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ABC’s What Would You Do? The angry atheist never does this in a restaurant, except once…

July 24, 2015

A number of prominent atheists have recently shared this story about a particular episode of the American TV Show, ‘What would you do?

The TV show, What would you do? “establishes everyday scenarios and then captures people’s reactions.” The episode in question depicts an angry atheist confronting a Christian family praying at a restaurant. There has been an outcry among many atheists on social media claiming that such a scenario is completely false.

Hemant Mehta claims “it’s completely implausible […] I know a hell of a lot of atheists and not a single one would ever treat a praying family at a restaurant with that much disrespect.”

On Richard Dawkins’ Facebook page one commenter wrote, “What would you do in this situation that NEVER HAPPENS?” (480 likes)

And another, “I know some hard core militant atheists and they’d NEVER do this” (204 likes)

According to Jaclyn Glenn the episode was “offensive” and “despicable”. She said it was a “ridiculous situation” and claimed that she didn’t know anyone who would behave in this way, “what would you do in this situation that would never happen, ever”.

There is a broad consensus from within the atheist community that this scenario was never going to happen. I accept that in many cases these claims are broadly true. I have met many very pleasant atheists who would never dream of doing anything like the scenario painted.

EXCEPT, that something similar did happen to me once.

A number of years ago I was sitting down at a pizza restaurant with a friend of mine and we were going to have a discussion about the Bible with two other guys (who happened to be Mormons). We had just placed a Bible on the table and someone in a table opposite said in a fairly aggressive tone, ‘you’re not going to have a Bible discussion in front of me are you?’. He went on to say that if we wanted to have a discussion about the Bible we’d better move. We felt a little intimidated and threatened by his tone and the seriousness of his threat and not wanting to make a fuss we moved to a table a long way from him at the opposite side of the restaurant.

Now, the scenario is not entirely the same as the What would you do? scenario. We weren’t praying (at that point) we had just put our Bible on the table. The man didn’t shout at us and he never self-identified as an atheist.

But we were still confronted by an angry non-believer in a restaurant who didn’t tolerate us even having a conversation at a table nearby to him – it made him feel uncomfortable to the extent he threatened us to move.

I also noted this comment by David Robertson on Facebook where he demonstrated that these things do happen sometimes, “yes this has and does happen….I was once approached by a complete stranger in a cafe after having a quiet chat with a friend about the bible and praying, with the words ‘I hate you people’….”

So I accept that there are lots of atheists wouldn’t do something as proposed by the What would you do? show, but, not all. It happened to me once.

And what did the other restaurant patrons in the restaurant do when we were threatened?

Absolutely nothing.

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From → Comment

5 Comments
  1. The show claims to put people in common predicaments. It’s far from common for atheists to act that way.

    The person beside you could have been someone from a competing faith or even another denomination of Christianity.

    • Thanks for the comment. Appreciate that. I agree the show is about common predicaments, but it does happen. I was pointing out (contrary to other opinions) that things like this ‘do’ happen.

      I sincerely doubt that this person was from a competing faith or denomination. They didn’t want ANY Bible discussion of any sort done in front of them. They might not have been atheist, but they were clearly a non-believer.

      Do you think that some atheists might act like this at all?

      Hope you’re going well. Rob

      • I suppose they could but it’s certainly not common and I could also see another atheist telling the rude one to let them finish.

  2. Godless Gamer permalink

    I would argue that the bigger issue (aside from the generalizations in response to the episode) is that it was presented as a common occurrence. In addition to this, there is no balanced representation depicted on the episode. If they then focused on each respondent’s personal beliefs and included at least a couple of actual Atheist’s reactions it might have been perceived as less negative towards Atheists, or if a following or preceding segment had dealt with the far more common occurrence of public proselytizing and threatening that is committed every day by many people of faith. Instead they focused on the incredibly uncommon (if only because statistically the numbers are in favor of Atheism on this) occurrence of an angry Atheist prosecuting a Christian family. 2.

    4% of Americans consider themselves Atheist. Of that small number, an even smaller number are so-called “Militant” Atheists. This means the odds of this particular interaction happening is at best 1 in 50. In the South this is even less likely. Texas, where this event was staged, has 77% of their population declaring themselves as some form of Christian, 20% declare as unaffiliated, and 6% as agnostic or atheist. 30% of Texans believe dinosaurs and mankind existed simultaneously. No, that scene has a likelihood of occurring in Texas so minuscule as to not be worth mentioning.

    I do agree that claiming it never happens anywhere is a broad generalization, and I consider generalizations about as useful as male nipples, but to argue that it is common is absurd. Doing so has given the show a distinct Christian moralist skew and ruined it for me. Prior to this I felt they did a good job of presenting Americans as generally caring or uncaring individuals without trying to tie one side or the other to religion. Now they seem to have shown their cards, and unfortunately it’s a full house, Christians full of Righteousness.

  3. WorldGoneCrazy permalink

    I actually had an atheist approach me in a Subway restaurant when he saw my Bible and ask if he could debate me. I was a very new Christian, after 42 years of atheism, but since apologetics brought me to theism and then to Christian theism, it turned out to be a wonderful experience. He turned out to be a state chapter president for American Atheists, but 5 minutes into the conversation, I had him retreat into admitting he could only sustain the position of being an agnostic non-theist. On the other hand, he asked me some tough questions about the Bible that I did not perform well on, which opened up some great areas of learning for me. We left on really great terms, and I thank God (:-)) for the experience.

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