In the comments on Hemant’s announcement to have this site hosted by Patheos, several readers have expressed apprehension about being “overrun by fundies.” It would be unfortunate if people here instantly reacted with hostility to the first religious visitors who comment after the move. Many of them will be visiting out of simple curiosity rather than seeking to antagonize, and we should not throw a punch the first time they open their mouths.
We should model the behavior that we want to see in them. We teach others how to treat us, and we teach best by example.
If their questions or comments reflect the same old tiresome misconceptions, we can minimize our frustration by having a FAQ that also has recommended links for further reading. Have it always appearing near the top of the page. Don’t bother answering rhetorical questions, Don’t bother trying to educate them, and definitely don’t indulge in the futile and discrediting bad habit of insulting them. Be the grownup in the room. Just politely say,
Dear _____, your question/statement reflects some misconceptions about _____. Please read about it in the FAQ near the top of this page, and then please do more reading at the recommended sites that are linked there.
Then don’t engage with them further on the topic until they educate themselves.If they do a drive-by sermon, either ignore them or say,
Dear _____, Your comment is what we call a “drive-by sermon,” similar to a drive-by shooting. It is not interesting, it is not original, it is not helpful to the discussion here, and it is not worthy of any further response. Please have your questions and comments reflect a sincere desire for mutual understanding.
Then go back to discussing the central topic of the post. If they persist with the same kind of stuff, copy and paste the very same response, word for word. The rubber stamp nature of it will be discouraging to them, and they’ll eventually stop.
Personally, I’m looking forward to more interaction with religious people. I don’t intend to be obsequious with them, but I also don’t intend to demean myself by being hostile or inflammatory either. I’m looking forward to turning an attempt to provoke a diatribe into a productive dialogue. I’m looking forward to confounding a petulant child with the equanimity of an adult’s response, and I’m looking forward to dismantling negative stereotypes by my example, not just by my assertions.
Does anyone else have positive and constructive ideas about dealing with more religious visitors to Friendly Atheist?