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