Since Phelps died this week I’ve seen a number of atheists suggest picketing his funeral as some sort of ironic pay back to his family for picketing the funerals of other people including deceased military veterans. I cannot stress how much I think this is a bad idea. We disliked his family for doing this because it was the behavior of an asshole that involved mentally abusing people who were only trying to bury a loved one in peace.
Those observations were correct, and reality will not change one iota should the roles be reversed. Firstly we should let the Phelps family know that we live up to our own standards and that we are actually better people than those who would engage is such petty acts. Secondly we should remember that not everyone in his family bought into his ideas, Nathan Phelps being the most notable, but hardly the only, example. I’m sure that many of those who have left have a lot of conflicted emotions about his death. If anything we need to let those who have left that they have a home in the atheist movement, and we aren’t going to do that by being just as petty and mean as Fred Phelps was in life. After all, people like Nathan Phelps left to get away from that behavior.