Comments: 933 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

erikohann163 karma

What's Bill O'Reilly like when the cameras are off?

dave9333306 karma

He is civil and businesslike. A firm handshake. He knows what he's doing and is a master of his craft. After the last appearance, when we had some real genuine on-camera fire, he looked at me and smiled. We both knew it was good TV.

And yes, the meme face did come as I was realized that the Intelligent and educated man to whom I'd spoken off camera was not the person in front of me.

rreform18 karma

Why did you never tell Bill that we can explain the tides?

You instead made the more general point that if we can't explain something, it doesn't mean an invisible man in the sky did it, which is a good point to make. However, I think it would have been great to highlight his ignorance by calling him out on it.

dave93338 karma

Because that wasn't the topic. It was a diversion away from the topic, and I didn't want to talka bout lunar gravity. I was there to talk about our billboard and our upcoming convnetion, and I used his tides question to bring the topic back to the god of the gaps. Just because the host wants to talk about something doesn't mean i have to acquiesce.

Schwarzenigga142 karma

What is your opinion on /r/atheism?

dave933354 karma

I think the forum is generally a great place. I think some posters have to realize that the enemy is outside the movement, and that hateful or harassing crap gets in our way. I think bashing religion (not believers) is a fun activity for the whole family, but atheists bashing atheists is counterproductive. I love the Philosoraptor.

MelodyH84 karma

You wrote an essay about speaking out against harassment against women in the secular community on Skepchick. What concrete things are you doing to counter harassment in the secular community? For example, there have been people you have associated with that have harassed and denigrated prominent women in the movement. Will you disassociate yourself from those people or publicly speak out against them?

dave933319 karma

American Atheists was the first major national organization to react to this by creating a firm and usable harrasment policy for our conventions, making them safe, fun, sex-positive and harassment-negative. We also have one for our workplace. Our staff and board are becoming more diverse over time, and quickly so since I became president.

I also get threats. "I'm going to come to your home and cut open your belly while you sleep, then do the same to your family" and "When you speak at XX I'll be there with my 30/30 waiting for a clean shot" type stuff. And yes, it all sucks.

While some things are over the top, like placing someone's address on a public board, videos against a position or comments on a board cannot be regulated.

I am not enemies with anyone inside this movement. Harassment against activists is repulsive and stupid, but negative or even combative comments and videos are common, and somewhere between the two is a grey area of opinion, and therein lies our the problem.

What we need to recognise is that our movmeent is broad and diverse, and it takes all kinds of CIVIL people to make a movement. Voice your opinions, sure, but aim your sights are the real adversaries ourside the movement, not those inside with whom you disagree on issues or methods.

Marylandman10154 karma

what were your thoughts on Christopher Hitchens?

dave933327 karma

Possibly the greatest writer Atheism ever had. He added "religion makes good people to terrible things" to the forefront of the conversation. What's not to love?

somecrazybroad52 karma

Nothing to ask, but I wanted to say thank you for personally responding to Facebook messages and emails. I have sent you two in the past and your advice has been appreciated.

dave933350 karma


Toalmaster47 karma

How effective do you think the holiday billboards actually are? I support you and AA (and am atheist myself), but sometimes it seems like they are just downright rude- especially this last year's billboard.

dave933352 karma

Honestly. Really Honestly. I thought this year's billboard was too soft. We'd called religion a myth several times, and I didn't think this was too over-the-top.

BUT others disagreed, and we got some great press, spreading our word on national news, complete with the clear message that there was an atheist organization with enough money for a huge billboard in Times Square, telling atheists to celebrate without religion.

And then CNN picked it up and did a BELIEF article on AA v. Harvard Hunaists doing some charity work with a local church v the SSA's parties. This article was syndicated nationally. Guess what. That article would not have been written, an the good works of the HH and SSA would not have gotten any press at all without Dump the Myth in Times Square.

aero199245 karma

Hi David, thanks for doing this! There are a lot of people who distrust and dislike atheists just because they're atheists. According to studies, we're the most distrusted minority in the country.

What is the best way to change the public negativity toward atheists in the United States?

dave9333121 karma

This is easy. Come out. The more people come out the more the ignorance will be replaced by experience. Wear your atheism on your sleeve, smile, and answer questions calmly. It's THE BEST ACTIVISM.

Templeyak8430 karma

No offense, but has it ever occurred to you that putting up billboards deliberately attacking religious beliefs contributes to the distrust of atheists?

YoureDamnRightItIs7 karma

Most billboards I've seen aren't 'attacking' religious beliefs, but rather expressing atheistic ones. Saying that there probably is no god is a completely sound argument, and so is telling closet atheists that they're not alone.

If there were a billboard like "If you believe X, you are an idiot" that would be an attack. Today my great aunt told me that the definition of atheist is "idiot". That is an attack.

dave93337 karma

We will never NOT put up a billboard because the religious folk won't like it, or because it challenges their beliefs and they don't like that. This movmenet has placed up the nice billboards and gotten the same reaction, so why should we.?

Our SCAMS billboard brought the conversation of whether religon is a scam to America's table. That's a very good thing, even if it made some Christians mad.

mrmadwolf9236 karma

Do you have any personal friends with heavily religious beliefs?

somecrazybroad23 karma

His wife is Jewish, and I believe actively religious.

dave9333137 karma

She is indeed, although I wouldn't call her heavily religious.

I do have many religious friends. We acknowledge our differences and laugh at them. We will jab each other occasionally. I never try to convert them, and if they try to convert me, well, I convert them.

OK that last part isn't true. I just thought it was funny. I don't convert my friends and don't have friends that would try to convert me.

delindsey35 karma

Will there be another Reason Rally? I was there last year. The weather sucked but I'd make the trip again in a heartbeat. I had a great time.

dave933349 karma

Glad you came! The next one is 2016. We won't have a solid date until summer of 2015.

Thor2535 karma

What gives you the most hope in America today, considering you have to face so much negativity and criticisms on a daily basis how do you keep positive and what makes you hopeful for the future in America.

dave933363 karma

That Camp Quest and the Secular Student Alliance can't keep up with their demand.

randomly-generated33 karma

Have you ever had someone change their viewpoint on religion while you were being interviewed or in any other public discussion?

dave933377 karma

I did a great interview on the Catholic Channel on Sirius about the Utah Cross Case. I had them supporting our side of the case by the end of the call (callers too).

For the most part, the interviewer is not in a position to change his/her mind, but rather to ask questions. Its an interview, not a debate.

acrantrad29 karma

Do you think taxing churches in the US could backfire by having them seek more representation in government?

dave933312 karma

I think they already have representation in government. I think they already have tremendous pull in DC. I think some churches politic directly and defiantly from the pulpit, and many of those that don't let their politicial message seep out anyway. So in other words, if the churches disavowed their 501c3 status so they could politic from the pulpit, I don't really see a danger of change.

madmanz12329 karma

It seems like most of the legal battles Atheists groups fight tend to be a) holiday decorations b)signs of religion at public places. These are "ok" battles in needed but often make us look kind of dickish. I would rather see more battles about keeping text books scientific and tax money not going to voucher schools that teach nonsense. I wish there was a bigger focus on that. What are your plans in this area?

dave93334 karma

We don't judge lawsuits on press. We judge them on winnability and importance. If we judged them on press we never would have filed the 911 memorial or the Utah Cross cases, but because they both are based on the secularization of the cross as a means to favor one religion over all others, we take those cases.

When you look at our cases, you will nee that we fight inquality. That's what's important. Our legal philosophy is here.

gregbrahe24 karma

How can an aspiring activist gain momentum and make a difference in today's world? How did you get started?

dave933331 karma

I got started by filling a hole - there was no State Director at American Atheists, and I wanted to satisfy a need in Trenton.

Today's aspiring activists have a multitude of choices. My suggestion would be to find a need that isn't being satisfied - A club at school may need a treasurer, or a founder. Then, ask yourself if you would feel happy doing that.

You need to like what you do, because this is volunteerism and if you don't like what you do you will get tired and quit. Do the activity you like for the cause you love.

chemosabe17 karma

Did you listen to NPR's series "Losing our religion" last week? It seems like I shouldn't be impressed to hear something like that on mainstream media, but it was nice, nonetheless. If you listened to it, any opinions? What can we do to get more of that sort of coverage in the mainstream?

dave93336 karma

I have not heard it yet, but I've heard a lot about it and look forward to it. And as far as getting into the mainstream press, all it takes is a little volume.

Tylzen13 karma

Hi Dave, thanks for the good show on Trolling With Logic, are you going to run for President of AA again?

Do you have any major projects planned within AA, or is there a particular project you wish got more exposure.

/Christian TMJ - International Rep. The Danish Atheist Society

dave933317 karma

I plan on staying for a long time :)

The next major project is our 50th annual national Convention this March in Austin. Please check it out!

R3NTAR13 karma

When will you declare war on the Allied Atheist Alliance over who's science is correct?

dave93332 karma

Their science is correct. All science is correct when done well. Now the idjits over at the Alliance of Atheist And Allies, whoo... they're nuts and need to be destroyed. :)

dunker68611 karma

Hi. I'm a progressive Christian minister.

What could we agree on? What type of thing could we work together on? What do you hope for from progressive religious clergy and laity?

dave93335 karma

The primary thing I would ask from christian preachers is to support the ideal of a diverse, melting pot society, which necessitates equality for all, which in turn requires the separation of church and state. I have a few Christian minister friends who won't do that, but we are still friends.

Now, as to how we could work together, the opportunities are numerous. Lets mobilize the pro-SOCAS republicans and democrats together. Let's find and reinvogorate the old-style republicans who cared more about balanced budgets than who marries whom. Let's make diversity a good word again on Capitol Hill.

Or any other ideas on how to normalize atheism? Write a letter of support for our IRS case? or the WTC Case? I'm listening.

dunker6864 karma

Thanks for your thoughts. These are things that a lot of my colleagues and I do now, so we will continue. (esp. pro-socas politicians and the like. A religious government makes me quite uncomfortable.)

As for normalizing atheism, I do my best to make space for non-believers but also for doubt in the life of the faithful. I phrase questions about God not just in terms of what God might be doing but also what God might not be doing. If someone has a "weak" faith, they are just as welcome and hopefully loved as everyone else.

I'm not familiar with the cases you've mentioned, but I'll go look them up.

Edited to add:

I would also ask you to move carefully in the lawsuit re: the IRS. I'm certain you're aware that many (many, many) churches are not the enemy and are actually working hard to help people in various ways.

For example, my church is a poor, country church that supports addiction recovery (AA) groups, runs an emergency cooling center, has an emergency food pantry and things like that. We are able to do that because we keep the rest of our finances really low.

I understand that there are churches that are extremely problematic, but don't forget about the huge chunk of us that are probably in line, socially, with some of your values.

I'm sure you understand how churches, even the ones who are more allied to atheists, hesitate to get behind all of AA's causes. I will always be supportive of atheists and atheist organizations that are not trying to close my doors.

dave93335 karma

Thank you:) I assure you that I DO recognize that SOME churches benefit the community. All we are asking is that they go through exactly the same hoops as secular orgs to maintain their 501c3 status. This involves your small and struggling church to fill out a few forms every year and to disclose your numbers to the federal government. Because, without you doing that, we have no way to tell if you're a poor and struggling church, or some money-hungry liar who is claiming poverty for his or her own personal gain. We seek only equality, and since we are transparent, so should the churches.

Captain_Jake_K11 karma

Do you receive many death threats or insults for what you do? It would be interesting to see you read them out like Richard Dawkins does.

dave93339 karma

Many. Some vague (you should die, someone should stab you) some not "(I'll be there when you're speaking, with my gun, to kill you). I have lots of security, I own a gun, and I live carefully.

Glitchless7 karma

Would you consider yourself brave? If so, how brave?

dave93332 karma

Not sure how to answer this one. Let's just say that someone has to do this job, and I and, at least for now, the best person to do it.

Bret166 karma

What do you think will change about religion within the next 5-10 years?

dave93333 karma

I wouldn't say nothing. I would say the trends will continue, with some variance of course. I would say we will be hearing a lot more about gay marriage acceptance and a lot less about Hell and sin. I think the change in the next 20 years will be monumental, at least in this country.

Marylandman1015 karma

what is your number 1 political priority?

dave93333 karma

A broad question. I would say the establishment of the atheists in both parties and in both constituencies as a respected and solicited voting bloc. I'd say the commitment from Congress that religious equality includes nonbelief, and it includes fair taxation and equal protection.

balexander245 karma

Hello Mr Silverman, I can say I recognize you from the Bill O'Reilly interview and maybe from some other fox news segments about you trying to destroy Christmas and whatnot. May I say first off say to you, good on you, it takes some balls to go to Fox and already expect what you are going to get out of it.

My real question is do you have any book recommendations for me? I've read The God Delusion by Dawkins and God is not Great by Hitchens. I'm looking for additional light reading.


dave93332 karma

Check out The Moral landscape by Harris and for light reading, the Good Book by Grayling. There is also my personal favorite, the seflish Gene, but it's more scientific.

[deleted]4 karma

  • Do you encourage your children and other children to not believe in a God or do you prefer they come up with their own beliefs?

  • What is the purpose of the American Atheists and can a non-American join? hehe

  • Do you completely rule out the fact that there is a God? Is there any part of you that thinks probably not, but maybe there's something divine out there?

  • Are you against religion of all sorts? I know some religious people are assholes, but I think many forget that there are many many religious people out there who do a lot of good, we just tend to ignore them.

  • Are you an ass man or a boob man?

  • Are you ever nervous of maybe going to hell?

  • When did you realize you were an atheist and what did your family think? Did anyone shun you for it?

  • Have you ever considered pastafarianism?

I could ask forever, but I'm gonna stop there. Some questions are stupid, but I'm just a curious guy. Thanks for checkin' my post out brotha! Science bless you and your family, friend.

dave93332 karma

1) I gave my daughter a Bible and told her to read it. She says she did. 2) Atheist normalization i teh USA, helping to normalize aborad, and yes 3) I rule out a god as completely as I rule out Santa Claus. When santa and his sleigh land on my roof, I'll believe. 4) religious people do good because they are good. Religious people do bad because they are bad. religion itself has nothing to do with it, so I'm against all of it (not the believers, just the myths) 5) It's all in the attitude. 6) No. Silly. never nervous of going to Hades either. 7) Addressed above 8) no, but I might give it a try :)

turdboner4 karma

Could you take Dillahunty in a fistfight?

dave93333 karma

Easily. Beth, on the other hand...

mericaftw4 karma

Dear Mr. Silverman:

Great to have you on reddit! Something I've been dying to know: who (authors, scientists, philosophers) did you find most influential in the development of your skepticism?

I know a lot of us who grew up with Sagan, Dawkins, Attenborough, etc. developed our skepticism through seeing their work, both as scientists and as thinkers. Who was your inspiration?

dave93333 karma

Sagan. Easily the most influential in my youth, as well as good ol' Mr. Spock and to a lesser degree James Randi. As I got older I read The Case Against God by George Smith and The Selfish Gene by Dawkins.

MaloneLaveigh4 karma

Why are so many atheist leaders Jewish, and why do so few of them criticize Jewishness? I mean, Bill Maher insults every religion BUT Jewish. Thoughts?

dave93335 karma

There is a lot here. Judaism does not have a Hell, so there is no need to "save souls", so they are not trying to convert us, so they are not really an immediate threat vs Christianity and Islam as far as SOCAS is concerned (exception, Israel funding).

Since there is no hell there is no horror if one does not believe, and so atheism in mainstream Judaism is rampant (the more you read, the more you doubt).

Few criticize Judaism because they are not a threat. Others avoid it because there is a lot of power at the ADL, which doesn't stop AA but may stop Bill Maher.

TurtleCave3 karma

Any opinion about Atheism Plus?

dave93336 karma

I'm saving further comment on this until after the HEADS meeting.

fredgreenmi2 karma

What do you think will become the primary mission of American Atheists when atheists become an accepted part of American society?

dave93333 karma

Very long term, we will migrate to curators of the history of the struggle for atheist equality. That's where the library come in.

BangsNaughtyBits2 karma

As the atheist 'movement' grows and segments, what challenges do you see AA facing as others try and incorporate their politics into the discussion?

Also, I miss the goatee.


dave93332 karma

The segmentation is positive as long as we keep our collective eyes on the same prize. If the segments try to fire at each other we will lose ground. Our challenge will be to keep everyone's guns facing forward.