Categories: FeminismReligion

Six Things My Abusive Ex-Boyfriend Did To Me That God Didn’t Do

(Trigger warning: abuse, rape)

Earlier today, I was notified that The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, is launching a Kickstarter for a book called God Is An Abusive Boyfriend (And You Should Break Up). If it isn’t obvious from the title, the book is about making specious comparisons between domestic violence and religion. As someone who was raised strict Catholic and has had abusive partners in the past, I’d like to list six things my abusive exes did to me that god never did to me!

1) Hit me
2) Hold me down and force me to have sex while I begged him to stop
3) Show up at my house/workplace/school unannounced to try and “win me back” after I left him
4) Give me expensive gifts and then use them as emotional blackmail when I was upset with him
5) Blow up over petty disagreements so I was always afraid of “setting him off”
6) Intentionally humiliate me in front of his family and friends, then play it off as a joke when I got upset

Some things worth highlighting from the Kickstarter:

  • If you’re not religious, we hope you find it entertaining and informative.” I agree, jokes about domestic violence are super entertaining!
  • From the video: “Personally, this is the most fun I’ve ever had on a writing project.” To respond to that, I’d like to quote fellow Skepchick Julia Burke: “WOMEN ARE NOT YOUR FUCKING POP CULTURE REFERENCE PAWN IN YOUR GILMORE GIRLS ATHEISM.”
  • We understand some people will have strong feelings about this project, but it’s certainly not our goal to offend anyone.” Oh, well in that case!


Are there instances where religion is used to justify the oppression of women? Absolutely. But to define someone else’s personal religious beliefs for them while making a hacky joke about domestic violence is just gross and extremely disappointing. And yet, people still wonder why there aren’t more women involved in organized atheism.

Rather than give to this Kickstarter, why not donate some money to a local domestic violence shelter? I don’t know what else to say to express my serious disappointment, so I’ll just let Tyra Banks speak for me.


EDIT (August 7, 2014): Hemant has announced he is cancelling the Kickstarter.

Sarah :Sarah is a feminist, atheist vegan with Crohn’s Disease, and she won’t shut up about any of those things. You really need to follow her on Twitter (and probably Google+, just to be safe).

View Comments (26)

  • It might have worked if he used the title, but then did a serious book on the subject of religious coercion. Just like The God Delusion and God is not Great were provocative titles, but treated the subject of religion seriously. A book treating domestic abuse as a joke, however, doesn't work, or is next to impossible to pull off.

    • Right. Like, the comparison's not inapt, that's not really the problem here, it's the fact that they're *joking* about it. That picture of the woman cowering in the shadow of "God" ceases to be funny when you engage your empathy circuits for two seconds and understand that some people actually do literally cower under the threat of violence from their partner.

  • Thanks for writing this article. Though I had heard of this project I hadn't given it any thought until reading this article. Signed "Guy who has never been in an abusive relationship though I do recall saying some stupid and mean things to girls when I was young."

  • Libby Anne (Love, Joy, Feminism blog) does a superb job of describing the nuances of religious coercion. The above bit is more of a travesty. A toy for the dudebros.

  • It is disappointing, though not at all surprising, that many of the popular/ prominent figures in the mainstream atheist movement continue to appropriate the experiences of oppressed groups for the purposes of attacking religion. This is disgusting. Although I never have been a victim of intimate partner violence it disgusts me to see this sort of violence trivialized. This only further demonstrates how mainstream atheism is centered around the experiences of white cishetero men.

  • Let's remember, that unlike your ex-boyfriend (and holy-shit what an asshole), God is, thankfully, fictional.

    I say thankfully, because if that asshole was real, you would be subject to a guy who says you better love him or he'll have you punished.

    I agree wholeheartedly that fictional abuse is much better than non-fictional abuse. That said, there are many, many believers out there who are afraid not to love God in fear of the punishment. For them, the abuse is real, even if not as severe as what you experienced (ASSHOLE!!!!).

  • While I understand and appreciate your point of view, I'd like to point out that some of us that grew up in religious households did experience physical violence as a form of punishment from god (of course meted out by dutiful parents)

    Being a jehovah's witness growing up meant that the emotional blackmail was extremely strong, and any deviation from the prescribed course meant the potential abandonment from your entire circle of friends and family.

    Of course, god being a fictional character actually does nothing itself, but so many times people use god and the bible as an excuse to do bad things (not to mention the atrocious acts of god in the bible itself) and those that supposedly represent him also use their positions to take advantage of those they supposedly look after.

    That doesn't make it OK to treat domestic violence as a laughing issue but there are more forms of abuse than just physical, and my upbringing definitely encompassed most of them.

  • I've just read this article and all of the comments ... It strikes me that I could easily have made this same analogy and been utterly bewildered that I had offended anyone. In fact I'm sure I have in the past, though I can't name a time and place.

    I have to agree with Hemant as well that this not analogy that he created; i've seen it over and over again. If abusive partner is completely inapt I wonder if abusive parent is more fitting? It, at least, is more directly inline with bibles own account and description of god...

    But then all of these comments are beginning to sink in...

    This project clearly rubs people the wrong way and being sensitive to that is not only reasonable but incumbent upon anyone claiming to work for something just and good.

  • I haven't read the book, and I'll trust you that it is icky and makes a joke of domestic abuse. I was a victim of religious abuse, and was very real and not funny, so to me the comparison is apt. I can see to someone who's had the shit beaten out them by a partner how their abuse is more real.

  • God may not have done these things to you, but according to the Bible he did them to others.

    1) Not only does God destroy every living thing on the planet (except a drunk and his family), he sends angels to wrestle (and break bones) of his "children".
    2) What would you call impregnating Mary?
    3) "Repent or Die" ??? God is always calling the Nation of Israel to come back to him... calling them whores and worse.
    4) Salvation? Or Hell.
    5) I'll redirect you to the Great Flood, the plagues on innocent Egyptians, etc
    6) Job