Not Many “Angry Atheists” Online? You be the Judge

Not Many “Angry Atheists” Online? You be the Judge July 22, 2017

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Recently, I had the distinct blessing (Mt 5:11-12) of being the target of 21 out of [literally] 54 atheists who appeared in a combox of a post on the blog run by atheist Jonathan MS Pearce (and also a second one). It started out on the topic of my critiques of deconversion stories, and then quickly descended into an avalanche of complaining (and, well, lying) about my strict, zero-tolerance-of-insults moderation policy on my blog: then to outright malice and vitriol. I explained till I was blue in the face why I have such a policy, but no matter. As I recently commented:

People get mad when they are banned, just as we have disgruntled former employees, athletes angry when they are ejected from a game, etc. That’s just how it is. But it ain’t my problem. The umpire (or judge) is always unpopular with the ones he disagrees with.

This was a full-scale, old-fashioned “feeding frenzy.” This is my term for when virtually everyone in a given online group decides to focus upon attacking and savaging one person with a dissenting view. Anything goes. Any insult is permissible. Nothing is forbidden. Ethics goes straight out the window. Atheists aren’t the only ones who do it. Christians do it all the time, too (as I’ve been decrying and condemning for many years). It’s a general human failing, and one of the most despicable ongoing scandals of online behavior.

And thus we are brought to Example #4,978,109 of notorious “angry atheist” online behavior: a huge problem (at least when Christians dare show up). More thoughtful atheists will decry this phenomenon along with me, and I have publicly stated several times that these types do not represent atheism as a whole, and that atheists I know in person are not like this.

But, that said, it remains a gigantic scandal, and a “PR” problem for the atheist image. It certainly doesn’t make for a very appealing face. Other atheists flat-out deny that it is any problem, and/or say that Christians behave just as badly towards atheists. When Christians do that (and they do, far too often), I roundly condemn it. I don’t do it. No one on my blog or Facebook page does it, because I have great people there, and they know I wouldn’t allow it, in any event.

Jonathan MS Pearce (as he wrote about) is perfectly content to allow this sort of disgraceful behavior on his blog, not because he himself loves it, but rather, as a necessary evil, for the sake of the principle and value of free speech (as he sees it). I couldn’t disagree with him more than I do. But to his credit, at least he was one of only two atheists who stood up for me at all during this debacle. He wrote in the same piece:

With direct regard to Dave Armstrong, . . . well done to him for coming here and suffering the slings and arrows of atheists’ wrath. It takes a lot of time to read and comment on such extensive and scattered threads as that one, and I commend him for getting involved and defending himself. Goodonya, mate.

The only other atheist to do so was “Sastra”:

I once knew [Dave] on a debate listserv many many years ago  . . . That Dave Armstrong was both intelligent and likeable, by the way. WRONG — but still nice.

I think Dave is generally an honorable person, . . .

had generally positive interactions” with me in the past. In a comment in the combox for this post, he condemned the insults of the thread in no uncertain terms (what a breath of fresh air in this vile, foul environment!):
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I don’t begruge you your own [moderation] policy. In my estimation, you’re trying to accomplish something very specific with the forum that you’ve created, and I trust your policies were designed with that end in mind.  . . . I condemn, unequivocally, much of the behavior on display on the post in question. It would be utterly unacceptable, EVEN IF (for the atheists reading) retaliatory in nature.

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The rest is almost wholly insults. For those who think angry atheists aren’t alive and well online and as hostile, malicious, and vitriolic as ever, take a look at what happened in just two comboxes. Imagine what the response would be if I literally wished that some atheist would “die” (as “Raging Bee” [apt name!] did below)? We’d never hear the end of how “hateful” Christians are. All comments were directed personally to me [warning: some may not care for some of the “PG-13” language; I’ve bleeped out the worst of it]:

Ian Cooper . . . you’ve sallied out of your little walled castle (presumably because you’re looking to increase your dwindling fanbase by grabbing a few of Jonathan’s Christian readers) . . .

It’s not our fault that you’ve pissed off so many of us. And no one’s asking you to argue with all of us. You could just take your knocks, or just go back to your safe space and post another anti-atheist hit piece – you won’t find us there, snowflake.

If he was sincere, he wouldn’t stifle dissent. He would welcome it and address it. He doesn’t do that.

. . . what a ban really says, quite clearly, is “I’m not smart enough to take this guy on”.

. . . when a blogger regularly attacks atheists, preventing them from defending themselves from such attacks is the act of a coward and a bully. A decent, fair and honest person does not pick a fight with someone he’s bound and gagged first. If David Armstrong doesn’t want atheists to respond, maybe he shouldn’t be attacking us in the first place.

Have you read 1984? “War is peace”, “Freedom is slavery”, “Ignorance is strength” – and apparently “suppression of dissent is true dialogue”.

Armstrong allows a few atheists to post to his site – presumably to keep up the pretense that he welcomes critical voices, but it’s just for show.

All I’m saying is that banning critical voices is intellectual cowardice.

Your problem is that you think disagreement is uncivil. [I replied: “My view is that uncivil disagreement is uncivil and not worth anyone’s time”]

. . .  one hardcore scumbag.

If he was intelligent, likeable and nice, he wouldn’t be banning people merely for disagreeing with him on his Patheos page.

[Ian Cooper added, when he discovered this post: “He quoted me, seemingly at some length. I skimmed it and didn’t bother to read his responses, as I’m well aware of the type of disingenuous scumbag he is, so doubtless he will have taken things out of context to make them look as unhinged as possible. Par for the course with a dirtbag like that. But hey, at least I got to get some of my thoughts onto his blog. Even though he’s using them for his purposes, at least they’ll show his readership that there are a bunch of people who think he’s scum.”]

josh You cry and bitch about a comparison you don’t like and then ban someone else, who didn’t make it, for not agreeing with you sight unseen.

Dude, it’s not our fault that you say so many stupid things.
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. . . instead of providing an actual answer, you take the traditional christian route of obfuscation and appeals to authority.
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[he “replied” on an atheist page that allows such mindless drivel: “Love the new article, Dave. I am enjoying the fact that you quote my words but haven’t unbanned me so I can respond. Go &#%$ yourself, but in the nicest, non-angriest way possible!”]
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But apologists can’t be intellectually honest – they feel they have to rationalize their faith so they don’t sound stupid.
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A dishonest apologist? I’m shocked!
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Apologists aren’t about having discussions. That should be clear.
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Dave, you’re a shallow, deluded, ignorant &%$#%@&. Accept it and move on.
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It’s funny that the two groups that he bans immediately are those who don’t take his fantasy seriously at all, and those who take his fantasy much more seriously than he does.
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One of the last things an apologist is interested in is truth, imho.
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when proven to be a &#%$ING LIAR, immediately moved to proposed legislation that has yet to be debated. You’re a shameless hack, and it’s becoming more and more evident with each of your sanctimonious posts.
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You sanctimonious asshat. Why don’t you just remove yourself, however you can, and thereby improve humanity and the general quality of living matter?
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You made a &#%$ing BLATANT Appeal to Authority, misplaced, as well, since Newton had no need for religion in explaining gravity, and now you have the GALL to deny it? Sanctimony, thy name is Dave Armstrong.
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OOOOooohhhh, brave man, acting all cocky from the other end of an internet link. Have you the FIRST idea how pathetic you present yourself to be?
It’s more proven by all those you block for merely being inconveniently (as in, YOU’RE &#%$ING WRONG) right.
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So go the &#%$ back under your bridge, troll.
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You’re a weak &#%$ing hypocrite, as evidenced by a number of people here who I trust FAR more than I’m ever likely to trust you (in anything other than your guile and bile) saying that you’ve been enforcing the typical religious thoughtcrime penalties on your blog.
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You don’t want actual rigorous discussion of the matter. There are certain areas you declare off-limits, while projecting a facade of open dialog.If you exclude all worthy challengers, you can give the appearance of robust debate while predetermining the outcome.

You are merely another smug deplorable.

We can detect patterns, you hack.

“And they shall be called Liars for Jebus™, and it shall be good, and they shall dishonestly attempt to steal power in their sanctimony”

Being recognized as enough of a threat to a self-consciously evil entity to be banned IS a badge of honor.

Armstrong is a Bill Donohue Catholic. He uses bloviating in place of argument.
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You have offered many examples here of your incompetence. You cannot answer the simplest of questions.
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. . . you always run away from any arguments.
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Armstrong can’t deal with it. His usual response is silly platitudes or obfuscations, followed by banning when he can’t handle the questions. In that, of course, he is a True Christian™ like the rest.
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There are no good Christian apologists. None. There are no good Christian apologist books. None. I have sought them. They cannot be found.
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Paul B. Lot I expect nothing less from a weasel like you, a man of extremely weak moral character.
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“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”

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Sticks and stones break homosexuals’ bones, while mere words make you cry. Carry on defending this garbage. And if you believe you can, start in Uganda, you hate preaching sociopath.

Thank you for banning me. It is flattering to have a charlatan appreciate my heckling. I do not believe you are discussing anything at all. You have cleverly rehearsed arguments you like to shout from your golden soap box.

As I said, theologians, that’s ALL theologians, not just the folks who theologize for your child-raping cult, make it up as they go along, trying to figure out what an imaginary critter is thinking.
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It’s almost if you’re somehow unable to comprehend when somebody has made a legitimate point against your argument; You “know” you’re right, so why waste any time thinking about it? Just fire off some links that don’t actually support your argument and then sit there looking smug, hoping nobody realizes that you have no idea how an honest argument is conducted. That is, if you understand the difference between actual argument and stubborn contradiction.
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RoverSerton This site is an open forum and you are allowed to come here and troll but you won’t allow it or any real discourse. Typical coward apologist, much like Longenecker. Writing things that neither of you can defend.
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. . . go back to your echo chamber and preach to the choir. That is your goal, do it. Don’t hang in here, wasting your time, with Atheists that will challenge your every dogmatic utterance. We appreciate dialog, you appreciate humbled silence.
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I am not surprised when Christians ban those who disagree with them. They have been doing it on one for or another for Centuries.. . . . They are in a weak position, and I think they know it.
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David Armstrong is an intellectual coward.
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If Bob was banned that really does suggest over sensitivity to the point of paranoia. The trouble is that there’s only so much actual reason can be injected into religious discourse. Secular discussion has no such limit.
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Figured he was just another Liar for Jesus.
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Catholicism has its fundies too. Especially on Patheos, where the Catholics are almost all bat#%$& insane. Most ordinary Catholics are relatively laid back and don’t take Vatican dogma all that seriously. But Catholic fundies are as crazy and hateful as Protestant ones – just in a slightly different a way.
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all I can say to you is “&#%$ off and die, you have nothing decent to offer here.”
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Oh good lord, quit whining and pretending you’re a victim of a gang-up. You chose to come here and spout nonsense on multiple subthreads, and now you’re accusing US of “the 20-to-one scenario?” Grow the &#%$ up and take some responsibility for a change.
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You’re bluffing, and you’re being called out. Put up or shut up.
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. . . how little credibility so many Christian preachers and apologists have.
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I came to think that if he’s been doing this for over thirty years, he’s either a very bad apologist or a very good atheist troll; maybe even both: a good apologist that’s good at trolling atheists, that is.
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I and many others have not been banned for incivility – for we have been quite civil — but rather for wrongthink.
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Dave is about as thin skinned as they come and he just can’t hack it. He can dish it out though, after he bans you. Meh.
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zenlike [after the initial posting of this paper, that he saw] First of all, if you did not agree with my comment you could have replied to it directly, you know, like it actually works on blogs. Instead you chose to copy paste it to your own blog and criticise it there, so I had to find it by accident. I find that quite dishonest. What is also dishonest is how you quote people but don’t even bother to include a link to the originals, shielding the context of the quotes from your readers. And that would also show that my comment was NOT directed personally to you. A clear lie. [Dave: I removed his comment, at his request, after reconsideration. Even after that, he chose to dig in even further, so that he is now back on the list]:And yes, it is dishonest to not engage people’s comments in the forum they were made, then copy paste them (without citation and out of context!) to your blog to use as propaganda material. It is doubly dishonest if you do this with people you have blocked, closing their avenue to engage your criticism of their comments.
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[Dave: It’s not dishonest at all to cite public information. As I said to another atheist (a non-angry one): “People can and have responded: just not on my page. I’ve already cited several of those responses; added ’em to the piece. And I removed one quote by request.” As for context, I provided the two links where the quotations were found. Anyone can go consult those pages to see all the context they like (and my sympathies to them).]
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[Undaunted, he continues]: Again, you remove what you and others say from their context, so a casual observer walks away with a very different idea. That is extremely dishonest and uncivil.I didn’t throw in a gratuitous insult. I called your actions dishonest, and explained exactly why I thought they were. But because you have no recourse to my accusation, you just call it gratuitous (maybe look up that word in a dictionary) and handwave it away. I am glad my comment is added to your list, because it says more about you than about me. If you were honest, you would actually include the full context of it. I am not holding my breath.
Note: if anyone thinks better of their remark[s], and wishes to retract them, they can remove them from the combox where they appeared, let me know (no need for even a public apology; only for removal and expressed retraction to me) and I will be happy to remove it / them here, too. 

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