On August 6th, Hemant Mehta, who blogs under the name The Friendly Atheist, launched a Kickstarter to self-publish a parody children's book titled God is an Abusive Boyfriend (and You Should Break Up). Artist Tracey Moody illustrates various analogies between religious behavior and abusive relationships—"Are you always telling people how amazing He is while hiding His faults?"—with photography of a model acting out the words. One of the images shows the model cowering on the floor, trying to hide religious paraphernalia behind her back as the shadow of God looms menacingly over her. The text on that page reads "Does He get jealous easily?" Here's a video for the project. If you're upset by images of abuse, you should consider this your trigger warning:
This is, obviously, a terrible idea. It makes light of abuse, and it does so in pursuit of a childish argument against religion. Mehta was roundly criticized on social media for the Kickstarter, and a lot of atheists, unfortunately, came to his defense. I'm fine with atheists using shocking arguments to gain attention to their cause from time to time, but this goes beyond shocking directly into insensitivity. Luckily, the situation was resolved: A day later, Mehta canceled the project with a fairly graceful apology.
Even if I believe the concept behind the book is a valid one, the execution was poor and it upset a lot of good people. My apologies to anyone in that crowd.
I often call on Christians to take a stand against the shitty people who represent their faith in politics. I think atheists need to do a better job of policing themselves too*. Shock value is a important tool for a lot of atheists—especially new and insecure atheists—and they often can take it way too far. It's every atheist's duty to make sure that the discourse remains civil, and that atheists don't do more harm than good.
* And if I can make a separate argument in my job as book review editor: One of the reasons this book was being Kickstarter, I assume, is because no traditional publisher would touch it. This book would never have survived the pitching process. There's a good reason for that: Traditional publishing generally works to make sure authors don't humiliate themselves. Self-publishers have no such filter.