Dinner With Atheists: A Mini-Play In One Act

SCENE: The monthly meeting of the Madison Atheists Evangelization Society at the I-12 Marriot Courtyard’s Badger Room, a rambunctious group sitting at a table, long side to the audience, like at a celebrity roast. The food has been eaten and cleared away. The CHAIRMAN sits in the middle, the SECRETARY is to his right, the TREASURER to his left. Others fill in.

PLAYERS: CHAIRMAN, SECRETARY, TREASURER, nine other male members, numbered from stage left to right (M1-M9, actors should use their own first names), and LATE GUY (oldest actor) who shows up near the end. The character “ALL” is where the cast should ad lib in the spirit indicated.




ALL: murmuring and general pre-meeting chatter; words not loud enough to be distinguished by audience.

SECRETARY: It’s time.

CHAIRMAN: Uh huh. Okay, everybody. Let’s settle in. Before we get started—

M2: —The opening prayer!

ALL: laughter; “God” bless us; calls saying how smart, clever M2 is.

CHAIRMAN: Which “god” should we pray to?

ALL: Thor, Zeus, Gaia, Obama, etc.; laughter; calls saying how smart, clever each other are.

CHAIRMAN: [To calm the group] Okay, let’s try to behave rationally.

M7: I think, therefore I disbelieve!

ALL: laughter; calls saying how smart, clever M7 is.

CHAIRMAN: I want to introduce one of our new members. M-9 [indicates M9, who waves] who used to be part of the Boston group. M9 is working on his Masters in…what was it?

M9: Science eduction.

ALL: applause; hi M9; science rules!; calls saying how smart, clever M9 is.

M1: That’s what’s needed! More science!

ALL: here-heres; calls saying how smart, clever M1 & M9 are.

SECRETARY: We should get going.

CHAIRMAN: Yeah, you’re right. But we can’t praise science too much.

M3: Religious people deny science! They’re deniers!

ALL: religious people are idiots, foolish, irrational; calls saying how smart, clever M3 is.

M6: Religion is nothing but organized child abuse!

ALL: religious people are idiots, irrational, foolish; calls saying how smart, clever M6 is.

M8: [Standing] It sickens me that in this supposedly free country, people are able to teach their children lies and myths as if they were reality.

ALL: calls saying how smart, brave M8 is.

M4: It’s because living by a myth is more comforting than surrendering to reality. They hate reality.

ALL: claps; calls saying how smart, brave M4 is.

M5: They don’t understand how beautiful science and reality are!

ALL: calls saying how smart, clever M5 is.

M2: [Quietly, after a lull] Cancer’s maybe not so pretty.

M7: [Angrily] That’s not the point! It’s that religious people don’t believe evolution created cancer. They’re so ignorant they don’t even know that evolution makes them religious!

ALL: God gene!; sage nods; murmurs of agreement, calls saying how intelligent M7 is.

SECRETARY: [To CHAIRMAN] Maybe we can get started?

CHAIRMAN: Yeah. But he’s right. I can’t believe how willfully stupid religious people are.

ALL: they’re fools, morons, etc.; calls saying how smart CHAIRMAN is.

CHAIRMAN: Sadly true. But let’s do something. TREASURER, how much money do we have in the fund?

M1: [Standing, interrupting] Flying spaghetti monster!

ALL: general uproar, hooting, hollering, joy; calls saying how smart, witty, clever M1 is.

TREASURER: [Who stood during merriment, speaking over crowd; holds paper] We’re actually in the hole. People haven’t been keeping up their promised donations. Somebody’s gotta pay for this meal. I’m not getting stuck again—

M3: [Standing] —We should believe in ourselves, not God!

M6: I believe! I can see you!

ALL: laughter; calls saying how smart, clever M3 and M6 are.

M4: We should really be talking about how intolerant religious people are.

M8: Yeah, they’re always telling us what to do! Religious views don’t belong in a tolerant society.

M5: They oughta be stopped. Like in Canada. We should have a law passed that nobody is allowed to foist their views on other people who don’t want them! Especially children!

ALL: applause; religious people are dopes, etc.; calls saying how smart, clever M4, M5 and M8 are.

[LATE GUY enters stage right, quietly vies for CHAIRMAN’s attention.]

CHAIRMAN: Ah, LATE GUY! You finally made it. We worried you joined a cult!

ALL: hilarity; all religions are cults, etc.; calls saying how smart, clever CHAIRMAN is.

LATE GUY: [Over laughter, trying unsuccessfully to whisper] Uh, yeah, sorry. Um, I was actually never coming. My mom found out about the group and she made me quit. I only showed up because I promised M8 a ride home.

ALL: giggles, some suppressed, some open; M8’s mom not as smart, clever as us, etc.

CHAIRMAN: Oh, that’s right. Your mom still goes to church. Don’t worry. Here. Give her these pamphlets [collects from SECRETARY] which will prove to her how irrationally stupid her faith is. She’ll come around.

ALL: lighter giggles; whispers how all religions irrationally stupid, etc.

LATE GUY: [Trying to disappear] Oh. The hotel guy asked me to tell you you’re time’s up. They need the room for the Madison Young Activists Yoga Alliance. [Author’s note: may be shortened to ‘YaYa.’]

CHAIRMAN: Okay, everybody. That’s it. Next month we build on this meeting’s success and really show why atheism’s an intellectually superior belief system.

ALL: happy applause; calls saying how smart, brave CHAIRMAN and everybody is.

SECRETARY: [Standing] Just a reminder that next month’s meeting is joint with the Unitarian Universalists. They’re giving us a talk on ‘Seeking the Spiritual Path to Atheism.’

CHAIRMAN: Should be good. They told me they got some smart people there.

ALL: people stand to go; self-satisfied jocularity; high fives, chest bumps, etc.



  1. JH

    Briggs, you seem to have a tendency to use extremists to stereotype and knock down a group of people, e.g., atheists, feminists, academics, liberals. You know, such tendency is a bit contradictory to the fact that you are a statistician.

  2. JH

    Briggs, so, you, a statistician, depend on a sociologist to tell you whether/when it’s OK to use extreme examples to draw conclusions about a certain population?! I am glad you didn’t quote Jonah Goldberg though.

  3. bernie

    Why would quoting Jonah Goldberg be inappropriate in this context? I detect a certain irony in your wish.

  4. G. Rodrigues


    You should have written the play in the mode and style of Beckett. Now *that* would have been gorgeously and delightfully ironic.

  5. This is the only blog I have seen “flying spaghetti monster” referenced on!

  6. William Sears


    The Steven Goldberg book you quote is very good. I read it many years ago and it still sits on my bookshelf. In response to others, the mini-drama that you have presented is uncomfortable close to the conversations that I have endured (listened to, enjoyed?) when having lunch with my colleagues over the years. Not quite Swiftian but still not a bad attempt.

  7. Briggs


    Google the term. Prepare to be amazed.

  8. Andy

    You should nip over to freethoughtblogs or atheism plus, it’s even more horrific than you parody here.
    Ftb is like that bar in star wars.

  9. Hans Erren

    I shall not lower myself to stereotype orthodox catholics.
    They don’t need my help for that…

  10. Briggs


    You caught me. Most of the dialog was ripped off—I mean, written in homage—to what I found there. But scrubbed clean.

  11. Briggs: I know what the term is. I was just surprised to see it on this blog!

  12. Andy

    Oh Prof Briggs how could you?

    I always feel dirty when i visit there.

  13. Jim Fedako

    You nailed it. I define futility as asking an atheist to argue from the Bible, not strawmen.

    What do I mean by that? To understand Marxian thought, I have read thousands of pages printed from Marxists.org. Keep in mind, I do my best to read from what I consider to be the Marxist point of view. I am not saying such an exercise is error free, but an attempt is required to debate the issue.

    Asking an atheist to read Bible references in context is a chasing after the wind. The ones I have debated play their gotcha statement and giggle. They neither research their assertions nor google extant refutations.

    I’d much rather debate a true Marxist than an atheist.

  14. Jim Fedako

    Written by the economist of the Austrian school of economic thought, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, back in 1896.

    And it is published without snide comments.

    Try to finding a similar example on an atheist site.

  15. Luis

    Not entirely funny, good try. I saw you on Twitter trying to get @rickygervais attention, but I guess it didn’t work out.

    The problem with the play is that you try too much to get us hate as much as you do those loudmouth atheists. So not only you bring about the funny semi-random shouts of “CHRISTIANS R STUPID” and other variations loud atheists apparently are fond of in the internets (funny), but then you try to say they are also bad organized, they are a cult because some mom said so and they have no money at all, etc. And that part fails as a joke.

    A joke has to feed itself from the premise, has to be ironically tragic, has to undermine the initial stance, thus showing even to loudmouth atheists where they are wrong. Like you wrote, it’s just petty.

    Here’s a suggestion. Why not, after the rather funny random interruptions on how smart, witty and PC loudmouth atheists are, you start to have awkward random interruptions, and such interruptions not only start, but totally undermine the initial reason they are in that room altogether. Perhaps they start shouting against each other.

    Here’s a good inspiration: the “schism” that apparently exists in the atheist community recently over the feminist issues. Search for elevatorgate, PZ Myers, Thunderf00t and swim the nasty comments being made inside that loud community to each other! Research that little bit, and then rewrite your play with that in mind.

    Then you’ll get a good product.

    Like it is. Meh. I’ll give it a 5 ou of 10.

  16. Luis

    Here’s a random awkward interruption that could start to throw the meeting into a trainwreck:

    M9 Men are women damaged by testosterone!

    M7 Yeahh!

    M5 and M3 Wait what the hell? Are you out of your mind?

    M9 … and already we have here two perfect examples!


  17. Luis

    (Whatever you do, never, but NEVER read too much Greg Laden. It will boild your blood for no good reason at all. Watch your health.)

  18. Luis

    Oh I see from the chatter box you already acquainted with that nasty sea of trash that sprang from PZ Myers’ stomach right out of his mouth to the keyboard. Keep going deeper. You haven’t seen anything yet. When Politically Correct meets angry advocacy there’s no limits to the entertainment that follows! You just have to have a very wide sense of humour I guess.

  19. Andy

    Luis, PZ Myers just is not very bright, hence his behaviour.

    He is, as my mum says, so stupid he does not know he’s stupid, hence his natural place as a teacher in a college.

  20. Luis

    He’s an associate teacher at an university, Andy. It’s not bright to insult someone’s intelligence while getting the only reported fact wrong :D. (Although I’d imagine you don’t care less about being “bright”…)

    I could rant all day about the “bright” stuff…

  21. Andy

    Sorry but I’m in the UK and don’t know ‘associate’ means. Kinda like a lecturer? teaching Fellow? An american Prof ?

    Anyhows, bright? No. Poor old Dawkins that one has not taken off a all.

  22. Briggs


    Unsure if Luis means me. If so, I am a full professor of statistics (can you feel my glow?), but an adjunct, which means I’m only trotted out for special occasions (no tenure). I teach only one course a year. But they pay me in cash, so it’s okay.

  23. DaveG

    I have dinner with atheists all the time. It is never, ever like this.
    It is actually much,much funnier 🙂

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