Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

Humor, Mocking, It's All Part of the Bidness

After what we felt was a fantastic and lively Episode #6, one accusation in particular surfaced from a viewer, Liz from AZ, that we had not yet had cause to address. Her comments was:

First off, I really like what you guys are about and what you’re trying to do. I like that you’re trying to let people see that there are atheists out there who are not baby eating psychos.

I do wish, however, that you would spend less time mocking people and their beliefs (however crazy they – the beliefs OR the people – may be). It is possible to tell people what you stand for and to be funny and entertaining while doing so without putting other people down.

By all means, feel free to tell me about the crazy people. You can even point out the logical fallacies and inconsistencies and all that. But please, please stay away from the name calling – it’s distracting (and detracting) from your real message.

I decided to answer this one directly, instead of letting it fall into the decomposing pile of unaddressed, anonymous comments. Specifically, I wanted to defend the light-hearted, but lightly vulgar, jives we sling out at bullshitters, asshats and ne’er-do-wells that we believe do more harm than good. I responded:

Name-calling or, in most instances I would refer to it as “calling a spade a spade,” is part of who we are, and part of our perspective. We find that put-downs are needed when public figures not only disparage the things we care about, but especially the ones that maliciously misrepresent us or willfully sow untruths to glorify their image or their organization. Lies and deception should be opposed in strong language, not deferred in the popular sense of “well, that’s just their opinion.”

And if that wasn’t enough, I perused the Atheist Experience Blog only minutes after sending off my retort to Liz, and saw that Matt Dillahunty posted this defense of “being a dick,” wherein he challenges the notion that hurling insults and other ad hominem attacks hurt the cause of atheists. And of course, Herr Dillahunty said it oh-so-much more elegantly (and directly) than I:

When superstitious beliefs are killing people or doing serious harm and some in the anti-science, anti-reason crowd refuse to respond to diplomacy, what do you do? Shrug your shoulders and agree to disagree? Write it off as a difference of opinion? Aren’t we, on occasion, actually going to need to do something…including things that might shock or offend?

Of course, I don’t believe for a second that my repeated instances of calling Pat Robertson an ‘asshat’ does not likely qualify as the kind of grand and noble action Matt describes here, but isn’t our willingness to break outside of old etiquette and call a spade a spade the first of many steps towards this end? No? Well, fuck you then.

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I think Pat Robertson is a douchey asshat and I don’t see the point of sugar coating that fact. Well played, sir.


It is truly my privilege to know both Casey and Liz personally. I guess Casey’s point, made clearer in his response, is that part of his message *is* the name-calling. (?) I happen to find Casey consistently rhetorically impressive (the dude talks like this in real life), while at the same time I also happen to have a (weird?) sensitivity to curse-words, rude words, and funny names, so I too get occasionally distracted. However, the open-air Seattle guys, Westboro screamers, and the like are indeed full of ass-hattery, and I see no sense in avoiding that in a show that… Read more »

Robert Mayer

When calling a spade a spade, it must truly be a spade. – A spade is not an asshat Pat Robertson is not an asshat. He is not a douche. He is a human being who seems to enjoy the suffering of other human beings and wishes death upon them etc…. What you are participating in is name calling. It is not science. It is not logical. It is the sign of a personal attack. It attempts to make the conversation not about facts(ironically this is how most preachers preach). Your attempt to “break outside of old etiquette” failed if… Read more »


Robert Mayer I pretty much disagree with everything you wrote, assuming I understood your points correctly. In regards to Pat, are you saying that calling him a douche/asshat is “disinformation” about him, because he’s not? Name calling, like any other labeling, is to use a word or phrase that signifies a set of attributes. When you stated, “Pat Robertson is not an asshat. He is not a douche. He is a human being who seems to enjoy the suffering of other human beings and wishes death upon them etc….”, you may as well have said, “Pat Robertson is not an… Read more »


All I can say is:
Apathy is NOT a virtuous act and should be held with civil contempt.
(Sorry, posted in wrong section first time.)


it was very interesting to read
I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?


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