National Atheist Groups Respond to Growing Incivility in Online Communities

In response to the increasingly hostile (and yet incredibly important) online atheist community, where we’re seeing written attacks on anyone and everyone who ever disagrees with you about anything ever (“There’s something wrong on the Internet!” syndrome), nearly two dozen leaders of national non-theistic organizations have joined together to release an open statement addressing the problem.

To many, this will all seem like common sense… and it is. Yet, even in our community, reasonable dialogue is hard to find and humanity is often missing from our humanism. I’m sure some bloggers will inevitably think this applies to everyone but themselves, but those of us who spend a lot of time in the online atheist world (as writers, commenters, or readers) know that a lot of the people who think they’re part of the solution only end up making the problem worse. Personally, I’ve found the best course of action to be avoiding the whole world of drama altogether, but others see that as tacit support for one side or the other. The problem isn’t caused by any one person or even a small group of people. But, together, we can at least work to make the online climate a little more hospitable.

This statement is a starting point. A place of common agreement. The signatories want to help make things better and they should be commended for that. Now, let’s see how the online world responds.


An Open Letter to the Secular Community

It is an amazing time to be part of the secular movement. Look at what’s happened in 2012 alone. We held the Reason Rally, the largest event our community has ever had, which brought over 20,000 atheists, humanists, and other secular people together on the National Mall. We are growing, attracting new people, and drawing more attention than ever before. A big part of that growth is thanks to our large and dynamic online community. Online secular communities have helped people encounter new ideas, deepen and broaden their thinking, and even change their minds.

A Problem with Online Communication

At the same time, the fact that so much of our community is online brings with it certain challenges. Communicating primarily online can make it difficult to recognize each other’s humanity. Online we don’t have the same vocal and physical cues to tell us what another person means by his or her comments, so it’s easier for misunderstandings to develop. The instantaneous and impersonal nature of online communication also makes it much easier for these misunderstandings to escalate, or for civil arguments to turn into bitter fights. Like many online communities, our comment and forum threads all too often become places for name calling and even threats, rather than honest dialogue based on mutual respect. Between the small but vocal number of abusive participants (often called “trolls”) who hurl threats and insults, and the overheated rhetoric of some ordinarily friendly and reasonable people, our online environment is in danger of turning toxic. Fortunately, our secular values of reason and compassion give us tools to rise above the lowest common denominator of online communication.

Our Position and Our Pledge

We, the leaders of the undersigned national secular organizations, pledge to make our best efforts toward improving the tone and substance of online discussions. The secular movement as a whole is friendly, welcoming, and committed to the use of reason and evidence as a means of resolving disagreements. We refuse to allow the deplorable conduct of a few to debase the reasonable, appropriate, and respectful conduct of the overwhelming majority of our community.

We seek to promote productive debate and discussion. We firmly believe open and candid discussion is the most reliable means of resolving differences of opinion and bringing about needed change.

Insults, slurs, expressions of hatred, and threats undermine our shared values of open and candid discussion because they move us away from an exchange of views supported with reasons.

Of course we will disagree with each other on some issues, but we can do a better job of expressing our disagreements. We can resolve to avoid mischaracterizing the positions of others, relying on rumors as the basis for our opinions, and using inappropriate tactics such as guilt by association. Instead, we can give one another the benefit of the doubt, strive to understand the whole story, and de-escalate rhetoric to foster more productive discussions. We can become better at disagreeing by treating each other like reasonable human beings.

It takes patience to educate people, but we can change how people think by having a constructive dialogue. If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t bother in the first place to communicate online about important issues.

The Debate over Sexism and Feminism

Before listing some specific recommendations regarding improvement of online communications, we have observations about one particular set of interrelated issues that has engaged much of the secular community in the past year, namely sexism within the secular movement, the appropriate way to interpret feminism, and the extent to which feminism, however interpreted, should influence the conduct, policies, and goals of movement organizations. This set of issues is worthy of careful consideration, but in a few areas our positions should be very clear.

The principle that women and men should have equal rights flows from our core values as a movement. Historically, there has been a close connection between traditional religion and suppression of women, with dogma and superstition providing the rationale for depriving women of fundamental rights. In promoting science and secularism, we are at the same time seeking to secure the dignity of all individuals. We seek not only civil equality for everyone, regardless of sex, but an end to discriminatory social structures and conventions — again often the legacy of our religious heritage — that limit opportunities for both women and men.

Unfortunately, the discussion of these issues has suffered from the same problems that plague online discussion in general — although arguably to a greater extent. Some blogs and comments actually exhibit hatred, including rape threats and insults denigrating women. Hatred has no place in our movement. We unequivocally and unreservedly condemn those who resort to communicating in such a vile and despicable manner.

Our Approach

Here are some things that we plan to do to make our online secular community a place where we can exchange ideas and views instead of insults. We hope that others may also find this approach useful.

  • Moderate blogs and forums.
  • Any organization or individual engaged in blogging or administering a forum has an obligation to moderate comments. Slurs, threats, and so forth beget more of the same. Keeping our online spaces free of these elements creates a civil climate that makes it much easier for people to engage issues productively.

  • Go offline before going online: pick up the phone.
  • When you hear that an organization or member of our community is doing something that you think is wrong or bad for the community, call and talk with them, find out what they are actually doing and why they are doing it. If you don’t have a phone number, send a private email and arrange a time to talk. So much of the time there’s more to the story, and talking to another person on the other side of the issue can help us more fully understand the situation. Plus, a phone call makes it easier for people who are making mistakes to change course, because they aren’t on the defensive as they would be after being called out publicly.

  • Listen more.
  • We miss the nuances and differences within “the other side” once an issue becomes polarized, while continuing to see our side as filled with nuance and distinctions. There is a tendency to stop listening and treat everyone associated with an opposing position as a monolithic group. People can be painted with views that aren’t their own just because they may disagree with some aspects of your own position. We should listen more so we can see distinctions among those with opposing views and start to move toward a more accurate understanding of the issues rather than being deadlocked into two entrenched camps.

  • Dial down the drama.
  • It’s tempting to overuse inflammatory and derogatory rhetoric. It gets attention. We should be cautious about using this tactic within our community because of the long-term damage it does to relationships and morale. When critiquing people within our community, everyone should remember that our goal is to persuade our allies to see our perspective and modify their opinions. Insults don’t change opinions; they harden them.

  • Be more charitable.
  • We should remember that the purpose of argument within our community is to come to shared and correct conclusions that move us forward, not to score points against the opposing side. To that end, we should apply the principle of charity, which tells us to aim our argument against the best interpretation of the opposing arguments rather than picking off weaker versions. By applying the principle of charity we will elevate the discussion so we’re actually talking about our real differences, not just engaging in a pointless exchange.

  • Trust but verify.
  • Before we believe and repost something we see, we should ask ourselves about the evidence provided and the context. It’s easy for multiple people saying the same thing to look like a lot of evidence, but if their statements are all based on the same original source, they do not constitute independent verification. We should look for the original data and corroboration from independent sources before believing and spreading claims.

  • Help others along.
  • We should remember that we weren’t born knowing the things we know now. To get to the reasoned conclusions that we’ve reached, we learned by reading, thinking, and talking with others. When we encounter someone espousing a view we think is based on lack of knowledge or experience, we should remember that we have all held ill-informed views. We should cultivate patience and try to educate instead of condemn.

By improving our online culture, we can make this movement a place that engages, fulfills, and welcomes a growing number and increasing diversity of secular people.

Sincerely,

David Silverman, President, American Atheists
Rebecca Hale, President, American Humanist Association
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director, American Humanist Association
Chuck VonDerAhe, President, Atheist Alliance of America
Richard Haynes, President, Atheist Nexus
Ayanna Watson, CEO, Black Atheists of America, Inc.
Mandisa L. Thomas, President, Black Nonbelievers, Inc.
Mynga Futrell, for Brights Central, at The Brights’ Net
Amanda Metskas, Executive Director, Camp Quest
Ronald Lindsay, President and CEO, Center for Inquiry
Tom Flynn, Executive Director, The Council for Secular Humanism
Jan Meshon, President, FreeThoughtAction
Joseph McDaniel Stewart, Vice President, FreeThoughtAction
Margaret Downey, Founder and President, Freethought Society
D.J. Grothe, President, James Randi Educational Foundation
Stuart Jordan, President, Institute for Science and Human Values
Jason Torpy, President, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Edwina Rogers, Executive Director, Secular Coalition for America
August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director, Secular Student Alliance
Todd Stiefel, President, Stiefel Freethought Foundation
Fred Edwords, National Director, United Coalition of Reason

If you have questions/comments/concerns, please leave them below.

***Update***: Secular Woman, a newer group in the movement, did not sign the document and they explain why here.

***Update 2***: On their site, American Secular Census also explains why they didn’t sign the open letter.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • 3lemenope

    Yup.

  • TomS

    Just a question, since I don’t know: is there non-anecdotal evidence that these problems have become worse in non-theist communities, or are worse in those than in other communities?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Nope, not really. But even if we were better than other communities, we can still strive to do more.

      • George Orwell

        And having a very small group of people dictate what is and is not acceptable speech is BETTER?

        Sorry, this is an epic fail, just like A+ – actually, it is even worse than A+.

        Fail any way you look at it.

        • baal

          It’s extraordinarily normal for the heads of organizations to put out position papers. A+ required you to sign a pledge to their world view, the position above is to treat one another fairly. That hardly compares.

          Also, you’re making the same point in multiple place in this comment thread. Are you that aggrieved, trolling for A+, or something else?

          • George Orwell

            Why are you arguing with yourself?

            Sock puppet much?

            • 3lemenope

              Disqus has been dodgy for a few weeks now, putting the wrong names on comments for a few minutes before sorting it out.

        • Chana Messinger

          Sorry, I still don’t get it. Isn’t there a difference between calling for more reasoned or civil speech and “dictating…acceptable speech”?

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            “moderation” is a very direct threat. it means “if our censors decide your comment is unacceptable, we will remove it.” it does not lay out clearly what is and is not acceptable. what is a “slur” for example? is “dyke” a slur to you? is “whitey?” how about “fattie?”

            different people have different degrees of sensibility. the easiest, most equitable solution is for each commenter and blogger to take personal responsibility for their writing and reading habits.

            if you’re a blogger: post a “house rules” page *clearly* dictating what you will and will not tolerate, and moderate your blog yourself or with assistants who exactly share your values and interpretations.

            if you’re a commenter: accept house rules or risk banning. own up to your own words. stand by your own words. grow a thick skin, and most importantly, use the scroll wheel and/or the downvoting function if you feel that motivated about something you don’t like.

            “SHUT UP! CUT HIS MIKE!” i hope you all know who i’m quoting there. and to whom he was referring.

            • Chana Messinger

              I’m pretty sure that what you’ve outlined here is exactly what the open letter has called for. Bloggers should have rules, and commenters should follow them.

              • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

                most do. but it is not for a coalition of people who do not write at those blogs to tell those bloggers what those rules should be. can you understand the difference?

                i, for one, find the “pick up the phone” suggestion particularly ludicrous. i would never encourage anything like that, and not just because my phone bill is already high enough. ;-)

                • Chana Messinger

                  Sure thing! But of course some sets of rules might be a better idea that others, and suggesting a change in rules in a general and broad way is totally reasonable.

                  I think picking up the phone is an excellent way to make sure you haven’t misunderstood anyone, so that you don’t say anything untrue or misleading about them. Skeptics deeply value that kind of fact finding.

            • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

              But a person’s skin color, sexual orientation, and weight have nothing to do with the validity, or lack thereof of that person’s ideas. So yes, when you introduce them into the discussion they are being used entirely for the purpose of bullying the person you’re conversing with.

              • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

                am i bullying myself by including the term “dyke” in my nym? other lesbians?

                and i respectfully disagree. language is subtle and complicated, as are positions from which a reasonable argument may be made. my intention with i call GWBush a “dumb redneck” is not bullying, nor is the fact of his race unimportant in my analysis of his policies and privilege.

              • G. Orwell

                When someone, a hardcore liberal and atheist, like Seth MacFarlane uses all sorts of whacky names/slurs/cut downs for humor and satire it is NOT the same as someone with bigotry walking up to someone black and saying “Fuck You nigger” or a black man walking up to a white man and saying “Up yours you whitey-ass cracker” or a skinhead walking up to a Jew and saying “Eat me Kyke.”

                Or if Sarah Silverman, in one of her funnier skits, uses the word “Kyke” in a hilarious method of exposing bigotry, this is the same as the skinhead? Because according to your statement they are all equally hateful, no differences, no grades.

                Sorry, but language is much more complicated than that.

                • pitbullgirl1965

                  Seth MacFarlane is an ass. If you’re engaging in the same sexist/racist/homophobic crap even in the guise of humor, how different is that from some Teahadist Reich Winger?
                  And a black person calling a white person a cracker does NOT equal a white person using the n word. There is a power differential.
                  Damn, how many times does this have to be explained?
                  There is no reverse sexism or racism. Why? Because a white male as boatloads of privilege they take for granted and prickly when pointed out to them. As a white woman I have white privilege, something which I am finally aware of. e.g. when I go into a store, I won’t be followed around like I’m a shoplifter. I won’t be ignored by sales people. etc. I don’t have ‘white guilt” but I am aware of it and the only thing I can do as a good ally is LISTEN to POC and not whitesplain to them. And call out racist statements/attitudes.
                  Also, good satire punches up, not down.

              • G. Orwell

                It’s now very common to hear people say’I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more…it’s simply a whine. ‘I Find that offensive,’ it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘ I am offended by that,’ Well so fucking what?”

                - Stephen Fry

                Posted by Hemant Mehta on his own blog, not two hours before posting this letter. So, if he truly believes the

                “It’s now very common to hear people say’I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more…it’s simply a whine. ‘I Find that offensive,’ it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘ I am offended by that,’ Well so fucking what?”

                - Stephen Fry

                Then tell me how it can be justified to turn around and call for censorship and societal pressure to conform with regards to discourse?

                • eccles11

                  It is hard to control how other people argue and interact. It seems the best way rather than forcing, is to vote with ones feet. Like those at the top of this discussion have ‘walked away’ from Pharyngula, many will continue to do the same http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=pharyngula

                • G. Orwell

                  Exactly. Like I said above, I think Rush LImbaugh is a sack of gassy-oxygen stealing fat, but I live in harmony with him because my radio has an “off” button and station dial.

                  I am not calling for his dismissal or censorship (although I do wish he would shut his baloney hole) because I can get up, walk over to the radio and turn it off should I be unfortunate enough to have him on the dial.

                  THAT is what grown ups do, not try and tell everyone else what to do when they could instead just walk away, change the station or go to a different website/blog.

                • coyotenose

                  it’s weird how people who talk about Orwell always turn out to be unfamiliar with 1984.

            • G. Orwell

              So today is my fuck around day, and this thread has my interest. That said, I just took my monthly shower and while I was scrubbing off the scuds I had some thoughts about the Interwebs and why we have such nonsense as this….ChiDye – you have a brain and I would love some thoughts on this:

              Let’s say all of us who are participating in this thread right now were in a cafe/bar/classroom/auditorium/quilting bee at a stitch-and-bitch….okay, now let’s say this whole idea gets brought and thrown around. When someone says something we disagree with, even if they got snarky and snotty, what would the normal and typical response be? Try and tell them to leave? Ban them from speaking? No. And why?

              I posit it is not because of the anonymous nature of the Internet, I posit it is because there is a sense of “ownership” with online speech and blogs. Yes, Hemant “owns” the intellectual property rights to the blog, but really, would that same feeling carry over to the cafe/auditorium etc….No.

              It is because of the rather western notion of property ownership and propriety that causes this while notion of banning etc….Imagine the firebrand PZ Myers trying to lower his (his words) beloved “Ban Hammer” on someone in an auditorium during a fireside or round table talk. He would be laughed out of the room and/or punched in the face for even attempting such an arrogant thing, yet, here he is (using him as an example – not the sole example) acting in such fashion. And when he does act in such a vile way, a large portion of the followers, including those who advocate free speech, fall over themselves allowing him to do it.

              A great personal example occurred to me the other day. I was at a local “Starbucks” working. One of the regulars there has become a friend – he is a man from Mozambique and a professor at a nearby University – great dude! He and I were having a PRIVATE conversation at the counter bar – he with his work and laptop and I with mine. We were talking about the lunacy of those who seek to keep LGBT from having equal rights, and how they claim it will be the end of “heterosexual marriage” if gay marriage should occur.

              It is important to note that neither he nor I were loud. We intentionally tried to speak at a lower level for fear of alienating anyone from their coffee enjoyment! However, a repugnant and bigoted asswipe decided to jump in and jump down our collective throats. You can bet your ass that I bitch-slapped the dumbass down, and even called him an asshole. I made sure too, to tell him I never asked him his opinion, yet I also never told him he was banned from the cafe! If this had been an Internet blog, chances are high he would be banned or shut down.

              Now, his content/views are not the issue here (as vie they may be) the issue is realizing there is no ownership to discourse, even if the blog and the intellectual property rights may exist. And I think this plays directly into this whole notion of speech and behavior dictation from the small but vocal group of oppressors.

              Thoughts?

              • 3lemenope

                This reminds my of Lawrence Lessig’s point that the rules and expectations that attach to a space are strongly influenced by the structure of that space. The reason online blog comment forums are not analogous to marketplaces and auditoriums and cafes and classrooms is that a fundamental element of their structure (that they are mediated through the Internet) profoundly affects what is possible to express through the medium, what is reasonable to expect, and most importantly what is regulable in that space.

                For example, a person’s presence in an Internet space is more easily regulable as a practical matter than a person’s presence in meat-space; one requires just a activation of a macro while the other requires physical force to realize. This is why banhammering is an expected regulatory tool on blogs but not so much in the real world.

                I point this out only as a note of caution that if there is a large gap in media, one should not really expect any intuitive analogies to actually be probative without quite a lot of care and liberal use of caveats.

              • Kela

                I think your Starbucks antidote it particularly relevant and analogous to what goes on in the comments of blogs. If group of people are having a respectful conversation, an party jumps in with their opinion in an obnoxious/rude/disrespectful way and are immediately shut down. If it is an unknown person then it is usually done as you described. If that person is a member of the group then it may initially be handled diplomatically but if the behavior continues then the offending party may not be invited to the party any more. This social consequence may result in at least a change in behavior if not a reconsideration of opinions.

                I see this blog as equivalent to Hemant’s house (the same goes for PZ, JT, Greta or any other blog or even a forum run by an organization). This is his party and he can choose to revoke the invitations of those not following house rules. He is not prohibiting free speech or censoring them just because he won’t let them speak here in a manner which he deems inappropriate. He is under no obligation to let anyone come into his “home” and be vile, hateful, threatening or obstructive. The ‘ban hammer’ is the internet equivalent to a social consequence/not being invited to the party. More often than not, comments are given multiple warnings about offending behavior prior to them being removed/banned. There are bot being censored because there are plenty of other places those that have been banned can go and voice their opinions.

        • coyotenose

          The worst thing about A+ by far is how just the very concept continues to draw out people who obsessively vent their hatred of the idea of encouraging those who wish to consciously be more decent people to do so.

          • G. Orwell

            Well, over time you have shown yourself to be a loon and not a voice of sanity, so really, anything you say is taken with more salt than a Margarita during Happy Hour at Senor Tadpoles.

            Now howl your response in typical vitriolic fashion. G’head, you amuse me!

            • coyotenose

              Citation needed. But just like your last anonywuss whines, you have none. Which is of course why you’re desperately trying to change the subject. Poor angrums.

      • TomS

        Agreed. I asked my question because of the comparison — the idea that we are getting more intolerant, and that we are perhaps more intolerant than some theist boards. As I said below, it would be a mistake to paint ourselves in false colors, especially when they are not exactly complimentary. The desire to be humble and critical of oneself can push things a bit too far, sometimes. No need to get out ahead of the evidence. This issue is separate from the need to enforce civility rules, a need which has been present since there have been…discussions of any sort. :)

        • Chana Messinger

          Yeah, I’m not sure about the comparison, either, but I think there’s a totally complete argument here just on the basis of how the atheist online community is behaving and acting.

    • Blacksheep

      I only have anecdotal evidence: Quite a bit worse in non-theist communities. Whole different level of rage.

      • 3lemenope

        In my experience, equally anecdotal, theist sites tend to be more proactive about expunging arguments (and commenters) they don’t like, rather than responding to them. So they usually don’t get an opportunity to get as angry because of a walled garden effect.

        • TomS

          So, what we have are speculations without any hard data. I don’t like that. To have this discussion properly, we’d need to find a way to quantify “intolerance” and then actually measure it, before we start pointing fingers and ourselves or anyone else as more intolerant. (Again, this does not mean that civility rules should not apply.)

          • 3lemenope

            Oddly enough, I think this is one of the times where an empirical approach wouldn’t reveal very much of use. This is because what matters is not the reality of which communities are nicer/meaner, but rather the prospective participants’ subjective impressions of the culture that these communities seem to maintain. What matters is more how people feel as they interact, rather than the raw numbers. All the raw numbers lead to is a rather unilluminating tu quoque that, depending on the numbers, could go either way and wouldn’t actually help alleviate the problem no matter which way the numbers pointed.

            • Chana Messinger

              This is an excellent point. People’s sense of communities is as or more important than a quantitative metric. Although, perhaps we could quantiatiatively measure comfort :)

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            it’s a very difficult question to quantify scientifically for many reasons. it’s still only anecdotal, but i’m sort of a long time vet of the political boards, and the answer in my rather pathetically long and thick experience with boards of all stripes: yes, the right leaning ones ban commenters they don’t like with a great deal more frequency. perhaps more importantly, liberal/left leaning sites are more likely to allow and retain even the basest comments from those who disagree, as a matter of policy. i can think of several right off the top of my head that do this, including the one i used to write for as a Sr Fellow.

        • Blacksheep

          That may be. They also may be ‘pretending” to be calmer because it’s supposed to be a Christian quality. I’m not sure. I just know that I don’t feel the same condescension there.

          • coyotenose

            I think what you’re experiencing there is part of being a member of that group. The social cues are more ingrained for you, and thus invisible. The rage is there; it’s just expressed according to unspoken rules.

            And to add to 3lemenope’s first response, when dissenters are often heavily moderated, you don’t find yourself making the same one-Google explanations over and over and over. After a while, one tends to get sick of new people constantly dropping in with inane arguments and old people still repeating the same inane arguments. It can lead to testiness.

      • Duality of Man

        And you are a hard core Catholic. Your interp here is one of “worse” while we atheists look at your sites and say the same thing.

        • Blacksheep

          I am not a Catholic nor have I ever been one. (mainly because I can’t find half of their traditions in scripture). What sites are you referring to?

          If we each spent the next 24 hours pulling quotes off of forums, both atheist and faith-based, my bet (Based on my experience) is that neither of us would be proud, but you would be shocked at some of the rage and hatred that your brethren post. (I’m referring to regular contributors on both sides – not the occasional ranting maniac who drops in).

          • GCT

            One question: How much anger is warranted based on the atheophobic religious privilege that is thrust down our throats on a daily basis?

            • pitbullgirl1965

              Exactly. Christian Privilege 101.

    • nkendall

      Why is that even important? We should hold ourselves to our own values and behave appropriately even if others are not.

      • TomS

        I did not say otherwise. But it would be a problem if the community started painting itself as more intolerant than theist communities when there is no real evidence that this is true. Sort of shooting ourselves in the foot. And we are, after all, committed to an approach to the world that bases our views on good evidence.

        • nkendall

          I don’t think we are at all painting ourselves as intolerant. In fact I think this sort of thing shows how open we are to introspection and growth not only as a community but as individuals. We worry about what our demographics and how we act toward others says about us and we work to be an inclusive and loving community that respects its other members.

          This stands in harsh contrast to many organizations that never get over their intolerance or disapproval to the point that intolerance and disapproval become dogmatic to and traditions of that organization.

          • G. Orwell

            “It’s now very common to hear people say’I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more…it’s simply a whine. ‘I Find that offensive,’ it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘ I am offended by that,’ Well so fucking what?”

            - Stephen Fry

  • http://www.facebook.com/danecollins Danny Collins

    I stopped calling myself an atheist for this reason… I don’t want to be associated with the arrogance and hostility. The reason I don’t care for religion is the people are just so damn sure of themselves. Turns out, most atheists are just as sure of themselves. So I just call myself a non-believer now, and I stay away from ideological communities.

    • Chana Messinger

      I’m so sorry to hear that, but I understand it. What do you think could be done to improve the atheist communities?

    • GCT

      I know of very few atheists that claim to be certain that god doesn’t exist. IOW, the vast majority of atheists are agnostic atheists and are open about that. To make the claim that we are too sure of ourselves is rather tenuous.

  • Matt

    You can’t enjoy the benefits of an open internet without also living with the consequences. An open letter like this isn’t bad or anything, but it also surely won’t do any good. I think futile might be the right word for it. Yea, futile.

    • 3lemenope

      I’m in the midst of re-reading Bernard Bailyn’s remarkable The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. The reason I bring it up here is that the one thing most striking about the period surrounding the American Revolution was the proliferation of amateur political and social pamphleteering. The United States was a country that, twists and turns aside, was literally argued into existence. Pamphlets convinced people to fight, and what for, and people did so or not on the basis of whether they were persuaded.

      Just something to keep in mind when musing on the seeming futility of written argument.

    • Chana Messinger

      Well, I think there are a lot of ways to run internet communities, some of which have better consequences than others. What do you think might be a better way to improve the discourse?

      • Matt

        I think the discourse is fine. As with everything else on the internet you just have to develop the ability to find good stuff and filter out the garbage. Telling the garbage-flingers to stop flinging garbage is futile.

        • G. Orwell

          Like trying to stop chimps from flinging soft bread-stool poo at each other, no going to happen…..

  • Ryan Jean

    The strife has been going on for so long (or perhaps just with such striking vitriol) now that this in many ways feels significantly overdue, but it is a very welcome sight. I hold no formal position within any of the organizations (at least, not beyond “member” of roughly half a dozen of them), but I gladly lend my name to it as well.

    It’s funny; not too long ago there was much grousing and joking about “deep rifts” in the movement (mostly over confrontation vs. accommodation, which I personally feel each have their time and place), and then the movement goes ahead and digs its own Mariana Trench over the inclusion and role of women. We will lose some prominent members of the movement who cannot adjust to inclusiveness, but the movement will be better for it in the end.

  • http://twitter.com/mycultlife Lisa Kerr

    These are great suggestions for any online community, even with friends and family on Facebook. NPR did a recent story on the subject and said that rude comments are more likely to change a person’s mind than kind comments. I do think a change in tone would benefit the internet, in general, as the hostility is really driving me away. I admit I was extremely rude to commenters who were hateful to me in my first few years of blogging, but I was blogging about my vulnerabilities (and leaving Christianity) and since I was so new to having an online presence, I didn’t realize the pure venom I’d be received with.

    Now I set up rules and stick by them. I delete the hateful comments, block the individuals who keep harassing and move on. Or if the comment is more mild-mannered, I just ignore the person.

    I try not to engage in arguments with my friends and family (who I disagree with on subjects that get us both heated), and just let them know that I care about our friendship or relationship more than I care about winning an argument. It usually disarms the tension and brings us both back to what matters-why we care about each other. Obviously it doesn’t always work, but it’s a good place to start. If it gets ugly, I try to walk away from it reminding them I don’t want to argue. Debates are fine in the public arena, but they usually ruin friendships, and most people don’t know how to debate fairly. Things get too personal because that’s typically the easiest way to win. Case in point: A friend posted a thread on vaccines (he is anti-vaccine) and it spiraled out of control. Before I knew it, another mutual friend was blasting me for my health issues and depression and claiming it was because I was vaccinated and eat junk food. While I don’t have a problem with those who practice holistic medicine, she clearly had a problem with me and my “unhappiness.” It ruined our friendship because she personally attacked me instead of just agreeing to disagree or fighting fairly.

    • Chana Messinger

      Love this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

    I’m curious about the names I DON’T see..

    • Not a Logical Bone Out There

      riiiight, because absence of evidence is evidence of nefarious misgivings?

      Fail.

      • Chana Messinger

        That’s not what she was saying, I don’t think. In the spirit of the letter, we should ask what she meant and let her explain.

        • G. Orwell

          Even if she was wondering the positive, the principle still stands – assigning credibility or fact based on absence of evidence does not hold water – in either direction.

          • Michael Waters

            And who says there’s any assigning of credibility at all one way or the other? Being curious about something doesn’t necessarily mean any assignment of why they didn’t add their names. It just kind of means you’re curious about the names you didn’t see and why.

            • G. Orwell

              Fair enough.

  • ortcutt

    This is why I don’t support or partake in Organized Atheism. If I wanted this drama, I’d join a church.

    • http://twitter.com/mycultlife Lisa Kerr

      That’s the same reason I don’t join Atheist groups or spend hours on Atheist forums, and many of my Atheist friends don’t either.

      • Chana Messinger

        That makes a lot of sense, though I hope that atheist groups and forums become more welcoming and less drama-filled as a result of actions like this open letter. I also think it’s important to differentiate between argument, which is important, and incivility, which is unproductive. What do you think? How can we make our communities better?

        • http://twitter.com/mycultlife Lisa Kerr

          I’m okay with argument and debates, in fact I enjoy them more than I probably should. I think the internet as a whole is learning how to deal with incivility essentially by making rules to play fair or deleting offensive comments. By using a website or forum, you typically agree to some standard terms of use which usually include those rules anyway. We just hesitate to delete things because of “free speech.”

    • Chana Messinger

      I totally understand that point, but I hope that as rationalists, we can come together and fix our problems in a reasonable way, so we can get all the benefits that come from organizing and standing together, without these unfortunate side effects.

      • ortcutt

        There are a handful of secularist groups like FFRF that actually do something productive, file lawsuits. Other than that, I don’t really see what the positive, beneficial effect of any of these groups are. In particular, the constant parade of “atheist”, “rationalist”, and “skeptic” conferences strikes me as bizarre. If I wanted to hang out with neckbeards, I’d go to an anime conference.

        • Chana Messinger

          It’s always good to ask what the beneficial effects of groups are. I think that the Secular Student Alliance has been incredible at forging communities in high schools and colleges across the country, giving nonreligious students a place to be with others, so they don’t feel ostracized or alone, especially on very religious campuses. I think the American Atheists, whatever you might think of their tactics, have really put atheists and atheism on the map in the United States and made sure that we’re not invisible. The James Randi Educational Foundation has been fighting the kind of pseudoscience that really hurts people and their families, like homeopathy (which is actually a problem) for many years. Do you think these are worthwhile goals? I do.

          • ortcutt

            JREF and James Randi are doing something productive when he speaks to the general public. What is the point of TAM though, an echo chamber of people telling each other that crystals don’t heal you, something that everyone there already knows?

            • Chana Messinger

              Well, it provides community, a chance to learn new things and a chance to meet people you admire. Do you think those aren’t valuable?

          • G. Orwell

            Well, so long as you found a way to feel superior, that’s the important thing…..

            • Pseudonym

              Some downvoter clearly doesn’t read XKCD.

  • DKeane123

    One of the reasons I like this blog is that is stays out of the drama.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 Gregory Marshall

      Precisely.

    • A3Kr0n

      That’s why I stopped going to Pharyngula, and started coming here. However, I just can’t stop being a cephalopod!

      • DKeane123

        I am in the same boat. I have replaced Pharyngula with “Why Evolution is True” (Jerry Coyne). I also find that the Atheist Experience podcast to work pretty well at challenging certain ideas without insulting the person harboring them.

        • Bert Russell

          I’ve had to stop visiting “Free”thought Blogs in its entirety, as I think they’re the biggest problem with the secular online community.

          • GCT

            So, it’s not the fault of misogynists that there’s drama? No, it’s the fault of people who stand up to the bullies and tell them to go to hell?

            • Bert Russell

              I never said or implied that. There are bullies on both sides, and I think no party is entirely innocent in this. Everyone has made mistakes.

              • Bert Russell

                Also, I do see how you could have gotten that impression, so I apologize for not being as clear as I should have been, GCT.

              • GCT

                Yet, according to you, the biggest problem are the people who stand up and say, “Enough, this is not acceptable.” And, that’s not implying that it’s their fault? And, how is it bullying to stand up to the bullies? That’s like saying that people who protest the KKK are the real racists.

                • Bert Russell

                  No, I never said “the biggest problem are the people who stand up and say, ‘Enough, this is not acceptable.’” That’s a synonym you created for “Free”thought Blogs, that I really don’t agree with anyway, and that you put into my mouth, drastically altering the meaning of what I said. Unfortunately, I do not think that that’s all they do. I do have to say that I think you’re putting words in my mouth is an example of the problems I have with “Free”thought Blogs.

                • GCT

                  So, FtB are the “biggest problem with the secular online community,” but it has nothing at all to do with their stance on women’s issues? Or, are you saying that that’s a problem and coupled with other problems they have (un-named problems that no one else seems to ever talk about) that it puts them over the edge? That’s a problematic stance still, as you’re basically saying what I said above, that people who protest the KKK are the real racists. It couldn’t possibly be the fault of the people who are actually harassing women and other minorities, could it?

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              Nope, it’s because us uppity bitches won’t shut up about it. *eyeroll*

              • Sarah

                Nope. It’s because people like you don’t know how to argue. Instead you attack or make stuff up. The truth isn’t important to you, only rhetorically “winning” and expressing your anger and disdain.

                Case in point:

                Me: “Pharyngula has poor discussions because of the rhetorical attitude of it’s commenters. You attack, put words in people’s mouths and don’t care about the truth.”

                You: “Nope, it’s because us uppity bitches won’t shut up about it. *eyeroll*”

                Your response is exactly what you’d expect at Pharyngula and is exactly why people interested in discussion, truth, scientific accuracy and intelligent debate just don’t bother going there any more.

                • GCT

                  Way to try and make a point about people making things up while completely making up the exchange that you are decrying. Epic fail.

                • Sarah

                  See. A complete desire to “win”. No interest in the truth,

                  Just throw out an accusation and walk away like it’s self-evident.

                  Actually specifying what you think is wrong?
                  Engaging and attempting to persuade?
                  Using evidence the make a rational point?

                  Nah. Best just resort to pithy digs without going as far as claiming anything specific. It’s bulletproof.

                  This is the level of discourse on Pharyngula. (Backed up by a chorus of insult and aggression of course). This is why no one interested in intelligent debate or discovering the truth rationally respects you.

                • GCT

                  Um, did it happen to not occur to you that the exchange you are claiming happened never actually happened and that you made it up?

                  AFAIK, wmdkitty has not responded to any of your comments. Yet, here you are indicating that the response you received was off-base and devoid of any sort of interest in the truth. Yet, you made the whole incident up in an attempt to show that someone else is uninterested in the truth. And, now you’re doubling down on it, as if no one can scroll up and see that your depiction is completely made up and dishonest. How stupid do you think people are?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Hey, if I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it. Until then, STFU.

                  And YES, the problem is that there is a significant portion of the atheist and skeptical community that DOES ENGAGE IN ACTIVE MISOGYNY. They send rape and death threats. They continually stalk and harass certain people because they had the nerve to speak out against the boys’ club mentality that you and the douchebros are so insistent on maintaining (all while denying it exists!) They lie, they quote mine, they will make shit up out of whole cloth if it means they get to talk more shit about their selected targets. This has been going on since before the internet was even a crazy dream.

                  And here you are, essentially saying “you’re imagining things, you uppity bitchez need to shut up and let us keep abusing you.”

                  Fuck that.

                  I’m going to keep speaking up when I see misogynist asshattery, because it is wrong, and it contributes to a culture that views women as objects instead of people.

                • Falco

                  See this is the mistake you’re making; you’ve mistaken this site for FtB. Here (and in most other places on the net) you can expect to see opinions that contradict yours and nobody is going to wait for you to ask for them, or care if you’d prefer not to hear them. If you can’t handle that without embarrassing yourself by expressing your blind, sophomoric rage you’re better off where you have PZ to protect you from it.

                • coyotenose

                  Thanks for identifying yourself as a slymepitter who who will lie his ass off in order to have an argument. It will make things much easier in the future.

                  You write a “u mad bro” post and expect to be taken seriously? Dumbass.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Er, right, my rage must be “sophomoric” because, you know, bitchez be crazy.

                  I refuse to sit back and accept being a second class citizen.

                  That is neither “blind” nor “sophomoric”, and it’s quite reasonable to be fucking angry when one is systematically oppressed by society.

                  I WILL NOT SHUT UP, I WILL NOT BACK DOWN.

                • GCT

                  Yes, how dare she be angry at being harassed. She should just sit down and take it, right? Fuck you.

            • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

              Fault, Misogynists=(folk that HATE Women). You’ve just provided a perfect example of why FtB (Pharyngula in particular) is losing readers. Read your comment back to yourself & tell me if you can see any hyperbole. I don’t HATE Women, never have & never will, i know many others just like me, yet we’ve all been called Misogynists (& worse) so before i was added to PZ’s ever growing list of “Dungeon dwellers” i decided to eschew visiting the place at all. I don’t frequent the Slymepit either but from my infrequent perusal, their seems a better class of intellectual discourse there. There are always exceptions you can find to prove me wrong but in general it seems more lighthearted & less downright nasty.

              • GCT

                You don’t hate women, you just find a better class of intellectual discourse at the Slymepit…

                Let’s examine that, shall we?

                Their idea of intellectual discourse is to come up with cute pet names for people they hate by inserting “cunt” or “bitch” (or some other sexist epithet) into their name. Their idea of intellectual discourse is to make rape threats, death threats, threats to throw acid in people’s faces, etc.

                But, no, you don’t hate women. You just see them as objects. I mean, what’s so wrong about that?

                • Sarah

                  See it’s this kind of anti-intellectual mind reading nonsense that plagues Pharyngula.

                  “Their idea of intellectual discourse is…” [bad thing some of them do]

                  “But, no, you don’t hate women. You see them as objects” [Because some of them do bad things see?]

                  So yeah. The quality of discourse at Pharyngula et al is abysmal, in large part due to people like you who just don’t give a fig for honest and rational discussion but have a burning need to classify all your “enemies” by accusing them of doing the worst things that people similar to them have done and are happy to just make up claims about how “evil” they are, how they hate women and see them as objects.

                  Well done. You’re the problem.

                • GCT

                  I’m the problem because some asshat decides that the Slymepit where open hatred of women constitutes their normal diet is somehow intellectually superior to a site that actually fights for women’s rights? Seriously?

                  And, the guy who claims not to hate women tells me that a site that hates women is intellectually superior to a site that stands up for women’s rights and I’m not allowed to put 2 and 2 together to get 4? Seriously?

                  Did he give you a cookie for this?

                • Sarah

                  See this is exactly what I’m talking about. The problem is you don’t know how to argue. “Did he give you a cookie for this”? Seriously? That’s pathetic.

                  Discourse at Pharyngula is shitty because people like you jump in full-throttle with unprovable attacks on other people’s characters and generalise like you’ve got a hardon for inaccuracy.

                  He likes the site: You don’t. Therefore he hates women.

                  You think things on the site written by some people are bad: Therefore the site is bad and “open hatred for women constitutes their normal diet”

                  What rational conversation can happen when you’re just flailing all over making random leaps of logic and angry assertions without evidence?

                  Nothing interesting or valuable can be said when you throw away nuance, abandon desire for accuracy and truth in favour of lazy generalisation and hyped-up rhetoric.

                • GCT

                  Let’s try something here. Let’s say that bismarket had said that he prefers a KKK site over an NAACP site because the KKK site has a higher standard of intellectual content. I think you would rightly see an issue with that and wonder if there’s some racist intent. But, when it’s about women it suddenly becomes OK and not indicative of any bias against women to cite a misogynistic hate site as intellectually superior to a site that has come out unambiguously in favor of feminism and equality.

                  If he were to come here and talk about how the problem with the NAACP is that they are just too uppity in dealing with the KKK, you might look at that statement and wonder if there’s some racial bias. But, it’s suddenly OK and not indicative of any bias against women when he claims that FtB is too dramatic in dealing with misogyny from misogynists.

                  If he were to come out and say that the KKK isn’t the problem, the real problem is the NAACP, you might suspect some racial bias. But, when he comes out and says that FtB is the problem, not the misogynistic assholes that are harassing women, it’s suddenly OK and not indicative of any bias against women.

                  And, are you really going to defend the Slymepit? That site is a site that was created for the express purpose of harassing prominent atheist women and indulging in misogyny. Yet, I’m in the wrong for pointing that out? Seriously? What nuance is there in calling someone a “cunt”? What nuance is there in threatening to throw acid in Ophelia Benson’s face? What nuance is there in rape and death threats? And, I’m the one who is unable to be rational (yay, I do so love the no true rationalist arguments that get thrown around).

                  So, did you get a cookie?

                • Sarah

                  Oh hey! You’re still following the grade-school misogyny of “Did he give you a cookie”

                  No GCT, the man did not reward me for my opinion. Nor do women usually or inherently seek male approval. My opinions are my own, just like your hatred of women who disagree with your aggressive and inane subculture.

                  The rest of your post is irrelevant nonsense. If you weren’t terrible at logic and language you’d have noticed that I’m not defending some website or some guy I’m attacking Pharyngula and it’s culture of anger instead of logic, *mind-reading* and general aggression. Whether or not some other website is terrible too is irrelevant.

                  Logic doesn’t care how upset you are about bad stuff people said on that website. Guilt by association is fallacious. Generalising from one (or a few) examples is fallacious. No amount of enraged emotion can change that, but I’m sure you have some sort of psuedo-rational justification for why your feels demand we engage in these fallacies.

                  p.s. the nuance you were looking for in your last paragraph was “a person” did each of those, you’re in the wrong when you fallaciously generalise that to the whole website or other people from that website.

                  Like if I blamed you for being an idiot and bigot who destroyed a catholic cracker.

                  Or if I said “Pharyngulites” are morons who say “only the facts matter not arguments from authority” but they squeal about “I’m a terminal degreed SCIENTIST” when you challenge them, instead of “Nerd of Redhead is…”

                  Is that nuance too much for you? Or do you feel responsible for all pharyngulite actions?

                • GCT

                  “Oh hey! You’re still following the grade-school misogyny of “Did he give you a cookie””

                  Pointing out the effect of patriarchy in getting women to go against their own self interests is now misogyny? Really? Next you’re going to tell me that people who protest the KKK are the real racists.

                  “No GCT, the man did not reward me for my opinion. Nor do women usually or inherently seek male approval.”

                  Actually, some do. That’s the pernicious effect of living in a patriarchal culture. (Yes, women vote Republican, for example.) Some atheists seek to uphold religious privilege as well.

                  “My opinions are my own, just like your hatred of women who disagree with your aggressive and inane subculture.”

                  The “I’m rubber, you’re glue” defense. Well played.

                  “The rest of your post is irrelevant nonsense.”

                  It’s not irrelevant. You’re just making excuses because most people can clearly see the double standard. When these types of things are said about blacks, it’s racist. When it’s about women, it’s those women who need to get over it. Why is that? And, why are you contributing to it? And, it’s not enough to simply claim that you’re just attacking Pharyngula, because it runs smack dab into the earlier criticisms I leveled that you are now pretending don’t exist.

                  “Logic doesn’t care how upset you are about bad stuff people said on that website.”

                  Never said it did. Nice straw argument.

                  “Guilt by association is fallacious.”

                  Sometimes. But, I didn’t engage in that. Again, nice straw argument.

                  “Generalising from one (or a few) examples is fallacious.”

                  So, do you deny that the Slymepit wasn’t set up to specifically be a hate site? Additionally, how are you not guilty of this?

                  “p.s. the nuance you were looking for in your last paragraph was “a person” did each of those, you’re in the wrong when you fallaciously generalise that to the whole website or other people from that website.”

                  And, when someone approvingly cites that person’s actions, then what? And, when people set up a site to pat each other on the back for their not-at-all-clever uses of (insert sexist epithet here), how is it just “a person” in all cases? Sorry, but you don’t get to whitewash all of that and pretend that each case is within some void, especially not when you don’t give the same benefit of the doubt to those you are maligning.

                • Sarah

                  Nope the misogyny is that you assume that these aren’t my opinions and that I’m doing it to please men.

                  The fact that you pretend you think society is brainwashing me into being some sort of pathetic mindless anti-feminist automaton is what makes you a misogynist.

                  Women have the right and ability to be wrong without some sort of sickening self-hating woman like you coming in and telling us that we’re all poor dears too blinded by the patriarchy and our own feeble opinions to understand how we’re nothing but Men’s puppets.

                  I am my own person. Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. I am responsible for my choices regardless of your inane misogynistic infantilising Anti-Feminism.

                  Me: “Nor do women usually…”
                  You: “Actually, some….”

                  Yes, that’s what usually means.

                • GCT

                  “Nope the misogyny is that you assume that these aren’t my opinions and that I’m doing it to please men.”

                  No, I’m pointing out how the patriarchy works and how women like you work against your own interests.

                  “The fact that you pretend you think society is brainwashing me into being some sort of pathetic mindless anti-feminist automaton is what makes you a misogynist.”

                  That’s how patriarchy works.

                  “Women have the right and ability to be wrong without some sort of sickening self-hating woman like you coming in and telling us that we’re all poor dears too blinded by the patriarchy and our own feeble opinions to understand how we’re nothing but Men’s puppets.”

                  When you start defending the Slymepit, you’ve got no room to talk about how you aren’t brainwashed.

                  “I am my own person. Feminism is the radical notion that women are people. I am responsible for my choices regardless of your inane misogynistic infantilising Anti-Feminism.”

                  Calling you out for supporting misogyny is not anti-feminist.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  LOL Apparently I’m “self-hating” because I won’t take no shit!

                • Falco

                  You said:

                  “Hey, if I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it. Until then, STFU”

                  I replied:

                  “Here (and in most other places on the net) you can expect to see
                  opinions that contradict yours and nobody is going to wait for you to ask for them, or care if you’d prefer not to hear them”

                  You replied:

                  “I WILL NOT SHUT UP, I WILL NOT BACK DOWN.”

                  …As if it had not been you who had just instructed people to “STFU” in the first place! You see I don’t engage in these debates because I hope to persuade my opponents; I can recognise well enough when somebody is unreachable. I engage in them because I expect you to demonstrate for the benefit of any third parties who happen to be reading what an under-educated clown show your little group really is.

                  And you have never, ever let me down.

                  I doubt you ever will.

                • GCT

                  “You see I don’t engage in these debates because I hope to persuade my opponents; I can recognise well enough when somebody is unreachable.”

                  Yes, I agree. I’m not able to be persuaded that women need to have lesser rights than men. I’m not able to be persuaded that women are inferior to men. I’m not able to be persuaded that harassment against women is OK. I’m not able to be persuaded that rape and death threats are OK. I’m not able to be persuaded that women need to shut up. You got me. Guilty as charged.

                  Now, take your misogynistic bullshit and shove it up your ass.

                • coyotenose

                  I’m not going to bother with Pharyngula again, but many people have documented the Pitters’ posts thoroughly. “Some” of them do bad things. Almost all of them agree with and congratulate that “Some”, and those who don’t still continue to associate with them. There is no equivalency here. The Pharyngulites are the Democrats, the Slymepitters the Republicans, Neither is worth my time, but they are orders of magnitude apart in behavior.

                  Try to realize that you’re defending a site that allows people who make threats against women for being uppity to keep posting, while other posters applaud and reinforce them.

                • Sarah

                  (

                  Don’t care about the Slymepit, sorry. Logic and evidence matters though.

                  “Almost all of them agree with and congratulate that “Some”,…”

                  Is that right? How did you come about this information? Or, citation needed.

                  If you have got a rational reason to believe this, it still does not logically justify condemning the rest who don’t agree and congratulate, or justify pretending they don’t exist or count.

                  “and those who don’t still continue to associate with them.”

                  Guilt by association. Fair enough. Logical even.

                  “The Pharyngulites are the Democrats, the Slymepitters the Republicans, Neither is worth my time, but they are orders of magnitude apart in behavior.”

                  Great description! Except the Pharyngulites are the Moral Majority – great “rational” hopes who (just like the Republicans) *deserve* to treat us like shit and not care about fairness rationality or listening to people, because we’re SINFUL and dirty and misogynist and they’re only doing it for our own good, and for the good of society and the children and the future!!

                  The Slymepitters are like a bunch of punks and sneering counter-cultural rebels. Still not worth anyone’s time, and some (many?) nasty and brutish. But not hierarchical in the same way, and not doing it for our own good, but for their own punkish, fuck-your-rules, kind of way. Which naturally leads to some being anti-authoritarian and provocative, and some being sickening bigots like GG Allin.

                • GCT

                  Wow…simply wow.

                • https://twitter.com/#!/OffensivAtheist bismarket

                  Where did i say anything about seeing “Women as objects”? If the best you can do is put words into peoples mouths you’ve already lost any debate & as well as reading back your own comment i suggest you re-read mine. I said i rarely visit the Slymepit. I do think that there’s far less evidence of a “Hive-Mind” mentality & AS I SAID “There are always exception”. Seems you judge places on the worst examples rather than the best or even give somewhere the benefit of the doubt. It’s not looking good for “Civil discourse” is it?

            • g8808

              They’re responded to a hostile environment by creating another hostile environment. Appropriate response is what’s warranted, not just endless invective battles for their own sake.

      • Aspaceformyheart Awesomeblog

        Ditto. I used to visit Pharyngula several times a day, but it’s been months since I’ve done so. PZ is too in love with drama at this point, and it rubs off on his comment section. It’s a real shame, but it’s impossible to have a civil conversation given the current atmosphere of perpetual outrage they seem to enjoy.

        • Pseudonym

          On the plus side, the atmosphere of perpetual outrage gives you a pretty good idea what a religious right blog must be like.

          • GCT

            Yay, the, “I don’t like those people, so I’ll just compare them to religious people as an insult,” insult. How clever.

      • coyotenose

        For a while now I’ve usually only read the posts and not the comments there. After the way they just treated Ellenbeth Wachs, though, and PZ’s inability to call them out for making up things about her even when he was writing about them making up things about her, I’m done with their shit.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Nobody made anything up about EBW. She stepped in it on her own, and was rightly called out for it.

          • coyotenose

            I’ve seen all the posts both with the clutter between them and with it removed. They lied about her comments. PZ’s post on it was in fact the first I had heard about it, because I stopped bothering with the comments section for just that sort of behavior. They do that routinely. The in-crowd there is dominated by those looking for something to be outraged over. If no actual crank shows up, they invent one, and because they all know one another, they give one another ridiculous slack on that behavior. The group as a whole has a pathological need to be persecuted, and cannot be sated. Their being right on most occasions does not make up for that. You know how humans are wired to look for danger, so we often imagine it when it doesn’t exist, because our brains crave the sensation even in safe environments? That’s them now.

            I think a great many of them are witty as hell, and I laughed quite a bit reading the comments, but even those regulars there who don’t lie about and baselessly abuse people tolerate or are mealy-mouthed about the actions of those who do. They simply aren’t willing to offend other group members. Seeing PZ post about them making up things and yet still not being able to say it was the final straw. And that’s a loss, because I really, truly like his writing. But I don’t tolerate liars very well.

            I just wish Jen was still posting, goddammit.

    • RobMcCune

      Agreed, I like this blog because it usually because it avoids threads like these.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Drama happens here, just not that often but trust me, it does happen. I’ve been in the middle of it more than once.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Denverly-Dawn/100002990336016 Denverly Dawn

    I’m just going to have to disagree. Some of the people mentioned as signers are some of the people who have made it clear that I, as a feminist, am not welcome in the atheist movement. Don’t tell me how to discuss feminism and sexism on the internet. Discuss how to get rid of sexism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

      So you reserve the right to order THEM around? How cool is that.

      What good did you achieve by throwing off one religion just to pick up another? (Theism for feminism)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Denverly-Dawn/100002990336016 Denverly Dawn

        They are free to be as polite and respectful or as rude and disingenuous as they like. I make no claims to instruct someone on how courteous they need to be. You are one of the atheists who make me feel unwelcome. You are one of the atheists who makes me feel ashamed to go to any atheist “community” online. You are one of the atheists who pulls the “you’re not as good an atheist as I am” canard by equating feminism with theism. You and people like you are why I am all for deep rifts in the atheist community.

        • G. Orwell

          actually, if you are advocating speech and by default, thought control it is you who are the problem, not the other way around.

          But enjoy PZ and Adam Lees’ cocks in your mouth while you are knee-high in genuflect.

      • coyotenose

        So in order to have a counterargument, you have to first make up things about DD’s argument, then misrepresent Feminism in a way that you could have only learned, ironically enough, from Fundamentalist Christians.

        Does that work on anyone?

  • George Orwell

    Sorry, fail.

    The blog entry right below this one (regarding the Dr. Poole/FAU incident) should be all the illustration necessary.

    In fact, Hemant even made it a point to include a fantastic quote and picture from Stephen Fry, saying essentially, “Free speech is more important than your hurt feelings. Offended? Too bad. Deal with it.”

    Once again, the atheist/secular community seeks to restrict free speech and dialogue via a very select few/small portion (about 12) and their views on how to communicate.

    This is an even greater fail than A+.

    You want to be able to speak about our issues, yet seek to restrict how it is done? DOgmatic, troubling, Orwellian and dangerous.

    And because it can be done, FUCK THIS. Yes, that was done for hyperbole and example, but no, this is a horrifying thing to even propose.

    • A+Theism Cult

      At least the FFRF had class enough to not participate in this groupthink.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

        FFRF isn’t the only one.

        • Chana Messinger

          Bridget, do you really think this is groupthink? I think the idea is to come together and really work on improving the community. Isn’t that the same kind of thing you write about?

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            i don’t need “improvement” thank you very much.

            people tell me all the time that there is something wrong with me, and that i need “fixing.” you know who?

            anti-gay religious groups and racists, to name just a few. do you really want to join those ranks? you’ve already made several statements on this thread that i disagree with, am i better positioned than you such that i should decide what is best for you, in the name of “the community?” it seems to me like that is what you, and this letter, proposes to do.

            • Chana Messinger

              I don’t think you need fixing at all, of course not. I think that the broad network of atheist blogs and forums has a bit of a problem with the way we argue, and I’d like that to be fixed, by us, the commenters, the rank and file, the people who make up the community.

              Here’s what I’ll ask: Do you like the atheist online community as it is now?

              Because I personally have some concerns about it, and I think working to address those concerns is a totally reasonable and useful thing to do. What do you think?

              I’m sorry I’ve said things you disagreed with. I hope we can discuss those disagreements and learn from each other.

              • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

                i don’t read enough blogs with enough regularity to speak of the “atheist online community” with any validity. i read Hemant regularly, i’ll follow links to other atheist blogs if i have the time and interest, i read posts about atheism and religion at a wide range of sites. i like patheos as it’s introduced me to new bloggers i’d never have heard of otherwise, including the religious ones, and the atheists who comment on those.

                that was my point with another comment i left for you: define “the online atheist community.” i have no idea who or what that is, or even why, frankly, it needs to be an entity.

                if i want to take action for atheists causes, i know who to call, what to do. but imho, it’ll be a long time before i’ll apply the word “community” to a diverse collection of variously involved, variously active, variously regular online commenters at some blog i may or may not read.

                • G. Orwell

                  ChiDye siad:

                  ” i know who to call”

                  Holy Ghostbusters?

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

                I think a portion of the atheist blogosphere and Twitter has problems. I don’t see much infighting on Google+ or Facebook or other online forums such as Think Atheist.. so I have put more of my focus there. I also started my blog as an alternative.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            i don’t need “improvement” thank you very much.

            people tell me all the time that there is something wrong with me, and that i need “fixing.” you know who?

            anti-gay religious groups and racists, to name just a few. do you really want to join those ranks? you’ve already made several statements on this thread that i disagree with, am i better positioned than you such that i should decide what is best for you, in the name of “the community?” it seems to me like that is what you, and this letter, proposes to do.

          • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

            How do you improve a community by silencing new opinions?

            The blog post mentioned feminism. Do you know what happens when you criticize feminism, feminists or question feminist dogmas? You get demonized, you get called a misogynist, a rapist and your post, however mild or well-constructed or logical has a high chance of being deleted on certain forums.

            • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

              There’s a huge difference between, “I disagree with you,” and “I disagree with you, and you’re a stupid shit for thinking the way you do.” I’m not sure how suggestions that we limit the conversation to the former is “silencing new opinions.”

              • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

                Are you sure that’s what people who call for censorship want? I’ve been censored for more times than I could be bothered counting for questioning things like the “95% of all domestic violence victims are female” or “only 2 percent of rapists spend a day in jail” feminist dogmas.

                Also. Any mature human being should have a developed sense of “I don’t give a fuck if somebody throws magic words at me”. I’m sorry, but if you get offended by idiots who say mean things then you are the one at fault for being a child.

            • 3lemenope

              I’ve successfully made comments critical of feminism without any of the above happening to me, and on a scary socially progressive atheist blog no less. I’ve seen others do it to, so I know it isn’t that I have magical powers or something. As TychaBrahe perspicaciously points out, it’s less in the disagreement and more in the methodology. Not to put too fine a point on it, but often the reaction you’re describing often comes on the heels of loudly complaining that you’re gonna get persecuted for your opinions and nobody will listen and O! The Censorship!, and so forth. Like a grotesque parody of the already grotesque Christian persecution complex.

              • coyotenose

                Word.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

            I think a group can be guilty of groupthink AND have the idea of coming together and really work on improving the community. In response to A+Theism Cult, I just meant FFRF isn’t the only one that is not participating. I wasn’t agreeing with the groupthink portion.

    • Chana Messinger

      Sorry, what’s horrifying? I don’t think these organizations are trying to limit who can talk, they just want the discussion to be as productive and enriching as possible, so our community is always learning and growing and improving. Can you explain the issue to me?

      • G. Orwell

        “they just want the discussion to be as productive and enriching as possible”

        According to whom?

        That is the crux of the issue and the troubling aspect of this Orwellian proposal.

        • Chana Messinger

          I have a question for you. Do you think that the online discourse in the atheist community right now is of a high quality?

          • G. Orwell

            It doesn’t matter one lick-shit if I think it is of “high quality” or not because “high quality” is subjective.

            Go ahead, define “high quality”. You can’t. Robert Pirsig went crazy trying to figure that out and published a groundbreaking novel about that very topic. If you are not familiar it is called, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. I suggest you read it.

            You do not get to thrust you ideas of “high quality” into a public discussion and expect us to fall over ourselves following. Yes, that was metaphor, but really, it does not matter one lick-shit if I feel it is of high-quality or not.

            • Chana Messinger

              That’s really not what I was trying to do at all. I was just wondering what you personally thought. I was just going to point out, that if you thought that it wasn’t, or was in any other way lacking, that it might be reasonable for you to want to change that, to make it better. That’s what these folks are trying to do. That’s not an abridgement of free speech, is it?

              • G. Orwell

                When they seek to impose their standards to speech and actions/behaviors, yes it is an abridgment. How can you even ask that question?

                And that is the crux of this entire argument – a select group of people feel they have some extra insight as to “high quality” or such and are seeking to impose, through subtle and not so subtle social pressure and threat of “making phone calls, forcing punishments (deserved or otherwise) on those who do not behave to their standards etc….”

                It is horrifying, and you even thinking to ask, is this an abridgment, is troubling as well.

                • Chana Messinger

                  Right, a group of people has some opinions about online communities, and they’re sharing them. Just like you are right now! I’m glad we can all agree that sharing our opinions freely like that is something that can help out community improve.

                • G. Orwell

                  But you want to tell people HOW to share those opinions; we want to say, share how you wish, it is the right of free speech, even if we find it offensive or icky.

                  Big difference.

                • Chana Messinger

                  I want to argue in a way that will convince people that some ways of sharing opinions are better than others. The way you just conveyed your idea to me, for instance, is much better than just calling me a fascist and leaving it at that. It lets us have this conversation we’re having now. The right of free speech is for everyone. It’s for the people talking, it’s for the people talking about talking, and it’s for the people talking about talking about talking. Criticizing forms of expression is just as much free speech as the original forms of expression. No one is forcibly stopping expression at all. Great, right?

                • G. Orwell

                  Wow, passive aggression! Who would have thought…

                  I am stopping this with you because:

                  (a) you are either being deliberately obtuse

                  or

                  (b) you simply don’t have the capacity to think beyond your veiled walls.

                  In either circumstance, it is like trying to teach the proverbial pig how to ride a bike. Wastes my time and pisses off the pig.

                • coyotenose

                  You should have just posted “I’ll pray for you”. It would have conveyed your “I’m running away from realizing that other people have freedom of speech also” message much more efficiently.

                • G. Orwell

                  coyoteschnozz, you are one angry lil’ sumbitch. Seriously. I have yet to see any post from you that is not “no no no….do this don’t do that” peppered with “YOU YOU YOU ______” meanking, you do a lot of name calling, make a lot of accusations and are just generally, well, the angry lil’ sumbitch….

                  I don’t care why you are angry, or the history behind it, but you really don’t have a leg to stand on (maybe that is why you are angry, you are a gimp?) because of this.

                  At this point, short of starting a new name or account, there is very little you can do to regain any credibility that isn’t attached to your anger and petulance.

                  But it is damn amusing to watch! So, from that regards, keep going, you save me streaming money from “Hulu+”!

                • coyotenose

                  Wow, such rage coming from you, Anonywuss. Pro Tip: Long-winded “u mad bro?” posts only prove the opposite

                  Handicapped jokes? Bye bye.

                • GCT

                  Oh noes, your precious freeze peach is being taken away because someone expressed an opinion that you disagree with. When you know what free speech actually is, then maybe we can have a discussion.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

          seconding GO (thanks for the nice compliment, btw).

          i come here for a variety of reasons. “productivity and enrichment” are not always why. humor, alleviation of boredom, a good fight, procrastination (like i’m doing right now, damn you people for such a lively thread! ;-) are all on that list.

          i spent 10 years in a PhD program at the nation’s premiere university for the study of religion “improving” myself in a “productive and enriching” fashion.

          if you want rules of speech, conduct and standards for writing, why don’t you try one, instead of joining the ranks of people who have killed the glorious notion that “information must be free?”

          this is meant seriously, and as no insult. you seem very Serious, as we say at another blog. a comment board may not be the best place for such a noble concern.

          • Chana Messinger

            All excellent reasons to be on the internet! The internet’s great for that. Sometimes, though, the internet doesn’t give us what we want. Instead of good conversations, we get unhelpful name-calling and strawmanned arguments. Instead of humor, we get vitriol. Instead of a good fight, we get a nasty brutal one. For whatever you think the online community should be, if it’s not there yet, let’s get it there!

            • G. Orwell

              But the beautiful thing about the Internet, when you encounter those places that you feel are icky, is that you have an “off switch” and it is easily accessible. SO with that in mind, do you still want to try and defend restricting speech and actions?

              Turn it off if you are unhappy!

              I think Rush Limbaugh is a repugnant, fat-assed bag of hot gas, but you know what? I live very peacably with him because my radio has an off button and station dial. Savvy?

              • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

                I’ve heard this “restricting speech and actions” too much, so my question to you is this: How?

                • coyotenose

                  He has no answer. That’s why the constant repetition. It’s a religious trick.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

        I agree with you Chana. I think the intentions are good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette
    • 3lemenope

      This may come off as slightly harsh, but that response reminds me of a person criticizing the wearing of awareness ribbons on the grounds that ribbons don’t work to directly prevent the underlying problem. Of course community discussion itself doesn’t solve problems, but it is a crucial first step. As a reason to push the community to not rest on its initial act, this sort of criticism makes sense, but as a reason to not sign on at all it is a bit baffling.

    • baal

      I’m very sorry but when Adam Lee advocating for firing people, Greg
      Laden sending triggering hate mail or PZ says public shaming to the
      point of getting a guy fired for the same class of joke that the
      complainer made are rightful actions, I have to think that some folks
      are way too attached to using harsh tactics as the first and best solution** for problem solving. I’m not against escalation of efforts after less harmful
      solutions are tried but these three men are forcing the Overton window
      on acceptable behaviour in an ugly direction.*

      My wife volunteers legal aid for abused women and worked for 5 years at a university womens center. We hosted my gay aunt as she worked against the Minnesota gay marriage constitutional amendment. I shared an apartment in college with a woman’s studies grad student. My son’s primary baby sitter for several years was a German feminism activist. I haven’t done nearly as much direct help to women as they have but I’m not exactly unfamiliar with the unfair treatment of women and the tenets of feminism. I have tried to see the above three men* in the best light possible and just cannot be convinced they (and anyone who agrees with their tactics) are helping the cause of feminism. So far as they demand adherence to their orthodoxy from atheists, they are driving moderates (people who could be convinced) out

      Lastly, when you appeal to hate and aggression as primary tactics, you can amass a group of people to whom hate and aggression are attractive***. I argue that that’s a harmful activity in an of itself. As evidence, I offer the Horde and the slymepit vs the usual comment thread here on FA or Ed Brayton’s blog (has anyone ever seen a hostile comment on Mano Signham’s blog?). The messaging of the blog host and how they moderate have tremendous normalization impacts on their respective commentatiats. I’m not talking about bloghosts having culpability for individual trolls but you don’t need to read the comments threads for very many days on a given blog to see who is attracted to the view points of the bloghosts. If the comment threads are seething vile places, the bloghosts are responsible.

      *As a man myself, I don’t want to be accused of targeting women in this comment. I fear that I’ve failed in that regard, however, since I’ll now be accused of not respecting Watson or Benson adequately enough to have used them as the examples.
      **I’m non-plussed at the notion that a tide of softer efforts are ineffectual and that ‘reality demands’ skipping face saving efforts first. Citation needed and all that.

      ***this can be extremely powerful politically, c.f. the southern strategy of the republicans started under Nixon.

      • G. Orwell

        Hey Blackie – you are not the same Blacksheep that enjoys the Adirondacks?

        If not, my apologies, because he used to post here as “Blacksheep” – hence my thinking you were a Catholic.

      • Chana Messinger

        Yes to very much of this. The hatefulness and aggression isn’t intrinsically bad, but it’s really problematic as a first line of attack.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

        No clue why this was a reply to my comment.

      • GCT

        Citations please.

    • Barael

      From the link:

      “What if organizations made bullying unprofitable by refusing to engage with harassers, trolls, etc. as volunteers, leaders, social networking partners, event attendees, and so on?”

      That’s nice. And to where/whom do these organizations go to in order to identify such trolls and harrassers? Why, Secular Census, no doubt!

      Where have we heard this before? Oh right. “We can totally drone strike those guys, they have been determined to be enemy combatants doncha know! What do you mean, determined by who? Why, by us, of course!”

  • RebeccaSparks

    I more or less stopped commenting here because I got the feeling that the while the blog was dedicated to inclusiveness and civility the comments were more or less unmoderated and completely detached from the bloggers. It’s nice to see the leaders take a stand, though..

    • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

      So you are whining about the lack of censorship because you aren’t a big enough girl to handle the meanies?

      • Chana Messinger

        Oy, really?

        • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

          Yes, really. You can’t call for censorship, because your fragile ego is offended. Should everyone call for censorship when they face differing viewpoints or assholes?

          Well, I’m offended by that suggestion. I demand that somebody delete RebeccaSparks comment. Maybe even ban her!

          • Chana Messinger

            I just think your comment was immature and out of line. I thought I’d express that. The question of whether your comment or anyone else’s stays or goes is up to Hemant, since it’s his blog.

            • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

              How is my comment more immature than the cry for dissenting views to be moderated?

      • RobMcCune

        Exactly, how dare she not want to put up with bullshit like yours.

        • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

          Uhuh. So you’d rather censor everyone with a dissenting view? How fucking enlightened, my dear. If it were for people like you we’d still believe the Earth is the center of all things, interracial marriages would still be illegal and so on.

          • RobMcCune

            Well, you get indignant that someone wants a different kind of conversation, it’s no wonder that you’d miss the point. I know this will probably be a blow to your self esteem, but I don’t want to censor you.

            Funny how you go ape shit about how Rebecca can’t handle free speech then cry “Help! Help! I’m being oppressed!” because I called your comment bullshit.

            • G. Orwell

              How myopic and skewed

              Go play your game of black is white and up is down in real world applications and see how it works out for you.

              • RobMcCune

                Odd how such a self styled “free speech” advocate goes straight to fantasizing about retribution the moment they come across a blog comment they don’t like. Funny that.

            • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

              I don’t care if you want a different kind of conversation. Go and form a club where you only invite those friends who think and talk the same way you do. I’m fine with the diversity of styles and opinions, in fact, I cherish this diversity. What I have a problem with is the call to censor anyone. What do you want to read in the comment section? People daisychaining each other and comments of smug approval? Some people will have differing views, some will even be assholes, just deal with it like a grownup and correct him or walk away, but don’t call for moderators, because a gagged community is not worth participating in.

              Funnily enough, I have no idea what you are talking about, because at no point did I cry for help. Not here, not anywhere or anywhen in my life, because I eat strawmanning kids like you for breakfast.

              • coyotenose

                “because I eat strawmanning kids like you for breakfast.”

                So says the internet tough guy while having to constantly lie about other peoples’ argument in order to feign having a position.

                • G. Orwell

                  you are out there! funny too!

              • RobMcCune

                I don’t care if you want a different kind of conversation.

                Odd RebeccaSparks talked about leaving for just that and you got offended by it. Not the fastest self contradiction I’ve seen on the internet, but you’re in the running.

                some will even be assholes, just deal with it like a grownup and correct him or walk away

                I’m doing just that, all the while you’re going on and on about censorship.

                I have no idea what you are talking about, because at no point did I cry for help.

                Facepalm. It’s an overused reference, it’s not meant literally. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Q58nTiZrJ0because

                I eat strawmanning kids like you for breakfast.

                Really? You resort to cannibalism threats? ;) (Just a joke in case you’re going to take it literally, it’s cause you didn’t get the Monty Python reference. Get it?)

      • coyotenose

        Sorry honeybunny, it’s you whining at the thought of being called out for say, your pissy, insecure sexism. Nice projection though.

        • G. Orwell

          You resort to name calling after getting pissy with people for…..name calling…..You are a fucking riot! I mean Seth McFarlane funny! But you are saying and acting all this out of satire and parody right? Because no one would be so stupid as to actually yell at people for name calling and then turn around and name call unless they were doing it ironically, right? I mean, especially you since you take the moral high ground all the tim…..I am sorry….I couldn’t keep typing that and keep a straight face! hahahahahahah!

          • coyotenose

            “Honeybunny” is name calling*? I thought you were just trolling, but apparently you really are that stupid.

            *It’s dismissiveness of his claims, which are demonstrably false. Funny how you don’t have a problem with lying, but only with dismissiveness of people you want to agree with who are lying. Very telling.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I moderate whatever I can. If I catch a comment that’s (in my opinion) uncalled for, I’ll get rid of it. Sometimes, readers email me about them, too, which helps. With several hundreds of comments daily, though, I miss a lot. But I try to skim everything I can to get a sense of the conversation going on in a thread.

      • G. Orwell

        But Hemant, how can you say this and then post this in the blog entry directly below this one, which is a call to NOT censor and do just the opposite of your actions?

        It’s now very common to hear people say’I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more…it’s simply a whine. ‘I Find that offensive,’ it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘ I am offended by that,’ Well so fucking what?’

        - Stephen Fry

        Even you have to see this double standard and glaring contradiction.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    “Fabius Buras: Senator – you’re a fake. You have no moral compass and God we will watch you burn in hell. It’s amazing that all of a sudden “you’ve evolved” – why? For votes? You’re a traitor, a fraud, and a disgrace to this nation. I can’t wait for the Muslims to take over the US so all LGBT’s will be beheaded – oh what a glorious day that would be.”

    seen at the Senator’s FB page.

    i offer this because the secular community is NOT the problem. this blog is proof that there are plenty of nonbelievers who stridently disagree with believer’s claims, but can do so in a civil manner. we do it all the time, and if the words “stupid” or “fool” are used sometimes, well. there are 4th grade playgrounds with meaner language.

    it’s a comment on the internet. it doesn’t draw blood. if you’re an adult, you choose to participate in forums of your own choice, and you should know the risks. oh, noes! someone might call you a mean name! bring me my fainting couch. i’ve been commenting and blogging for ~15years, and i’m telling you, the scroll wheel exists for a reason. use it.

    i am not a member of any atheist organization for just this kind of (rather arrogant, imho) assumption on the part of the leadership that they not only speak for me, but they have the right to tell me how to speak. this is Hemant’s place. if i offend him, he may ban me. i’ve been banned from other places before. i lived. and while i appreciate that he may support this sentiment, i sincerely hope he takes it with a thoughtful pause about the nature, and dangers, and excitement that truly free speech brings.

    the professional lobbying class is a real problem in this country. it would sadden me greatly to see the atheist organizations who’ve done so much good work begin to adopt the corrupt, arrogant, out of touch habits of other liberal lobbying orgs. ask any gay person about how our signature lobbying orgs have de-evolved into little more than self concerned top heavy Beltway players groups, sucking up donations and spending them on parties and other ineffectual activities instead of the hard work of forcing legislators to consider what matters to the majority of gays, and not just the ones looking for increased Beltway access.

    polemicisim is my trademark, has been for years. if i hurt someone’s feelings, i’m not going to apologize unless it’s truly called for (and i have in the past when i have crossed a line). but i will not apologize for using facts, logic and reason, and some believer’s response is basically “you can’t say that, it hurts my feelings! go away!” and then proceeds to trash me at the level of the quote i put at the top of this post.

    i already know we’re a better community than many on the right or in various religions. i hope humanist and secular groups realize that some of us are attached to freedom in ALL its forms, not just the ones relating to belief or lack thereof. if the atheist online community starts to look like a moderated church basement bible study discussion, but for atheists, don’t expect to see people like me there very often.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

      Preach on sister!

    • George Orwell

      ChiDye-

      The more of yours I read, the more respect I have for you. While we don’t always agree, you have a fantastic outlook and ethos.

      I agree with you and have said so also below.

    • Claude

      I’m not seeing the connection between a perfectly reasonable call for civility and the “corrupt, arrogant, out of touch habits of liberal lobbying groups.” Nobody’s mandating “how to speak.” I’m very ambivalent about moderation, but some of the best blogs moderate the comments sections to maintain standards, successfully. (Examples: Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic; Crooked Timber). The signatories of the Letter are rightly concerned that the toxic tone of many atheist sites is counterproductive.

      some of us are attached to freedom in ALL its forms

      For some reason that made me laugh.

    • Claude

      I’m not seeing the connection between a perfectly reasonable call for civility and the “corrupt, arrogant, out of touch habits of liberal lobbying groups.” Nobody’s mandating “how to speak.” I’m very ambivalent about moderation, but some of the best blogs moderate the comments sections to maintain standards, successfully. (Examples: Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic; Crooked Timber). The signatories of the Letter are rightly concerned that the toxic tone of many atheist sites is counterproductive.

      some of us are attached to freedom in ALL its forms

      For some reason that made me laugh.

      • G. Orwell

        Okay, so I got your Catholic thing wrong, but you are a hardcore christian. That is the antithesis of freedom. Christianity tells you exactly what to do, say and even think!

        Now, you giggle over ChiDye actually standing for freedom in all its forms (And I am willing to bet ChiDye would defend your right to worship how you want, but would diverge from that when you try to use your myths to politicize social behaviors such as LGBT rights and abortion).

        Freedom of Speech means we get to speak and say things without censorship (yes, we all know the fire in a movie theater thingy) and that means we do not have a right to not be offended.

        • Claude

          I trust this is Disqus acting up and you are addressing Blacksheep? I am a long-time lapsed Catholic and atheist/agnostic.

          So, no.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            yeah, i am confused. are there two “george orwell” posters here, or is dicsux blowing goats again, as it is often wont to do?

            • Claude

              Yeah, too many people posting at once sends Disqus into a tizzy. Time to get off the internet, anyway.

            • G. Orwell

              it started off as one – I was the original, but the other one caused trouble, so I switched over to G. Orwell – I am the one who tossed you the kudos – hope that clears it for you!

              Also, you said “thanks for the compliment” – stop sucking up! :)

            • RobMcCune

              I suspect it’s disqus, it happens on threads with a lot of rapid posting.

      • Chana Messinger

        I think this is an excellent point, and I totally agree with you about TNC. He’s so great, and his comments section is actually worth reading.

    • coyotenose

      I agree with someone from the other day who said that you sometimes shoot from the hip, and miss as a result, but I never skip over your posts because there’s a high probability of quality and of a positive, ready-to-fight-but-not-looking-for-one assertiveness that is a pleasure to read.

  • Pawel Samson

    “Personally, I’ve found the best course of action to be avoiding the whole world of drama altogether, but others see that as tacit support for one side or the other.”

    This is why this blog is the only Atheist blog I read. People are going to be jerks everywhere, you might as well just ignore it…

    • Chana Messinger

      Well, but those jerks sometimes affect our community. I for one am glad that there are people standing up against the jerks in civil, reasonable, ways.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        please provide an example, with links, of how a blog comment “affected” our “community.” please also define “our community.”

        • Chana Messinger

          Sure thing! Dear Muslima, the comment Richard Dawkins made 2 years ago (link here http://www.blaghag.com/2011/07/richard-dawkins-your-privilege-is.html) really affected the network of atheist blogs and comment threads and forums. It affected the people who took one position or another on the issue, it affected what we as a group talked about for many months, and it is still playing into conversations about the women in the atheist movement.

          • G. Orwell

            This, based on nothing by rules of rhetoric and logic, is not an example.

            If anything, this just serves to help the view that this is a dangerous direction to go (restricting speech and dictating how to speak) but hey, no worries, because I heard we are getting extra Choco-rations today!

            • Chana Messinger

              I’m sorry, I don’t understand? She asked for an example, and I gave one.

              • G. Orwell

                he example is flawed. Get it? Are you that obtuse?

                You example did nothing to define “community” nor did it address how his comment was an example of “affected”. If anything, that “example” was a prime example of why we should not follow your misguided notions. Get it?

                • Chana Messinger

                  Oh, of course! I see how I wasn’t being clear. I’m so sorry. I was using, for the purpose of this discussion the definition for online community of “the network of atheist blogs and comment threads and forums”, and I should add “and all those who take part in them” and then noting that since the comment affected those people and those blogs and those threads and forums, that it affected the community. Glad I could clear that up.

                • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

                  I’m a teacher and parent of two autistic boys, and even I am amazed at your patience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dick.walsh.7 Dick Walsh

    Totally agree. I have deleted some sites for just these reasons-arrogance and hostility.There is nothing wrong with being sure of your position, but we are supposed to stand for reason, and name calling gets us nowhere. As Monty Python stated ‘an argument is a collective series of statements designed to defend a proposition’. We have them, good ones, and we should use them civilly. Hemant does just that. That’s why this is my favorite atheist site.

    • Chana Messinger

      I totally agree!

  • C Peterson

    I think that all too often, people are unable to distinguish between civil speech that disrespects an idea, and uncivil speech that disrespects an individual. I’ve certainly seen that occur often enough on this forum- and this really is friendly, compared to many.

    (When Disqus added the ability to vote posts down, or when the moderators here enabled that function, it just boosted the incivility, IMO, by essentially anonymizing disagreement. Posts should only be able to be voted up; negative responses should require actual words.)

    • 3lemenope

      Or even better, toss the voting system entirely and register agreement and disagreement with words.

      • bickle2

        Exactly. Voting up and down allows avoidance of responsibility. It’s too easy to freep someone’s posts

      • Claude

        I would have up-voted you on this (and many of your comments here), but in the spirit of your suggestion I will just say I agree.

      • http://www.facebook.com/d3st88 Morva Ádám

        Bullshit. Voting up and down decreases redundancy. What, you want people to copy paste the previous comment and add “Word!” to it?

        • 3lemenope

          It wasn’t so long ago that blog comments didn’t have a handy vote function. I don’t remember it being a chaos and bedlam of copied posts and “Word!”s.

          • coyotenose

            Yep, it’s almost as if we don’t all have to comment on everything. If someone already wrote what we were going to say, then “general agreement post” and “nothing at all” work equally well.

            And sometimes reading a post that contains what we wanted to say is inspiration to dig a little and work out something else to write, eh?

            • G. Orwell

              You are right, we don’t all have to comment, so you have the leadership role – the bridge as it were Kirk – so, lead by example and stop posting…..i.e. SHUT UP.

              • coyotenose

                Poor wittle trolling angrums. SO much rage.

          • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

            I do recall it being a “chaos and bedlam of copied posts”. In fact, it makes the comment section nearly unreadable.

        • coyotenose

          Ironically, the fact that DISQUS keeps forgetting I have an account prevents me from signing in and simply downvoting, thus leaving me with no other feedback option than to actually take the time to comment, thusly:

          “False dichotomy”.

          • Pseudonym

            Yeah, that happens to me, too. However, I wouldn’t downvote for disagreement even if I could. In particular, G. Orwell’s comment is precisely the sort of comment that (IMO) we shouldn’t downvote.

            Yes, it a dumb comment. Yes, it probably contributed nothing to the discussion. Yes, it contained a (very) mild and (slightly) personal attack. Nonetheless, it was meta-commentary in a discussion of meta-commentary, and therefore technically on topic. Moreover, it clearly hasn’t disrupted the thread.

            This is exactly the sort of comment we should leave for the moderators, rather than dealing with it in votes.

      • C Peterson

        Or even better, toss the voting system entirely and register agreement and disagreement with words.

        Maybe, although the voting system does provide a useful way of ordering posts so that the more popular float to the top, which makes sense in long discussions. The down voting as currently implemented really skews things, since for some reason Disqus seems to place a great deal more weight on negative votes. I regularly see very civil and uncontroversial posts (by this forum’s standards) get one or two down votes, which must be injected by one of the small number of religious trolls here, and which results in an obviously popular post dropping to obscurity.

        No doubt there are more clever ways of assessing popularity, but at least the up-voting only system abides by that rule we all learned from our mothers, if you don’t have something good to say, say nothing at all. Modified, here, of course, if you disagree, say why you disagree!

        • 3lemenope

          The voting system has utility, no doubts there. I just think that in the wide-angle view, what was lost was the ability to have a back and forth that actually resembled a conversation rather than a competition. Certainly I think you’re right that the algorithm for weighing the votes could be tweaked to reduce some of the problems you identify, but I think on the whole so long as there is such a system, votes will continue to function as a participatory substitute in lieu of actual contribution.

          …if you don’t have something good to say, say nothing at all.

          I’d just take the “good” out of that, and it pretty much sums up where I’m coming from. If you have something to say, say it. Clicking an up-vote isn’t saying anything.

      • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

        Is it wrong to vote up this comment? ;-)

    • WallofSleep

      I have to agree. I’ve seen rather decent comment sections on blogs devolve once a comment rating system was introduced, and devolve even further when people can identify who is doing the rating.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      On the Bangor Daily News where I’m active the most I get at least 3 down votes no matter what I post. There are some people that just do not like me for being an outspoken atheist in the past and therefore down vote anything I comment on.

      • coyotenose

        *atheist fist bump* The local paper in which I used to correspond both in print and online (until I realized that the editors would publish flagrant lies even from columnists because they thought it would boost readership) did not have a voting system. Lacking that, the theists – people ten, twenty, thirty years older than me and with better educations – would almost without exception start trolling anonymously once they figured out that the arguments they’d depended on all their lives couldn’t survive a Google search.

  • bickle2

    The problem with “civility” is that most often it’s controlled by the conservative and fundy types who think that challenging their ideas with reality is abusing them

    We’ve tried being nice to them, but time and time again, conservatives and fundies tell you what works on them with the methods they use on you. You have to jump on top of them and put your boot on their neck to get anything done

    Seriously, it’s time to start lawsuits, not against crosses and monuments, but against fraud and child abuse. We should be demanding they produce their God in court, or face prosecution.

    The Constituion demands freedom of religion. It does not include the right to make money from it, lie to people, nor to infect defenseless children with mental illness. They can pray in their closets, as not a single holy book demands you attend one.

    I realize people find these techniques offensive, but it is reality of how we’re actually going to do some good.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mypantstheatre the bullet

    Civility is defined by those in power and used as a tool to maintain the status quo. Fuck that.

    • Chana Messinger

      Sometimes, absolutely, but unreasonable arguing is always bad, no matter who does it, don’t you think?

      • http://profiles.google.com/mypantstheatre the bullet

        the two things are not equivalent. Civility does not bestow reasonableness upon an argument and incivility does not make an argument unreasonable. A perfectly reasonable argument sometimes needs to be punched up with expletives and personal insults, especially when answering a complicated piece of shit argument full of big pretty words. Anyone who can’t see the need for that is an idiot.

        There are diplomats and warriors. We need both. Occasionally in the same space.

        • Pseudonym

          Cue comment about “militant atheism”.

          But on a serious note, in the modern both diplomats and warriors are highly trained professionals who should act according to laws and conventions. What you don’t need is a rabble.

        • http://skepticink.com/notung Notung

          Anyone who can’t see the need for that is an idiot.

          I guess I’m an idiot then.

    • Joshua Katz

      True. I’ve always thought this when a banker in a nice suit complains about some dirty poor person yelling at him. Why is yelling worse than stealing in a nice manner?

    • http://twitter.com/mycultlife Lisa Kerr

      I agree that in most contexts this is true, but the internet isn’t even free anymore and it’s controlled by the government. Why not have some rules in a few forums once in awhile so people aren’t bullied? You do it in class and you go to school.

      • http://profiles.google.com/mypantstheatre the bullet

        Have all the rules you want. If it’s your blog, make tons of rules. I don’t care. But don’t get together with a bunch of other people who, collectively, could be said to be part of the fucking problem, and tell everyone else that THEY have to have more rules. That’s like the banks telling the rest of us that if we weren’t such irresponsible bastards, the economy would be in better shape. Oh wait, that IS what happened. This? This is the same.

        Once again, fuck them. Fuck their suggestions. Do something constructive or shut up. Don’t gang up with a monkey’s nuts worth of argument from authority to tell the rest of us that we’re doing it wrong

    • coyotenose

      Ah thank you, been trying to remember this point for a little while now.

  • Guest

    My one exposure to this has been on the issue of A+. I have never been disparaged
    by anybody as I have been by feminists in the Atheist online community for simply saying that the goal of Atheists groups should not be to promote feminism (which is different from saying that Atheist events should be as welcoming to women as any large American corporation, which they should). While I continue to support women’s rights this experience has left me with a less than favorable view of feminists so I can see how such behavior by Atheists when debating theists can result in similar results. We need to disagree without be disagreeable, we need to stick to the issues and most of all we cannot foam at the mouth.

    This also reminds me of the gun guy that Piers Morgan had on a while ago – there are arguments to be made over gun rights – especially on the effectiveness of banning modern sporting rifles, but the guy was so over the top, so angry, so unhinged that he only convinced people that all gun owners are crazy. We don’t want to be that guy.

    • Chana Messinger

      So do you agree that civility is an important goal?

      • G. Orwell

        No.

    • onamission5

      So you went onto a feminist forum and declared their purpose unimportant, and you were surprised that that displeased the board members. Hmmm…

  • baal

    I’m not sure now is a good time for this letter. There has been a reduction of vitriol and infighting (imho) of late and this letter will provoke the adherents of harsh language to defend their ways. It’s both sad and ironic that calls for moderation are triggering but that’s where we are at.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      They’re triggering because these calls for “moderation” are being used to silence women.

      • GCT

        It must be the blogs I hang out at, but usually it’s the other way round in my experience. Usually, the people most often and loudly complaining about their freeze peach are the ones seeking to silence women through their misogynistic bullying.

  • AndyTK

    My one exposure to this has been on the issue of A+. I have never been disparaged by anybody as I have been by feminists in the Atheist online community for simply saying that the goal of Atheists groups should not be to promote feminism (which is different from saying that Atheist events should be as welcoming to women as any large American corporation, which they should), but instead to promote a world free from religion. While I continue to support women’s rights this experience has left me with a less than favorable view of feminists so I can see how such behavior by Atheists when debating theists can result in similar results. We need to disagree without being disagreeable, we need to stick to the issues and most of all we cannot foam at the mouth at people with different points of view.

    This also reminds me of the gun guy that Piers Morgan had on a while ago – there are arguments to be made over gun rights – especially on the effectiveness of banning modern sporting rifles, but the guy was so over the top, so angry, so unhinged that he only convinced people that all gun owners are crazy. We don’t want to be that guy.

    • WallofSleep

      On Piers Morgan, I believe you might be thinking of Alex Jones, our nation’s primary conspiracy theorist and all around loon. That guy doesn’t make gun owners look bad, he makes the entire human race look bad.

    • GCT

      Without citation, I’m sure that we can all take your word for it that you said nothing that had any trigger to it and only receive vitriol. Right?

      • AndyTK

        I am afraid so, though from reading some of the other comments I wasn’t the only person subjected to a “you either agree with us fully or you are scum” attack. I certainly never said anything that I would be afraid of saying in front of my wife, friends or co-workers and I did re-read my comments to see if I crossed some line at the time. I also always try my best to keep things limited to the issues and not attack the person instead (I always take that as a sign of a weak argument, turning it personal that is). With this topic it is hard because the topic is about how we present ourselves to each other and the world at large. Whether I touched on a sore spot for these feminists or not the response was such that from my perspective at least I had found the grain of truth to Rush Limbaugh’s “crazy feminist Nazi” stereotype, a creature that I had before that moment felt was a mythical creature created by a crazy person, despite being surrounded by strong brilliant liberal women.

        • GCT

          The fact that you’re talking about feminazis makes me suspect your account all the more.

        • onamission5

          Question: you said you went back and read through your own replies, but did you go back and read the responses you got to try and see where other people were coming from? Did you take even a moment to consider that you might be in the wrong and those strong liberal brilliant women might actually know what they are talking about?

          • AndyTK

            I don’t know the feminists that verbally (textually?) assaulted me for daring to not support their desire to hijack the Atheist movement for their cause so I don’t know if they were “strong liberal brilliant women”. For all I know they were 14 year olds in PJ’s in their mother’s basement, just as you don’t know if I’m their male equivalent. The “strong liberal brilliant women” are the ones that I know IRL who do not behave the way these (self-reported) women did.
            Anyway, the issue wasn’t their ability to debate an issue on the facts it was how they conducted themselves in the debate and how that affects their ability to win people over to their point of view. What is considered good behavior is subjective, what P Z Myers and Greta Christina think is acceptable dialog isn’t harsh enough for some and is way over the line for others. What I can tell you is that these feminists mixed their debating points with a sufficient amount of vitriol that they left me with the impression that they were not very nice people, at least to people they disagreed with. They left me with a very negative impression. The point of this whole topic is that we don’t want to be like them. This is independent of the need for or distraction that is A+.
            The most effective way to win a debate is to disagree with facts, strongly, but without being disagreeable.

            • GCT

              IOW, you’re tone trolling.

              Did you ever stop to think that maybe women are reacting angrily for good reason? Nope, all you seem to care about is your hurt feelings. It doesn’t seem to cross your mind that a woman who has put up with rape culture her whole life might have some justification for being angry, especially with the barrage of comments that usually come in about how women need to ‘get over it’ and other such bullshit. (Oh no, I said bullshit. Are you going to chide me for being a potty mouth now and declare that I’m a horrible person?)

              I’m sure that you’ve suffered so much more from having to hear strongly worded arguments than those women have from living in an oppressive environment. I can see your pain now. I’m sure that those hysterical and uppity b*tches were wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m equally sure that you had no part to play in it, that you weren’t expressing any biases or privilege and that it was completely their fault – that you are a paragon of virtue and equality for women. I’m sure that you didn’t belittle their experiences at all. Oh woe is you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569655551 Dan Davis

    I admit, I am intolerant of their intrusion into my life and that of “my” government. The fact that they continue to do so will continue to bring out my vitriol, and until they stop, neither will I.

    • GCT

      “Their” who? What intrusion into your life? Who is intruding into “your” government and how? What in the world are you talking about.

  • Joshua Katz

    In my experience, the attitude of many in the atheist world is “if you don’t agree with me on this entirely non-religious point, then you aren’t a real atheist.” We shouldn’t silence such people, as free speech is more important than anything else – but we can and should ask people if expressing that point of view is helpful to the mission.

    I, for example, am a libertarian. I do not believe in God, I do not support organized religion – yet I am regularly told that I don’t count as an atheist because of my political views. This is childish and absurd.

    • 3lemenope

      Both here and at UF, my very first experiences in both communities were of people opining that I must not be a real atheist because my perspectives didn’t jive with what they had come to expect.

      Because, in the US at any rate, religion has become a political business, it is hard (if not impossible) to separate them cleanly, and it is hard not to notice that one party has more of an affinity for dingbatty religious expression than the other. I, too, hold some affection for libertarianism (though I would no longer call myself one) and am generally fairly conservative, and as a consequence the rather easy contempt that most in the atheist blogopshere have for people on the right is grating (and simply stupid, since they might actually learn something from the perspective if they stopped to actually consider). On the other hand, what passes for the right in the US has degenerated to such an extent that it really has become hard to blame people for making those broad strokes; much as moderate and liberal religionists fail to contain their extremist brethren (and so get judged alongside them), conservatives of an older mold have abdicated the right-wing party entirely to religious zealots, and so we get stuck with them.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        how many Stalinists have you seen on MSNBC? How many atheists who believe churches should be closed, and all religious practices banned? how many feminists advocating mandatory sterilization and testosterone depleting therapy for all sexual assault criminals?

        zero. that’s how many.

        but the list of people who equate homosexuality with murder and bestiality, people who believe non-whites are inferior, people who deny the holocaust or think that Jesus will be here in the year 2015, or that women shouldn’t work or receive educations… well that list would almost as long as the comments to this post.

        it’s called ‘false equivalency and it’s a problem for moderate right wing folks i encounter, often. the far right is completely over represented in the media, and their influence in politics and culture and practically everything is too. you cannot in any way say the left has an extremist group with that degree of power.

        the moderate and even “far” left left doesn’t have to “control” extremists. they are so few, and so marginalized/invisible and powerless, it would be like spanking a dog to bring about world peace. silly. pointless.

        • G. Orwell

          Hehhehhhe, you said spank…..heheheh…..

          (sorry, its late and I am just in a goofy, punchy kinda mood)

        • 3lemenope

          I agree that false equivalency is a problem, I’m just not clear how it applies to what I said. I didn’t claim that the Left is, currently, as bad as the Right in their acceptance of extremism, only that people on the Left are fools for ignoring an entire body of thought merely because some of its exponents are ridiculous (much as people on the Right are when they do; the first just happens to come up here more than the second).

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

            much as moderate and liberal religionists fail to contain their extremist brethren

            this was what i responding to, because i think it’s a silly, almost funny assertion. “contain” the “extremists” on the left? mostly, those are 4 guys at a table on a college campus handing out flyers before going home to little apartments across town and then going to work at the pet food store, dreaming about the glory days of the 60s (in ways that never were). absolutely no one cares what they say, even people on the left, let alone the media or government. there’s nothing to “contain” there.

            • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

              oh, i get it now- sorry, i misunderstood your emphasis, which was on the religious part, not the liberal/left part. my bad.

              • 3lemenope

                Heh, I’m too slow.

            • 3lemenope

              No, you misunderstand (and it’s partly my fault). Moderate and liberal in the above are adjectives modifying “religionists”, they are not meant in their political substantive sense but rather in their (roughly) theological sense, as is extremist; the part I did not explicitly qualify was that I meant the extremists to their theological Right. As you rightly point out, there are hardly any other sort.

        • Joshua Katz

          True. But I consider myself part of that marginalized left – perhaps the most marginalized part, as Barack Obama gets a lot more airtime than Noam Chomsky.

      • Joshua Katz

        Perhaps – but I’m not on the right. The problem is that many in the atheist community have their right-wing alarm set way too sensitive, and jump from “not fully agreeing with my previously held view” to “right wing” to “crazy religious kook.” It doesn’t work this way.

        • pitbullgirl1965

          Well, you can’t blame us for that high setting. I am 48 years old, and remember when this shit started: around 1980 with the Moral Majority.
          I believed the American people would laugh at them.
          Instead they helped elect that bastard Reagen and the country has been making gigantic rightward steps since, to the point where they want to ban birth control!! Again I might add.
          And to the point where someone like President Obama is considered a liberal!

    • coyotenose

      People who would tell you that are examples of why “we” shouldn’t count ourselves as a single monolithic bloc superior to theists, something we see a LOT, even here. It doesn’t take brains to be an atheist, just like it doesn’t take stupidity to be a theist. I’d bet that most atheists don’t base their viewpoint on thought and logic*. Hell, if you were to go by Facebook and YouTube posts, atheists would seem to average out slightly above Tolkien orcs for brains.

      *quote-mine gold right there, no doubt.

      • Joshua Katz

        I agree with that. I do like to be around the skeptic community, though not because everyone is smarter than anyone else, but because there’s more potential for rational discourse when dogma and god explanations are out from the start. But that fails to be the case when viewpoints are excluded without argument.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Some viewpoints can absolutely be excluded or discarded without argument. Oh, for example, the “viewpoint” that rape is okay if the victim is unconscious and the attack doesn’t leave any injuries…

          Or would you argue that a viewpoint that treats women as objects to be used at the whim of men should be seriously considered as valid?

    • ortcutt

      I’m a liberal atheist and Libertarians and part of what I dislike about Organized Atheism. If I’m going to organize my social life around something, I rather it be something I care about, Democratic politics, rather than a lack of belief in the existence of gods. I have more in common with liberal theists than conservative atheists.

      • Joshua Katz

        Fair enough. I don’t see what that has to do with my point, though, which is that I am no less an atheist for not being a liberal or a Democrat.

  • http://www.dougberger.net Doug B.

    Human equality isn’t debatable yet there seems to be a subset of people who want to debate women’s equality. Feminism is about women’s equality. I would be more encouraged that people are being rational about it if they actually knew what they were talking about. Having wars of flaming straw men just seems pointless to me.

    • Chana Messinger

      I totally agree. I really wish conversations about that topic were conducted much more reasonably.

      • G. Orwell

        You remind me of that uppity chick in the later Harry Potter movies – the one from the ministry that comes in with this glazed smile, but is one of the most Orwellian little chiquitas in the show.

        You have that same crocodile smile and intent.

        • coyotenose

          You remind me of that nasty dimwit from this thread who is about to take a little vacation because he’s too stupid to not troll unprovoked.

          You might have actually used “Orwellian” correctly that time. It’s hard to tell, since you’ve blathered incompetently about it so much that it’s hard to separate the occurrences. Rather like trying to count how many times you hear Michael Buble playing on one trip to the grocery store, only without the variation in lyrics.

          • G. Orwell

            I love you. Marry me.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Part of the problem is a large number of men (and a truly disturbing number of women) who insist on treating women as subhuman things, and if we’re harassed or raped or threatened or otherwise treated in an illegal manner, hey, we should just accept it because we brought it on ourselves by existing.

      If we object to being treated as toys or pets or convenient fuck-toys, we’re “uppity bitches” or “feminazis”.

      All feminism is about is holding men and women to the same standards under the law (including equal pay for equal work), instead of brushing off abuse and rape as “boys will be boys” and questioning the victim as if she were a suspect, because if she really didn’t want to be raped, she wouldn’t have worn that skirt/walked home in the dark/had that drink/left the home without a male relative — she was askin’ for it! Oh, or telling the battered woman to “stop provoking him”! That one’s always been my favorite.

      • GCT

        +1 – and I wish I could vote this up a million times.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.oravec Alan Oravec

    Other than the “No true Secularist” part of it, I concur. But looking at the comments causes me to feel that it may be in vain. Some people just want to scream, and swear, insult and ridicule, ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS, and to me it has become background noise. I’ve stopped visiting a lot of these places because of it. I’ve tried to filter out the garbage, but it takes too much effort. It’s made me very cynical about “The Movement.” I haven’t given up my personal growth on the issues, but I prefer not to do it in a mosh pit.

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    I agree with this mostly. My only concern is the call for to moderate blogs and forums. I don’t object to moderating comments outright, but I do fear over moderation or worst, closing down comment sections entirely. So I think we need to tread carefully on that one. Other than that, I would also add that people should stop reading and commenting on blog posts and forums that deal with drama. Drama exists because it gets hits and readers. Stop hitting and reading, and the drama will slowly go away.

    • GCT

      The problem is that this ignores the reality of the problems. The drama exists because there are problems within the atheist movement, especially in regards to the treatment of women and other minorities.

      • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

        Obviously, the atheist community can do better in regard to treatment of women and other minorities. Every community can. Our community is far better than most in this regard, but there is still room for improvement. However, many of the claims of misogyny are simply misunderstandings, points of reasonable disagreement, exaggerations, and/or made up entirely. Again, there are real problems and that is not what I am talking about here.

        • GCT

          I agree that we can do better, but where I disagree is in the idea that we will do better by ignoring the issues. It’s by dragging these things out into the light that we can identify what the issues are and then attempt to fix them.

          Will there be misunderstandings along the way? Yes. Is that a reason to stop? No.

          • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

            On this we completely agree. We should absolutely not stop trying to fix the problems that do exist and we should absolutely continue to make our community much better. But one thing we can and must do is separate the real problems from the misunderstandings, name callings, exaggerations, and drama. I think that is what this open letter is asking for. If you think someone is saying or doing something that is horribly sexist or racist, talk to them first before making a blog post where you try to shun them and damage their reputation. Recognize that the people in our community all claim to value reason and honest discourse. Most of us have changed our position on one of the most difficult things to change our position on (i.e. religion). We are open to changing our position and/or behavior if given good solid reason for doing so. Conversation before condemnation.

            • GCT

              I feel like we mostly agree, and I think I’m just not understanding what you mean when you use the word, “Drama.”

              • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

                I’m afraid I can’t really help you with that one without adding to the drama. You’ll just have to figure that one out for yourself.

                • GCT

                  Fair enough, but I was asking for your definition. I don’t believe I’ll be able to figure it out myself without input from you.

  • http://twitter.com/SecularCensus Amer. Secular Census

    The American Secular Census also chose not to sign the Open Letter. (This was independent of Secular Woman – we saw each other’s statements when the general public did.) You can read why here: http://secularcensus.us/why-we-did-not-sign-open-letter-to-secular-community

  • G. Orwell

    Now Hemant has not come out and given his opinion vis-a-vis the open letter yet conclusively, but he has given hints as to his stance. With that, Hemant put up a post RIGHT BELOW THIS CALL TO CENSORSHIP and direct social pressure to conform based on being offended to styles of discourse that directly contradicts the open letter’s intent.

    Here it is, and it is important to note that this was in a large picture as well, this was not just buried in the blog entry; This is very important here:

    “It’s now very common to hear people say’I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more…it’s simply a whine. ‘I Find that offensive,’ it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘ I am offended by that,’ Well so fucking what?”

    - Stephen Fry

    So there you go. If there were ever a clear cut case of double standard or contradiction, you would be hard pressed to find one.

    • http://profiles.google.com/mypantstheatre the bullet

      QFT

    • coyotenose

      *counts*

      Yep, now you’re just spamming. No wonder the comment total for this post is so high. I’m actually surprised that you didn’t misuse Orwell yet again.

      • G. Orwell

        Zazing. You got me. Hep’ me hep’ me….I’s goin’ down…..The lighhts, the lights is goin’ out…..

    • GCT

      1) Hemant didn’t write the post about the professor, Jessica did.
      2) I fail to see the supposed contradiction.

  • The Captain

    All right, I waited to take my time with this since my first thoughts where hard to pin down and filled with profanity.

    This is a nice sentiment, but in the end shallow, meaningless, and dancing around the elephants in the room. first off they call out internet trolls…Really? Fucking really!? Holly mother of fucking hell why are you even wasting time talking about trolls? Why is it the atheist/skeptic community seems to be the least able to handle what most every other community can, the trolls. I’m part of a lot of other internet communities and every one of them just ignores the trolls and goes on with life just fine. “But The Captain you see comment #784 out of 1233 on a blog post said they wanted to rape me!” We must sound the alarms, we must call for civility, we must censor all the post! No, you must just fucking ignore the shit and move on. Hell I run a small blog about stupid cars I see on the road that’s read by maybe 9 of my friends and perhaps 20 or so randoms a month and I get post threatening to rape me even. Get over it. Laugh and move on. How fucking hard is that people!?

    Then after chastising the “trolls” (of which they do not define) they leave alone the biggest problem right now of the use of bullying (by those with actual power here) to silence otehrs. “Troll” has become a label used to justify attacking anyone whom you disagree with.

    But what really bothers me is the elephant they felt the need to dance around. As I read this I was found wondering why “sexism and feminism” was singled out at all. I mean is “racism” not a problem? I’ve seen (and even had) arguments with libertarian atheist that turn disgustingly ugly. Hell most of those discussions seem to go that way. Why was it not brought up? Well because we all know the real issue here is the A+ movement and Free Though Blogs is where all the problems are happening. But they didn’t have the balls to call them out in this statement though did they? They just couldn’t bring themselves to at least try to address the area where we are al fighting, (probabaly out of fear that same group would turn on them). But that’s the problem we all have to face, that’s the “disturbance” within our community (as much as you can define “community” on the internet). I mean even if you don’t think its the A+ crowd starting trouble, all the trouble does seem to involve them. Just like my crackhead neighbors down the street may not be the ones causing all the crime on our street, but all the crime on our street does seem to happen in front of their house.

    And the irony of a statement lambasting the “There’s something wrong on the Internet!” syndrome because there’s something wrong on the internet was not lost on me.

    Also “Fortunately, our secular values of reason and compassion give us tools to rise above the lowest common denominator of online communication.” show me evidence of this claim.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      Well because we all know the real issue here is the A+ movement and Free Though (sic) Blogs is where all the problems are happening.

      Uh, no, and I think you’d be hard to pressed to find any insinuation of that in the open letter.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Because rape threats (and actual rape) has never been used as a tool of oppression, and, you know, women are never stalked and raped…

      Sorry, but threats of rape, injury, or death absolutely must be taken seriously.

      • The Captain

        As I siad to the person above you…

        Please show me the examples of rape threats against women in the atheist movement that have then been carried out in real life…. I’m waiting…….

        Until you do, you have nothing but an irrational fear. An irrational fear of random 14 year olds posting on the internet that YOU are letting define your own behavior. That’s your problem!

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Yeah, so all those years I was abused, hey, no biggie, I was “letting him define my behavior”.

          Fuck you.

          • The Captain

            That sounds awful, but I have to ask what does your past abuse have to do with the legitimacy of a threat made in an online blog comment today? Seriously what does one have to do with the other? As horrible as your past abuse must have been (and I sincerely mean that) the fact that it happened still does not mean that the kid that screamed he’d “fucking rape me” on the PS3 was a “real ” threat though does it?

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              BECAUSE RAPE AND THREATS OF RAPE (AND OTHER BODILY HARM) ARE ROUTINELY USED TO SILENCE AND INTIMIDATE WOMEN!

              My gods, are you naturally this dense, or do you have to work at it?

              • The Captain

                Once again please show me evidence that any rapes have been carried out against women within the atheist movement that where originally made online in comments on a blog post.

                Also, stop acting like women are the only people who ever get raped… fucking sexist!

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  They don’t have to actually be carried out to have a silencing effect, moron. Stop acting like bitchez be lying!

    • GCT

      Rape threats are very often triggers for people who have been raped. Those things cannot be tolerated.

      And, why is it that the crowd who love to bash A+ and FtB never get around to saying a single bad thing about the people who are actually abusing women, harassing them, etc? It’s very telling.

      • The Captain

        Please show me the examples of rape threats against women in the atheist movement that have then been carried out in real life…. I’m waiting…….

        Until you do, you have nothing but an irrational fear. An irrational fear of random 14 year olds posting on the internet that YOU are letting define your own behavior. That’s your problem!

        • GCT

          So, threats don’t count unless someone actually gets raped? This is vile. The idea behind rape threats isn’t always that the person will necessarily follow through. The idea is to silence women, make them feel unsafe, uncomfortable, and unwelcome. Fuck you.

      • The Captain

        Oh, and you know we have to defend that logical fallacy all the time from religious people, the “you didn’t criticizes so and so, is telling” argument.

        You know, you didn’t criticize people who are masterbating to pictures of atheist women on the internet while beating their dog, in your post. It’s very telling.

        • GCT

          The problem is that you’re placing all your bile, hatred, and anger on those who are pointing out the problems while completely ignoring those who are actually causing the problems. The misogynists get a free pass from you. The people who stand up and say, “No, that’s not acceptable,” are the people you decide to fight against. Why is that?

          • The Captain

            You just don’t get it. There is nothing to fight against. This is the internet… There will ALWAYS be some dumb jack ass that does these kinds of things! ALWAYS! You’re not somehow going to change human behavior, you’re not a wizard.Fighting internet trolls is about as pointless and winnable as the war on drugs! I’ve been on the internet since before there was a WWW. Back when it was all dialing BBS’s and this shit still went on back then. You will never get rid of idiots and children makings stupid comments. Never. That’s the fucking reality here. It really is a case of you freaking out because comment #687 out of 1154 said something awful. And until you show me EVIDENCE then yes, you have an irrational fear. What other things without evidence do you believe in? The boogie man.. has he been following you on the internet? Is there an internet Santa Clause who brings you gifts of spam mail?

            I’m sorry, but we can’t duct tape foam on every corner of the internet for you. The reason I “hate” people like you as you say (and I don’t “hate” you, I just don’t like you very much and have a very low opinion of the A+ crowd) is you think the entire world and internet needs to cater to your specific desires. That the entire atheist/skeptic community need to jump up and go on your holly crusade against the windmills you fear. That the rest of us, who are are getting along with things fine need to stop what we are doing and give all our attention to you because we need to understand that your a special little snowflake. That you think we all need to hand hold you and give you cookies through what the rest of us have been dealing with just fine our whole lives, and if we don’t you label us as the same as those who make these never carried out “threats” you so base you identity off of. If we don’t do this, if we don’t agree with everything you say, if we don’t do everything you say, if we don’t think you’re the most important person on the internet, we get labeled “misogynist”, “rape apologist”, “asshole atheist”, “immoral scum”. Se how that might be tad bit annoying?

            And that’s what really drives me fucking nuts about this, what really pisses me off here. One of my neighbors a few weeks ago tried to kick in the door of another neighbor with a bat to beat the shit out of them. Ive seen a kid have his broken ass big wheel taken and smacked up over the head with it because his mom is fat and dad a mexican. A girl was just robed at gunpoint two blocks from my house on a path we all have to walk on to get anywhere. A guy attacked his mom with a sword up the road this winter. I see REAL fucking “bullying” every damn day when I step out of my house and then when I come in onto the internet to talk about atheist shit I have to hear the A+ crowd crying and screaming about their white people internet problems like it’s the worst fucking thing ever.

            I’ve seen people near death, freezing and starving on the streets of South America, I’ve seen women with real fear in their eyes behind a burka in thailand, real fucking fear! Because their rapist and abuser was standing next to them and was their husband, but damn it everything must stop because swag4204jesus made a rape comment on a blog post 900 other people commented on and that’s the worst thing ever to you guys. Fucking pansy ass self-centered bullshit pisses me off.

            • GCT

              “You just don’t get it. There is nothing to fight against. This is the internet… There will ALWAYS be some dumb jack ass that does these kinds of things! ALWAYS!”

              There will always be racists too, so I guess no one should have ever tried to end slavery. There will always be theists that desire political power, so I guess we shouldn’t strive to have a secular culture. Be defeatist all you want, but don’t get mad when other people see the arc of human progression and strive to make it better.

              “And until you show me EVIDENCE then yes, you have an irrational fear.”

              Evidence that a man threatened rape and then followed through? I have to provide that, or else it’s completely irrational to say that rape threats are wrong, to speak out against them, etc? This is callous, stupid, and frankly sexist.

              “What other things without evidence do you believe in?”

              Yay, let’s play the no true Scotsman game!

              “The reason I “hate” people like you as you say (and I don’t “hate” you, I just don’t like you very much and have a very low opinion of the A+ crowd) is you think the entire world and internet needs to cater to your specific desires.”

              No, you moron. It’s that I think that women are equals and are people too, and that men don’t have a right to harass them.

              “That the entire atheist/skeptic community need to jump up and go on your holly crusade against the windmills you fear.”

              Yes, bring me more holly!

              “That the rest of us, who are are getting along with things fine need to stop what we are doing and give all our attention to you because we need to understand that your a special little snowflake.”

              “The rest of us?” Meaning what? Straight, white men?

              “That you think we all need to hand hold you and give you cookies through what the rest of us have been dealing with just fine our whole lives, and if we don’t you label us as the same as those who make these never carried out “threats” you so base you identity off of.”

              Yes, I’m sure you’ve been dealing with rape threats your whole life, or a patriarchal culture that continually victim blames you and slut shames you, etc.

              “If we don’t do this, if we don’t agree with everything you say, if we don’t do everything you say, if we don’t think you’re the most important person on the internet, we get labeled “misogynist”, “rape apologist”, “asshole atheist”, “immoral scum”.”

              Um, no. You’re being labeled that because you seem to be those things. When you demand proof of rape and claim that without it those (insert condescending/sexist trope here) need to sit down and just deal with it, you’re engaging in rape apology and misogyny.

              “I see REAL fucking “bullying” every damn day when I step out of my house and then when I come in onto the internet to talk about atheist shit I have to hear the A+ crowd crying and screaming about their white people internet problems like it’s the worst fucking thing ever.”

              Ah yes. There are other problems out there, so how dare anyone try to address a problem without running it past you first to determine whether it’s sufficiently dire enough to be addressed. And, I’m supposedly the one that has to be the most important person.

              What makes it even worse for you is that you’re guilty of the very thing that you’re claiming pisses you off. Here you are complaining about how those mean feminists are calling you names (accurately it seems). Don’t you realize that there are bigger problems in the world than your petty little problems with people rightly pointing out your rape apologia?

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      Hell I run a small blog about stupid cars I see on the road that’s read by maybe 9 of my friends and perhaps 20 or so randoms a month and I get post threatening to rape me even. Get over it. Laugh and move on. How fucking hard is that people!?

      Sorry, don’t buy it. But even granting you the benefit of the doubt, “laugh and move on” is not the appropriate response to rape threats.

      • The Captain

        You’re right, I made up a lie about my real life just to win a small point in a pointless internet argument. Do you just dismiss all information you find inconvenient to you? You sound just like those creationist douche bags do. {fingers in ears} La la la la la I don’t hear you and if I do won’t believe you because it’s not what I want it hear.

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          Did you care to read more than just the first four words of my post? But no, I don’t believe you – not because it’s inconvenient (what would you sample of one even prove?) but because it’s a pretty extraordinary claim to suggest that you’ve gotten rape threats from a blog about cars you see (unless you manage to be a total asshat about what you write, which I guess can be granted a little more credence given what you’ve written here). So yes, I’m skeptical, which puts you in the position of the theist asserting something extraordinary without evidence, not me.

  • http://twitter.com/brychan Bryan Chandler

    I think the point of this pledge is, “Hey, you can discuss issues, and even strongly disagree with someone, without ending your post with, “Eat shit and die fuckface.” Would removing comments like that be censorship, or just good housekeeping?

    • G. Orwell

      Fuck you asswipe. Let’s fucking put it to the test you facist humpwipe fuckwad stool-stained browbeating duckweed.

      And how about that Haiti, I mean just look at it…..

      • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

        You’re doing a great job of raising the level of discourse. I’m sure Eric Blair would certainly love how you’ve used his nom de plume.

  • unashamed116

    Hello atheists,
    I have a few questions regarding your experiences with Christianity and thought this post would be the best place to have a “friendly” discussion. I am sure all of you could give many reasons why you disagree with religion (Christianity in particular), religious institutions or concepts of God, but I am curious as to what your *personal* experiences with Christians and Christian churches have been like. Have they figured in your decisions to become/remain atheists? If so, how? (By “Christians” I mean Christians who actively practice their faith beyond church attendance, etc. However, I welcome your stories about the other kind as well.)

    • SeekerLancer

      I was raised Catholic, I had no problem with the church growing up. It wasn’t until getting into confrontations with fundamentalists that I realized I was arguing against their beliefs they had no evidence for with beliefs I had no evidence for. I examined my personal beliefs and they were really growing less and less compatible with the church. I then sought a personal relationship with God and realized I was talking to myself.

      There’s nothing more complicated than that. There was no traumatic incident in my life that made me angry at God. There was no reason beyond the intellectual that lead me to stop believing. It was no different for me than finding out Santa Claus was not real. I stay an atheist simply because I don’t believe and I haven’t been given any evidence to change that.

    • The Captain

      Sure why not.

      I never really believed in the character of “god”. What I mean by that is I grew up in a home where my mother was religious but not into churches, and my father is probably agnostic but doesn’t talk about it much. As a child I just stopped believing in “god” at the exact same time I stopped believing in santa claus, the boogie man, and other superstitions. I dropped them all around the same time as a child. I just grew out of it.

      There’s a bit more to it, since I can remember my thought process on the subject so if you are really reading this I can add more.

      • unashamed116

        Thanks for the reply. I am reading all responses and I’m interested in the rest of your thoughts.

        • The Captain

          All right, I guess I was about 5-6 or so and I still believed in all the things my parents told me where real. Ghost, santa clause, god…ect (although I never believed in the tooth fairy I know that was bull crap from the get go). I was just starting to read a lot on my own (lots of comic books, Aesop’s fables) and had a lot of audio books. Someone in my extended family I guess had given me some children bible books and audio tapes, the ones where the tape reads the book to you. I remember one was the Jonah and the the wale story and even at that age i knew enough about biology to know that story was bull. The other that stands out was the story of the flood. Now this was interesting. The audio tape had voice actors and sound effects so during the flooding and they had the cries of women and children trying to get into the ark. Children that where my age, dying in the flood. Now even at that age I could figure out that the image of a “loving” “all knowing” god didn’t fit with the idea of murdering children because he’s mad at a bunch of adults. That sounded to me more like the justifications man makes for things, not a “god”. To me the stories where nothing more than the fables I was also reading, “god” was just another character made up by man, like Superman or Darth vader. The fact that adults believed it didn’t concern me any more than my friends that still believed in santa clause did.

          So since the time I was able to form my own opinion on the truth I never believed in god. It’s important to note here that this is not the basis of my disbelief, just how I first came to it. The basis fundamentally even at that age was there just was no evidence that god was actually real.

          Incidentally this is also the same time I realized that superman is an awfully boring character and kinda a dick. But that’s a different rant.

    • G. Orwell

      Jesus held me down when I was a kid and let the Holy Ghost bugger me. That is why I am an atheist.

      And god always picked me last in gym class, so those three can go *** themselves…..

      • coyotenose

        Flagged for dimwitted trolling.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      other people’s beliefs have played very little role in my decision to remain a firm atheist. i know many people of many different types and degrees of faith; i went to Divinity school and there’s almost nothing i haven’t met at least one example of in terms of faith. indeed, it was that experience that led me to my conclusion that while i am agnostic in the sense that i know the limits of my and human knowledge, i am also completely inoculated against any religious belief, because the cacophony of them across history is the strongest proof i know that it is merely human invention.

      why are you a Christian, and not a Baha’i? a Jain? a Jew? why don’t you worship an ancient god(s) who predate all those faiths, and have better claims to antiquity? if you met someone who still made offerings to the Sun God, would that have an impact on your faith? in other words, how do you know yours is “real” and all those others are not? you all offer equally (un)convincing proof.

      i am a ‘militant atheist’ because of modern day american politics and religion’s stranglehold upon them. too many politicians are swayed to pass policy affecting us all in the name of just a few sects of one or two religions. this has directly impacted me life; i am a homosexual and do not enjoy equal rights because of one mythological passage in one religious texts. so in that sense, my experience with very active, very ‘righteous’ “christians” is extremely negative. if you want me to be blunt about it, they, more than any other group, are the reason i am an outspoken and unfriendly to them atheist.

      i don’t react well to death threats and being compared to pedophiles and bestiality practitioners.

    • Claude

      I am curious as to what your *personal* experiences with Christians and Christian churches have been like.

      It varies. I have found the religiosity of some Christians off putting because it seemed more of a socio-economic accessory than a thoughtful practice. Sometimes I wonder if some Christians have any idea of what’s in those scriptures of theirs. I don’t care for the few fundamentalist churches I’ve attended, unless they’re black. Every African American service I’ve experienced has been a fabulous performance, the preaching, the music and singing, the call and response, all of it. Sometimes I watch Mass at St. Peter’s on TV for the aesthetics.

      Some of the most charismatic and exciting people I’ve known were Christians. At times I’ve been enticed to reconsider my religious views, but I just have no capacity to believe in a a god, gods, or the Yahweh-Jesus-Holy Spirit nexus. It’s a fascinating religion, though, and its artistic tradition is a gift.

    • coyotenose

      Hallo! Sorry about the late reply. DISQUS has been acting up horribly, and your post kept disappearing for me.

      I live in suburban and semi-rural North Carolina, in a fairly religiously conservative region. My sister is Christian, although I suspect she doesn’t think much about the supernatural aspects. Even though she’s tremendously more intelligent than I am, she seemed surprised and pleased by the concept that they could be metaphors and that she didn’t have to try to reconcile them as actual events. She’s very progressive on any social issue I can think of. Even when she doesn’t like the idea of something, she gets that she is not other people and her experiences do not invalidate theirs.

      My last girlfriend, who I still chat with, is a practicing Methodist. In my limited experience, Methodist churches tend to be either very open or very judgmental. She’s of the former group. She and her family volunteer time for charity work and have fostered quite a few kids that she still calls her sisters. Before we split up, I was looking forward to taking her around to some of our really lovely local churches (extreme long distance relationship, you know.)

      My coworkers are mostly solidly Christian, and some quite literally wear their beliefs on their sleeves. It’s exasperating that they are judgmental, but that they would also do about anything to help someone out. One spent half an hour in the rain during his lunch break helping me fix my vehicle, and I didn’t ask him to. He just saw me on the far side of the parking lot.

      My next-door neighbor is Christian and racist as hell. He and his wife are elderly and ill, though, and I run errands for them or help them cover the bills til their next paycheck. People need to eat no matter what. Likewise, he would happily help me with a chore he saw me working on. It’s hard to get him to NOT come out and wear himself out like that.

      The local Christians who speak out publicly, for example in newspapers or evening news reports, are mostly some combination of ignorant and/or dishonest. They quote mine for instance, which is nothing less than lying, and when called out on it with the original complete quotes, they claim they’re quoting in context…when they’re documented as not doing so. They plagiarize and, when presented with the original pieces, claim they wrote them anyway. Then they complain that their critics are mean and UnChristian for not tolerating lies, and even the Christians who don’t believe them back them up anyway because they’re being “persecuted for their beliefs.” There is a minority of liberal Christians writing in or speaking out, but while they are far more honest, they use some incredibly bad reasoning, and not just on Biblical matters. I find myself unable to agree with them even on issues where we’re on the same side, because they don’t arrive at their positions rationally.

      One of those online correspondents is an elderly conservative Christian who took care of his gay nephew when he contracted AIDS and got sick, when no other family member would go near him. He claims to have not been judgmental of him while they lived together, knowing it would do no good. He thinks his nephew is now being eternally tortured in fire.

      I have only three very close, local friends. One is a strongly conservative and religious person. We still hang out every week. He knows I have the experience to shred most religious and political claims, and even jokes about this or that setting off my rant trigger. In return, I try to keep said rant trigger under control around him.

      I see atheists and Christians who are dishonest or intellectually lazy about their beliefs, but wonderful in all other areas. I know that simply by averages, most of the people I see quote mining in print are at least decent in person, and some are quite giving, but knowing what I do, I would never trust them, for the same reason that I would never vote to re-elect an adulterer no matter how good a job he did during his first term. Most of the others just don’t know the arguments, and aren’t willing to step outside their comfort zones. I try not to judge those who don’t like working with existentially uncomfortable ideas, provided they are not entering the realm of debate with the ideas they do have. But here’s the thing: I AM willing to entertain uncomfortable ideas. I do not like the idea of shutting off and just being gone, even though intellectually I can see how it doesn’t hurt at all and that the alternative is much worse. I AM willing to entertain the idea of the supernal, and in fact, I regularly write fiction along such themes.

      If those people I described could provide cogent arguments for their beliefs, I would at least pay attention to them. For whatever reasons a psychologist would have to ferret out, I have no problem with the idea of being uncomfortable in my philosophies. I dislike abortion, and I very much hope that anyone I am with never has to decided whether or not to have one. But my discomfort is not an argument. Likewise, the fear of death on my part or anyone else’s is not an argument, and I refuse to let fear sway my philosophies. Similarly, their happiness in their beliefs is not an argument. A person can potentially be happy and giving under any belief system.

      I’m rambling now, so to wrap up and be able to go to bed: other peoples’ experiences and belief do not affect my belief in anything except those individual people, and it appears that their stated beliefs and their daily activities do not line up… usually for the better.

      A relative of mine is convinced that a black panther lives in some nearby light woods. It’s very obvious that his grandfather talked him into believing he saw it when he was little. He doesn’t take the total lack of corroborating evidence as argument against a black panther being out there. He sincerely believes this. But he goes out in the woods unarmed anyway. Since he is willing to do that, I don’t care about his belief.

  • Kengi

    I’d like to react to some of these comments, but nobody posted their phone number. So, if you have posted an opinion on this issue, please now add your phone number so I can call you and discuss it (if I disagree with you) before I post any response.

  • SeekerLancer

    Really it doesn’t matter because the people who thrive on drama are going to continue to do so whether you hand them a sternly worded letter or not. There is no atheist doctrine that people have to follow.

    While I think people are free to fight it out on the Internet all they want, this is probably the reason I’ve kind of stopped watching many atheist videos and going to PZ’s blog among other places. It just gets mentally and emotionally draining.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed.zwart Ed Zwart

    I have to say that I am embarrassed by the people who signed this letter. I think it is at times muddled in its thinking (“pick up the phone” as as way of “improving online culture”?), and at other times outright facile. Are we confused about how ingrained this mental taboo of criticizing religious belief is? This “can’t we all just get along?” approach completely waters down the entire (monumental) project of breaking the bonds that religion has on our culture, our institutions and our species.

    There are plenty ‘o assholes to go around — atheists, believers, men, women, republicans and democrats. They already disqualify themselves in all arenas equally.

    I think this letter discredits the role militant atheism has played to create the very space where the letter can be written at all. I would hate to see it be used to marginalize the brash, harsh treatment religion must continue to receive (precisely to be met on its own terms).

    • GCT

      There is no such thing as “militant atheism”. Perhaps you meant outspoken atheism?

  • http://www.facebook.com/liberalism Katie Hartman

    In the past year, I’ve come to terms with the fact that exposing myself to the current discussion atmosphere of online atheism is, for the most part, just plain BAD FOR ME. I don’t spend my face-to-face time with people who think a disagreement is license enough to treat me like a dog, and I’m not going to do it online, either. For all this talk about basic rules of engagement being too “Orwellian,” some folks seem to be forgetting that it’s not just the privileged who can’t always handle a hostile, denigrating, or aggressive environment.

    • G. Orwell

      So you made the better decision for you, which is to stay off the blogs – yet here you are…..

      But you made a decision for YOU not for others, as it should be.

      • http://www.facebook.com/liberalism Katie Hartman

        You don’t seem to see the problem I’m getting at, which is that
        fostering an unnecessarily aggressive/hostile environment sends the
        message – one that you’re sending directly, here, by telling me that
        it’s best that I just get out and be done with it if I can’t handle
        abuse – that the only people worth listening to are either thick-skinned
        or just assholes outright. I don’t think that’s a very good price to
        pay to avoid any sort of censorship, because I know there are many very bright, thoughtful, caring folks in our community who have a great deal to contribute but find it very punishing to do so in that kind of environment. And so they do until they just can’t do it any more. Is that a preferable form of silencing?

  • disqus_lVhOnHLdfW

    Personally, I am tired of the ideological battles that seem to constantly take place in the skeptical community.

    In my opinion, our community is too quick to label anyone who does not agree with the overall consensus as a troll; just like most other communities, ours has become gripped by factionalism and disputes over matters completely unrelated to our shared identity (i.e. the lack of belief in a deity/organized religion that is common amongst us all). As rationalists and skeptics, I would assume that we would all have great value for free speech; unfortunately, I have noticed a disturbing trend of silencing dissent and censuring anything that does not neatly fit within a particular ideology. There must be a line between opposing hateful/uncivil comments and supporting the rights of others in our community to express their opinions freely.

    After the Watson vs. Dawkins incident (which I absolutely do not want to re-hash), it seems that the internal divisions amongst the atheist movement (especially divisions over politics and gender issues) grew even stronger. People began to take “sides,” and an us-against-them mindset began to develop. Although I would consider myself a pro-feminist (since I am male, I would not identify as a feminist; feminism has always been about *women’s* issues, and I have no desire to change this) and a staunch progressive, I have personally ended up defending people of different ideological perspectives from unfair and over-the-top attacks.

  • http://twitter.com/yjmbobllns Yojimbo Billions

    Alternate headline: This will not stand, you know. This aggression will not stand, man.

    • 3lemenope

      “Hey, careful man! There’s a beverage here!”

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        *crash*
        “oh, shit, was that the bong?”

  • ferulebezel

    Does that mean that feminists will now be banned when they call someone a rapist, rape apologist, neckbeard, misogynist of whatever cheap rhetoric du jour they choose to marginalize and dismiss anyone who turns a sceptical eye towards their claims/arguments. I doubt it.

    • GCT

      I’m sure your broad brush strokes about how all feminists are irrational name-callers (b*tches be crazy and all that, right?) is never the reason why you might not get a favorable reception.

      • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

        Care to address what I actually said?

        • GCT

          I did. Read it again.

  • http://athmorality.blogspot.com/ Katie Graham

    I can totally get behind this. I know I’ve had my own moments of lashing out at people, in retaliation or just plain frustration, but I will double my efforts to really start encouraging civil debate.

  • Simon Hallard-metcalf

    get off your high horses guys before you fall and break something

  • rg57

    Censorship (“moderation”) is not the right answer. On CFI’s own Open Letter post, they don’t even allow comments at all. That SHOULD be disturbing.

    If we care at all about the truth, we should not be afraid to face it.

    • GCT

      How dare they call to an end to slurs and threats on blogs!

      I mean, seriously? If someone walks into your house and starts threatening you are you going to shrug and say, “Well, I’d rather not censor you,” or are you going to call the cops and/or tell them to leave?

  • Paul_Robertson

    So a bunch of atheist groups make a call for unity, and what’s the response? A couple of lesser known atheist groups, one so obscure that Hemant felt the need to introduce them, immediately issue a “press release” distancing themselves from the call. This is why we can’t have nice things people!

  • Tainda

    I may be one of the few but ya know what, welcome to the internet. Trolls are going to troll. If you get your feelings hurt over an internet discussion, you need to step away from the computer. This is coming from someone who has been threatened on here. Did it bother me? Not in the least. The only people that affect my happy are my family and friends.

    • GCT

      That might be fine for you, but who are you to tell others how to react to threats and harassment, especially that one who is feeling threatened and harassed should walk away? That’s victim blaming.

  • http://twitter.com/SinicalIdealist SWC

    One of the first things I learned as a child was, sticks and stoned may break bones, but words will never hurt me. They should just fucking walk away, and keep their mouth shut, I already know its offensive that’s why I said it. From my perspective, they never evolved above childhood.

    PC is nothing, more than a simple-minded, invented problem, to make people feel like something is being done. Banning words does not stop people from having ideas, it just makes people with the fucked up ideas harder to find. The only things that end up being banned are things “normal” people find offensive. Truth can be banned as because a majority find it offensive. Everyone is offended by something, most of us are mature enough to ignore it, say that person is an idiot and walk away. If your offended by something that is popular you have no recourse. Stop getting hijacked by non-existent issues.

    • http://twitter.com/SinicalIdealist SWC

      Seriously, how many atheist all over the country are being discriminated against, and this is what you are concerned about.

      • GCT

        How many of them are women and are being discriminated against by other atheists simply because they are women?

    • GCT

      It’s refreshing that you find rape threats to be “non-existent issues” and those affected by them to be the equivalent of mental children.

      • http://twitter.com/SinicalIdealist SWC

        Your and idiot and exactly the type of person that needs to go away. Where in you tiny little mind did I say i condone threats of rape. But I’m the ass hole for trying to have an honest discussion about the responsibilities of people to act like adults, a rape threat is not acting like an adult for the slow among us. But keep pointing out the one extreme ass to justify that ever man is a sexist ass hole.

        • GCT

          No, you’re insensitive because you’re basically telling people that they need to put up with whatever someone writes – which would include rape threats. That if they can’t laugh it off, then they “never evolved above childhood.” (Let’s ignore the scientific problems with that statement.)

          Then, to go on about how PC is invented to make people feel better and nothing else is typical straw manning. The idea of political correctness is about understanding that words can and do hurt. In fact, there’s a very real problem right now with young adults taking their own lives because of relentless bullying (words). You may feel comfortable telling them to just get over it, but I sure as hell do not.

          Then, to top it all off by claiming they are all non-existent issues is the icing on the cake. I’m guessing that you are infused with all kinds of privilege and have not had to actually face real prejudice. It also points to a serious lack of empathy on your part.

          Words do have meaning, and what words you put forth do make a difference.

  • http://twitter.com/SinicalIdealist SWC

    P.S. Talk to me when all the atheist feminists stop being bigots about language. 30k people follow an idiot whom has never said anything original, just corrects grammar problems.

    • GCT

      I love people who paint with a broad brush to make prejudiced and bigoted statements while complaining about the real bigots.

      • http://twitter.com/SinicalIdealist SWC

        I’m a bigot, you have no idea how stupid you are and thanks for not debunking my other response calling you an idiot.

        • GCT

          I answered you point by point. What in the world are you on about?

          • http://twitter.com/SinicalIdealist SWC

            So calling me a rape condoner, a bigot, and prejudiced is your idea of answering me point by point, smh

            • GCT

              It’s obvious that I’m speaking to someone who has no interest in reading any response I make. I explained, in some detail, why what you wrote was problematic. You have responded by putting words in my mouth, name-calling, and invoking a massive persecution complex. Yes, I’m sure you’re so persecuted, unlike those uppity b*tches who actually receive the rape and death threats that they need to just get over, else they are acting like hysterical children.

              You know what? Fuck you.

      • http://twitter.com/SinicalIdealist SWC

        So when you do it about rape comments it is ok right.. Saying I condone rape is ok for you, but I cannot say that. Tell me again how you are being civil.

        • GCT

          I didn’t say you condone rape. Perhaps you need to read for comprehension.

          Even if I did say that you condone rape, that would not be the same as making broad brush strokes against a class of people as you did.

          • http://twitter.com/SinicalIdealist SWC

            I’m sorry you said. “It’s refreshing that you find rape threats to be “non-existent issues” and those affected by them to be the equivalent of mental children.”

            Is threatening someone with rape calling them a name? or would you qualify it as a more sticks and stones problem. I think most people would agree its a more sticks and stones problem. So am I allowed to make rape jokes? or not? what about in my house? to myself? with no one around? how about rape jokes about rapists? same questions for those, i can joke about that i public , right? so what exactly am i allowed to talk about and not, and when, does my mouth have work like the fcc v pacifica. only after 11pm, and not around children or any captive audience. Even the fact that it is a CRIME in NY state to ANNOY someone. That goes a lot further than rape threats.

            The really stupid thing is that you don’t even realize that their are people that essentially want to ban people from talking about atheism. Ban us from having government jobs, being heard in government, being on TV. Think about it when they talk about the Boy Scout debate, go look up articles, none of them mention atheists.

            So to me their are lot more important things than an entire movement being hijacked by a group of people that have 9 MILLION OTHER PLACES TO GO FOR SOMETHING THAT IS ALREADY ILLEGAL WHEN THEY ARE MAKING STATE RELIGIONS , its not like you have no recourse anywhere where else go there. The rest of us have nowhere else to go.

            You are an idiot, because you debate like a conservative in that you change the topic to justify you being right. For example, Talking about gun control, and bringing up axe’s or crossbows. Go back to dealing with them before I have to slap you even harder.

            And you didn’t read in my original post.

            I’ll explain it simply for you Grammar Nazis are bigots because they are biased against a whole group of people because of socio-economic status. Throughout history, the well-to-do have used language to differentiate themselves from the poor, its the only way when you are all the same color. Why the church only had sermons in Latin when no body could speak it, why people were prevented from being educated, and still are. We just institutionalized it. It is a tool of the well-educated idiot who cannot combat ideas with other ideas.

            So what is worse being biased against a whole group of people, or anything I said.

            • GCT

              “Is threatening someone with rape calling them a name? or would you qualify it as a more sticks and stones problem.”

              Which do you think it is, because it seems rather obvious that you seem to think rape threats are NOT a sticks and stones issue. They are. They most certainly are.

              “So am I allowed to make rape jokes? or not?”

              No one is saying that you can’t. But, you have to abide by the consequences of your actions. Freeze peach doesn’t mean that you get to say whatever the hell you want without consequence. The consequences may entail being banned from a blog or having other people see you for the d-bag you are and criticizing you for your poor choice in “humor,” and sometimes even pointing out to you why you’re being a d-bag. Your freeze peach doesn’t negate mine.

              “Even the fact that it is a CRIME in NY state to ANNOY someone.”

              This is absolute bullshit, and you know it.

              “The really stupid thing is that you don’t even realize that their are people that essentially want to ban people from talking about atheism.”

              I’m well aware of that actually, and they don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s irrelevant to this discussion though.

              “So to me their are lot more important things than an entire movement being hijacked by a group of people that have 9 MILLION OTHER PLACES TO GO FOR SOMETHING THAT IS ALREADY ILLEGAL WHEN THEY ARE MAKING STATE RELIGIONS , its not like you have no recourse anywhere where else go there. The rest of us have nowhere else to go.”

              Seriously? No, really, seriously? We should turn a blind eye to your harassment and your idiotic misogyny because otherwise white, male, straight, cis, atheists won’t have a place to talk about atheophobic bigotry? Fuck you. Women, blacks, trans, gays, etc. all have a place in this community too.

              “You are an idiot, because you debate like a conservative in that you change the topic to justify you being right.”

              No true scotsman fallacy wrapped up in hypocrisy. Good try.

              “Go back to dealing with them before I have to slap you even harder.”

              This is the funniest thing you’ve written. Yes, I’m awed by your tremendous arguments that mostly resort to name-calling and ignoring my points. Truly, you are an intellectual giant.

              “And you didn’t read in my original post.”

              You mean the one I answered point for point? Clearly.

              “I’ll explain it simply for you Grammar Nazis are bigots because they are biased against a whole group of people because of socio-economic status.”

              Grammar Nazis are bigots because they are biased against poor people (or biased against rich people)? So, the fact that someone might point out a poor piece of grammar (like perhaps one of you missing commas) means that that person hates everyone of a different socio-economic status? And, I’m the idiot here? Oh, and I’m the one supposedly changing the subject?

              “So what is worse being biased against a whole group of people, or anything I said.”

              Wait, are you accusing me of being a bigot somehow? And, to answer your question, what you said was highly misogynistic, as I explained to you and you evidently have either ignored or been unable to comprehend. What you said is not worse or better, it’s the same damned thing as “being biased against a whole group of people.”

  • A hermit

    I think Stephanie Zvan makes an important observation here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2013/04/02/how-the-internet-fits-in/

    “The thing secular leaders next need to internalize is that none of what
    has happened in the last three years started on the internet. It didn’t.
    Women have been harassed, objectified, and excluded much longer than
    there has been a thriving atheist blogosphere.”

    We need to deal with that real problem, of which nastiness on the internet is just a symptom.

  • Sokratez

    Has anyone considered the possibility that some of the arguments are started by Christians posing as atheists to undermine the unity of the movement? There must be at least one such person out there.

    • GCT

      Yes, I’ve heard others hypothesize that as well. The problem is this: even if that is the case, we know that there are atheists who are misogynists and bigots who do stir the pot and try to make the atheist community less welcoming and less tolerant. Even if some Xians are adding to the fire, there’s still a fire to be put out.

  • XPK

    Headline could have been: “National Atheist Groups Respond to Growing Calls for Action Plan Against Sexism in Atheist Community with Suggestions for Using More Civil Tone in Comments Sections”

  • http://www.facebook.com/shojibashrafina.ashrafi Shojib Ashrafi Na Ashrafi

    One of the CMAs I work with constantly asks me about how I’m managing a given patient: for
    example, when I said a kid had mono, she asked me if I “checked his belly”. Really? Or early
    on in the flu season, she questioned why I was testing kids for the flu. I guess being a CMA
    for 7 years makes her an authority. I bet all her friends and relatives call her for medical
    advice! As my mom likes to say, “Give a person a badge, and they think they’re an authority”.

    Having said that, most of the CMAs I work with are AWESOME! I’ve been wanting to post on this
    topic, and I’m so glad you did.

  • David Edwards

    Do we really need decrees from on high telling us how to behave? We should be leaving that failed approach to supernaturalists. Instead, we should be educating people about core elementary concepts that are applicable here, one central one being you are not your ideas. A failure to understand this elementary concept lies at the heart of the interminable whingeing and bleating about “respect for beliefs” we see so often from supernaturalists, who, having invested far too much emotional capital in their pet mythologies and the assertions contained therein, are unable to understand that an attack on their wrong ideas is not an attack on them personally. This follows as a natural corollary from another elementary principle that is familiar to anyone who paid attention in science classes, namely, ideas are disposable entities. If an idea is determined, by proper critical analysis, to be a bad idea, because it fails to be in accord with reality, then we discard it, as scientists have been doing for 300 years or more. Good ideas are the ones that are determined to be in accord with reality, and enjoy evidential support, which automatically rules out mythological assertions, no matter how much wishful thinking mythology fetishists might indulge in to the contrary. I and many others don’t need “decrees from on high” to understand these elementary concepts, we just need to think about the issues properly, and apply proper analysis thereto.

    Likewise, with respect to the whole sexism debate, I don’t need a doctrine to tell me to treat women as fellow human beings. All I need is the evidence, supplied in abundance by supernaturalists, that failure to treat women as fellow human beings leads to those women being the recipients of all manner of harm.

    Indeed, the very fact that doctrines have all been demonstrated to be utterly toxic, should be telling us all something important, namely, that the last thing we want is yet another doctrine. We should be encouraging suspicion of doctrines of all species, because at bottom, all doctrines are based upon unsupported blind assertions treated uncritically as fact by adherents thereof. I find it at times quite hilarious, that having spent time being suspicious of doctrinal assertions by supernaturalists, some in the so-called “atheist community” (a phrase that itself erects an assertion of uniformity and homogeneity that is wholly unsupported by evidence), seem to think that the way forward with respect to certain issues, is to erect yet more blind assertions, and build yet another doctrine around them. My answer, quite simply, is “no”.


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