A Question About T-Shirts and Manners… October 3, 2010

A Question About T-Shirts and Manners…

Let’s say a close relative gave you this t-shirt:

And let’s say the relative knows you’re an atheist.

What’s the best way to respond?

A reader would love some advice…

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • JM

    “You think God gave me cancer? What a bitch.”

  • I would tell them that, with a basic understanding of statistics, a mere mortal can know the mind of god.

  • RDST

    Id give them a shirt that says “I’m an atheist, you cock-lord.”

  • Rebecca Waller

    There’s so many things you can do. Use it to dry your car off. Or as a snot rag. If you run out of toilet paper, there you go!

  • rbray18

    i’m tempted to say get them a atheist t-shirt witha quote undermining what the t-shirt they gave ya says.smile and say you enjoy exchanging gifts.

  • Paul

    He always cheats in Yahtzee!!

  • BigBallsBoydie

    Thank them and tell them you’re glad because you need to wash your car and you don’t have a rag.

  • Chip Cherry

    I’d thank them for a great shirt to wear while I paint my house. The rest of the response would completely depend on the relationship and history of the relative and the reciever of shirt.

    If they are starting the discussion, I’d invite honest fun discussion on the topic. If there is a history of annoying confrontation about the atheism of the receiver, then I’d thank them for a nice shirt to wear while working around the house.

    It reminds me of the fellow who walked around in a preists uniform asking people if they believed in God. Everyone solemnly said that of course they do. Then the ‘priest’ would start asking questions and nailing them to wall about their beliefs. One could do the same in a shirt like this!

  • “God is more of roulette guy. Satan plays craps”

  • Roger

    I’d respond with, “Are you KIDDING me? What is this, a gag gift? Because this is certainly making me gag!” (My relatives wouldn’t even TRY this, because I’d go nuclear on them)

  • This is more or less a “Fuck you” to your beliefs. I’d probably just say something and avoid them for the rest of my dying days.

  • flatlander100

    What RayBray 18 suggested but add “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll wear the one you gave me all day next Sunday if you’ll wear the one I gave you all day Sunday too.”

  • Parallax

    I would probably thank them, regift it, then when the time comes give them the gift of a shirt with the Einstein quote “God does not play dice.” on it.

  • I’d get a magic marker and add this line at the bottom of it…
    “He’s just not very good with Lotto Tickets”

  • j green

    Tell them “Oh, I didn’t realize that the Bible promotes gambling…”

  • Richard Wade

    In a cool, calm but straightforward way, ask them since they know you’re an atheist if they really think you’ll wear that shirt, or are they just being passive-aggressive. Then ask them to either be more thoughtful and sincere when they give a gift, or be more direct and honest in expressing their opinion. One or the other, please. Thank you.

  • Do I like this relative?

    If so, I hand it back to them with the request that they give it to somebody that might actually wear it.

    If not, it is torn into 4″ wide strips and placed in the bathroom at toilet paper the next time they visit.

  • A Portlander

    This is easy. First, if you don’t already play Satan’s Game, start today. Then cut the printed portion of the shirt out, punch in eyelets every inch or so along the edge, install a drawstring, and fill with dice.

  • Don Rose

    None of my relatives would give me a shirt like that. I have christians in my immediate family. It took a while, but they eventually got the message.

    They know exactly how I feel about religion. I had to take it to an amazing level, in order to get it through their delusion-hardened skulls. It got to the point where I would tell them what I thought about religion…. they would give a typical christian response, and I would tell them “If you say anything like ‘I’ll pray for you’, we’re finished”.

    Anyway, I would give it back, and tell them that I hope it was a bad joke.

    A debate might follow, in which I would ridicule their beliefs. They would then get their little feelings all hurt, and call me a bully….. even though I didn’t start the fight, and they knew I was an atheist. *facepalm*. This is why I blocked one of my sisters on facebook. She posted religious garbage, and I didn’t respond. I post atheist messages in my status, or on my wall, and she gets all upset.

  • thorny

    I would suggest sending them back a T-shirt with a quote from the old testament on it, something violent/racist/sexist and a bible with all the violent/racist/sexist etc passages and quotes highlighted.

  • Dr. Drey

    I agree with a couple of the more rational posts here. If you like the relative, I would sincerely ask them what their goal in giving you the shirt was. If it was an *honest* mistake, I would take the opportunity to correct them. If not, I would take the opportunity to state that passive-aggressive behaviour is not acceptable, but a thoughtful and intellectually honest conversation is. If they balked, I would counter by asking how they would feel if I gave them a pro-atheist or even pro-(any other religion) shirt knowing that they were religious. If they continued to assert their inane religiosity instead of having a reasonable conversation, I would give them the shirt back, tell them how little I appreciated their antics, and in the future make it a point to distance myself.

    If you really hated the relative anyways, then you could be antagonistic about it, but I find that you tend to feel better in the long run if you were to not stoop to their level and just say something to the effect of “This is wholly passive-aggressive and not appreciated.” And hand it back to them and walk away.

  • Mimi

    I would give it back and say “Hey, remember me? The Atheist? ” I could not wear that T-Shirt in good conscience, since I don’t want to advocate brain washing and superstition. Thanks anyway!

  • Jude

    Say, “Thanks for the dish rag.” Or say, “Thanks. I’ll have to tie dye this so the message isn’t readable because I don’t agree with it.” Or just throw it in the trash in front of her.

  • Rick

    Tell that to my Dungeon Master next time I fail a saving throw.

  • Tom

    The answer is obvious!

    Thank your relative for the great shirt that you can wear at your next Dungeons & Dragons game.

  • Ally

    Give them a Bad Religion T-shirt. Because clearly they value giving gifts that the giver might like regardless of whether or not it offends the receiver.

    If this is little old granny who is religious and in denial, I’d politely explain that while I appreciate a gift, this is not something I will wear and something I don’t believe in. Ask for a return receipt, perhaps. Really, it depends on the relationship with said relative what the best course of action is.

  • I would say “Thank you very much!” Then, the next time there were gift exchanges, I would give them a copy of The God Delusion along with their very own atheist t-shirt!

  • Nordog

    It would be disrespectful to give this shirt to someone known to be an atheist.

    I tend to say little to those close to me who seem compelled to be disrespectful, however, I also radically limit my exposure to such a person.

  • Respond with this Tshirt.

  • Jim

    I would say “Thanks! I have a friend who would love to wear this in a Gay Pride parade! That verse is exactly what the anti-gay people need to hear.”

  • I agree with Paul and Larry. Just add below the quote something like “Never play craps with him” and make sure the relative gets to see it 😛 (depends on your relationship of course)

  • Claudia

    The obvious response is to, at the next available opportunity, give them this.

    Of course the mature, reasonable thing would be to follow Richard’s advice…party pooper 😉

  • Will

    Maybe I’m too Southern for my own good. My mom always taught me to graciously accept any gift that someone gives me, even if I absolutely hate it. You can always give it away or get rid of it later. It doesn’t hurt you to just be nice and gracious about things. That’s my opinion anyway.

  • @Jim: Nice!

  • You say: “Thanks, grandma! The next time I’m spending all my cashola in Vegas at a craps table while doing a line off of a hooker’s ass, I’ll TOTALLY wear this!!!”

  • A relative? They’d get off easy…
    The relative would escape with a simple “go fuck yourself” while I shredded the shirt in front of them with a Randall #1 fighter.
    Oh, from one Vulgarian to another…a “Bravo Zulu” and a “Well Done” to Crystal D. Excellent response.

  • Permanent marker, add “or not” at the end.

  • Richard Wade’s Evil Twin

    Richard (the good twin) forgot to add:

    Then wear the shirt in front of your relative in public with this added in Magic Marker below:


  • Lauren

    Bwahahah Crystal D! Lines off a hookers ass!! LOVE IT!!

  • Or…I could just put it on and wear it around in front of them…without pants.
    Yeah, that “lines off a hooker’s ass” thing reminds me of a few stories…but since this is a family show…

  • muggle

    I don’t know. Maybe light it on fire in front of them?

    Okay so maybe I wouldn’t go that far but I would tell them the fuck off in no uncertain terms. Because they obviously have no qualms about hurting your feelings.

    Uh, it should probably be noted that I disowned my family decades ago. If you’re not so inclined, you might not want to follow my advice.

  • El Perro

    wear it ironically coupled with an A patch on an overshirt, jacket or hat. Or use it as a work shirt so it gets covered with paint, stain or dirt.

  • The Other Tom

    I’m not sure. I might politely decline the gift on the grounds that “this message violates my beliefs”, and leave it at that.

    I might decline it and make plain, in polite terms, that I’m offended that they’re trying to impose their religion on me when they know I’m an atheist.

    Or I might simply say “thank you”, take it home and cut it into little shreds so it can’t display its harmful message on anyone else, and throw it away, and make sure I’m wearing an atheist tshirt next time I see that relative… without saying a word about it.

    But I think most likely I’d accept the gift with whatever conventional courtesy seems necessary under the circumstances and write the relative an email later to let them know they offended me. That’s a little passive-aggressive I suppose, but thats how my family does things.

  • Uncle Bob

    this is determinism or predistination. Assuming the believer in question isn’t a calvinist, using this argument is arguing there is no free will.

  • Neuenschwander

    Ask why they almost certainly don’t live that way?

  • Joe_No_Halo

    Give the relative a framed copy of “Piss Christ” for Christmas.

  • Ellie

    Richard Wade +1! Especially on te passive-agressive part.

    Plus remind them, that if they keep being disrespectful of my beliefs, we won’t be on good terms. Actually, umm… we won’t have any. Kthnxbai! 😉

  • Assuming the relative meant well – if it really bothered me I’d first reflect on why it bothered me then consider whether or not to more clearly explain my religious beliefs (or lack thereof).

    I’d likely tell them the gift was offensive, and help them see why. Ex: “How would you feel if I bought you one of these T-shirts?” or maybe “When was the last time I suggested you should be an atheist?

    I’d offer up a peace agreement if I wanted to avoid the issue: “you don’t try and make me a Christian, and I won’t try and make you an atheist. Deal?

    Most importantly – assuming this is actually the case – I’d also let them know that my relationship with them means more to me than our religious differences.

    I’d be clear on whether or not I’d be open to discussing religion with them, and under what terms I would or would not feel comfortable having those conversations.

    If they kept pushing after all that, I’d politely but firmly push back – each time reiterating my want for (1) mutual respect and (2) open discussion instead of a sermon.

  • Scott

    Personally, I’d laugh and ask if it was made of mixed fibers

    – Lev 19:19

  • HP

    There are no magic words, and Christian “spells” can’t do us any harm. I rarely wear t-shirts with slogans on them anyway, so I’d probably just say “Thanks!” and put it in a drawer with the rest of my slogan t-shirts.

  • MH

    Re-gift it back to them!

  • stephanie

    I would assume it was gifted in malicious fun and respond in kind.
    It would totally be the start of a t-shirt war.

    I’m always down for stuff like this: everything is fair game for mocking in my family. Signing someone up for mailing lists opposing their views is a favorite pastime and I suggest it just in case you don’t have funding for a flood of atheist t-shirts as this escalates.

  • What ObSciGuy said.

    Also, you could customize it with:

    “God does not play dice with the universe” – Albert Einstein.

  • Alex

    Maybe offer a nice bible verse like Ezekiel 23:19-21

  • Andrew

    I’d hand it back to them. Tell them that I find the shirt’s message offensive. (I honestly don’t know exactly what tone the reply would come in.)
    If they refuse to take it back throw it away.

    I give my realitives a list of gifts to give me, and if they give me a gift thats not on it, and if I think its a bad gift I will tell them that.
    My sister gave me Cormac McArthur’s The Road. I read it and when she asked, I told her truthfully it’s one of the worst books ever written. She later read it and agreed with me. That book is shitty.

  • It’s given as a joke. And indeed, implicit in the joke is “Fuck you and your beliefs”—so that’s a jerky, passive-aggressive joke, but it’s a joke nonetheless. Like so many jokes made by fundies, it’s not funny, nor is it clever.

    I’d say “thanks,” complain to my wife on the ride home about what an asshole the relative is, and wear the shirt inside-out when I exercise.

  • Secular Stu

    Let them know that gift was thoughtless and rude, because it is.

  • littlejohn

    I would point out that Einstein has already snswered that question. Then I would punch them in the face. But that’s just me.

  • Clearly the proper English response is the say “How nice” and fold it neatly into a square where it will remain, never to be opened again. That’s what we do with shit gifts. I think it may actually be a law.

  • Sell the shirt on Ebay and donate the proceeds to your favourite free-thought organisation.

    Then send them the tax-deduction receipt 🙂

  • Andrea

    give them this

  • Matt

    “Thanks – this obviously means that God knew I would be an Atheist. Since He loves me very very much (and needs money) He is perfectly OK with, and respects, my worldview. Why don’t you?”

  • This question is actually bringing out the Miss Manners in me.

    I think the appropriate thing to do is say, “Thank you.” Period. And then do whatever you want with it privately: throw it out, put it in your rag drawer, wear it on Halloween, whatever. But I think it’s extremely rude to complain about a gift someone gives you. Even when the gift being given is essentially an insult, I still think the best thing to do is to rise above it, and not return rudeness with rudeness.

    The only exceptions I can think of are: (a) if it’s someone you’re very close to, AND you’ve already been having ongoing conversations about religion and atheism. The gift could be seen as part of that ongoing conversation, and thus it could be appropriate to — politely — say that you have problems with it. Or (b) if they actually ask you what you think of it, it’s fair game to — politely — tell them. But because the “don’t be a jackass when people give you gifts” rule is so central to good manners, I’d be very careful about this. I wouldn’t be snippy or snarky: I’d be very serious and very calm, and say something like, “You know I’m an atheist, and it seems like you’re using this to try to convert me, and I really wish you wouldn’t.” But ONLY if they ask. If they don’t… say “Thank you.” Period.

  • Anthony McCarthy

    If it’s all cotton, wear a plaid shirt over it,
    if it’s poly, use it to wash the kitchen appliances.

    Life isn’t all that hard.

    What? You think it’s going to rub off or something?

  • NeuroLover

    Am I the only one who thought it said “Broverbs” at first as a joke about bros? Because it totally looks like it.

  • NewEnglandBob

    “I needed something to clean toilets with. That shirt with the disgusting saying is perfect for the job. Thanks!”

  • Michael

    “Good, I could use a horse blanket.”

  • Kamaka

    The people in my larger family who would pull a passive-aggressive stunt like this…well, I blew them off a long time ago (the list is long). Such gross disrespect is not to be tolerated, not by Uncle, Auntie or Grannie. If anyone in the fam has so little regard for me, I see no reason to continue the relationship.

    A “gift” like this is abusive bullshit, albeit standard behavior for a religionist. Sorry Grannie, Uncle, Auntie, you can keep it. Bye.

    (Richard Wades evil twin is the funny one.)

  • Richard Wade

    I agree with Greta Christina that we shouldn’t return rudeness for rudeness, and that the motive behind the gift should be carefully assessed with all the factors of the ongoing relationship in mind.


    The relative already knows that the recipient is an atheist. So the only likely explanations for the gift are:
    A. He’s a clueless moron.
    B. It’s a lame attempt at a good-natured joke, or
    C. It’s a passive-aggressive (meaning sneaky and chickenshit) and deliberate insult.

    If it is clear that the intention was to insult, then while it’s best to not respond with rudeness for rudeness, I do not think such an insult should be ignored. The relative should be called out for it and be clearly told that it is neither appropriate behavior for for a family member nor for a Christian, and that it is not acceptable. Then the shirt should be returned to him unworn and undamaged.

    Passively accepting insults generally invites worse treatment.

  • First, I’d ask them why they’re using the “New Living Translation” version of the bible, and second, I’d ask if they think this means that god approves of gambling.

  • Robert Thille

    If god controls the dice, then it’s his fault when I bitch-slap you!

  • Shannon

    The best way to respond is “Thank you”.

    As I tell my kids, when someone gives you a present, no matter how shitty it is, no matter how much you don’t like it, no matter how much it isn’t “you”, you say thank you.

    Then you do what you want with it.

    (or I should just have said ditto to Greta Christina).

  • fsm13

    Wear it ironically

  • Shannon

    Also, my first thought was that it was a gamer’s t, lol! Great to wear at a D&D game – “Oh, look at that roll! There is a god and he totally loves me!” And when you get a shitty roll —> “God, why hast thou forsaken me?”.

    I would totally wear that and be happy to explain to people why I found it funny when they asked 😉

  • Michelle

    I dont understand why we, atheists, have to be so bitter about it. As I read the comments, the level of arrogance on the commentators astound me. You astound me.

    It is just a bloody T-Shirt. Don’t like it, don’t wear it. Say thank you, mention that you’re an atheist and leave it at that. Some atheists are absolutely arrogant and such fascists that sometimes I am ashamed to call you my fellow pro-science believers.

    Then if you really hate the shirt, donate it to the Salvation Army. Better help the less fortunate than using it as a washcloth, toilet cleaner etc. It’s really rude.

    Please reflect. We must show a good example. No wonder people hate debating with atheists because we tend to end up being arrogant and mr.know-it-all. No ones likes a Holier-than-thou, patronizing attitude.

  • Gabriel

    Don’t be a dick.

    Thank them for the gift. And then treat it like you would any other unwanted gift put it away and never do anything with it.

  • JB Tait

    Just say “Thank you” and move on.

    And speaking of moving, how did you do on the 5K?

  • Michael

    I’d think “Cool, new work shirt!”
    I work in a machine shop, stuff gets dirty…
    Don’t think I could work up the anger others do.
    I supppose you could always reply with the “God made me an Athiest” response. (Romans 9:19)
    Or you can just take it and ignore the shirt.

  • Mike

    Since all my relatives know I’m an atheist (I’ve written more than a few atheist articles for our local paper and a couple of magazines), there could be no way they wouldn’t have given me the shirt to make a point, so I’d just laugh, hand it back, and congratulate them on the joke. If they pressed it, I’d just walk away, since you can’t change minds like that and arguing just feeds their need to see us in a negative way. I always try to make it hard for them to hang on to their negative stereotypes.

  • Richard P.

    I would laugh and hand it back. Then tell them I would not be caught dead wearing it.

  • J

    My MIL gave me a BIBLE for Xmas a few years ago (and she knew, but may have forgotten, that I was not interested in religion). I quietly said thank you and set it aside. A few days later I took it to B&N and returned it (they were nice enough to give me store credit). I recently used the store credit to purchase “The God Delusion” on CD (and a couple of other similar things). 🙂

  • allison


    I’m one of those who would likely just say thank you and then do what I want with the tee. I will also say, though, that I don’t see anything wrong with using the shirt as a rag — old t-shirts generally work quite well as rags,and often people don’t want to pass a message they disagree with to someone else just to have the message grace that person’s chest. It could be a good painting shirt — those often get messed up and I shouldn’t really be painting while naked, especially if it’s outside.

    I also want to say that what many people are responding to is less the religion itself than the intentional causing of a rift in the relationship being presented as a gift. It’s a violation of a certain amount of trust that you have in the other person, usually in a situation where you would not do an equivalent thing to them. When giving a gift, most people try to keep the recipient in mind and give him or her something that would be found pleasing. That is obviously not the case here, and that lack of consideration is what is causing the reaction you see.

  • I would say, “Thank you.” And then do with it what I do with all my old, scraggly T-shirts. (In my case, I line my cat’s litter box with them. She prefers to do her business on cloth rather than in litter.)

    (I’m not saying that to be disrespectfuller-than-thou. I really do that with unwanted T-shirts. It’s better than wasting them. Cats gotta pee.)

    Does the reader live with this close relative? If so, my suggestion is to just stick it in the closet and leave it there.

  • D

    I would probably just snort and reply “I roll 20s.”

  • anon

    Thanks, I’ll use that as a doo rag.

  • Where are my puff paint pens? It’s bedazzling time!

  • Jagyr

    I’d say thank you, and then wear it ironically to amuse my RPG friends.

  • ASD

    I would probably put it in a Goodwill clothing bin at the next oppurtunity. People need clothes.

    If you like making things, just chop out the print with some scissors and then put something else there. Maybe put some other patches on the shirt, like a band logo or a random picture. I did that once with a shirt that had peeled very badly – cut out the remains of the print and patched the hole with a print cut out from another shirt that had worn out. Print it out as an iron-on transfer if your printer can, then iron it on and stitch around the edge to hold it down.

    Alternatively, new polishing rag.

  • MissK

    Hmm. It depends on the relative. Richard Wade’s approach seems appropriate.

    Or I might just say “Thanks” and then maybe a week or so later tell them that it doesn’t fit and ask for a receipt to exchange it. Then I’d go buy something I actually like with the money.

  • Michelle

    @allison & awesome cloud’s mom

    I understand that people do a lot with old clothings and do what they want with them. But I also know when people are using it as rags, clean their bathrooms with it, or a “doo rag” (@anon) are just doing it out of spite. My main point here is that: We should never do anything out of spite. It is not the way to get people to understand why we are atheists.

    It is even harder to get them to listen to our side of the story and us trying to educate them if we are so arrogant all the time. Most people just find it extremely annoying. I know I would when arrogant Christians/Jehovah Witnesses etc come knocking at my door trying to convert me.

    But I always smile, and I always say, “Thanks but no thanks, I am an atheist. So if you don’t want to go into a debate with me on religion, please just leave.” At least they are provided with an option and a new view on us. Some people just slam the door at their faces. And even worst, mention they are atheists THEN slam the door on their face. Unfortunately that is humanity and I am not trying to teach anyone any manners but I was brought up in a loving religious family who in the end accepted my pro-science beliefs because they listened when I spoke. I was never rude or arrogant.

    It takes a lot of courage to go out there, knocking on people’s door and we have to respect that. If in the end, they do not respect us back in the same way, then that’s a different story all together. I am sure many visitors of this site will be able to tell you their horror stories.

    In the end, they used their hard earned money to buy you a gift. Whatever it is supposed to mean, we should never be rude. There are many people out there who would kill to get a new shirt and not be able to. Donate. Help out. Make the world a better place. Prove that we can be kind without the guidance of Jesus / God / Bible / Qu’ran (sp?). I am sure we can all afford proper cleaning rags for designated everyday use. And even old rags that we do not use anymore can be given to animal shelters to provide warmth and/or clean up stuff.

    I salute those people who commented on saying just thank you. And mean it.

    My two cents.

  • Carolyn

    This relative could be giving it to you as a joke, trying to bait you into a religious argument, or are amazingly clueless (seriously, many people buy things they themselves would like as gifts for others without ever really thinking through whether or not the other person would like it). I can’t see any good coming out of a passive aggressive response to any gift.

    The proper response is to say thank you and then do whatever you want with the shirt.

  • Parse

    Something else – if you don’t call them out on their behavior now, the relative will continue to pull stunts like this. If they’re trying to be funny, they need to know that they aren’t. If they’re being a passive-aggressive punk, they need to know that it won’t be tolerated. The only way it will stop is if you say something.

  • Ms. Crazy Pants

    Receiving presents that either I don’t want or maybe are a offensive (someone purposely buying something 5 sizes too small and suggesting I diet into the outfit) is pretty common in my life. Some are only brought out when that person is around and are stuck back into a box as soon as they are gone, other gifts “magically” get lost or “stolen”, and some food gifts land in a random dumpster far away (the non-edible stuff). In my case, I’d rather keep the peace. In my family, complaining about a gift is seen as being very rude.

  • Lana

    I would smile and thank them graciously, then regift it to them at the first opportunity, with a card that says, “Saw this and felt it was perfect for you!”

  • MutantJedi

    haha, the Dungeon Master is a god. 🙂 Says so in the bible eh.
    I’d wear it when I’m the DM while playing D&D.

    At the same time, this does open the door to talk about theology and about how the faithful can be so dishonest or ignorant of their own religion.

    The verse in question, in the NIV, goes like this: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” The verse is very different than the t-shirt. The t-shirt version says that god fudges the results to his liking. The bible version says that god ignores the results to his liking.

    Hmm…. actually the NIV version would make a much better DM’s t-shirt (evil grin)

    I’d further point out to my relative just how badly the t-shirt mangles the verse by referencing Leviticus 19:26 and Deuteronomy 18:9-11 which prohibits the practice of divination, ie casting lots to determine the future or best course of action. The Proverbs verse is reinforcing that prohibition by saying that divination is useless. It is saying that astrologers and fortune-tellers are full of bullshit whereas the t-shirt version is saying trust them because god can control how the dice or cards come up.

    At this point, I’d ask my relative if they believe in fortune-tellers.

    Then I’d follow up with asking them what they thought it meant.

    (There’s a whole can of nasty worms waiting to be opened up with the assumptions behind the t-shirt’s version. … or even the NIV version)

  • Beauzeaux

    Say Thank You with a cheery smile and as much sincerity as you can muster.Then consign it to the rag bucket.

    It’s too silly to get excited about.

  • AxeGrrl

    Allison wrote:

    I also want to say that what many people are responding to is less the religion itself than the intentional causing of a rift in the relationship being presented as a gift. It’s a violation of a certain amount of trust that you have in the other person, usually in a situation where you would not do an equivalent thing to them.

    Nicely said 🙂 To me, this isn’t a case where the receiver is obliged to treat this gift ‘just like any other gift’ that isn’t quite ‘you’ ~ people often give gifts that turn out not to be to the receiver’s taste, but almost always, the gift was given with the hope/thought that the receiver WOULD like it……..

    and that obviously wasn’t the case here.

    For all of the other ‘non straight’ people here, here’s a question: if someone gave you a gift certificate for a ‘homosexuality reparation therapy’ retreat as a gift, would you really just respond with ‘thank you’?

    The t-shirt gift may not be quite the same, but imo, the message being given from the gift-giver is very similar, and that message is: I don’t respect you and/or who you’ve said you are.

    p.s. My personal response would probably be a giggle accompanied by “good one!”…..and then thank you 🙂

  • Unholy Holly

    michelle said it for me. Take the high road.

    MutantJedi — thanks for the educational angle. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that knowledge at the ready, but it does emphasize the need for us heathens to study ‘the good book’.

  • AxeGrrl

    Michelle wrote:

    No wonder people hate debating with atheists because we tend to end up being arrogant and mr.know-it-all. No ones likes a Holier-than-thou, patronizing attitude.

    Michelle, I’m not quite sure why you’re critiquing the atheists here for that, when the act that started this whole discussion (giving such a t-shirt to someone one knows is an atheist) is almost the embodiment of a “Holier-than-thou patronizing attitude”!

  • Deltabob

    As I’m sure this has already been covered, I’ll be brief. Without more information on the intent of the gift or the relationship between these folks, it’s hard to give an answer, although I would probably stop at “thanks for thinking of me.”

  • AxeGrrl

    Deltabob wrote:

    Without more information on the intent of the gift….

    Well, we know that the gift giver knows that the receiver is an atheist, so that provides some info about their intent.

  • I’d get them a shirt with a bible verse on it, say the one about dashing the little ones heads against stones.

    It’s a bit passive aggressive but it could get fun. You could swap shirts for years with various bible verses on them. Who knows, they may even stumble upon some verses while trying to outdo you that make them question their faith.

  • I would tell them that they should give it to someone else because I don’t have a use for it.

  • Is it OK if I take this back to the store and exchange it for one that says, “Bullsh#t”?

  • David W

    When my dad was younger, he had an aunt who gave him turkish delight (I’m guessing you have that in the US?) for his birthday.

    As was expected, and as Greta points out, he sent a polite letter saying thank you for the delicious turkish delight; however, in fact he hated the stuff.

    As a result, he got turkish delight for every christmas, easter and birthday. For the next 10 years.

    I think it’s possible to combine a thank you – after all, one can be grateful for the fact that someone went to the effort of getting one a gift – without having to say you like it. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to say “Thanks very much for the gift, I really appreciate the effort you put into it. Unfortunately, I don’t like turkish delight, so I’ve been having great fun sharing it with my friends when the visit.”

    In this case, perhaps “Thanks very much for the gift, and I know how important your faith is to you. However, you know I don’t share it, so I’m a little confused and upset as to why you chose it for me?”

    It puts the shoe on the other foot, and puts them in a position of explaining, without you having to put words in their mouth.

    Unless I hated them, in which case I’d verbally excoriate them 😀

  • KMW

    Honestly, I’d bust out laughing so hard I wouldn’t be able to say anything. That would likely take care of it.

  • I dealt with this topic in my blog a few months ago. If the relative knows you are an atheist and this type of gift is not a running joke between you, s/he is just being an asshole and I would feel free to respond accordingly.

    The same applies to religious chain emails. I have a relative who insists on forwarding these to me even though she knows I’m an atheist. I finally got fed up and emailed her that pic of the WTC with the caption “Imagine No Religion” and a host (pun intended) of pictures, complete with descriptive captions, featuring Hitler hangin’ with Catholics. No response as yet, but no further chain emails yet either. 🙂

  • MutantJedi

    Unholy Holly, in my theistic days, I spent a lot of time in pretty rigorous Bible study… learned a lot… it was also a good lesson on how to compartmentalize and rationalize stuff that didn’t make any sense.

    The Bible has got to be the most abused book for quote mining and twisted paraphrasing.

  • gsw

    Just add –
    So Blame Him For Everything

    to the bottom and wear it proudly!

  • Yesterday my wife was at church with my daughter (while I was doing something more important) – and the rector was explaining to them various Christian symbols – and the Christian fish came up (the Ichthys).

    My daughter said that her daddy had that on his t-shirt. This intrigued the cleric – and he asked if the t-shirt said anything else.

    “I just support fish” (from t-shirt hell) she explained.

    Apparently he is still laughing. I failed miserably to offend.

  • Steve

    “Thanks! Why did they misquote the bible when they made this shirt?”


  • weas

    I can’t actually see the photo of this shirt 🙁

  • AxeGrrl

    David W wrote:

    after all, one can be grateful for the fact that someone went to the effort of getting one a gift

    But David, as Allison so adroitly pointed out, in this case, it wasn’t a ‘gift’ in the typical sense (giving something you think the other person would like), this was ‘the intentional causing of a rift in the relationship being presented as a gift’

    The giver knew the receiver was an atheist, so they knew it wouldn’t be something the receiver would ‘like’ ~ and they knew that it wouldn’t ‘bring them together’….

    If someone gave a vegetarian a t-shirt saying ‘real men eat beef’ or something, would you say the receiver should be ‘grateful that they went to the effort of getting them a gift’? really?

    I have to say, I’m having trouble here, trying to understand the people who are saying that the most important thing is to show your appreciation and not be rude……when the very giving of this particular ‘gift’ amounts to the giver basically saying “I have no respect for who you’ve told me you are”.

    I’m sorry, but that deserves no ‘appreciation’ from me.

  • ManaCostly

    A metaphorical shotgun blast to the face.

  • keddaw

    That quote is are backwards – even if you’re a non-fundie Christian.

    Surely they believe God threw the dice but gave us the free will to determine how they land.

    And that’s the quote I’d add to the T-shirt:

    “Hence Christians do not have free will”

  • i would say “thank you” in such a way that made it clear that i absolutely wasn’t thankful. and hope they don’t press the issue because i hate pointless arguments.

    but if they did, i’d tell them that i am an atheist who doesn’t appreciate passive-aggressive gifts.

  • Stephan

    The shirt seems pretty clear to me: since we know what actually controls the “fate of dice” then we know that their God is in fact nothing more than natural forces.

  • Rajesh

    “Thank you so much! F$&* you too…! :)”
    I’ve always been a smooth player, I have.

  • Give them a shirt that says, “God is Imaginary.”

  • Alice

    Laugh heartily at their ironic sense of humor, hug them and go on about how happy I am that they have finaly accepted me enough to be able to joke about religion with me. Then talk about how perfect this will be as a sleep shirt and my roommate will surely get a kick out of it. Perhaps it could develop as an inside joke. Make them feel terrible for trying to offend me. But that’s my family, too spineless to do anything like this in the first place, and if I used enough good humor they would embrace it.

  • Dan Moody

    Get a T-shirt pen and return it to them with the following added.

    “Each year in the USA six babies under one year of age die in every thousand. If God decides where the dice fall, he also decides who they crush beneath them.”

  • Dan Moody

    Or add; “That’s why he’s banned in Vegas”

  • I recommend taking the high road, (i.e. not responding with an atheist shirt or saying something snarky.) However, I don’t think the recipient of a gift is under any obligation to use the gift as the giver intended… especially when the giver had reason to know that the gift would be offensive. I think using the shirt as a rag, re-decorating it in some way, or donating it are all perfectly acceptable responses, as long as (and this is the part that makes the rude/not rude distinction) the recipient doesn’t go out of their way to tell the giver what they did with it. Just quietly say “thank you,” do whatever you want with it, and never bring it up again.

  • Cross out “the”, write in “Vader”. You now have an awesome t-shirt.

  • I would hand it back to them and say No Thank You.

    If they asked why, I would tell them why.

    If they refused to take it back, I would throw it directly into the fireplace.

    Yes, I really would.


  • Thrutch

    So print off a transfer for the back of the shirt

    “Proverbs 16:33 means
    if there is a God,
    he cheats at craps”

  • Alexis

    My next gift for that person would be a subscription to “Free Inquiry”, “Skeptical Inquirer”, or “Skeptic” magazine.

  • cat

    This made me think of this quote from Good Omens “God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of the players, (ie everybody), to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.”

  • Apparently the lord determined me to be an atheist.

  • “No thanks. Gambling is for those who think God is on their side.”

  • Thank you, but no thank you.

  • stephanie

    Wowowow. Y’all are so serious. 🙁
    It makes me sad. I think I must be in the only family who has no sacred cows.
    (and yeah, I mean that ironically)

    I could expect a gift like this as a gag, because my family knows I’m an atheist and just doesn’t care. What they do care about is going through life with a sense of humor and frankly a shirt professing something contrary to my values is pretty easy to laugh at. It would be exactly on par with sending a rival team shirt to one of my sports fan relatives. My family doesn’t take life very seriously and I’m glad for it.

  • Cherilyn

    This happened to me with my aunt whom I live with. She has given me crosses on two different occasions, and she knows I’m an atheist. It really hurt my feelings that somebody could undermine my beliefs like that, i actually cried when she gave it to me, but not in a good way. What I really wanted to do was throw it at her. So, I really have no advice, except to tell you that you arent alone.

  • Secular Stu

    It is just a bloody T-Shirt. Don’t like it, don’t wear it. Say thank you, mention that you’re an atheist and leave it at that. Some atheists are absolutely arrogant and such fascists that sometimes I am ashamed to call you my fellow pro-science believers.

    @Michelle: How is it arrogant to object to a deliberate insult?

    In this case, the high road is telling them they were impolite, calmly and without snark or jokes.

  • Peh, last year a (christian) friend of mine was off visiting Rome and brought me back a Pope Benedict calender from the Vatican. Twelve months of Benny’s sexiest Popiest poses!
    It gets pride of place right by my desk, with a Sharpie next to it for captioning. 🙂

    (Yes, I thought it was hilarious, and yes, she did end up with a lend of The God Delusion)

  • Secular Stu

    It takes a lot of courage to go out there, knocking on people’s door and we have to respect that. If in the end, they do not respect us back in the same way, then that’s a different story all together. I am sure many visitors of this site will be able to tell you their horror stories.

    No we don’t. They’re like telemarketers.

  • Carlie

    I’m more passive-aggressive, so I like the route of “It doesn’t fit, can I have the receipt to return it?” or just give it back to them to return. Then if they offer to get the same thing in a different size, I’d say it’s not really my style, so no need to bother. Either they’ll then cop to it being a joke, or will get pushy and more offensive, and then you know how to play it from there.

  • Laura

    I would just give the shirt back to them. Say “No thanks, I don’t want it”.

  • Laura

    Because the person who gave the shirt was presuming on the etiquette that you don’t refuse a gift. Misusing that etiquette to try to dominate the one they gave the gift to.
    And they need to be taught that you can’t exploit politeness in this way. This is one time when it is OK to refuse a gift!
    Unless it was meant in fun.

  • Demonhype

    Thanks, Secular Stu. I get so tired of atheists being called “arrogant” just because we don’t sit and smile when being insulted, no matter how disgusting, smug, personal, malevolent, untrue or even rights-infringing it might be. It’s tantamount to people bitching about EDMD when it was in direct response to people in the West being attacked with axes in their homes or otherwise having to go into hiding and rewrite their lives because something they did violated the Muslim faith, while ignoring the actual violence that triggered this “shameful bigotry”, or saying “well, the Muslim violence was not right, but it doesn’t justify drawing pictures that might hurt some Muslims feelings!” as if the two things are comparable or, worse, as if the hurt feelings were a more serious offense than the axe attack!

    I think the thing that would piss me off the most is not just the “fuck you” message, but the fact that they are hiding behind traditional gifting etiquette to avoid a challenge and to force me to acquiesce to their beliefs–or at least give the appearance of acquiescing. That is total cowardice, and theists do it all the time. They are constantly endeavoring to cushion their proselytizing inside various social traditions wherein the atheist must either sit down and shut up or defend him/herself only to be accused of “being a dick”. That way they can puke religious beliefs all day long without challenge, confident that anyone who disagrees will be silenced by the fear of looking “rude” or being accused of “Being A Dick ™”. Nothing worse than setting up a system wherein your victim cannot defend him/herself without being accused of being the victimizer. That is one of the lowest things you can do, and it shows that your beliefs don’t have a leg to stand on but you don’t even care and you only wish to silence the challenges to which you have no answer.

    Bottom line: Don’t gift me T-shirts with religious sayings that you know I’d object to or challenge you on if they were sent in an e-mail. The basic proselytizing is arrogant and obnoxious enough, but the fact that you are trying to disarm me against your rudeness by hiding behind social etiquette would enrage me beyond belief. To me that is more than just giving me outright disrespect for who I am, it is trying to force me to sit and smile at the disrespect as if the shit you are making me eat is ice cream. For me, that transcends the realm of “insulting” and has gone right into “personal attack” territory.

    And BTW….there is nothing arrogant or rude about sending an atheistic t-shirt to them as a gift next time. Turnabout is fair play, and they should see how it feels–though I’m sure they’ll just moan about being “persecuted” without ever seeing that this is just what they did to their atheist friend. Many of them tend to have an almost sociopathic tendency to not associate their own pain with anyone else’s, regarding any challenge to themselves (much less mistreatment) as vile persecution, while regarding the overt mistreatment they give to others as either “good clean fun” or justified in some twisted way.

    This is also appropriate if the gift-giver was just trying to have a laugh as a joke. If they were, then they should be able to take a joke too. If they were “just joking” by sending you such a gift but then get upset when you “just joke” right back, that’s a good indication that the “joke” was just a backpedaling excuse for a failed proselytizing attempt.

    If you disagree with that, then there is one question you need to answer–why is the passive-aggressive proselytizing gift given to a known atheist just “a good turn, an effort to be kind, a nice thought”, while a response of an atheistic gift would be “arrogant” or “rude” or “being a dick”? Why is the theist just trying to share something special with someone special while the atheist is just being a big ol’ meanie by responding in kind with something s/he finds special?

    And how are we to get the theists to ever listen to us if we just let them spew faith all over the place without challenge and let overt insults go without comment? Bullies need to be challenged or they will keep on doing what they are doing. You can challenge them politely, certainly, but to let this slide is to encourage them to continue doing this–or even give them the misguided idea that they are “getting through” to you. If you don’t challenge them when they pull this sort of shit, they will never stop, and they will be encouraged to pull this shit on other atheists and non-Christians too. I know from experience that giving in to bullies doesn’t make them respect you or listen to you–it only increases their contempt for you, as well as the amount of abuse they will continue to pile onto you.

    I say all this as someone who takes gift-giving etiquette pretty seriously. I even got a duplicate gift from a relative as a small girl and delighted my mother by making a big deal of how nice it was instead of saying “I have one just like it at home!” (as my mother was terrified I would say, since I was very small and didn’t know better). Gifting etiquette is in my blood! 🙂 If I believe a gift was given with a genuine good will (ie: the giver truly believed I would like it), I will say thank you and be very polite, and if I get rid of it I will be circumspect.

    But someone abusing the “rules” of gift-giving to force their shit on someone and prevent the target from fighting back disgusts me like few other things ever will.

  • Quote John 3:18 back at them. The one that basically says, “Believe in me, or you’ll burn in Hell.” And tell them that’s not a god worth worshiping, no matter what branch of the trinity they belong to.

  • JSug

    “Sweet! This is perfect for my next D&D session, when we’ll be fighting Bazim-Gorag, the god of chaos and chance.”

  • Demonhype speaks for me.

    I have to say, I’m having trouble here, trying to understand the people who are saying that the most important thing is to show your appreciation and not be rude……when the very giving of this particular ‘gift’ amounts to the giver basically saying “I have no respect for who you’ve told me you are”.

    because so many atheists have learned the behavior that we shouldn’t be “rude” to believers. fuck that noise. it’s not rude to say, “i don’t understand why you would give me such a thing, are you trying to insult me?” it’s not rude to say “your holy book says pray in secret. why can’t you do that, even with those you supposedly love the most (family)?” it’s not rude to say “do you think this is funny? how would you like it if i gave you a gift that said ‘Christian Babies make Great BBQ!” etc.

    stand up to these types, my fellow atheists. make them uncomfortable when they push their nonsense on you. being “polite” and silent isn’t helping our cause, if you subscribe to that. and if you don’t, being silent isn’t making your life easier, it’s making it worse because believers assume you to be weak or secretly doubting when you don’t voice your own opinion.

    to me, this “gift” is like if a straight person gave a gay family member a t-shirt that says “god hates fags.” it’s insulting and more than just passive aggressive. it’s deliberate, nasty and rude. i answer all those things with whatever combination of superior logic, fact, and outrage is best, whenever some believer throws rudeness like this in my face. lucky for me, 99% of my family are atheist and agnostic so this won’t ever happen to me.

  • Suedomsa

    Then we arent really throwing dice if the outcome is pre-determined. What is the point of life under those circumstances? It makes no sense.

  • AxeGrrl

    Demonhype wrote:

    I think the thing that would piss me off the most is not just the “fuck you” message, but the fact that they are hiding behind traditional gifting etiquette to avoid a challenge and to force me to acquiesce to their beliefs–or at least give the appearance of acquiescing. That is total cowardice…..

    Exactly. You nailed it 🙂

  • AxeGrrl

    chicago dyke wrote:

    Demonhype speaks for me.

    I have to say, I’m having trouble here, trying to understand the people who are saying that the most important thing is to show your appreciation and not be rude……when the very giving of this particular ‘gift’ amounts to the giver basically saying “I have no respect for who you’ve told me you are”.

    Hey chicago dyke, just a note….

    that quote above is mine and not Demonhype’s 🙂

    (is that petty of me?:)

  • Holley

    And BTW….there is nothing arrogant or rude about sending an atheistic t-shirt to them as a gift next time.

    So…it’s rude when they do it, but not if we do? Honestly if it really bothers you that much, a simple “Thanks, but I’m an atheist. Why don’t you keep it?” would suffice. Why would you start a fight or a t-shirt sending war over something so STUPID? Because “oh that means they have no respect for me and that they are close-minded assholes”? This view on all christians is what gets us labeled as pretentious bastards.

    It is entirely possible that a relative could forget that you are an atheist, unless you are the type to bring it up at every discussion, every holiday, every encounter. I mean if an aunt of mine sent me a christian t-shirt, I wouldn’t hold it against her, and I certainly wouldn’t be a bitch about it. I don’t commonly start debates in my family about religion in the first place, and they’ve never tried to force-feed me scripture, so who gives a shit?

    Another example of how this could be meant as something other than a “fuck you, atheist” statement…could it be given as a helpful thing? I’ve gone through some hard times, everyone has. And when my family comforts me, they usually depend on what they know-religion. I’ve gotten many a card instructing me to leave things up to god, or don’t worry, because god has a plan for me. Does this offend me? No. Does it mean they are purposely disrespecting my beliefs and trying to be passive aggressive assholes? Fuck no. They are trying to be there for me, and even though the source may offer me no comfort, the fact that they are indeed trying to help me does.

    There are so many things I’d need to know about the backstory before giving an honest response. If it’s just a relative giving you a gift and you told them once or twice that you were an atheist, it’s probably an honest mistake. If you’re going through a rough time and you get a gift like this, the relative surely meant it as an act of good will. If they know you’re an atheist because you have had multiple respectful debates on the subject, be respectful back by reiterating that you are indeed an atheist and you don’t need gifts like this. If they know you’re an atheist because you’ve had multiple ANGRY debates with them on the subject, then yeah, it’s a jab at you, and you probably had it coming.

    If it’s none of the above and it is obviously a malicious gesture, give it back and tell them “I don’t make jokes about your beliefs. Give me the same respect.”

    We’re atheists. Not angry teenagers. Act like fucking adults and be respectful.

  • parv

    ?roverbs 16:33 We m?y thr?w the dice, but the Lord de???mi?es ?ow th?y f?all.? turns into “Proverbs 16:33 We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fall.” after substituting for known spellings.

    I would chastise the giver for picking a t-shirt with horrible legibility. (That applies to any t-shirt with text meant to be read.)

    I would return the t-shirt. If return is refused, I would have to fight the urge to throw in the nearest trash can what otherwise might be a perfectly good cleaning rag (after the text have been done away with) or compost material.

  • Jeri

    Haha! I love the illegible critique!
    “Thank you for the shirt. It’s too bad that the printing machine smudged the words so badly. You should complain to the store. Oh? That’s what it says? Aww, are you concerned about my gambling? Man! If it’s so bad that YOU noticed, maybe I do need help. hey! I have an idea! Maybe you could put in a good word for me with the Big Guy so I can go win that $50,000 I owe by Tuesday or I loose my kneecaps. That would be a BIG help! And uhh, if you have a few grand to lend me to start those dice rolling…”

  • Michelle

    To guys who responded to my response:

    Axegrrl: My point exactly. If we dont like their attitude we should not return it in the same manner. We are better than them. We are better than them without believing in any deity. We can be good. We can be kind.

    Secular Stu: That is exactly it. We KNOW it’s an insult. We KNOW that guy is in the wrong, but instead of fighting fire with fire, throw a wet blanket over it.

  • Michelle

    @Demonhype and @Chicago Dyke

    You are no different then religious people who pushes their religion against you to accept it. You are pushing your beliefs against them forcing them to accept it. NO DIFFERENCE. You fight fire with fire. You fight bombs with bigger bombs. You are revengeful and hateful and it’s obvious you do not know how to take the high road.

    Take a chill pill. Life’s worth more than being angry with someone over a T-Shirt insult. Sticks and stones, my friends, sticks and stones…


    I could not have said it better. We should hang out.

  • pegsfriend

    If he’s gonna determine how they fall, why doesn’t he go ahead and throw them himself then? Lazy bastard.

  • Sarah


  • AxeGrrl

    Michelle wrote:

    Axegrrl: My point exactly. If we dont like their attitude we should not return it in the same manner. We are better than them. We are better than them without believing in any deity. We can be good. We can be kind.

    Indeed. I just don’t think that merely expressing to the gift-giver that their action was either insensitive or deliberately dickish contradicts being good-and-kind.

    I think most of us who have been ‘disagreeing’ with you have been interpreting your message as being “be quiet and just take it. Don’t be contrary”.

    I see absolutely nothing wrong or bad or unkind about pointing out to the giver that this gift sends the message: “i don’t respect who you are”. If the gift-giver is a friend or family member, then this needs to be expressed, imo ~ because if it’s not, there will always be a lingering, unresolved resentment/lack of trust……and there can be no ‘positive’ relationship when that happens.

  • channi

    there’s plenty of white space on that shirt – just turn it into an awesome atheist shirt by adding a few lines or a contrasting quote.

    you then can decide if you want to wear that improved shirt in front of your relatives or not 😉

  • Mir

    As someone who wears religious shirts ALL the time, out of irony. I would probably accept it and wear it, but would bring up later in a personal way, not in front of other family, that Im an athiest so while I appreciate the gift it has no meaning to me.

    As an aside, I have several tshirts from bible camps and vacation bible schools that I have collected over the years that I wear, almost always getting questions about it. I then politely explain that Im an athiest and I just like the color or the fit is nice… etc. Usually lets me have a good conversation without any kind of negative feelings. Sometimes from other athiests, sometimes Christians who are curious, never had a bad response.

  • Ponder

    I’d say thank you, then donate it to a charity. That way at least some good would come out of it, and I would have resisted their attempt to push my buttons. (Though depending on how well I otherwise liked the person I might gift them with the Quran or something later just to let them know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of unwanted religious gifts 🙂

  • mike

    Either use the magic marker and add

    “and thus the Lord is random, but with statistics one can predict the expected value”

    or (if feeling like being an asshole) fling food at dinner and explain that it was the lord who determined where the mashed potatoes would fall

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