Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement October 15, 2012

I received a fascinating comment on my blog over the weekend.

“Whoever wrote this you must be a true retard. ACE PACES are a God-given testimony unto our lives.

Just because you do not have a life and are just trying to make a few bucks by having other people by PACES for you, which we all know that is not what you are going to buy.

My opinion would be GET A LIFE! OR GO TO CHURCH.

Clean your home, or at least try to watch your children…


No, thank you, sir. Comments like this are a gift to me. In fact, I’ve been disappointed not to receive more like them, and more abusive (that is a sentence I may well live to regret typing).

The comment left his name as “ADdrian Sephans”, although since his email address begins “Adrian”, I assume this is a typo. Perhaps the righteous anger invoked by having his God mocked rendered ADdrian unable to type. Anyway, I am reminded of this video in which Richard Dawkins reads out hate mail he has received:

Now, it seems possible (although I’m not qualified to make a diagnosis) that some of those writers could be genuinely mentally ill.

(Side note: On the fundamentalist view, what does the existence of people born with mental illness say about God? Or people born with ambiguous genitalia (hermaphroditism)? At least on reincarnation’s view, these people are paying for their own sins.)

But assuming that at least some of them aren’t actually ill, I find these emails fascinating, because they’re so unchristian. In my fundamentalist youth, I had the importance of being a “good witness” constantly drummed into me. In other words, “We True Believers are God’s PR team, so do a good job of advertising Him.”  That’s no small amount of pressure on a teenager. Everything I did in public was supposed to have the effect of making other people more likely to become Christians.

Although I might have written to Dawkins expressing disagreement, I would never have sworn at him. As much as evangelicals say all sins are equal, they weren’t, and swearing was near the top of the list. It seems incredibly bizarre to sin, consciously, in a premeditated email defending the Christian faith.

The Christian defence, of course, is that we are all human and imperfect (although atheists seems to get less slack in this regard). But clearly, there’s a problem here. If atheism is true, then of course people will still do stupid things, and bad things, and evil things. Atheism makes no prediction that its advocates will be better people. In fact, “on atheism” (as William Lane Craig would say), you would expect there to be plenty of that going on.

If evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christianity is true, though, then Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside of them, giving them transformative power to lead a better life. The Old Man is dead; you are a new creation in Christ, and Jesus enables you to act as He would.

Sending hate mails – particularly inarticulate ones – simply gives the lie to all this. Clearly, God is not empowering you to do anything.

Back to my wonderful commenter (disappointingly, less wonderful than Dawkins’ commenters), then.

“Just because you do not have a life and are just trying to make a few bucks by having other people by PACES for you, which we all know that is not what you are going to buy.”

This is a brilliant sentence. Does ADdrian genuinely believe I have started this blog as a money-making venture? If so, I am bad at scamming. That post has received, according to my WordPress stats, 18,862 views. Total money raised so far: £0.00 (and, in case anyone thinks I am doing a currency trick here, also $0.00 and €0.00). If I were in it for money, I would have been more profitably employed combing the streets looking for dropped coins.

I don’t have any children, ADdrian (but if I did, watching them would indeed be a good first step as a parent, so thanks for the tip), but I do need to clean my home, as it happens. So I am off to do just that.

From this week, I’m back on my regular posting schedule of Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.


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