheist. Really. 

And how do you do that exactly? Simple, by letting believers understand that what they believe, in this day and age, is completely, and absolutely LUDICROUS. It’s the 21st century for fuck’s sake. There is simply no room in the realm of modern thought to cling on to archaic, bronze age, divisive, silly, and nonsensical beliefs. And dare I say that those beliefs are inherently and directly DANGEROUS. Ultimately, they only cause grave harm to mostly innocent, poor, and/or uneducated people. People who don’t have a voice of their own for whatever reason. “

That’s not rage NAG, that’s simply stating facts. People are being killed, maimed, raped, murdered, persecuted because of dangerous mythical beliefs. I take that shit seriously, even if you don’t. 

Martin: …I’ve come to a point where I am only injuring myself [by]engaging in theistic debating about things like…the Noah’s Ark story.

Tony: Then DON’T debate Noah’s Ark…LAUGH AT THEM… Mock and dismiss it to the point of shame.

[Tony doesn’t seem to understand the power of the lifelong indoctrination implemented by many religions. Having come from a Christian background, I guarantee that dismissive, mocking, and shaming “debate” methods will only put believers on the defensive and entrench their unfortunate beliefs even more firmly.]

Actually, I do. And again, probably far better than you do, it appears.

What, you think you’re special because you come from a “christian background”? Get over yourself. I too was indoctrinated into religion. I was brought up hardcore catholic (you know, the original christians) in the 60’s through early 80’s. I also spent a large part of my young life growing up in the bible-belt South. So I’ve seen the batshit from two different angles and perspectives. 

Different believers will react to counter-arguments in different ways. No one believer will react the same as the other. So for you to make such an idiotic generalized statement, that claims that ALL believers will be on the “defensive and entrench their beliefs even more firmly”, is utterly ridiculous. I’ve talked to enough believers to know how many of them are on the fence, and seeing their beliefs ridiculed to the point of silliness got them to think.

Hey, it happened to me, I made the jump to being an agnostic, then an atheist because of a comedy bit that I saw George Carlin do back in the 80’s. He completely mocked the shit out of religion to the point where I had to say… “fuck, this guy is right.”

So how about YOU get a clue, and stop acting like your absurd “high-road moralist” stance is the only/best way to call out believers? 

Martin: If someone is espousing beliefs that are actively harmful—i.e., promoting intolerance based on belief systems—expect me to be the first to stand up and say something.

I can’t allow this kind of thinking, and if I can help it, I will move to sway the believer into rethinking their position. But this will be done with reason and rational discourse, not with contradicting the finer points of the religious texts.

Tony: Um… Martin, I have a little newflash [sic]for you. ALL “beliefs” based on faith or fantasy, particularly when it comes to religion, are…inherently harmful…All of them.

The reality is that these “harmless believers” are STILL supporting a MULTI-BILLION [sic]DOLLAR ENTERPRISE…subsidizing and financing an institution that has systematically [harmed millions].

[This isn’t a “news flash” for ANYONE. We are ALL quite aware of the evils perpetrated by many organized religions. However, berating some poor bastard who is himself mired in dogmatic superstition, ignorance and fear will have no effect on the religious leaders who are truly to blame.

Ah, so apparently ALL the poor bastards can’t think for themselves and are victims of religious leaders? Really now? 

There are many places in this world where the poor and uneducated are being utterly exploited by religion. Trust me, I know. I’ve spent almost a decade in Third-world Latin America and have seen it first-hand. And the key to stopping them from being victims is EDUCATION. Making them understand that the church they subscribe to doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them other than their money. Just going after the religious leaders is not enough. Apparently, you still need to figure that shit out. 

But here IS a news flash: there is such a thing as benign faith. If prayer brings comfort to those who are suffering, that is abenign faith. A faith which incites violence, cruelty, bigotry and blind hatred, discourages education, refuses medical care, etc., is a malignant faith and the institutions that propagate it deserve severe approbation.]

Benign faith is a joke, a fantasy.

If some “benign believer” even remotely supports malignant faith by means of financial or moral support, it becomes in itself an accomplice in the crime of religion. There are HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of cafeteria catholics of “benign faith” in the world. They  financially support a worldwide criminal organization called the catholic church. They do nothing more than go to church on sundays and give money. That alone is enough to make their faith malignant. What more proof do you need?

Benign faith? Pardon me while I call “Bullshit”.

Thanks for showing us your bright, shiny apologist side however. It explains quite a lot. 🙂

Martin: It all comes down to a simple fact [that]people will be more easily swayed if you don’t attack them personally.

Others in the atheist community might say that an attack on religion is not a personal attack, but to many believers it is, because that is what they base their lives upon.

Tony: [W]hat’s wrong with telling someone whose beliefs are silly, archaic, and destructive the TRUTH…? I’ll tell you. Nothing. [It’s] incumbent on the truth-teller to render the pain as directly, if not as humanely as possible. My purpose in standing for truth is not to “sway” people. It’s to get them to ultimately THINK about what they believe…[to get them]on that slow…path to enlightenment.

[Tony’s justification for inflicting “pain” on believers through sanctimonious derision is unacceptable. As I said before, mocking and shaming will only serve to make believers defensive and will cause them to cling that much harder to their religion.

Again, that’s your opinion. Not all believers react the same way to the different types of discussions and arguments as you did. You are basically trying to do the same thing Pribble did by criticizing the attitudes, words and actions of other people. 

Let me try to make this as clear to you as possible:

There is NO RULE BOOK. 

There is NO CODE OF CONDUCT 

There is NO RIGHT WAY OR WRONG WAY to be an atheist when it comes to sharing opinions.

And it really doesn’t matter what you think or claim. Just because you’re “nice” doesn’t mean everybody else needs to be.

While I consider myself a very social, and people-friendly person, I have a very low tolerance for stupidity. I am not going to pretend and/or pussyfoot around it just because somebody thinks I should.

We can’t educate the misguided by insulting them. We will only be proving their negative opinions about atheists.]

And  there goes that asinine paraphrasing again… 🙂

Here, let me help you again with what I said… 

“Us vs. them? How about TRUTH vs FANTASY? How about FACT vs. FICTION? And what’s wrong with telling someone whose beliefs are silly, archaic, and destructive the TRUTH about their beliefs? Especially if they have no grounds whatsoever to base what they believe on in the first place?

I’ll tell you. Nothing.

The truth hurts sometimes. But the truth is the truth. And sometimes, it’s incumbent on the truth-teller to render the pain as directly, if not as humanely as possible. My purpose in standing for truth is not to “sway” people. It’s to get them to ultimately THINK about what they believe. And sorry, if confronted with the truth enough times, some people will do just that. It might just take some people five years. That’s good enough for me. “

Being bearers of the truth requires that you not try to “soft-sell” or sugar-coat it. Nor does it require you injecting your personality and charm into it. You are the messenger not the message. Stop aggrandizing your role in the process. You really should get over yourself. 

Martin: If you mock or criticize the believer’s convictions, it is as though you are attacking them personally, and they will shut down the conversation right there. Even worse, they’ll GO INTO ALL-CAPS MODE, as if that makes the defense of belief more substantial.

Tony: Who cares? If a believer takes your criticism personally, that’s not your problem, it’s theirs. [Who says atheists aren’t compassionate?]

I’m compassionate to people who deserve it. People who act and hate on the basis of their beliefs do not deserve my compassion. Their victims do. 

Martin: An argument can be much more convincing if it gives context and information instead of just derision.

Tony: [Calling] someone who still believes…a “moron” is just a by-product of the debate. [No. Name-calling is not “a by-product” of debate, it is ad hominem and self-defeating.]

Ah… more of that convenient paraphrasing! 🙂

Here we go again, let’s look at what I REALLY said… 

“There you go again… focusing on the trivialities and minutiae rather than the FACT that Noah’s Ark is A FAIRY TALE! Yes, of COURSE discussing the mathematical or scientific implausibility of the story is a great way to “sway” a believer. We at least do that on our site, while at the same time RIDICULING THE STORY. Why? Because IT IS RIDICULOUS. Citing the obvious, and the fact that someone who still believes the story is a “moron”, is just a by-product of the debate. Do you still not get that??”

Hmm says things a bit differently than what you’re claiming in your neatly-packaged paraphrase, doesn’t it? 

Here’s the thing. I go by the axiom that it isn’t an insult if it’s true. 

If someone acts like an idiot, then they deserve to be called an idiot. Much like if a priest raped a kid, he deserves to be called a pedo priest. Get it?

That’s not ad hominem if the statement is supported by relevant facts. So perhaps, you should learn the meaning of “ad hominem” too while you’re working on your clearly sophomoric paraphrasing skills?

Martin: Atheists and nonbelievers make up such a small part of the world’s population that we can never hope to change the world by ourselves—certainly not, if our primary weapon is yelling at people we don’t agree with.[Cooperation between theists and atheists is the first step toward unified, secularly-led world governments.]

Martin: Most theists in the world are not completely delusional. Many see their faith as being primarily about an afterlife and dismiss the more ridiculous stories—about the apocalypse, for instance—as parables used to illustrate a point.

Tony: So…believing in an “afterlife” is a virtuous trait? [Martin said nothing about belief in an afterlife being “virtuous” — he said many hold beliefs which are, in reality, quite innocuous and harm no one.]

Um, yeah, he kinda sorta did… 🙂

Martin: The problem is, the people we hear most from are not the rational ones. It’s the fanatics with the largest and loudest voices.

Tony: Well, as one of those “loud voices”, let me speak in my defense…[No need to get defensive, Martin was referring to fundamental theists…not necessarily fundamental ATHEISTS.]

Yes, and there are loud voices on the other side of the fence. That was my point. Sorry if you missed it. Way to try to score on a misunderstanding of my context. 

I speak LOUDLY…[because in]other parts of the world, people who speak HALF as loudly…are being KILLED…TORTURED… ARRESTED AND EXECUTED. So then ask yourself: Do you not have a DUTY, no a RESPONSIBILITY to…speak, SCREAM and DEBATE on their behalf?

And more with the paraphrasing? No, not acceptable:

“I speak LOUDLY because I’ve been hit with a rather grim reality since I started my blog some two or so years ago.

And here is that reality: In other parts of the world, people who speak HALF as loudly or even meekly as I do about the same subject matter, are being KILLED. They are being TORTURED. They are being ARRESTED AND EXECUTED. They are being made to DISAPPEAR. They are being forced to HIDE in FEAR. Just look at what has happened to atheist and secular bloggers in places like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, among other countries.

So then ask yourself: Do you not have a DUTY, no a RESPONSIBILITY to speak for them? Since you can? Is it not incumbent on YOU to speak, SCREAM and DEBATE on their behalf? Without any concern for personal satisfaction, reward, or even a pat on the back?? Dismiss this if you want, but this is why I speak out. Louder and more obnoxiously than ever before, for that matter.”

[There is no question that everyone should be outraged by any violation of human rights, atheist or otherwise! But all that energy and anger needs to be directed at world leaders who allow the persecution and oppression of ANY group. Screaming at some dumbfuck on Twitter or Facebook isn’t the answer.]

It’s not about screaming at dumbfucks. It’s about SPEAKING FOR PEOPLE WHO CANNOT SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES. What part of that do you not get? It’s about giving secularists and atheists who are doing nothing more than trying to bring their societies  out of the dark ages vocal support on their behalf. By speaking out, ALL OF US, it becomes much more difficult for leaders to ignore. It really is that simple. Think about it for a while if you have to. 

Martin: I have decided to define myself by what I stand for in life rather than what I don’t believe in. I call this “methodological humanism.” In essence, methodological humanism is a standpoint by which everyone, theist, agnostic, and atheist alike, can agree on as a platform from which we can all benefit: the need for food, water, and sanitation; the protection of our natural environment; and the preservation of the world as a whole. Without these things, we, as a species, cease to exist.

Tony: Well, good enough… except for one thing. How do you address the FACT that so much of our resources…are being WASTED, HOARDED, and MISUSED by religious institutions?

How do you discuss this…with theists under your new humanist platform without offending them or making them understand that they are part of the greater problem? Here’s a hint, you can’t. So…[w]hy put yourself into such a wishy-washy position…due to your reluctance to offend?  That makes you a very special kind of apologist. Nothing to be proud of.

[Tony has once again misconstrued and twisted a simple statement of personal purpose. Martin said is that he is choosing to focus on the needs of humanity as a whole, rather than spending his energy in the narrow focus off disabusing theists of their damaging beliefs. Does it really matter WHO is wasting, hoarding, and misusing our resources? Any organization, corporation, or government needs to be held accountable.Theism is only part of the problems the world faces today. ]

Actually, you missed MY point. I simply stated that it’s pretty close to impossible to “work” with theists who support institutions and systems that actually go against the “humanist platform” that Pribble touts with such utopia-like enthusiasm. Of COURSE it matters that churches, mosques and synagogues are subsidized by all taxpayers and allowed to do their bidding to future generations. Of COURSE it matters that countless billions of dollars of wealth are being hoarded by these same institutions while people, many of whom are their own MEMBERS, are starving or otherwise battling for survival. How insanely delusional are you?

Martin: So much of Internet discourse is based upon the disagreements we have with one another…[but]if we can first find a space where we agree, a bottom-line for the well-being of all people, then the arguments about belief begin to look like petty squabbling over childhood toys.

This is not to say that I think people should stop arguing — quite the opposite. Argument helps us suss out the finer points of what we believe to be our rights and needs, and what are simply comforts that we are so used to having that we can’t imagine life with out [sic]them.

I’m not calling for a cease-fire altogether between atheists and believers online.

In fact, I think that we still need those who will relentlessly chase down believers for their ludicrous ideas, especially when they cause harm in the world. But I will not be the one doing it — and those who are in the trenches should think harder about their own tactics.

Tony goes on to call Martin’s post a diatribe (I’m not sure he sees the irony in that), accusing him of being a disingenuous, self-serving, self-important/egotistical online atheist. Offering a petty “good riddance” to someone whom he feels belongs “on the sidelines” for having the audacity of sharing his “wishy-washy” opinions.

A thoughtful, item-per-item response to a diatribe is not in itself a diatribe. Sorry you can’t tell the difference. 

As for what I said to Pribble, allow me to state what I actually said:

“And ultimately, as I already inferred before, I salute you in your decision to drop out of the discussion. Really, all I can say is… thanks.  You clearly never had a clear idea of WHY you were even doing it in the first place. Maybe you got some self-serving high after seeing something you wrote or published get read by a large number of people. Maybe you enjoyed a healthy dose of self-importance and ego from that attention. Then, you probably thought you can keep the high going, by just blathering on and kicking dead horses. Glad you figured out that it doesn’t work that way. Too bad you wasted five years in the process. 

It’s good to see that reality has set in, and that you have seen the light. Because to an atheist like me, you never had it in you in the first place. Trust me when I say that “Online Atheism” is a better place with you on the sidelines.

Please, for the sake of the rest of us, stay on the sidelines. “

Tell me exactly what you misunderstood. 

By that reasoning, calling out a believer for being inflexible and stupid is justified, but quietly suggesting that atheists — and those they hope to influence — might benefit from tempering their arguments is an affront? If I want that sort of fundamental bullshit, I’ll go back to church. Imagine what the world would be like today if Gandhi had behaved like a petulant, self-righteous prick rather than taking the high road.

Not at all, the fact that Pribble could have just stopped being an online atheist without one last self-aggrandizing blather-fest about why he was doing so, doesn’t escape me.

In the course of the conversation, people like myself and Hemant Mehta do have the right to respond to his claims any way we see fit. You, of course, have the right to respond to our points as well. However, let it be noted that you should probably the avoid the use of insipidly-crafted paraphrases when making your counter-points.

Trust me, that will only work in your favor, and not highlight your laziness and self-defeating desire for brevity. 

Look forward to more nuggets from you. 🙂


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A #snarknado response from #FoamHole (or something to that effect) to MY response to HIS response to @MartinPribble.
http://t.co/3MnCM24Sdx