Not Every Blog Is For Everybody

We at Freethought Blogs spend a lot of time talking about blogs and people we like a lot and would love to bring on board to blog with us. From the first of those discussions that I was a part of, I was a strong proponent of our finding a good blogger who escaped the Christian patriarchy movement. More broadly others have talked a lot about the potential value of having blogs addressing escapees from a variety of different repressive religious environments.

But before we could ever ask her, one of the excellent atheist bloggers who comes from a Christian patriarchy background expressed that she didn’t see it as plausible that she could come over here without scaring off many of the women who need her blog the most—women who are in relatively early stages of either leaving the Quiverful movement or who are still not quite atheists, etc.  Freethought Blogs is understandably a forebidding environment to a lot of such people. For a long time this kept us from having someone to fill this vital educational niche.

Similarly, John Loftus packed up his Debunking Christianity blog and left FTB after just two months here, in no small part due to his worries that the Christians his blog was designed to address were not as inclined to participate here at Freethought Blogs with more predominantly Freethought Blogs commenters.

Now, this worries me a bit because the last thing I want is for our blogs to become unable to reach audiences beyond the already deconverted and otherwise non-believing. Don’t get me wrong, it is awesome to have such a vibrant community of atheists and to be a resource for atheists. But, what we have to contribute to the broader cultural and political public debates is, I think, too important to be ignored outside our community.

So now we finally have Libby Anne, an exciting new FTB blogger who broke free from her upbringing in the repressive Christian patriarchy movement. She is now a full fledged atheist, feminist, and vigorous critic of authoritarian religion. Ophelia Benson profiled her work numerous times last fall and I was very enthusiastic about it, and so I was extremely happy to see her sign on with us. But she is concerned to set a tone and an atmosphere on her blog that won’t scare away the religious women who she is used to dialoguing with there. So, she put up a post yesterday morning requesting that commenters going forward help her create an environment that is both unapologetically atheistic and also hospitable to religious people.

This seems to me like an extremely reasonable request. We all hopefully understand how to moderate our tone and our liberties to accommodate people on a respectful interpersonal level in the real world when they are around and when this is the only way to have a productive interaction with them and when doing so is consistent with keeping our dignity and conscience. This is not the same thing as accommodating false beliefs or fallacious habits of thinking by pandering to them or by giving them any undue credence in matters of truth. It’s a matter of politeness, but not dishonesty, at least ideally.

But already Libby Anne has gotten some indignant pushback from readers who don’t like being told to play nice with anyone.

Now, I get it that atheists and feminists are quite understandably tired of being told to tone down their self-expression. The silencing of the dissents of atheists and feminists has long been indispensable to the power of Christianity and patriarchy in all their myriad (and frequently mutually intertwining) forms in the Western world. But Libby Anne’s concern was not that atheists or feminists be silenced or not argue vigorously. The concern was only that they do not gang up aggressively against non-atheists and non-feminists or use carelessly abusive anti-theist language when they vent since it is only going to shut down theists from engaging.

The concern is not that every blog has to be religious-friendly or non-feminist friendly. Libby Anne didn’t call for any changes to Pharyngula or Butterflies and Wheels. And she didn’t call for a friendliness of disingenuousness. She simply called for her blog to be the kind of relatively safe space where the religious women coming out of repressive mindsets, the women who most need to be reached with her blog, will feel most comfortable to participate in discussion and not feel threatened away.

There’s plenty of room for blogs which are safe spaces for atheist and feminist anger. There is certainly a lot of need for forums where atheists and feminists can feel free to vent their frustrations with religious privilege and with the seemingly all-encompassing reach of cultural patriarchy. This is why even though I am against verbally abusing and exaggeratedly demonizing religious people in all cases (and not just in some forums), I nonetheless am fairly indulgent of the occasionally venting, over-the-top anti-religious comments I will get. Even if it’s not ideal, it comes from an emotionally honest place which has partial justification and which is healthy to get out (even if I think the anger sometimes needs to be focused and targeted more specifically and more constructively than it might be in a given case).

There is even some room for spaces where it’s not at all about debate but just about a safe community which tends to people’s emotional needs as atheists or as feminists, without need for constant justifications and defenses to be given to the religious or to those skeptical of feminism. That’s all valid. If you’re passionate about that and you don’t think there are enough such forums or if you have an idea for an especially good one, then get cracking on creating that forum somewhere online asap!

But Libby Anne wants a different kind of forum: one that serves other invaluable purpose with exciting possibilities, i.e., one that can be a resource for seriously at risk women, who might be suffering any manner of psychological or physical or spiritual abuse and who may be at risk of losing greater and greater amounts of their reason and autonomy to religious authoritarianism. And she thinks that coaxing those women to engage with her involves not having atheists prone to angry venting there to turn them off to the blog or to participation in its comments section.

Now, if some readers realize that it would be just too hard for them to make nice with religious people under any circumstances—if they need the internet to be their place to vent and be freed from daily pressures to accommodate religious privilege, then by all means they should just politely decline from participating in that particular forum as not a place that would serve their needs.

But I don’t understand the need of some to voice an angry protest about Libby Anne’s requests for a certain tone in her comments. Instead of just saying, “okay, so this place is not ideal for me to comment at” some people have both directly and indirectly seemed to want to pressure her to stop making them feel so excluded. She’s not trying to exclude anyone. She’s asking for some mutual concessions in interpersonal sensitivity to make a rigorous debate about ideas and practices possible without anti-theist hostilities precluding Christian interlocutors from being there from the outset.

I don’t think this should be controversial at all. And I don’t think it helps when anyone conflates a request for a generally genial civility towards religious commenters with a call to capitulation to falsehoods or evils or the silencing of dissent. It would be fantastic if one or more of our blogs had greater religious readership and participation. That’s what we should want if we want to persuade people out of their faith beliefs.

A relatively emotionally safe environment encourages people to be riskier and more aggressive intellectually. In my experience, the less I feel emotionally vulnerable, insecure, bitter, or defensive against personalized attacks, the more magnanimously I can take the most unrelenting intellectual assaults. It’s perfectly reasonable for Libby Anne to want to create the emotionally safe environment in which every one feels liberated to speak freely and debate productively. Again: this is not the same thing as a request that anyone pretend falsehoods are more likely to be true than they are.

On my blog, I trust the laws of natural selection to determine who my readers are or are not. I only enforce a civil tone insofar as I worry about incivility discouraging away many smart people who are used to vigorous, but genial or impersonal, intellectual debate and who would find a mud pit decidedly not worth their efforts to join. I encourage civility insofar as I think excessive incivility (and most name calling especially) is counter-productive to people feeling free to put themselves out there philosophically, speculate adventurously, and risk being wrong without fear of abuse. I encourage civility in that I think that honest and intellectually scathing philosophical disagreements are more possible and more enjoyable when they happen in an underlying spirit of interpersonal respect or (ideally) friendship.

But as long as the general spirit of the blog and the comments section is intellectually sincere and well-meaning and philosophically curious, I’ve happily tolerated (and myself engaged in) many forms of moderate incivility and polemic that are also a natural and enjoyable part of passionate and honest debate.

Spammers aside, I’ve only ever deleted about 5 comments that I can remember in Camels With Hammers’ 2 years and 7.5 months and in most of those cases it was just unambiguously bigoted, dehumanizing hate speech against marginalized groups that I canned. I’m not letting Hitlers comment here. The other two were a disgustingly demeaning and substance free bit of personal abuse aimed at me which tried to impersonate someone associated with another FTB blogger, and a comment featuring a stream of schoolyard epithets and expressing the wish that another commenter be raped. Those are the only 5 times anyone “crossed the line” badly enough that I censored them.

And only yesterday did I ban my first commenter. And it was simply for sock puppetry, not incivility. (It was in the thread about the dad who shot his daughter’s laptop. You can read numerous sock puppeted comments, all from the same person, which I’ve marked for you.)

So things are relatively freewheeling here and I just hope that my philosophical nature draws people who appreciate that kind of discourse and can productively contribute to it.

But if Libby Anne’s judgment is that her blog will thrive best where her commenters are asked to pay a little special attention to creating an emotionally welcoming environment where harsh intellectual challenges can be taken as easily as well as possible on a personal level, then I think it’s in all our interests to cooperate with her wishes.

Your Thoughts?

I’ve written more posts on the importance of civility. One of my favorite on the topic is Who Are You Calling Stupid?.

More related posts on various aspects of the topic:

Audiences and Approaches

I Am A Rationalist, Not A Tribalist.

I Don’t Really Give A Fuck About Tone, Per Se

My Thoughts on Blasphemy Day

Don’t Call Religious Believers Stupid.

Don’t Demonize Religious People’s Motives, Focus On Their Objective Harms.

Help Break the Spell of Religious Reverence.

Love Religious People.

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.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches Ed Brayton

    I could not agree more with this, and with Libby Anne’s policy. And I think she should enforce it relatively ruthlessly. Every blogger has independent control of their own commenters and comment policy. Her blog is like her home, she sets the rules. And I completely understand why she wants her blog to be a place where the discussion is not as rough and tumble as it can be on many of our other blogs. You’re absolutely right, anyone who doesn’t understand it just shouldn’t comment there, or even be allowed to.

    • oldebabe

      What Ed said.

    • maliceb4thought

      Ditto!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/ Jason Thibeault

      I cannot express how heartening it is to see The Boss draw this line in the sand. I have never once regretted moving to FtB. Not. Once.

  • jamessweet

    I think it’s a perfectly reasonable request. I also think it’s a hopeless one, at FTB. And the pushback seems to be bearing this out.

    I frankly don’t understand it. There are a lot of blogs at FTB that I don’t read for whatever reason. Some I just find boring. Some — like Greg Laden’s, for instance — I read sometimes but they are too video-centric and I don’t like watching videos. I don’t see that as a problem.

    Similarly, I don’t comment at every blog. I rarely wade into the comments at Pharyngula, for example, since although I mostly enjoy the raucous over-the-top commentariat at FTB, Pharyngulites sometimes are a bridge too far for me (I once got accused of being a Mormon sympathizer because I said that the baptism for the dead thing was not really worthy of outrage when the LDS church was doing so many utterly despicable things that are real instead of pretend. Yes, really! That apparently makes me a defender of Mormonism, at least at Pharyngula…!) On the flip side, I also watch what I say a little bit regarding some topics at Almost Diamonds, because while I agree with Stephanie on the vast majority of things, there are a couple of issues on which I know my opinion is not welcome and will likely be met with serious flame. (Not feminism, FWIW; I heartily applaud what she does in that arena)

    And that’s all okay! There’s plenty of fun stuff to read and comment on at FTB, and I go where it works for me. It’s sad that other people can’t handle that concept… but I must say, I fear that if Libby Anne is serious about fostering that type of environment in her blog, Love Joy Feminism may soon go the way of John Loftus. A real pity in this case; while I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of Loftus (nothing wrong with what he did, his style just didn’t jibe with what I like to read), Libby Anne’s story is so compelling and she offers a really valuable and unique perspective.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

      Libby Anne has no intention of leaving!

    • Echidna

      John Loftus was dishonest. He deleted and even edited comments of mine, among other people, that he disagreed with. Especially those that pointed out his editing practices after he explicitly denied it.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      Echidna comment #2:

      It’s too bad my response is 99 comments later but one of the problems when I was here at FtB was that I found myself arguing with atheists when I was trying to reach out to Christians. I defended William Lane Craig from being dishonest or evil. Doing so is helpful for my target audience (evangelicals) to see that there are some skeptics whom they would think of as reasonable people. What I dislike more than arguing with Christians is arguing with atheists. They usually waste my time for various reasons. They don’t understand what I’m doing. And you persisted when I thought it was time to stop. I even warned you and you persisted. And so now you are on a campaign to smear me without telling the whole story.

      Typical.

    • John Morales

      If atheists don’t understand what you’re doing, then either you are not an atheist, or you don’t understand what you’re doing.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      John, an overwhelming number of atheists do not even know who I am.

    • Sarah

      P1: If atheists don’t understand what you’re doing that’s because
      C1: You’re not an atheist
      C2: You don’t understand what you’re doing

      Hidden proposition: All atheists understand what all other atheists are doing unless they themselves don’t understand what they do.

      Yep, just as retarded when you map it out formally as when you read it for the first time.

    • John Morales

      P1: If atheists don’t understand what you’re doing that’s because
      C1: You’re not an atheist
      C2: You don’t understand what you’re doing

      You sure that’s right?

      Retarded as I am, I’d put it a little differently, thus:

      Let A represent atheism, and U represent understanding what John Loftus does.

      If atheists don’t understand what you’re doing,
      P1: ∀x, (A(x) → ¬U(x))

      then either you are not an atheist, or you don’t understand what you’re doing.
      C1: P1 ↔ (¬A(x) ∨ ¬U(x))

      (You might want to check out the truth-table for implication)

    • echidna

      John Loftus,
      Of course you are going to come across atheists rather than Christians on Freethought blogs. What were you thinking? Tell me how I misrepresent you? Show evidence or back off.

      You claimed that you did not censor comments, and yet you censored comments that claimed you did. You were dishonest. Some of it is documented: http://furiouspurpose.me/john-w-loftus-needs-to-review-his-commitment-to-blogging/

      You dismissed me by calling me an ignorant high-school boy.

      What you don’t seem to understand is that many atheists, myself included, value truth and honesty over playing nice. Perhaps this is because many of us have spent too many decades believing well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) lies. Some of the scariest lies I heard were part of a Catholic priest’s (thankfully foiled) attempt to groom me decades ago. You can guess that I don’t take too kindly to being told that I am dishonestly representing a man who claims one thing and does another, and makes me out to be some kind of liar in the process.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      echidna, I came here for the money since I am the proverbial starving artist. You seem to be ignorant about what it means to censor comments. Blog owners have the same legal and moral rights as a newspaper editor. Having already learned that I probably cannot convince you of anything I will not try again. Chalk it up as a victory if you wish.

      Cheers.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      echidna, you’ll be pleased to learn I laid down a challenge to WLC:

      http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/02/is-william-lane-craig-dishonest-with.html

    • Echidna

      You claimed I was misrepresenting you, but when called on it just call me ignorant and mean-spirited once again. It’s not about winning, it’s about being honest. Something you seem to struggle with.

      Glad to see the challenge to WLC’S. Personally, I would have taken remarks if his that appear inconsistent, and ask him to resolve them. One thing that a mathematical/scientific education does for you is that progress depends on seeking out inconsistencies, and resolving them. Not everyone appreciates the power of this approach.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      Echidna, you don’t know me. I don’t suffer fools gladly and you argued like a fool and wasted my time. I know you don’t think so, but in order to teach an ignorant person that she is ignorant I’d have to educate her to see that she is one, and I don’t have the hours it would take to teach you a critical thinking class. Give it a rest. I mean it, whoever you are. You go around blasting people like me who are on the forefronts of these religious debates who use their real names and have a reputation at stake from behind the wall of anonymity, and that I find reprehensible no matter what your motivations are for remaining anonymous. Give it a rest. As an anonymous person you have no reputation at stake.

    • Echidna

      Evidence-free bashing again. Get lost.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      Likewise, I never denied deleting a couple of your ignorant comments. I also expect civility. You are not a civil person.

    • echidna

      One of the “ignorant” or perhaps “disrespectful” comments you deleted said “Now, John, you know as well as I do that you censor people who disagree with you. It seems that you may be equating respect with agreement.”

      An honest person would have replied with something like: “I do delete comments on occasion. I don’t consider it censorship if the comments fall within the scope of XYZ. Your comment fell inside that scope because of ….”. But you didn’t. You just deleted it, just as you deleted other comments that weren’t falling in line with the story that you wanted to tell.

      Listen, I’m not telling you to go to take critical thinking classes without even hinting at what logical fallacy I might be making. I’m not telling you that you are ignorant with giving you the slightest hint about what, nor have I called you uncivil. But I’m not going to allow you to make those claims against me without asking you to back them up with evidence, as I have been doing for my assertion that you are dishonest.
      John, let others be the judge of who is being civil around here.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      I don’t longer care. There is a context you’re leaving out leading up to this and afterward. You didn’t even quote the entire comment.

      I’m out of here.

    • echidna

      Describe the context, then, if it is important to your argument. And I did quote the entire comment.
      http://furiouspurpose.me/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/photo.png

    • http://notungblog.wordpress.com Notung

      John Morales:

      Your formulation at P1 actually means “Every atheist doesn’t understand what John Loftus is doing”.
      C1 reads “P1 is true if and only if something is not an atheist or something doesn’t understand what John Loftus is doing.”

      So, if something isn’t an atheist, or doesn’t understand what John Loftus is doing, then every atheist doesn’t understand what John Loftus is doing!

      This is my version of what you actually said at first:
      ∀x(A(x) → ¬U(x)) → ∀y((J(y) → (¬A(y) ∨ ¬U(y))))

      So, if all atheists don’t understand what John Loftus is doing, then John Loftus either isn’t an atheist or doesn’t understand what John Loftus is doing.

      That seems to be a premise rather than a conclusion.

      P1: If all atheists don’t understand what John Loftus is doing, then John Loftus either isn’t an atheist or doesn’t understand what John Loftus is doing.
      P2: All atheists don’t understand what John Loftus is doing.
      C: Therefore, John Loftus either isn’t an atheist or doesn’t understand what John Loftus is doing.

      I’d say the argument is unsound because both P1 and P2 are false. At least, I see no reason to think they are true.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    I’m one of the people who expressed doubts about Libby Anne’s blog rules. First, as a preemptive measure, let me explain what I am NOT complaining about:

    ● I do NOT object to her setting rules for commenting. It’s her blog and she can run it however she wants.

    ● I am NOT accusing her of being a Chris Mooney-type accomodationist. I’ve been told, and quite frankly I don’t care enough about her to check her prior blog posts, that she’s not one.

    I hope everyone understands this, because I am not going to take “you don’t like her rules” or “if you read her previous stuff, you wouldn’t think she was Mooney’s sister” as dismissals of my genuine concerns about her blog.

    Yesterday I wrote a post (the first post in the thread, actually) about her rules post. That went through without any trouble, as had my previous post on another thread. Later I wrote another post which was withheld pending moderation. There was no foul language, no unkind words, nor anything else which would automatically put a post into moderation. Holding a post of mine for moderation tells me either there’s a software glitch or Libby Anne doesn’t trust me. Since I’ve never seen that sort of software glitch on FtB, I have to strongly suspect mistrust. If you don’t trust me, why should I trust you?

    Libby Anne later rewrote her OP but originally it had a comment from someone about how the FtB horde descended on an unsuspecting blog, ranting and raving and carrying on in a misogynist fashion. Libby Anne said essentially “don’t do this on my blog.” None of the FtB bloggers or regular commentators tolerate misogyny so I have a whole lot of doubt this actually happened. How were the invaders identified as from FtB? What was misognynist about their comments? I have some serious questions about the incident and little likelihood those questions will be answered.

    Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive but I picked up on the accommodationist vibes permeating Libby Anne’s OP. Now as I said before, she probably isn’t an accommodationist. If Ophelia Benson vouches for her, then I’ll accept Ophelia’s word. But the OP just reeked of accommodationism.

    There are two FtB blogs I never visit. It won’t bother me in the least if that number goes to three.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Yes, as I understand Libby Anne trusted bad information that misrepresented the nature of the FTB commentariat. The idea that our readers would engage in misogyny as a characteristic failing is way off base. What I wanted to focus on though is the fact that it is likely that in truth FTB people (including me!) are prone to respond to posts using some harsh, venting language. I think it’s important that Libby Anne feels completely free to ask people to tone it down for the sake of the other “company” she wants to have over.

      As for your comment being held, you will have to ask her. There have been stranger glitches on our blogs (PZ’s comments are sent straight to spam on seemingly all of them, for example.) Or maybe she did worry you were not going to respect her tone concerns. Whatever it is, I wouldn’t take it personally. She has no animus against atheists, just a desire to reach trapped fundamentalist women. Hopefully, even if you feel too stifled to comment there you can still read and benefit that way.

    • Libby Anne

      I never thought any blogger at FtB was misogynist. I’ve followed many FtB blogs and I know they’re absolutely the opposite. I removed that part from my OP because that wasn’t the point – the point was that a theist reader was afraid she would be uncomfortable on my blog now that it was at FtB. That was it.

      I spent much of yesterday playing with the comments moderation filters. For a while I tried putting the word “goddist” in the list of words that resulted in moderation, as some might find that word offensive. That is the reason the second comment was held in moderation, and as you will note, it was then approved. I am still in the process of tweaking how I will be handling comment moderation.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Yes, I hate the use of “goddist”, it’s just an abusive, it’s unnecessary.

      And I’m glad you took down the misogynism part because, like I said in my comment, that distracted from your valid point. I think we see eye to eye on that.

    • Libby Anne

      :-)

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      “Goddist” might have an air of derision about it. So what? I’m not happy with many goddists and their unwarranted privilege, their use of religion to push socio-political agendas, and their literally “holier than thou” attitude towards anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their delusions.

      If someone who quotes Psalm 14:1 at me gets annoyed by my use of goddist, then it’s pretty much a push.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      So what? So it’s going to drive away readers Libby wants to reach. She doesn’t want to write the theists off as horrible, dangerous people to only be defeated. She’d like to deconvert them. If people can’t check their anger around them, they won’t stay and they won’t be deconverted.

      And, in general, beyond creating a welcoming environment on her blog, I don’t see how burrowing further into our own hatreds and creating othering names for our enemies does much good. I would rather focus on critical words that have justifiable content and not just derision, like “regressivist” or “authoritarian”, etc. Words that are specific and not just a mean way of saying something which is itself potentially neutral.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      If someone who quotes Psalm 14:1 at me gets annoyed by my use of goddist, then it’s pretty much a push.

      I’m a theist. I’d never quote that at you, both because I don’t generally quote the Bible at people and also because I don’t believe what the sentiment expresses. Your use of “goddist” annoys me. Now what?

    • John Morales

      What’s the semantic difference between ‘goddist’ and ‘theist’?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Theist is merely a descriptive term, and so just identifies a position. As we’ve seen, goddist also conveys derision and may well actually identify a different position. For example, it’s debatable whether or not I qualify as a goddist since I don’t do any of the things that people say are what gets them to use the term.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      I’m going into wait-and-see mode on Libby Anne’s blog. I’ll lurk. I may even make a decorously worded comment or two. But primarily I want to see what exactly “a civil tone” entails.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      a decorously worded comment or two

      ‘Tis, I get the feeling you take this all very personally, rather than strategically. Instead of worrying about whether you’ll feel stifled, why not worry about how you can contribute to helping some trapped women see their options beyond the patriarchy in a way that they’ll listen to, when you’re over there?

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      I might make a comment or two if I feel I can contribute to the discussion. I’m a liberal who was a high-level civil servant in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. I know how to be nice to people I disagree with.

    • Ace of Sevens

      To be fair, what she said is that someone had alleged FTB commenters had descended on another blog and abused people. The lack of name-naming bugged me, but she didn’t claim this had actually happened.

    • Contrarian

      “Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive but I picked up on the accommodationist vibes permeating Libby Anne’s OP. Now as I said before, she probably isn’t an accommodationist. If Ophelia Benson vouches for her, then I’ll accept Ophelia’s word. But the OP just reeked of accommodationism.”

      Would you mind being a little more precise? You seem to have some vague fear of “accommodationism” (but not the accommodationism that we all associate with Chris Mooney, as you said), so I’m left trying to puzzle out exactly what you mean by “accommodationism” and exactly how you deduced this from Libby Anne’s post.

  • consciousness razor

    The concern was only that they do not gang up aggressively against non-atheists and non-feminists or use carelessly abusive anti-theist language when they vent since it is only going to shut down theists from engaging.

    Since atheists and feminists are almost certainly going to outnumber them at FtB, it’s very difficult to not appear to “gang up” on people. So that’s a bit out of the question, and I think how “aggressively” we ought to do so depends on what kind of comments we’re getting from a particular non-atheist or non-feminist. If I see someone spewing a bunch of inane or hateful garbage, I have no qualms about taking that on “aggressively,” even if a dozen people before have already “ganged up” on the person “aggressively” as they also should’ve done.

    I also have to wonder what anyone means by “carelessly abusive.” I don’t think that just means insulting or using naughty language, but of course I understand that there is a point where it’s serving no purpose and is simply verbal abuse, which should be discouraged. It just isn’t clear where that point is for any given person, so it isn’t a useful standard to use without a lot of clarification.

    I only enforce a civil tone insofar as I worry about incivility discouraging away many smart people who are used to vigorous, but genial or impersonal, intellectual debate and who would find a mud pit decidedly not worth their efforts to join.

    You’ll notice Pharyngula turns into a “mud pit” because it gets many godbots and assorted trolls who fling the proverbial pile of mud. What I resent, if I’m not reading too much into this, is that those people (i.e., the godbots and trolls) are not worth the effort of smart people, as well as the implication that the regulars there are largely responsible for it being a “mud pit” sometimes — while of course, other times, it’s not like that at all — rather than the folks who barge in and piss all over the rug.

    jamessweet:

    (I once got accused of being a Mormon sympathizer because I said that the baptism for the dead thing was not really worthy of outrage when the LDS church was doing so many utterly despicable things that are real instead of pretend. Yes, really! That apparently makes me a defender of Mormonism, at least at Pharyngula…!)

    At least according to one person, who is not “Pharyngula”…!

    • consciousness razor

      as well as the implication

      I meant to say, “or the implication,” depending on who you want to blame for the mudpittedness.

    • consciousness razor

      Gah, and it should’ve been “depending on whom you want to blame.” English bad.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Calling people names or trying to get at them psychologically in an interpersonal exchange is abusive. It’s just not necessary to call them stupid or what they say idiotic, etc. It’s abusive. It’s bullying. Just focus on, “here’s why you’re wrong or what you’re advocating hurts people”, etc. Especially on the interpersonal level, when you’re not just inveighing against powerful people and institutions, etc.

      As to the ganging up thing, as you said the majority of us here are already atheists and already hostile to patriarchy and faith, etc. If pile-ons or aggressiveness make the ignorant run away before they can get educated because it’s too much for them to process too quickly, then what good has been achieved? Who has been enlightened? There are many other blogs here where atheists can try out our arguments in a training ground or an echo chamber.

      I don’t see the point of being aggressive in ways that drive them away. Always be logically rigorous, always be uncompromising about people’s rights to autonomy and dignity and conscience against religious oppression and repression, etc. But you can do it civilly, without seeing red, etc.

      There are some times when I’ll get a Christian commenter pipe up and say, “I’m a Christian but I agree with you Dan!” and, like, immediately people jump all over them with “WHY DO YOU BELIEVE??” and try to pick a debate with them. To me, it’s like, “let up!” If this Christian comes away feeling like I’m a reasonable guy then there’s hope he’ll keep reading and some other day will engage the harder questions and naturally the debates will emerge. You don’t have to take every Christian who wanders into our blogs as someone who needs to be interrogated and forced to give justification for their existence. Let them develop their willingness to debate at their own rate. Otherwise we just become the atheist equivalent of those Christians accosting everyone they can with “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal lord and savior??”

      There are ways to be “evangelical atheists” without having the vices of evangelical Christians.

      Finally, here’s the question I want you to think about. You responded to my post looking for ways to quibble with or push the envelope of Libby Anne’s policy. Why not look at it the other way and ask not what more concessions to your unencumbered expression on her blog you can squeeze out but ask what ways can you best help her get repressed, trapped, fundamentalist women to both read her blog and deconvert. Instead of making this about our rights to gang up and be aggressive, why not think constructively about effective strategies for helping create a blog for those women who might otherwise have no one reaching out them? Because that’s Libby Anne’s focus (and mine in supporting her). It’s not the stifling of atheist expression as though that were an intrinsic good or a desired ultimate end at all.

    • consciousness razor

      Finally, here’s the question I want you to think about. You responded to my post looking for ways to quibble with or push the envelope of Libby Anne’s policy.

      I did? It’s hard where the envelope is in her “policy,” given what’s been said so far. Of course I respect her right to have whatever policy she wants at her blog, but I think this will be an issue for her so long as it isn’t clear what the policy is.

      For example, I view “goddist” as equivalent to “theist.” I can’t imagine how anyone could be offended by it, especially so that it would be necessary to moderate comments based on that word. Personally, I think that’s utterly ridiculous, but if it’s clear that word isn’t welcome at her blog, that’s fine with me, even though I don’t understand the reasoning behind it.

      Another preference of mine is for blog owners and commenters to regulate incidents in context as they come. I dislike and distrust automated moderation, because readers don’t see what others have been saying which may (or may not) be unacceptable. That can deprive everyone of a lot of learning experiences; and without it, people have the opportunity to continue the dialogue after understanding why something in their comment was inappropriate.

      Why not look at it the other way and ask not what more concessions to your unencumbered expression on her blog you can squeeze out but ask what ways can you best help her get repressed, trapped, fundamentalist women to both read her blog and deconvert.

      Knowing what is allowable will help them. It’s not as if repressed, trapped fundamentalist women aren’t also capable of losing their tempers and going over the line. If they’re also subject to moderation without knowing what is and is not acceptable, then they’ll have trouble being a part of the dialogue just like anyone else would be. If you’re going to make it a point to publicly declare some kind of “policy,” I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask what that policy is and whether it’s fair and reasonable. Nobody loses anything by doing this, and in fact you’ll probably spend much less time on the issue of the policy itself if it’s made clearly in the first place.

      Instead of making this about our rights to gang up and be aggressive, why not think constructively about effective strategies for helping create a blog for those women who might otherwise have no one reaching out them?

      Again, I contend that some amount of verbal “aggression” is often warranted. I’m also not opposed to anyone creating such a blog, but I don’t know what I’m expected to do in this thread to construct one, except to offer some criticism of her policy because it lacks clarity.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      We have the word “theist” to describe theists. I have never encountered “goddist” except in derisive contexts that have always made me assume it was to be taken as an epithet. I couldn’t imagine the word coming out of the mouth of a theist, at least as I’ve been reading it be used.

    • Contrarian

      Yeah, it’s kind of like someone saying, “For example, I view ‘n*****’ as equivalent to ‘black.’ I can’t imagine how anyone could be offended by it … .”

    • consciousness razor

      We have the word “theist” to describe theists.

      I’m obviously aware of that, and I sense derision.

      I have never encountered “goddist” except in derisive contexts that have always made me assume it was to be taken as an epithet.

      Assuming that’s right, you think derision of theism is enough to warrant blocking a comment? Are we not allowed more than one word for a thing to, let’s suppose, convey different dispositions toward it? Or do you consider that unnecessary and therefore an adequate justification by itself?

      I couldn’t imagine the word coming out of the mouth of a theist, at least as I’ve been reading it be used.

      There are plenty of theists who’d never use the word “theist” either, being all fancy and Greek-derived and such, but that’s irrelevant. Even if group X wouldn’t use a word for something, that doesn’t by itself imply group Y shouldn’t use it about X.

      Biologists would never make a serious distinction between “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” so they’d never use them, yet I wouldn’t consider it fair if they blocked any comment with them. That would prevent them from engaging with the occasional creationist with honest questions and a willingness to learn, but who happened to say something incorrectly.

      It happens, but the point is that I never would’ve guessed “goddist” would’ve been flagged for moderation. (That’s too low a threshold, if you ask me, but you didn’t.) You’re begging for the moderation to be misinterpreted if you don’t tell people ahead of time what will get flagged, or note it when they say something you dislike but which you didn’t anticipate in the commenting policy.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I think derision of theists in general as a group, using a derisive term for them as a group, is warrant for moderating the comment if she wants a comments section that is not going to make theists stay away.

      I’ve said before, when I read anything on line refer to “libs” or “dems” I immediately here a Rush Limbaugh dittohead and stop reading out of nausea. I’m not wasting my time with anyone who appropriates his idioms and derides the left wing like that. They’re a waste of my time.

      I would not be surprised if theists who heard terms like “goddist” as a general putdown for all believers just tuned out when they saw the word.

      If Libby wants those readers, she has every right to at least moderate (if not necessarily edit or remove) a comment that uses a disparaging word for that group of people.

    • consciousness razor

      Yeah, it’s kind of like someone saying, “For example, I view ‘n*****’ as equivalent to ‘black.’ I can’t imagine how anyone could be offended by it … .”

      That comparison is offensive to me.

    • Contrarian

      It’s also correct. Deal.

    • John Horstman

      I’ve said before, when I read anything on line refer to “libs” or “dems” I immediately here a Rush Limbaugh dittohead and stop reading out of nausea. I’m not wasting my time with anyone who appropriates his idioms and derides the left wing like that.

      Interesting. I’m a radical Leftist who votes almost exclusively Democrat (lesser of 2 evils in general elections, as politicians’ decisions have real impacts on real people, which I consider to be more important than scoring discursive points in the interest of what are think are ultimately better but presently-not-viable policies, usually), and I use the phrase “Dems” all the time, along with “Rebs”, as a convenient shorthand. I had no idea Limbaugh uses the term, as I don’t listen to him, and I find it extremely unlikely he coined it.

      I’ve also never seen/heard “goddist” ever used, but it does strike me as possibly useful in a way that “theist” isn’t, because it could encompass deists as well, while still distinguishing from supernatural beliefs that don’t involve discrete supernatural entities (e.g. a belief in ki or the universe as a self-conscious collective entity). Still, that may not be how it’s used at all – as I said, I’ve never heard it – but your comment about “Dems” struck me as the perfect example of why context, and not particular words, is most important for communicating/reading meaning. I don’t really see how “Dems” is any more marginalizing than any other term, though I suppose if I only ever encountered it in the context of someone trying to marginalize, that read would make sense. I still don’t think I’d object to it though, because, being NOT a linguistic essentialist, I think it’s the contextual function of words that matter, and I refuse to let intended-to-be-marginalizing speech directed at me bother me (I realize that not everyone is capable of doing this – the fact that I find this trivial does not mean that hate speech is generally appropriate, and the attempt to use a similar argument to defend people running around shouting words that are generally understood to be hateful epithets makes me furious – this is apparently a point that e.g. Penn Jillette fails to grasp, likely due to, at this point, intentionally self-induced privilege blindness).

      On the other hand, I don’t have some absurd sense of entitlement to my views being posted anywhere and everywhere sans moderation, so I’m not sure what the complaining about automatic moderation is about, aside from people used to the privilege of being allowed an unrestricted voice in any/all fora reacting badly to challenges to that privilege. If you want an unrestricted forum, start your own blog, generic whiny FtB commenter.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      In addition to what Dan said, I, as a theist, don’t call myself “goddist”. I call myself “theist”. If you refuse to address me by the name I call myself, that’s not a good way to start anything like a reasonable conversation.

    • Scote

      That really depends, doesn’t it? How much deference do we need to give to people’s self-anointed names for their position? I think it is reasonable to defer to them somewhat, but only that. Theist seems a reasonable, definitional, in fact, antonym for atheist. But I don’t have to follow every attempt at framing. Should I have to call someone a “Right Thinking Theist” if that is what they call themselves? What about having to call someone a “Bright”?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Scote, the issue is when you’re dealing with a simple descriptive term. Choosing the “N” word because “it’s derived from the Latin for black” is being a jerk. You can just use “black” and not the version of the word which is unambiguously abusive.

      Theist is there. To choose “goddist” when all it is is a way of saying “theist” derisively is similarly adding nothing of value but only abuse.

      There are harsh descriptors that are accurate and defensible. Use those when you want to criticize someone.

    • consciousness razor

      There are harsh descriptors that are accurate and defensible. Use those when you want to criticize someone.

      I’m not being inaccurate when I consider theism, and all other varieties of superstitious bunk, worthy of open derision and ridicule. I could certainly defend that position, if it weren’t beside the point that it isn’t obvious what is and is not going to be acceptable to her.

    • Scote

      “Theist is there. To choose “goddist” when all it is is a way of saying “theist” derisively is similarly adding nothing of value but only abuse.”

      To a certain extent the term theist brings with it positive framing that is undeserved. It sounds academic and well thought out. While I’ve never used the term “godist” it is, none the less, accurate and descriptive and not directly comparable to the oppression and racism that accompanies the N word. So I don’t think your argument is directly analogous. Upon consideration, I’d say “Godist” more accurately conveys the position of most theists, who, on average, believe in god because they were brought up that way, not because they have any well thought out coherent system of theology and doctrine, nor a general commitment to theism in general.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Scote,

      Well, the first answer is that you do it when it’s relevant to the discussion to identify that specific a position. I would find it problematic if someone refused to call someone a “Bright” when discussing the position that Brights hold, but instead called them something like “Wights” or “Bwights”. That starts with mocking, not with engaging the position.

      The second answer is that the disconnect can come from both sides. It can come from one side where the person refuses to call them what they call themselves for no real argumentative reason, or the other side defines the term for themselves so that no other position could possibly make sense. To use another atheist example, atheists calling themselves “rationalists” and insisting that theists aren’t and can’t be sets the discussion up so that a theist who feels they use reason is boxed out by definition. “Right-thinking theists” might be the same sort of term, depending on how it’s used. That’s bad, in my opinion.

      Again, if you can’t call someone by what they call themselves, something has gone seriously wrong and needs to be fixed up before the debate can continue.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/ Verbose Stoic

      Scote and consciousness razor,

      I deny, for myself, that the position is just superstitious or irrational or not well thought out. Again, starting a conversation insisting on your position is not the way to indicate that you will be willing to keep an open mind and have an actual debate on the issue. And if you aren’t willing to do that, why in the world would any theist listen or talk to you?

    • Scote

      “Verbose Stoic says:… Again, starting a conversation insisting on your position is not the way to indicate that you will be willing to keep an open mind and have an actual debate on the issue.”

      Actual debates generally do start with each debater insisting their position is true. That’s kind of what a debate is.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Scote,

      Good debates don’t start with both sides trying to set the context so that only their position could seem reasonable. SOPHIST debates do that. Good debates start with a neutral context where each side presents their best arguments for their position. If you insist on starting the debate from the “this is just superstitious” angle, that sets up a context that any argument from anyone that’s religious will be automatically considered suspect. Thus, your opponent will obviously protest that assignment, and then you’ll start arguing over that. Unless the debate really is about whether it is superstitious or not, no progress will be made.

    • lucrezaborgia

      Read some of her stuff on her original blog. Check out the comments. I’ve been a semi-regular reader and commenter on there and this is my first foray onto Ftb via her blog. You can clearly see people managing the discussion in a thoughtful manner with almost no name-calling.

      Personally, I find your entitlement to the word “goddist” to be self-serving. I’ve practically always been an atheist and I never heard the word before today. I can’t in any way see how that word would be productive in a reasonable discussion. Maybe this is an easier way to decide what is and isn’t acceptable to say on Libby Anne’s blog: If you are arguing the point of another poster, you should use act as if you are arguing in an academic paper. You will absolutely not get anyone to listen to you if you simply attack them for having faith. This is an opportunity for you to step out of your comfort zone and see how other people think. Yes, Libby is an atheist, but not all of her readers are. Most of the people who comment on her other blog are also not out to convert anyone…except for the occasional fundamentalist troll who is hell-bent on proving to us why Libby is wrong. Of course, the best way to deal with that? Refer to my way on commenting on Libby’s blog.

      Of course, I could be way off…what do you think Libby?

    • John Morales

      Personally, I find your entitlement to the word “goddist” to be self-serving. I’ve practically always been an atheist and I never heard the word before today.

      Your lexical ignorance is not a compelling argument.

      Are you suggesting that the English suffix -ist, when applied to the transliteration of θεός (theos, which means ‘god’) is productive, but when applied to the actual word ‘god’ is unproductive.

      You will absolutely not get anyone to listen to you if you simply attack them for having faith.

      Because calling someone a goddist is an attack?

      (A bit like calling an ecdysiast a stripper)

      PS How do you feel about ‘supernaturalist’?

    • lucrezaborgia

      “Are you suggesting that the English suffix -ist, when applied to the transliteration of θεός (theos, which means ‘god’) is productive, but when applied to the actual word ‘god’ is unproductive.”

      I’m saying that such a word, regardless of whether or not you feel it is accurate, seems to be used to make one feel superior to people with religious beliefs. To be honest, I’m not a fan of theist either. Not everyone with spiritual beliefs thinks that there is a god or gods.

      “Because calling someone a goddist is an attack?”

      In the context of these blogs and from the little I have read, yes.

      “PS How do you feel about ‘supernaturalist’?”

      It still seems to be a way to ridicule someone with faith.

    • jamessweet

      At least according to one person, who is not “Pharyngula”…!

      :p

      I don’t mean to sound like a typical Pharyngula commentariat-basher. I understand the appeal, and even enjoy it myself from time to time. I definitely prefer it to places where everybody’s supposed to make all nice-y and not swear. It’s just about one notch too high on the “no holds barred” raucousness for my tastes. That’s not a condemnation of the Pharyngula comments section by any means, no more so than I am condemning olives when I say I don’t care for them on pizza.

      It’s also true that compared to places like YouTube, Pharyngula is incredibly tame. And while in some ways Pharyngula comments can be more intense than, say, comments on some major news sites, the general quality of the comments goes a long way towards soothing the effect of the intensity, at least for me.

      But I do find it odd when people deny that the Pharyngula commentariat is intense. You allege yourself that it’s mostly heat in response to the presence of godbotherers; my experience has been that heat can erupt easily even without that presence. It’s not a criticism of Pharyngula, so I don’t understand why certain people so vehemently deny it. It’s a bit of a rough place (though still relatively mild by Internet standards). Those who enjoy that wouldn’t have it any other way. Not all enjoy it. what’s the problem?

  • Sastra

    As you say, Libby Anne’s request seems extremely reasonable. If we atheists think people are too hung up on “tone” at the expense of topic and need to place the focus on substance over style, then the principle works both ways. There’s a huge difference between being an ‘accomodationist’ and adapting to specific circumstances.

    I hope Libby Anne has great success at Freethought Blogs.

  • Al Stefanelli

    One of the BEST things about Freethought Blogs is our diversity. Libby’s contributions only add to that diversity. As most people know, I do not play nice with extremists, but I do play nice with most other people of faith. If I can have it both ways, so can Freethought Blogs. In fact, Freethought Blogs can have it all ways. I wish Libby success by the bucketfuls…

  • mcbender

    I quite like Libby Anne’s blog (having found it only recently and read through the archives), but I am afraid she may end up going the same route as Loftus did.

    One interesting thing I remember her saying at one point was that she feels herself to have more in common with religious feminists than non-feminist atheists. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, nor do I think it will cause her not to fit in at FTB, but it does suggest that she has different priorities for her commentariat (I’ve seen religious reasoning get a pass if it’s leading to feminist ideas, for instance). I can easily imagine many FTB regulars being put off by that (and it rubs me the wrong way personally, as I think bad reasoning is bad reasoning full stop, but I can understand her priorities). I’m not sure how well that sort of paradigm will work here.

    As far as what she believes personally and says in her posts, I think she’ll be a great asset to FTB, provided she stays here. I hope she does.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      religious feminists than non-feminist atheists.

      That makes perfect sense. I haven’t read her on this but I take that just to mean that she shares a deeper connection with those who are concerned with women’s equality than with those who just happen to share a disbelief with her. Sometimes I feel a deeper connection with religious philosophers than with anti-philosophical atheists. That’s because philosophy is more ultimately important to me than atheism, which is only one philosophical position.

      That’s very natural. The patriarchy part of Christian partriarchy may have been the more personally destructive and thwarting part of her experience. If she sees a patriarchy replicating atheist on the one hand and a religious person undermining patriarchy on the other, in brass tacks real world terms it would be wholly understandable she would be sympathetic to the latter person over the former.

      That’s not accommodationism, it’s putting values agreement over beliefs agreement as ultimately most important in cases where one has to choose between the two.

    • mcbender

      Good point, Daniel. I don’t disagree.

      The reason I mentioned this specifically is because I have a feeling that’s the group which she doesn’t want to feel alienated in the comments, and likewise also probably the group most likely to be so.

    • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Alethea H. Claw

      Fuck man, so do I and so would a large number of my fellow horrid raucous pharyngulites! Have you not been following the sagas of elevatorgate; r/atheism/rape jokes; the amazing asshole; Penn’s cunting and Jen’s CUNTO and all the long and wearying rest of that?

      Let’s see – religious people who are a bit daffy about the universe loving everyone, but who think I’m a human and should be treated with respect vs self-important idiots who don’t believe in god but think I’m a substandard piece of meat… Who should I pick? Hmmm.

  • http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com SC (Salty Current), OM

    I’d commented on this a couple of times yesterday at Pharyngula and hadn’t planned to follow up, but since you’re so insistent on continuing to make a fuss and mischaracterize the situation, I will.

    I think that is was good for her to establish the desired tone for her blog from the start for those unfamiliar with it, and people should be expected to abide by it (though of course what is meant by her preferences in various specific situations is something people will have to learn over time, and I hope she’ll be fair to new readers).

    I do not like the way she handled this particular post, though. The original version began with an anecdote from an unnamed commenter that presented FtB commenters in general in a very negative light. No specifics or link were given. I recognize that I can be defensive on this score, but when a story has a ring of “Exhibit B” about it I want to be able to verify it, and I think posting it as fact was inconsiderate. I didn’t love the implication that FtB readers need to be educated about religion or the Right in general, but whatever. And I didn’t care for her contradictory suggestions that there’s a place for all approaches on the one hand but that some other approaches are fundamentally un- or counterproductive on the other.
    Furthermore, I didn’t like her positive response to comments – including to some extent yours – that used her post, unsurprisingly, as an opening to further bash FtB (and particularly Pharyngula) commenters. In the comments, people raised some of the points I have here, and she responded by altering the post to remove some of the sentences about other styles. I thought the revised version was much better, though this was already a problem because the previous comments were responses to the original version.

    Someone then left a long comment about the anecdote, politely requesting the she provide a link. She provided three links to threads at Slacktivist, which seemed to have something to do with an earlier post there that had said something about Greta Christina to which some people had responded. She said that the reader who had emailed her had said that the worst of the comments had been deleted. She also said she (Libby Anne) didn’t know anything about the context. So I was completely confused about what this was supposed to show, and disappointed to see that she had begun her post with it without making any effort to confirm or judge for herself the story’s accuracy.

    When I returned slightly later, the comments about the anecdote were removed, her response with the links was removed, and the anecdote itself was removed. She did say earlier in the comments that she had altered the post, but there’s no note in the post about the specific alterations. The post that people who go there now are reading is completely different from the one that inspired the “pushback.” I think it would have been better to write up a new clarifying post, and to apologize for having posted that anecdote.

    Her blog seems very interesting, and she should absolutely try to develop the audience she wants through creating a certain environment. I’m happy to follow her rules for commenting, or just to read and not comment, and can decide over time if I want to be part of her regular readership. What we don’t need around here is anyone else bashing our real or alleged style. We’ve had quite enough of that.

    • Libby Anne

      I’m really sorry about this. You’re right, I should write a clarifying post. Sorry. :-/

    • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Alethea H. Claw

      Libby Anne, thank you. You have been very good about responding to legitimate criticism and I appreciate that. I will try to keep my raucousness toned down at your place.

      I’m not sure if you know about “exhibit B” or the “Tom Johnson Affair”, which is relevant here. It’s a long and dirty saga in which gnu atheists were vilified without evidence, and as a result we’re somewhat touchy on the topic. Especially those of us who got very badly quote-mined. (Ask Ophelia for more detail, if need be.)

    • Caravelle

      Small nitpick : The Slacktivist blogger left his Typepad blog for Patheos ages ago; that’s where Slacktivist is now. He left the Typepad blog to members of the commentariat who didn’t feel comfortable moving to the other site, and it’s now a group blog called the Slacktiverse that Fred has AFAIK nothing to do with.

      The whole thing Libby Anne’s reader was referring to happened on the Slacktiverse, not Slacktivist.

  • http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com SC (Salty Current), OM

    I’ll add to my remarks above that I have a lot more admiration for her recognizing the problems with the (original) OP and addressing them (in however clumsy a fashion) than I do for those who choose to ignore her changes and apologies and not only agree with the OOP but use it as an opening to rant about us once again.

  • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

    Someone posted multiple comments under different names to sway the debate on your blog? You must be honored.

    I have to say, I never thought of FTB as a hostile place… in fact, I’m more inclined to consider you guys a bunch of proper pussycats (no offense intended). However, I think you’re a pretty homogenous bunch (lemme guess… white, liberals with college degrees who buy “organic”).

    If you want to reach out to the religious, FTB might not be the ideal place to set up a virtual storefront. Sometimes it’s all about who you surround yourself with, which is why I hang out with a lot of libertarians; I enjoy feeling like I’m helping the mentally challenged (well, that, and the drugs).

    It’s a shame people can’t have their own little corners without infiltration, but do you expect less from this species? People have gone into epilepsy support forums and posted flashing GIFs, so I’m not surprised when feminist blogs get vicious rape threats. Angry, but not surprised.

    • Stacy

      Bret, just a heads up: FtB isn’t all white (Black Skeptics and The Crommunist Manifesto have a home here. Don’t know Pharyngula’s demographics but the regular commentariat there are NOT all lily white). And FtB’s readership overall probably hold a more college degrees than that of the average blog–but I, for one, don’t have one.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Someone posted multiple comments under different names to sway the debate on your blog? You must be honored.

      Not really. A little amused though since they were so easy to catch and it made their small-minded arguments look even smaller and their authoritarianism look even more desperate.

  • Scote

    “But already Libby Anne has gotten some indignant pushback from readers who don’t like being told to play nice with anyone.

    Now, I get it that atheists and feminists are quite understandably tired of being told to tone down their self-expression. “

    This issue is inherent with the idea of Free Though Blogs as a brand. PZ sets the tone with the flagship blog, Pharyngula. And that tone is smart but irreverent, uncompromising, mocking, profane and sometimes hostile. Granted, not all the other blogs follow PZ’s example, but I do thin it has an effect on the commenting culture. Libby Anne is attempting to go against the brand and against the culture. That isn’t an issue she can solve on her own.

    If FTB wants to change the brand and the culture it will have to start from the top (PZ’s blog)–but I don’t see that happening.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

      Well it’s not like that.

      It may be like that for some readers, I suppose, but it’s certainly not like that for the bloggers. PZ doesn’t set the tone, any more than anyone else does. I’m not sure what you mean by “the flagship blog” – Pharyngula is certainly the biggest, by a big margin (and Ed’s is the next biggest, also by a wide margin), but that doesn’t make PZ the boss of us (as he would cheerfully and blasphemously confirm).

      FTB is big and various. That’s part of the point.

    • Scote

      “but it’s certainly not like that for the bloggers.”

      Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that that the bloggers took any editorial directives from PZ. I meant to refer to the somewhat bombastic culture that PZ tends to engender by his posts and comment policies. As the largest blog and the largest pool of commenters and as the most significant founding blog at FTB I see it as setting the tone for FTB as a brand, a tone that I see as spilling over into other blogs comment sections, even as those comment sections do have their own culture and regulars. I’d say that John Loftus found that to be the case (though I also think he found his own ideas criticized more than he liked since FTB commenters are smart and quick to pounce on flaws in argumentation (even a bit too quick, sometimes)).

      But, like it or not, FTB is a brand.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

      Sure, FTB is a brand, but part of the brand is variety. And not to put too fine a point on it, B&W is also a brand. It’s almost a decade old. It hasn’t morphed into a shadow of Pharyngula just because it’s on FTB.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Sure, FTB is a brand, but part of the brand is variety. And not to put too fine a point on it, B&W is also a brand. It’s almost a decade old. It hasn’t morphed into a shadow of Pharyngula just because it’s on FTB.

      True dat.

    • Scote

      No, the brand only has variety **up to a point** which is within the brand’s identity. Do you expect that FTB will ask Dana Ulman to join? Or Paul Nelson? Or Chris Mooney? Or John Haught? Chris Steadman? Or even ERV?

      Much of the brand is based on who is asked to join (and who would consider accepting) rather than on directives issued to member blogs once they have joined.

    • Scote

      …and I agree that B&W has its own brand identity, it’s one of the reasons I read your blog and comments more than PZ’s. But I do think your brand has become part of FTB to a certain extent. It may not have changed you, but the perception of you is now seen to one degree or another in the light of FTB, IMO.

      Keep in mind that you were already a good fit for FTB when you were invited, already within the FTB brand–feminist, rational, anti-accomodationalism, pro-human rights and pro-science, and feisty to boot. Not all of those are required for each and every FTB blog–but I’d say you fit into the brand perfectly.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

      Scote – But that’s a broader meaning of “brand,” and it’s also not something new about FTB. Yes of course there are qualities we want and qualities we don’t want, but that’s not really a “brand” – more like a category, or type.

    • Scote

      “Ophelia Benson says:
      February 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm

      Scote – But that’s a broader meaning of “brand,” and it’s also not something new about FTB. Yes of course there are qualities we want and qualities we don’t want, but that’s not really a “brand” – more like a category, or type.”

      Well, yes, that is abroad meaning of brand. But FTB is a brand, nonetheless.

      I trust the FTB brand to invite only fact-based bloggers and not to invite anti-feminists, creationists, milquetoasts, god botherers etc. That’s the FTB brand. And I think that PZ, as the flagship blog, sets much of the tone for the FTB brand. He has just posted a thread specifically supporting Libby Anne’s (and every FTB blogger’s) right to have her own commenting policies). But people follow examples more than words, so I think that there will always be a bit of a conflict in the FTB culture and differing comment policies. I think Reasonable Doubts (a highly recommended podcast–love the Roots of Morality Extra) found that to be the case when they joined.

      You might not like the term brand–perhaps being too reminiscent of Mooneyesque “framing” arguments. But I’d say FTB is very much a brand.

    • http://Templeofthefuture.net James Croft

      Scote makes a good point here. When FTB was announced I was very excited to hear of the initiative, and I expected a very broad range of views and opinions from individuals in the Freethought movement. To an extent, there has been success in this – I enjoy many of the offerings here and they clearly don’t all agree. But I did say at the time that I hoped the format wouldn’t engender and promote an inaccurate picture of freethinkers. I fear that to an extent my concerns have been realized: I would say that a majority of the blogs he represent one broad strand of freethinking, and that there are certainly concerning gaps. This is certainly an extremely valuable resource – indeed an essential one – but I hope it continues to offer ever more diverse voices.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

      James – you mean a certain tatooed friend of yours? :- )

      I think the “brand” does exclude that. Calls for reasoned, civil dialogue, fine; repeated attacks on vocal atheists for being vocal, not so much.

    • http://Templeofthefuture.net James Croft

      I wasn’t thinking of Chris actually – I was thinking more a representative of UU Humanists, perhaps an Ethical Culturist, someone from the Humanist Society, that sort of thing.

      But since you mention it, how is it that FTB excludes repeated attacks “on vocal atheists for being vocal” but not repeated (and in at least one case on Pharyngula admittedly baseless and inaccurate) attacks against vocal atheists for being vocal about other vocal atheists? I can take the vitriolic language, exaggeration and posturing that sometimes characterizes discussion on some of these blogs, but it’s the blatant double standard that truly frustrates me. It just seems so dishonest.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I think this is true only insofar each of our readerships are composed of the overflow from Pharyngula. PZ’s the main attraction to the network, so we get many of our new readers through him in that way.

      But after that, individual bloggers’ personalities set certain tones of their own which influence who sticks around each blog and who comments and what they talk about, etc. Our personalities are pretty different and we draw and keep different portions of the total pool of FTB readers. And we even have some of our own readers who are primarily interested in us and what we do individually. They contribute to the tone of our individual comments sections more than Pharyngula does.

      So, I find my comments section is in many ways like it was before I came to FTB but now with the occasionally stronger Pharyngulesque twist and with a wider audience feel. I distinctly feel like there are just more people here and in particular more people of raised consciousnesses in various areas that go beyond my own, and that’s very exciting.

      Back in August, as I moved, I remember remarking that I thought a bloggers’ commenters were a reflection of the blogger and I was proud of what my comments sections said about me. There really was a certain simpatico that I felt with the average CWH reader. But gaining a wider, less niche, audience means inherently getting a wider range of personalities and temperaments and I’ve enjoyed hosting a much bigger party with more varied voices. It’s broadened me and it’s challenged me more, and those are really great things.

      The downside has never been a more aggressive commentariat in general. The only Pharyngulite drawback has been that I have are just the more scientistic readers who are hostile to philosophy. That’s not even PZ’s fault—he’s somewhat ambivalent about philosophy but not really anti-philosophy in any categorical way. In some ways he’s unusually appreciative of philosophy. But since his is a science blog, he stocks us with a lot of science-first readers, among whom there is an anti-philosophical contingent. It is very hard for a few of them to tolerate any metaphysics that I or my guest blogger Eric Steinhart do. Usually my ethics stuff is vigorously debated and there’s an overwhelmingly anti-realist tilt to the general comments, but the very legitimacy of doing that kind of philosophy is not constantly being thrown into question, the way the stuff about metaphysics is.

      Finally, even when I did write some posts calling for atheists not to call religious people stupid, etc., I really wasn’t swarmed with dissenting Pharyngulites fighting for the right to call people stupid. I had a mostly positive response, with just a few vigorous dissents and a lot of minor qualifications. The only commenter who threw a fit and got really offended by me and swore off my blog was someone who discovered me here but was a big fan of my blog in specific before my pro-civility stance so outraged him.

      So, in sum, the point of these rambling thoughts is to say, my readers really feel like my readers, except when there are the occasional readers who hate philosophy and just would never have been reading a philosophy blog in the first place, were it not here on FTB. Otherwise, the Pharyngulites who like me stay here and the others politely stay away for the most part. I and others who have tones different than PZ’s probably inauspiciously pick up a lot of readers and commenters who find him or his comments sections too abrasive. And while my pro-civility stances involve some philosophical disagreements with PZ, and some of his readers debated them with me, ultimately it hasn’t led to any ugliness or any disruption of my blog comments section functioning as I’d wish. My views are respected and they’re basically civil commenters as it is, so there’s been no problem directly related to that. Most of the acrimony ever in the comments section was directed at Eric Steinhart’s metaphysics posts and the controversy surrounding those was probably in no small part due to his mixing them with controversial posts on Wicca and atheistic religion, which also didn’t go over well.

  • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

    I actually agree with most of what you’ve said within the post itself, Daniel, but since you appear to be writing it in response to objections made by several commenters including me over at Libby’s, I feel as though you are inadvertently mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our objections. As SC points out above, several of the commenters at Libby Anne’s awesome blog felt the need to turn her reasonable attempt to lay out a blogging policy (the execution of which was admittedly problematic but then she acknowledged it and worked on fixing it! cos she’s awesome!) into a general statement of best strategies and practices, which in turn allowed them to do exactly what you and Libby both appear to agree is not cool or useful – namely bashing other people for using different strategies and creating different environments. We took issue with that; I specifically dislike the claim that environments like the one Libby is creating are any more “welcoming” than other, less polite environments, because as you point out above, they’re really not for everybody, but a subset of the potential audience, and as usual I take issue with being erased. I find that blogs with policies like Libby’s are blogs on which I feel uncomfortable commenting. I am constantly checking my words and trying to tone down my expression, trying to hold back my anger behind a veneer of politeness, and being who I am, I don’t want to spend any more time doing that than I already do. So yeah, I won’t probably comment there very much. *shrug* And that’s fine. I wish her luck – she’s an awesome blogger and I’m a fan. I just don’t stand for the environments in which I feel most welcomed and helped being characterized as Not Helping and unwelcoming. That’s all.

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      P.S. And as SC kindly pointed out elsewhere, you make the same objectionable generalization when you characterize blogs using this style as “emotionally safe environment[s] in which every one feels liberated to speak freely and debate productively.” I do not find them to be emotionally safe, and I do not feel liberated to speak freely at all. I know for a fact that there are others who do not either. You acknowledged our existence elsewhere in your post, so please stop referring to everyone else as “everyone.”

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Okay, maybe it’s not everyone. My point is that in environments where the anger is neutralized and reasoning can take place in a safe way there can be a lot more productive exchanges. Now, if you can never be a part of those environments but only ever be in the environments where you have full vent to vent and don’t have to be polite to anyone else, I don’t think that’s the best place to be emotionally but I fully respect that you know what you need emotionally.

      What Libby wants to create may not be able to meet the needs for everyone (that is, actually, right there in the title of my post, so I did get that), but it is the approach for the most broadly inclusive type of environment as it excludes only those who are least capable of standing the presence of their opponents.

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      Gods am I sick of my emotional state being diagnosed by strangers. What an assholish thing to say. And hey, totally not neutralized by the “polite” phrasing!

      I choose to generally stay out of those environments online, as I live in those environments offline. They are not places where I feel safe, or where I feel I can speak freely. And I have no problem with the presence of my opponents – I have a problem with being told that I have to play nice with people who are engaging in oppressive behaviors, which a lot of religious people and antifeminists are. You can stop mischaracterizing us now.

    • consciousness razor

      I have a problem with being told that I have to play nice with people who are engaging in oppressive behaviors

      Exactly. I’d like to know which terms are off-limits for religious commenters, if any, but I think the problem has very little to do with specific terms anyway. One can be offensive and oppressive with careful use of “polite” language, so at best, any such list would be inadequate.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Look, Libby is an atheist and the majority of the readers are going to be atheists, fears that atheists are going to be helpless against bullying theists because they’re being asked to be sensitive to the possible presence of theists among the readership are overblown. If this was somewhere besides FTB, I could understand the anxieties. What you’re not seeming to grasp is that this is a correction of the particular slant of FTB so that one corner of FTB is more open to outsiders. Libby’s having company over so while you can still criticize bad religion as truthfully as you like, just use your indoor voice.

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      I’m getting the impression that you’re not hearing what I’m saying. I’m partly getting that impression because you’re being extraordinarily condescending. “Use your indoor voice.” Christ.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Sigh, I wasn’t addressing you with the in-door voice remark, Classical Cipher, I was addressing consciousness razor. My point is that what Libby’s called for is the equivalent of the trivial request to be polite in tone, not in substance, because constructive dialogue with outsiders is what’s being requested.

      I get what you’re saying. You’re saying that Libby was wrong to say that neutral environments that minimize emotional expression are the inherently most welcoming of everyone. They exclude those who need venues for venting against oppression. I get that. By “inclusive of everyone” Libby probably just meant “inclusive of the whole ideological spectrum”, not “inclusive of the whole emotional spectrum”. But is this worth fighting over? The blog is not for you. Others are. What’s the problem?

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      That you were being condescending to consciousness razor and not directly to me is immaterial to me. Yes, it’s my opinion that it’s generally worth attempting to clarify when people are universalizing claims that aren’t actually universal.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      That you were being condescending to consciousness razor and not directly to me is immaterial to me. Yes, it’s my opinion that it’s generally worth attempting to clarify when people are universalizing claims that aren’t actually universal.

      It wasn’t condescension. It was a lighthearted metaphor. A way of blowing off the issue as not such a big deal. And your clarifications of universalizations are pettiness in this case.

    • Contrarian

      Classical Cipher, if you haven’t yet developed the ability to cut past a condescending tone and deal with the logical argument behind it, perhaps you might benefit from a blog whose comment policy does not permit such condescending comments. Then you might be able to actually engage in teh argument.

      Certainly, I wouldn’t recommend that you participate in many of the other comment threads here at FTB. You probably wouldn’t do well at all in some of the more freewheeling blog comment threads, such as Pharyngula’s, where as a matter of course one is expected to be able to see through any derision and ridicule to the actual argument of the post.

    • Contrarian

      *the, excuse me.

    • consciousness razor

      My point is that what Libby’s called for is the equivalent of the trivial request to be polite in tone, not in substance, because constructive dialogue with outsiders is what’s being requested.

      When a theist politely mentions how they regret the unending torments awaiting me in the afterlife, I should not refer to them as a “goddist,” as that would set the wrong tone and be destructive of the dialogue. Makes perfect sense.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      When a theist politely mentions how they regret the unending torments awaiting me in the afterlife, I should not refer to them as a “goddist,” as that would set the wrong tone and be destructive of the dialogue. Makes perfect sense.

      Calling them a “Goddist” is somehow going to be the magic bullet to dissuade them? Please explain to me the logic or the psychology of how that works. Explain how having an abusive term on hand is going to do the trick instead of calmly and with moral conviction simply explaining the moral offense of what they have said and why you find it troubling.

      I don’t think you grasp that abandoning respect and using an epithet surrenders your moral and intellectual high ground and sets up the other person’s defenses.

      Are you really interested in communicating with these people? Are you concerned they deconvert? Or is this just about your lashing out? And if it’s just about lashing out why do you need Libby’s blog to do it? Is Pharyngula going away or something?

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      “Everybody finds this welcoming and safe!” “I don’t.” “Stop being so petty.” *rolleyes* I’ve done what I can to explain what is irritating me so much about your post and your claims. If you don’t mean everybody, don’t say everybody, or be prepared for those who conveniently aren’t part of everybody to tell you so.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      “Everybody finds this welcoming and safe!” “I don’t.” “Stop being so petty.” *rolleyes* I’ve done what I can to explain what is irritating me so much about your post and your claims. If you don’t mean everybody, don’t say everybody, or be prepared for those who conveniently aren’t part of everybody to tell you so.

      In the broader context, you admitted yourself I had acknowledged your existence elsewhere in the post. Including in the title. And this is the closest we can get to everybody being accommodated because it at least accounts for the entire ideological spectrum being heard, if not the entire emotional spectrum. That’s the most that can be accommodated because the more you let the uncompromisingly emotional on both sides, they will both alienate each other and everyone of moderate temperament.

    • Scote

      “You probably wouldn’t do well at all in some of the more freewheeling blog comment threads, such as Pharyngula’s, where as a matter of course one is expected to be able to see through any derision and ridicule to the actual argument of the post.”

      That may be true to some degree, but Pharyngula is also prone to self-righteous dogpiling by both PZ and the horde. Not all the arguments in the comment sections are truly based in well grounded, well thought rational arguments. While I do enjoy PZ’s occasional “FU” posts, I also think the level of profane and self-righteous out-group hostility and in-group self-congratulations can and does lower the level of rational discourse in certain threads, with people who make supportable claims and arguments sometimes being sworn at and pounced on.

    • consciousness razor

      Calling them a “Goddist” is somehow going to be the magic bullet to dissuade them?

      I don’t believe in magic. If I think a word can express a particular meaning or emotion better than another word, I would prefer to use it.

      Explain how having an abusive term on hand is going to do the trick instead of calmly and with moral conviction simply explaining the moral offense of what they have said and why you find it troubling.

      First, it isn’t abusive. Second, I made no claim that any word makes any argument by itself or that it should be used in lieu of one. The absence of a word likewise changes nothing substantial, so I have no idea why you think this is relevant.

      This entire time, my point is that I wouldn’t have guessed simply by her expressed desire for “respect” toward religious people, that it meant a comment using a word like “goddist” would’ve been automatically blocked. That means the way she’s vaguely described her policy (and the way you’ve defended it in vague terms) is ineffective at conveying what is expected. It will continue to be a problem for her commenters so long as she doesn’t make it clear what the rules actually are.

      I don’t think you grasp that abandoning respect and using an epithet surrenders your moral and intellectual high ground and sets up the other person’s defenses.

      I don’t respect views which ought to be disrespected. I’ve surrendered nothing. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a derisive phrase for something ridiculous. And no, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that people holding ridiculous views wouldn’t characterize as ridiculous.

      Are you really interested in communicating with these people?

      Yes, and that includes communicating my emotions openly and honestly. You can’t hear the tone of my voice or read my visual cues on the internet, so to do that I have to use my vocabulary.

      Are you concerned they deconvert?

      I’m concerned that they stop fucking with people. If I piss them off in the process of telling them how despicable their views are, it isn’t necessarily the case that they’ll continue to hold those views or that they’ll dig in deeper. Personally, being confronted with the ridiculousness of religion is how I started to realize it myself. It wasn’t the easiest thing to deal with. I found the world wasn’t all unicorn farts and rainbows, but I started thinking.

      Or is this just about your lashing out?

      I’ve repeatedly said my concerns are about the rules being vaguely defined at best, and you’ve given no response whatsoever about that.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’ve not given response about her rules because their hers and not mine. If all you need is simple clarifications that’s fine. I don’t think it’s crucial that they be spelled out in detail. I think if she lays down guidelines and then figures out particular cases people will get the hang of it in time.

      As to the other points, I didn’t mean to imply you needed to respect bad ideas, I’m talking about respecting people. Calling them a derisive word is not respecting them. You can be honest in ways that do not give an unfiltered expression to all your emotions. Civil respect means recognizing that your emotions are not always the most important thing. Yes, the fullest mutual intimacy would allow for full expression of emotion and thought. In public, in civic situations, it’s appropriate we tell the truth but curb some of our feelings so as to allow a civil exchange.

      So, if you want to get through to these people, don’t use a term that is likely to strike them as combative. That’s respecting them where trying to vent your emotions at them would risk coming off as an attempt to bully them and not as pristine “honesty”.

    • Scote

      “Calling them a derisive word is not respecting them. “

      I’d say that most Christians consider themselves *Christian*, believers in the one true god and in the only true faith, not “theists”-a term that could be said to imply that there are other legitimate faiths and gods. Will the term “theist” be banned, too?

      One of they key points made by anti-accomodationists is that anybody can choose to be offended by anything. Indeed, Libby Anne has the right to set the line anywhere she chooses, as I have the right to say it is silly, or not.

      But, I’d say that the term “godist” can actually serve to deconstruct arguments, because it does away with the academic connotations of “theism”. And “godist” is a literal translation of “theist”. If someone called me someone who lives “without god” or an “agodist” should I be offended? Both are literal translations of “atheist”. Perhaps greek Christians should be offended by “theist” since it is the same as “godist”?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      One of they key points made by anti-accomodationists is that anybody can choose to be offended by anything.

      I’m an anti-accommodationist and I don’t think that’s true. Some things it is wrong to get offended by and some things it is right to get offended by. Offense is a moral emotion, if you or something of high importance has not in fact been treated without due respect then you have no right to offense. If it has, you do.

    • Scote

      “I’m an anti-accommodationist and I don’t think that’s true. Some things it is wrong to get offended by and some things it is right to get offended by. Offense is a moral emotion, if you or something of high importance has not in fact been treated without due respect then you have no right to offense. If it has, you do.”

      I don’t think your declaration really solves this issue. The offended person merely need claim they haven’t been treated with due respect.

      But, by your definition, is being called a “godist” (a literal translation from the Greek “theist”) “something of high importance” not treated with “due respect”? The term isn’t blasphemy in any way I can see. It isn’t an insult to any particular religion or religious belief. It doesn’t mock any specific race, creed, gender or national origin. It isn’t lookist. It isn’t profane. It isn’t a word that has a history off being used against an oppressed minority. I don’t think it meets your criteria.

    • kisekileia

      I don’t understand why people are going straight from “you have to be civil at Libby’s blog” to “you have to play nice with oppressive and anti-feminist types at Libby’s blog”. The two are nothing close to equivalent. Love, Joy, Feminism has had a significant liberal theist contingent among the commenters for a long time, most of whom object just as much to oppressive, anti-feminist, fundamentalist theology as the atheists there do. Libby has never tried to placate people who use their religion to hurt others.

    • Contrarian

      I wonder what proportion of the general population of a given country feels the way you do. More precisely, what proportion of people feel that those policies which stifle completely free expression in order to prevent discussion from become personal and thus unproductive are unwelcoming and stifling.

      As a rule of thumb, if you want to persuade someone in an arbitrary setting, you have to be careful not to wound that person’s ego. Perhaps not so many people in the wider population are as able to detach their egos from their beliefs as you are (do you like that flattery?); in that case, if you are indeed in a small minority, it would not be a great mischaracterization to identify them as “everyone.”

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      Yeah, except it erases our existence and all. I mean, not like that matters or anything. *rolleyes* (Look, it really irritates a lot of people who have been marginalized for various reasons to be told that “everybody” doesn’t need to include them. It’s incredibly frustrating.)
      And you’re taking it as a given that a debate that becomes personal or insulting is per se unproductive and that the strategy of not wounding people’s egos is necessarily the best one all the time. That’s under debate and has been for a long time – it’s not a given at all. I deconverted from a destructive political ideology at Pharyngula having had my (at the time, extremely inflated) ego battered to bits, and once again, I know for a fact I’m not the only one. So again, please stop universalizing your preferences. It’s really frustrating.

    • Contrarian

      I do not think you carefully read my post. Observe how you have constructed a strawman:

      * I wrote: “As a rule of thumb, if you want to persuade someone in an arbitrary setting, you have to be careful not to wound that person’s ego.”
      * You wrote: “you’re taking it as a given that a debate that becomes personal or insulting is per se unproductive and that the strategy of not wounding people’s egos is necessarily the best one all the time.”

      My thesis: “What proportion of people feel that those policies which stifle completely free expression in order to prevent discussion from become personal and thus unproductive are unwelcoming and stifling[?]”

      Note that you did not address it. Instead, you seem to have assumed that my question was rhetorical (it was not) and then reasoned that I must be incorrect by anecdote: “I deconverted … having had my … ego battered to bits, and once again, I know for a fact I’m not the only one.”

      Whether or not people respond well to ego-deflating personal attacks coupled with well-reasoned arguments is an empirical question. I had hoped that perhaps you might shed some light on it. Perhaps you still might.

      PS- First: In my comment, I’m wondering about the relative sizes of the populations of people who shut their brains down at harsh personal criticism and people who can deal with harsh personal criticism. I’m not wondering about the relative sizes of dominant and marginalized groups.

      Second: So what if marginalized people find that being told “everybody” does not include them is “irritating”? Often, statistically, it doesn’t. If your marginalized group constitutes 5% or 1% or 0.1% of the population, then, roughly speaking, everybody is different from you. Doesn’t matter how you feel about it.

      PPS- The only way I know of “erasing someone’s existence” is killing them. Presumably you’re referring to something else.

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      Here is where we appear to be miscommunicating:

      what proportion of people feel that those policies which stifle completely free expression in order to prevent discussion from become personal and thus unproductive are unwelcoming and stifling.

      This is what I’m reading: What proportion of people feel that those policies… are unwelcoming and stifling? (Those policies being those which stifle completely free expression in order to prevent discussion from become personal and thus unproductive.) You seem now to have meant “what proportion of the population finds discussions which become personal unproductive? also, what proportion of the population finds those policies unwelcoming and stifling?” If that’s what you meant, then I’m sure it’s obvious to you where that part was derailed.
      Yes, it is an empirical question, and at this point I don’t think the data is in.

    • Contrarian

      Yes, that’s what I meant. I think we’re good now :)

  • Kat in AZ

    I can certainly understand the need for Libby Anne wanting to request commenters be understanding and, hopefully, encouraging for the questioning believers who are doing more questioning and less believing. I agree wholeheartedly.

    I find that it is easier to identify myself as a Humanist and harder to identify myself as an Athiest because of all the Anti-theists who are very “in-your-face” with their hate for all religions. I am more of a “Whatever helps you sleep at night, as long as you don’t inflict it upon anyone else” kind of person.

    Unfortunately, some Anti-theists are as ugly and unwavering in their hate as the Fundies are. It is a bit depressing and at times, not only daunting, but frusteratingly vile. How can we help encourage people to question more & “believe” less if we insult their intelligence? I certainly do not want anything to do with any person or group that would freely lob insults to anyone that doesn’t feel as strongly as they do about the topic of Faith and Religion.

    I was very fortunate to be raised by agnostics, and my mother is more than proud to say that when it comes to the supposed “god gene”, she completely missed that allelle, and therefore it didn’t pass to her children. If it is anything, it may be latent in my brother, but I will have my new Humanist voice to help him step away from any theist belief he may have left. :-D

    • Achrachno

      Thank you, Kat, for that comment. I just wanted you to know it was read and appreciated.

    • echidna

      Kat,

      It is true that some atheists are unwavering in their hate for religions, and this is clearly because of the damage religions do. I don’t see atheists unwavering in their hate for religious people because they are religious, unlike some religious people who hate atheists simply because they are atheists.

      It seems to me that one key idea that Christians seem to hold that is terribly destructive is that they believe that, as long as they are following their consciences, then they are automatically doing something that is sanctioned by God, and therefore good. IOW, if their intentions are good, that’s all that matters, because God will take care of the rest. They are guided.

      In my view, this is the mechanism that allows good people to do evil things.

      It also means that any comment that points out flaws in either their religion or the results of the religion (e.g. gay suicides) is considered an very personal attack either on their own conscience, or their intelligence.

      Have you ever seen mathematicians argue? The arguments are very heated, and this works because the correctness of the argument can be validated objectively. It’s not personal. The problem with religion is that there is no validation. There is no statement that an atheist could make that is gentle enough to not cause offence. Atheists cause offence simply by their existence. There is no equivalence with fundamentalists.

    • kisekileia

      Agreed!

    • John Morales

      Unfortunately, some Anti-theists are as ugly and unwavering in their hate as the Fundies are. It is a bit depressing and at times, not only daunting, but frusteratingly vile. How can we help encourage people to question more & “believe” less if we insult their intelligence? I certainly do not want anything to do with any person or group that would freely lob insults to anyone that doesn’t feel as strongly as they do about the topic of Faith and Religion.

      So, Fundies are ugly and unwavering in their hate, as are some Anti-theists.

      (Well, nice to see you’re don’t feel as strongly as they do about the topic of Faith and Religion)

      PS What’s with the random capitalisation? :)

  • Stacy

    Dan, Libby Anne–

    I love Pharyngula. And I already love Love, Joy, Feminism.

    I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school–or that it’ll shock anyone–if I point out that the Pharyngulite Horde love to chew things over, in detail.

    But we can sheathe our sharp claws and forbear using our sniny, sniny fangs when it’s called for, I know we can. :)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I love Pharyngula too. Just because I have some philosophical differences with PZ don’t mean on balance I don’t love his blog or a lot of the virtues of the commentariat.

    • Stacy

      I got that. I agree with you.

  • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

    Daniel, on my present blog I’m getting a steady influx of Christians that I didn’t have here at FtB. You should thank me for going back since our common shared goal is to change the religious landscape. I took a pay cut to do so. Will anyone at FtB chip in for my decision? ;-)

    I didn’t share publicly all my reasons for going back, but another one of them was the mean-spirited nature of just a few of the bloggers in how they treat people, even other atheists. They exhibit, in some cases, a mean-spirited atheism and I’m not talking about the fact that people disagree with me.

    • grung0r

      The secret conspiracy of mean atheist bloggers who meet in smokey rooms to figure out how to keep your book from becoming a best seller continues apace, I see. Perhaps telling them one more time about how only you are qualified to analyze theology will help!

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      This is why I left. I’m making a difference, that’s what I know.

    • grung0r

      What is why you left? You left because a commenter on a different blog then your own derisively paraphrased you? That seems…silly, to say the least.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      Again, idiocy. The post you linked to had nothing to do with it and I feel no reason to tell you.

    • grung0r

      You “don’t have to tell me”(no “you’re not my mom!” or “your not the boss of me!” thrown in there for good measure?)? I’m not 100% sure what it is you don’t have to tell me since the subject of your post changes mid-sentence(it seems that it’s not only your psychology that drops to an elementary school level when challenged), but I agree, you don’t have to tell me(I’m not your mom).

      Still, if the thing you don’t have to tell me is why you left freethought blogs, you might want to consider changing that policy. Not only is it rude to level charges against one part of a larger group without naming names, it is cowardly in the extreme. I guess we shouldn’t except anything less though. Your intellectual cowardice has been demonstrated enough times to put it beyond doubt.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      Sheesh.

      Why do I bother responding to people who ARE cowards who hide behind anonymous names and who are not making a comparable difference who have probably never read much of anything I have written? If it weren’t for the vile and/or disingenuous nature of their comments I wouldn’t.

      I think at some point I will turn my guns on these atheists. At this point it wouldn’t take much.

    • Scote

      John,

      I’m not familiar with the accusations leveled at you, so I give you some benefit of the doubt. But so far you defenses haven’t really included citations and factual support, instead you just seem to be calling people uncivil and claiming yourself to be better than them and claiming martyrdom for having to deal with such people.

      I think your posts in this thread can be considered a test of your ability to debate and so far you are, by my impression, loosing. If you are as good as you seem to think you are at argumentation perhaps you should step up your game and demonstrate that ability rather than just reverting to the kind of personal attacks you claim to be above.

    • grung0r

      I think at some point I will turn my guns on these atheists. At this point it wouldn’t take much.

      Holy shit dude. It’s always been obvious you respond incredibly poorly to criticism, but this is beyond the pale. You need to take that shit back, and right quick. Even if you meant it metaphorically(which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense frankly, given that argue with us atheists all the time), it sounds REALLY bad, especially after complaining that people are cowards for hiding behind anonymous names. You could get in serious legal trouble for that comment. I would rescind it as quickly as possible.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      I’m serious. I just may turn my guns on atheists, really! At this point I no longer care. Some of them don’t care. Why should I?

    • Scote

      “I just may turn my guns on atheists, really!”

      Of course you are welcome to do so. Nobody should be above criticism. But if your petulant performance in this thread is any indicator of your abilities I don’t think that any atheists have anything to worry about from your “guns”.

      Your story, education and position on religion makes you someone I really want to like and respect, but you make it really hard to do.

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      Hey, John Loftus? I know that other people have already called you out for this, but I’ll be really specific and really clear: I think you are trying to say that you want to argue against some atheists in the future – to attack them using your rhetorical and intellectual skills. If so, you need to not use the word “guns” metaphorically in the way that you have in several comments here and elsewhere, because it appears indistinguishable from a death threat. People are legitimately confused about which you mean, right now. I am not saying this as an attempt to troll you. I don’t know you at all and bear you no particular grudge. That being said, your language here looks really bad.

      P.S. Your attempts to discredit commenters by pointing out that they use pseudonyms is silly and privileged and fails to take into account the many legitimate reasons including physical safety and a history of online stalkers that people might “hide” behind a nym.

    • Scote

      “People are legitimately confused about which you mean, right now. “

      Seemed to clearly be a metaphor to me, just like the “blow away the competition” tweet by a Canadian sales manager was, though the tone of JWL’s posts does have a bit of the depressed “I really don’t care” attitude that some people who have nothing left to live for express.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      Actually I’ve already decided to do this. It’s just a matter of timing.

    • RickR

      Jeez. Good riddance.

    • http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ John W. Loftus

      I want to sincerely apologize for the careless use of words earlier. When I said I will turn my guns on atheists I thought, innocently enough, that it would be understood metaphorically. After all, I’m an atheist. What I meant is that I’m tired of trying to keep the peace between atheist communities, organizations and the various people themselves. I have only criticized one or two prominent atheists in six years of blogging. I figured believers would do that job. I don’t have to. But since being here I see it’s a no holds barred type of atheism. And I’m game. No violence was ever intended by my words. I’m a gentle man. Again, please accept my apologies.

    • John Morales

      Good on you.

    • echidna

      I’m glad to hear it.

    • The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa)

      apology accepted.

  • remysecor

    “Preaching to the choir”: coincidentally, that’s exactly what I had been thinking after spending another few hours, – thanks to the Kindle Fire, a flawed but addicting little device – wandering through the FT blogs rather than spending the time reading.

    I am dismayed by the level of vitriol and contempt for believers (of whom I am not one), which is pretty much indistinguishable from the vitriol and contempt of what Andrew Sullivan calls “Christianists” for non-believers. Were I in the early stages of questioning my belief, it’s likely I would be repelled rather than attracted.

    I’ve been an atheist longer than, I suspect, most of your bloggers or commentators have been alive, but excepting when religion intersects with politics, my position has always been that I will not try to convert anyone who does not try to convert me. (Well, I give an evangelist one free throw; if the person continues to press me after being told to lay off, I feel free to respond appropriately.)

    Life is hard. If believing in something, be that animist spirits, nirvana, reincarnation, the Tao, or some version of the Middle Eastern God, gives one comfort, helps one get through the day, then “no harm, no foul.”

    It is beyond foolish to lump all believers into the category of dumb nuts. The aforementioned Andrew Sullivan is not dumb. He may be a libertarian and a closet misogynist, but he is not dumb. And if his friend Christopher Hitchins was unable to convert him, nobody at FTB is likely to be able to. On TTBOOK yesterday, there was an interview with an astrophysicist who became a Jesuit (assigned to the Vatican if I remember correctly) because “something was missing”. He, quite obviously, has no trouble accepting the real age of the universe but, for whatever reason, he needs faith and has found a way to reconcile the science with his faith.

    Atheists should focus their energy on fighting the encroachment of religion into politics, not on conversion. And, may I suggest, an oblique approach might be more successful than the “God doesn’t exist, period” approach. Namely, even though there is the occasional nod to non Mid-Eastern faiths in the blogs, most of the energy is directed toward belief in that “God”. If atheists, instead, responded to attacks by the politically active faithful by pointing out the effect of their acts on other believers – even other Christians, since in America it is the Christian Right, and not all Christians, who are dangerous – we might make more headway in stopping their mix of faith and politics. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. A coalition with believers who are not “Christianists” would be more powerful and more likely to succeed than a realtively small group of atheists or agnostics (who, I note, tend also to be derided regularly on these blogs for, I take it, not being sufficiently “pure” in their atheism). But such a coalition is possible only if the atheist acknowledges the right of non-atheists to their faiths and treats them with respect rather than contempt.

    I see no point in trying to convert people who don’t want to be converted. It is just as obnoxious to verbally attack a believer as it is for a believer to verbally attack a non-believer. If the point of FTB is simply to allow a space for atheists to vent their contempt for believers, well, it’s a wide and free internet. So be it. As currently structured, however, I think Libby Ann and John Loftus are right in their concern that FTB is not a comfortable space for the questioner of faith.

    • grung0r

      Were I in the early stages of questioning my belief, it’s likely I would be repelled rather than attracted.

      vs.

      Atheists should focus their energy on fighting the encroachment of religion into politics, not on conversion

      vs.

      And, may I suggest, an oblique approach might be more successful than the “God doesn’t exist, period” approach.

      vs.

      I see no point in trying to convert people who don’t want to be converted

      vs.

      As currently structured, however, I think Libby Ann and John Loftus are right in their concern that FTB is not a comfortable space for the questioner of faith.

      Cognitive dissonance, they name is remysecor.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

      Libby Anne is not another John Loftus, and she doesn’t have an overall concern “that FTB is not a comfortable space for the questioner of faith.” She wants to be careful that her blog remains a comfortable space for the questioner of faith. She likes FTB.

    • carlie

      So you’ve been an atheist longer than most bloggers have been alive, but you’re confident that if you were a believer and if you were in the early stages of deconverting, you’d be repelled by strong vitriolic tactics. On what basis can you possibly believe that, if you’ve been an atheist most of your life/for so long?

      I was a devout Christian for over 30 years, and my deconversion was hastened by the no-holds-barred tone taken towards Christianity. Does my anecdote of personal experience beat your thought experiment?

    • lucrezaborgia

      No, it doesn’t. It merely reflects how broad the human experience is.

    • John Morales

      Really. You are the same person who wrote “You will absolutely not get anyone to listen to you if you simply attack them for having faith.”, right? ;)

  • John Morales

    I’m saying that such a word, regardless of whether or not you feel it is accurate, seems to be used to make one feel superior to people with religious beliefs.

    On what basis do you make that determination, given you’ve asserted that “I never heard the word before today”?

    To be honest, I’m not a fan of theist either. Not everyone with spiritual beliefs thinks that there is a god or gods.

    No, but (definitionally), every theist does.

    “Because calling someone a goddist is an attack?”

    In the context of these blogs and from the little I have read, yes.

    Uh-huh. Your rapidity in weighing the pros and cons as discussed here is impressive.

    “PS How do you feel about ‘supernaturalist’?”

    It still seems to be a way to ridicule someone with faith.

    Is it not the truth, though?

    When stating the truth is considered ridicule by someone, perhaps that someone should consider the implications.

    PS I have faith that I shan’t trip and break a leg next time I get up from my chair, but I’m no supernaturalist.

    • John Morales

      Oops. The above is a reply to this comment by lucrezaborgia.

    • Beth

      When stating the truth is considered ridicule by someone, perhaps that someone should consider the implications.

      Even when it is undeniably true, calling someone fat can be a mean taunt meant to ridicule and silence the other person. Context matters. So does tone.

      The word Goddist comes across as mean spirited, used to ridicule and silence those it is directed at. That perception is not altered even if can also be considered a true statement.

  • Daniel

    Coming out of a strong religious tradition can be terrifying and absolutely emotionally shattering. People in that position need support and encouragement and understanding. We need our anger and fear to be validated. But at the same time, we need to be treated carefully, because we’ve been taught a lot of nasty things about people who don’t agree with our former beliefs. Vitriolic anti-Christian/theist commentary does not make us feel safe, and it reinforces the negative stereotypes we already have. Most people leaving still identify with their former faith to some extent, and we may still feel personally attacked. It can drive us back into “the fold” and make the difficult and painful process of our deconversion even more difficult and painful.

    And Dan and Libby Anne are right – we need a safe place to land. Some empathy and kindness is most welcome.

    • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

      And sometimes, you need to rub the dog’s nose in it before it learns to stop messing on the floor.

    • carlie

      But at the same time, we need to be treated carefully, because we’ve been taught a lot of nasty things about people who don’t agree with our former beliefs. Vitriolic anti-Christian/theist commentary does not make us feel safe, and it reinforces the negative stereotypes we already have.

      And what some of us are saying is that “we” you speak of is not a universal “we”. There is room for many methods because there are different types of people. Yes, there can well be happy shiny spaces for sensitive people, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re objectively “better” ways to reach people or that they represent “safe spaces for everyone”. They are not, and they don’t.


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