The Rules of Engagement.

The Rules of Engagement. May 8, 2013

I’ve spent the last few years hanging out on various non-belief blogs and think it’s important to talk a little bit about what I do and don’t commit to do and what in turn I expect out of commenters. If you have been directed to this post, then you did something that violates these expectations and need a refresher course.

Here are a selection of things that are not up for debate:

* Anybody’s sincerity. If you tell me you were an atheist and then became a Christian, I’m going to take your word for it that you were in fact an atheist (though I may not personally find your reasons for converting very compelling). If I tell you that I was a very sincere and committed Christian before leaving that religion, then I expect the same courtesy out of you (even if you don’t like my reasons for leaving). My sincerity and yours are a big part of that whole “arguing in good faith” thing and if you can’t manage that first elementary step, my suggestion is to not post here.

* Anybody’s emotional state. Women especially get accused of being “bitter” as if that totally invalidates anything we have to say. Non-believers get the same treatment with accusations of “anger.” That train stops here. If I sound angry, I probably am, but that does not make my arguments invalid. The same for you. If you sound angry or hateful, I’m going to assume you are, but I’ll still try my best to look at what you’re really trying to say. Facts are facts no matter how they are presented or how the speaker or listener feels about them. Tone trolling and faux-sympathy especially will not be tolerated.

* Misogyny, bigotry, racism, and other social evils. This is a feminist space and a safe space for women, people of all colors and ability levels, faiths/non-faiths, and LGBTQA* people. I will do my best to use gender-neutral pronouns and encourage posters to do the same. If you slip and use a gendered pronoun I’m not going to flip a gasket, but I will edit it if I see it (and if you see me slip up, just tell me, because I’m learning too). On this blog, women own their bodies, gay people get full civil rights, evolution happens, the purity myth is dismantled, nobody’s coming for your guns, Obama’s not a Muslim, and Christians are not a persecuted minority.

* Threats and foul language. I don’t mind swearing, but disgusting language used to denigrate people and threaten them will not be allowed and if the threats sound credible or physical, you will be reported to the appropriate people.

* Silencing tactics will likewise not be tolerated.

Specific expectations for theists:

* Do not threaten people with hell or misfortune for not agreeing with you. This behavior is rude, violent, aggressive, and cruel–as well as incredibly ignorant.

* Do not proselytize. Not only is it supremely disrespectful, but most of the people who are reading here (including me by this time) can dismantle apologists’ arguments ten ways from Sunday. If you make an assertion about your religion, expect us to dismiss the assertion unless you have evidence to back it up. Hey, it might happen, right?

* Do not tell people you will pray for them. Many non-theists view this sort of statement as a threat or an attempt to put yourself above the non-theist or lord your holiness over them. Many of us are most familiar with this behavior as a closing salvo from a Christian who has been bested in a debate, and very few of us take it without considerable gritting of teeth and eye-rolling. If you must pray for us, do it in private–if your god were real, you wouldn’t have to tell us you were doing it for us to know it was happening.

* Do not use diminuitives or infantilizations such as “miss,” “baby,” “kiddo,” or the like with someone you’re unhappy with. In case this isn’t painfully obvious, we know it means you’re trying to assert dominance and authority over us when you do it.

* If you are caught lying or trolling, I’m going to ban you. If you cannot argue in good faith, then I can’t trust you to comment here.

And one thing for atheists, please:

* Please don’t behave like you’re oh-so-evolved and all religions are horrible and evil and need to be burned at the stake. You got lucky; you made your saving roll. Any of the theists you know could have been you with the same set of circumstances… and you could have been them. If someone’s happy in a religion, and they’re not denying science or people’s rights and not being disrespectful or threatening toward you, if they’re being respectful of other paths and other choices, if they’re bringing humanity forward rather than weighing us all down, then please be respectful back.

I don’t care what religion someone is or isn’t. I care what that person *does* with what that religion or philosophy or mindset or fairy-tale book teaches.

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