The word is: Unapologetic

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The word is: Unapologetic

Hi everyone, I've had this idea in my head for a long time to propose new/useful words to replace a mishmash of other words which end up causing confusion and otherwise being unhelpful. Let's try it.

Today's word is 'unapologetic', and it is intended to replace: militant, aggressive, outspoken, shrill, rude, uncivil, strident, 'new', fundamentalist, evangelical, etc.

Usage: "I'm not a 'new' atheist. I've been an atheist all my life/for many years. I'm simply unapologetic about my atheism. I've done nothing wrong, and I have nothing to apologize for it. Additionally, I've read and heard lots of apologetics arguments for theism and I find them unconvincing. I'm an unapologetic atheist."

The idea behind this word is simple. It tries to grasp the underlying change in 'tone' that the so-called 'new atheist' movement has taken on, starting with groups like RRS and authors like Sam Harris. The key point is that we are no longer standing back and being quiet about our atheism for fear of offending people. If you get offended by our criticism of your beliefs, that's too bad. We're not going to say we're sorry, because we think such criticism is actually very important and worthwhile. You are not your beliefs. We respect you as a person, but we don't necessarily respect your beliefs.

Unapologetic has two meanings. 1) We're not sorry. 2) We are not convinced by apologetics arguments and are willing to make our counter-arguments publicly known.

So, I say, "Pass it around." Make it another atheist meme. Whenever you hear the recent stereotype of 'new atheism', or hear atheists being wrongly accused of being 'strident' or 'militant', or 'just as bad as the fundamentalists they criticize', come back with the phrase 'unapologetic atheist'.

There's nothing wrong with being an atheist. We've done nothing wrong, and we have nothing to apologize for.

(Note: There is a minor usage around the internet of 'unapologetics' for Christians who take an unapologetic stance to their Xianity. I don't think this is a problematic overlap, especially if you use it in close association with the word 'atheist'.)

See this article by Mano Singham (who I recommend as an intelligent, science-minded, atheist blogger):

Mano Singham wrote:

Being a new atheist means not saying you're sorry

The main complaint against new atheists made by accommodationists is not with what they say but with how they say it, their supposedly hostile 'tone'. They are accused of being rude, uncivil, arrogant, extreme, militant, shrill, strident, etc. but it is important to note that they are rarely accused of being wrong. This is undoubtedly because evidence and logic is on the side of those who claim that there is no god and that to believe in one is incompatible with a scientific worldview. Believers in god have to go through all manner of tortuous apologetics to argue in favor of even a Slacker God, let alone the super-powered miracle worker believed in by most religious people.

It is undoubtedly true that in the public sphere some atheists (including me) have made fun of some of the more preposterous claims of religion. In fact, in some situations laughing is the most appropriate response, as recognized by Thomas Jefferson when he said, "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them." For example, what can you do about the 'nutters' other than laugh at them? The excellent comic strip Jesus and Mo makes much the same point.

But pointing out the ridiculous implications of an opponent's argument is part of the polemical nature of public debate on any issue. It is no different than religious people confidently asserting that there is a god and that we atheists are going to hell or at least are 'not saved', whatever that means. As an atheist my feelings are not at all hurt and neither am I offended by such assertions. Why should I be since I don't believe in god or hell? From my point of view, such claims are merely laughable. Similarly, religious friends and relatives sometimes send me jokes that make fun of atheism and atheists. If the jokes are funny, I am amused. If not, it is just a few moments of time wasted. But there is nothing to be offended about.

New atheists are urged by fellow atheists like Massimo Pigliucci to be 'measured and humble' (in the manner of Carl Sagan) and not use the 'angry and inflated rhetoric' of Richard Dawkins. A new book Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate by Terry Eagleton supposedly attacks the new atheists. In a review of it, James Wood (a self-described atheist) suggests that "What is needed is neither the overweening rationalism of a Dawkins nor the rarefied religious belief of an Eagleton but a theologically engaged atheism that resembles disappointed belief."

I think the terms 'humble' and 'disappointed belief' used by Pigliucci and Wood are important clues to what complaints about 'tone' are all about. The problem is that new atheists treat the statements "religion and science are compatible" and "if we get rid of their fundamentalist elements, religion is worth preserving" as merely propositions that can be examined dispassionately and analytically, using evidence and arguments for and against, similar to other propositions like "increasing the minimum wage will reduce poverty" or "increased carbon dioxide levels will increase the risk of global warming."

The new atheists conclude that both propositions about religion are untenable. Hence they say that religion and science are incompatible and that so-called 'good' religion encourages irrationality and also serves as a cover and enabler of bad religion and thus that we would be better off without religion altogether. They report their conclusions in the same matter-of-fact way that they would their conclusions about the minimum wage or global warming or any other proposition.

Wood, however, sees this as displaying "overweening rationalism" instead of "disappointed belief". It seems as if in order to be a 'good' atheist one has to feel bad about not believing in god. We are expected to go to extraordinary lengths to soothe the feelings of believers, by prefacing any statement about atheism by sighing regretfully and saying things along the lines of "I hate to say this but I don't believe in god. But this is a personal belief that I have reluctantly accepted and I can understand why others might choose to believe in god. In fact, I envy the emotional satisfaction that religious beliefs provide. I hope you are not offended by my saying I am an atheist and if you are I sincerely apologize."

The absurdity of this expectation can be seen by looking at comparable situations that do not involve religion. Einstein, for example, was not accused of "overweening rationalism" and being arrogant when he introduced his theory of relativity that overturned centuries of belief in the validity of Newtonian physics. It would have been absurd to expect Einstein to have prefaced his papers with statements like, "I know that almost all people sincerely believe in Newtonian physics and may be really upset when I say that it is not valid. This makes me sad. However, the theory of relativity is just my personal belief and I think it is compatible with Newtonian physics and so people can choose to believe in both theories."

Instead, Einstein simply laid out his arguments and evidence as strongly as possible in order to convince people that he was right, which is exactly as it should be. Whether it would be accepted or not by the community at large depended on whether it was supported by the evidence or not. The level of emotional attachment that people had for Newtonian physics undoubtedly influenced how readily they adopted the new physics but Einstein was under no obligation whatsoever to soften his arguments to accommodate those emotions.

New atheists treat propositions about religion in the same dispassionate way. They are no more displaying 'overweening rationalism' and lack of humility than Einstein was. Why should the emotional attachment of religious people to the idea of god be accorded any more solicitousness that those of Newtonians to their theory?

What really seems to irk some people is that new atheists are not at all apologetic or regretful about their atheism. New atheists are cheerful about the nonexistence of god and do not hesitate to say so because they would like others to experience the same exhilarating sense of intellectual liberation.

And here is my comment to Mano, in which I first proposed this word:

Wonderist wrote:

The so-called 'New Atheists', of which I am one (though I hate the moniker), should really be called the Unapologetic Atheists. Your article lays out the case for unapologetic atheism perfectly: We have done nothing wrong, so we have nothing to apologize for. Calling ourselves unapologetic, instead of 'new' or 'militant' or 'outspoken' or what-have-you, sets the correct 'tone' for interpreting our message: There's nothing wrong with being an atheist and being open about it.

It also has a nice double-meaning, as counter-apologetics, i.e. we know the apologetics arguments for theism, have rejected them, and offer our own counter-arguments against theism. You could call our arguments (such as Sam Harris' arguments against moderate religion, or Dawkins' Ultimate 747 argument) as 'unapologetics'.

Posted by Wonderist on September 15, 2009 01:25 PM

Wonderist,

I really like the label Unapologetic Atheists! It is a brilliant coinage and I plan on adopting it, if you don't mind.

Posted by Mano on September 15, 2009 02:11 PM

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 I will begin applying this

 I will begin applying this moniker to myself immediately.  I like it.

Atheism isn't a lot like religion at all. Unless by "religion" you mean "not religion". --Ciarin

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and here I was in favour of

and here I was in favour of us being evangelical atheists.

 

Go fourth my flock and preach the offitical stance of the RRS for this message must flow throught the lands like the great plague of the global economic depression. Let this offitical stance that god does indeed not exist never waver in your minds and non existant souls, let none of them god fearing men tell you otherwise, smite them when you find them, smite them where they stand, smite them with your fist. yada yada yada I think you get the point. more fun then being unapologetic

 

on a more serious note

 

I don't find the need for labels, but as labels go unapologetic is a quite good one.

Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.


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Good Wordsmithing

I like it.


Wonderist
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I just found this entry on

I just found this entry on 43things called be an unapologetic atheist. I've never used 43things, but if anyone here does, it sounds like a good one to add.

Man, there are some funny progress reports on there, especially from a user called melb100.

melb100 wrote:

atheism in action 2 years ago

Missionaries on the streets of Asahikawa at the weekend (two of them, suited, pale complexions, bespectacled, pushing their bikes along the pavement, name tags written in English and Japanese, an armful of yellow lettered literature)

Man one: Wow! A foreigner! Hey, like, now we don’t have to pretend that we speak Japanese! Awesome!

Man two: How long have you lived here?

Me: A year

Man one: Wow, a whole year eh? That’s like, awesome!

Man two: yeah! Awesome!

Man one: You know what else is awesome?

Me: .... no….

Man one and two together: God! God is like, totally awesome!

Man one to man two: Is God awesome, Jerry?

Man two to man one: He is so awesome!

Me: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I don’t really -

Man one: And you know what else is awesome?

Man two: Jesus Christ! He is awesome!

Man one: Like, totally awesome!

Me: I’m sorry, I really have to -

Man one: and the most awesome thing of all? Jerry?

Man two: God loves you. Now that is awesome!

Man one: yeah! Awesome!

Me: I’m an atheist.

Silence.

I stride serenely away into The Body Shop and buy some new strawberry body butter in celebration.

“I’m an atheist”, it turns out, is a magical phrase guarenteed to rid you of most unwelcome visitors most of the time.

I encourage you all to use it at every possible opportunity.

Atheism in action? Like, totally, awesome. Yeah.

And:

melb100 wrote:

atheism in action: part 2 2 years ago

Inspired by my recent success with the missionaries, I have decided to make the phrase “I’m an atheist” a more active element in my conversation répertoire.

Saturday afternoon, my weekly coffee extravagence. Just a latte, nothing more, but I limit myself to one a week and thus the pleasure factor is heightened. An open copy of The Handbook of Modern Illustration at my side. I am obviously busy. I mean, I’m attaching post-its to various pages and cross-referencing things in the index. I couldn’t look any less open to social interaction if I tried. Unless I was covered in pig’s blood and twitching menacingly, I suppose. But then some cretin would undoubtably have approached me anyway to inform me that my trench coat was dripping onto the floor and hasn’t the weather been lovely these past few days. Alas, there’s no getting away from the fact that some people simply can’t read the “I am feeling insular” sign you have printed onto your forehead in large upper-case letters.

Unless of course…

Annoying man (late 20s? Peroxide hair in dire need of intensive conditioning treatment): Uh, hi there.

Me (taking a moment to note the fact he is wearing a tie-dyed [possibly heat sensitive – I think I remember there being a trend for that back in 1973] purple and pink T shirt):
a curt nod before pointedly returning to my book.

Annoying man: uh, sorry to bother you [well then, since you’re so sorry about it, here’s an idea for you: DON’T], but, uh, have I seen you somewhere before?

Me (looking up at him wearily): No.
Return to book.

Annoying man: Are you sure? I mean, you look pretty familiar, so..

Me: Sorry. I think you must be thinking of someone else.
Return to book.

Annoying man: Hmm, I don’t think so. I have an excellent memory for faces, and I definitely remember yours from somewhere.

Me (sensing the time for politeness has now passed): Well, I also have an excellent memory for faces, and I assure you we have never met. Have a nice day.
Return to book.

Annoying man (coming over to sit at my table, can you imagine the cheek of it): Well, I definitely remember you. I mean, let’s face it, no-one is going to forget a face as beautiful as yours. Not to mention that hourglass figure.

Me (wondering if this is what chat-up lines have come to and whether feminism was all a convuluted dream I had after one too many camemberts during dinner one evening):
Hold his eye determinedly for a minute or so.
“I’m an atheist.”

Annoying man: slinks back to his table, picks up his jacket and leaves.

And:

melb100 wrote:

Atheism in action: part 3 2 years ago

Japanese seller of dairy produce: Would you like a yoghurt?
Me: I’m an atheist.
Japanese seller of dairy produce: Really? That’s nice. Would you like a yoghurt?

I think the Japanese have a very healthy attitide towards religion. That is, they don’t understand what all the fuss is about. There are religions of sorts, of course, but Japanese Buddhism is more a code of living rather than an actual religion, and Shintoism is just ceremonial traditions coupled with an ancient respect for nature. Nobody actually believes that there is literally a god in every tree. I dated a shinto priest for a while, and even he didn’t believe it. Moreover, the fact that these different “religions” have co-existed for so long here – most people have shinto marriages and buddhist funerals – means the concept of a jealous monotheistic religion is all a little bewildering for them. Nobody gives atheism a second thought. They just want to sell you yoghurt. It’s only the over zealous foreigners you have to watch out for (see atheism in action parts one and two).
Which is nice.

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http://www.ebonmusings.org/at

http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/unapologetic.html

A small snippet:

Quote:
But there is another sense in which Ebon Musings is an unapologetic. Prevalent in the popular media, both secular and religious, is the notion that being an atheist is, somehow, something to be ashamed of. We are told that we are second-class citizens, justly deserving both of society's condemnation and God's wrath. We are told that we are rebellious for rejecting tradition and custom and instead daring to think for ourselves. We are told that we are arrogant and ungrateful for all the good things religion provides. We are told that we are meddling in the affairs of others by enforcing the separation of church and state, complaining about practices that never did anyone any harm. We are advised that we are insensitive for challenging the beliefs that others hold dear. Most of all, we are counseled to keep quiet, keep our heads down, and let the religious majority have its way.

Well, I say, the hell with that! I will never cease to stand up for my convictions, nor will I remain silent rather than speak out for what is right. When people believe things that are foolish, I will laugh. When people believe things that are evil and immoral, I will tell them so, in no uncertain terms. When people's stubborn, dogmatic irrationality brings them to the brink of disaster and beyond when these problems could so easily be avoided if only they would act reasonably, I will point that out. When people claim their beliefs give them the right to infringe on others' lives, I will call them the tyrants they are, and fight back as hard as I can. And when people believe things on the basis of absolutely no evidence, I will not shrink from saying so. That some people are offended by what I have to say and would rather not hear such things is a problem of theirs, not a problem of mine. And most of all, I will never, ever apologize for living my life in accordance with what I believe to be true.

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Visual_Paradox

Thanks, VP. Beat me to it. I found that page last night, but was too tired and went to bed before reading it. I'll go back and read it now. Looks good from the first paragraph. Actually, that whole website looks good.

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The whole website is good. I

The whole website is good. I have read almost everything on it, including the blog that accompanies it (Daylight Atheism). It should definitely be bookmarked Smiling

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The topic of the stereotype

The topic of the stereotype of 'new atheists' has come up again in a post (and comments) on the Richard Dawkins site: here

I posted a reply in the comments.

But mostly, I just wanted to 'bump' this thread with a report of my successful usage of the term 'unapologetic atheist' in several places. I've used it on blogs, in YouTube comments, and in real-life conversation. The two most substantial are in the comments replying to these two blogs:

I have found the word 'unapologetic' to be very effective at putting the breaks on the claims of 'arrogance' and 'faith' of atheists who criticize religion unapologetically. In both of these posts, neither of the people were able to answer my requests for evidence of the claims they made. They tried. They even used quotes from Dawkins and Hitchens. But these were easily dismantled to show that, yes, indeed they are unapologetic claims about religious belief, but, no, they are not arrogant or strident or millitant, or even particularly rude.

I sometimes use a blog-search engine to search for posts on 'new atheism'. (See here.)

Months ago, it used to be that you would find posts *by* and *about* the so-called 'new atheists'. But some time between then and now, things have changed. Now, you will mostly find uninformed rants against atheism in general, rolling out all the old stereotypes, and lumping them all together under the label 'new atheism'. Anybody who speaks out in support of non-belief and against religion is slapped with the label 'new atheist' and dismissed out of hand. 'New atheism' has become a stereotype. People who really should know better (such as the two bloggers I linked to above) are buying into this stereotype. They make claims against us without even bothering to try to understand our substantive positions and arguments. They put on their 'atheists are rude' tinted glasses, and that's all they see.

These false claims will continue to proliferate unless we call them on it! They are bluffing. We simply call. And the word 'unapologetic' is a very strong card in our hand, because it accurately describes the 'tone' of the recent criticisms of religion without buying into any of the negative associations of other such words like 'militant', 'fundamentalist', or 'strident'.

So, call them on it! "Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens/whoever are unapologetic, sure. But how exactly are they arrogant? How do you support that claim?"

In the mean time, you can maintain your cool, and simply be persistent. Ask for quotes.  Don't falter when they actually do provide quotes. Follow up on those quotes to make sure they're in context. Provide your own quotes from critics of politics, art, sports, etc. and ask how these are not arrogant, whereas the ones from atheists are. Point out the taboo and the double-standard. Don't back down. Remember, there's nothing wrong with being an atheist, being open about it, and speaking out about your criticisms of it. Don't apologize when you have nothing to apologize for.

Eventually, since they have nothing to base their stereotype on, they will either back down, or back themselves in a corner of hypocrisy of their own making. Either way, you win. The stereotype is weakened, and the 'unapologetic' seed gets planted firmly into the ground of discourse.

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That tendency of Theists to

That tendency of Theists to perceive and react to any questioning of their 'faith', no matter how politely expressed, as an 'attack', as rude, arrogant, etc. is something I noticed a long time ago.

As you say, we cannot let that reaction deter us, we just maintain our polite but unapologetic approach.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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DAMMIT! DAMMIT!

DAMMIT! DAMMIT! DAMMIT!

'Unapologetic' is a good word, but it kills my whole schtick from a couple of years ago.

I wanted the 'Fundamentalist Atheist' tag to stick to me because I fundamentally lack a belief in god(s).

Wait.

[sarcasm]Are we developing atheist denominations? You splitters! You divisive godless bastards! How dare you try to be less unapologetic than me!

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 I like the "unapologetic"

 I like the "unapologetic" term a lot. It resonates with me because I've had a particularly hard time wrapping my head around the use of the word "apologetics" in the Christian context. It's so unlike what we usually mean when we talk about an apology! (My blog-ly musings about this posted here.)

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A new post promoting the

A new post promoting the term by Mano Singham:

Mano Singham wrote:

Introducing the 'Unapologetic Atheist'

(My latest book God vs. Darwin: The War Between Evolution and Creationism in the Classroom has just been released and is now available through the usual outlets. You can order it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the publishers Rowman & Littlefield, and also through your local bookstores. For more on the book, see here.)

The term 'new atheists' has been used to describe those people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Victor Stenger, and Christopher Hitchens who have called for an end to the undue deference paid to religious beliefs and have a leveled a broadside attack on all religious beliefs, not just those of so-called fundamentalists. They (and I) argue that statements of religious beliefs should be treated like any other propositions and subject to the same level of scrutiny. The fact that such beliefs are deeply held by many people is no reason for giving them a pass, any more than we would give a pass to beliefs about astrology or homeopathy or crystal-ball gazing or any other evidence-free superstition.

But the label 'new atheism' does not sit well with some 'new atheists' because it is seen as inaccurate. After all, there is nothing really new in the arguments of the new atheism, except in so far as new science is making the god hypothesis increasingly superfluous. And many of the 'new atheists' have been atheists for almost all their adult lives and are not recent disbelievers.

In a previous post titled Being a new atheist means not saying you're sorry, I said that what really distinguishes the so-called 'new atheists' from other atheists (such as those who are labeled accommodationists) is that the new atheists do not feel the need to feel sorry about their unbelief, as if it were something they should not have or would prefer not to have. The expected behavior of atheists seems to be that they should go to extraordinary lengths to soothe the feelings of believers, by prefacing any statement about atheism by sighing regretfully and saying things along the lines of "I hate to say this but I don't believe in god. But this is a personal belief that I have reluctantly accepted and I can understand why others might choose to believe in god. In fact, I envy the emotional satisfaction that religious beliefs provide. I hope you are not offended by my saying I am an atheist and if you are I sincerely apologize." This is an absurd expectation.

In a comment to that post, 'Wonderist' made the excellent suggestion that instead of the term 'new atheist', we should use the term 'unapologetic atheist', and that what we advocate is 'unapologetics' to counter the 'apologetics' of religious believers. In further comments to that same post, he says that looking around the web, the term 'new atheist' originally had a somewhat neutral meaning but later began to be applied by accommodationists like Chris Mooney and Michael Ruse in a negative way by implying that it carried with it all the old stereotypes of atheists being arrogant, rude, uncivil, etc.

Wonderist's idea makes a lot of logical sense but I am not certain that this term will catch on. For starters, it will have to be picked up by more prominent people and repeated in more prominent media to gain traction. Wonderist says in his comments that he has made a start in this direction by triggering discussions elsewhere on various sites and the feedback seems to have been positive so far.

Simply from a marketing standpoint, there is some advantage to staying with the word 'new'. The word new has very positive connotations, despite its vagueness and inaccuracy. It is short and snappy. 'Unapologetic' is undoubtedly more accurate but it has two major disadvantages: it is six syllables long, and is defined negatively, as not something else or opposite to something else. These may or may not be fatal flaws to its final adoption. As I value accuracy more than marketing, I am going to start using the label 'unapologetic atheist' unless 'new atheist' is required by the context.

There are many ways that this could go. Control over the meaning of the term 'new atheists' may be taken over by those to whom the term is applied and branded positively, the way that the gay community took the formerly pejorative word 'queer' and are starting to make it their own. The word 'feminist' is currently undergoing a similar struggle for meaning with feminists trying to retain the positive meaning of the word from those who are trying to make it into a negative stereotype.

The ownership of 'new atheist' is up for grabs. While advocating for the label of 'unapologetic', I think we should not cede control of the term 'new atheist' to those who want to use it pejoratively. We should use it positively and proudly and make people realize that it in this context, new is just a synonym for unapologetic.

I made a comment in response (see linked article).

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thoughtcounts-Z wrote: I

thoughtcounts-Z wrote:

 I like the "unapologetic" term a lot. It resonates with me because I've had a particularly hard time wrapping my head around the use of the word "apologetics" in the Christian context. It's so unlike what we usually mean when we talk about an apology! (My blog-ly musings about this posted here.)

So true. The closest thing that makes any sense is, "Sorry to tell you, but you're going to Hell."

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natural wrote:So true. The

natural wrote:

So true. The closest thing that makes any sense is, "Sorry to tell you, but you're going to Hell."

HA! I love it.

You can call me Z.


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I totally agree. Why should

I totally agree. 

Why should I apologize when I’ve done NOTHING WRONG?  To make some religious clown feel good about themselves?

I use to be quiet about my being an atheist. 

I don’t any longer. 

I’ve had enough of these religious fools pushing their “beliefs” down my throat. 

I’ve had to deal with it all my life.  


“Oh, don’t say anything bad about people religion or their beliefs.  It’s not nice….”


But they can sure dump on me.


Not any more.

 

STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!

 

THOSE WHO HAVE RIGHTS DEFEND THEM!

Always make sure there is toilet paper before you sit down...


Wonderist
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Interesting discussion in

Interesting discussion in the comments at http://machineslikeus.com/news/introducing-unapologetic-atheist.

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