Social Media Sanctimony: A Survival Guide for Atheists

On social media networks, many of us are inundated with posts and status updates of a highly religious nature. If you were formerly a member of a religious community and maintain social media connections with its members, then these types of posts are pervasive in your newsfeed. Every time you encounter a sanctimonious faith-based status (hereby referred to as SFBS), it is only by the grace of science that you are able to restrain yourself from posting snarky, condescending comments, or from outright roundhouse kicking your computer in a fit of rage. Here are some examples of SFBS that are capable of inducing such a reaction:

  • Type 1: A bible/Quran verse, sometimes just the verse notation (ie John 3:16) without the text of the verse and other times the verse notation plus the text. The ones with just the notation are especially smug since the poster thinks he/she is being a devoted follower and witness by prompting the reader to open the bible/Quran to find the actual text of the verse.
  • Type 2: SFBS describing how the Lord is working or has done great work in the poster’s life. Usually this is accompanied with a spiritual humble-brag where the perpetrator pats him/herself on the back for accurately deciphering guidance from the Lord and acting on his will. This type of post is consequently interpreted as faith encouragement/spiritual inspiration from the perpetrator’s friends and usually generates numerous likes and comments, as well as catastrophic levels of eye-rolling from non-believers. What is perhaps most frustrating here is how the perpetrator’s embrace of the irrational is enthusiastically being encouraged and reinforced by those most important to him/her. SFBS that are simply thanking God for something also fall into this category.
  • Type 3: SFBS describing the person’s disgust with progress on a relevant social issue. Examples include: crying about how the perpetrator’s biblical views on gay marriage are not being tolerated, or a statement affirming that global warming is a satanic conspiracy. Occasionally these posts generate surprisingly thoughtful comments from other believers, but nevertheless impose ignorance and bigotry onto the rest of us.
  • Type 4: Meme about Jesus or God being all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, all-judging and having his will be done. Or a meme stating explicitly that prayer works or asking if you believe in the power of prayer. These memes include “Like and/or share if you believe,” which, not surprisingly, the sheep execute dutifully.

(For the record, this guide will ignore the posts that request prayer for a dire or otherwise life-threatening situation, since they are not intended to be self-righteous or preachy.)

Since you will willingly or unwillingly continue to use social media for various reasons, a daily encounter with one or more SFBS is inevitable. But rather than destroying your computer, or even responding to a SFBS in a way that can make you look like an ass and jeopardize your relationship with the SFBS offender, a survival guide has been put together for your convenience. It will detail how to effectively and diplomatically handle each of the above types of SFBS while sparing your sanity (and computer) and relationships.

Tips for type 1 SFBS

Bible verses. The most amazing thing about the bible (or Quran) is that it is truly its own worst enemy. For every pleasing verse about loving your neighbor or laying down the Golden Rule, there are dozens of verses at the opposite end of the spectrum, including but not limited to: direct orders from the Lord to commit brutal murder, rape or genocide; vivid descriptions of inhumane punishments heaped on “sinners;” irrelevant, nonsensical laws (ie mixing of fibers); misogyny and subjugation of women; and many, many other graphic accounts of misery, suffering and death. When you see a type 1 SFBS, you are encouraged to make your own bible-verse status that uses a verse that encapsulates such horrors or human atrocities. And since less is more, it may be a good idea to just post the verse notation, rather than also including the verse’s text. Here are just a few examples of bible verses you can use for future statuses, when the time is appropriate:

  • Deuteronomy 25:11-12
  • 1 Samuel 18:25-27
  • 1 Timothy 2:12
  • 1 Samuel 15:3
  • 1 Peter 2:18
  • Numbers 31:17-18
  • Deuteronomy 20:14
  • Deuteronomy 22:23-24
  • Leviticus 25:44
  • 1 Corinthians 14:34
  • Judges 1:6-7
  • 1 Kings 20:35-36

Now, the great thing about you posting bible-verse statuses is that they are sure to raise some eyebrows and even get under the skin of your self-righteous social media connections. On a long enough timeline, this will lead to a discussion about biblical context, where believers will be sure to once again exercise their sanctimony. They will tell you that you have taken the verse out of context, and that by posting a single verse that is part of a longer narrative, you are performing a disservice to the larger message of their holy book. Of course that was what you wanted to do all along, but at the same time you will be exposing their own hypocrisy because they are performing the exact same disservice to their very own book. Ultimately, this can only make the SFBS perpetrator look foolish and may even lead him/her to question his/her own actions on social media, which is really a win-win situation that has also hopefully provided you with a few laughs along the way. Therefore, bible verse status posts by atheists are actively encouraged.

Tips for type 2 SFBS

This is probably the most difficult type of SFBS to handle because it reeks so much of pious sanctimony, yet is skillfully presented behind a humble spiritual façade. Commenting on such a SFBS will only make you look like an ass, unless you’re chipping in with “praise the lord” or something like that, but oh how it infuriates you to see those likes and reinforcing comments pouring in by the minute. Type 2 SFBS actually present a golden opportunity for you to post your own status that unashamedly pats yourself on the back for your recent accomplishments, AND states how you continue to use logic and reason to guide you through the challenges your life. Essentially, it is using the same tone as the type 2 SFBS but substitutes words such as faith, lord, prayer, spirit with words such as reason, rational-thought, science and tangible. Of course these are only suggestions and you are free to use any words that promote a life based on the principles of skepticism and unbelief.

Here is an example of a type 2 SFBS that may or may not have been originally shared on facebook: “The lord continues to amaze me with his perfect timing and I am blessed to have been directly led to my new job by his mighty hand. He has irrefutably shown me that this job is what he wants for me and I look forward to continue serving him and following his will as I enter this new phase in life.”

And here is that same status as shared by you, the atheist: “I continue to be amazed by the timing of events but I can be sure that my hard work and dedication were paramount in securing this new job opportunity at this exact time. After logically considering the pros and cons, it is reasonable for me to assume that this job is the perfect fit. I look forward to continuing to weigh my major decisions with both reason and logic as I enter this new phase in life.”

The reactions you will receive to such a post is largely unknown though it is likely you will find the same level of support and reinforcement that a type 2 SFBS generates for a believer. And while faith-based humble-brags are intolerable, all other humble-brags are totally awesome and acceptable at all times. If the reaction is less than stellar, at the very least you had a laugh for yourself at the expense of believers, and THAT is the greatest gift of all.

Tips for type 3 SFBS

Type 3 SFBS, that narcissistic, ignorant post that trumpets the perpetrator’s moral high ground while taking a serious social issue and making it about him/herself, is so wrong in so many ways. And yet many of us can’t resist getting pulled into a public discussion in the comments feed that will ultimately go nowhere and benefit no one. While it may be tempting to respond to a homophobic post with pictures of bearded mountain-men necking passionately, that does not serve the cause and it instead adds fuel to the fire. It might also seem wise to hide activity from a perpetrator of type 3 SFBS in your newsfeed, but rather than dealing with the problem head on, that would simply be sweeping it under the proverbial rug. And that’s what believers do when they see/hear something they don’t like. The best course of action here is to publically send/share with the perpetrator a link with useful scientific information regarding the nature of homosexuality or climate change or evolution, or whatever is relevant to the SFBS. Not that this is likely to sway this person one way or another, but you’re making a public mockery of this person’s intelligence and critiquing his/her moral code, all without uttering a derisive word or insult. You’ve made your point but without stooping to his/her level. This is once again, a win-win for you, the long-suffering atheist.

Tips for type 4 SFBS

Type 4 SFBS are the lowest of the low, bottom-of-the-barrel memes for that truly far-gone believer in your life. We all know a few of them and sadly this is the extent of their social media contributions. Other than being depressed because someone you actually care about (or maybe don’t care about) has taken the time to share a type 4 SFBS, there is one thing you can do to somehow mitigate this travesty and ensure the stability of your own mental health: share one of our Atheist Republic memes! Or any meme that features quotes from the following individuals: Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Mark Twain, Bill Nye, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ann Druyan, Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett, Neil deGrasse Tyson or everyone’s favorite atheist, Chairman Mao. Uhhh… wait, actually never mind about Mao… yeah… but those other guys and gals are totally acceptable. So get busy meme-ing/sharing or get busy dying… if you can no longer stand the presence of type 4 SFBS on your newsfeed.

We hope this guide will serve you well as you go forth into the social media war zone that is your newsfeed. If you have any feedback or additional suggestions for this guide, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Photo Credit: Chris Lim

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