On the Treatment of Guest Authors

On the Treatment of Guest Authors June 1, 2011

Hi folks,

Now that I’m rested, I’ve been catching up on the posts written by my guest authors, as well as the 200+ comments they attracted. I’m mostly up to date now, and I have to say a few things about the way they were treated.

In particular, I want to speak to Leah’s posts on mockery as a component of atheist strategy. I knew as soon as I saw those posts that they’d draw some sharp ripostes, which is fine. I’m not averse to people disagreeing with my guest authors – as some commenters noted, I personally differ with Leah regarding the wisdom of the PZ Myers “Crackergate” episode. I expect that anyone who posts on Daylight Atheism, either as an author or as a commenter, will be able to handle criticism. But a disappointing number of comments went well beyond that, crossing the line into rudeness, vitriol, and unwarranted personal attacks.

I’d prefer not to name names, but let me say that I find comments like “I hope Adam is back soon” to be highly offensive. I made my choices for guest authors because I had confidence in their abilities, and I interpret any personal slight against them as a personal slight against me. (There were some that were even more vicious and obnoxious, which I deleted. You know who you are.)

For the record, I’m pleased with all the guest posts and the conversation they inspired. Ideas like this are a valuable contribution to the discourse of the atheist community, even on the points where I don’t fully agree with them. Although I believe that mockery has a place in our strategy, it’s also necessary that we occasionally remind ourselves of the equal importance of civility and productive engagement. Leah’s strategy isn’t always the one I’d choose, but it has its place, and the many enlightening conversations that take place on her blog between atheists and religious believers are proof of that. She’s emphatically not one of the Mooneyites whose only goal is to get other atheists to shut up, and I wouldn’t have invited her to guest post if she was.

It seems there are some people who don’t know what the word “accommodationist” means. In its original sense, that word was used to describe those who believe that religion and science occupy strictly non-overlapping spheres of thought, and that we must never argue that science disproves any religious belief. It’s since widened somewhat to include those who urge atheists to stop criticizing religious belief or publicly expressing our atheism. But it’s never referred to those who merely express the opinion that mockery and ridicule sometimes aren’t the best strategy. If that’s the definition of accommodationism, then I’m an accommodationist. (But it isn’t, and I’m not.)

I don’t like having to write posts like this, but it needed to be said. If Leah chooses to return to finish this conversation, as she’s said she will, I trust she’ll be treated with more civility.

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