Commenters, can’t live with ‘em …

PersonalizedBaseballBat1When you talk to website editors these days, it’s very easy to figure out that most of them have a love-hate relationship with the “comments pages” that are such a big part of what the whole interactive Web 2.0 thing is supposed to be about.

What’s the big problem?

Simply stated, there is no way for a computer to edit a comments board. And if you leave your site’s comments pages open, you are going to have to spend hours and hours of time trying to monitor them. It takes hours to do a bad job of keeping comments threads civil and on target. I have no idea how long it takes to do a good job, since I have never managed to do that. I do the best that I can do and so do MZ, Daniel and Mark. We all have families and jobs and lives, you know.

The key problem here at GetReligion is that a high percentage of our readers want to argue about the religious content of religion-news events, rather than discuss the mainstream media’s coverage of those events (and trends and personalities, etc.).

I could cite thousands of examples, but all you have to do is click here and look at a few Mormon threads to see what I am talking about.

It’s a simple Catch-22 thing. Let’s say that a big newspaper says that evangelicals are upset about a Mormon candidate for the White House because of polygamy. Tmatt then writes a post noting that, if you check a few evangelical websites — the Southern Baptist Convention is a good place to start — it’s easy to see that the real controversy centers on issues linked to the very nature of God and the Trinity. It’s hard to find a major evangelical politico who doesn’t know what the modern Mormon hierarchy teaches about polygamy and Celestial Marriage. Thus, reporters often miss the real story.

At that point — rather than discussing MSM articles that get these topics right, or spotlighting articles that get it wrong, or leaving comments that disagree with my analysis of the problem — online warfare breaks out between critics and defends of the Latter-day Saints. World without end. Amen.

So how are journalists supposed to write about that topic? How do we do the work that we need to do? Here at GetReligion, our goal, first and foremost, is to allow journalists to discuss their work and to share ideas and resources. And argue with us, too, of course. But the goal is to focus on journalism.

It also helps if people are willing to point us toward real, live information to back their cases — as opposed to digitally screaming at us. Some people never use a fly swatter when a baseball bat will do. Others create straw men that they then enjoy tearing apart, accusing various GetReligionistas or saying things that we did not write (often attempting to read our minds in the process).

I could go on, but perhaps a recent example will do.

If you want to know how not to write a GetReligion comment, here is a nice template. Note that this is a response to a request for the reader to share some actual information — perhaps a URL or two. The topic was homosexuality and the church and I had just pointed readers toward some sources on the left and right that journalists tend to trust. This led to some exchanges with a reader whose email address is now in our “moderation” queue. In one of his final replies he wrote:

Good night, bigot. I will not visit with data sources; it isn’t Do A Bigot’s Homework Day.

I suggest that you get out a little more instead of selectively relying on only the poll data that supports your foregone conclusions.

I’m content to wait until you die wrong.

strawmanThis is the sort of comment, I imagine, that led to a short Time essay by Lev Grossman that I quite enjoyed, one that ran with the headline “Post Apocalypse.” Here is a sample:

Web publishers have begun to offer commenting on everything — posts, videos, pictures, whatever — like it was a kind of interactive condiment. Now practically anything on the Web collects comments the way a whale collects barnacles. In theory, it’s a great thing. We’re giving the people a voice! But the reality is that commenting either attracts loathsome people or somehow causes ordinary people to express themselves in a way that is loathsome.

A random example: on June 11, a user called way21337 uploaded a video to YouTube. It’s titled My new gerbil, and it shows, in fact, a black-and-white gerbil snuffling around cutely in somebody’s hand. It is 11 seconds long. By press time, it had acquired 102 comments. Let’s take a look! They begin with NewTyhuss, who writes, “sweet!” Things start going south with comment No. 4: “id hit it.” (Good one, ZRace67!) After a week, we’re down to eldergod: “why dont u shove that gerbil up yur ass and quit posting stupid videos.” bwalhof writes, “kill yourself. fast.” And so on. …

The horribleness of commenters isn’t really a mystery: Internet anonymity is disinhibiting, and people are basically mean anyway. Nor is it a mystery why the people who run websites put up with commenters: the economic model for Internet content is based on advertising, which means it’s based on traffic volume, and comments mean traffic. They’re part of the things that make online publishing work. enables comments on its blogs, including mine.) It’s just hard to tell whether they’re ruining the Web faster than they can save it.

I should stop now, before this turns into an essay on the Total Depravity Of Man (that would get us a wave of comments from Grand Rapids). However, note that what we are talking about — viewed from one perspective — in the future of online journalism. Let me repeat the obvious: There is no way for a computer to do the work of a good editor.

Meanwhile, GetReligion has legions of wonderful, constructive regulars — left and right — who contribute to our comments pages from time to time. Many others use our “submit a story” feature as a way of telling us about the good and the bad that they see in religion-news reports that they see online or in their local media. There is no way that we can read even half of what we need to read. We appreciate the help.

Good commenters, as a rule, comment unto others as they would want others to comment unto them, or something like that. They argue that journalists should get things right and also assume that the overwhelming majority of journalists truly want to get things right. Good commenters cite real information that others can read online. They don’t call people by ugly names and try to read other people’s minds. When they criticize a post they quote the passage they they want to criticize. They don’t assume false names and try to hid behind ghost email addresses.

Most of all, they focus on journalism issues — because that is why GetReligion is here in the first place. We are pro journalism. We want to cheer more than we jeer, whenever we open online news sites to read about religion. And that’s the end of this sermon. So there.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Andy

    Just discovered this blog today, I like what I see so far.

    (Translated into blog-commentese, this reads: “Die in a horrific manner!”)

  • FrGregACCA

    I should stop now, before this turns into an essay on the Total Depravity Of Man (that would get us a wave of comments from Grand Rapids).

    Hee-Hee. I wonder how many MSM journos would get THAT reference?

  • Verily

    When a blog that purports to expose MSM bias in the MSM’s coverage of religious life, concerns and positions on social issues fails in its stated mission, it is the job of commenters to point that out.

    GetReligion states under “Why We’re Here”:

    Most of all, we want to try to create a clearning house of information and opinion on this topic. This is what blogs do best.

    I agree with that statement. However… GR’s coverage of Anglican issues seems to be at an all-time high, with several posts each week. GR’s coverage of gay issues and same-sex marriage also seem to be rocking and rolling.

    What do these posts here at GR all have in common? Accusations that the MSM doesn’t “get religion” because they cover the Anglicans far too much, leading to “Pot. Kettle.” comments, since GR is doing the same thing. As for the gay topics, they are often presented in a way that suggests that the MSM is “cheerleading” and that the views of religious conservatives are underrrepresented. This may be true, but if the real purpose of GR as a blog is to provide a clearing house of information on the topic of bias in the MSM against religion, don’t both sides deserve some airtime?

    Which, of course, begs the question of why GR is ignoring the idea that the views of religious liberals who support social parity for gay individuals and couples are almost never covered in the MSM. The issue is framed strictly in terms of the widespread, secular, liberal MSM vs. the unvoiced, conservative religious folks.

    This does not seem to be a problem for the editorial staff here at GR.

    As an example, a recent discussion of gay rights and religious freedom focused solely on a straw man of how gay marriage would negatively impact on the rights of religious conservatives. It ignored completely a very current MSM discussion of how the rights of gay couples seeking to marry were being curtailed by an elected official on religious grounds. Get it all here:

    The editors who post on these topics do not hesitate to imbue their posts/comments with a clear opinion on the topics, referencing Episcopal priests giving communion to dogs during a St. Francis service, presenting the conservative religious as voiceless martyrs to social change, and suggesting that every media story about gay people needs a counterpoint from a religious conservative in order to be unbiased.

    We all know that isn’t true.

    I would respectfully suggest that the GR editors have a meeting to discuss their own biases and how best to counter them in future posts. So far GR seems to be teetering on the brink of becoming a religious conservative site. If that’s what the editors want, that’s fine as far as it goes.

    But then you should amend “Why We’re Here” to include the following statement: We believe that the views of conservative religious people are not well-represented in the MSM due to media bias. This site will function solely as a place to point that out.

  • Undergroundpewster

    Wow, I sure am glad to have been away for the past few weeks. No, I was not vacationing in Grand Rapids.

    I agree that it is difficult to maintain decorum in the comment section of a web site without having a dedicated policeman at the helm. You may have to put a concise statement at the beginning of every comment section similar to the reminder that is often included at the end of some of the more controversial posts.

  • HiveRadical

    If you ever had a post that was asking for horrible comments I think you just posted it. This is akin to saying “Don’t look! I’m naked” Between the unoriginal jokers that will post their own attempts to be funny, and then there’s the standard nut jobs, this thing will approach Ron Paul status in no time. Shoot. Did I just mention Ron Paul…?

  • tmatt


    If you find MSM stories in which perspectives on the religious left are twisted or under-represented, please bring them on. Send the URLS. We have pointed out, at this site, that the religious liberty rights of pagans and Wiccans are often ignored.

    Your straw man on the religious liberty? We are clearly reading the work of different groups on both sides of that issue. I doubt there is anything that we can say here that you would agree with.

    We remain committed to balanced reporting on controversial social and moral issues. That is the American model of the press. If you can, again, find MSM coverage of these issues where the conservative voice stands alone, please let us know. We would oppose that as well.


  • Bethany

    I think this site faces particular challenges because plenty of people who are normally civil turn into horrible uncharitable conclusion jumpers on the topics of religion and politics. I guess that’s why they are not approved topics for polite dinner conversation.
    That said, as an occasional commenter, I’ve been really pleased to have had some enlightening discussions with people who have different backgrounds from me in the comment threads of this blog, so I’m glad they exist. Total depravity notwithstanding.
    formerly of Grand Rapids,

  • Verily


    If you find MSM stories in which perspectives on the religious left are twisted or under-represented, please bring them on. Send the URLS.

    I linked to several stories in the “Gay Marriage vs. Religious Freedom” thread, which showed how actual conduct by an elected official on religious grounds trampled on the rights of gay couples in California to marry. The official is Ann Barnett, Clerk of Kern County. She is represented by The Alliance Defense Fund, and has been caught publicly lying to the media about her motivation for refusing to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies to be performed at her offices.

    Several liberal religious people were quoted. There was no analysis either by the covering reporters or by GR.

    I await yours and Mollie’s. The URLS are in the comments section.

  • Shaun G

    Every Web site that publishes user content has to deal with the problem of ensuring that the submitted content adheres to its policies.

    Most Web sites have very few ways to effectively prevent (before the fact) or eliminate (after the fact) content that violates their policies. Word filters don’t work. E-mail bans don’t work. IP address bans don’t work. Moderation is frustrating and time-consuming.

    One solution to this problem is Truyoo (, which offers Web site administrators a “Good Behavior Guarantee”: If a Truyoo user violates your site’s terms of service, you get $1 — and they get banned for good.

    If a site like GetReligion were to implement Truyoo, it would vastly reduce the amount of time the GetReligion editors would have to spend weeding out inappropriate comments.

  • tmatt


    Perfect case.

    Those stories look pretty good to me, actually. This is, of course, a clash between her religious liberty and the new laws of her state. That’s the precise kind of case that the courts will have to settle, now, while the media strives to cover both sides accurately.

    My challenge to you was to show a case of media bias that affected voices on the left. No need for analysis. Just quote people.

  • tmatt

    Interesting not for publication email noting that GetReligion does not seem to realize that there are religious liberals in the world who do not hate lesbigays.

    Amazing. How many times have we said that one of the rising stories on the Godbeat these days is the religious left and that these groups need more coverage, including the growing evangelical left? A few days ago, I noted, in particular, the strong and articulate stance that the UCC has taken on a host of cultural issues and suggested that that church, and Barack Obama as a member, should receive more attention (as opposed to reporters locking in only on Trinity UCC, that one congregation).

    People, the goal is for people on both sides of these issues to have their religious views represented accurately in the mainstream press. That’s journalism.

  • Mollie

    We have the best commenters in the blogosphere. I’m continually impressed by how thoughtful and interesting many of them are.

    And occasionally we have some remarkably rude and meanspirited commenters. If I could offer advice for how to avoid getting your comment spiked or edited, it would be to avoid questioning other people’s motivations.

    If you disagree with someone — disagree with them and give the reasons why. There is no need to do — as so many of the commenters on my threads about same-sex marriage or other issues dealing with homosexuality have done — to question how good other people’s sex lives are or claim that the criticism of some media report is due to bigoted homophobia.

    That kind of internet rhetoric may be popular on other blogs, but we are a rare community here and one that does a good job of getting into fierce and interesting debate without dropping into constant ad hominem attack.

    I learned this lesson about debate rhetoric after I was quoted in 2002 questioning some people’s motivations in a little paper called the Washington Post. Many of my pastor friends told me I was wrong to have done so. It was a good lesson.

    Just say why you disagree with someone. Unless you really are God and able to look into people’s hearts, I guess.

  • Chris Bolinger

    Terry and team,

    You guys are doing a solid job of selecting stories, raising appropriate questions and concerns, and moderating comments. Keep up the good work. As I have written before, one way to reduce spiteful comments and lighten the effort required to moderate comments is to allow only subscribers to comment, with subscribers charged a reasonable fee. The fact that few if any blogs do so is not sufficient justification to rule out the practice. Start a trend.


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  • Gerry

    Is somebody actually supposed to read that manifesto?

  • Krista

    I’ve been tuning into your blog for a few weeks now and just wanted to say how much I’ve appreciated it. The media really doesn’t get religion, nor does it cover it in a fair manner in most cases. I really like your ability to analyze what is really being projected and to tear down the straw men.

    As for the comments, I prefer to moderate them on my blog and screen each one, but I know that can be too cumbersome on a website that gets hundreds or even thousands of comments. I wish people would “comment as you would have someone comment unto you” and not treat the internet’s anonymity as a license for stupidity.

  • Martha

    Discussing religion, sex and politics, and hoping for civil and reasonable discourse.

    Good luck with that! :-)

    (Though this is a very good place for civil and reasonable discourse).

  • Jay

    Homonym alert:

    Good commenters site

    You want “cite” not “site”. I find myself making homonym mistakes all the time, particularly in e-mail. I think if it makes it past spellcheck, I assume it’s OK.

    BTW, I saw a story in a major paper today (forgot which one) that confused “rein” (to restrain) with “reign” (to rule). Presumably the only people who “reign in” are kings or queens. I’d like to blame it on offshoring copy editing, but I think more fits into Google making us stoopid.

  • tmatt


    I make that typo ALL THE TIME. Thanks for the correction.

  • Dave


    I’m probably doing this wrong, but I googled “Kern County gay marriage Unitarian” because I’d heard from Unitarian Universalist sources that Kern County CA officials weren’t going to perform any marriages — gay or straight — and UU ministers were filling in the breach. I happen to know that this action was taken because gay rights in general and marriage equity in particular are top concerns for UUs these days.

    I found coverage of the facts on the ground but no depth of why the UU ministers were taking this action. I would call this stifling the voices of the religious left. I’m sure the UU ministers would be quite willing to take a break and explain the W5H of what they are doing.

  • tmatt


    Sounds like a completely valid story to me. Although I doubt that the UUs are alone. I would think that a survey story on which churches were crossing the line would be A1 material for the Los Angeles Times.

    Do they have any religion writers left to handle that? That would be a great Stephanie Simon feature.

    It’s a missed story. No doubt about it.

  • Mark Ruzon

    The key problem here at GetReligion is that a high percentage of our readers want to argue about the religious content of religion-news events, rather than discuss the mainstream media’s coverage of those events (and trends and personalities, etc.).

    After I read this blog for a few weeks I realized I was reading it more to find out what religious stories were being covered than the criticism of how they were covered. It’s not that I don’t have any interest in how the MSM behaves, it’s just that I can’t think of anything to say in a comment except things like “Yeah, why did they blow a chance to balance out that story?” As a result, I comment very little, and when I do there isn’t a whole lot of significance to them. How are a couple of paragraphs supposed to inform or influence someone in any meaningful way, anyway?

    As an informed Catholic, I can read an AP story about my church and see the biases that creep in. I can’t do that about other religions because I don’t know much about them. That’s what I appreciate about GR. The downside is that to me the story often seems more interesting than the meta-story. I can bite my virtual tongue, but obviously the temptation is a very strong one.

  • Sarah Webber

    I also read Kendall Harmon’s TitusOneNine blog ( and love the elves. What you need, Terry and company, is to hire some (or elicit volunteer) elves to keep an eye on things when you might be otherwise occupied with life. (As nice as he is, I don’t think Kendall will share with you his talented staff.) As we all know, many hands make light work. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the 4 of you to keep up with the current level of traffic and I like the usually cordial atmosphere here and want to keep it. I occasionally read comments on other sites and then run screaming; somehow, profanity seems so much more offensive in print.

  • John L. Hoh, Jr.

    I once served as Managing Editor of Religious topics at Suite Most of my time was spent refereeing religious wars. When it comes to religion, alas, people can get worked up.

    As a book reviewer ( I have had to “mature” as a reviewer of religious books. One realizes that not every author will have the same Bible-view I do. But does the book *explain* the author’s viewpoint adequately? Have I learned *something* from the author’s work? If so, the book succeeded, whether I *agree* with the content or not. Of course, if the author did not succeed, I need to be evangelical in my critique lest I give the author reason to suspect I’m dissing his/her beliefs rather than his/her writing.

    Shuffling off to Grand Rapids…

  • MattK

    GR once deleted one of my comments about a certain picture you posted. I asked if maybe you could post a different picture instead. Later, when, once again you were dealing with the coverage of the same subject, you used the picture I suggested. I want you to know that I appreciate that.

  • Stoo

    I’m not so sure about not questioning motives. To assume you know the motives can lead to error sometimes, but that’s not quite the same thing.

  • Stephen A.

    Reporters need to learn to report facts fairly and in a balanced way even when they disagree with those facts – ESPECIALLY when they disagree.

    That seems elemental in news reporting (at least in the U.S.) but it’s absolutely necessary. About two-thirds of the articles featured here for not “getting” religion seem to arise from that fault – a lack of balance or a hideous slant of opinion inserted into a supposed “news” story.

    A little admission now. When posting here, I often, though not always, argue AGAINST my own personal views, and stick up for equal exposure in the media for religions and worshippers in those religions for which I have no connection or no religious affinity.

    For reporters and editors who write headlines, they should strive for so much balance that their readers have no idea what their beliefs really are, despite the dirty looks they get from their colleagues that they’ve given a fair hearing to “THOSE people,” be they Mormons, Neopagans, Wiccans, fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, Episcopalians or Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  • Jason

    Well it seems you have created a metablog discussion with this one, so it seems as good a time as any to ask a question that has been bugging me for awhile. It touches Verily’s first comment: If the blog is about how the media does not get “Religion” and is supposed to cover stories related to all faiths and the sects within them, why are all the contributors to Get Religion Orthodox, Catholic, and mainstream Christian Protestant? Why no journalists who are Muslim, Pagan, or even you Average-”Evangelical”-Post-Denominational-Family-Worship-Center Christian?

  • tmatt


    Our choice. No one here is hiding that the site has a traditional Christian faith lens. However, we also have stuck with people in mainstream journalism, too. That is our lens, as well. It would help to know that we started about the same time as The Revealer. Both sites have their perspectives and we know that.

    And we have looked for an Average-“Evangelical”-Post-Denominational-Family-Worship-Center Christian, but they don’t seem to want to work in mainstream journalism. What’s up with that?

  • Murray

    No one here is hiding that the site has a traditional Christian faith lens.

    Actually, you kind of are. As Verily ably pointed out above, this is a conservative website, not a general religious one. And yet, the words conservative, traditional, etc. are notably absent from your mission statement. Why not be upfront about it?

    I mean, if you’re about exposing bias against traditional Christianity, just say so. Just be aware that traditional Christianity has some competition.

  • Michael

    However, we also have stuck with people in mainstream journalism, too.

    Except, none of the current crew of bloggers is employed full-time in mainstream journalism. Everyones work appears on the opinion pages and in the ideological press. With both Daniel and Mollie no longer working as mainstream journalist, there does seem to be a disconnect from the realities of deadline-driven, objective mainstream journalism.

    That said, I think it’s hard for people employed in the mainstream press to have the time to blog and do media criticism. I’m not sure it would be possible to find someone on the Godbeat in the mainstream press who would also be able to do criticism and blog.

  • tmatt


    We are not about exposing bias against traditional Christians. But — read any of the bias literature, left or right — and you will see that the flash points are on doctrinal issues that tend to divide religious left and right. Read the New York Times self study and you will see that Keller knows that the real issues have to do with a disconnect between journalists and religious believers, mainly on the right. Even the essential work “What Liberal Media?” by Eric Alterman notes the disconnect on moral and cultural issues.

    Again, when readers find stories that genuinely mangle or misrepresent the views of the religious left or — more likely — ignore them, please let us know. We have repeatedly said better coverage is needed there.


    You point is well taken. It would be better served to say that we are FROM the mainstream press. It’s hard to do criticism when you are in hard news reporting.

    When Daniel and MZ were in mainstream newsrooms, they were on beats not linked to religion coverage. Thus, their editors — who were consulted — approved of the blogging. Daniel, in particular, stayed away from stories that might overlap with his reporting for Government Executive.

    MZ is home with the baby at this point. Who knows what that wild lady is going to do in the future. Ditto with Daniel, when his law degree is done. Mark wants to return to mainstream work. Period.

  • chris g

    I really enjoy the perspective, information and insights that go behind this blog. I think the constructive criticism here is a wonderful alternative to complaining. Like the post mentions, getting commenters to always be constructive instead of confrontation is a practical impossibility.

    With that said though, I agree with Murray. When I first started reading this blog a few years ago, I assumed it was about how the press doesn’t get religious issues and frame of reference. It has taken me quite a while to understand while this may be a general goal, in practice, many posts end up about how the press doesn’t fully get mainstream Christianity and are OK for not getting anything else – because it doesn’t make sense anyway.

    While everyone should support their personal beliefs, is the battle for understanding best served by encouraging the press to get a select sect of religions or by getting them to understand religious beliefs in general?

    I would tend to think if we want better reporting the latter battle to fight. I just don’t think selling the press on anything other than a “understand it as if from the religion’s own contexts” is viable. The issue then becomes encouraging the right balance of juxtaposition with secular positions. Of course in that light, is it correct to weakly juxtapose one religion while strongly juxtaposing another? Sure if you are pushing a specific agenda, but I think this undermines religion in general, and one’s own agenda as a result.

  • tmatt

    chris g:

    Sorry, but there is no way that we have advocated inaccurate, unbalanced coverage of other religions. Errors of fact are errors of fact. has a concept called “stake holders” — the people who are most involved in and knowledgeable of the facts and issues in a story. In all of religion news, if the stake holders in a particular faith are consistently saying that the media’s coverage of their faith is inaccurate and totally out of balance (which is not the same thing as being favorable) then we have a problem.

    In particular, I do not understand the second half of this statement:

    ” … many posts end up about how the press doesn’t fully get mainstream Christianity and are OK for not getting anything else — because it doesn’t make sense anyway.”

    Are you saying that we have cheered for flawed, inaccurate, coverage?

  • Mollie

    I’ll agree that we don’t cover religious issues happening outside of the USA as much as we should, but I think it’s hard to argue we only cover mainstream Christianity. Yes, over three-quarters of this country is Christian. The next largest religious group comes in at under two percent. All other religious groups have lower percentages than even that. That’s going to create a media environment where the vast majority of stories and criticism will be about Christians.

    Having said that, I’ve covered stories about everything from practitioners of Ayahuasca to Zoroastrians. I cover a ton of stories about the LDS and FLDS and I also analyze stories about pagans, atheists and Hindus as well.

  • chris g

    Thanks, Mollie. I have always enjoyed your broad selection of topics. Your style helped re-energize my own interests.

    Tmatt, I don’t think Get Religion has flawed or inaccurate coverage. You all do a great job. I am amazed by the style books everyone has mastered. My, rather poorly worded comment was about the implications of trying to find the right facts to present on a controversial, usually new religious movement.

    Extremists on both sides of a topic like Mormonism, Scientology, etc seem prone to flaming when stories are presented in a “balanced facts” genre. People just have too much at stake to let one side get the upper hand. Similarly I wonder if the growing divide between secular and religious cultures won’t lead to a similar automatic flame response for “balanced fact” religious reporting on any denomination?

    In my rather unintelligible quote tmatt cited I was thinking back to a number of posts in the Rommney news cycle. The comments there are about as off topic as I could remember. However, Mollie posts really changed the content of the comments. As far as I could tell, the main difference was a presentation of ?atmosphere? in lieu of a presentation of commonly agreed facts. When tradition hasn’t created pre-established balancing formulas people will always fight over the scale.

    For example, this post about defining “new age” religions only questions the inclusion of Pentecostalism in a list of spiritual explorations. This just seems like a natural way to start a fight. Who gets to decide the balance? I just wonder if, in general, we will prevent religion-religion or religion-secular fights by worrying more about the intents framing an issue than the commonly agreed facts used to define sides.