Back in January, the internet was agog over the report that a pastor objected to the 18% gratuity added to her bill for being part of a large party by writing on the receipt, “I give God 10% why do you get 18?”

The proper answer, of course, is provided by Grumpy Cat:

Your waitress offers you a genuine service, in exchange for your tip… God, not so much.

However, what I find particularly interesting about the story from an ethical perspective lie in the details of what happened at the restaurant and afterwards.

[Chelsea Welch's co-worker [at an Applebee's in the St. Louis area] had waited on a large party hosted by Pastor Alois Bell of the World Deliverance Ministries Church in Granite City, Ill. As is common at many restaurants, an 18 percent tip was automatically added to the bill.

Pastor Bell crossed out the automatic tip and wrote “0″ on the receipt, along with this message: “I give God 10% why do you get 18?”

Welch, who did not wait on Pastor Bell’s table took a photo of the bill and uploaded it to Reddit where it soon went viral. “I thought the note was insulting, but it was also comical,” Welch told TheConsumerist. “I posted it to Reddit because I thought other users would find it entertaining.”

Bell, who did not see the humor in this, complained to the restaurant’s manager. Bell told The Smoking Gun she did not expect her signature to be all over the Internet.

Applebee’s confirms that Welch was fired. In a statement, the company says:

“Our Guests’ personal information – including their meal check – is private, and neither Applebee’s nor its franchisees have a right to share this information publicly. We value our Guests’ trust above all else. Our franchisee has apologized to the Guest and has taken disciplinary action with the Team Member for violating their Guest’s right to privacy. This individual is no longer employed by the franchisee.”

Pastor Bell told The Smoking Gun she is sorry for what happened and points out that she left a $6.29 cash tip on the table.

“My heart is really broken,” she told them. “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and my ministry.”

As this story makes clear, the waitress didn’t intend for anyone to be able to identify the pastor in question, and she took measures to prevent that identification. Alas, the power of the internet was too great. Also, the waitress reports that the pastor “contacted her Applebee’s location, demanding that everyone be fired, from the servers involved to the managers.” (That’s a quote from the article, not from the waitress.)

On the one hand, I understand why Applebee’s fired the server who posted the receipt. The restaurant wants its customers to feel secure in their privacy while on premises, particularly in their dealings with their employees, particularly in their financial transactions.

Nonetheless, in this age of social media, people’s expectations of privacy must change… or they will get burned. If you’re in public, your antics might be broadcast far and wide across the internet for other people’s amusement. Then, if you act petulant and bossy about that, as this pastor seemed to do, you’ll be lambasted even more.

Ultimately, a person needs to be responsible for his own privacy. That requires thinking in advance about what he wishes to keep private or not. That requires attention to what he says and does in view or earshot of other people. That requires being selective about what he emails or posts online. That requires providing appropriate context for public actions if he wants to avoid being misjudged.

A rational person does not broadcast his private activities to the world, then blame others for taking notice.

Tim Minchin: Thank You God

 Posted by on 4 April 2013 at 2:00 pm  Atheism, Funny, Health, Religion
Apr 042013

Oh Tim Minchin, how I do love thee!

I saw Tim in concert in Boulder a few years ago… and he was awesome! If he comes to your area, don’t miss him!

A Mistake in My Argument

 Posted by on 2 January 2013 at 2:00 pm  Atheism, Funny, Religion
Jan 022013

These strange emails just keep rolling into my inbox:

From: Akaki Date: Sun, Dec 16, 2012 at 11:13 AM Subject: Nice article but wrong there ia a flaw in your argument. To:

Hi Diana I read your article “Why Be An Atheist?” with great interest.

Its a great article, and it had opened my eyes. But there is a serious mistake in your argument which you may not have noticed.

Brgds S. K De

Really, that’s all that he said! The article in question is actually the text of a talk that I gave to a small group of Objectivists waaaay back in 1999. It’s here: Why Be An Atheist?


Pastor John Hagee is no friend of the separation of church and state:

As it happens, I discussed whether the United States is a Christian nation in a recent episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. It’s Question 4 of the 3 June 2012 Q&A. The question was:

Is the United States a Christian nation? People often claim that the United States is “a Christian nation.” What do people mean by that? Why does it matter? Is it true or not?
Listen Now
You can also download the MP3 Segment. It’s just over 14 minutes long.


In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed offers of prayers for atheists. The question was:

What should I do when other people offer to pray for me? Sometimes my friends and family members offer to pray for me – whether because I’ve got some problem in my life or because they know that I’m an atheist. How should I respond?

My answer, in brief:

You should tailor your response to the context, but in most cases, you should be clear, firm, and kind in refusing the prayers of others.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends via social media, forums, and e-mail! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

Join the next Philosophy in Action Webcast on Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET at

In the meantime, Connect with Us via social media, e-mail, RSS feeds, and more. Check out the Webcast Archives, where you can listen to the full webcast or just selected questions from any past episode, and our my YouTube channel. And go to the Question Queue to submit and vote on questions for upcoming webcast episodes.

Dec 092011

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed revealing atheism to inquisitive strangers. The question was:

Should I reveal my atheism to strangers when asked? I work at a hospital. One night a patient asked me if I’m religious. I answered yes. He then asked me if I believed that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins. I answered yes. Then he took my hand and prayed for me. Immediately, I felt guilty, because I lied in answering these questions. In fact, I’m an atheist. The next day, I told the patient the truth, and he thanked me for my honesty. What should I have done in answering his original questions?

My answer, in brief:

Honesty is a virtue, and fully applicable here. So when asked personal questions by strangers, the proper response is to either answer the question honestly or decline to answer it.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

Nov 152011

In last Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast (Nov 6th), I discussed working for a minister. The question was:

Is working for a minister giving religion moral sanction? As an atheist, I once worked for an ordained minster who was the owner of a gallery. I became his manager when I made it clear that I was an atheist, but that I was a good framing manager. I don’t think I gave him a moral sanction for his irrationality by working for him under those terms. What do you think?

My answer, in brief:

An atheist shouldn’t want to endorse or assist religion, but that doesn’t preclude secular business relationships with religious believers.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! You can also throw a bit of extra love in our tip jar.

All posted webcast videos can be found in the Webcast Archives and on my YouTube channel.

What If God Disappeared?

 Posted by on 24 October 2011 at 1:00 pm  Atheism, Funny, Religion
Oct 242011

What If God Disappeared?:

(Yes, it’s a parody!)

Ricky Gervais, Atheist

 Posted by on 20 January 2011 at 8:00 am  Atheism, Religion
Jan 202011

Last month, comedian Ricky Gervais published a statement in the Wall Street Journal entitled A Holiday Message From Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist. I’d heard that it was good, but when I read it, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Here’s a taste:

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”


The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe.” Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6,000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities.

So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?…” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.

Christians, in fact, used to be called “atheists” by the pagan Romans, because they denied the existence of so many gods.

Of particular interest to me was just how small of a suggestion he required, as a young boy, to reject Christianity. But you can read the whole thing for that.

The follow-up — Does God Exist? Ricky Gervais Takes Your Questions — was even more fun. Here are my favorite bits:

Woody Allen is widely quoted as having once said: “You cannot prove the nonexistence of God; you just have to take it on faith.” Is being an atheist as unscientific a stance as believing in God? Isn’t it more intellectually honest to be agnostic?

Well Woody Allen was being facetious but makes a good point. Is being an atheist as unscientific a stance as believing in God? No definitely not. How can not believing in something that is backed up with no empirical evidence be less scientific than believing in something that not only has no empirical evidence but actually goes against the laws of the universe and in many cases actually contradicts itself?


People who believe in God sometimes have moments of doubt about their faith. Have you had any moments of doubt about your atheism?

Atheism isn’t a belief system. I have a belief system but it’s not “based on” atheism, it’s just not based on the existence of a god. I make none of my moral, social, or artistic decisions based on any god or superstitions. Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby. I’ve never been skiing. It’s my biggest hobby. I literally do it all the time. But to answer your question I am constantly faced with theories of God, and angels, and hell. It’s everywhere. But unless there is an ounce of credibility to it, I reject. I have to. You can’t lie to yourself. If you do you’ve only fooled a deluded person and where’s the victory in that?

To top it off, here’s Gervais mocking Genesis:

Like many atheists today, Gervais’ weakness is his acceptance of the morality of altruism. Yet he doesn’t seem as deeply committed to that as many of the new atheists, and overall, I came away impressed… and amused.

Nov 282008

Objectivist graphic designer John Powers has created these terrific “alternate Christmas cards”:

From the website:

Isaac Newton Christmas Cards

Celebrate reason and science on December 25th, instead of the same old bearded mystic!

I like to send Christmas cards, but as an atheist, I have had to limit myself to the hundreds of bland cards that neutrally say “Happy Holidays.” I decided that if it’s okay for (almost) everyone else to stamp, seal, and deliver their philosophy to me every Christmas, I’ll do just the same.

Sir Isaac Newton’s ideas helped to rescue mankind from drudgery and propel it into the space age. I am a lover of reason, and I love it unashamedly, and I want my friends to know it too. They will this Christmas. Yours can, too.


Outside: “On December 25th, a Savior was born. He revealed eternal Truth, bringing Joy to millions. He astonished the world with His command over Nature. He changed history forever.”

Inside: “Happy Birthday, Sir Isaac Newton. December 25, 1642 – March 20, 1726″.

Web site and greeting card designs are copyright © 2008 John Powers.

(John also did free web design for the FIRM site.)

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