Atheist Ireland publicly dissociates itself from the harmful and hateful rhetoric of PZ Myers

Atheist Ireland is publicly dissociating itself from the hurtful and dehumanising, hateful and violent, unjust and defamatory rhetoric of the atheist blogger PZ Myers. The final of many, many straws were his latest smear that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is ‘happily exploiting atrocities’, and his subsequent description of Atheist Ireland’s chairperson as ‘the Irish wanker’. We are also asking all ethical organisations and individuals to consider how you can help to reverse his harmful impact on both individuals and the atheist movement generally.

Atheist Ireland promotes atheism, reason and ethical secularism. Our policies are based on a respect for human rights, upon which we can build a just society based on natural ethical values. We meet with and lobby the Irish government, Irish parliamentary meetings, the media, and international human rights regulatory bodies such as the UN Human Rights Committee, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE. We are proud to work nationally with other human rights and social justice groups, and globally with colleagues in Atheist Alliance International, and the International Campaign Against Blasphemy Laws.

Our shared work in all of these areas, at national and international level, is important for the development of an ethical secular world. This work is undermined by rhetoric that associates atheist and secular advocacy with hateful, violent and defamatory speech. Such rhetoric is also unjust to the individual people who it targets.

Atheist Ireland has previously given PZ Myers public platforms in Ireland, both at the World Atheist Convention in 2011, and at our international conference in 2013 on Empowering Women Through Secularism. We now apologise for doing this. We believe his behaviour is unjust to individuals, increases prejudice against atheists, and is harmful to the promotion of an ethical society based on empathy, fairness, justice and integrity.

Some examples of his hurtful and dehumanising rhetoric

He said that ‘the scum rose to the top of the atheist movement’, that it is ‘burdened by cretinous reactionaries’, that ‘sexist and misogynistic scumbags’ are ‘not a fringe phenomenon’, and that if you don’t agree with Atheism Plus, you are an ‘Asshole Atheist’. He agreed that science fetishism reproduces the ‘white supremacist logic of the New Atheist Movement.’ He said ‘I officially divorce myself from the skeptic movement,’ which ‘has attracted way too many thuggish jerks, especially in the leadership’.

He said Richard Dawkins ‘seems to have developed a callous indifference to the sexual abuse of children’ and ‘has been eaten by brain parasites’, Michael Nugent is ‘the Irish wanker’ and a ‘demented fuckwit’, Ann Marie Waters is a ‘nutter’, Russell Blackford is a ‘lying fuckhead’, Bill Maher’s date at an event was ‘candy to decorate [her sugar daddy’s] arm in public’, Ben Radford is a ‘revolting narcissistic scumbag’ and his lawyer is ‘J Noble Dogshit’, Rosetta scientist Matt Taylor and Bill Maher are ‘assholes’, and Abbie Smith and her ‘coterie of slimy acolytes’ are ‘virtual non-entities’. He called Irish blogger ZenBuffy a ‘narcissistic wanker,’ after she said she has experienced mental illness.

He described Robin Williams’ suicide as ‘the death of a wealthy white man dragging us away from news about brown people’, said that a white lady who made racist comments ‘looks like the kind of person who would have laughed at nanu-nanu’, then added: ‘I’m mainly feeling that I should have been more rude, because asking me to have been nicer about the dead famous guy is completely missing the point’. He said of other dead people that Charles Darwin was a ‘sexist asshat’, Richard Feynman was a ‘reprehensible asshole’, and Christopher Hitchens was a ‘bloodthirsty barbarian’ and a ‘club-carrying primitive’.

Some examples of his hateful and violent rhetoric

Among the many people he publicly ‘hates’, ‘despises’ or ‘detests’ are philosophers Alain de Botton and Harriet Baber, interfaith activist Chris Stedman, comparative religion author Karen Armstrong, pastor Lee Strobel, columnist Richard Cohen, attorney Debbie Schlussel, creationists Ken Ham and Fred Phelps, broadcasters Bob Beckel and Rush Limbaugh, and authors Ben Stein, Bryan Appleyard and Dinesh D’Souza. Just last month he said that his ‘contempt’ for US President Ronald Reagan has vastly increased.

He also employs hate speech against Christians (‘I left the theatre filled with contempt and loathing for Christians’), apocalypse-mongers (‘they make me furious and fill me with an angry contempt’), ‘your average, run-of-the-mill Christian’ (‘I despise Karen Armstrong almost as much as I do Fred Phelps’), and several people who were organising a prayer initiative (‘Jesus Christ but I hate these slimebags’ who are ‘demented fuckwits every one.’)

He uses violent rhetoric. He said ‘I’ve got to start carrying a knife now’ to kill Christians if they pray instead of helping him while he is dying. He said about a meal: ‘Don’t show up to pick a fight or we’ll pitch you off a pier.’ When a Brazilian priest died in a charity ballooning accident, he said ‘my new dream’ will be shooting priests out of the sky from an aircraft. When a Christian shopkeeper apologised for offending atheists, he refused to accept the apology, saying ‘No. Fuck him to the ground.’ He would rather debate William Lane Craig in writing ‘where I can pin him down, stick a knife in the bastard, and twist it for a good long while’. He praised a blog post that ‘shanks Thunderf00t in the kidneys and mocks him cruelly’.

He has encouraged his blog commenters to ‘rhetorically hand [critics] a rotting porcupine and tell you to stuff it up your nether orifice’. They in turn have told people to ‘put a three week old decaying porcupine dipped in tar and broken glass up your arse sideways’, to ‘fuck yourself sideways’ with a ‘rusty chainsaw’, ‘red-hot pokers’ or a ‘rusty coat hanger’, and to ‘go die in a fire. slowly. seriously’. More recently he said of ‘faux-Vulcan shit’ that he encourages his commentariat to ‘draw their knives and flense it so thoroughly the dispassionate ass is feeling the pain in every nerve ending’.

Some examples of his unjust and defamatory rhetoric

In his latest smear just last weekend, he accused Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who lives with constant security protection against threats on her life, of ‘happily exploiting atrocities to justify continued injustices’, and of ‘using the threat of murder elsewhere as a club to silence those who strive for respect and dignity in their lives’. He based this smear on a misleadingly edited quote from Ayaan’s keynote speech to the American Atheists Convention.

PZ did not challenge commenters who said Richard Dawkins is a ‘racist misogynist piece of shit who thinks child molestation doesn’t count unless there’s rape or murder’, that ‘if he’s not actually a child molester he’s dangerously close to wearing the uniform of one’, and that ‘Dawkins and his rape cheerleaders can fuck a power socket’. But he did ban a commenter who defended Richard, telling him: ‘Goodbye. We don’t need your petty resistance to any dissent from the sacred position of your great heroes around here. Fuck off.’

When Michael Nugent highlighted the harmful effect of his behaviour, PZ responded by publicly accusing him of ‘defending and providing a haven for rapists’, saying the evidence for this was people who comment on Michael’s blog. He has since refused for six months to withdraw and apologise for this defamatory smear, adding that Michael also ‘supports rapists’, and is a ‘demented fuckwit’ and ‘the Irish wanker’. His blog network, FreeThought Blogs, has now refused for three months to even respond to repeated emails asking them to address a complaint about this issue.


These are only some examples of his harmful rhetoric. He also regularly accuses others of sexism without applying the same judgment to his own behaviour over the years, and he has accused a named person of committing a serious crime without employing the journalistic ethics expected in reporting on such an allegation.

It might be possible to interpret any one example of this behaviour charitably, if he was normally charitable himself and was misinformed or writing in anger, or if there was a particular context, or if he was willing to change his behaviour. However, the relentlessness of his abuse and hatred and smears across so many contexts, and his reluctance to even consider changing his behaviour, create the extra problem of the cumulative impact of his behaviour as a pattern.

Ironically, the sheer quantity of his harmful rhetoric can seem to minimise the harm of each example, as each example can hide behind a wall of other examples. It is easy for us to become desensitised to the harm caused by this gradual undermining of reasonable discourse. We can disagree robustly about ideas and behaviour, including using strong language that some may be uncomfortable with, but without unjustly attacking the people we disagree with.

Many within the atheist movement have been concerned about his behaviour for years. Some have responded by publicly ignoring it, either to avoid giving him the credibility of a response, or to avoid becoming his next target. Some have responded by attacking him back using similar rhetoric, thus adding to the problem and enabling him to deflect attention away from his own behaviour. Some, including Atheist Ireland, mistakenly believed that privately asking him to change his behaviour might eventually be productive.

So Atheist Ireland is now publicly dissociating ourselves from his hurtful and dehumanising, hateful and violent, unjust and defamatory rhetoric. We are asking all ethical organisations and individuals to consider how you can help to reverse the harmful impact of his behaviour. We look forward to continuing to work with others to promote an ethical secularism based on robust inquiry, empathy, compassion, fairness, justice and integrity.

Atheist Ireland
Executive Committee
7 April 2015

Atheist Ireland


  1. Avatar
    Nuala Mukadam April 07, 2015

    Well done Atheist Ireland, and about time too

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    dave kiernan April 07, 2015

    These types crop up in all organizations, PZ that is. They ingratiate themselves, get into positions of power and influence and then bedung, shit happens. Move on, leave PZ behind. Mind you he does a lovely line in personal insult and abuse and I certainly wold not like to be the recipient of some of his methods of torture, we are talking Porcupines here. Another idiot on our planet, loads before him and there will be loads after him, that’s people for ya.

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    Wrath Oranos April 08, 2015

    Well done, Atheist Ireland. Many stand with you.

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    Kyle April 08, 2015

    Not saying I don’t believe you, but I would’ve liked to see links to where he said all those things. You could use to keep from giving him traffic.

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    Michael Kingsford Gray April 08, 2015

    I hate to say it, but we warned you lot years ago.
    At least you have the fortitude to admit that we were correct from the outset.

    In my mind, it would be a very welcome and civil and polite admission from AI that Michael Nugent was misdirected in his (still unretracted) repetition of falsehoods against the posters to the blogs of Abbie Smith, and the spin-off the “Slymepit”, as fed to him by other sources.

    Without the co-operation of the “Slymepit” posters, AI would not have been able to have amassed such a damning case against Assistant Professor Myers, nor his commenters.

    How about a retraction of Mr. Nugent’s claims?

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      Billie from Ockham April 08, 2015

      P.Z. Myers is an associate professor. Normally, I wouldn’t waste your time with this small correction, but it matters because assistant profs (in the US) do not have tenure, but associates do.

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      Gurdur April 08, 2015

      Don’t be silly, Michael Kingsford Gray.
      1) Michael Nugent has in the past always corrected himself where shown to be factually wrong. If you have any genuine, concrete points to raise re possible retractions, then raise them concretely.
      2) There was indeed a fair bit of stuff on the SlymePit that was and is eminently open to criticism. Get over yourself.
      3) This might have all happened a bit sooner had not a few – including yourself – insisted on muddying the waters with your own irrelevant pet peeves all the time. You and a few others insisted on derailing things.
      4) This is about Atheist Ireland formally disassociating themselves from PZ Myers. Not about you.

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    Wouter April 08, 2015

    Good on you. About time reputable organisations distance themselves from him. PZ Myers is the equivalent of Food Babe on politics and social issues.

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    Donnie April 08, 2015

    Would Atheist Ireland please identify who on the Executive Committee signed this letter? I see no Executive Committee listed under the About Info Contacts, just a Committee. Are the following Atheist Ireland committee members signatories on the above letter? Being an ethical organization, I would assume that the Executive Committee members would have electronically signed their names on the letter, instead of anonymously using “Executive Committee” with no further reference to the specific Atheist Ireland members composing the Executive Committee.

    Elected committee members (

    Chairperson – Michael Nugent,
    Secretary – Helen O’Shea,
    Finance – Sean O’Shea,
    Regional/membership – Kevin Sheehan, or

    • Avatar
      Atheist Ireland April 08, 2015

      Donnie, our constitution refers to the management committee and the full committee; in practice, they typically operate together under the name Executive Committee.

      You’ve listed the four positions that are elected at each AGM. We also co-opt a flexible number of co-opted officers (currently including Human Rights Officer, Newsletter Editor, Blasphemy Law Campaign Coordinator, Web Presence Officer), and a flexible number of regional chairpersons, with some overlap between co-opted officers and regional chairpersons.

      Like any advocacy group, we don’t sign everybody’s names to our documents, whether they be statements like this or submissions to Government bodies. Anything issued on behalf of Atheist Ireland is issued on behalf of the organisation, not on behalf of individuals. If you want to contact a member about their particular portfolio, please let us know and we can put you in touch with the right person.

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    Punished Gamer April 08, 2015

    The reality is a lot of American atheists simply went mad after spending years in the trenches with creationists and culture warriors etc. They became dogmatic culture warriors themselves. I remember it getting bad around 2008-2010 in the science blogosphere. It’s showing a lot more now as the US conservatives have all but ceded the public sphere.

    Essentially PZ Myers, Free Thought Blogs, etc, evolved their attitudes and rhetoric to fight what was principally a domestic US culture war, which they have now won. But they never de-commissioned themselves. They continue to attack, not build. And without a clear enemy in sight, they’ve begun to attack their own (left-wing) non-combatants. “Heresy” is everywhere, because if it isn’t, there’s no-one left to fight. (Personally, I see this as an almost exclusively US-driven issue)

    Expect a orbital bombardment from the media over this. Might be a good time to turn off twitter, shut off facebook, take a trip to Connemara, and read a book. The offencerati get bored eventually, and standing up for principle outlasts outrage. At the end of the day, why should pathos, or ethos, stand over logos?

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      JohnM April 09, 2015

      Brilliant. I unhesitatingly forgive PZ Myers for his verbal assault on my person.

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    ReggieConway April 08, 2015

    Wait, wait wait. You’re upset that he has said he hates or detests Rush Limbaugh, Ben Stein, Ken Ham, Dinesh D’Souza, Ronald Reagan, and Fred Phelps?

    I mean, I don’t see anything wrong with hating those people, they are/were all pretty terrible miscreants.

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      Tk April 09, 2015

      I would also doubt that Hitch would feel the need to have his honour defended in this way.

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      Ballwatcher April 09, 2015

      PZ long ago stopped attacking ideas and now attacks people. Given the people you list it’s petty and lazy considering how awful their arguments are. It is bad for all atheists when one of use climbs down into the gutter with them, or even stoops lower than them, as PZ and his faction have done with their over the top retroic and personal insults and smears.

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      Shane April 09, 2015

      Absolutely wrong! Labeling these people as you prefer makes you out to be a complete a$$hole. PZ is defaming even our opponents, yes, but we being confident in our position should allow others to freely express opposing views–even if they’re deceptive in their approach–which in some cases is true. We must defend freedom of speech, but when PZ or you contribute to labels that are malicious and not contributing to the discussion, then you’re part of the problem, not the solution.

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        Torbjörn Larsson April 09, 2015

        What is wrong with dissociation? I just did that to Myers (formerly PZ) over at Jerry Coyne’s blog.

        Or maybe you are claiming that the dissociation letter constitutes “labeling (of a person)”, not a response to that person’s behavior?

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        ReggieConway April 09, 2015

        See you’re oversimplifying it though. I don’t hate Ronald Reagan just because; I hate him because his administration sold chemical weapons to Iran while protecting rape squads in Central America, and then he lied about it.

        I don’t hate Ben Stein just because. I hate him because he’s intellectually dishonest about science and economic theory.

        I don’t hate Rush Limbaugh just because. I hate him for myriad reasons, but a good enough one is when he called Sandra Fluke a hooker when she argued for birth control to be covered by insurance.

        I don’t hate Fred Phelps just because. I hate him because he runs a church devoted to otherising homosexuals and transgendered people in outlandish, idiotic ways.

        I don’t hate Dinesh D’Souza just because. I hate him because he’s a lying charlatan who has broken serious campaign laws in an attempt to undermine democracy.

        I don’t hate Ken Ham just because. I hate him because he’s trying to undermine education in America by supporting idiotic policies that attack our already pathetic science standards.

        I guess I’m supposed to say “Gee golly I don’t particularly care for the way you sold weapons to one of the most dangerous regimes on earth”? Or “You know fella, it sure is gosh darn not real good how you show up at the funerals of dead people to yell swear words at their family”?

        Sorry, but I think ‘hate’ is a plenty fine word for what I feel and I’m not going to change that because it hurts your feelings. Get tougher skin.

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    Steven April 08, 2015

    I am so glad you are leading this charge. Myers is an embarrassment.

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    Isaac April 09, 2015

    Good riddance! I remember a while ago when PZ attacked Sam Harris, and Sam responded calling him “that shepherd of internet trolls”. I thought it was the most fitting description I’d ever heard of PZ Myers.

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    Gary April 09, 2015

    Seems fair. Myers is pretty much the definition of what’s meant by “Social Justice Warrior”. Someone who exploits the benefits of being morally progressive and turns them into a weapon for furthering his own position.
    I for one don’t favour disempowering the real evil people in the world just to replace them with new ones. Say what you like about people like Dawkins and Harris, some of their positions are certainly arguable. But they’re clearly nice people, they don’t just randomly attack people they disagree with. When you find someone who constantly attacks people rather than their ideas, you see why people like Dawkins and Pinker are at Oxford and Harvard. Whereas Myers is at arse-end of nowhere university I believe?

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    shane April 09, 2015

    Your work here, Atheist Ireland, is critically important. We need to stand up against all forms of libel, slander, bigotry–even if it’s against our opponents. That’s what struck me most powerfully in this article, when you expressed contempt for PZ vilifying D’souza and the rest is proof positive that you’re not biased against the man you’re condemning, rather, it’s legit. So I’m grateful for your fascinating albeit unpleasant quotations from this person whom I wish not to be associated with the humanistic and reason based movement. Thanks again.

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    Pedro April 09, 2015

    Bill Maher is a bit of an arse, though.

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    Michael James Cobb April 09, 2015

    Hopefully “hating” or even “hateful” speech is not something that will be too severely criticized. We are entitled to our opinions and vigorous expression of them should be encouraged. I am very concerned that there is a tendency to judge, and therefore censor, non-PC speech in the US. What PZ said about Limbaugh et al is fine and not hate speech in the least (from what was quoted at least) he should have at it.

    PZ is becoming a caricature of the privileged white guy who has gotten progressive religion. But that in itself is a problem. Social Justice, Progressive politics and so on are independent of atheism. Glomming disparate issues together is nothing short of hijacking even if some tortured justification can be provided.

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    ZedZero April 09, 2015

    I came to the same conclusion several years ago. What took you so long;)? Welcome to the club. I have found my life to be much less stressful after deleting most my links to PZ and his acolytes and quitting atheist activism all together. Because of Free Thought Blogs and the SJW phenomena I grown to dislike my fellow atheist a great deal and no longer support financially or volunteer for most of what they are doing.

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    Kevin April 09, 2015

    It just amazes me that it took atheists so many years to figure out what Christians have known about the man all along. I’d imagine if he kept his rhetoric aimed solely at Christians that this schism would not have occurred.

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    Bill April 09, 2015

    Thank you Atheist Ireland for dissociating yourselves from PZ Myers, the still overwhelmingly religious world we live in can be very frustrating but hate speeches and trying to attach political issues to atheism is certainly not the way forward. As an atheist I’ve always understood atheism to simply be a lack of belief in any God, it is NOT a belief system, unfortunately people like Myers seem to want to turn it into one.

    Hate speeches, arbitrary political causes and childish name calling are not atheism, they’re strings and bells attached to atheism by people with personal agendas.

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    lvlln April 09, 2015

    Just want to add my voice to the numbers who are coming out in support of AI for this brave decision. It took guts to be the 1st major organization to take this stand, and I truly hope that your example serves as a model for other organizations interested in ethical, sympathetic, secular, social justice to follow. Make no mistake about it: PZ Myers and the people he supports and the people who support him will do whatever possible to punish you over this. Just know that there are also people like me who will support taking such a stand against bullying and hatred, and every time you loudly make a move like this, more of us will come out. Thank you.

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    Theo Fensivatheist April 09, 2015

    Well said, i hope that others follow your lead.Good ol’ Atheist Ireland!

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    dod davies April 10, 2015

    I’m not surprised AI has been forced to make this statement. I’ve been a reader of (though not a poster on) PZ Meyer’s Pharyngula website for around 8 years. For a long time it was excellent (and on certain topics still is) but in the last couple of years it has become noticeably less rational and more critical of any form of dissent.

    I have quite a lot of sympathy for many of PZ’s political standpoints but nobody is right about everything and there are many subjects where it is necessary to discuss and explore the grey areas in order to determine what is true. That has become simply impossible with PZ these days.

    Any deviation from the hivemind dogma is simply shouted down by Stalinist bullies in the forums who react with shrieking indignation to anybody who so much as suggests there might be an plausible alternative viewpoint. Many of PZ’s fanboys & fangirls on these forums appear to be of limited intelligence and unable to even spot when people are obviously joking. There seems to be instead a positive feedback loop where people incite each other to increasingly ludicrous levels of fury and irrationality in their responses.

    In this respect it has become indistinguishable from the religious cults it used to be so good at exposing and mocking. I still read Pharyngula but I do so nowadays with an increased skepticism that the views PZ expresses are balanced and reasonable. That is a chore and a shame. It is also a warning to those of us who value rationality, freedom of expression and enlightenment values, that dogma (even our own) is always the enemy.

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      JohnM April 10, 2015

      Your third paragraph rings a number of bells. Well said.

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    Emil April 12, 2015

    Sweet Jeebus! This sounds like someone who’s contracted the motherload of Tourettes…

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    Liam April 12, 2015

    Secular elite types have always hated the Irish, i’m happy to remain Catholic, if only just to not have to associate with those types

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    Michael R April 12, 2015

    Impressive. Impressive that anyone could continue reading PZ long enough to stomach and compile such a long list of his bilious rants. Most of us stopped reading long ago, to preserve our mental health.

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    Brett Stevens April 12, 2015

    P.Z. Myers is more evidence for the argument that liberalism is a mental health disorder. (Yes, it’s possible to be both an atheist and conservative, or at least non-liberal.)

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    Sean April 13, 2015

    “The final of many, many straws were his latest smear that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is ‘happily exploiting atrocities’, ”

    I have little respect for PZ Myers, but he is hardly far off the mark here. Ali did falsely claim to be a victim of the Somali civil war in order to gain asylum in the Netherlands, even though her family had already left the country before the civil war began. She later front-lined for an anti-immigrant party seeking to block real victims of violence from entering the Netherlands.

    She is now a fellow of the neo-con American Enterprise Institute and has made a career promoting militaristic and Islamophobic propaganda. She has exploited Anders Breivik’s massacre of school kids to promote her anti-Muslim agenda, blaming liberals for her claim that “all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.”

    She has called for Islam to be “defeated” and stated that “There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.” When asked if she meant militarily, she responded “In all forms.”

    So she is not just an exploiter of atrocities, she is an advocate of them.

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    A Hermit April 15, 2015

    What are you getting all worked about? It’s not like he threw someone off a building…

    Isn’t the new standard for outrage?