The Abject Joy
Of Reading
Self-Serving Hype
Blaine Charette

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Judy Charette"
Subject: Re: 'Critical'?; 'Honest'?; You might think so.
Date: October 27, 2002 12:32 PM

If what we present is "self-serving hype," then why did you bother to go any further with it than I did with your letter (which I stopped taking seriously precisely at the word hype). At that point I banged out this letter and now patiently await a response that I can post with your initial query.

As an anti-bigotry activist, I will post your initial query and your response (if any) as examples of what kind of e-mail you get when you conspicuously place the word "ATHEIST" on a web page and invite e-mail from the public. As former gay rights activist Luke Sissyfag used to say: to study the ways of bigots it is a good idea to "become the object of their bigotry."

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Okay, I did read far enough to verify my hunch that yours is entirely a nonspecific projectile, completely lacking in purpose. It starts and ends in a tone of whiney, cynical detraction, mentioning nothing in particular that we've said or done. Rather, it simply portrays us in an unfavorable light (any unfavorable light will do), and then demands that we explain why we are the way it describes us as being!

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which people go to hurl vitriol against atheists! People who wouldn't lift a finger to even laugh at others they don't like just don't seem to be able to resist the temptation to lash out against an atheist. It's as if they think this form of bigotry is legitimate, as if they have God on their side, or something!

For example, this web page clearly and conspicuously requests that people not write in and try to convince us that gods exist. We are not here to discuss the "God-question"; rather, our goal is to determine what we can do to eliminate the bigotry that open, unashamed nontheists such as myself endure on a daily basis.

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None who write to us can find anything innately flawed with our position, which is, that: "We have yet to encounter a god-claim that is worthy of our assent." Duh-eee! You can't find fault with that "position" because it is a non-position: we aren't saying or making any claims! If you haven't the sensibility to just leave it alone, then the most you can do, really, is twitch. There's nothing to say. Nothing!

But a few will try nonetheless, and it is these individuals who pique our interest. What these people do (and all they can do, really) is make shit up. For example, one recent writer went so far as to snivel about the responses we have given to people who disregarded our request not to write to us trying to prove the truthfulness of the god-claim!

Furthermore, such people are not trying to impress anybody! This becomes clear when you consider that they're sending their vitriol to me, and that nobody who knows them will even see it!

As far as I can determine, such people send that kind of mail to us for one purpose: it seems as if they wish to inflict the pain of bigotry upon whoever it is in this office that opens up Positive Atheism's e-mail. They don't even know us or who helps us out (at times it's been one of their own fellow-theists helping me get my work done so we can go do something fun together). They don't know us, but they clearly want us to feel pain, shame, embarrassment, and such.

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If I can, by collecting and posting enough of this and similar material, equip and inspire someone to figure out just what we, as nonbelievers, can do to reduce or eliminate the bigotry that is from everywhere hurled against us, I will have lived a fulfilled life. I don't even need to be the one who discovers it or the one who gets the credit, etc. If I could only watch it happen, if I could even read the interview of the youngster who eventually does come up with the answer, I will have lived a fulfilled life.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Seven years of service to people
    with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine." <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Judy Charette" <hamish4@earthlink.net>
Reply To: <hamish4@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: 'Critical'?; 'Honest'?; You might think so.
Date: October 28, 2002 5:11 AM

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It's been a while since someone has spread it on this thickly, so I'll go over this bit again -- for the new folks!

 

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The old, "Aha! I was right!!! Just look at the way he's responding!!!" version of the Ad Hominem Attack.
 

The Twelve-Stepper steps in, puts on a Psychiatrist's outfit, and continues the same Ad Hominem.
 

This from someone who doesn't even know me!?

No! It's from someone who, from the start, decided it would be enjoyable to go make fun of somebody he thought he understood, but was too hasty to bother checking the facts.

Now that it has become clear that the individual against whom he decided to embark on a hazing match tonight is not even close to what he had initially presupposed, he needs to cover up his mistake by pretending to have misunderstood what he read about our deliberately becoming the targets of bigotry so we could study it. He completes the cover-up by then responding to his own misunderstanding.

What else is there to respond to? There is no response to the truth of this situation. You really have nothing to say at all. Nothing.

Ah, but I've heard that the only way some people can feel good about themselves is to pick their "fights" in such a way that no matter what goes down, they appear to themselves to have come up "the winner."

And this surely is the only way that this fellow can continue his abusive tone: to talk as if I had cried like a "poor slandered editor who suffers so much at the hands of cruel bigots" while he simultaneously baits me with some of the most juvenile and certainly the most sincerely hate-filled examples of that very slander, cruelty, and bigotry that we've fielded all year! This one currently holds our trophy for 2002.

(Did I call it right when I started talking about bigots who send their vitriol to the atheist web site? Hmmm!)

I must admit that this kind of stuff is entirely outside my experience: I am quite familiar with holding a "sparring match" over the issues, where we "have at it" with issues and ideas; I never could figure out the attraction of doing this on a personal level, solely for the purpose of trying to hurt the other party. That's just not something I've ever been able to grasp. I've never even wanted to log on to somebody's web site and engage in a name-calling session. Why would I? It's barely human. It's certainly not a grown-up thing to do.
 

Of course it isn't: there is no arguing with certain types of individuals, and this is particularly true of the bigoted ones. All that's left is to showcase it.

Material such as what you have sent is not "in the intellectual repertoire" of anybody we know.

Had you wanted a mature discussion, you would not have started off acting like a child, continued acting like a child, finished up acting like a child, and then responded like a child.
 

Since when does hurling abuse at atheists equal (or even resemble) making remarks about the topic of atheism?
 

And tell me: what would someone who wrote a letter such as your first one to us (someone who followed up a letter like that one with a letter such as this) know about "responsible and reasonable discussion"?
 

(Sniff) (Sob)

He paints me in such an unflattering light.

Now he acts so remorsefully saddened by the picture he has drawn.

Pity.
 

Yeah, some people just don't have the fortitude to go out and find out the facts of a situation, so they sit in their armchairs and make assumptions. That's all that's left -- besides watching television or going to see a parade.
 

Gotta have the last word, don't we?
 

So you wrote to me. Go figure.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Seven years of service to people
    with no reason to believe

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Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.