One day after launching a Kickstarter campaign to create a book called “God is an Abusive Boyfriend (and you should break up),” a popular atheist blogger has shelved the project “after receiving a lot of negative feedback.”
The “Friendly Atheist” blogger Hemant Mehta had planned the book to feature artwork by Tracey Moody, along with questions like: “Does He get jealous easily?” and “Are you always telling people how amazing He is while hiding His faults?”
“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,” Mehta wrote on Thursday (Aug. 7).
Before canceling the project, Mehta called it “the most fun I’ve ever had on a writing project,” though he acknowledged that it would likely prove offensive to some readers or critics.
“We understand some people will have strong feelings about this project, but it’s certainly not our goal to offend anyone,” he wrote on the book’s Kickstarter page. “If you’re religious, we hope it nudges you to think differently. If you’re not religious, we hope you find it entertaining and informative.”
A number of atheists, however, took issue with the idea. Heidi Anderson, an atheist who has spent much of her life working with victims of domestic abuse, was among them.
“It’s highly insensitive to victims of domestic violence and a gross simplification of the way some people view religion. Many victims of abuse find healing in their spirituality,” Anderson said. “It’s also a really bad example to me as an atheist, because unlike God, abusive partners are real and cause real damage.”
Sarah Jones, an occasional blogger and a former fundamentalist Christian, criticized the draft artwork, which depicted a physically threatened woman.
“I, unlike Hemant Mehta, had an abusive boyfriend. That girl on the cover, with her eyes shifted, her body language stiff, is not an abstract concept to me. When I saw that image, I thought of myself,” she said.
Responding to the initial criticism, Mehta said in an interview before he canceled the project that the book was not intended to belittle “actual physical abuse,” but acknowledged that the rollout had been rocky.
“There are some word choices I used in the Kickstarter that I would love to go back and change because I know they came off the wrong way,” Mehta said. “There’s nothing fun or entertaining about (abuse). But if people want to pick out words and phrases in an effort to claim I’m misogynistic or delight in abuse, instead of looking at the broader picture of what we’re trying to do, I can’t stop them.”
(A version of this story originally appeared on Chris Stedman’s “Faitheist” blog at Religion News Service.)
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