Atheist Bullies

…are no more excusable than religious bullies.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • dubleya

    I read the original post from PZ on Pharyngula on Friday and have to say that this whole subject smacks as a bit of an overreaction. I must admit that I didn’t read the comments, but PZ’s tone in the response does not seem too out of step. In fact Dan, your response to similarly poor logic comes across as equally if not more harsh.

    Where the problem seems to lie is in the “searching out” of personal information for Mr. Rosenberg, which as I mentioned in the comments to the link you provided may have less malevolent motives. Could this be a simple case of people checking to see if Andrew is a troll? Or media trying to use a similar angle to turn Andrew’s experience into a news story?
    These “two searches” for his personal information could have been Bill O’Reilly’s producer and Glen Beck’s producer. We just don’t know.
    There is a lot of vitriol spewed around at Pharyngula, but I think we may be putting the “cart before the horse” so to speak.

  • camels with hammers

    The problem is not in the relevant “harshness” and uncompromisng character of PZ’s (or my) substantive arguments, as long as they’re rational and truthful. The problem is with PZ’s readers’ intentions to personally bully his reader (and his tacit approval until only after the YNH website drew attention to this). The only personal word aimed at my reader was when I said her name. Nothing in what I said abuses her as a person or threatens her like PZ’s readers gloatingly imagined doing.

    And, importantly, Lisa is someone I actually know personally and used to work with as a Christian camp counselor, so there is a context of a little familiarity that permits a bit of a familiar tone (though I think without her name’s mention in what I quoted, you’d never realize I was writing to someone specific).

    When I started the YNH piece I imagined maybe people were searching the kid just to confirm he was who he said he was, but further evidence from the comments section said this was not about a philosophically harsh rebuttal (which I am all for and admire PZ for frequently), but that it was a desire to personally humiliate and harass a kid.

    I don’t think I’ve ever come near doing such a thing with my blog. If you find evidence I have, I will readily apologize though.

  • Petra

    The problem is with PZ’s readers’ intentions to personally bully his reader (and his tacit approval until only after the YNH website drew attention to this).

    …but even PZ’s follow-up response wasn’t a step back from the abyss. It was more like “Either kowtow to us and be respectful or continue to be hunted down, harrassed, and have your life interrupted by bullying.” This high regard in terms of respect, of course, coming from the very guy whose mantra is “being respectful is being weak.” Unbelievable.

    If we’re going to try to convert people by saying “either be nice to us and agree with us or be expected to be personally harrassed and hunted down…and oh, by the way, it’s not right to be even mildly confrontational with us,” then I don’t want any part of being an atheist anymore. This isn’t what I signed up (or signed off from religion) for. We shouldn’t be trying to use the scare-tactic “accept my god or burn in hell” approach in the form of “lose your religion or be harrassed, bullied, and verbally abused in your personal life and with your loved ones.”

    We’re right. We’re better than that, and we shouldn’t have to stoop to disonhest tactics to get our point across.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Well said, Petra.

  • Jimmy_D

    If you ask me, the kid that made the original post has manipulated PZ and his crew quite well so that he gets the, ‘poor-me-crown-of- martyrdom-attention’ that he wanted. I think he got exactly what he wanted and will get exactly what he deserves.

    • Daniel Fincke

      What does he “deserve” exactly?

  • Jimmy_D

    Having his docs dropped

    • Daniel Fincke


    • Jimmy_D

      Dropping Docs

      It’s exactly what happened to the kid but on a lesser degree. (in response to your question of, “what does he ‘deserve’ exactly?”

      The point is, the internet is not a place of privacy. If you act like a fool in front of the wrong audience, you’re going to find yourself in hot water. Whether you know it or not, Daniel, someone has already got your docs. It has absolutely nothing to do with being atheist either so to try to connect the one to the other is silly. It’s just something that happens.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Yes, I know that anonymity online does not exist, so that contributed to my decision to simply blog under my own name, rather than make any pretense of having protectable privacy. But does that mean that I deserve someone digging through my information. No, no it does not. Just because people do things does not mean they deserve to. And just because someone signs his real name in an e-mail to a blogger, he certainly does not deserve people going through his records because he said something they don’t like.

      There is a twisted logic which says if you expose yourself to possible risks you “deserve” for mean-spirited people to exploit your vulnerability and try to abuse you or your information. There is nothing immoral about using your real name (or even a pseudoname) to make civil arguments. There is something immoral about exploiting this to try to hurt people’s lives and intimidate them out of disagreeing with you or otherwise silencing them. That is not something you deserve to do. I refuse to accept that the fact that some people abuse the internet to invade others’ privacy and/or disrupt their lives makes it acceptable for them to do it or those who use this medium for its tremendous power for good deserve to be treated that way simply because it can be done.

      That’s just excusing despicable behavior and making the only people who abstain from the internet morally safe from “deserving” abuse. That’s just appalling.

    • http://gmail yoyoma

      Ive had my docs dropped before, and I am pissed as hell about it. It probably was done by some scrawny pale troll living in his mothers basement. I hope to God that you’re not a doc dropper. if you are, I got something to say about that in my other post. a LOT to say

  • dubleya

    I hope you didn’t construe my first comment as an attack on you, Dan. I simply was pointing out that as far as I know, we are not armed with all the facts. The internet is an anonymous medium, one where we cannot necessarily impart motives to statistics.
    If your further research does give some clarity to google tracking statistics, then I apologize for making the point.
    Where I think all this went horribly wrong is that PZ chose to out this kid by making his personal information public. It was unnecessary and he should have known better. Andrew would have surely known by reading the post that it was directed at him without need of his identity being mentioned.
    I don’t believe for one moment that a “snarky” e-mail deserves one to be attacked, humiliated, stalked or whatever else.
    Any redress could and should have been done in a more anonymous manner. I think anecdotes like this show us why the internet is and must remain a mostly anonymous medium.
    I don’t know however that I would go so far as to agree with Petra that this is a reason to abandon outward atheism. This is, in my experience, an exception rather than a rule among atheists on the internet. We could no more paint atheists with this brush than paint all Christians with agreeing or condoning the hate spewed by the Westboro Baptist Church.

    • Daniel Fincke

      I don’t see where we really disagree then. I just had not been explicit enough in my criticism in the short post. The reason for that was that this was one of those cases where I wanted people to read the whole story and so I linked with minimal explanation or quotation. I have learned that most readers are averse to clicking on links and will happily stick with your explanation and quotes in most cases. So, if I really really think people should read an entire piece elsewhere online, I don’t give any information that might give them the illusion I’ve adequately summarized it for them.

      So, I didn’t specify exactly enough what I objected to or didn’t in the first case. But it should be clear now you and I agree.

      And I also agree that one should not abandon outward atheism over some bad atheists (in fact, it’s more reason to be an outspoken atheist and influence the direction of our movement). But I didn’t get the impression Petra was really going to stop identifying as an atheist, I took it as a warning threat to the community. And a deserved one when it behaves this way.

    • dubleya

      I’m putting the finishing touches on a story about this on my blog. It will likely be up by end of day today.
      I did read the linked post. I even commented on “your not helping”. I read the original PZ post too two days before reading the story on this blog. I will admit though that I never read comments over at Pharyngula, there are too many and they are generally childish.
      I never doubted that you and I agreed, I just wanted to caution you to step back and look from a different angle.

  • dubleya

    Andrew Rosenberg commented on You’re Not Helping and my blog post as well. He seems like a really nice kid.

  • Daniel Fincke

    For the record it is worth noting that Petra above was a You’re Not Helping sock puppet here infiltrating Camels With Hammers to support the You’re Not Helping blog as an apparent third party supporter.

  • http://gmail yoyoma

    Okay, so what is up with militant neo-atheist trollers finding/exposing where their enemies live? As for you doc dropping trollers “which there seems to be more of now” who don’t have the balls to show your face, and think you are invincible, let me tell you something: you give Atheism a bad name. You defile the name of atheism like the 9/11 suicide bombers did to Islam’s reputation. Because there are so many of you doc dropping trolls out there, you are starting to create a very unpleasant stereotype image of atheism. It is cyber-bullying trolls like you that bully someone to the point of suicide (yes, it has happened). I know there have been a lot BS of straw man arguments from Crackheads like Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reily who say “atheists have no morals, look at Hitler and Stalin” and I disagree with their idea by a longshot margin. However, you will NEVER convince me that any of these filthy, bullying ,trolling, cowards have ANY morals whatsoever if they are going to fight as dirty as to expose one’s private info to potentially dangerous people just to stop them from talking about their religious beliefs. I have no problem with atheism/secularism in general, but the chip on my shoulder lies with these faceless, weak Noobs who feel like they have power over others and use the internet like a gun. I bet they wouldnt be so tough without their computers, huh? You doc droppers are filthy, disgusting, immoral animals. Seriously, GET A LIFE!

  • http://gmail yoyoma

    I have evidence to support my claim. If you’re familiar with youtuber “VenomfangX” then you know who I mention. Anyway, some atheist trollers got his personal info and constantly posted “His name is Shawn. He lives in Canada.”
    Also, there was a youtuber named “Ownup” who disliked some religious guy’s video, so he put a link to his personal information. Heres the link:
    As for the militant cyber bullying, this may not be the best example, but its valid enough an argument.
    There was Anthony Powell “tony48219″ who was a creationist ranter. He started the fight, but the people against him cyber-bullied the hell out of him, and only provoked him. He even stated in one of his videos “I’m sorry, I said I was gonna be civil, I said I’d stop insulting y’all, but I cant anymore because YOU wont be civil.” In his last few videos, he is clearly being pushed to his mental limits with a fatal combination of depression, fanaticism, and anger “anger from these people who kept bullying him in spite of the obvious signs of mental illness”. Then, he ends up killing a girl and himself. Now all the militant trollers who want to end religion say “See?! This is what Creationists do! They are crazy! We need to cure the world from this disease called religion!” And NOW, the very people who probably helped provoke him to murder/suicide are doing things like THIS to his channel
    Is THIS what atheism stands for? If that is the case then tony48219 was right about you all along. Not to mention most of you are part of the spoiled top 1% of the world’s people who are privileged enough to have all that you do, yet you use it to attack others

  • http://gmail yoyoma

    seriously, tony48219 said some pretty mean things himself, but the trollers ganged up, flagged his vids, dropped his docs, sent hate mail,death threats,just about every dirty thing imaginable including illegal activity like raping his channel after his death “as seen in the channel link” in spite of what the grieving parents may be going through. heres the link again:
    That is basically the equivalent of Westboro Baptist Church picketing your funeral. If that shit on his channel is what atheism stands for, then its no better than Westboro Baptist Church and their piss-on-grave funeral protests