The time at my disposal does not allow me to linger on all the questions that may be raised by men with time on their hands and with a curiosity for finer points–the kind of people who are more ready to ask questions than capable of understanding the answers.
St. Augustine, City of God, Book XV
I’d like to imagine the comboxes as the agora where an intelligent, spirited exchange of ideas can take place. That does happen, but some days it seems like people treat them more like bathroom walls. I have no interest in providing a blank space for atheists, anti-Catholics, and people who’ve skipped their meds to scrawl meaningless junk on my site.
If a comment is painfully stupid, insulting, and devoid of content, the writer is added to the spam filter. I do not check the spam filter. I trust the spam filter to do its job, and it does it very well. That means someone may well type out some long ranting post, pointing out the precise nature of my idiocy and contemptiblity, that I shall never see. I will somehow get over this loss.
You may also wind up in the spam filter if your tag contains a link to a spammy-looking site, or simply because of weird English, or bad links, or your brand of deodorant. Some of its decisions are mysterious and capricious, but it fills up with hundreds of posts each day, and I simply can’t comb through them all looking for the real ones that might get sucked into its gaping maw.
Insults alone are not enough to get a comment spam-killed. I can trade insults with readers all day long if they’re interesting enough. However, insults + nothing to say = Welcome to Spamland.
I am not here to reassure trolls of their okayness, and this space is not here for them to post long screeds about whatever. If they want to do that, they can start their own blog. It’s free!
Random bleats like “Patheos? More Like Pathetic!” or “The God you believe in doesn’t exist” [Yes, both of those are real.] head straight for spamland, and the writers shall never darken my eyeballs again.
Here’s a bit of gibberish as an example, posted in a thread about the LCWR’s keynote speaker: “Who’s to say what is ‘good’ religion or ‘bad’religion if it is all BS?? How is the idea that a human being, born of a virgin (long before IVF and artificial insemination was invented), died, was buried, and then rose from the dead, walked around and was seen by living people, then ascended into “heaven” anymore believable than the nonsense Hubbard spouts? Talk about the pot (the Vatican) calling the kettle (LCWR) black!”
This adds nothing. It’s rather poorly written, badly argued, and just gives me a headache. The time it takes to reply to the writer (who signs herself “Gail” but who I suspect is a hippie feminist named “Jane” who was stalking me on Twitter) would simply be a lost effort. Gail posted a similar comment in another thread, and was then marked as a spammer, so I will no longer see anything she writers under that ID.
If you are a smart, concise, nicely-groomed regular commentator, be assured that I read everything and appreciate the input, even though I don’t reply to each post unless I have something useful to add.
Also note: I may change any posts I feel are excessively rude or stupid.
A Special Note to Evangelical Atheists and Members of the Church of Scientism
This is a special note to evangelical atheists, religion haters, and members of the Church of Scientism.
You bore me. When I was returning to the Church after being out for 15 years, my first task was to read a lot of atheist writers to learn the nature of their arguments. Since I already had a strong background in Classical studies, anthropology, philosophy, and comparative religion, I was shocked at the utter emptiness of everything I found. Dead-end arguments, faulty reasoning, bad faith, contempt, meanness, and a heapin’ helpin’ of ignorance made it an enlightening experience. I’d developed a sense of how to recognize Truth during my years as a Platonist, and I knew this was no truth there.
I’ve found very few atheists who argue better since then. I’ve done it already, and it is so very boring. Atheism is as intellectually credible as holocaust denial.
So much of internet atheism reminds me of Terry Eagleton’s famous takedown of the New Atheists, when he noted that Richard Dawkins “writes as though ‘Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness’ is a mighty funny way to describe a Grecian urn.”
The great problem is that for every principled, reasonable atheist there appear to be a thousand with serious personality disorders, or as Mark Shea calls them, “Napoleon Dynamite with a mean streak.” Their reflexive contempt for the religious thought that formed that backbone of human civilization destroys their ability to think coherently. Their hatred of religion becomes a kind of anti-intellectualism that poses as serious thought. They worship one particular thing–the human mind–without bothering to wonder how, or even if, their thoughts correlate to reality. The idea that materialism is the only rational philosophy is itself a highly irrational viewpoint, but they are incapable of seeing that.
They also reserve a special contempt for traditional religion while living off its fruits. For example, there’s nothing in the observable universe to make the statement “all men are created equal” even remotely true. By the standards of materialism, based purely on observation, the very opposite is the truth. We are only able to say “all men are created equal” because of our Christian heritage, and our belief in a transcendent God in Whose image we are created.
Here’s a little example from the comboxes of the kind of wrote reactionary ignorance this kind of mind produces: “The creation story of your own religion involves a man created out of dust who is convinced by his rib-woman wife to eat a magical fruit because a talking snake told her that it would make them like gods. The universe as we know it took much longer than six days to form, human beings didn’t spring forth from dust or rib bones, fruit isn’t magical, and snakes lack the vocal apparatus or the mental ability to speak. Before you slam Mormanism [sic] for being False, make sure the insurance policy of that glass house of yours is all paid up.”
Where does one begin to dismantle this kind of grade-school stupidity? It shows no understanding of how people of faith read their own texts, makes pointless observations about facts not in dispute, and piles all of its rhetorical eggs in a basket marked “sneering contempt.” There’s no there there. It’s a waste of my time. I know some bloggers permit this kind of tripe out of a sense of fairness or openness, or in order to refute it, but I have neither the time nor inclination to do so. Comments like this–the bread and butter of internet atheist–will not be posted here, and the account will be marked as spam.
This kind of comment is routine in posts on any subject, no matter how irrelevant. If the subject is religion, and we’re debating points T, U, and V, this kind of comment attempts to yank us back to debating points A, B, and C. You don’t enter a nuanced debate about a religious issue by saying religious issues are not worthy of debate. It’s like showing up at a soccer game and complaining that the team isn’t playing hockey correctly. It makes no sense, and its only purpose is for the atheist to thumb his nose at the squares, shout “FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER”, and pat himself on the back for speaking truth to the dumb rubes who believe all this God stuff.
I’m not interested, and I won’t be a party to it. A long debate is going on in this post, with multiple responses, including comments from someone with whom I completely disagree. I don’t think he’s always stayed on form with his debate, but he’s making his points, they are relevant to the story in question, and things seem to be staying fairly civil, so I’ve let it go all on its own and stayed out of it. Wouldn’t dream of taking it down.
But then someone wandered into that long and nuanced debate and posted the comment which I quote above. Why? To end? What is the purpose? What does it accomplish?
Thus, the pointless atheist squib (which may well be the same text cut and pasted on every religious site this fellow visits, regardless of topic) won’t be published, so just save your time and toddle on back to Reddit and post your little Flying Spaghetti Monster pics and chortle over how superior you are to those silly benighted God-botherers. You will be one with the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.”
Our prayer will be different. It will be a prayer for the mercy and grace of God to shine in the dark places and soften hearts of stone so love may find a place to abide. (I know, I know: how tragically unhip.)