Hemant Mehta is the editor of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTuber at the Atheist Voice channel, and a podcaster.

Camille Beredjick is the author of GayWrites.org. Her work has appeared in The Advocate, In These Times, BuzzFeed, Time.com, and elsewhere. She studied journalism and gender studies at Northwestern University and lives in Brooklyn with her fiancée.

We've just finished a new book called Queer Disbelief, about how the LGBTQ and atheist communities overlap, where the comparisons break down, how religion hurts (and helps!) LGBTQ people, and more. It's the culmination of more than a year's worth of research, interviews, and analysis.

We're raising funds on Kickstarter to finish the project and would appreciate your support!

Hemant is r/Mpromptu. Camille is r/camilleberedjick.

Ask us anything!


UPDATE (3:25p ET): We will still be answering questions, albeit a bit more slowly. Thank you for the great ones so far. And please consider supporting our Kickstarter for Queer Disbelief, where Camille goes into tremendous depth on these issues. It's really a fantastic book and we can't wait for you to read it.

Comments: 96 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

Chleverlen13 karma

Hi guys! Big fan of Friendly Atheist!

Realistically speaking, where do you think America will be in regards to accepting atheism and LGBTQ communities by the end of your/ our lifetimes?

Mpromptu7 karma

There never any guarantee, but I think we're already seeing a broader acceptance of people who don't belong to any organized religion (and to a lesser extent, atheists).

The stigma is still there -- good luck getting elected as an open atheist -- but in most parts of the country, it not as much of a problem as it used to be. That's in many ways thanks to all the atheists who dare to speak up! All the more reason to keep encouraging those who can to come out. The more people who do it, the easier it becomes for everyone else.

ActualPirater9 karma

Do you think that the inevitable decrease in religion will lead to better treatment of LGBTQ worldwide - or is it also ingrained into culture?

Mpromptu9 karma

I sure hope so. Just about all the ways LGBTQ people are discriminated against are rooted in religion, especially conservative denominations. So as the demographics shift away from religion as a whole, I'm hopeful that we'll see a similar shift away from anti-gay discrimination as there will be less support for it.

Even young evangelicals are much more supportive of LGBTQ rights, even if they lag behind the rest of us.

UGAShadow6 karma

What do you make of the overlap of the Alt right/pseudo-skeptics and atheists/non-believers?

It seems almost like a backlash towards your (our) kind of thinking.

Mpromptu7 karma

It's frustrating to see people who are all about critical thinking and reason when it comes to religion... but totally abandon it in other areas.

When it comes to issues like civil rights and women's rights, I feel like the evidence all points in one direction, even if there are loud critics all over the place. Then, my goal becomes trying to convince people who have gone off the rails, in part by trying to be a voice of reason who doesn't need to resort to name-calling, memes, etc. to make a point.

JacobBlah5 karma

Hey you two! I read Friendly Atheist on almost a daily basis.

Do you believe that one day homophobia and transphobia among other fears of the LGBTQ community will ever become unfashionable and condemned by the majority of the devoutly religious?

Mpromptu3 karma

I think it's possible, like Camille is saying, for many religious people to get past their disgust for LGBTQ people. Especially when they're not closed off to basic humanity/decency because their salvation depends on it.

That said, there are still people today who are racist or who hold awful views about groups of people for other reasons, and time hasn't eradicated that kind of thinking, so I worry it'll always be around to some degree. I just hope we can push that thinking to the fringes.

freeth1nker5 karma

Over 81% of evangelicals supported Trump in the 2016 election. Will this choice damage their credibility in the future?

Mpromptu7 karma

I really think it will. It's not that the 81% love Trump. Some just tolerated him with the hope he'd appoint conservative judges (one of the few things he's unfortunately done very well). Some couldn't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat (Clinton, specifically). But none of them were bothered enough by Trump's rhetoric, racism, sexism, obvious pandering to their community, etc. to even stay home on Election Day.

I hope people recognize the incredible hypocrisy. There was a Christian president in office for 8 years and they fought against him all the time. Now they have one who's Christian in name only -- who certainly doesn't act in the mold of a "family values" champion -- and they refuse to abandon him.

If nothing else, they've lost any claim to moral authority. For years to come, when they say something like abortion or divorce or marriage equality is immoral, everyone will be able to respond, "But you supported Donald Trump, so what do you care about immorality?"

I think a lot of young Christians are disgusted by this, too.

maquila4 karma

It seems, the more progress liberals make towards LGBTQ equality, the more fervent the anti-gay crowd gets. Where do you think the tipping point will be when American evangelicals give up on this crusade of discrimination?

Mpromptu7 karma

When they realize that younger Christians aren't coming to church or giving them money to sustain themselves BECAUSE of this issue. I think we're starting to see that happening, but it's still slow-going.

maquila2 karma

So, potentially decades more political obstruction and malfeasance. It's extraordinarily slow going considering 'nones' represent about 1/4 of Americans. What's the barrier preventing atheists and LGBTQ people from winning elections? Wouldn't that speed up the process of removing religious ideologues from power?

Mpromptu3 karma

The biggest barriers for atheists include:

-- The stigma. (The attack ads write themselves, since voters often think atheism is synonymous with immorality.)

-- No infrastructure. While there are atheist lobbying groups and at least one PAC, there's no real pipeline of atheist candidates learning how to run so that they can advocate for church/state separation. Conservative Christians are REALLY good at creating that pipeline.

That said, more openly atheist candidates ran in 2016 than ever before and a handful of them won seats in state legislatures. (All of them are currently Democrats, though there were two Republican atheists in New Hampshire for a short time. One resigned after a scandal. One switched his party affiliation to Libertarian.)

As more atheist candidates run, we're going to see more good atheist candidates, who have a broad appeal, which means we'll see more victories. But we have a long way to go since there are literally ZERO open atheists in Congress right now.

ElwaysHorseFace4 karma

Wow, huge fan of the friendly atheist. You really helped me move past a relatively standoffish phase toward those still affiliated with religion. Thank you.

Regarding this, have you ever (or what was the worst time that you) lost your cool head during conversations/arguments with anti-LGBTQ or heavily religious people?

Mpromptu8 karma

So glad to help!

It's always infuriating to see politicians and otherwise decent people taking anti-LGBTQ positions. It's rage-inducing when I hear it from someone I know personally. But losing my cool probably won't solve anything. I try to limit confrontation to people whose minds might actually be open to change. Even if I engage with a conservative online, I'm thinking about what I could say to help people who are reading the comments, not necessarily the person I'm talking to (who may not change).

Harmless_troll2 karma

Nothing to do with LGBT; What secular social contexts do you feel are as powerful as church and synagogue with regards to providing a platform for socializing?

I'm asking because I feel religion does provide much more in that regard to its adherents even without them putting effort into it, not that it is a reason to believe anything religious, but for someone who grew up religious and is no longer interested in the beliefs of that religion, there is much motivation to keep it to themselves and continue to be a part of church and synagogue socially, which doesn't really let society's voice on the matter be heard, meaning that many people are assumed to be religious when they are not because religion provides what is possibly harder for secular society to provide.

Sorry for the long run-on sentence, thanks if you do respond.

Mpromptu8 karma

This is a great question, because it's one of the main obstacles to convincing people to stop believing in God. We're essentially asking them to abandon their social network, and a lot of people won't do that (for good reason) no matter where the evidence points.

I don't know that there's anything nearly as powerful... but it's interesting to watch Meetup groups form around a common bond or even Resistance groups form around a political ideology. Those aren't analogous to churches, but they're not entirely different, either.

As I've said to atheist groups before, though, unless we can offer people the social benefits of church without the religious nonsense, it's going to be very hard to convince them to leave. (There have been many attempts at forming "atheist churches," with varying degrees of success.)

fattonybbx2 karma

Hello :) The Friendly Atheist got me through a time where religion was starting to feel a bit suffocating when I first moved to the US, so thank you, Hemant.

Hey Camille :) I don't need to tell you how kick-ass I think you are.

Since we are currently under the rule of an overbloated satsuma with views as progressive as that one guy on the corner who yells slurs at people, who are some great LGBT- or atheist-friendly politicians we should throw our support behind?

Mpromptu3 karma

If you're looking for openly non-theistic candidates to support, the Freethought Equality Fund highlights ones who are really good. They just released a list of 18 candidates who will be on the ballot next year and earned the FEF's endorsement.

iHaveAgency2 karma

With most politically aware atheists agreeing with Sam Harris and others that atheism is not a thing, and should not be elevated to being a thing, why do you reject that notion and try often to raise atheism above what it is: a mere lack of belief in any gods? An example of this would appear to be the book that you are writing. Two standard examples of the folly of this is to assert that there are no "non-astrologers", and no "non-stamp-collectors"; - that we have no need for those terms, and we make a big mistake if/when we forget that.

Another time you advocated for "atheism as a thing" in an FA blog entry, arguinging that atheists need representation in Congress, a few years ago now.

Sam lays out this idea: Sam Harris - AAI 2007 - The Problem with Atheism.

Do you have a reason or philosophy to support that approach against such criticism?

Mpromptu6 karma

Sam's right philosophically. We SHOULDN'T need a term like atheism for the same reason we don't have a term like a-unicornist. But I think it serves a purpose. When so many people believe in a specific kind of nonsense, there's power in saying, "I don't share those views."

As for atheists in Congress, I don't need the government advocating for atheism, but I wish there were more politicians who acknowledged my view of reality, and relied on evidence/reason when making policy. That's not the case right now when it comes to science, sex education, contraception, etc. There's so much false information promoted by (usually religious) people in office. So I would like to think an openly atheist candidate would be critical of bad science and promote church/state separation.

NDaveT2 karma

Hemant I've been reading Friendly Atheist for years. I have one question: how do you pronounce your last name?

Mpromptu5 karma

At this point, I don't know either.

The Indian way of pronouncing it is different from the way I'm used to pronouncing it. But I usually tell people MEH-tuh.

caelub1669231 karma

Do either/both of you have a religious past? If so, what is a positive effect it has had on your life?

Mpromptu6 karma

I was raised in the Jain religion, and it was a fairly positive experience. Jains believe in non-violence. It's a good philosophy. I'm still vegetarian to this day, though for ethical reasons instead of religious ones. I just parted ways when it came to their beliefs in karma, reincarnation, and things like that.

SnowLucario1 karma

Hemant, what is your opinion of Kyrsten Sinema running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona? My take is that she's better than Jeff Flake, and she's an LGBT atheist, but she's also not that progressive.

Mpromptu6 karma

If I lived in Arizona, she'd have my vote in a heartbeat. But it's not without some criticism, which I tried to highlight here.

In short, you're right that she's not as progressive as I would like. But she's far, far better than Flake, and she's progressive on a lot of issues that are important to me. As the saying goes, we can't let perfect be the enemy of good. And she's good.

A_Yellow_Dude1 karma

Been reading the FA blog for a couple of years now, have always been impressed with the content!

My question is, what are y'all's takes on the Christian view of being okay with LGBTQIA+ individuals (opposing discrimination against them, being supportive of them, etc.), while still viewing it as a sin? It's always bugged me somewhat, since it still feels like they're saying something's wrong with those individuals for who they are, even if they don't discriminate because of that. What are your views on that belief?

Mpromptu2 karma

There's the theological argument for why that's hypocritical... but my focus is more on the practical argument, and if their position means they support LGBTQ rights, I'll take it, and I'll worry about the underlying homophobia later.

Roasty_My_Toasty11 karma

Will you be shipping the book internationally when it inevitably comes out (pun intended) and if not so will there be online e-books available ?

Mpromptu3 karma

If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, we hope to make an ebook and paperback available on Amazon for anyone who wants it but missed this window :)

Videogameguy9091 karma

What's you guys' take on the suppression of religion in North Korea? A tourist has actually been arrested for leaving a Bible in a nightclub (A Bible in a nightclub?), and public displays of religion are discouraged (By way of labor camp and death). While I do think Athiesm is beneficial, I'm fairly certain that nobody should be forcing it on people. I'm curious about your point of view on the issue.

Mpromptu3 karma

Totally agree. Forced atheism is no better than a theocracy. Freedom of thought is worth fighting for, and then we can discuss/debate/persuade people to accept ideas on their own merit.