Slightly less busy at work, I've had a little more time to logon and read postings over the last few days. The level of posting seems to have picked-up a little. A few spammers and bots dealt with, and a rather obnoxious pornography spam attack eventually sorted.
Noticed that DH blogged about 'religious intolerance' and felt it necessary to correct some misapprehensions and misconceptions. I do wish that those critical of my moderation would back-up their claims with some actual references. It is difficult to address non-specified claims of malpractice, and rather too common for certain posters to make such claims.
The general complaint relating to my moderation remains the same, by the same 2 posters - that I have 'forced theists out of the P&R forum' by using moderator status in a biased manner.
What IS true is that I quite deliberately set-out, a long time ago, to improve the quality of debate in the P&R forum. It seemed to me then, and still seems to me now, that any debate in a philosophy forum should not be ruined by postings which contribute nothing, other than a statement of the author's faith position. I therefore consulted with staff, and eventually announced a tightening-up of moderation in that forum. In short the new position was/is that postings which add nothing other than a statement of personal faith, and in which no attempt is made to defend the assertions made or position adopted, will be considered trolls and will be removed.
Does this discriminate, in principle, against theists? NO! I have debated many theists over many years and one absolutely essential feature is that the parties involved were WILLING to debate. If one party simply states their view, and refuses to engage in any subsequent debate, then we simply have proselytising.
The P&R forum is a place where views are rigorously challenged. To seek 'truth' one has to be honest. If one has a belief which is solely based on faith, to then pretend that it is somehow superior or better evidenced than other contradictory beliefs - be they Muslim, Zoroastrian,Trekkie or whatever - is simply dishonest. Any view posted in p&r can rightly be challenged - whether religious or not. How else are we to see if it has any validity?
Now, it is true that the posters who have been 'caught' by this new moderation regime are all theists. That could be taken to support the claim of bias/intolerance on my part, or it could show something different - that in this particular forum the posters guilty of posting in a trollish manner - ie with no attempt or even intent to debate - are theists.
A few more facts can probably show which of these two interpretations has the greater validity:
Firstly, the majority of postings that I have moderated in the P&R forum were/are simply spam - often from spambots. I discount these, since I'm pretty sure that even my harshest critic would agree that we don't want the forum full of spam.
Next - of the rest (we are now talking a number around 20) the majority have been removed because they were abusive. I'm not going to reproduce specific quotes, so I will have to ask for a degree of trust when I say that the postings I'm referring to were quite nastily abusive, not simply critical of atheism*
Whilst all the postings in question were made by theists, I don't draw any wider conclusion from that - I wouldn't, for example, claim that theist posters in general are abusive. What I DO say is that, here on Frihost in the P&R forum, the worst examples of personal abuse and bigotry have ALL come from theist posters.*
This actually does not surprise me. My own experience is that many, if not most, atheists tend to have arrived at their lack of faith via theism. In other words, they have had the debate - with themself at the very least - and arrived at a conclusion based on honest consideration of the facts. Now, before anyone screams bias, let me concede that many theists have done the same - arrived at their theism honestly. The fact remains, however, that many theists have not done this, and have never subjected their faith to honest critical analysis. In many cases I sympathise. If one is raised in a Texas suburb where family and friends are all Christian, one's Christianity is not something given much thought – let alone serious analysis. If every person you know supports the idiotic notion of young-earth biblical creationism, then you probably won’t question it.
(Again, before the cry of bias is made, I will accept that some atheists are also dogmatic. I claim, however, that the majority of atheists who speak/post on the matter have arrived at their position after serious and critical analysis).
What I see, in many debates (here on Frihost and in other forms) is theists are generally better informed - even regarding the beliefs that the theists supposedly profess, since they have often been brought-up in such belief. They can usually discuss belief with some degree of coherence and comprehensibility. Why is this? Well, it isn't a trivial matter to reject the beliefs of one’s family, friends and social acquaintances - indeed it can often be extremely difficult and costly to do so – so anyone doing so will usually have given it considerable thought.
Whilst, undoubtedly, some theists can also defend their beliefs coherently (though not, I believe, rationally), many cannot. Their belief is simply, and only, a matter of faith. They have never had to defend it, and often don't consider that it is even legitimate to criticise their belief. They are used to uncritical expressions of their faith - 'praise the lord', 'Jesus saves', 'Allah is the only truth', 'Jehovah is a merciful God' .... and so on, have never actually thought about subjecting such platitudinous assertions to critical analysis - often they find the very notion shocking.
What this means is that theists will often find it strange and uncomfortable when their faith is seriously questioned.
- Some resort to simple stone-walling - 'I believe x and I need no evidence or defence of this'.
Others become abusive - lashing out at those who, by their standards, blaspheme against their faith – ‘You are all sinners and you will suffer for it’.
A third category adopt a martyr complex - 'I will suffer this outrageous persecution of my faith, in the name of Christ'.
The latter is the most objectionable to me. Their twisted notion of persecution is a gross insult to those genuinely persecuted for their beliefs, and their often repeated claim of 'anti-Christian' persecution is laughable - particularly in the US. Christianity still has WAY more influence than it has any right to, and people are still extremely reluctant to challenge the religious faith of others. Claims to the contrary are demonstrably wrong, as can easily be evidenced with a few minutes research. These people are just whining, offensively.
The 'Stone-waller' - is less objectionable, but their refusal to engage in debate, whilst their right, excludes them from sensible participation in a forum specifically for such debate.
Lastly, the ‘abuser’ is pathetic rather than seriously objectionable. I don't think that a serious argument can be made that they should be allowed to vent their spleen in Frihost forums.
My position is clear - I sincerely wish for theists to provide good debate. Far from seeking to outlaw theist posters, I want more - just better quality. Some existing theist posters are seemingly incapable of good debate and, instead, fall into one (or more) of the 3 categories above. Someone who continually whines about victimisation is just boring, as is the poster who's egomania renders them incapable of seeing that other views are at least as valid.
* I can support these assertions, because all postings removed still exist in our 'spam can' folder.
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