Comments Tab is Up (just after the nick of time)

Thanks for your feedback on my draft of the comment policy. I’ve added it to the top navigation bar, but, it turns out I’ve added it one day too late.  One of the writers at Friendly Atheist took umbrage at commenter Gilbert saying this in reply to the post where I asked readers to chip in to help the SSA deal with DDoS attacks.

Any chance of collecting the money on our side? ’cause I really don’t feel like giving the Puppy Kicking League my contact info and ending up on their permanent friend file. I already have enough regular fundraising spam from organizations I actually support.

(Adam Lee has since set up a Chip In widget for anyone like Gilbert who wants to help out but stay off the mailing list)

In the comment thread, some of the Friendly Atheists readers were rather teed off at me for aiding and abetting.  To wit:

Calling your opponents ‘the Puppy Kicking League’ is not fine.

Completely ignoring that simple and clearly explained complaint to address some other issue in your half-arsed, self-serving, and utterly cowardly response, is also not fine. And it makes you look like just another routine Catholic stooge wilfully blinding themself to bad behaviour as long as it comes from someone ‘on your side’. It’s pathetic.

And provoking that reaction is mostly on me, since I was being a little lazy about getting the comment policy up, so the readers at Friendly Atheist didn’t have any guide to my approach and they didn’t have any reason not to assume the worst, I guess.  I ended up trying to summarize the policy in that thread, and I ended up discussing a general approach I take to comments both here and on other people’s sites.

I reply to whatever seems the most interesting and relevant part of a comment to me. When people start a comment by calling me stupid, I ignore it and reply as though the entire thing was phrased respectfully if something interesting followed the insult.

I didn’t end up with this approach in a “turn the other cheeck” normative ethics way.  I just gave it a try as an experiment, since I’d noticed that a lot of the time that if I commented on both the content and the tone, every one ended up talking about the tone and the thing that actually interested me got eclipsed.  I’ve stuck with this strategy because I end up having more productive conversations, and your mileage may vary, but I’ve seen enough of an improvement to recommend trying it out for a week or so.

I have had a number of conversations on the blog about how using dismissive and sarcastic language gives your interlocutors an excuse to tune you out (you’ll find some of these under ‘Debate Tactics‘  and you can also  check out some of the stuff I wrote while guestblogging at Daylight Atheism).  When I address bad behavior, I prefer to do it at post length, since the bad approaches tend not to be unique to one commenter, and the discussions, which tend to grow like kudzu, don’t choke off everything else.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • TKB

    Are there actually people who read commenting policies? I don’t comment (here or elsewhere) often at all, nor do I think of myself as particularly incendiary or unintelligent, but I’ve never once bothered reading one of those. Can’t imagine someone who doesn’t mind being rude (or who thinks some other thing is more important than being mature) is going to.

    But as always good on you for trying to be a model for your readers.

    • Ted Seeber

      I read commenting policies- but that’s because I’m interested in someday becoming a professional moderator.

      Too bad you can’t make any money at it at all.

  • math_geek

    I don’t entirely agree with the puppy kicker analogy, although I’d suspect that the general point is that there are a lot of Atheists that appear to choose to be offended by people joyfully proclaiming their religion. South Park did a really good take-down of this worldview when they introduced a Mormon family for an episode.

    On the other hand, a blog called the “Friendly Atheist” that repeatedly refers to religious groups in a derogatory way (“bigots,” “pedophiles,” etc), not to mention scores of posts pointing out some religious person of minimal importance saying something stupid just as some kind of reassurance to their superiority, attacks this blog because it contains a comment calling them a mean name?

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

    • Hibernia86

      I won’t ever get offended by people joyfully proclaiming their religion, but I might point out how it is illogical and based on emotion.

      And there are plenty of cases of churches being bigoted against gay people and covering up for pedophilia so I’m not sure why you are angry at us for pointing that out.

    • Ted Seeber

      How was that South Park episode a takedown of any world view other than the “consider the source” argument for the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints?

      In fact, I’ve never seen a South Park Episode that has taken on Evangelical Atheism at all! But then again, I haven’t watched much more than the first three seasons.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    I have a policy too and have to point it out to commentors occasionally. People rarely read policies but they are convenient to point out. I like many of your points (oooops, is that vague-commenting spam?)

    I must say though: I don’t like the cartoon on your policy page — I have seen that 1000 times — yawn!

    • leahlibresco

      I don’t mess with the classics.

      • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

        LOL!
        I started following your blog before your Catholic conversion. I am an atheist and actually defended criticisms of your conversion agains some strident atheists. I look forward to stopping in occasionally. I posted today on my theory about some strident Atheists — it seems they actually prefer Hell to Heaven. Sorry, shameless self-advertising – but do stop in. ;-)

        PS – How do we subscribe to comments on this blog?? I never got notified of your response to my comment.

        • Oregon Catholic

          I went to your blog and wanted to leave a comment but I don’t want to sign up for an account so I’ll post it here.

          I think the results of your poll point out a truth about heaven and hell that is truer than your respondents realize. God doesn’t send people to hell as punishment for bad deeds; people send themselves because they reject God and what He stands for. It is very unlikely that anyone who spends their life rejecting God is going to accept the gift of heaven when they die. That would require a too painful transformation of spirit for all but the most humble – and we know that those who reject God are rarely humble. That’s what Christ tried to teach us – the attitude of heart and mind that is necessary to be able to experience eternal joy in heaven. The whole reward/punishment for deeds paradigm is unfortunately misleading and religion is much to blame for that I’m afraid.

          As unpleasant as hell will be it will be less unpleasant for them than heaven – such is the mercy of God. But those in hell will still know what they chose to give up to live in their self-imposed prison in hell and that’s the ‘punishment’. Think of it as cutting off your nose to spite your face.or a phyrric victory over God. I think we all know people who live miserable lives filled with resentment and self-loathing who shut out any opportunity for love. They are unwilling to make the change of heart and mind necessary to break out of their self-made prisons and live in happy and loving communion with others. Hell will be a lot like that and it’s final and forever.

          • Hibernia86

            I think you need to talk to more Atheists. Most of us would be glad to have a loving God. But the problem is that A) such a God does not exist and B) the Christian version of God isn’t truly a loving God anyway. How can you reject a god that you don’t think exists? That doesn’t make any sense. If he existed then maybe we wouldn’t reject him (if he were good)

          • Oregon Catholic

            Your ‘logic’ is truly illogical. You’d be glad to have a loving (as you define it) God, but because you (presumably) reject all religious models, especially the ‘unloving’ Christian model, therefore God doesn’t exist? That’s arrogance and illogic all mixed up together.

            Sorry, you don’t get to design God. But that’s what you want to do and that’s the danger to your eternal soul. Even though I believe God will offer you an eternity in heaven with Him upon your death, I also believe your chances of accepting the God Who Is will be very slim if you reject Him in this life because you will not have acquired the capacity to experience the absolute love in heaven as joy. The Light of God’s Love will be too painful for you to bear. Heaven and hell begin on earth. We need to begin building our capacity to live in the Light of God here on earth and we do that by accepting that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No human can transform themselves. It requires the grace of God and the assent of our free will to accept that grace on God’s terms, not ours.

            But why do you even care what I think? God, heaven and hell don’t exist to you. And even if you are wrong and they do exist you will still get your choice of how to spend eternity. Do you think you will have the courage to want heaven at any cost or will you just be satisfied with a crabbed and lonely existence in your own little hell, knowing with complete clarity for all eternity what you could have had but rejected? Imagine the self-loathing of that.

          • Ted Seeber

            Most Atheist Definitions of a “loving God” that I’ve run into have been really against my definition of Love. I would call it “an uncaring God who lets me do whatever I want to do”.

        • Ted Seeber

          In Catholic terms, which has a very DIFFERENT definition of Hell than standard evangelical Christianity (or in fact, even, it seems on the surface, different from Jesus Christ, but then again, the Bible isn’t our only source for Public & Private Revelation), I would think wanting to go to Hell is a compliment for an Atheist.

  • Brian Westley

    “On the other hand, a blog called the “Friendly Atheist” that repeatedly refers to religious groups in a derogatory way (“bigots,” “pedophiles,” etc), not to mention scores of posts pointing out some religious person of minimal importance saying something stupid just as some kind of reassurance to their superiority, attacks this blog because it contains a comment calling them a mean name?”

    Hemant is pretty careful about calling bigots “bigots,” pedophiles “pedophiles,” etc, without branding ALL Christians as bigots or pedophiles. He isn’t “calling names,” he points out when e.g. religious people promote bigotry under the guise of their religion.

    If you have a specific example that is inappropriate, point out that example. For that matter, point out where atheists have mistreated puppies. The only recent news event involving tormenting small animals that I recall was a couple of weeks ago where a Mormon cult encased a live kitten in cement as a “warning” to a member who left (the kitten died).

    • deiseach

      Brian, are you genuinely suggesting that Gilbert actually meant that the Secular Students’ Alliance was a front for a group that tortured small animals?

      Allow me to pick my jaw up from the floor.

      Gilbert, you naughty, mean, horrible person! You should just have stuck to comments about their intelligence, politics, sexual preferences and general membership of the Evil Church of Absolute Evil – er, make that the Evil Group of Absolute Evil. But kicking puppies? That, sir, is a slur no right-minded person can permit to pass unanswered, else they may never again show their face in genteel society!

      • Hibernia86

        I don’t think Gilbert was being literal but I do think he was being childish by using that term instead of talking about the issues like an adult.

    • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

      Actually he pretty much follows the standard leftist protocol of using “bigot” as a dysphemism for “social conservative”, i.e. turning what he thinks a terribly wrong opinion on a moral question into a personal moral failure.

      Which, if you look at it, is precisely the way I went wrong in that fateful comment.

      • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

        Though, for the record, it wasn’t actually Hemant who called me out and for all I know the blogger who did call me out may not use the word “bigot” in that way.

      • Hibernia86

        We also use the word “racist” when referring to people who want to keep the races separate. I don’t see what your problem is with our terminology.

        • Oregon Catholic

          Actually today, racist is much more likely to be hurled about whenever a white person points out fault in a black person, reverse racism, or points out a black priviledge or organization (e.g., Congressional Black Caucus) where an equivalent in the white community would be called racist and discriminatory. Hardly anyone advocates for separation of the races except a few neo-nazi groups.

        • Ted Seeber

          And apparently, we don’t use the word racist for people who want to promote contraception and abortion to *reduce the population of blacks in America*.

          Go figure.

      • http://themerelyreal.wordpress.com Chana Messinger

        I’m intrigued by your distinction between “terribly wrong opinion on a moral question” and “personal moral failure.” What is worthy of being called bigotry, then?

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          It’s hard to come up with a coherent definition for a pejorative, because they typically point to vague social directions rather than well-defined concepts. But I think the main factors pointing to bigotry are inordinate mixing of morality with social decorum, refusal or inability to engage arguments despite sufficient intelligence and education, hypocrisy (possibly for the the benefit of others), (mostly non-sexual) objectification of disagreeing or disapproved people, double standards bound to the in/out-group-dynamic, and fake moral outrage. This has a large know-it-when-I-see-it part, so I’ll give a few examples:

          The classic: Thinking, as I do, that sex outside of marriage is wrong is not bigoted. But some of those who agree with me get really agitated about woman doing it while just not thinking about morality when men do it. That is normally a sign of bigotry.

          Transferring that to a question at the other side of the ideological spectrum: Being vegetarian for moral reasons is unfounded, but not bigoted. On the other hand, some people get really agitated about other cultures eating cats and dogs precisely for the usual vegetarian reasons while either approving or being very relaxed about us eating pork. (I mention pork specifically, because other western meat-animals are much dumber than cats and dogs.) Sometimes they might have a distinction, but mostly that is a sign of bigotry.

          Now for the gay stuff: Thinking, as I do, that gay sex is immoral is not bigoted. Neither is (calmly and lovingly) explaining this fact to your kids, even if they might turn out gay. Telling them to do what they want but make sure the neighbors don’t find out might be cautionary in some areas but could also be a sign of bigotry. Loudly condemning gay sex for Christian reasons while being very relaxed about heterosexual fornication is a very likely sign of bigotry. Looking down on same-sex-attracted people who don’t do anything worse than oneself is an almost certain sign of bigotry. (B.t.w. you folks took their acronym you pu…, ah never mind)

          Going to the more strictly epistemological side: The type of Christian who tells you you actually do believe in God, but pretend not to, to have an excuse for your unspecified immorality, probably is a bigot. (But do double-check, because some atheists seem to hear this when a Christian actually makes the argument that a consistent atheist morality is impossible on the theoretical side.) Reverence for the bible is not a sign of being bigoted, but simultaneously condemning Islam because of the more raunchy parts of the Quran is. Being unwilling to vote for an atheist president is not a sign of bigotry (because there are policy implications in the president’s power), but being unwilling to vote for an atheist dog-catcher probably is. And a Christian who refuses to listen to arguments against creationism because they are all satanic trickery might well be a bigot. (Or they may mean something sensible, but that’s complicated and I won’t explore it right now.)

          Mirroring the same on the atheist side: The type of atheist who gives their Christian interlocutors a free psychoanalysis with every argument, always finding some hidden evil motive, looks like a bigot to me. Being dismissive of creationism is not a sign of being bigoted, but simultaneously being a Jesus-myther is. The atheists who thought it scary that George W. Bush claimed divine guidance are not (on that account) bigots, but those who raised hell because of the Francis Collins appointment are. And references to the courtier’s reply are an almost certain sign of bigotry.

          So yes, there are loads of things worthy of being called bigotry, but it’s not so much about what you think as about how you think and therefore doesn’t easily map to ideological camps.

          • Ted Seeber

            I’m Catholic- and I find George Bush’s insistent pandering on being prophet in addition to president VERY scary indeed. But then again, I find Obama’s messianic complex to be equally scary; as well as Romney’s Mormonism, so at least I’m an equal opportunity bigot.

            Proudly bigoted since 2002 when my belief in civil unions changed from being a hopeless liberal airhead to a Conservative Catholic bigot overnight with no change on my part.

    • Ted Seeber

      Brian- apparently atheists are incapable of understanding an allegory?

  • Alex Godofsky

    Isn’t the simpler lesson here that “puppy kicking league” should provoke chuckles, not mock outrage?

    • http://themerelyreal.wordpress.com Chana Messinger

      I’m the Friendly Atheist writer who wrote the piece, and I’m definitely sorry that Leah’s comment thread suffered. However, I feel comfortable having taken umbrage, since the comment, from someone I don’t know and whose position I’m not aware of, feeds into some really destructive and dismissive stereotypes about atheists. I find it very unpleasant to have myself and people close to me suffer at the hands of religious institutions or some religious people and wen we argue back, be dismissed as “puppy kickers”, which while obviously not meant to be taken literally, is really missing the point. I was especially angry, though, that the SSA was the target of the jibe, since it is seriously an organization that does nothing but good for many many people. Call the American Atheists puppy kickers if you want, although I’ll still be offended. The SSA doesn’t deserve that, and that’s what I said in the piece. I thought the comment was really out of line with the generally wonderfully productive tone on Leah’s blog, and since her comment policy does not involve calling that out (which is fine), I wanted to.

      I think I understand where you’re coming from, but I hope you understand that it means something different when the impression of us trying to take religion away from religious people (very similar to the “they’re taking away our guns” type sentiment) is so prevalent.

      • Oregon Catholic

        How about we condemn the term puppy kickers when atheists stop calling God a Sky Daddy and other equally mocking and demeaning terms?

        • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

          Or how about we avoid using Puppy Kicker language because we know better and we know we know better? Not that even Puppy Kicker language is really all that bad, and not that the Friendly Atheist site is particularly friendly, but all that is beside the point.

          • Oregon Catholic

            You’re absolutely right. I don’t actually approve of calling names and never do it myself. In fact, I suggested Leah not allow name calling or obscenity as part of her policy since that atmosphere tends to just attract more of the same. I just thought it was important to point out the hypocrisy of the people who frequent the anything-but-friendly atheist blog where religion is routinely mocked and then turn around and get all offended at being called puppy kickers.

      • Whoareyou

        i think the best way to describe atheists are a bunch of people who somehow magically believes that getting rid of religion would somehow magically create a utopia.

        In other words, a bunch of radical crazies living in fairy tale land. I like to call them child rapists but that’s just me.

        • Whoareyou

          you know what, I’ll take it back.

          I would describe the atheist channel as a bunch of KKK members burning a cross in a daily setting.

          How to be racist. Find 1 or 2 example of someone doing something radical, say a flash robbery, and impute the effect upon the entire population without discretion. All blacks like to rob.

          Atheist channel. Find 1 or 2 example of a catholic doing something bad, say a priest molesting a child, impute it to the entire population without discretion. Thus, All catholics are child molesters.

          Ah, the atheist channel, the new bastion for discrimination and stupidity

          • http://themerelyreal.wordpress.com Chana Messinger

            Not at all an acceptable analogy. No one claims that all Catholics are child molesters. The difference is that Catholics belong to a broader institution which has shown itself to have a poor (though, to be fair, no poorer than other institutions like day cares or the like) record on protecting children even though (and here’s where it’s different from day care) it claims the highest moral ground imaginable.

          • http://themerelyreal.wordpress.com Chana Messinger

            But while I think it’s important to have safe online spaces to increase morale and feel philosophically and otherwise comfortable, I am unhappy that there are so few spaces for people of different beliefs to discuss without feeling like they are in the lion’s den. This comment thread is giving me a sense of how rare that really is, and how much harm that can cause. Leah’s blog is often such a space, which is excellent. I hope to cultivate one myself, on my own blog, someday, and I hope others join me.

          • Ted Seeber

            Chana- you can’t say that. True- nobody says all Catholics are child molesters. But LOTS of atheists say all Catholic Priests and Bishops are child molesters. Heck, I’ve even heard that from lots of liberal Catholics!

        • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

          I don’t consider myself that kind of Atheist, but then you’re just saying that for drama. You’re the ones with the magical utopia you insist is real on the basis of nothing. You’re the ones who claim to be the ultimate authority on keeping society together. It would be one thing if it were only a case of you being misrepresented on the basis of some bad apples (which I think you are). It’s the sanctimoniousness that goes with it that’s such poison. You’re supposed to be good at keeping your noses clean, it’s what you say to sell the snake oil. Complain to the Vatican too! They’re the ones that let you down.

          • Whoareyou

            Oh is that what you think? You must be a naive idiot. it’s ok. it’s not your fault you’re an idiot.

            maybe you should spend more time on the Richard Dawkins or James Randi page

            it would enlighten you. but hey you don’t believe in enlightenment

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            Enlightenment “Woo! Jesus’s face in toast” or the other kind?

          • Ted Seeber

            Zack- I guarantee YOU ARE THAT KIND OF ATHEIST.

      • deiseach

        I was ginning up to go online, google for atheist sites, harvest a bunch of derogatory-to-offensive comments and dump them on here, but I reconsidered. That would be pointless. It would achieve nothing other than stoke the fire of the argument and merely provoke heat, not light.

        The moral of this little incident is: no-one likes to be called names. Christian brethren: please let us not be impolite to others. Atheist fellow-humans: please remember how you felt at something to be taken in jest when in future you find yourselves inclined to reel off the ‘ignorant bigot racist Nazi’ line.

        (Oh, and for what it is worth: I don’t like guns, my centrist-right socially conservative, fiscally liberal politics don’t conveniently match up with the American Republican versus Democrat template, and I am regularly astounded by how some Americans seem to treat capitalism as not merely an economic system but a faultless psuedo-religion; I was in an online discussion where. amongst other things, Faust’s ‘devil’s bargain’ was instanced as an example of the way trades can be manipulated and immediately someone left a comment to rebuke us all for impugning the good name of capitalism and to assure me that my depiction of the Tudor court post-dissolution of the monasteries – where the Crown had absorbed the revenues from selling off the assets – was wrong, they were not ‘real’ capitalists at all as Capitalism Was Not Like That).

        • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

          I’m relieved to hear you’re not bigoted. Gay Marriages all round! Splendid that you’re not racists or Nazis, even though you had a Pope who sat down with Hitler.
          Matthew 5:21-22 “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire”
          From that, there’s not much interpretation to say this applies to whoever says “You puppy kicker!”

          • deiseach

            *sigh*

            My own personal opinion, as a Catholic, is that secular/civil marriages for same-sex couples may be permissible as a matter of natural justice, given tha secular/civil marriage for heterosexual couples has been so devalued. However, I think that any pretence that this is anything other than an innovation and that it is merely some kind of equality of status and that the foundational definition of marriage would be unchanged is disingenuous, neither do I possess the responsibility for the teaching office that the bishops do, so it’s up to them to decide on the question of involvement in the civic sphere.

            I’m not American, as I seem to have failed to make clear. Oh, and by the way, thanks for calling me a racist and a Nazi, even though I wasn’t born until eighteen years after the end of the Second World War and my country had been neutral during that conflict. I suppose, given that being a Catholic makes me guilty by chronological association, so you too are guilty as an American of the genocide of the aboriginal population of your country and such outrages as the Tuskagee experiments and the mutilations carried out on populations deemed sub-normal or undesirable under the sterilisation programme so enthusiastically recommended by U.S. eugenics advocates.

            A Pope who sat down with Hitler – leaving aside the canard (the Reichskonkordat was signed by Pius XII when he was Secretary of State acting on behalf of Pope Pius XI, and the German Head of State was President Paul von Hindenburg), dear sir, we have had greater ones who sat down with as bad. It’s in the job description: “10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13).

            As for the exhortation not to call raca, are you not trying to both eat your cake and have it? If I take you up correctly, you assert that the philosophy or belief or code by which we operate is one fundamentally absurd and illogical, then you chide us for not behaving according to an illogical, irrational, absurd code. Heads you win, tails we lose?

            And which is it worse to be called: a puppy kicker or a racist and/or Nazi? I fear you may take the British approach to such matters, where they value their animals over their children (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded n 1824 and received its Royal status in 1840; the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was not founded until 1884 and has still not formally received royal patronage).

            If that should be the case, perhaps it may reassure you to know that “Humanity Dick” was Irish and therefore a fellow countyman of my own!

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            I wasn’t calling you a racist or a Nazi. I’m trying to point out that for all the pomp and circumstance, the product is not as advertised. And raca? That got mashed in because I did a complete quotation. It seems like Jesus was saying “Remember how I said don’t look with desire to avoid Hell? This time I’m saying don’t even say anything to avoid Hell! Looking at people escalates and so does saying things! So don’t do it, neat huh?” So from there you get repressed lonely people with no freedom of speech. It’s not that I chide you for operating by the absurd and then chide you for behaving according to it. It’s not just heads and tails! It’s absurd, you behave by it, it doesn’t work, you behave by it… Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            ….and then chide you for NOT operating by it… Did I? You seemed to get that from the Raca thing and that got mashed in with the quote. It’s more the concern over inculcating morals via the grandiose and absurd, with a Supreme Being on top of it. The implausibility makes you wonder if the rules come from a reliable source, and having a God you’re supposedly in communication with gives you someone to rebel against in future if stuff gets difficult.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            Britain has no separation of Church and State. Fascinating examples, and if Atheists had more of a shake there, who knows, reason might prevail. There is something about too many Bishops in the House of Lords in the news right now.

          • Whoareyou

            Zack

            answer me this

            you’re pro-gay marriage. Are you also pro-incest and pro-bigamy?

            I mean neither one hurts people and you can easily prevent them having children.

            let me see your logic at work

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            My logic is that if you can make that leap, you’re the irrational one. Incest is not harmless. How can you say that? And is there an impassioned national campaign for more bigamy? I’ve not heard of one…

          • Oregon Catholic

            Zack – Let’s explore some logic…and slippery slopes if you’re willing.

            “Incest is not harmless.”

            I agree but are you talking about children AND adults or just children? Is it harmful for consenting adults if no children are born? Why?
            What about pedophilia/ephebophilia? What would be your cut off age for harm or age of consent? Why?

            “And is there an impassioned national campaign for more bigamy? I’ve not heard of one…”

            Was there an impassioned national campaign for ‘gay marriage’ 15 yrs ago?

            You didn’t answer the question of whether you are pro-bigamy (I’d add polygamy too). Yes or no?
            Do programs like Sister Wives, presented in a manner sympathetic to polygamy, break down barriers to polygamy? Would having more programs with funny and likable polygamist characters (similar to the increase of funny and likable homosexual characters in TV and movies over the last 10 yrs or so) be even more effective at removing barriers to polygamy?

          • Ted Seeber

            Gay marriage is bigoted against heterosexuals. But then again, I’m a bigot because I would like to see religion in charge of marriage, and a separate civil union category for ALL households, be they heterosexual, homosexual, polygamous, pseudosexual or whatever else.

            Separation of church and state you know- and MARRIAGE IS RELIGIOUS.

        • Oregon Catholic

          I’m with you deiseach. We really need a socially conservative, fiscally liberal 3rd party to represent us.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            Well, Acts 2.44: “And all that believed were together, and had all things common
            and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need”
            And then Acts 4.34: “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet”
            All that sounds like Communism. Wouldn’t want to be sacrilegious would we?

          • Oregon Catholic

            “All that sounds like Communism”

            Or unselfish love of neighbor, or giving without counting the cost. I think that’s in the NT too.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            Indeed, just as valid. The guy selling his land sounded a bit like a Scientologist selling his car for courses. And of course to truly go the distance you have to sell all you own and give to the poor. Who then have to sell it and give it to the poorer…

      • Ted Seeber

        I do not consider taking people to court over artwork to be “anything but good”. In fact, I consider it to be very evil. I gave anyway, taking advantage of the anon service to protect my financial privacy.

    • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

      I chuckled at the Puppy Kicker thing, but I can see how it would wind someone up. How about what is happening right now? The James Holmes incident is being blamed on the teaching of Evolution! Rick Warren: “Teach students they are no different from animals and they act like it”! And instead we should be teaching them from early on that they are tainted with Original Sin (all recounted in the Story of Creation), you think that’s better for your self-esteem?

      Let he who is without sin kick the first puppy!

      • Peggy Hagen

        Call it “original sin” or call it “character flaws”, it’s there either way and the practical effects are not one shade different or less obvious. I’m really not sure of the nature of your objection here.

        As for Rick Warren…he’s not worth getting wound up over, either in condemnation or in praise.

      • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

        There either way? Which way of looking at it is more productive? That’s my objection; if you think your problems are part of a mystically imposed state of being, you’ll never try and sort them out.

        • Peggy Hagen

          On the contrary, it’s every reason to. In the Catholic take on it at least, which is decidedly different from that of the fundamentalism that seems to have been your experience of Christianity.

      • Ted Seeber

        I still want to know when carrying a concealed weapon to stop a mass murdering idiot became a Christian Belief.

  • Mark

    Chana wrote:
    “I’m the Friendly Atheist writer who wrote the piece, and I’m definitely sorry that Leah’s comment thread suffered. However, I feel comfortable having taken umbrage, since the comment, from someone I don’t know and whose position I’m not aware of, feeds into some really destructive and dismissive stereotypes about atheists”

    Boy’s, now that there’s a fine example of Radical Debate 101. Believers X devotes a whole website mocking and degrading believers Y… and then when those people (we’ll call them Christians) respond in kind… The other guys (we’ll call them atheists) take umbrage (with righteous indignation) at the Christians’ lack of charity.

    I don’t know any of the people concerned but I’m sure the “Friendly” Atheist has had more than a few chuckles over some really destructive and dismissive stereotypes about Christians.

    • Brian Westley

      “Believers X devotes a whole website mocking and degrading believers Y”

      So, you’re entirely unfamiliar with the Friendly Atheist website then?

      • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

        Atheist privilege much?

        • Brian Westley

          Not at all; “Believers X devotes a whole website mocking and degrading believers Y” does not describe the Friendly Atheist website at all. Mark is just making up a straw man.

          • Whoareyou

            Brian, care do describe it then?

            Or are you going to say “Strawman, strawman, strawman. I don’t have to answer anything because I automatically win”

          • Mark

            Brian,
            I will concede that maybe I am not as familiar with the Friendly Atheist Blog as I let on. I was generalizing about atheists using the classic atheist / theist argument dynamic as my starting point, which usually begins – Me smart / You dumb, and generally goes down hill from there. I’m sure that Chana has been very understanding and charitable toward our belief system and our believers, I will instead redirect my comments to every other atheist out there.

            I’ll also concede that atheists as a group don’t really like kicking puppies (at least not in any organized way). Here’s proof of that which I pulled off the Freindly Atheists blog this morning

            “I love puppies. Nothing would make my day better than rolling around on the grass with a dozen puppies. / Atheists love puppies! we even provide post-rapture care for Christian pets! / Christianity has a rather nasty recurrent history of drowning kittens. I’d rather kick a puppy than drown a kitten, especially since a kick can be a little love tap, whereas there is no really gentle way to drown something.”

            Thank you atheists for proving us wrong.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            Someone’s sense of humour is broken.
            It’s not so much me smart/you dumb as: me have moral system that doesn’t give me a headache and you don’t. Plus there are religious animal cruelty stories in the news, as much as there are non-religious ones. The Disconnect occurs because of the religious side asserting the moral high ground. Atheism has all the same concern for the common good, but we don’t go saying “Give it up for God”. It’s more “be good for its own sake”. So when there are loonies in the Atheist fold there will be just as much concern. Straining someone’s credulity to breaking point and then giving them a set of rules is only going to make them wonder if you’re really someone who should be giving out rules. It’s like when you’re asking for traffic directions; you go for the guy in the suit, not the guy with a tinfoil hat.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Good one Mark!
            Mr. Westley is the same person who has called me an f-ing moron and to f-off during a discussion on the ‘Friendly’Atheist.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

            Well, emotions will run high. Some Atheists feel that religion burned up too much of their lives and they could have done something else. When Jesus said “Look not upon a woman with desire, for you have committed adultery in your heart” in the Sermon on the Mount, he wrecked a lot of potential relationships. Creationism wrecks a lot of potential careers. And Christians are not shy about bullying you to stay in the gang, nor about shunning you if you do leave.

          • Brian Westley

            “I will concede that maybe I am not as familiar with the Friendly Atheist Blog as I let on. I was generalizing about atheists using the classic atheist / theist argument dynamic as my starting point, which usually begins – Me smart / You dumb, and generally goes down hill from there.”

            Like I said, what you wrote bore no resemblance to the Friendly Atheist website at all. You created a description out of whole cloth and railed against that, instead.

            Why do something so pointless? Are you merely trying to denegrate the Friendly Atheist website by lying about it?

            “Mr. Westley is the same person who has called me an f-ing moron and to f-off during a discussion on the ‘Friendly’Atheist.”

            I (and google) can’t seem to find that. Got a link?

          • Mark

            Brian Westley wrote:
            “Like I said, what you wrote bore no resemblance to the Friendly Atheist website at all. You created a description out of whole cloth and railed against that, instead.

            Why do something so pointless? Are you merely trying to denegrate the Friendly Atheist website by lying about it?”

            After a quick review of some of the comments on the “Friendly” Atheist blog, lets be real Mr. Westley. The friendly Atheist comments section is as rife with derogatory statement about religious people as any out there.

            Everything that I wrote in regard to Chana’s statement was pretty much done tongue in cheek. I find it quite ridonkulous that Chana even took the time to complain. But I guess that is the best way to gain an advantage over your adversary is to make yourself a victim and complain about unfairness. Before you call somebody a liar you had better get your own house in order.

          • leahlibresco

            Comments are not necessarily an indictment of a blog. If you want to knock Hemant, criticize things that turned up in his posts. If I were an aggressive moderator, the comment threads here would appear to reflect a more polite commentariat. Be careful that you’re citing evidence of above-baseline bad behavior and not just the expected result of open commenting online.

          • Brian Westley

            “After a quick review of some of the comments on the “Friendly” Atheist blog, lets be real Mr. Westley. The friendly Atheist comments section is as rife with derogatory statement about religious people as any out there.”

            And this is a reason to lie about it, how?

            Oh, it’s no reason at all. And I notice you’re now talking about the COMMENTS on the site, and not the authors of the site.

            “Before you call somebody a liar you had better get your own house in order.”

            I call somebody a liar when they lie; you deliberately made up crap about the Friendly Atheist website. You lied, so I called you a liar. If that hurts your poor little feelings, I suggest you stop lying.

          • Ted Seeber

            I’ve read the Friendly Atheist- it’s an accurate description of the crap that is posted there.

          • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

            Tried to subscribe to Friendly Atheist once. Comboxes there are about as friendly as Richard Dawkins, someone who an acquaintance online really did mean to suggest as a friendly face of modern atheism. Couldn’t stomach it. Stuck with Unequally Yoked.

            But nothing specific comes to mind, it being so long ago.

      • Oregon Catholic

        “I (and google) can’t seem to find that. Got a link?”

        Why? Are you denying you’ve ever told people to f-off in the combox over on FA?

        • Brian Westley

          Here’s what you ORIGINALLY claimed:

          “Mr. Westley is the same person who has called me an f-ing moron and to f-off during a discussion on the ‘Friendly’Atheist.”

          Where did I call you a fucking moron and tell you to fuck off during a discussion on the Friendly Atheist? Like I said, I can’t find it. Got a link?

          • Oregon Catholic

            Do you deny you’ve made such comments at FA? It’s a simple yes or no question.

          • Brian Westley

            Look, you claimed I called YOU that. Back it up or admit you lied. Don’t dishonestly change your question.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I can find the link if I wanted to bother bad enough. I’d probably bother if you came out and denied it. But you’ve essentially admitted it already. You know you have used those terms and you know it’s not safe to deny it or you risk being proved a liar. And for someone who loves to call others a liar whenever possible (those links are out there too) that would make you quite the hypocrite wouldn’t it? But still you spend e-ink and energy trying to obfuscate.

            I’m also well aware of the games you play with words to say one thing, knowing exactly how it will be perceived by the audience you’re addressing, and then later claim a different meaning. You remain intentionally vague enough that you can pounce on someone’s misunderstanding, which you set them up to have in the first place.

          • Brian Westley

            “I can find the link if I wanted to bother bad enough.”

            Like I said, I (and google) couldn’t find it.

            “I’d probably bother if you came out and denied it. But you’ve essentially admitted it already.”

            No, I haven’t. I keep asking you for evidence. You know, how atheists keep asking theists for evidence, and the lack of same?

            “You know you have used those terms and you know it’s not safe to deny it or you risk being proved a liar.”

            I know I’ve used those terms; you’ve claimed I’ve used them against you on the Friendly Atheist. However, you haven’t provided any support for your claim. You just keep dishonestly dodging.

            “And for someone who loves to call others a liar whenever possible (those links are out there too) that would make you quite the hypocrite wouldn’t it?”

            It would, if I lied.

            You might notice that I call liars “liars.” Got a problem with that?

            “But still you spend e-ink and energy trying to obfuscate.”

            You’re the one when, asked to support your claim:
            1) dishonestly changes the question
            2) continues to NOT provide support for your claim

            “I’m also well aware of the games you play with words to say one thing, knowing exactly how it will be perceived by the audience you’re addressing, and then later claim a different meaning.”

            I’m well aware that you have YET to provide some kind of evidence of your claim. You just keep throwing up red herrings.

            ” You remain intentionally vague enough that you can pounce on someone’s misunderstanding, which you set them up to have in the first place.”

            You mean misunderstandings like saying “Mr. Westley is the same person who has called me an f-ing moron and to f-off during a discussion on the ‘Friendly’Atheist.” and then trying to dishonestly change the question?

            C’mon, where’s the proof? Or are you a liar, too?

          • Oregon Catholic

            I’m glad you finally admitted you have called people f-ing morons and told people to f-off. It only took you how many posts?

            You admit you call people those names. I’m no liar. Are you beginning to see it yet?

          • Brian Westley

            “I’m glad you finally admitted you have called people f-ing morons and told people to f-off.”

            If you would bother to read, you’ll notice I never denied it. However, that isn’t what you originally claimed.

            “You admit you call people those names. I’m no liar. Are you beginning to see it yet?”

            Here’s what you originally claimed:
            “Mr. Westley is the same person who has called me an f-ing moron and to f-off during a discussion on the ‘Friendly’Atheist.”

            Now, as far as I can tell, that’s a lie on your part. You continue to dodge my asking for proof of your statement.

            Sorry, you certainly are acting like a liar. Produce a link where I called you a fucking moron and told you to fuck off in comments in the Friendly Atheist. That’s what you’ve been claiming, yet you’ve still offered no proof.

          • leahlibresco

            Hi all! Do people feel like this conversation is likely to head to a satisfactory and productive resolution. This seems like a lot of time and energy to spend on whether Brian is a liar, whether or not he is. I don’t know the guy, I just don’t care this much, and these comments threads aren’t required to answer every empirical question. You all are free to continue the discussion, but I haven’t seen anything very thought-provoking emerge in the last few go rounds, and I don’t expect that’s about to change.

          • Brian Westley

            Leah, all Oregon Catholic has to do is provide a link to back up his claim that “Mr. Westley is the same person who has called me an f-ing moron and to f-off during a discussion on the ‘Friendly’Atheist”

            Also, I’d like to point out that, even if he does find such a link, I haven’t lied. I keep asking him for proof, he keeps running away; I point out he’s acting like he’s lying by his evasions. None of these statements are lies, even if he finally comes up with a link.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Leah, I’ve just been giving Brian a taste of his own tactics that I find so annoying when I come across his comments here and elsewhere. He is frequently cagey and vague about his positions and uses people’s common assumptions to mislead them. People try to dialog with him in good faith only to find out he’s been misleading without actually lying – usually through omission or lack of clarity. Then after wasting their time he jumps on their mistakes to score some kind of “bright’ points I guess – but he frustrates and comes across as dishonest (certainly intellectually anyway) with his too-clever games. I’m sorry I used your blog to play with him.

            If Brian would re-examine his assumptions he should figure it out since he plays this game all the time. I haven’t told any lies, I’ve just been wasting his time and patience like he does to others. Sorry if I wasted yours as well.

          • Brian Westley

            “Leah, I’ve just been giving Brian a taste of his own tactics that I find so annoying when I come across his comments here and elsewhere. ”

            No, you haven’t. So far, you’ve made a claim that you refuse to back up.

            He is frequently cagey and vague about his positions and uses people’s common assumptions to mislead them.

            No, I make accurate statements. A lot of people are really bad at reading.

            “People try to dialog with him in good faith only to find out he’s been misleading without actually lying – usually through omission or lack of clarity.”

            Nope, I’ll clarify any statement I’ve made. I will also point out if I haven’t made a particular statement or claim.

            “Then after wasting their time he jumps on their mistakes to score some kind of “bright’ points I guess – but he frustrates and comes across as dishonest (certainly intellectually anyway) with his too-clever games. I’m sorry I used your blog to play with him.”

            Look, “Christian,” if you will bother to grow enough spine to back up your statement that I called you a fucking moron and told you to fuck off on the Friendly Atheist, post a link.

            “If Brian would re-examine his assumptions he should figure it out since he plays this game all the time. I haven’t told any lies, I’ve just been wasting his time and patience like he does to others. Sorry if I wasted yours as well.”

            If you haven’t told any lies, produce a link on the Friendly Atheist blog where I called you a fucking moron and told you to fuck off. But you have a ready excuse — you just can’t be bothered. You’ve got plenty of time to protest your innocence over and over, just no time to back up your mouth.

    • Hibernia86

      Seriously Mark? You think disagreeing with someone is the same thing as “mocking and degrading them”? You are doing the same thing as what I see from some Mormons who claim that anyone who disagrees with them is an “anti-mormon”.

      • Ted Seeber

        The way atheists argue- YES, it is the same.

    • Whoareyou

      I find it funny that atheist never admitted to supporting Mao and Stalin in killing people

      Once you go atheist, you have no morality and will kill anything and everyone for no reason

      atheism, the religion on peace

      • http://www.atheist-experience.com Zack

        Stalin and Mao? That’s original…
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZr-JZYctvA

      • Brian Westley

        “Once you go atheist, you have no morality and will kill anything and everyone for no reason”

        This is demonstrably false by simply looking at reality. This also probably explains why you missed it.

      • leahlibresco

        I’m on vacation, and don’t have time to reply to many comments, but I can’t imagine you folks have enough free time to make this one worth the investment.

        Whoareyou, I assume you know some non-genocidal atheists, and I would suggest thinking about why so many people don’t match your prediction for their behavior.

        • Ted Seeber

          I’ve yet to meet a pro-life atheist- but George Orwell existed at one time, so they MUST exist.

  • grok87

    “Debate Tactics” huh.
    Once again the gospel for today is (perhaps surprisingly?) relevant:
    http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072012.cfm
    Gospel Mt 12:1-8
    Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
    His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
    When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
    He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
    which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat?
    Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
    If you knew what this meant, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

    So what are Jesus’s debate tactics in debating with his fellow Pharisees? (Yes Jesus was a Pharisee, http://fruitoftheword.com/2009/10/jesus-was-a-pharisee/)

    a) Quoting the law and the prophets (i.e. sources that they all knew). The “I desire mercy not sacrifice” quote is from Hosea 6:6
    b) Citing 3 sources: David, Leviticus, Hosea (omne trium perfectum) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three_(writing)
    c) Giving the beginning of an argument that this opponents can finish for themselves rather than slamming them over the head with it. He starts the quote from Hosea but doesn’t finish it. He knows of course that his opponents know it by heart and can finish it for themselves. The quote goes on “…the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings.” It is the “knowing” God that matters, knowing with your heart…

    cheers,
    grok

  • Scott Gay

    My second time to comment on your blog. This time I would like to add about the fighting rules being about content and tone. Only very recently I came across the last interview ever conducted with C.S. Lewis(I didn’t favorite the interview, but could find it if I had to). In the interview he was asked about his influences. The two that struck me were G.K Chesterton and Edwyn Bevin. I had read Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” and “The Everlasting Man” and was deeply affected by both. Never heard of Bevin. So I searched out his “Symbolism and Belief” (which was mentioned by Lewis). Please download the full text. One quote of a thousand that I believe to be relevant……”one misconception to be guarded against as that the leap beyond experience , whether it was by the believer in God or by the disbeliever in God , from no ground of facts, and I have tried to explain how each of them basis his hypothesison a certain part of the facts presented by the world we know, though on a different part”.

  • vandelay

    I saw this in one of your comments at Friendly Atheist:
    ” I only respond to the good and ignore the bad across the board.”
    Is that a matter of policy? You are committing to never replying to bad comments, or the bad parts of otherwise fine comments?

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m really bad at it- but I admire Leah for attempting such a policy. It is the ONLY successful way I’ve found to deal with a flame war on any topic.


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