The Smallness of the Internet Atheist

So there’s some dude with the handle L.W. Dickel who has been trying to post here (unsuccessfully thanks to my sleek, leonine ban filter). He posts the same profanity-ridden blasphemous rant over and over again and, as is always the custom with these social inadepts, congratulates himself for being a Thinking Man. After the third or fourth try, I got curious googled his name to see if he was simply filled with hate for this blog or for theistic blogs in general. Turns out the dude is in comboxes everwhere, cutting and pasting the exact same blasphemous monomaniacal rant again and again.

Because Thinking Men cut and paste.

Extreme abrasiveness *and* monotony. So many in the internet atheist community explain their massively unpleasant social ineptitude by claiming it is a sign of their superior intellect. Those with normal social and affective abilities, whether theist or atheist, are inclined to disbelieve this self-congratulating narrative and try to suggest that a life spent cutting and pasting insults against somebody you insist is not there is not indicative of mental and social health. But so far Thinking Men like L.W. Dickel don’t seem capable of thinking about that–or much of anything beyond monotonously cutting and pasting the same profanity-laced blasphemy.

  • Art

    In his mind he won! Internet Trolling a concept that has been around since 1999! In the words of Hans Solo, “Shut em up or shut em down!”

    • MarylandBill

      Longer than that. Trolling has been around since before the internet when people were still dialing into computer bulletin boards.

      • Art

        *Internet Trolling*

        • Jmac

          bulletin boards (BBS) were part of the internet. You’re probably thinking of the world wide web, which is not the whole of the internet.

          • Art

            Goodness gracious folks, seriously? It was not what I was thinking, but thanks for proving my point of internet trolls!

    • Ted Seeber

      1999? The first troll I ever ran into on the Internet was 1991- Sedar Argic, who seized upon my handle (at that time seebert) to accuse me of being a part of the Armenian Genocide of the Turks in 1912- which was actually the other way around and Heinz 57 as I am, I have neither Armenian nor Turkish relatives.

      There was an entire Usenet Newsgroup dedicated to his lies.

      • Art

        Ya got me! The point being it has been around for a while and it has been intensifying.

  • Ignatz

    I often get the feeling that some internet atheists are atheists BECAUSE they think it makes them intellectuals. They really aren’t very bright, and it’s the easy, unthinking way to pretend you’re intelligent.

    • dpt

      Ignatz- I agree. I’ve met the likes of L.W. Dickel and they repeat the same mantra over and over. I’m uncertain how much thinking they do, and I’m sure many atheists are embarassed by their mindless repetition.

      • SouthCoast

        Vain repetition. It’ll get ya every time.

  • http://www.thecatholicbeat.com Gail Finke

    A facebook friend of mine posted an asinine picture of a Jack Chick tract from some site or blog called something like “F-ing Glad I’m an Atheist” today, and many people left equally enlightened posts about how stupid religious people are. Do they not notice that lumping Jack Chick together with every single other religious believer in the world shows they have none of the brains they claim? And their profanity doesn’t say much for them either.

    • A Philosopher

      Do they not notice that lumping Jack Chick together with every single other religious believer in the world shows they have none of the brains they claim?

      Yes, it’s best to avoid making sweeping generalizations based on the actions of a few representatives.

      • Mark Shea

        If only it were a few representatives and not a constant phenomenon found countless times in comboxes and at atheist watering holes like Dawkins’ site, Coyne’s site, Myers’ site…. There’s a reason Phil Plait had to give a speech called “Don’t be a Dick” to an audience of atheists. And there’s a reason he was reviled by these people for doing so. We’re not looking at a few representatives. We are looking at the typical face of internet atheism. You are the exception, not the rule, on the Internet.

        • A Philosopher

          I know, really I do. Back when I believed one could actually change people’s minds on the internet, I used to spend a lot of time trying to get my co-non-religionists to be a bit more civil.

          But it is frustrating for me, because I know many many atheists in real life, and they just aren’t like this at all — they’re just normal people. While I do think that for a variety of reasons it hits atheists worse than many other groups (the over-representation of 18-year-old males I think is a partial explanation), the fact is that pretty much every group is made to look pretty bad on the internet.

          • Ted Seeber

            I guess I don’t know that many atheists in real life who aren’t evangelical about it. Or maybe it’s my Asperger’s- I’m just too clueless to notice.

            I knew one guy who every time I brought up that I might be going to church on Sunday, would reply that he followed the concept of “Separation of Church and Leo” (which, of course, was his name). The sad thing is we both worked for a company full of Seventh Day Adventists- I was almost happy to leave as he was a firm believer in the Atkins diet and company picnics were beginning to turn into a war between the carnivores and vegetarians.

          • Mark Shea

            Fair enough. But you will notice that I specifically was referring to the Internet Atheist, who is a consistently odious representative–which was my point.

            • abb3w

              Possibly. On the other hand, it’s not clear the atheists who clog up your ban filter are a sociologically representative sample of the atheists on the internet, any more than the theists who clog up the ban filter over at various atheist outposts are representative.

              • CBrachyrhynchos

                In fact, we can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that Internet discourse is highly skewed from site to site.

          • http://www.thecatholicbeat.com Gail Finke

            A Philosopher: You’re right about that! And for the record, I didn’t mean “all atheists” in my posts but “all the atheists who left stupid comments on the post I was talking about.” I’m sure that most intelligent atheists do not sit around all day making stupid comments on random blogs and/or Facebook pages, any more than intelligent theists do.

          • dpt

            Correct–the internet can bring out the worst in many of us as it offers an instant gratification for those thriving on being snarky.

            “Be nice or leave” is a good motto to have as far as moderating many internet discussions.

          • S. Murphy

            I hear you – I have a friend from high school approaching 25 years ago now – who is an atheist, and an extremely civil, and thoroughly decent person. I’ve had good friends in grad school and at work who were atheist, or closer to atheist than anything else, and felt no compulsion to be mean-spirited or even rude – well, rude in the way that a big group of Marines of the same rank going through training together are to each other, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

          • julian

            Philosopher, I’m just curious, honestly just putting it out there, but do you think your generally positive real life encounter with atheists is because you agree with them? I wonder if atheists have a harder time dealing with folks who don’t see the cosmos with the same firm sets of barriers that they do. I know, I know, it’s a generalization and I suppose I’m leading the witness, but it just seems in my own personal encounter with the few atheists I’ve known, that there is a certain dogma they have about the universe that refuses to permit not only dispute but even curiousity.

            • Bob

              I used to be an agnostic, and when I was I had a number of religious, and atheist, and agnostic friends (most of whom I still have), all of whom were largely pleasant people, who didn’t suffer from a curiosity-deprivation syndrome. Some atheists whom I know, like Ted Seeber’s colleague, tend to believe in something else (the Maharishi for instance, or Hinduism, or Darwinism as a metaphysical position, or whatever else) which makes them more dogmatically opposed to something which threatened said position. Usually, those who are hyper-dogmatic in their atheism, tend to be bad philosophers, or overly confident of science without knowing its epistemological limitations. Dawkins is, for instance, a fairly naive realist. I constantly wonder, for instance, how anybody could be as ignorant of the Kantian tradition (and analytical Quinean critiques of science as a guide to Truth) as is Dawkins… Apart from this, actually, I’d almost prefer my atheist and my agnostic friends to most of my post-Christian, “Christ was a great guy, but I hate the Church and religion”, kind of acquaintances.

            • CBrachyrhynchos

              Here’s a thought experiment. Depending on whether you count “nones” or not, atheists are between 1-10% of the population. Splitting the difference, is it really the case that you have a negative encounter about every time you’re in a space with more than a few dozen people? Odds are there’s probably at least one in most congregations. Are services routinely disrupted?

              Trying to make inferences on personality based on anecdotal personal encounters is vulnerable to multiple forms of known cognitive bias. This is true working both ways WRT religion.

        • http://www.thewordinc.org Kevin O’Brien

          Perhaps Phil Plait should have said, “Don’t be a Dickel.”

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Hey, you got Dickled, too? He’s in my Patheos spam filter. Even the Indonesian viagra offers make for more interesting reading.

  • MarylandBill

    What amazes me is how many internet atheists will post, in any discussion about Christianity, the old saw about how Jesus, as a historical person, never existed. There basic thought must be that every claim Christianity makes must be wrong or none of them are. This despite the fact that claiming that Jesus never existed makes explaining the very well documented — by ancient standards — early Christian movement virtually impossible.

    • abb3w

      Actually, it’s nearer that by being willing to offer challenge even the most basic claims (such of the existence of Jesus) and potentially establish that there’s a degree of uncertainty (IE: Jesus might be a historical figure, or might be a literary composite), it makes it easier to challenge the other claims. Something of an Overton window effect. There’s also that raising the question can serve as a gateway to a discussion of that historical documentation, and how some of that documentation appears to have had alterations in transcription.

      My impression is that it can be effective on the level of an opening gambit, as there are atheists who mention an encounter with the question as when they first remember beginning the critical examination of their religious upbringing. Contrariwise, based both on my non-representative circle of personal acquaintance and the sociological literature involving more representative samples of atheists, my impression is it’s relatively rare that the specific question is such a hallmark in the religious-to-irreligious deconversion, whether measuring among theists who encounter it, or among those who eventually become atheists.

      • ivan_the_mad

        Nah, Jesus is an historical figure. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ

        • abb3w

          As the Wikipedia entry you linked notes, the question can be raised as to the extent Tacitus was relying on hearsay; but the exact arguments and counterarguments are incidental to my main point.

          I didn’t say the challenge can’t be defended against. I suggested it’s a useful opening gambit, to facilitate introducing the notion of questioning and critical examination of the accounts.

          The gambit can then facilitate raising further questions as subsequent strategies; EG, a comparative study of the four gospel accounts of the resurrection, which can highlight the inconsistencies in the accounts (and the abbreviation of the earliest Mark manuscripts). This, too, has apologetic counterarguments. However, deconversion appears to be more often a gradual process of reflective questioning than any one abrupt “road to damascus” shift.

    • Bill

      I find the “issue” of a historical Jesus irrelevant. It is much like speculating on a historical King Arthur or Paul Bunyan. Did a historical logger named Paul Bunyan exist? Perhaps but that doesn’t make the stories attributed to him anymore likely.

      • ivan_the_mad

        Jesus was an historical person, so that sense it’s not an issue. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ

        • Bill

          Exactly what I mean. A person named Jesus was reported to be executed. So what? Again it doesn’t make the rest of the “tall tale” more likely.

          • ivan_the_mad

            It’s not exactly what you mean. If someone didn’t exist, then stories attributed to them are not true by the mere fact that the protagonist didn’t exist. If they did exist, then you can’t simply dismiss the stories – because the protagonist did exist, it does not follow that the rest of the story is false.

            • Bill

              Ivan,

              You are not taking the position that the more documentation we have that a person existed it follows that the more credibility we must give there stories, are you? If so we have far more documentation of Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard.

  • Bill

    A troll is a troll. I am having trouble finding the point to the article. Does the fact that these particular trolls are atheist make them bigger (or smaller as in the title) trolls?

    Profanity does indeed have its place but I rarely use it online as I see no need to type it. I do think it though.

    Blasphemy is a different story. It is commonly code for “not believing in my god”. In that case I employ it regularly. What is blasphemous to one group is common sense to another, even within Christianity. As I don’t believe in any gods, whom can I actually blaspheme against?

    To the original point of this post, this article does nothing but point to an internet troll, who is an atheist and make generalizations. So what? There are trolls of every stripe. It would be surprisingly easy to rewrite the above article changing just a few words and make it a commentary on theist trolls.

    The truth is for every atheist troll, I can (were I so inclined) find numerous christian trolls, simply because there are more christians.

    • Ted Seeber

      Catholicism has some pretty strict definitions of what is blasphemy. I suggest you look them up.

      • abb3w

        According to the on-line Catholic Encyclopedia, Blasphemy (Greek blaptein, “to injure”, and pheme, “reputation”) signifies etymologically gross irreverence towards any person or thing worthy of exalted esteem. However, this is somewhat begging the question in terms of having an implicit premise: that God, or someone’s conception of God, actually is worthy of exalted esteem.

        In contrast, the current Catholic catechism (2148) formally defines blasphemy as “uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name.” In which case, a simple statement “I do not believe in God” or other disagreement may be colored as disrespect to God.

        The core problem appears that there seems no simpler, more effective, and more direct ways to present a challenge to the idea that something is deserving of respect than for someone who disagrees with the idea to speak of it without. It requires minimal analytic mediation, and triggers a direct emotional response. There’s downsides to it; as with most tactics, repeated exposure serves as an inoculant to the effect. Presumably, if you’ve alternative tactics to suggest for achieving the same end, they would get consideration in accord with their effectiveness.

        (Interesting, though. The Catechism additionally says “It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices”. This seems theologically inconvenient for the abuse scandals in the Church.)

        • ivan_the_mad

          “This seems theologically inconvenient for the abuse scandals in the Church.” Couldn’t help yourself, could you? Anderson’s Law. You lose.

          • Ted Seeber

            I thought we voted to rename it Bernard’s Law.

            • ivan_the_mad

              I think you’re right, Ted.

              • ivan_the_mad

                Or maybe it was Anderson’s Corollary?

          • Bill

            Anderson’s Law? Interesting, I had to look that up.

            I would argue against the proposition in itself as it is patently ridiculous. Godwin’s Law refers to hyperbolic comparisons to Hitler, the Nazis, etc. Godwin’s Law plainly does not apply to a discussion of Hitler, Nazism, Facism, genocide, etc. Or other situation where such comparisons are valid i.e. a discussion of German history.

            Anderson’s Law seems to imply that mentioning a church scandal in the context of discussing the church is improper. What is the rational for that? One cannot compare the catholic church to the catholic church? It seems Mr. Anderson simply wishes to remove an uncomfortable truth from many discussions. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way, it is encumbant on church defenders to show where the churches own actions aren’t a relevant comparison.

            In a discussion of blasphemy for example, if the church actions in “the scandal” constitute blasphemy by its own definition then it is a valid point.

            • ivan_the_mad

              Because the reference to the abuse scandal is not germane to the discussion.

              • Bill

                Again it is on you to defend why it is not germane. As presented it was. In a discussion of blasphemy it is an example where the church institutionally commited it by its own definition. Inconvenient does not equal not germane.

                • ivan_the_mad

                  Ok then. The subject of this post is atheists. So let’s talk about Mao and Stalin murdering tens of millions of people. “Again it is on you to defend why it is not germane. As presented it was. In a discussion of atheist murder it is an example where the atheists institutionally commited murder. Inconvenient does not equal not germane.”

                  • Dale Price

                    Bingo! It’s like pointing out the official atheism of communist butcher regimes in every discussion of atheism.

                    Of course, it seems sadly likely that Bill would play the “No True Scotsman” card even if you were talking about the butcher’s bill of Stalin, etc., but no matter.

                    • Bill

                      Actually it is nothing like that. You point to regimes that were indeed atheistic and murderous. But no one has ever shown a causation.

                      Comparing the average atheist to mid 20th communist regimes is akin to comparing Catholics to the 9/11 attackers. They are both theists. In fact, catholics and the 9/11 attackers share a common possitve belief wereas the former mere share a disbelief. And the 9/11 attackers actions were entirely based on their theism.

                      I think we can agree both comparisons are equally fallicious.

                      To the original point, you are still insisting on comparisons to others. By invoking the scandal am I comparing the catholic church to another church? You can accuse me of generalizations if I refer to the crimes of individuals but the cover-up was an action of the organization.

                  • abb3w

                    I’m happy to discuss that. My basic answer is that in that sense, “atheism” isn’t a philosophy, but a philosophical proposition, or the class of philosophies that include the proposition (as premise or inference). As such, it’s important to be specific which one is referred to.

                    In the case of Mao and Stalin regimes, both were variants on the Marxist Communist philosophy. However, there are other schools within atheism that are diametrically opposed — most notably, Randite Capitalism. However, neither Marxist Communism nor Randite Capitalism appear particularly predominant in the modern West. Instead, the most prevalent strain seems to be a loosely defined philosophy I’d characterize as secular technological-scientific progressive “humanist”, which is distinct from both.

                    As such, the discussion of Mao and Stalin with respect to mainstream Western atheism is akin to blaming the Pope for the 2001 World Trade Center attack, since he’s also theist like the attackers; or like blaming Baptists for the Inquisition.

                    I’d also note that sociologically, the key difference appears to be with high-vs-low RWA tendencies. No direct data is available on China; however, there was an experiment done in the former USSR immediately after the collapse, indicating that Communist party supporters tended to be high-RWA types. In contrast, the experimental data on atheists in the West is correlated to a relatively low-RWA attitude. Causation is more complex; it’s not clear whether religiosity (versus irreligiosity) tends to attract high-RWA (versus low-RWA) personalities, or tends to environmentally encourage expression of the tendency.

                    That said… I’d agree, the question of the alleged coverup being blasphemous is largely incidental to the immediate question. This is why I put it as a parenthetical at the end of my remark. However, having looked up the definition in the Catechism, that element immediately leaped out at me, and I’m unaware of that potential aspect of the scandal having been discussed by Mark Shea or elsewhere. And, contrariwise, it would seem a larger blasphemy than the rants of an isolated atheist, and given Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6:41-42 one that ought to be of greater concern.

                    I’ll add that ignoring the entire remainder of the remarks due to the parenthetical appears to be an example of selective exposure, a persuasion resistance strategy. (Likely unconscious, if so.)

                • Ye Olde Statistician

                  Because it is not “theologically inconvenient.” Rather it states that those who invoke God’s name to justify sin are guilty of blasphemy. It does not state that no one ever blasphemes. Besides, those guilty in the scandal justified their acts as man-boy pleasure-seeking (80%), not as God’s will.
                  The problem is not so much “germane” as whether it reflects sound reasoning.

                  • Bill

                    If the reasoning is unsound I would not dispute your right to point that out. And what the guilty asserted is unimportant as it is not their actions which the inital comment was directed. Man-boy pleasure was not the reason for the cover-up which is what he pointed to as blasphemy by catholic definition.

                    I would say that is theologically inconvienent.

                    • abb3w

                      Actually, if the cover-up claims are accurate, it’s more theologically inconvenient that one of the perpetrators is now pope, and several others are bishops, archbishops, and cardinals.

                      However, there’s some tradition on responses for that, from the middle ages; roughly, that all men are imperfect, and that the imperfections of the clergy does not preclude his effectiveness as a sacramental channel. I’m not familiar with the precise terminology, and a quick whack at Google doesn’t turn up anything.

                      Thus, it’s not insurmountable; merely inconvenient.

        • Ted Seeber

          “(Interesting, though. The Catechism additionally says “It is also blasphemous to make use of God’s name to cover up criminal practices”. This seems theologically inconvenient for the abuse scandals in the Church.)”

          Most traditional Catholics have been saying this all along. You can find the Vatican writing documents against the cover up of criminal practice with respect to the sex abuse scandals going back to the early 1980s, and with respect to the Vatican Bank Scandal going back to the 1950s, long before either scandal broke in the media.

          • abb3w

            Any particular references you’d care to suggest? I wasn’t able to turn up a lot using Google, but I may merely not have found the right keyword combination, or you might be talking about material that’s not on-line.

      • Bill

        I don’t need to look up the definitions of what the Catholic church defines as blasphemy. I do not recognize the catholic church as authoritative. Islam has some strict rules on blasphemy too, yet you seem to have no problem violating them. In fact, I need not step outside christianity to find catholic practices with other christians consider blasphemous.

        You ignore all these other definitions as you do not follow their creed. Why then would you expect one such as myself, to “look up” and abide by definitions for a creed I do not follow?

        If I find a practice/belief riduculous, immoral or downright creepy, I will say so without regard to any rules purported to be set down by an entity I don’t believe exists.

        • Ted Seeber

          So, I guess your intent is just to insult random people and Gods and hope they actually don’t get mad at you? You won’t find me posting pictures of Mohammed on the Internet, and you won’t find me putting up statues in mosques (it just occurred to me, why do Moslem countries have statues of their leaders?)

          • Bill

            Ted – You may guess at my intent all you like, recognizing of course that you are blindly guessing. Have I insulted you? Anyone else?

            How could my intent be to insult gods? Can something that does not exist take offense?

            You blaspheme regularly according to Islam, simply by professing your faith. According to many protestant sects you blaspheme in most sacraments, pray to Mary and the saints, etc…

            I don’t care if you or anyone else gets mad at me for stating my opinion. That is as they say “your problem”.

            • ivan_the_mad

              To quote Shea above, “There’s a reason Phil Plait had to give a speech called “Don’t be a Dick” to an audience of atheists.” Thanks for exemplifying that reason.

              • Bill

                So stating an opinion contrary to yours is “being a dick”? Interesting standard. I guess that means anyone who isn’t … you … falls into that category.

            • Dale Price

              Bill’s an atheist like Stalin and Mao.

            • Ted Seeber

              Actually, the Nicene Creed was one of the things Mohammed pointed to as something the Arabs needed to emulate. He disagreed with a couple of it’s points (to them, Jesus isn’t “consubstantial with the Father” for instance) but then again, so do Orthodox Catholics, without considering it blasphemy. Once again, I refer you back to the definition of blasphemy.

              It doesn’t help that you seem to be bound and determined to try to insult people without knowing what you are talking about to begin with.

              • Bill

                Again Ted – you point to my determination to insult people but fails to allude to a single insult. Rather disingenuous of you…

                A profession of faith aka the Nicene is blasphemy under Sharia law. Publicly doing so could land you in jail in many countries.

        • ivan_the_mad

          “You ignore all these other definitions as you do not follow their creed. Why then would you expect one such as myself, to “look up” and abide by definitions for a creed I do not follow?”

          And we can apply the same to anything you say. Which of course raises the question – why bother saying anything at all?

          • Bill

            You should apply it too me Ivan. I never disputed it. Why bother to suggest I “look up” catholic definitions. I blashpheme by those definitions in debates merely because of the opinions I hold.

            Example: If A woman named Mary had a son named Jesus, she was no virgin. In order to have a male child there was another contributor.

            • ivan_the_mad

              You make no sense whatsoever.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Bill is bound and determined to demonstrate the thesis of this post.

          • Bill

            Sir if I demonstrate the thesis of this post it is that it is false. But I don’t think I have done so either way.

            I have insulted no one. I have cut and pasted no insults. I have used no profanity.

            I have merely expressed a view different from yours. I suggest you reread some of the responses I have received.

            • abb3w

              Which supports the counter-thesis, that the objection is inherent to the different view being presented, rather than the actual manner of presentation; and that use of profanity is (snicker) merely adding insult to injury.

    • http://peace Puck

      @Bill “As I don’t believe in any gods, whom can I actually blaspheme against?”

      None. Nor need you – since you have nothing to say. Without some assumptions there is no knowledge, therefore no error.

      You can however be blasphemed – by those of use who believe there exists some Truth external to the observer. But we’re too nice to do that to you.

      • Bill

        Puck – Who said I make no assumptions or have no knowledge? Did I ever say that there was no possibility of my being in error?

  • http://www.hancaquam.blogspot.com PNP, OP

    I know a lot of atheists and they are a pretty civil, intelligent bunch. Of course, the usual trolls pop up in my comboxes. . .but, for the most part, I hang out with the sort of atheist that forces me to be a better theist.
    Fr. Philip , OP

  • Thom Bombadil

    This man is a nihilist. Nothing to be afraid of.

  • Ted Seeber

    Atheists like homosexuals are roaring mice. They eat up a lot more bandwidth than their actual population size would suggest.

  • abb3w

    For what it’s worth, the rudeness (and your perception of it as an attempt to express superiority) subjectively suggests that it’s associated with a tendency to high-SDO (social dominance orientation) personalities. The curious can look into the work of Sidanius and Altemeyer (the latter having a nice summary work on-line for free); the less curious can think of high-SDO as a formalization of “arrogant bastard”.

    One downside for the religious is that SDO apparently is extremely weakly correlated with religiosity (doi:10.1037/0022-3514.78.2.366); the level among the irreligious and the religious is almost identical. Which means, there’s probably a proportional fraction of such bastards among theists cluttering up the ban filters at assorted atheist outposts of the internet — and there’s a lot more theists in the country.

    A further downside is that religiosity is quite strongly correlated with the RWA personality metric (less curious: formalizing “proto-fascist”) — which also has some undesirable correlations. Double-highs are disproportionately highly religious.

    • Art

      In other words for them it is hard for them to be humble?

      • abb3w

        Roughly.

        It would depend on exactly what you mean by “hard” and “humility”. They’re disinclined, at the least; however, my impression is that SDOs tend to have a disinclination to humility, beyond mere ordinary inclination to honesty about one’s actual talent, and more to exaggerated self-conception of those talents. It’s generally not considered a lack of humility to think you’d beat Stephen Hawking in a basketball game; it generally would be to think you’d beat Michael Jordan.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Citing social “science” findings as if they were actually findings makes hard science types ROFL.

      • abb3w

        Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing “look over there”.

    • Marion (Mael Muire)

      In the social sciences, the most we can say about observations like these is that there appears to be an association or a correlation between variable x and variable y. We can’t do actual experiments which are necessary to establish causation: we can’t randomly assign subjects to the religious or irreligious groups and then study other personality traits. No, subjects come to the study already religious or irreligious. Therefore, we can’t really rule out other factors; we can’t truly manipulate that variable; we can only observe it. Hence the most we can get in the way of results is “assocation”.

      This is because to prove causation, you have to be able to rule out other causes, and to do that, you have to create the causative factor in subjects already free from it. This principle was well illustrated in the story of the doctor from the public health agency in early 20th c. New York City, who observed that on days when the tar on the streets on which he trod was soft, there was a spike in the rate of infant mortality deaths in the city’s public hospitals. On days when the tar was of a normal consistency, the infant mortality rate was also more normal. Much study was devoted to factors in the soft tar: did it release toxic fumes into the air making the babies sick? Until at last a research assistant noted that the tar was soft and that the babies were dying on days when the air temperature was well over 85 degrees. It wasn’t anything about the tar or the tar itself that had anything to do with killing the poor babies; it was the heat. The heat was softening the tar and the heat was causing the babies to suffer from exhaustion.

      Third Cause. A Third Cause may be involved in any two or more variables under study in a non-randomly assigned project. So all kinds of personality traits and characteristics and belief systems may be shown to vary together . . . and all we can really conclude about that is . . . they vary together.

      Unless we want to go down the road of thinking that tar fumes are killing off babies in City hospitals . . .

      • abb3w

        Which is why I specifically noted “correlation” and “association”. For example, it’s not clear to what extent religiosity produces a high-RWA attitude, high-RWA attitudes produce religiosity, or tertiary factors produce both. I’d also note there’s a distribution — both low-RWA religious and high-RWA irreligious exist, as outliers from the trend.

        Nonetheless, it’s clear whichever form the causation, there are some correlations — and some lacks.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Of germane interest:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304388004577529680052846846.html?mod=djemBestOfTheWeb_h
    and scroll down to the poetic heading
    When Scoffers Make Unwelcome Offers

    • Mark Shea

      Indeed. It sounds like an incredibly ugly soiree. No wonder these people have to compensate by telling themselves they are so much smarter than the herd.

  • Kristen inDallas

    There is a big difference between atheists and Christian-haters. Most trolls are of the second variety. They may *think* they’re atheists, but they probably aren’t. The easiest way to tell is by looking to see if they post equally ofensive things in all faith categories looking for a fight anywhere there is any faith, or do they target one specific religion? If they have then I’ll buy the label atheist (but a particularly aggressive and socially inept one). But when only one denomonation gets targeted, I’ll call it like it is. They are here for a reason. They feel the need to change our minds about Jesus more than they need to change a Jew’s mind about Abraham or a Muslem’s about Mohamed. Most that I know in real life like this… it’s a result of pure hurt and anger over some past action of a (not-very good) Christian. They are people. They troll for a reason. They want to be seen, they need us to know their names (if only their internet handles). What are we called to do when we know the names of those who have been wounded in the name of Christianity?

    • Bill

      Kristen – You post was quite interesting and I honestly had to stop and think about it. I frequently engage in debate, sometimes heated, with theists. The ones I speak to are predominately Christian. This is not because I dislike Christians or feel Christianity is less worthy than other religions. While I have no doubt that the type of person you allude to exists and would probably be more trollish than average. Allow me to offer a few alternatives why an atheist might “focus” on Christianity, or more pointedly the reasons I do.

      1. I live in the United States and my primary language is English. The US is 76% Christian (ARIS, 2008) so this is the religion that has the greatest impact on the issues for me. There are no disputes over Muslim prayer banners in public schools because there are none. No one is claiming this is a Muslim nation or complaining about a war on Ramadan.

      2. My background is Christian. With a Catholic school upbringing and some exposure to protestant “Sunday schools”. Hence I can more intelligently discuss Christianity than Islam, when it comes to Hinduism, I am at a complete loss.

      3. I enjoy good conversation and debate. Fr. Phillip somewhere above said “it forces him to be a better theist.” I like intelligent people who force me to reevaluate my own positions and change them when warranted.

      4. Christianity may be the largest religion on the planet. I say “may” because it depends on whose definition you are using. If I find theism lacking does it not make sense to primarily focus on the largest group of theists?

      This is not to say I don’t also debate other faiths. I also enjoy talking to Muslims and I have some understanding of their faith from my time in the middle east. But there are less of them.

      I have no wounds from christianity, I just don’t believe it is true.

  • ivan_the_mad

    A post about internet atheists is trolled by internet atheists! In homage to this silliness, I present for your amusement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3KBuQHHKx0

  • SouthCoast

    Wow! Had to work through all of those posts. But at least I found my handbasket.


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