Friendly Atheist Insists We Should Mock the Religious

Hemant Mehta, the man who sells himself as “The Friendly Atheist,” explains why “We should absolutely mock religion.”

Okay, so we’ve established that the Friendly Atheist is an oxymoron. What’s funny is how Mehta tries to rationalize this mandate to mock others.

But for some reason, we’re afraid to make fun of religion. I understand that when it comes to Islam, where mockery could bring a death sentence. But not all religions are like that, and yet we still treat those beliefs with kid gloves.

In other words, it is understandable why atheists don’t mock Muslims, but since Christians are not going to kill you for mocking them, why aren’t more atheists mocking Christians? Now that’s a man who stands on principles, eh?
Mehta then unleashes his mighty logic:

In fact, I think it provides a more useful way to get people to rethink their beliefs. When you straight up challenge people’s ideas, they get defensive. They’ll rationalize whatever position they hold, no matter how absurd it is. If you’ve ever seen a politician getting interviewed, you know what I mean. But if you can make people laugh about the ideas they already hold? That’s powerful. That’ll get them rethinking those beliefs in the future. You could make the argument that George Carlin has changed more minds about religion than, say, Richard Dawkins. Because Carlin took those ideas you held and made you realize how illogical they were.

So making fun of people is a great way to get them to think “rethink” their beliefs as desmonstrated by Mehta’s faith that the power of Carlin is greater than Dawkins. Sounds like he is making this stuff up as he goes along.

The key justification (rationalization) for mocking others is that Mehta believes it to be an effective method of proselytization. Sheesh. So much about Gnu atheism seems to be about proselytizing others into their cult. Does this mean when some Gnus show up at your door and for some reason their app won’t load onto their phone, that they will then begin making fun of you?

Another reason I believe it’s okay to mock religion is because it’s something people choose for themselves and they can still change their minds about. Religion, unlike your race or your looks, is something you have control over. So have at it. Religion’s basically a long setup just waiting for a punchline.

Making it up as he goes along again. Mehta is assuming agency and free will when he insists religion is “something people choose for themselves and they can still change their minds about.” He is denying determinism when he insists “Religion, unlike your race or your looks, is something you have control over.” Huge numbers of New Atheists agree with their leaders Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne and deny the existence of agency and free will and insist determinism is true.

If there is no free will, people don’t “choose” their religion and don’t “choose” to remain religious. They have no control over such things. It’s something that happens to them because of their genes and environment. In other words, atheists who mock religious people and who also deny the existence of free will are indeed no different from racists who mock other races.

Or think of Peter Boghossian’s perspective, where religious people are infected with a faith virus and are in need of a cure. The Friendly Atheist argues that atheists have a mandate to mock people who are sick.

Or think David Silverman’s perspective, who recently argued that religious people are victims of brainwashing. The Friendly Atheist argues that atheists have a mandate to mock victims.

So there ya have it – the mindset of the New Atheist. The New Atheist is someone who thinks we should mock people for something they have no control over, mock people who are sick, and mock people who are victims. Nothing more friendly that that, eh?

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26 Responses to Friendly Atheist Insists We Should Mock the Religious

  1. dognillo says:

    I wouldn’t ever say that atheists should mock any religious person they come across. However, there are some religious people, such as the Westboro Baptist Church crowd, who deserve to be mocked. There are some atheists who deserve to be mocked as well. There are also lots and lots of democrats and republicans who deserve to be mocked.

  2. Michael says:

    That’s fine. I’m focused on how the New Atheist movement justifies their strategy of mocking (note that Mehta claims you “should” mock religion) and what this tells us about the New Atheists and their movement.

  3. TFBW says:

    Mehta said:

    But if you can make people laugh about the ideas they already hold? That’s powerful.

    True enough, but the problem is that New Atheist mockery only ever succeeded in making other New Atheists laugh. Take a piece of comedy gold like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This biting satire has the New Atheist crowd doubled over and slapping each other on the back with mirth. Meanwhile, a typical theist reacts more along the lines of, “that’s an amazingly lame joke — but wait — you’re serious, aren’t you? You actually think that’s witty and insightful? Well — wow — where do I even start? Should I even bother starting, given that the FSM is just basically an elaborate way of saying that people who believe in God are incredibly stupid?”

    Face it, Mehta, your mockery is simply an expression of the basic human vice that we take pleasure in inflicting harm on those we hate. You are seriously kidding yourself with this “make ’em laugh” story.

  4. So wait…if you challenge someone’s beliefs, they get defensive. So instead…we should mock their beliefs? *This* passes for atheist argumentation?

  5. SteveK says:

    Mocking is a form of rhetoric. If you want me to rethink my ideas I need reasons. Atheism being only a “lack of belief” has no reasons.

    Next, what SHOULD a person do with the truth once they’ve been given reasons? What obligates ALL of humanity to pursue the truth in life? I need fact-based reasons and once again atheism cannot give me those reasons. There are no fact-based obligations under atheism so at the end of the day Mehta’s argument goes absolutely nowhere from the point of life application. Until there are fact-based obligations to truth, a person can acknowledge the truth of whatever argument Mehta is peddling and continue living as if God exists.

    Ironic.

  6. apologianick says:

    Oh I disagree TFBW. The new atheist mockery did more than make new atheists laugh.

    Most of us Christians were laughing at how they were embarrassing themselves.

    And as for Mehta, every time I’ve heard him debate on Unbelievable? I’ve concluded that the friendly atheist is one of the biggest jerks I’ve ever heard.

  7. Vox Maximus says:

    Additionally, even when looking at this matter from a purely strategic / tactical perspective, the atheist’s appeal to, and endorsement of mockery is a dangerous tool. Why? Because the atheistic worldview (meaning the robust worldview of atheistic-naturalism, combined with the modern progressive-liberalism that most atheists subscribe too) is ripe for mockery. Indeed, there are about a dozen things just off the topic of my head that so many atheists believe that are downright ridiculous, and they are as ridiculous as anything that the religious believe. So if atheists want to open the Pandora’s box of mockery, they best watch out, because they might just get more than they bargained for. But, of course, we all know why the atheists are keen on mockery, and it is precisely because they are cowards (just as with Islam), for they know that most Christians won’t mock them back, and since many atheists have subjective and arbitrary moral systems, they can mock with impunity while knowing that few Christians will mock them back given the Christians commit to love his neighbor and do good to those that hate them. So they know that they will gain the benefits of mockery but likely not suffer any return attacks. And so this is one of the reasons that mockery is promoted.

    Maximus
    http://www.voxmaximus.blogspot.com

  8. Doug says:

    It goes to the heart of the psychology of atheism. Nobody actually becomes an atheist because of logic, or reason, or intelligent argument. If they did, that would be the go-to strategy of atheists. Instead, folk clearly become atheists because of emotion. And, as a result, their strategy is to attack the emotions — as mockery certainly does.

  9. From a sermon by Rev. Drahcir Snikwad, of Hellfire Baptist Church in Georgia:

    I think we should probably abandon the irremediably gay precisely because that is what they are – irremediable. I am more interested in the fence-sitters who haven’t really considered the question very long or very carefully. And I think that they are likely to be swayed by a display of naked contempt. Nobody likes to be laughed at. Nobody wants to be the butt of contempt.

    If it doesn’t make them straight, it should at least keep them in the closet.

  10. jayman777 says:

    Another reason I believe it’s okay to mock religion is because it’s something people choose for themselves and they can still change their minds about. Religion, unlike your race or your looks, is something you have control over.

    This implies that atheism is also something someone can choose for themselves. It isn’t that atheists can’t believe in God due to the evidence, it’s that they choose not to.

  11. Crude says:

    In other words, it is understandable why atheists don’t mock Muslims, but since Christians are not going to kill you for mocking them, why aren’t more atheists mocking Christians?

    Clearly the lesson is: ‘If an atheist mocks you, react in a way that makes him regret it.’ Since it’s evident atheists lack sufficient morality, empathy, civility and reason, it looks like other options are necessary to deal with them.

  12. TFBW says:

    Victor Reppert said:

    From a sermon by Rev. Drahcir Snikwad, of Hellfire Baptist Church in Georgia …

    Folks, this is how to do satire.

  13. Lucas M says:

    Oh Hemant Mehta. I’ve watched quite a lot of his vids, in fact, he was the first atheist I began listening to during my time of doubt and questioning and searching for the truth. It was this video, along with a solid handful of others, that just held up a red sign pointing to the stupidity of atheism. His newer vids are no different, such as “Why Atheists should appreciate the Bible.” No one reverts to mockery in an argument unless they have none and this half-hearted attempt to rationalize it is a sorry excuse. Hemant’s arguments are essentially simple-minded sound bites, and it’s when I began reading scholars and apologists like Ravi Zacharias and William Lane Craig that I realized he really doesn’t have much of a clue.

  14. Vox Maximus says:

    Doug said:

    It goes to the heart of the psychology of atheism. Nobody actually becomes an atheist because of logic, or reason, or intelligent argument. If they did, that would be the go-to strategy of atheists. Instead, folk clearly become atheists because of emotion. And, as a result, their strategy is to attack the emotions — as mockery certainly does.

    Two points:

    First, I would say that many people become what they become because of emotion, and Christians nor atheists are an exception to this rule. And that is actually completely fine. However, the thing that makes many atheists (at least the vocal ones) both different and rather contemptible in this regard is that they are constantly droning on about how hyper-rational, and reasonable, and evidence-based they are…except that they’re not. At least many Christians just admit that they were moved and swayed by a feeling of the Spirit or an emotional tug.

    Second, concerning the intersection of atheism and emotion, as time has gone on, one of the things that I have noticed is how much even the most “powerful” atheistic arguments are just appeals to emotion, appeals to incredulity, or atheism-of-the-gaps type arguments. For example, the evidential argument from evil, when one boils it right down to its essence, is an argument from incredulity / gaps.

    Anyway, just some thoughts.

    Maximus
    http://www.voxmaximus.blogspot.com

  15. apologianick says:

    I agree with the first entirely. I like to call it presuppositional atheism. It’s the idea that “We are rational because we are atheists. If you are not an atheist and believe in anything theistic, you are automatically irrational. Since we are rational, we do not need to bother studying the other side because who needs to study a position that is irrational? Furthermore, all of our opinions have to be brilliant because, hey, we’re just rational because we’re atheists.”

  16. Godless Mom says:

    Hemant has never advocated for mocking individuals. He means mocking an idea. I am an atheist and I fully agree with him, that no idea should be exempt from criticism and mockery. If I feel something is silly, I should have the right to point that out. However, I do not believe individuals should be made fun of based solely on their belief and, from what I have gathered of Hemant over the years, neither does he.

    Challenge the belief, not the individual. Carlin did it. I can’t even begin to count the number of happy ex-theists I know who credit Carlin for making them finally see what they do now. That requires rational thought. That requires intelligence. How can I (or any atheist) possibly believe that a believer is less rational or less intelligent, when most atheists used to be one? It’s not like they suddenly became smarter over night.

    No, Hemant is not advocating making fun of people. People are not their beliefs. My mom has some crazy beliefs (she thinks those vapour trails in the sky are part of a global conspiracy to make us all sick), but I still love her. I will challenge what she believes, but I will always respect the heck out of her.

  17. SteveK says:

    Lucas M,
    Your comment prompted me to check out Mehta’s videos on YouTube. The first one I watched was all I could take. There was an overabundance of nonsense and smugness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB9NOpAYRcQ

  18. Michael says:

    Hemant has never advocated for mocking individuals. He means mocking an idea.

    From an atheisitic, naturalisitic perspective, is there truly such a distinction? After all, from an atheistic perspective, an idea is nothing more than brain chemistry. It is an expression of the brain – a brain trait. Hemant is that advocating that we mock other people’s brains. So what you are claiming is really no different from saying that he doesn’t advocate mocking Jim, he mean’s mocking Jim’s teeth.

    I am an atheist and I fully agree with him, that no idea should be exempt from criticism and mockery.

    Crticism and mockery are not equivalent. I don’t know of anyone who thinks any idea should be exempt from criticism. No one is claiming that. The issue is about the New Atheist movement and their strategy of mockery. At the very least, do you admit that is propagandistic?

  19. Doug says:

    @Godless Mom,

    I can’t even begin to count the number of happy ex-theists I know who credit Carlin for making them finally see what they do now. That requires rational thought. That requires intelligence.

    Please fill us in: what is it exactly that requires rational thought/intelligence? What is it exactly that these happy ex-theists finally see now (that they did not see previously)?

  20. TFBW says:

    Godless Mom said:

    Hemant has never advocated for mocking individuals. He means mocking an idea.

    Hemant Mehta said (starting at 0:54 in the video above, emphasis added):

    … we understand that a lot of people build their lives around their religion, and if we’re mocking their faith, it’s pretty much equivalent to mocking who they are as people. I understand that thinking. It’s commendable, really, that some people think like that — that they wouldn’t want to make fun of religion because they don’t want to make people feel bad.

    Hemant Mehta said (starting at 3:54 in the video above):

    Ridicule is a good response for ideas that are ridiculous.

    So he knows that mocking ideas can be “pretty much equivalent” to mocking the people who hold those ideas, but he advocates mocking the ideas anyhow. Therefore he advocates the equivalent of mocking the individuals — so long as it’s done for the “right reasons” — i.e. political reasons: “religion shouldn’t be the basis of public policy” (see statement starting at 3:30).

  21. Kevin says:

    Mockery only has a potential place at the grown-up table when the belief being mocked (and let’s face it, most New Atheists prefer to mock the individual as well, particularly if they don’t follow the script and play frantic defense) is verifiable untrue and ridiculous. Belief in a tooth fairy, for example.

    Unless these atheists who love to mock (not simply criticize) religion are keepers of knowledge that they aren’t sharing with the rest of us, then they are pretending to know what they do not know. In other words, they are promoting their opinions as ironclad facts and using it to mock beliefs that in many cases are far more reasoned out than their own.

    Whether they are too dense to realize their opinions aren’t facts simply because they hold them, or whether they are simply too petty to refrain from mockery, New Atheists prove time and again that theirs is a movement devoid of reason and filled with hatred.

  22. apologianick says:

    Honestly, I don’t mind mockery. I think in fact there can be a time and place for it. I think Elijah definitely did it with the prophets of Baal and I think many of the prophets can be taunting their opponents and I think Jesus and Paul did the same. I don’t mind mockery of ideas. What I do mind about this is that first off, Mehta makes it his identity in saying that he is the “friendly” atheist and then suggests doing something like this. That strikes me as hypocritical and any time I’ve seen him, I have thought of him as nothing but friendly.

    Second, I mind the hubris that atheists have so often that they do not read the other side or study the opposition at all and still think they know everything and only read what agrees with them. To be fair, this describes some Christians too and I have my own strong words for them. When I see atheists going around claiming that Jesus never existed, I can only facepalm tremendously. Mythicism is a conspiracy theory for atheists and yet so many of them think they’re brilliantly rational.

    Atheists can be rational. Christians can be rational. I think the problem is when you equate your worldview with being rational.

  23. Doug says:

    I think the problem is when you equate your worldview with being rational.

    Perhaps that’s the problem because… it isn’t rational? 😉

  24. goldrushapple says:

    Godless Mom’s bio reads “I am a well-traveled, well-read extreme left atheist …. I require empirical evidence to believe something and contrary to popular belief, this creates more mystery and wonder than a couple of old books will ever be able to.”

    What she’s typed here, condescendingly implying that to question, and therefore ultimately leaving faith, requires rationality and intelligence – that anyone who stays with faith isn’t practicing such. Later in her bio she writes “I was not born and raised anything in particular.” So in other words she knows jack sh*t and her projection of her own intelligence is that of a narcissist.

    Her site proves she’s just as religious as the religious.She’s got something to prove and that something is rather personal, born out of some deep insecurity and bitterness.

    And Carlin? Seriously, woman? Carlin? Might as well add Bill Nye to the admiration list.

  25. Talon says:

    I feel sorry for Godless Mom and the ex-theists who credit an insult comic like Carlin with their conversion to atheism, as it proves how irrational they really are. Ridicule is NOT a rational argument, and escaping mockery is NOT a rational reason to change one’s opinion, rather it’s an attempt to appeal to the emotions and ego of a person in hopes of coercing rather than convincing (using arguments and evidence) them to change their mind.

    Godless Mom, if you are reading, please stop rationalizing and defending the behavior of bullies and half-wits, even if you don’t do these sorts of things yourself, you are part of the problem, and part of why New Atheism has turned into such a farce.

  26. Dhay says:

    There’s a nicer person (judging by her recent post on Ken Ham) than Hemant Mehta, who occasionally posts on his blog, namely Tracey Moody — who I see is also Communications Director for New Atheist Phil Torres’ X-Risks Institute, in a ‘Team’ which includes Peter Boghossian, Michael Shermer, and John Loftus; her description there is:

    Tracey Moody (Communications Director) is a secular activist and writer for the Friendly Atheist blog. She’s an expert in social media and manages platforms for Friendly Atheist, Pitchstone Publishing, and The Bill Nye Film. She frequently writes about the encroachment of religious fundamentalism into American politics, and other abuses involving religion and pseudoscience. She’s currently working on an insightful and comedic memoir of her visits to various religious houses as a nonbeliever trying to fit in.

    http://www.xrisksinstitute.com/ — Scroll down to ‘Team’.

    That last sentence looks quite familiar; something very similar has already happened, hasn’t it. Is she now going to title herself “The Even Friendlier Atheist”.

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