Hayley is a Ghost

…& Sometimes skeptics don’t deserve ice cream

Posted on: November 22, 2011

A photo of the sign that caused the debate. It reads 'Skepticon is not welcomes to my christian business'I’m atheist because I belong to no religion and do not believe there to be a god/gods. Atheism is not a huge part of who I am, it’s just there.

I follow numerous people on twitter who are more vocal about atheism than I am and I often see tweets and posts about atheism. Recently I caught snippets on Twitter about how Skepticon attendees had been banned from an icecream store when a sign was put on the window  telling them they were not welcome in the ‘christian business’.

It’s illegal to ban people in that manner and the way people were talking about it made me assume that they had been banned for no good reason, and simply because they were non believers. I was outraged on their behalf – I’ve never personally witnessed religious intolerance and I’ve never been a victim of that, but my younger cousin has when she was spat at for wearing a crucifix. She was still in primary school, and although I don’t share her beliefs I felt outraged anyone would treat another people like that – especially a child.

However, today I saw a posting by the owner of the ice cream store in question explaining why he posted the sign and I was reminded of that important lesson we’re all taught early on in life – ‘there are two sides to every story’. This is what he had to say:

What I saw instead was a man conducting a mock sermon, reading the bible and cursing it. Instead of saying “Amen”, the phrase was “god damn”. Being a Christian, and expecting flying saucers, I was not only totally surprised but totally offended. I took it very personally and quickly decided in the heat of the moment that I had to take matters into my own hands and let people know how I felt at that moment in time.

What followed was the creation of the sign. A totally bad reaction on his part, but I find that I can understand why the owner did what he did. This doesn’t mean I condone it.

What I find the most concerning is that a mock sermon of that nature took place and the people involved wonder why someone got annoyed.

You’re free to do what you want and I’m not going to condemn the mock sermon even though I think it is an ugly, intolerant and disgusting thing to do. I just wanted to write this post to say that those skeptics… those atheists or non believers or whatever they want to call themselves who are surprised or outraged by what happened, should really realign the way in which they think about free speech.

You are free to do and say as you please, even if it is offensive – but don’t be surprised when people get offended and act on that. Chances are you’ve done the same at some point in the past.

I think this is a great example of how labels such as ‘skeptic’ or ‘atheist’ or ‘non-believer’ are not all encompassing. I am not like the people who took part in the mock sermon, I’m not like those claiming that the owner of the store should be made an example of.

I’m glad of that.

No doubt I’ll be told I am wrong for what I have written, or that I don’t ‘get it’, and that’s fine because you’re all entitled to your own opinions just as I am mine. However, for what it is worth, you’d only need to ask me for forgiveness to get it.


34 Responses to "…& Sometimes skeptics don’t deserve ice cream"

I couldn’t agree more, Hayley. I just do not understand what PZ hopes to achieve here.

When somebody genuinely apologises, you forgive them. It’s as simple as that. There is nothing to be gained from withholding forgiveness from the repentant.

Sure, don’t forgive bigots – but when they apologise they are by definition no longer a bigot, so welcome them with open arms into the world of reason! Jeez I cannot get my head around this, honestly

I guess some people will think it’s an apology forced because of all the attention. I don’t know.

Whatever it was that brought it about, the fact is that he heard new information, weighed it up and revised his position accordingly. A great example of skepticism for all of us.

I forgive but I dont forget.

Same here 🙂
Also forgiveness doesn’t mean one is saying that what happened was okay.

HOORAY! PZ is a bully and I’ve stopped listening to his rants long ago. But you also might find this interesting….

I was annoyed at the conflation of skeptics and atheists that was obviously displayed by the business owner but is enhanced by Skepticon promoting atheistic and anti-religious topics over purely “skeptical” topics.

I hold the view that to exclude religious sentiment from skepticism is to exclude many excellent people (and great skeptics like Martin Gardner and Houdini). Why would we want to do that?

When I commented to JT Eberhart about it… this is what I got:
JTEberhard: A skeptic who’s not an atheist is doing something wrong RT @IDoubtIt: thanks for labeling skeptics as “atheists” with your con *thumbs down*

I wrote: Your goals appear different than the skeptical movement and, frankly, shortsighted.

He replied: Disagree. Skeptics who r not atheists are failed skeptics.
and then…
JTEberhard:Yeah, narrow. But right. RT @IDoubtIt: Wow. Narrow. U go w/ that. I’ll do more important work.

So, he was all indignant about being discriminated against but is perfectly OK with labeling whomever as he sees fit and being extremely arrogant about it. This is what I despise about the “new atheists”.

Other than this comment and the twitter exchange, I refrain from talking about this publicly because it is not my focus. Like I said to JT, I’ll go do positive things instead of religion-bashing. But, you know what? This is the same shit as last year when he bashed other people who didn’t agree with him. Finished. Thanks for posting this, Hayley.

…because his opinion of other skeptics counts? Tsk!

I can’t get behind the “Skeptics must be atheists” thing either. I’m an atheist myself, and only a fool would ignore the huge crossover, but many pantheists and deists are no different from atheists in any practical sense relating to the real world, so why exclude them? It gets logically tougher when talking about people who believe in some form of organised religion based on scripture which doesn’t stand up to critical examination but even then I can’t see what is to be gained from excluding such people if they are willing to contribute.

Clearly commenting on blogs last thing at night causes me to forget about punctuation. Sorry about that…

What I find particularly amusing/unsettling/saddening are the atheists who claim he has no right to his feelings, but that he damn well better respect theirs. It’s absurd.

I’d be interested to know the content of this ‘mock sermon’ before making a decision about this. Seems the ice cream chap was shocked because he expected something else.

He was shocked because he expected something else, he was offended because of what he found instead.

I don’t know enough about this to have any meaningful input, but that has never stopped me sounding off. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 does indeed forbid discrimination based on race, religion and national origin — it does not forbid discrimination as part of a group, for example “college football players”, “Cleveland Indian baseball fans”, or ” Skepticon attendees.” The sign in no way says “atheists barred” — simply Skepticon attendees, so I guess it’s legal, but I don’t know enough US law to tell. Likewise Joseph Burstyn Inc v Wilson 343 U.S. 495 (1952) held that NY State blasphemy laws were unconstitutional on grounds of Free Speech, so ther eis no legal objection whatsoever to mock sermons. (775 ILCS 5/5‑102.1) Sec. 5‑102.1. No Civil Rights Violation: Public Accommodations. of the HUMAN RIGHTS (775 ILCS 5/) Illinois Human Rights Act would mean no crime committed.

But hang on — I just recalled from the Simpsons there is a Springfield in every US state, and this is Springfield MO not Springfield IL. As far as I can make out from a quick search the standard Federal Laws apply with no state complications in MO; so o criminal offense was committed.As far as I know no one had threatened the ice cream chap with legal action, but if they do I think they will have an interesting time trying to make a case.

What you could do is try and argue that “skeptics are atheists”. That is simply not true; Martin Gardner is the classic example, bu t there are others. I seem to recall that Shermer is agnostic; I’m a Christian as it happens.

Shame about the ice cream thing, but lets face it, sounds like some folks were jerks, and the owner kicked off as a result. It happens. It happens that sometimes roleplaying gamers, comic fans, or some other group do something silly, and we all get told we are unwelcome in some business Some idiots spoil it for the rest. It ain’t persecution, it’s just the way stuff happens. Sounds like the chap has changed his mind, and at least some of the protests must have been intelligent and polite to d that, so well done the atheist activists who spoke to him. Now everyone can eat ice cream again.

As tot the almost unbelievable nonsense about “sceptics must be atheists” well that just makes me giggle. I know very few folks who hold that opinion who have any formal academic background in religion, epistemology or philosophy generally. The absence of exposure to any kind of actual knowledge may be why they feel they can hold such a black and white assumption, based on the obvious (to them) fact religion is shit and utterly illogical. If you question how they justify this belief, they say its not a belief its a fact. If you question further they just tend to get angry, because lets face it epistemology is hard work. There are of course zillions of epistemological sophisticated and incredibly well educated in religion theology and logic atheist out there, I count at least a dozen among my friends, but sadly there are plenty of rabid fruitbat atheist fundies too.

Now being smart does not make you right, and the most gut instinct atheist could well be right: but lay off telling me who can or can not call themselves a sceptic. Scepticism is a methodology not a conclusion , ok? 🙂

Anyway sorry Hayley, I gpt a bit carried away there! Well said with the blog piece.

cj x

I think persecution did happen, even if only for 5 minutes or so. The sentiment was there when the sign was posted on the door.

Also, I think skepticism often leads to atheism, but this isn’t always the case.

No one really knows if God does or does not exist, people can only believe that he does or does not exist, or say that there is not enough evidence to prove it either way. Sounds like a belief to me, or perhaps Agnosticism.

A non belief is not a belief. I don’t believe in ghosts because there is no supporting evidence, I don’t believe in god because there is no supporting evidence.

I’m not stupid, I DO know what a belief system is.

Incidentally if American atheists sometimes seems puerile infantile and whiney when wittering on about crap like this, I guess they actually have had to put up with about forty years of Young Earth Creationism. More importantly, in the late 1980’s the American Religious Right came up with the notion of opposing “worldviews” fighting a “culture war” for the minds and souls of the USA (see Mindsiege (2001) by Tim LaHaye and David Noebel for the ‘best’ example of this kind of writing) and a lot of US atheists have bought it wholesale in as far as they have adopted exactly the kind of belligerent attitudes that the Religious Right loonies rail against and given them the fight they were trying to manufacture. Still compared with the issues that face American Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and pretty much any other minority well I really can’t get excited about the fact someone refused to sell some skeptics ice cream.

Atheism is just as bad a belief as believing in God, Hayley! Surely agnosticism is a more pragmatic approach- i.e. you don’t *know* there is a god? Sceptics often fall into the atheism trap.

Atheism isn’t a belief system.

[…] Hayley Stevens: …& Sometimes skeptics don’t deserve ice cream […]

Right- atheism isn’t a belief system, unless that belief system is empiricism. And if you want to get further into the epistemological/philosophical discussion, skepticism in general tends to value positivism/scientific realism. But there are certainly many atheists who have backgrounds in philosophy.

Regarding atheism, it just means that I don’t believe in deities. It’s not believing that something exists because you don’t believe there’s evidence to support it. That something in this case is a deity of any sort, but the same is true of ghosts, tea pots in orbit, or invisible pink unicorns (the latter two are often used as examples in this context). I don’t believe that leprechauns exist, but I’m also not waiting for someone to prove otherwise before saying they don’t exist.

I’m not saying those things to mock those who are religious; that’s what actually made me realize that calling myself agnostic *instead of* atheist wasn’t really being honest to myself. I am agnostic in the sense that I don’t believe that there’s a way of knowing 100% sure that a given argument is verifiable- especially for the beliefs that tend to fall under the umbrella of deism- but I’m an atheist because I don’t believe that there’s really evidence for deities.

Hayley, this is what kind of confused me about your post- I love RI Podcast, but I live in Texas, and RI Podcast is not a one that I could listen to at work (a public institution) largely because of the religious criticism. There are people in my office who would call the podcast bigoted and intolerant- to them, there’s no difference between the mock sermon and what y’all do. Heck, there are people in my family who would be horribly, horribly offended of your mocking of the pope’s Christmas album (I was raised Catholic.) Those types of things are some of the reasons that I’m hesitant to use my real name in some of these discussions.

From the description, I can’t really call out Brother Sam all that much- it was an atheist track at a skeptic conference (and despite assertions I’ve read to the contrary, the conference did not seem to be all about atheism). That the person was unpleasantly surprised, sure. That he was offended, sure. It was his reaction that was not appropriate. From what I’ve read from the folks from Skepticon and on reddit/elsewhere, I don’t think that anyone is surprised or upset that the guy was offended in the first place (except maybe for thinking that religion was out of bounds for criticism)- I think they’re more upset at his actions. Me, I’d forgive him, especially after the last message. I think and hope that it could be a learning experience for him. But I can understand that others wouldn’t.

Chris, the fact that he mentioned Skepticon attendees in lieu of atheists doesn’t necessarily absolve him from civil liberties concerns; he was quite public that it was because of the atheism, and even absent that his notice of a “Christian business” is pretty indicative as well. Even without the legal realities, though, it was still an improper reaction.

Well, I typically agree with your posts here and, as you know, wholly endorse your highly inclusive attitudes and overall “friendliness” in a community where cranky pedantry can rule. On this matter, though, I disagree a bit.

I am a firm believer that nothing, not religion, not sex, not drugs, not politics, not gender, not race, not philosophy, not science, not anything is above ridicule and satire. I enjoy parodies of things I hold dear and I expect that many others do too.

So, to me, a phony sermon designed to entertain and inspire a group of free thinkers should be encouraged. No one has the right to not be offended. If PZ’s audience was amused, he achieved his goal.

A few years ago, there was the controversy over the Mohammed cartoons in Sweden. There were death threats made to its authors. Religious people need to grow a sense of humor and either learn to enjoy a lampoon of their beliefs or they should learn to ignore what offends them or they should refuse our money and not sell us ice cream.

We, as skeptics, humanists, atheists, etc. take a ton of very public abuse from politicians and many “leaders” here in the US and elsewhere. We are compared to satanists, occultists, baby killers, etc. Some prominent preachers are suggesting there be a registry of atheists so religious people can find our houses and come to pray and convert us. I never complain about or react to the horrible things that Christians, Moslems and others say about us. I think they need to grow a bit of a thicker skin too.

Of course, I may be wrong…

I’m not saying don’t mock – that’s your right. What I’m saying is don’t be surprised that those you mock get offended and act on that.

I don’t quite understand all of your comments.
You say
‘I am a firm believer that nothing, not religion, not sex, not drugs, not politics, not gender, not race, not philosophy, not science, not anything is above ridicule and satire. I enjoy parodies of things I hold dear and I expect that many others do too.’

Does this mean because you do, and others do, all must? How you deal with satire is irrelevant.

You also say;
‘Religious people need to grow a sense of humor and either learn to enjoy a lampoon of their beliefs or they should learn to ignore what offends them or they should refuse our money and not sell us ice cream.’

Isn’t that what he did? And then got criticized for it? It’s also interesting that you get to choose what options other people may have. Don’t they have the right to not enjoy a lampooning and not to ignore what offends them? Maybe they could choose for example, to complain and protest, or put a sign in their shop window?

And if you choose to not complain about what other people call atheists, how does that have any relationship to this event?

You seem to put forward your reaction to adversity and expect that all others must react in the same way.

It boils down to this:
Piss people off if you want, but don’t expect to be sold ice scream. And don’t expect others to react in the way you expect them to react.

I was wrong to defend the ice cream store’s refusal to serve atheists/skeptics. The store is a place of public accommodation and refusing customers service based on such a status is illegal in the US. The ice cream parlor was committing a crime by refusing guests based on status while PZ was performing a Constitutionally protected bit of speech.

If a religious person doesn’t like what what I say, they can react in any legal manner. I was trying to say that I think it would be more pleasant if people would take themselves less fucking serious.

Oh yes… less fucking seriously. Good one.

Proper English skeptics must:

a. be atheist.
b. read The Guardian.
c. vote Lib-Dem.
d. think every word from Rebecca Watson’s mouth is beyond question.
e. hero worship PZ Myers.
f. pretend Tim Minchin is funny, bearable even. Ditto Amateur Transplants.
g. live in the centre of the universe (London).
h. view all men as potential rapists.
i. consider David Mabus as a depressive, anxiety disorder riddled lunatic without further evidence.
j. view the religious or believers in the paranormal as simple mental deficients.

If you ain’t doing all those things then you ain’t the real deal. Losers!

@Trystan It may be cliche, but lol

And I mean my lol being cliche, not your list. While I don’t agree with everything you “support” on the list, I’m with you on the larger sentiment.

This made me properly laugh, cheers. I’d only add:

k: Coo at all the kitten jpegs and gifs when instructed.

But maybe I’ve crossed a line.

What PZ said in his way was: I don’t forgive him because despite his apology, he represents the bigotry of millions of Americans that made his action even the least bit acceptable. The US is a country where “In God We Trust” was just re-avowed as the nation’s motto a couple of weeks ago by a large majority of liberals and conservatives alike and is printed on every dollar bill. My “Atheist Bus” bumper sticker gets the finger all the time. So I don’t blame him for his position.

It has to be a joke that PZ’s tweet users the word bigot. One definition of bigot being

‘a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.’

i agree with PZ a lot (and disagree a lot), but ‘Tolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion’ isn’t a description i would apply to him

PZ is quite tolerant of differing creed, belief, or opinion. He doesn’t care if anyone believes in magic and wouldn’t impose his positions on anyone. Just don’t expect him to respect or keep quiet about what he thinks of differing creed, belief, or opinion. Or patronize an ice cream shop that had shown bigotry towards his.

[…] apology as a victory even if it was more of a PR move than anything else. SkepticMoney says yes. Hayley says yes, and has some harsh words for any supposedly compassionate humanist skeptics looking to “make […]

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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