Atheists Sure Seem to Enjoy Their Hate Mail

In the comments section, Kevin notes:

On a serious note, every prominent figure and activist organization receives death threats. Christians and Christian organizations receive them. Atheists and atheistic organizations receive them. Conservatives, liberals, sports stars, Hollywood types, authors, TV personalities…they all receive death threats.

Indeed. But there is something a little strange about the atheists and atheist organizations – they sure seem to love their hate mail. So much so that they actually like to make youtube videos about it.

None other than Richard Dawkins himself derives great pleasure from reading his hate mail on YouTube:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation loves their hate mail too:

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation also enjoys making videos about their hate mail:

Very interesting. I wonder why they seem to enjoy their hate mail so much? 😉 They like it so much that they can’t seem to get enough of it.

Okay, we are left with two facts:

Fact #1: The atheist organizations enjoy receiving and sharing their hate mail.
Fact #2: None of these atheist organizations offer any evidence that this hate mail truly comes from people who profess to be Christians.

I think we are supposed to believe, on faith, that all this hate mail is legitimate. The problems comes when we consider a famous quote from Dawkins himself:

Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

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11 Responses to Atheists Sure Seem to Enjoy Their Hate Mail

  1. TFBW says:

    And why do they do this? Is it just for the warm feeling of smug superiority they get when their detractors (real or manufactured) say immensely stupid things? Well, clearly that’s part of it, as shown by the inability of people off-camera in the Dawkins video to maintain their composure, for example, but it’s only part of the reason. Another big part of it is that it bolsters their “THE THEOCRACY IS COMING” fear-mongering (which they alternate with their “religion is dying” triumphalism, apparently oblivious to the contradiction). But don’t take my word for it: let the Military Religious Freedom Foundation speak for itself on the matter, in the words of the introduction to their June 2014 “Hate Mail Report”.

    … a small subset of the opposition is preparing for a reign of terror in the name of Christianity. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is merely one of their intended victims. Every American is in danger of violent persecution.

    So do they, as Michael says, take it on faith that their hate-mail is all genuine? Even when that mail shows all the hallmarks of being a cheap imitation, such as the first one that Dawkins reads, with the quote, “if there is no order in evolution, how were you born with your head on your shoulders?”, or the third one that the FFRF narrator reads — the one with subject “GOD” and in ALL CAPS? Are these alleged sceptics so utterly devoid of scepticism that they take all of these things at face value?

    Strangely, an accusation of severe gullibility may be the charitable alternative. The other alternative is that they are well aware that some of this material reeks of fraud, but they simply don’t care, because it serves their political aims. So, gullible Gnus, or deeply cynical political propagandists?

    Eh, maybe it’s not that black and white. It’s human nature to suppress one’s natural scepticism when confronted with something that one deeply wants to be true. That’s why Nigerian scam letters work. Maybe the charitable interpretation is that they’re victims of their own desires: gullible in that special case where the evidence supports that which they really, really want to believe. The obvious irony there is that they frequently use exactly the same model to explain the existence of religious belief.

  2. Michael says:

    Strangely, an accusation of severe gullibility may be the charitable alternative. The other alternative is that they are well aware that some of this material reeks of fraud, but they simply don’t care, because it serves their political aims. So, gullible Gnus, or deeply cynical political propagandists?

    Another good question! I think it is gullibility as people like Dawkins are deeply enslaved to their stereotypes. Thus, they lap up those Poes because it’s all about confirmation bias on steroids.

  3. Dhay says:

    TFBW > So, gullible Gnus, or deeply cynical political propagandists?

    At 1:44 Richard Dawkins drops one alleged e-mailer’s name. It’s the one and only name he drops: “This one is from someone called Ann Coulter.”

    I looked that name up, and found there’s a very famous ultra-right wing American conservative commentator, “the darling of conservatives and a hate figure for the left”, going by that name.

    From that Guardian article it looks to me like the famous Ann Coulter is very forthright indeed, someone who certainly wouldn’t mess around with private hate e-mails — she’d put any vitriol she had towards Dawkins in public print.

    That there should be another Ann Coulter, who just happens to be a hate-mailer to Dawkins seems to me unlikely and implausible; and that Dawkins should innocently and ignorantly drop the name, “Ann Coulter”, and only that name, the name of someone who is “a hate figure for the left” — that also seems to me unlikely and implausible.

    I think this is evidence that Dawkins is a cynical political propagandist.

  4. Alicia Renard says:

    Is this an example of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy? Is the OP author accepting hate mail is real but not written by “true Christians”? Do you think the MRFF are fabricating their mail or does the unChristian act of sending such mail disqualify the sender as a Christian?

  5. GRA says:

    The issue I have with reading hate mail is when the hate mail – real or not – is not addressed. To laugh at it and not address whatever is said makes the reader look like a person who does not care about dissent, that they’re fine being in echo chamber. Yet all of a sudden politicians should listen to their dissenters and they tend to go all “Power to the people!”

  6. Michael says:


    I don’t know what the truth is here. Do you?

    Would you care to explain to the readers what it means for an atheist to be “Poe’d?”

  7. TFBW says:

    An interesting find, Dhay — it certainly ups the ante. Clearly Dawkins knows that Coulter is a name with celebrity status, or he wouldn’t have dropped it. It’s still possible that it was gullibility born of confirmation bias, although that would be some pretty staggering gullibility.

    Given what I know of how Dawkins plays the game, I’d anticipate him defending the action with a rationalisation along the lines of, “oh, I don’t claim that it’s actually the famous Ann Coulter — I’m just reporting the name that was given on the email. Let the viewers use their own judgement in deciding whether it’s real or not.” Given the near-certainty that it’s a fake, the fact that it was likely included only because the sender used the name “Ann Coulter” (the actual content was pretty lame as parody goes), and the lack of caveats, that would be a pretty cynical excuse. After all, if 100% of his audience recognises that it’s fake, then it was pointless including it — it wasn’t even funny. But if some of his audience think it’s real, it’s a different story.

    Consider the words that were attributed to Ann Coulter in this reading. “I defy any of my co-religionists to tell me that they do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell.” Does this fit the mould of propaganda? Well, yes, it’s a pretty straightforward case of demonisation: portraying one’s ideological opponents as hideously evil. It accords completely with Dawkins’ usual narrative about Christianity, in which we’re all trying to suck up to a maniacal, vindictive God.

    So, all things considered, Dhay, I have a hard time disagreeing with your conclusion. The only positive spin I can put on it is that maybe Dawkins is slightly more sincere than this analysis would indicate. Maybe the “this is fake, but I’m going to report it as though it were real” cynicism is tempered by the confirmation bias of, “even if this is not a real example, the general picture that it paints of religious people is an accurate one, so it’s not misleading in that sense.”

    Oh dear. I feel like I’m doing a pretty terrible job of defending Dawkins here. Let’s be charitable and assume it’s me, not the material I’m working with.

  8. Michael says:

    Coulter did write those words……about 10 years ago in a book. She is a bomb-thrower who is far more political than religious.

    Anyway, that leaves two likely explanations:

    1. An atheist troll sent the quote to Dawkins, pretending to be Coulter.
    2. Dawkins quoted the book, pretending it was email.

    Either way, deception was involved.

    BTW, Dawkins knows who Coulter is. He wrote about her before.

  9. TFBW says:

    Coulter did write those words……about 10 years ago in a book.

    I see. That makes it much easier to rationalise. From Dawkins’ perspective (assuming option #1 in your alternatives is true), it’s more along the lines of, “this email is very probably fake, but Ann Coulter really did say that, so it doesn’t matter all that much whether the email is fake or not.” Political propaganda it is, but the level of egregious falsehood in it is not severe enough to warrant a charge of cynicism.

  10. Dhay says:

    I see that the header of the same Richard Dawkins webpage from which Michael culled the “EVELOOTON” fake hate-mail example says:

    In her latest book “Godless,” Ann Coulter writes “I defy any of my coreligionists to tell me they do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell.” This section is dedicated to insanity such as this that finds its way to our inbox. When it goes beyond criticism and into Crazytown, we post it up here for all to see.

    It’s a permanent header, repeating on each page, which means it has almost certainly been there from the start – the first e-mail is dated 04 May 2010 – so I suspect the hate e-mail web pages were created not just after, but in response to Coulter’s book; which in turn means that Dawkins and his staff were always well aware that her words were, as I predicted they would be, up front, in public print, and that they always knew her words were never in a private hate e-mail.

    But the notes to the YouTube original of the “Hate E-mails with Richard Dawkins” video, dated 15 November 2010, tells us it is an extract from a YouTube video dated 14 November 2010 entitled, “Richard Dawkins Answers Reddit Questions”; the former video starts at 11:32 in the latter, as the response to the request, “Would you be so kind as to read some of your hate mail in that adorable British accent.” (My emphases, to highlight that the label on the outer package tells us clearly that what is inside is hate mail, and the label on the inner package tells us clearly that what is inside is hate e-mails.)

    “This one is from someone called Ann Coulter.” This one of what? Well, the label is clear: it’s a hate e-mail; except it isn’t – Dawkins is outright lying. And his, “from someone called Ann Coulter”, is recognisably constructed to tell us that Dawkins doesn’t know who she is; again, Dawkins is outright lying.

    What is it about Dawkins, that he resorts to being so devious and underhand: he could have made his point far more strongly by being up front, by telling us that this wasn’t a mere private e-mail, it was published in a book; but Dawkins chooses to lie.

  11. Dhay says:

    Something that Coyne claims is a hate-mail is in Coyne’s December 10, 2014 blog entitled, “The Oatmeal’s sacrilege steams up believers”. If you look further you find that the steamed-up respondent signed up to notifications of new posts on a genuinely hilariously humorous website, obviously without noticing that the website-owner had a history of some virulently anti-religious posts, then objected to a new post that trolled Christians. The website-owner then trolled the objection.

    And Coyne laughed at the website-owner’s trolling, and expected his acolytes to laugh also.

    Arguably the hate-mail was the website-owner’s notification mail. In particular, the trollee’s objection that (amongst other things) the owner’s “entire comprehension of religion has been cribbed from reddit meme graph[ics]” seems to be correct. The website-owner’s a bigot.

    Interestingly, one of those graphics that were hate-mail-posted was a slight variant of Boghossian’s famously weird and absurd definition of faith; which makes me think that likewise the Boghossian original, too, is mere trolling, and that Street Evangelism should really be thought of as Street Trolling.

    Another way of looking at it, is that Boghossian was de facto asking atheists to “out” themselves via Street Evangelism/Street Trolling; if so, he missed cashing in on the current RDF “out” yourself campaign by a year or so; ah well, that’s life, I can live with both his bad timing and his loss.

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