How I Run My Blog

Different blogs fill different niches, and this is important and much needed. I recently received an email from a theist reader expressing concern that now that my blog has moved to FreeThought Blogs it will no longer be a place where friendly dialogue between theists and atheists can take place. In response to her concerns, I’m going to elaborate here for a moment, especially for new readers, on the niche I try to fill with my blog.

Even as I have always been passionate in what I write, I have also always tried to show respect and aim to promote understanding. I feel like my past experiences – religious right, antifeminist, evangelical Christian – and my current views – progressive feminist atheist  - give me some interesting insight. I see a terrible amount of misunderstanding and lack of ability to communicate in this divided world. One thing I try to do on my blog is explain atheism, feminism, and progressivism to those on the right and evangelicalism, antifeminism, and the religious right to those on the left. This doesn’t mean I don’t take a side – you better believe I do! – but rather that I see more value in promoting understanding than in widening the divide.

Lest you think this means I’m soft on religion, understand that I am very much an atheist and see problems with religion in general (especially the lack of a reality check). Also, understand that I have been harmed by religion more than most. I understand the destruction religion can, and does, cause. It’s just that I have personally found that respectful dialogue can be an extremely productive. Let me share a quick anecdote from my own life to illustrate why I have personally adopted this approach.

My deconversion started with a skeptic friend. He was studying science, and I was convinced I could convert him to young earth creationism. I spent hours and months trying to do so. He always responded with understanding and respect, carefully and gently showing me the problems with my arguments or my sources. He never once resorted to ridicule, and if he had, it would have backfired. I wouldn’t have listened. It was his continuous and respectful presence, showing me the problems with my beliefs without every ridiculing me or calling me stupid, that kept me there arguing and, ultimately, listening. After months and months and months of this, I was able to admit to myself that I had been wrong, and to admit that to him as well. Once again, no gloating, no “I told  you so,” nothing but kindness and respect. This was the start of my journey of questions.

This is not to say that I pander to religion. I don’t. It doesn’t mean I think belief in imaginary supernatural beings is just as valid as any other belief. I don’t. It doesn’t mean I think belief in young earth creationism is rational, or that believing humans have immortal souls is anything less than silly and extremely problematic. I don’t. Furthermore, I absolutely do see a place for ridicule of religion. For some people, that approach actually is the most effective. It’s just that that place isn’t here here and that person isn’t me. This is why I think it’s good that there are a variety of different approaches and a diversity of different blogs, each with their own style and niche.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that I think the best comment threads are those that focus on discussion rather than simple one-liners. I love seeing the insight everyone has on a wide variety of topics. I love seeing people disagree and explain their disagreement rationally. I think this sort of conversation can be very productive, to all involved, and it is this sort of conversation I want to see here. And thankfully, I’ve already seen some of it here.

Thank you all for your understanding, and for the warm welcome!

Libby Anne

Note: This entry has been edited in response to concerns from some commenters, and in response to some lack of clarity in the original post. I also want to be clear that I have never had any problems with FreeThought Blogs or with how other bloggers here run their blogs. I think a diversity of approaches is a good thing, and I’d like to think that my blog contributes to that diversity.

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People! I Have a Comment Policy!
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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    It’s true that certain FtB blogs are rude, crude and lewd in language. Few if any of the blog owners and commentariat will suffer fools gladly. FtB is a hotbed of gnu atheism. Goddists should enter at their peril, lest they be asked to justify their presuppositions and assumptions by people who are often more knowledgeable about their theology than they are.

    Many members of the commentariat have problems showing respect to certain goddists. After the bazillionth time explaining that atheism does not automatically mean immorality and that evolution is not on its deathbed, it becomes difficult to respect people who proclaim these and similar ideas. What’s even more annoying are the people who whine about tone. If someone has a problem with being called a fucking idiot, then maybe they should stop displaying their fucking idiocy. And no, I am not apologizing for that last sentence.

    • Tsu Dho Nimh

      If Libby wants a civil salon atmosphere for discussions and you come in with manners and vocabulary more befitting a biker bar, don’t be surprised if you aren’t welcomed with open arms.

      On the other hand, Physioprof would be glad to see you.

    • Tim Martin

      It seems like you’re disagreeing with part of Libby’s policy, but you don’t actually address her claim about the effectiveness of respectful dialogue over disrespectful dialogue. Do you disagree with her? Also, when you respond to comments by believers, what is your goal? Is it to persuade them to adopt a new position, or something else?

      • Kagehi

        It seems like you’re disagreeing with part of Libby’s policy, but you don’t actually address her claim about the effectiveness of respectful dialogue over disrespectful dialogue.

        No idea what the original person’s response to that question would be, but here is mine:

        There is, usually, no point in going ballistic, to the point where you are not actually responding at all, just ranting, when confronted with an idiot. Some, where I post, have a bad habit of being so fed up with certain recurring themes that they can attack even before they have a clear idea who the target is. And, I admit to having been annoyed enough to be less than properly cautious in 1-2 cases myself, with the result of some confusion, if not bad language. That said, while being nice works for some people, it fails completely with others, and its only the recognition that an entire community of people think that you are a complete fool, which makes a person rethink their position. In other words, for some, its precisely the complete lack of respect for their views that triggers a rethink.

        So.. Not sure how you fix the problem, really. Its sort of like the religious trope of hating the sin, rather than the sinner. If you do it right, they will assume you hate them anyway. If you do it “nicely” they can leave, convinced that their arguments where taken seriously, and therefor it was just our failure to understand that was the problem. And, anyone using that justification for their continued regurgitation of gibberish and false premises, isn’t going to be easily, or at all, swayed by someone being nice about it.

        As Penn once said, on one of his Showtime specials, specifically about bad language, sometimes using a single “bad word” more directly expresses your annoyance than an entire paragraph, in which you try to explain, in detail, why you hold that opinion. Sometimes ridicule works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on how impervious the theist is to argument, whether or not a stronger emotional reaction to them is necessary. And, the only thing about being “nicer” that I do agree with is that, depending on mood, some people go from, “Lets try to explain this ‘again’.”, to derision, a tad faster than, perhaps, is always appropriate.

      • Tim Martin

        But that isn’t the question. I have no problem with disrespecting views. Also, I am capable of indicating that someone is a complete fool without using invective or vitriol, or even epithets if I so choose.

        So what is the benefit of disrespecting *people?* What is the benefit of saying that their ideas are wrong, and oh yes by the way “you’re a fucking idiot”? What is the benefit of including incendiary remarks in one’s response that form no part of the argument? These are the sorts of things that many commenters do, and vehemently defend. It’s a free Internet, so you can do what you want, but if the issue is one of “what works best,” I have not seen much benefit from it.

        Can you provide examples where vitriol (or whatever it is you argue in favor of) has worked? Also, do you know that the people on whom it has worked would not also have been convinced by respectful argument?

      • Kagehi

        I usually wouldn’t go as far as saying “idiot” myself, usually. But even I reach a point, at times, where someone is ignoring every single statement, link, argument, or attempt at logic (though this is more often a case of dealing with say… Libertarians, than theists), while doing nothing but recycling positions that they attempted 50 posts earlier. And, no, I don’t have specific cases myself where I can say that a) I know it was effective, and b) any sort of “proof” that it couldn’t have worked by being nice about it. What I do know is 1-2 people, specifically on PZ’s site, who have flat out stated that, prior to running into his blog, they imagined that the issue was one of mere interpretation, and that no one was really that pissed at people holding absurd ones, in effect. In other words, they admit they heard all the arguments, they went around “arguing” with non-theists, etc., but if never got to them, because they literally never bothered to do more than quote the usual BS, instead of actually *studying* the subject.

        These are the people that take an shock to knock out of it. They think all the arguments have already been made, and they don’t need to do any work themselves, just quote other people’s quotes. Then they find that no, all of them have been made, all of them answered, and they decide to defend their belief by doing the single, absolute, worst thing they could, for their belief. They read the damn book, and look into other religions. lol

        Seriously though, I doubt we are too wide apart in what language “is” generally acceptable. I have, one a few occasions, called out people on Pharyngula for not bloody taking the time to figure out if they person was a total fool, or just confused, before jumping all over them. But, as I said, sometimes even I get to the point where I can’t stand how institutionally clueless, mind numbingly amoral, or even immoral they are, without realizing, and the total and absolute refusal to accept any information that isn’t spoon feed by “trusted” people, i.e., their church, and others, which are probably (high probability) lying to them at least 50% of the time, about everything from politics, to psychology, to the contents of their own precious book.

        Patience may be a virtue, but I swear, some days, and some people…

      • Tim Martin

        Hm, interesting comment about people needing a shock.

        I do think you and I are on the same page (or close) regarding tone/language. The fact that you haven’t called me a tone troll for even having this conversation shows that you’re a more respectful commenter than some I could name. I think what I and others here would complain about is a significantly higher level of… meanery.

  • Contrarian

    Before anyone with reading comprehension problems decide to mess up this comment thread, they should probably realize that this post is not a declaration that all atheists should be nice to theists, and it is not a declaration that theists have the right to have their views unchallenged.

    It reads more like a declaration that in this blog and its comment threads, disagreement is not a license to be mean. If you don’t have the self-control to respectfully tell a theist that they’re wrong, then you shouldn’t comment here. If you want to mock theists, go hang out at Pharyngula. And if you think that every Gnu Atheist blog should have the same free-wheeling, disrespectful tone as Pharyngula, well, then you’re stupid and don’t understand the importance of diversity.

    *Note: This post has been edited to remove misogynist and ablest profanity*

    • Libby Anne

      You are right about there being a place for a diversity of blogs. While I admit that there is a place for mocking (or, as you point out, plenty of places), there is also a place for respectfully disagreeing. And in my own life, I have personally found that respectful disagreement works better than mockery; others may have had different experiences, but those are mine.

      • Ckerst

        Not all ideas deserve equal respect or even respect.

      • Cluisanna

        Ckerst – Yes, but all people do.

      • steve oberski

        Some folk are so besotted with their ideology that any criticism of their ideas is de facto interpreted to be a personal attack and it becomes impossible to show proper disrespect for the idea without being accused of disrespect for the person.

      • Libby Anne

        Not all ideas deserve equal respect or even respect.

        Yes of course. But then, I never said anything about respecting ideas. Feel free to tear those apart!

        Some folk are so besotted with their ideology that any criticism of their ideas is de facto interpreted to be a personal attack and it becomes impossible to show proper disrespect for the idea without being accused of disrespect for the person.</blockquote

        This is absolutely true. Some people are so touchy about their beliefs that they interpret any challenge or question as a threat or personal attack. And, well, there’s nothing we can really do about that.

    • John Morales

      It reads more like a declaration that in this blog and its comment threads, disagreement is not a license to be mean.

      You’re insinuating that addressing someone without respectfulness is being mean?

      And if you think that every Gnu Atheist blog should have the same free-wheeling, disrespectful tone as Pharyngula, well, then you’re stupid and don’t realize the importance of diversity.

      Such respectfulness!

      • Contrarian

        Yes, being rude and disrespectful makes you mean. (Yes, this includes me, possibly being hypocritical …)

      • John Morales

        Rude and disrespectful?

        You’re now implying that rudeness is independent of disrespect, and that both these qualities are necessary for assholiness to be achieved; the corollary of course is that disrespect per se isn’t necessarily rude, and rudeness is not necessarily disrespectful.

        (Yes, this includes me, possibly being hypocritical …)

        Just possibly, eh? :)

        PS As someone has written:

        But I just looked it up, and respect is defined by the dictionary as:
        “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”

        (A high aspiration, to pretend to have that for every person behind every comment all the time)

      • Contrarian

        Technical point first: “rude and disrespectful” is redundant. It doesn’t imply that rude is different from disrespectful.

        And yeah, hypocritical of me. Sorry about that (and sorry, tekanji — didn’t mean to make you so uncomfortable). I was a little worried that people would somehow think that “don’t be meaninglessly rude to people” was somehow accomodationist or enforcing undeserved respect for religious beliefs. So I decided to try to pre-emptively argue against any anti-accomodationist strawmen … without thinking it through. And, of course, broke the rules.

        (One motivation is my intense dislike for the worst 5-10% of the comments on Pharyngula. They’re just abysmally, mind-numbingly stupid, couched in self-righteous style-over-substance bullshit. I really didn’t want to see these comment threads turn into those … but my disagreement with the poor behavior of some Pharyngula commenters is probably for another thread, another time.)

        tl;dr: Sorry.

    • tekanji

      Misogynist and ableist insults are not things I expected to see welcomed on a feminist blog, especially not on a post talking about how this blog is about fostering respectful dialogue.

      I was a regular reader of your old blog, Libby, and I have to say that this is the first time I’ve felt both unwelcome and unsafe reading your comments.

      • Libby Anne

        Tekanji – Mea culpa, you are right. I sometimes wonder where to draw the line on profanity – I know and understand that it makes some people uncomfortable but I also don’t want to be puritanical – but profanity or insults that are misogynist or ableist are definitely beyond the line. I have edited them out of the original comment and plan to do so in the future. I hope you continue reading, and I thank you for bringing this to my attention so that I could rethink my policy regarding profanity. It wasn’t something I had really directly considered, because it was never really an issue before. So, thank you.

      • Libby Anne

        As you will note, I have edited my comments policy to reflect this.

      • Libby Anne

        And finally, I have edited my settings so that comments with certain misogynist or ablest words will be automatically held for moderation.

      • tekanji

        Libby and Contrarian: Thanks for your responses. I really appreciate that both of you took the time to consider what I was saying. I’m always nervous when speaking out on that kind of stuff (because I’ve faced a lot of backlash in the past), so, again, thank you.

        Libby, I really enjoy this blog, not just for the post content, but also because of the generally friendly and positive tone in the comments. I know from experience how thankless a task it is to moderate comments, so I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate the hard work you put in maintaining this as a respectful discussion space.

    • Marcel Kincaid
      Not all ideas deserve equal respect or even respect.

      Yes, but all people do.

      That simply isn’t true, or honest.

  • picklefactory

    I think I’m familiar with the situation being referred to here; I think I must have literally shouted “STOP HELPING” at my laptop at least once.

    Libby Anne, this is your blog and you set the tone and the comment policy.

    Just like we have some viewpoints I disagree with over at Patheos, I still read blogs over there. Here at FtB, there are folks like Libby Anne and Reasonable Doubts that refuse to brook the “Us vs. Them” mentality I see sometimes.

    Theists are people, too, and it is not accomodationism to insist that they should be welcomed, it is simple hospitality. I hope your emailer can stay on board.

  • besomyka

    Thing is, people are convinced by different things. Sometimes it’s a patient respectful dialogue, sometimes it’s sharp ridicule that forces someone to reexamine and defend their position.

    There’s a place for both (and other!) approaches, and the conversational, empathetic approach that Libby has taken is one of the reasons that I’ve kept up with her writing.

    When you have professional liers for Christ and sycophant trolls toting their line, a sharper critique is appropriate. But that’s not who Libby addresses. She’s talking to people like her family and siblings, her childhood friends. People who aren’t taking a public position, but are taking a private personal one. Those people don’t deserve the vitriol, and I think Libby’s approach is, generally, the better one for that audience.

    So I’m with both Libby and Phar, with the understanding that they are addressing different audiences with different goals in mind.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      I’m perfectly willing to be polite to goddists when they’re polite to me. But being polite doesn’t mean not using naughty language. Being polite means:

      ● Don’t tell me I’m going to Hell because I don’t believe in your favorite deity.

      ● Ask me why I’m an atheist instead of telling me why I am.

      ● Don’t tell me I have no basis for morality just because I don’t accept your obviously immoral god.

      ● Don’t redefine atheism to fit a particular sociological or political agenda.

      ● Most of all, don’t lie to me about things I know are true.

      Most often, even on Pharyngula, people are polite and respectful to goddists until they stop being polite and respectful to us. When someone tells me I’m an atheist because I was molested as a child, they’ve stopped being polite.

      • Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform

        Can’t agree more with all of this, ‘Tis. Not that it’ll stop the finger-wagging tone trolls…

      • kisekileia

        News flash: Part of being polite and respectful to people is calling them by the terms they use for themselves, at least if those terms are not deceptive. Referring to religious people as “goddists” doesn’t qualify.

    • Marcel Kincaid

      News flash: Part of being polite and respectful to people is calling them by the terms they use for themselves, at least if those terms are not deceptive. Referring to religious people as “goddists” doesn’t qualify.

      “News flash”: Your post is rude, arrogant, and hypocritical. And it is simply false that one must call people by the terms they use for themselves in order to be polite. For instance, you need not refer to me as “a highly rational person who justifiably rejects the absurdity of religion” just because I do.

      • Marcel Kincaid

        Held for moderation already? Well, so much for “free thought”. Ta ta. Do try to keep this from turning into the sort of cesspool of accommodationist arrogance and “militant fundamental atheist” bashing like over at Greg Laden’s place.

  • purpleshoes

    And already it devolves.

    I am a secular person with no belief in anything supernatural, but I have been persistently and consistently disappointed by the organized atheist community in the US, especially online, to the degree that I describe myself as secular, not atheist, in order to avoid the association. Among other things, I approached atheism full of the rational hope that without religion, cultural prejudices – like seething misogyny – would naturally disappear. This hope has been pretty thoroughly destroyed; I was not pleased to discover that that prejudice precedes religious justification in many cases instead of issuing from it. Self-declared atheists are also much more likely to be middle-class and above than most Christian denominations, creating an unlovely dynamic of well-off people sneering down the ladder.

    I think Libby Anne has done an excellent job of documenting the extraordinary harm that a religious doctrine can do to peoples’ ability to live a happy and comfortable life, but she also carries the authority of having come from that community. Unfortunately, I perceive the atheism practiced at freethoughtblogs as a basically evangelical stance – as evidenced by the first poster here, who proposes confronting theistic posters as aggressively as possible in whatever numbers necessary – and I think embracing an evangelical movement is something that deserves some consideration.

    I will continue to read this blog, and am genuinely pleased that this might represent some source of income or better support for Libby Anne’s excellent writing, but I have to say this change makes me actively leery.

    • BinJabreel

      Oh, come on. Atheists do *not* tend to be higher up the socioeconomic ladder. The only reliable statistical predictor for atheism, in study after study after study, is…


      Education. Period.

      I’ve met a surprising number of people in rural Georgia or South Carolina who were dirt poor but, when they found out I was an atheist, they very, veryveryveryvery quietly admitted to me that they weren’t sure that they really believed in Jesus or God either. They just hadn’t read enough of the Bible (and, let’s face it, natural history) to feel confident enough to voice their opinions.

      • purpleshoes

        I’m just citing the Pew Forum. “No religious affiliation” is spread pretty equally among the income groups, though evangelical Christian denominations, historically black Christian denominations, and Catholics are clustered the lower-income groups (not solely, but the curve is centered pretty low). Self-declared atheists are about twice as likely to be in the higher-earning groups than in the lower-earning groups.

        The degree to which a self-identified atheist might assume “I don’t know if I believe in the Bible per se” means a full-on conversion to capital-A Atheism I think is pretty indicative of how much American atheism in particular operates as a deliberate inverse to evangelical Christianity. There are, as Libby Anne herself has pointed out, a lot of religions that you can continue to operate in without a hardline creedal belief.

        … Like Episcopalianism.

      • Drolfe

        Self-declared atheists are about twice as likely to be in the higher-earning groups than in the lower-earning groups.

        Fwiw, my explanation for this is not some kind of elitist sneering, but actually just economic privilege. Many, many “no-religion” people don’t self-describe as atheist because in their circumstance (namely in the face of religious privilege) they cannot come out with out economic or social risk. Rich people (to use the term loosely) don’t have to worry about their neighbors running them out of the hood or even out of town, their money buys them insulation from that sort of pressure. Rich people don’t have to worry (as much) about their boss firing them for being atheist. Rich people don’t have to worry about judges siding against them in custody battles (because great lawyers and financial stability are selected for in family court).

        Median income households just can’t do this. They can’t afford to move when their neighbors turn on them (they are probably underwater on their mortgage, smirk); they can’t afford to lose their job if someone finds out they are atheist; they can’t afford to take their kids out of school if teachers find out they are atheist; etc.

        If Pew were to run a similar poll a country with a lower amount of religious privilege (say somewhere in western Europe) do you think the results would be different? I do. I bet when there’s not as much stigma, and real social and economic consequences for self-identifying as atheist that the difference is stark.

        (I’m often leery that I’m not pseudonymous enough to protect my family’s livelihood when I make posts like these. Note that I’m not even self-identifying as atheist.)

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      I can relate to a lot of what you say here, purpleshoes.

      I am also an outsider in both the atheist and Christian communities. As a progressive, left-wing feminist, I find the conservative Christian political agenda repugnant. I share many of the same criticisms of organized religion as atheists, and have many sympathies with them. I have often been attacked by religious conservatives in the same ways that atheists often complain of and I can relate.

      But I’m not an atheist (although I did identify as a Jewish atheist for years), I am an ultra-liberal Jew. Like many of my ilk, I am undecided or “agnostic” about many issues of spirituality, which is okay, because liberal Judaism tends to be more about values, heritage, and community than about doctrine. In the Jewish milieu that I’m most familiar with, there is a wide range of belief from pure atheism, to modern, liberal theism (I guess I’m somewhere on that spectrum.) But my background is not well-understood by either atheists or Christians, both of which tend to see religion and Christianity as synonymous. This is America after all–there simply is no place in the religious discourse for people who do not either subscribe to Christianity or have major, personal beef with Christianity. People who identify with any other religion to any degree or self-identified “secular” people like you are simply not invited to the shit show…

      And it does tend to give you perspective on the whole “conversation” (which I guess is what it is on good days). I agree with you when you say that see an “evangelical” attitude in a lot of organized atheist circles, and a lot of major blind spots when it comes to social prejudice and inequality, especially misogyny. Which is why I admit that I find the name “Free Thought Blogs” kind of obnoxious. I went to one of the most liberal colleges in the country and I now live in one of the most liberal cities in the country. I have many self-identified atheists in my family. You get the idea, I’m exposed to atheism all the time. And in my observation, atheists are as prone to group-think, prejudice and bigotry as the rest of humanity. And often, conservative Christians and certain atheists really do seem not the different to me.

      I don’t want to create a false equivalency here–conservative Christians are vastly more influential in the political discourse and have had a much more damaging effect on public policy and I fully acknowledge this. But when it comes to the outlooks, attitudes, and approaches that individuals privately hold, no I, sadly often don’t see huge differences between the two groups. I think, as a feminist, I am particularly in the position to notice this because there’s no shortage of misogyny in the atheist community(ies). (See Dawkins, Richard). I only wish that free thought followed from atheism as much a lot of people seem to think it does because I’d have been called a “man-hating feminazi” a lot less often in my life if that were true! lol

      I have a lot of respect for Libby’s writing and I’m glad to see her find some success in it (Libby, I hope you are getting paid for this because I know you’re a grad student with baby # 2 on the way! :-)). I’m hoping that her blog here will be a haven of civility as well as a safe space for a wide range of strong opinion, as it has (usually) been in the past. I hope it can hang on to that identity here and I hope there will be a place for me here as a commenter. I’m keeping an open mind.

      • Drolfe

        There might be a bit of a misconception here, because it’s not “Free Thought Blogs” it’s freethought. Freethought and freethinking are words with specific meaning in this context. See:

        (This is not meant to counter any of the points you are making regarding inclusiveness, or the measure of individual propensities for any particular good or evil in any particular community.)

      • ewanmacdonald

        But my background is not well-understood by either atheists or Christians, both of which tend to see religion and Christianity as synonymous. This is America after all–there simply is no place in the religious discourse for people who do not either subscribe to Christianity or have major, personal beef with Christianity. People who identify with any other religion to any degree or self-identified “secular” people like you are simply not invited to the shit show…

        This is completely incorrect. Atheists are outnumbered by ‘other’ (non-Christian religion) adherents by a factor of at least two. And the very idea that “secular”* voices aren’t being heard at the expense of strident gnus is to rather ignore, for example, the most prominent newspapers in the country and their regular columnists.

        *not a word I’d have used to describe his case but I’m sticking with it for continuity’s sake,

      • Kagehi

        there’s no shortage of misogyny in the atheist community(ies).

        You know what… This is a bit like going back 200 years and commenting that there seems to be a lot of racism among scientists, while ignoring that its a “universal” problem, not specifically one in that community. I find it personally annoying how many articles have come up recently, which treat atheist like it exists in some sort of magic vacuum, and therefor this problem is *entirely* correctable from inside, without addressing everything from how the media in general does things, to the way magazines do, to the pinkification of children’s toys, to **everything else** that is part of the trend.

        OK, yeah, you kind of have to start some place, but, at the same time, its not just to imply that somehow the problem is unique, or worse, in the group you want to start with, and a lot of the recent postings on this seem to imply this. All I can figure is that its so bloody common every place else, that its easier to ignore it, every place else, because seeing it where you care about it stands out more. Which is itself a bloody huge blind spot.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        @ Drolfe–Ah yes, the lack of a space between “free” and “thought” does change things. You are right.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        @ ewanmacdonald–Yes, of course there are plenty of secular people expressing themselves in the public sphere–I read those columnists too. But, for the most part, they’re not making secularism their pet cause.

        In my observation, the discourse about religion in this country is mostly being carried out between two groups, conservative Christians, and atheists who have an understanding and experience, be it personal or cultural, of Christianity but of little else. People who do not fit one of those two categories are not heard from nearly as often, whatever our actual numbers are (you didn’t cite them). Even if atheists ARE fewer in number than the “other” category, our voices are generally not considered as relevant because we are not working within the basic conceptual framework of Christianity, which most atheists ARE doing (because America is a mostly-Christian country). We all have privilege that is sometimes hard to see, and I think that many American atheists don’t see the privilege that is afforded them by the fact that their experience is basically Christian. It makes them more visible. And to be fair, this does make a certain amount of sense, since Christianity is the most influential religious force in our society.

        The battle over “religion” in America, is usually really a battle over Christianity, which is used to stand in for all religion, since most sides don’t tend to really know anything about non-Christian religions. (And in particular, most Americans, Christian and atheist, tend to view Judaism as basically Christianity-minus-Jesus.) I am far more ideologically similar to self-identified (liberal!) atheists than I am to conservative Christians, naturally, but I still enjoy getting away from the the “You suck!”, “No, YOU suck!” battle, where there’s little room for anyone else, once in a while. That’s what Libby’s blog has been, and that’s what I was hoping would be preserved in my original comment.

        I’m not claiming to give cold, hard facts here. I’m just offering up my experience as a Jew in America who has always been interested in these issues and has given them a lot of thought. These are just my observations and I’m not trying to start a fight.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        @ Kagehi

        “You know what… This is a bit like going back 200 years and commenting that there seems to be a lot of racism among scientists, while ignoring that its a “universal” problem, not specifically one in that community.”

        *blinks* Huh? Where did I say that misogyny is a uniquely athest problem? I most certainly don’t believe that. In fact, my entire point was to say that misogyny IS universal, and that the atheist community is not immune to it. Media, magazines, and the pinkification of children’s toys are all things I talk about plenty, believe me. I wasn’t trying to say that only atheists are misogynists, I was saying that misogyny is everywhere and atheism is not an antidote.

        However, I won’t lie and say that atheist misogynists don’t, in some ways, irk me more than religious misogynists. And that’s because I expect more from people who generally claim to be proponents of reason and egalitarianism and modernity and enemies of bigotry, hierarchy, intolerance, traditionalism, and all the other things that support patriarchy. Conservative Christians make no bones about believing in hierarchy and patriarchal ideas, and while that horrifies me, it’s not as frustrating as hearing somebody pontificate about all the injustice and inhumanity that has been committed in the name of religion, and then turn around and make rape jokes and belittle feminists. This is not an uncommon occurrence in my life. So yeah, I’d like to see more atheists hold themselves to their own standards. I am aware that plenty of people (frequently female people) within the atheist community are making this point loudly and clearly, and for that I commend them.

      • Kagehi

        I said there was a recent trend, not that you yourself where implying it was unique to atheism.

        But, we are dealing with human beings here, and unfortunately, if you breath it from childhood, its hard to get rid of. Even people trying to often react within the framework, without realizing they are doing so.

        So, yeah, it would be really nice of this one thing, of many, was fixable by not having religion. But, its a step in the right direction to not have something “telling” people that its right to have such attitudes. Actually changing them… may be harder than removing one single justification for them.

      • Kagehi

        Oh, and yes, its a good thing is being talked about. Though, whether ‘productively’ is what I am not quite so certain of.

  • Daniel Fincke

    I am with you, Libby Anne.

  • Daniel Fincke

    Let me also add: since September I wanted and repeatedly advocated that we get a blogger on Freethought Blogs who escaped Christian patriarchy. We were told by one such prominent blogger that she feared that the Christian women who were in early stages of questioning Christian patriarchy would be completely scared off by FTB. John Loftus left FTB in part because he felt like it was a hostile place for the Christians who he used his blog to engage.

    We shouldn’t want this to become an unsafe space for the people who need it. Whatever your own attitudes about free speech or how best to polemicize against bad religious beliefs and practices, people who would add comments that work counter-productive to Libby Anne’s efforts to advance the aims they share with her says more about their self-absorption than their commitment to helping people get out of their authoritarian religious situations.

    We should all be supporting Libby Anne’s desire to create the kind of atmosphere and tone she knows will work best to educate everyone on both sides of the aisle as effectively as possible.

    • Libby Anne

      Thanks. :-)

    • Another person who has left Christian patriarchy

      Thanks Daniel, for such a thoughtful comment. Like Libby Ann, I was fortunate to escape the fundamentalist patriarchy of my childhood. It just about killed me. Now, a decade later, I have a tentative relationship with my immediate family and many others in my former community. Libby Ann’s blog was a place I could direct some of them whom I felt were receptive to some of the things she was saying. Her tone, and the tone of her comments, were a *huge* part of that. Unfortunately now I’m kind of scared to direct them here. That’s no judgment on Libby’s decision to move here, which I understand. Nor is it a judgment on the more direct, abrasive, take-no-prisoners commenters (w/ the exception of the misogynist/ableist crap). It’s just that I know christian patriarchists, and I know that reading comments like many on the FT blogs will just reinforce their worldview and their misconceptions about atheism, not challenge them.

      • Libby Anne

        If it helps, you can still send them to my original site – I’m keeping it all up with a reference site, just not blogging there regularly anymore – though I may post pieces that directly deal with CP/QF there from time to time. There are also other sites available like No Longer Quivering.

      • Another person who has left Christian patriarchy

        Thanks, Libby Ann! I’ll definitely do that, and the other resources you mention are great, too. Thanks for all of your writings, and best of luck in your transition.

  • irisvanderpluym

    Hello Libby Anne -

    I am very much interested in what you have to say about religious conservatism generally, and your own transformative experiences specifically. However, I believe that the “respectful disagreement” approach you advocate does not in fact work better than mockery and ridicule, though I’ll grant that it can be effective at different times, in different contexts, and on different people. But as I see it, the respectful pass that the religious enjoy everywhere — except at a relatively small number of blogs like PZ’s — is to a very large extent responsible for their outsized, unwarranted, and destructive influence on our lives, our laws and our culture. I cannot pretend to respect that which I most emphatically do not respect.

    That being said I view your blog as your home, and if I comment here I will of course respect the house rules and restrain from vicious mockery and snark.

    What this boils down to is: I am really looking forward to reading more from you, and will try to STFU. You, on the other hand, should probably stay far away from my blog. Viva la difference.

    • Libby Anne

      Like I said, in my own personal experience respectful disagreement and pointing out errors without ridicule has worked better than snark and mockery. However, everyone is different and I know there are plenty of cases where snark and mockery work better. This is why I think having different blogs taking different approaches is a good thing.

      Also, the fact that I aim for respect and misunderstanding does not mean I give religion a “free pass.” I don’t. And I do agree with you that religion has gotten a pass way too often and that that has resulted in a lot of the problems we have today. Absolutely. I just think it’s possible to avoid giving religion a free pass without resorting to meanspiritedness. And that’s my goal.

      Anyway, thanks for your comment!

    • irisvanderpluym

      This is why I think having different blogs taking different approaches is a good thing.

      Very much agreed. Thanks for your reply.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Irisvanderpluym, I agree with your point that religion often gets a “free pass” in our society (or Christianity anyway–American Muslims probably have a pretty different take on this assertion!) but I don’t think respectful disagreement is the same thing as a free pass. Actually, usually when I see a “free pass” being given to a religiously informed point-of-view, this is done without their really being ANY disagreement, respectful or otherwise.

      Take the gay marriage “debate.” Lot of of people take an anti-gay marriage position and are open about the religious foundations of that view. In the media, I hear people disagreeing with these people on the actual issue of gay marriage, but I rarely see them actually engaging in a critical analysis of their opponents’ reasoning in which they point out the flaws and question the appropriateness of such obviously religiously founded views in a political debate in a purportedly secular democracy. Instead I usually hear some version of “Well, I disagree with you on this issue, but you believe what you believe because of your earnest religious conviction so I guess I can’t touch it.” Which is basically saying “You’re belief is bigoted and destructive but since it’s cloaked in religion, I have to treat it as valid.”

      That’s not criticism. That’s wussing out, big time.

      I think it’s possible to be very critical and to speak strongly (how about “I get that your belief is based on an earnest religious conviction, but that earnest religious conviction has destructive implications for many of our fellow citizens so I don’t really care!) without being mocking. It’s possible to be civil without being wishy-washy, and I think that’s the kind of atmosphere Libby has created and, I hope, will continue to maintain.

  • Zab

    Libby Anne,

    As someone who was likewise brought into atheism from a conservative Christian background by means of considerate, patient conversations, I am beyond supportive of what you are doing here.

    I was brought to FtB when PZ first moved Pharyngula to this site, and while I genuinely enjoy the low-to-zero tolerance of religion on that blog (it allows me to blow off steam in a much needed way), I have never participated in the comment threads simply because of the hostility I sometimes find there. I am a huge advocate of open, free, respectful dialogue between religious and non-religious peoples, and I feel as though this blog will provide a place on the internet will I will feel comfortable raising my voice on important issues. Because frankly, most of the time I don’t see much of a point.

    So thanks. Looking forward to all of your posts.

  • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

    Hey Libby,
    Thanks for making this post so that we’re all clear. But I disagree with the notion expressed by some of your commenters that this kind of comment policy makes for a more welcoming atmosphere. While it may make opponents of your views more comfortable, and I recognize that there may be value in that for some of them, it also means that some posters like me who take a hard stance about feminism and religion cannot feel welcome or comfortable here. Doesn’t mean I won’t be reading, doesn’t mean I think you’re a jerk, just means I don’t particularly appreciate hearing that this is welcoming when it silences me and shuts me out.

    • Libby Anne

      I understand your concern, but I really don’t think asking people to disagree nicely, attacking arguments rather than people, shuts anyone out at all. Any of my commenters free to express your views and take a hard stance, I’m just asking that they not be an ass about it. Maybe I’m not doing a good job of explaining myself!

      • Anders

        I think we may be better off without the people shut out by this policy… *rolls eyes*

      • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

        Oh, look, a violation of the policy.

      • Marcel Kincaid

        It took no time for Anders to make himself just that.

    • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

      I think you understand this already, but I’ll explain further just in case. When people express anti-feminist views and certain religious ones, they are effectively seeking to perpetuate my oppression and that of people like me. I am capable of responding “nicely,” my ability to do that – probably to a much lesser extent than yours – is well-honed by living in an oppressive society, but it constitutes burying my actual response, and it’s something I do only because of coercion. Being told that this is something commenters are expected to do here makes it clear that this is not a space where I will feel safe or comfortable expressing my anger, which is a fair and rightful reaction to the views of religious people and antifeminists, and frequently the only one I feel is worth expressing. The result of that is that I will not feel comfortable here, which effectively means that I am shut out. I’m speaking entirely in “I”s here, but I have reason to believe that I am not alone in it.

      • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

        And I went and took a shower and then realized that I was probably expressing myself badly… I’m absolutely not saying you shouldn’t run your blog this way. I respect it, not just in an “I respect blogowners’ rights to run their blogs as they wish” way, but also because I recognize that a wide spectrum of responses, environments, and personality types is needed in the struggle against religious and antifeminist oppression. I just take issue with the implication that muzzling anger and abiding by the usual standards of politeness is necessarily welcoming per se, rather than welcoming to a certain subset of the potential audience. Similarly, while I find Pharyngula quite welcoming to me and my style, I can see how religious people – or even just people who weren’t sure they’d express themselves clearly enough – would be a little scared to start off by jumping in there.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I think you should go back and read some of Libby’s posts from her old blog before you jump to conclusions about what she’s asking for. They are hardly “muzzled.” Speaking strongly and even being angry is not the same thing as being rude and disrespectful to people.

      • ‘Tis Himself, OM

        Like Classical Cypher, I’m feeling very leery about this blog. I’m not saying Libby Anne isn’t an atheist and feminist and she doesn’t have strong feelings about these subjects. I’m also not saying she shouldn’t run her blog the way she wants to. However the accommodationist vibes coming from the OP are quite strong.

        I’ll be lurking and I may make an occasional comment. But right now I don’t have the feeling I’ll be particularly welcome here. My second comment on this thread was put in moderation. It’s been posted, but I’m not happy that it went into moderation when my previous comments on this blog did not. That tells me either there’s a software glitch or someone doesn’t trust me.

      • Contrarian

        “Accomodationist vibes”? Did you bother to read any of the 177 blog posts Libby Anne wrote at her prior URL? “Please don’t be needlessly insulting” is absolutely not equivalent to “don’t tell religious people they’re wrong” and Libby Anne’s record is absolutely not accommodationist.

      • ‘Tis Himself, OM

        The trouble is some goddists find the existence of atheists to be “needlessly insulting.” For all I know Libby Anne is hell on wheels when she wants to be. What I’m getting, and this is MY reaction, not necessarily anybody elses’, is accommodationist vibes. You may disagree. I don’t care. I read the OP and I’m getting “don’t be rude to the poor, persecuted goddists or else they’ll get in a tizzy.”

        I’m taking a wait and see attitude. There’s already two FtB blogs I don’t bother visiting. If there’s a third, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

      • kisekileia

        You are making a huge, huge false equivalence between “religious people” and “people who perpetuate the sort of oppression that Libby Anne opposes”. It’s incredibly insulting. If you actually read the comments on Libby Anne’s posts over at her old blog, you’ll discover that a lot of commenters are religious people who oppose fundamentalism every bit as much as most atheists. do.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Huh? I’m a hard-line feminist too and I don’t feel “shut out” just because I’m not allowed to flame people or because I might have to come into contact with people who disagree with me. I’ve spent enough time in echo chambers. They can be a good place to vent and detox (which is important) but they’re not good for much else. I don’t want this blog to turn into one. I like what it’s been.

      • Classical Cipher, Murmur Muris, OM

        Yes, well, you’re actually not the only hard-line feminist in the world. I know you know that. Others react differently to being told to “be nice.” I’ve spent enough time in environments where being civil is valued over being right, and I’ve spent enough time in places where disagreement is glossed over with a veneer of politeness to protect the feelings of people who are actively participating in oppression and make them feel welcome. That’s where I live my entire offline life. I’m telling you that I find that this policy makes me feel unwelcome, and I will not feel comfortable commenting here as a result. What part of that do you feel the need to argue with?

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I wasn’t trying to imply that I’m the only hardline feminist in the world (although, as I’m sure you can understand, it sometimes feels that way lol). It seemed to me like you were saying that a hard-line feminist cannot feel comfortable here because of the policy, and I was simply presenting an alternative viewpoint and experience. It seemed to me that you thought that the only way a person could be comfortable here is if they were moderate or “soft” on the issues, and that just isn’t true.

        I think we are working with different definition of civility here. I share your frustrations about being constantly told that you need to make share not to hurt anti feminists widdle fee-fees (because they’re just so delicate, apparently) and that’s something that I think all feminists experience IRL. But, in my experience as someone who’s been following Libby’s blog from the beginning, I don’t think she is asking you or me to hide our feelings or even our anger. I think it’s possible to own your anger and still be civil. I think it’s possible to tell people that they are dead wrong, that their views are insidiously harmful and destructive, and that you have a BIG PROBLEM with them, and still be civil. I don’t see being civil and being a “nice” non-threatening barbie-doll as the same thing. I feel that we are talking past each other.

  • Eskeptrical Engineer

    I try to spend time thinking about how people come to different conclusions than I do. Are they applying a different value judgment? Do they have access to different information? Where are they coming from that makes them see the world so differently?

    I can see where your blog is going to be a valuable resource in helping me understand why people are evangelical Christians even though it seems clear to me that their beliefs are not only wrong, but frequently harmful. Obviously, they don’t agree with me on that, and you have a unique perspective on that mindset.

    It seems like your blog is a valuable safe space for people who are leaving religion. I never had a major deconversion moment, but for many who have, it sounds like it can be an incredibly disconcerting, emotionally overwhelming experience.

    I still love reading blogs like Pharyngula and reading comments there, but I think room for different kinds of conversations is a good thing.

  • SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant

    It’s cool, really. I believe in diversity, and that applies to skeptic and atheist activism as well. I don’t really have much of a problem with people who prefer respectful, non-mocking dialogue with religious believers. Everyone has their own approach. I only have a problem with it when these same people turn around and insist that I stop using MY approach, which is more confrontational. Both are needed, and both can be effective, depending on the situation. For example, in situations where you are personally acquainted with someone and know them to be a kind and reasonable person, certainly calling them names and laughing about their lack of rationality won’t be productive. In other situations, where you encounter strangers who are clearly deriving a sadistic thrill out of imagining non-believers being tortured in hell, respect and reason just aren’t going to cut it. Outright mockery, however, can help to quickly expose how cruel and irrational that person is, which can end up having an effect not on the religious sadist himself (it so often is a man), but on observers of the conversation.

    So, have at it! I’m glad you’re here and will be happy to abide by your commenting policies whenever I frequent your site.

  • Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

    Libby Anne, this is your home and you set the parameters. If you want to cultivate a certain climate, we readers can agree and participate or disagree and stay silent. The thing is, I think it’s time for those taking a less aggressive approach to quit criticising and attacking those people who are more confrontational.

    It’s just that I don’t think an atmosphere of ridicule makes this better, and I don’t think ignoring the draw of religion or misrepresenting the positions of religious believers helps either. As another reader once told me, “I don’t think ridiculing religious people does anything productive to lesson fundamentalists’ grip on our culture.

    I can’t stand this condescension. You’re no longer making a statement about the approach you want to take. You’re making an unsupported judgement about the approach others take.

    The part of your original post that I quoted above is worlds away from this comment:

    Like I said, in my own personal experience respectful disagreement and pointing out errors without ridicule has worked better than snark and mockery. However, everyone is different and I know there are plenty of cases where snark and mockery work better. This is why I think having different blogs taking different approaches is a good thing.

    This is something I think we can all agree with.

    • Ace of Sevens

      I don’t think it’s unsupported. She was a fundie. She knows how she reacted. I was a fundie, too. I agree. I know other former fundies, like Al Stefanelli, disagree. There certainly are some Christians who are turned off by by confrontational approaches.

    • Libby Anne

      You are absolutely right, mea culpa, I didn’t word that well at all. The second is what I really meant. I’ve edited my original post to fix this. Does it look better now?

    • Ace of Sevens

      I think it’s time for those taking a less aggressive approach to quit criticising and attacking those people who are more confrontational.

      Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

    • Ysanne

      So it’s condescending now to disagree with a way of doing things, to find other ways more effective, and explain this calmly?
      Maybe it is for people who think that calm explanations are only for ignorant little children and others who are incapable of complex thought. “You’re explaining being friendly, so you must think I’m an idiot, so you’re calling me an idiot, so you’re insulting me!” Paranoia for the win.

      I for one like it when a differing worldview is not shouted down with the standard “stfu and f… o.., you [some negative adjective] piece of [non-progressive attitude] [negatively connotated object/animal/body part], your argument too stupid for us to reply to anyway” of the Pharyngula commentariat, but engaged and actually challenged.

  • ginseng

    Usually, I always try to make an effort to stay respectful and nice, even online. But I have my limits. When someone tells me to my face that:
    - if a woman dresses “slutty”, goes out at night and gets raped it is her own fault
    - gays are the reason that the divorce rate is increasing
    - this person would disown their children if they were gay
    - and that christian values don’t apply in economics and anything goes

    then I am not going to respectful anymore. How could you be? At that point this person is beyond anything I could do. I am not going to waste my time discussing because I only get angry.

    Anyway, hope you stay here :)

  • ginseng

    Another thing, about the email from “a concerned reader”:

    “A blog I love recently got horribly trolled by people from FreeThoughtBlogs. The trolls were consistently misogynist…”

    Misogynist? This doesn’t seem right. People here are the opposite, in my opinion, and they strive to oppose any discrimination.

    - How does this person know those misogynists were from FTB? Because they said so?
    - What does it mean to be “from FTB”? Have they been sent by some FTB blogger to negatively comment on this other blog?

    • Libby Anne

      I removed that point from my OP because my intent was never to give credence to concerns about FtB but rather to address the concerns of some of my religious readers that they would no longer be welcome. Sorry about that!

      • ginseng

        I think that was the right decision :)

        I hope the tone thing becomes less of an issue over time.

    • kisekileia

      The misogynists showed up on the blog after some FreeThought bloggers made posts that were critical of an article posted on the blog. They were vehemently anti-theist atheists of a variety that usually doesn’t show up on the site, and posted many comments that left absolutely no ambiguity about whether they were misogynists. The cause-effect relationship between FreeThought bloggers criticizing the post on this blog, and anti-theists misogynists showing up on the blog, was extremely obvious.

  • Daniel Schealler

    There’s easier ways to say this. ^_^

    Taking an in-your-face, no-holds-barred, ‘mean’ critical stance is a tactic.

    Taking a reflective, thoughtful, ‘nice’ critical stance is another tactic*.

    People have strong preferences as to which tactics they use.

    People can have different skill levels when employing different classes of tactics.

    People can have legitimate disagreements about which tactics are in fact better suited to meet the stated goals in a given context.

    People can have legitimate disagreements about which goals are to be strived for.

    Take-home conclusion for all this is that there should be room for many different kinds of tactics.

    At the end of the day, this is Libby’s space on FtB so she gets to set the tone.

    * I put ‘mean’ and ‘nice’ in scare quotes because it doesn’t always work out that way.

    One of my problems with the ‘nice’ strategy is that, whenever it is employed against me, I feel patronized. It tries to be ‘nice’ but it doesn’t feel that way.

    Conversely, I like the ‘mean’ treatment better. It assumes I’m an equal and that I can take the hit. The key point here of course is that I can take the hit, it’s a point of pride for me. So the ‘mean’ treatment actually leaves me feeling better than the ‘nice’ one does.

    Which isn’t to suggest that my experience with these tactics should be treated as universal. Different people can have diverse yet equally valid experiences of the same phenomena.

    But it does indicate that ‘nice’ isn’t always, well, nice. Hence the scare-quotes.

    • Tsu Dho Nimh

      Taking an in-your-face, no-holds-barred, ‘mean’ critical stance is a tactic.

      Taking a reflective, thoughtful, ‘nice’ critical stance is another tactic*.

      Look at it as hunting strategies … not all hunting strategies work on all species. If you are after bull elk, crashing through the bushes making loud bugling noises will bring them right to you.

      But if you are hunting a more timid species, such as mule deer, you have to walk quietly, sit quietly, and hope your hunt is not spoiled by some idiot crashing through on an elk hunt.

      So let’s be vewwy, vewwy quiet because we’re trying to attract timid theists.

      • NDDave

        You’ve got a disconnect in your post, Tsu.

        Your first section, where you are agreeing that there are multiple tactics and comparing them to hunting strategies says one thing: that there are different strategies that are effective in different situations/with different people.

        Look at it as hunting strategies … not all hunting
        strategies work on all species.

        However, this part:

        … and hope your hunt is not spoiled by some idiot crashing through on an elk hunt.

        implies that those who follow the ‘bull elk’ strategy are idiots. A better way to phrase it which would have maintained your earlier position of ‘different tactics for different situations’ would have been to say … and hope your hunt is not spoiled by someone crashing through on an elk hunt

      • Ysanne

        Well, if it’s not an idiot, then it’s an inconsiderate and egocentric person who imposes their own (and in that situation possibly inaproppriate) tactic on someone else’s hunt.

  • I’m_not

    “I feel like my past experiences – religious right, antifeminist, evangelical Christian – and my current views – progressive feminist atheist – give me some interesting insight.”

    Well you’re certainly good at understatement that’s for sure…

    I didn’t read your previous blog but will be catching up as soon as I can, I’ve loved what I’ve read here so far.

    And, like a true gent I am only ever rude when I mean to be.

  • boomSLANG

    Congrats’. It should be interesting.

    I’ll add just a few things for now:

    One, I disagree with the notion that fundamentalist theists and very outspoken atheists are simply opposite sides of the same coin. I see this assertion a lot, mostly from those who fall somewhere in the middle, and in a word, bull ‘. True, people are people are people..IOW, yes, some atheists are a$$holes and rude, yadda, yadda, just like some theists. The difference is, you won’t likely catch the former trying to “back” their position by pointing to a (supposed) higher authority, namely, the “Creator of the Universe”. A simplistic example—a theist might come waltzing into a conversation and call atheists “fools!”, likely because he or she is saying in the back of his or her mind that this is what their biblegod calls atheists, so it’s justified. If I, an atheist, call a theist “f%cking stupid”, there’s no authoritative document or holy writ that I can point at to attempt to support my charge. I have to back my position and take responsibility for my own words.

    Secondly, while I concede that respectfully disagreeing might extend the conversation, I see no evidence that it changes more minds. And comparing a real-life encounter between atheist and theist(especially those whose friendship is on the line) with on-line atheist/theist encounters between complete strangers, is apples and oranges IMO.

    In any case, best of luck w/the new blog

    • Libby Anne

      Glad to see you here! You’re a long-time commenter, and I hope you stay. I appreciate what you add to the discussion. :-)

    • Ace of Sevens

      Yes, but plenty of them will back their views by pointing to “logic” and “reason.” I use scare-quotes, because these are code-words in this case. They are mere labels to give one’s words credibility and do not indicate any actually rational thought processes. Look at The Amazing Atheist and his hundreds of thousands of fans, for example. I don’t think I can describe them without getting held for moderation.

      • Rev. BigDumbChimp

        Plenty huh? Nice little rhetorical trick you’re using here to poison the well for the rest of us. Logic and reason are tools that are used and can be backed up. “Go did it” can not.

      • Travis

        The most recent rant by The Amazing Atheist was not exactly well received over at Pharyngula and I think it is clear from the comments that many of the regularly posters have had a problem with him for a long time. I suppose some of his supporters might pop over but the regulars around these parts do not seem to have much love for him.

  • Cluisanna

    I am one of those people who think that there is a difference between being insulting and speaking one’s mind. (I.e. “You are saying really sexist things” can mean exactly the same as “You are a misogynist asshole”, but one leaves a chance for understanding on the sexist’s part. I do understand that getting one’s anger out is very important, but I don’t think yelling at basically anonymous people in written form is that helpful.) I have been one or two times on the receiving end of hateful and condescending comments simply because I didn’t word my comment carefully enough (although I spend much more time thinking about my comments than other people, I presume, since I am not a native speaker of English), and it hurt to be attacked viciously by people who I share most values with.

  • Meggie

    Is it time for a Christian to weigh into this debate? Lol. I found Libby Anne first at No Longer Qivering, followed her to Love Joy Feminism and now to here. Why? I’m a liberal Christian who has married the one liberal in a family of evangelical-fundamentalist Christians. (We refer to them as ‘Happy Christians’, as in ‘so happy in their own little Christian world they don’t notice all the people they trample’.)

    I am not here to convert anyone. I am here to listen and to understand. I want to understand the damage done by fundamentalist religion. I want to be a safe place for my nieces and nephews to run, if (when?) they need to escape. I want to try and stop the damage done to you being done to another generation. Fundamental-evangelical Christianity is not big in Australia but it is growing. Home schooling is growing fast an American home school materials such as ATI have become available.

    I will not attack those who choose Atheism or Islam or Judaism or any other choice but feel free to attack my beliefs.

  • RW Ahrens

    Welcome to the party, Libby Anne! I’ve got another blog to read around here – *sigh* – less time for work…well, the make-work part anyway.

    But this will be another one I can point my daughters at I know they’ll probably read!

  • michaeld

    For my 2C this seems reasonable to me. Welcome to Freethought blogs and I hope things work out for you here. If they don’t though, don’t feel too bad about leaving it just focus on your blog and its needs and things should end up for the best.

  • Beth

    Thank you! If you can manage to tone down the meanness common to so much of the internet, this will be a place I want to hang around. Lots of interesting points made in this comment thread alone. I’ll look forward to reading more of your posts Libby Anne.

    Cluisanna: it hurt to be attacked viciously by people who I share most values with.

    Yes. It does. I usually stop participating in conversations when I start getting personal attacks.

    Meggie: I’m a liberal Christian who has married the one liberal in a family of evangelical-fundamentalist Christians. (We refer to them as ‘Happy Christians’, as in ‘so happy in their own little Christian world they don’t notice all the people they trample’.)

    That’s a good way to describe them. I’m an agnostic that belongs to a very liberal Christian church, but I was raised in a fundamentalist home and many of my relatives still believe in the 6,000 old earth, etc. There are benefits to belonging to a church that I can’t find elsewhere where I live.

    I’m married to a anti-theist atheist and we home-schooled our children. It’s not just the fundamentalist Christians who do that.

    I hope you’ll stick around.

  • kevinalexander

    Hi Libby Anne. I’ve just discovered you and am leaving this note to say that you are my latest bookmark.
    I completely agree with your tactic of non aggressive confrontation, it’s been my own all my life though I still lose my temper from time to time.
    I come from a very large family, most of whom are quite religious but, lucky for me, they are of the ‘We feel sorry for you that you don’t have Jesus in your life’ rather than the ‘You’re going to burn in HELL!!’ type.

  • G.Shelley

    I don’t really see where there is room for discussion, other than asking for clarification on some issues. Anyone who runs a blog gets to set the rules for commenting, that is pretty straighforward. People who don’t like it have plenty of other places they can comment

    Though on the subject of clarification, I see many commentators questioning if profanity is acceptable, but no answer from Libby Anne

    • Libby Anne

      Oh, I hadn’t noticed anyone asking about profanity. I simply asked in my comment policy for commenters to avoid “excessive vulgarity” but I didn’t want to make a list because that becomes legalistic and because contexts differ. I have it set up so that a few words do trigger comment moderation, but that only means I’ll double check the comment and maybe edit out a word if I think that’s needed and then approve it.

  • Zeno

    I’m often puzzled by people who use lots of profanity in their posts or comments. Such words have lost most of their power through casual overuse, unless all one wants to do is upset maiden aunts and get them clutching at their pearls. They used to have some real shock value, but no more … unless, I guess, you work for the FCC.

    • Improbable Joe

      Well… “I’m gonna thrash you about the head and shoulders with a shit-dipped sea bass” loses some of its bite if you substitute in “crap” or “poop” if you see what I mean? Otherwise, I’m kind of “take it or leave it” with the profanity.

      And of course I’m fine with “my house, my rules”!

    • Travis

      I can see the appeal of profanity. Sometimes when someone is especially dense and frustrating it can be a bit of a way to vent. I do have to disagree that those words have lost all impact though. They probably do not phase many people here but I have come across many people, not just pearl clutching aunts, that are shocked by profanity. I recently shocked a person I work with when I simply, strongly said that someone that was hounding her to do extra work should fuck off. The look on her face was amazing.

      But I should say I mainly enjoy calmly and coolly responding to posts. I generally derive more enjoyment from picking apart someone’s post in that fashion to simply swearing, especially if they are getting their dander up.

    • SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant

      They’re just an analgesic, for relieving some of the pain of being consistently confronted with abject stupidity.

  • Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death

    I am curious, can we be polite, respectful but still long on snark? :)

    • John Morales

      No, unless your definition of snark differs from the generally accepted one.

      • Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death

        And you are?

      • John Morales

        You are missing a predicate in your question.

      • Utakata, pink pigtailed Gnome of death


        Oh, hi there. Allow me to introduce myself. I am usually a lurker on the FtB blogs and a big fan of P.Z. Myers. But I usually don’t make myself known that much, because I agree with most of the things said, so I don’t usually need to add to it.

        However, on the occasion, I feel we need to have a better sense of humor…than say that of a Muslim cleric. So I on that occasion I make a joke in hopefully good taste about the subject. Hense the smiling face emote I made about the snark remark after I posted it…which you seem to have taken seriously. Not sure why…or that you’re even a tone troll that has managed to evade PZ’s Dungeon trying to make a point, Hitchens forbid. But either way, I think we have bigger fish to fry then arguing over someone’s not the best attempt at humor (I know, it needs work). Shall we move on?

        …and my extreme apologies to Libby for this getting somewhat out of hand. It wasn’t my intention.

      • John Morales

        However, on the occasion, I feel we need to have a better sense of humor…than say that of a Muslim cleric.

        We do, do we?

        Not sure why…or that you’re even a tone troll that has managed to evade PZ’s Dungeon trying to make a point, Hitchens forbid.

        Such acumen!

        …and my extreme apologies to Libby for this getting somewhat out of hand. It wasn’t my intention.

        If it wasn’t your intention, why did you first compose the apology and then submit the comment?

        Ah well, you have managed to amuse me somewhat. Thanks.

  • Phledge

    Libby Anne, welcome to FTB; I don’t remember when I first saw your blog but was definitely reintroduced to it by Ophelia Benson. As a previous fundie and currently sister to one, I appreciate trying to walk the line between calling out the stupid and calling someone stupid! I expect that I will be comfortable here and at Pharyngula for very, very different reasons.

    Also, lol on the visual of the elk hunting party crashing through the deer hunt.

  • fastlane

    Good luck with the blog.

    I won’t be posting here, as I will not post where comments are edited, but I wish you luck. (Besides, I’ve been dealing with religious idiocy for too long and have pretty much lost all patience.)

  • Douglas Kirk

    I’m not really a frequent commenter at any sites, but I look forward to this blog. Your reviewed comment policy seems pretty similar to one of my other favorites here, Greta Christina’s. It will be nice to get inside the ehad of the truly fundamentalist christians, since being raised catholic, I wasn’t often exposed to fundamentalist thinking. (Well, that’s a lie; I was exposed early and often but in the sideways, extra-super brainwashy way that the catholic church, and really any moderate church as well, handles it.)

    The only thing I hope, and it’s something that I’m often disappointed in at popular blogs, is the clamor and requirement for respect goes both ways. You can’t ask the atheist to please disagree with the theist’s ideas rather than attack the theist on one hand while letting the theist repeat atheist stereotype after stereotype even after being proven wrong on the other, or attack the atheists as immoral monsters repeatedly without reproach.

    But I’m sure you know that, and I look forward to reading the dialogues here.

  • kisekileia

    Libby Anne, I think these comments speak for themselves. From what I can tell, the FreeThought commenters, even the ones who are okay enough with your comment policy to hang around here, are completely oblivious to the fact that some theists oppose fundamentalism and antifeminism just as much as you do. I really really don’t think your comments are going to be a safe space for any theists here.

    • Travis

      I think this is unfair. I am not sure how you have drawn this conclusion, could you point to any specific comments? This topic has been discussed many times and people are well aware that there are Christians that are feminists and are against fundamentalism Christianity. That does not mean these people get a free ride on their religious beliefs.

      • lucrezaborgia

        She probably means the use of terms such as goddist that certain commentators have decided is interchangeable with theist. Tho I’m kind of with her in that I don’t really agree with theist either but it’s not my blog.

        Again, most of this debate can be easily resolved if people read the comments on her previous blog. We all managed to operate perfectly fine with these rules. I don’t think anyone over there thought that their self-expression was overly impinged. It’s really not that hard to follow her rules.

  • Kaoru Negisa

    The few times I’ve commented on her other blog, Libby has given me a lot to think about by this method. Being encouraged to tone down rhetoric gives us an opportunity to examine our own thoughts that are often hidden by our previous conclusions. I don’t recommend this always in all situations, but having a place where I need to approach cautiously gives me the chance to really delve into why I believe something.

    While I prefer scouring satire in my writing, I appreciate her approach to discussions and am more than happy to tone myself down (or at least try to explain my reactions) in comments.

    Welcome to FtB, Libby.