My friend took his tone, along with his suggestion that he ought to go die, as a threat.
Almost instantly more assholes crawled out of the woodwork to defend the rudeness of the first asshole, saying that his "suggestion" was not a threat per se, although they conceded to the fact that it was rather insensitive.
I took the opportunity to defend my friend and got called names, told I needed to educate myself, got read to from a dictionary, and was told that my contention to their insensitivity, which I felt added insult to injury, wasn't a conversation worthy of the fifth grader.
I am going to illucidate exactly why it was a threat.
Here is why...
Because my friend took it as a threat! That's why.
We don't know his situation or circumstances. We don't know any additional facts about the exchange. Just that in my friend's mind there was more than the mere suggestion to go into harm's way, something which made him feel threatened.
And really, that's all we need to know. Except more and more dictionary thumpers kept informing him is wasn't a threat, but a suggestion, I guess in the same way a Nazi sympathizer telling a Jew to go walk into a furnace couldn't ever be considered anything more than merely a harmless suggestion.
Allow me to inform as to why suggestions can be classified as threat.
Because the law says so. That's why.
In law a threat is anything that constitutes the menace of harm. It doesn't need to be direct. It can be indirect, veiled, or even merely suggested.
A man, for example, might call a girl he doesn't like a whore and suggest she do what he tells her lest she get what's coming to her, and this is a threat, plain and simple.
If this same man threatened to rape the girl, this would also be a threat. If he said he'd have his friends rape her too, still a threat.
Now this next part is where many people who abide by a strict dictionary definition of the word "threat" get hung up.
If, with the woman's prior knowledge that the man wants to rape her she at some point receives a disconcerting message that suggests she come over to his place so she can be properly dealt with, let me ask you, would this not constitute a threat?
In legal terms, yes. In this case there is the menace of harm, existing from prior conditions, and the prior knowledge that this man will likely rape the woman.
But if you are holding to a strict dictionary definition of the word threat, basically the admission that you desire to physically harm someone, then you could apologize on behalf of this would be rapist and say he was merely making a suggestion. She needn't follow his advice, after all, it's just a suggestion.
As we all know, most social interactions amongst human beings aren't so black and white. Nor is the way we communicate, express ourselves, or use language. Words and phrases can carry multiple meanings and subtexts and you can never be entirely certain how somebody else will take something that is said, especially when it might only be vaguely suggested. But herein lies the problem, if one posesses a prior knowledge that the suggestion entails abuse, suffering, and harm -- then that suggest comes with it the explicit intent to have harm done, which constitutes the menace of harm, which by law is a type of threat.
What you cannot do is say the woman in the example was over reacting when it was suggested she enter into harms way where there is a near certain chance she will be raped, because it was merely a suggestion. No, it wasn't. It was more than a mere suggestion, and a more empathetic person would be aware of this. The same goes for my atheist friend of whom it was suggested he enter into harm's way where there is a near certain chance of his being murdered.
But, but, but it was only a suggestion!
No, it wasn't.
Look, it was an indirect, mealy-mouthed way to say you want someone to endure abuse and be harmed but you are too much of a coward to directly say it to their face, so you intimidate, and insinuate, and use a condescending and abusive language to menace someone who may truly fear for their safety and well-being by suggesting they place themselves in harm's way and certain violence and most likely death as a result of following this less than considerate suggestion.
But what if the ignoramous making the suggestion was so unaware of what they were actually saying that they didn't know they were being menacing, shouldn't we just write them off as an idiot and another tally on the list of lost causes and ignore their hurtful remarks?
You see, if they didn't intend for anyone to come into harm's way then they wouldn't have suggested it in the first place. And even though they are not threatening a person directly they are using the menace of harm to make them feel threatened... And that is what a fucking threat is!
The threat, in this case, is being veiled by the pretense of it being nothing more than an empty suggestion. Take it or leave it. But such a pretense ignores why the suggestion was made in the first place and what the intent behind it was. And it is clear the intent was to see an atheist, like my friend, be harmed or at the least see how he'd react to the idea of being harmed, and this denotes either a sick desire to see someone actually be harmed or see them endure the mental anguish of thinking they'll be harmed, which is an entirely different kind of harm.
So we have every right to call these assholes out, and my atheist friend has every right to feel intimidated and threatened by someone like this. And if you still think it was only a suggestion done in bad taste but not a genuine threat, well you are entitled to your opinion, but you'll still be wrong. Not because I say so, or because the law says so, but because my friend... who is the one who feels threatened (not you), took it as though it was a threat. I hope that instead of telling him he is over reacting to some rather threatening advice, we might be more mindful of his situation and take the time to try to consider what reasons he might have for taking it in a different way than we might have.