Christian in a Post Christian World: How Should We Handle Attacks from Atheist Internet Trolls?

Atheism1

How do we respond to people who follow Dr Dawkins’ advice to mock and ridicule us with contempt and in public?

One reaction is to try to reason with the mockers and ridiculers.

Another would be to mock and ridicule back.

A third might be to invite them to, as we say here in Oklahoma, “take it outside.”

The problem with all these responses is that people who deliberately and with malice of forethought single out a group of people for public mockery and ridicule have, by their actions, placed themselves beyond the pale of civil society. Their behavior is reprehensible. So long as they continue to engage in it, they do not deserve the courtesy of either replies or engagement of any sort.

I posted Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt with the expectation that I would get a flurry of idiotic comments from atheist provocateurs, trying to engage the readers of this blog in verbal mud wrestling. I was not disappointed. I deleted all but two of these which I let through because they were the least offensive. I wanted to make them available as an educational exercise for the Christians who read Public Catholic.

I think we need to become aware of this asinine behavior and decide how to handle it.

Two of Public Catholic’s regular readers tried to answer these comments. One reader went the way of giving the commenter the benefit of the doubt and trying to answer it intelligently. The other reader replied with anger.

Neither response was wrong.

But it is interesting that one of the atheist provocateurs immediately pounced on the angry response with an ad hominem attack on Catholics. It was actually a comic pose for this individual to take, considering the spate of claptrap — all insulting — he had tried to post on this blog. It is also interesting that he did not want to answer the more measured reply. He went instead for the response he had been trying to provoke, which was anger.

Now, I’m sure he’ll re-tell this tale of his daring assault on the Catholics — with himself as the hero — to his fellow atheist provocateurs.

Do I hear the word “childish?” How about the phrase “grade school?”

They both fit.

And that is the point.

It doesn’t make any difference what you say to people like this. Anger is as good as reason. They aren’t trying to engage in legitimate discussion. They are trying to provoke, so they can count coup when they get back to their den.

This is what their leader, Dr Dawkins, has taught them to do.

The entire edifice of their tawdry behavior is based on a pretense they pretend that they are intellectually superior. This pose is something that Dr Dawkins and many of the other “new atheists” have used to peddle their worn-out arguments to impressionable and desperately insecure people who want above all things to be different, special and superior. They tell these people that all they have to do to prove their intelligence is take a pose of unbelief and behave like a pack of hounds on the verbal attack.

Of course, anyone who buys this pandering sell-job is unlikely to be all that canny. But that’s another issue for another post.

The reason they come over here and behave like trolls is that this behavior gives them something to brag about later.

Not all atheists behave like this. But there are enough of them who do to make life miserable for everybody else.

Unfortunately, not every obnoxious atheist you will meet in your life is going to fall into the braggadocio category. Some of them are genuinely hate-filled jerks who get a kick out of hurting other people. Our society has decided that race baiting and gay baiting are no longer acceptable sports. It has replaced it with Christian-baiting. Especially in our institutions of higher learning and in certain parts of the country, it is socially acceptable to publicly mock, ridicule and treat Christians with contempt. It is certainly acceptable to do so in our movies and on made for cable television.

So what’s a Christian to do?

Let’s focus today on the online atheist trolls who come onto blogs and take over the discussion. These fall into two types. The first just argues in an endless circle. They can go all day and never say one original thing, and they are unashamed to repeat themselves over and over. They never stop making their argumentative comments. These people seem to have a goal of taking over other people’s conversations and focusing them on themselves and their agendas.

You’ll notice that I made a statement in the blog rules here that I don’t allow people to take over this blog with their agendas. That statement is there for people like this.

This isn’t discussion. It’s bullying.

I’ve seen it at public meetings when a group comes in and begins yelling and taking over the mike. They can effectively end all discourse and shut down the meeting. This is not free speech. It is something quite the opposite of free speech, since it has the effect of keeping others from joining into discussion. It also serves the purpose of ending public meetings. I’ve seen many groups just decide to end public discussion because they could not handle the disruptive bullies who show up.

In an online forum like this one, their behavior is easy to stop, if the person who’s running the blog has the will. All I have to do to shut them down and allow others to speak is delete their blasts of 20 hateful comments, or, as I often do, allow the most thoughtful of their blast of twenty comments through and delete the rest. If I didn’t, the nice people who enjoy this blog would end up leaving and all I would have left would be the trashy trolls and their hate-filled, bullying agenda.

Another tactic I’ve seen is to make comments like the two that I let through on the Dawkins post. These aren’t anything even vaguely resembling an attempt at discussion. They are nonsensical little barbs designed to provoke. I would guess that what they are hoping to provoke is something they can use to brag about later.

I think these kinds of comments come from the lower end of the atheist spectrum; the mentally — if not chronologically — adolescent members of the atheist  group who are total and absolute followers of their leadership. These is a certain swagger to their behavior, but certainly nothing that is recognizable as intellectual gravitas.

I almost never let these kinds of things through to the Public Catholic board. When I do, it’s always for illustrative purposes.

There is a lot of this tripe out there in the blogosphere, so what’s a Christian to do when he or she encounters it?

My feeling is that if a blog is run for the entertainment of this type of person and they tend to dominate the discussion, your peace of mind requires that you shun that blog. Why go through trying to talk to people who have such aggressively closed minds? They need prayer more than they need argument.

It’s all right to practice on the few of these that I let through on Public Catholic. That’s usually why I let them through. So you can have a go at them and learn from the experience.

One thing I have observed: Nothing makes atheist trolls more upset than being ignored. When I delete them, they respond with snotty comments directed at me personally. These can get quite ugly, but they don’t bother me. Rather, they confirm my original decision to delete their earlier comments. I didn’t create this blog to provide a forum for atheists. That’s not its purpose. I also didn’t create it to attract as much traffic of any sort that I could get.

Public Catholic is here to help Christians stand for Jesus in a post-Christian world. I range all over the map with the topics I cover, but all of them are in some way connected (at least in my mind) with that one goal. One of the most important facets of standing for Jesus in a post Christian world is learning the mental trick of standing a bit apart from that world and thinking things through for yourself. You cannot follow Christ and be swept up by the gods of this world, or their many memes.

Every so often I put up a post dealing with the new atheism and its vitriol. I never do this to annoy the new atheists. I always do it to help you learn how to deal with them.

We’ll talk later about the much more serious attacks that come against Christians in our real lives. For now, let’s try to discern how to handle the internet atheist trolls.

If you have a blog of your own, how do you handle them there?

Do any of them manage to shake your faith?

Do they make you want to hide your faith when you go online to avoid attack?

Do they overwhelm you?

Can you answer them, or do you just want to leave the premises when they start their stuff?

These are all questions we need to explore. They are part of what it means to be a Christian today.

Internet Trolls Torment Newton Priest

Elizabeth Scalia, who blogs at The Anchoress and is one of the most generous people it has been my privilege to know, wrote today about another egregious example of internet cruelty.

The internet gives the mentally unbalanced and the just plain mean people among us a way to hit out at others. Troubling events agitate these folks and get them moving.

The Sandy Hook tragedy has been a magnet for both the good and the bad among us. Almost everyone has responded to it with compassion, grief and love. But the nasty unhinged are still out there, doing their worthless thing. Elizabeth wrote about one of the sorrier aspects of this sorry behavior: The attacks on a newly-ordained priest who has faced his personal baptism by fire in ministering to the shattered people of his parish in Newton Connecticut.

We need our pastors most in times like this. It is to Fr Suarez’ everlasting credit that he is there for these people. It is to the everlasting discredit of those who are attacking him that they are behaving this way.

I’m going to lift a hefty chunk from Elizabeth’s post. I want you to be able to read it and get the gist of what’s happening and the opportunity she offers us to help. Be sure to read the rest of the post here.

Do you remember this picture, of these priests, Monsignor Robert Weiss and Father Luke Suarez, at the scene of carnage in Newtown?

Well, while I’m sure both priests are seeing some hate it seems the young Father Suarez, who is not two years a priest, is being targeted by creatures who enthralled to the ugly and the dark. Writes his sister, in an outreach. All emphasis mine:
My friends,
All of you, I am sure, have heard so much about the tragedy in Newtown, CT. Many of you have received emails from me about my younger brother, Father Luke Suarez, who is a priest at St. Rose of Lima parish, a Catholic church just down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary. He, and his pastor, Monsignor Weiss, arrived at the school within moments of the shooting, and have been caring for the community ever since. The picture I have included was taken at the school.
Father Luke has an impossible task before him. His diocese is without a bishop right now. . .Monsignor…is personally devastated by the losses. The parish is very large…The rectory has received serious threats, and as my brother gave the homily Sunday at the noon mass, the church had to be evacuated by SWAT teams. After experiencing identity theft and online hacking incidents, he had to erase all of his internet accounts. After a weekend of endless media requests, notifications and vigils with heartbroken families, and little sleep, he now has two wakes and two funerals every day, until the fourth Sunday of Advent. Father Luke has not even been ordained two years.
My large family has been trying to send Father Luke our love and support from afar, and one of my brothers was able to visit with him briefly a couple times. All he asks for is prayer.
I have been wracking my brain, trying to think of a way that our beautiful, loving community could tangibly reach out to Father Luke, Monsignor Weiss, and the St. Rose parish, to support them in this most awful of times. I have sent many prayer requests, and I am asking for more prayers again. But I also want to ask everyone to search their hearts, and if the Holy Spirit moves you, please consider sending one of your family’s Christmas cards to the rectory, with a few words of love and encouragement. Here is his address:
Father Luke Suarez
46 Church Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470
My brother has said over and over again that without the prayer support he is receiving, he could not keep going. And this week is only the beginning. Everyone there is still in shock. Their peaceful home has been desecrated by violence. They will need to live with this sorrow forever.
But in our weakness is His strength. Grace abounds. Can you help me carry him through this time of trial?
On a hopeful note, Father Luke did say that no media coverage has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. Their tiny church, where my children have received sacraments and where Luke was ordained, has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.

Please feel free to share the address with your family, friends, and community. An outpouring of love will sustain these good priests through their impossible ministry–impossible on their own, but possible with God.
I read stuff like this and I think of Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction telling Tim Roth, “I am the tyranny of evil men, but I’m trying, Ringo, I’m trying real hard to be a shepherd.”
I’m putting cards in the mail to both priests — what a good idea — and also remembering them in my prayers. Will you, too?


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