It really is too bad

With Sifting Reality, I have offered the world as I see it.  I do it for the discussion.  I like the interaction — both dissent and assent.  I visit many skeptical blogs as well as fellow religious and Christian blogs.  On my ventures I have witnessed and experienced smugness, arrogance, and condescension on the part of many (not all) skeptics (read: Atheists).  In fact, this is the case for the majority of interactions I have with skeptics, even here, unfortunately.

I have offered a relatively unfettered forum for dissention, moderating only what I consider over-the-line insulting comments.  I don’t delete comments for their opposition, and I won’t.  But even the skeptics who visit here, as visitors, cannot seem to restrain themselves.  It seems they are unappreciative of the long leash of freedom to express their contrary views I allow.  As I visit other blogs, I notice heavy moderation of skeptical comments, perhaps for the reason I lament here.  Or perhaps it is because of dissention, I don’t know.  Some the Atheists who visit Sifting Reality don’t seem to appreciate this forum as evidenced by their behavior.  You’d think people who believed they had the truth would want to win people to their side with reasons, not ridicule.  Telling me or other religious folk that they are silly, doesn’t cut it.

Remember, your comments here are a testimony of your character.  I hope this will serve as a reminder of the civility of discourse I expect.

To Jason Torpy, Rautakyy, George, and Oscar, and NFQ, thank you for your respect in disagreement.


  1. John, it is also important to remember that your rhetoric style can be inviting of such discussion pitfalls. If you over-generalize, misconstrue, allude to derogatory positions or use pejorative terms, then you are not inviting civil discussion. Polite conversation is two way. I realize it is hard both ways, but both sides have to see their own issues to facilitate meaningful improvement. Do you not see your fellow fundamentalist Christian commentors making poor choices in rhetoric and dialogue habits also? Are you trying to lay this all on Atheists — is this black-and-white thinking again?

    “It seems they are unappreciative of the long leash of freedom to express their contrary views I allow.”

    We give animals leashes — I guess we should assume the choice of words was merely accidental when discussing how you treat atheists. Rhetoric is an art and difficult. We must ALL practice it with more care.

  2. Again, John, this is an example mis-typification and black-and-white thinking.
    I said, “I realize it is hard both ways, but both sides have to see their own issues to facilitate meaningful improvement.”

    I emphasized the TWO-WAY responsibility but you break down communication with this sort of overgeneralization. So I will repeat: I am responsible, and you are responsible.

    “Polite conversation is two way.”
    – Sabio

  3. @ John

    I think it’s all a matter of perspective. If you want to be surrounded by like-minded people, go watch fox news or 700 club. If you feel that most atheists are smug, arrogant and condescending, I really can’t do anything for that – I can’t control your feelings. That’s your choice. I suppose it’s hard to see the religious rhetoric, as Sabio points out, when it’s from your own sideline. As for me, I appreciate the forum here. I like the layout and look of the pages here, and enjoy getting different angles on controversial topics. I try to interject with questions and comments to expose the thought process behind the belief. I apologize if you find that to be too confrontational.

    • Z

      Its not the confrontation. Its the mockery, the insults, the condescension. I enjoy interaction with dissenters, it makes for good conversation.


      Its shameful that you are so intent on placing your behavior on someone else. You are responsible for yourself regardless of how you think others are behaving. If you think I am out of line and being disrespectful, then show me where I am being rude. So far you blame your disrespect on my over generalization. But I don’t see how that is a justification for rudeness in any context.

  4. We respect each other when we are candid.

    Obviously, there are nearly an infinite number of alternate sites I could visit. I like this forum because I find you to be at least articulate and for the most part consistent within your framework. I roll my eyes and wander away from lots of Fundamentalist sites, but your posts keep my interest. Thanks for the discussion.

    When I call some tenant of Christianity hateful or immoral/amoral, or otherwise question or criticize the Bible, Christianity, your beliefs or practices, or something else, my own ‘rules’ are to try to stay within the bounds of the argument, avoid personal attacks, and use harsh words only to the extent they’re strictly necessary for the discussion.

    I have the opportunity to moderate my own discussion forums. I tend to moderate out excessive use of all caps, any threat of violence, and excessive but not moderate cursing. I very occasionally ‘prune’ if one poster says the same thing over and over or repeats a tiresome theme when others have moved on. Personal insults against me are not useful to the discussion, but I think they just make people look bad so I generally let them stay. I do tend to strictly moderate personal insults against other posters (name-calling not calling someone’s argument bad).

    I can assure you that just on Facebook, I’ve got cursing attacks and veiled threats and certainly withering criticisms that still sit there for all to see. I’ve had people make fake serial killer profiles to post on my wall. I’ve definitely had some posts worthy of moderation/site ban.

    If you want me to change behavior, you’ll have to be more specific. I try to be specific when I refer to ‘hateful’ practices per our prior discussion. I tend to use the term more liberally than others, so I took your feedback into account on that point.

    I’d like to see this post edited to include ‘top 10’ (or however many) items you thought were out of line but left up for the sake of open discussion. That would at least give us dissenters something to work with.

    • Jason

      In case you missed it, this post was not about you. Though at times I sensed frustration and passion, I never took it as disrespect, condescension, or mocking. I thought I made that clear in the last line of the post.

      I didn’t include citations of what I was specifically talking about because those people know who they are, and in fact one of them immediately sought to lay the blame at someone else’s feet for his poor etiquette.

      What forum are you referring to?

  5. Oh… so the list at the bottom was people who are doing a good job. I read it like ‘thank you for your respect (in the future after reading this post)’. I’m glad everything is going well. Thanks for the mention.
    I guess the comments still apply at least to a certain extent.

    I guest post in various blogs and news areas and moderate those comments, but a lot of it is related facebook commenting. You can google me to look for more.

  6. John,

    There is a difference between mocking the belief and mocking the believer.

    Personal attacks seldom add anything to the discussion and I try to avoid them. I do, however, feel it often necessary to call a particular belief what it appears to be. It is not my intention for you to take it personally and I cannot be responsible for your reaction if you do. I feel as though you perceive many criticisms of Christianity as insulting and condescending. Again, there’s nothing I can do about that.

    If I asserted something you did not believe to be true, what good would it be if I just kept replying on how condescending I thought you were?

    When all is said and done, let’s just stick to the discussion instead of talking about how to have the discussion and how it makes us feel.

    • Z

      Please save it. There are the half dozen people I noted who vigorously disagree with my worldview and criticize Christianity yet somehow figure out a way to do so that isn’t rude. I have tried with you specifically many times yet you become so frustrated that you inevitably resort to words like ‘stupid’ ‘silly’ ‘idiotic’ and other such non-cordial labels for beliefs and people.

  7. Marshall Art says:

    The two-way street thing is a bit of a dodge. It suggests that one cannot control one’s own rhetorical style due to incoming attacks. This is, of course, untrue and an excuse to launch attacks of one’s own. At my blog, I’m a bit more free-wheeling in allowing snark and personal attacks so long as they are accompanied by some legitimate argument. An example would be, “You’re an idiot.!” This would be out of bounds. But, “You’re an idiot because…” followed by a legitimate argument, is less of a problem for me personally, though a better choice would be, “That’s idiotic because…” (Note the distinction of calling the person an idiot compared to calling his opinion idiotic.) I get a bit impatient with charges of improper tone as it tends to be used to squelch opposing positions that are difficult for the accuser to oppose. John, however, has been quite consistent in his position on this subject in my opinion. For myself, I don’t care so much what I am called, as long as it is accompanied by a reason for calling it. I also prefer that all name calling be directed only to me (at my blog) while being more respectful of my visitors, while reserving the privilege of identifying idiots as they expose themselves.

  8. @ John
    You are unhappy, we get that.
    I think Z is right, you may at times consider disrespect any thing that fundamental challenges your beliefs in ways you don’t like. You want to keep people within your control.

    I can’t remember a time I have heard you concede a point. Heck your URL is “TRUTH in religion and politics” — that says it all.

    You also make no effort in this post to agree that Christian commentors and yourself may be partly responsible for the problems with dialogue. You want to make it ALL the problem some Atheists who are getting off their leashes.

    Instead of sticking to the discussion when it gets tough, you start a post like this where you name call: arrogant, shameful, rude and such. This is very poor discussion method and this post itself is a sort of rhetorical move.

    Very passive aggressive, I must add: naming all the good players in the bottom and not giving particulars but just giving us unfounded generalities.

    “Naughty, naughty Atheists!” will not work toward improving communications. Remember, it is a two way street.

    • sabio

      As I told Z, there are plenty of Atheists who disagree and think I am wrong, and they voice it. So why is it that the people I listed, for example, all of whom hold opinions hostile and contrary to my own, can express fundamental disagreement without the qualities of your comments, or Z’s for that matter?

      • @ John

        Again, without particulars, on the spot, these generalities aren’t helpful. I am very frustrated often by your rhetoric style. You often accuse me of getting off track but I insist that I am addressing underlying principles of your posts. If you don’t want to engage, don’t answer my comments. I think you dislike the way I question you.

        I dislike the tone you use also, but I won’t don’t want to dredge through your posts to illustrate — I brought them up at that time.

        So the other atheists may not push your buttons as well as I do. Like I said, maybe they are cuter when they are on leashes. I don’t wear a leash well.

        So, I suggest you assume some responsibility in the atmosphere here. Or put up another post saying “Z and Sabio are Bad.”

        • I insist that I am addressing underlying principles of your posts

          Exactly. You insist that you are addressing what you believe my underlying principles are. Here in lies the problem. You insist on “reading between the lines” and then insist that my post should have been about what your opinion of my underlying principles are. Why not just entertain the post as written, rather that the post as you think it should have been written. Maybe that’s why others don’t have the problems with me that you do. They disagree and discuss what I write, not what they think I really meant. I guarantee that when you come to terms with this, the both of us will more enjoy each others input.

  9. In math and in science, it is the underlying principles that must be made clear before progress can be made. Much confusion is made when foundations are weak. Much time can be wasted on distractions when the principles are mistaken.
    That is why.
    But you see, it is not rude for me to do this, instead, you just don’t like it. So you label what you don’t like as “rude” or “disrespectul”.

    When a Magician does a trick and you try to expose it, the Magician will object to your restraints. They want you to watch the trick just like they plan it.

    “I guarantee that when you come to terms with this, the both of us will more enjoy each others input.”

    [Note, this is another aspects that frustrates you — when I reflect back your rhetoric at you. I don’t think you like the mirror. Mirrors are for the magician to use, not the audience.]

  10. Another trait you have is to cherry pick from the comment and ignore its salient points.
    I have asked you several times to admit that things go two ways here in this thread. You have gone out of your way to avoid admitting that principle every way you can.

    You also have gone out of your way to avoid acknowledging that your fellow Fundamentalist commentors have contributed to a non-congenial style here. You have gone out of your way to ignore how I point out your rhetoric in talking about a “leash”. All these add up, John.

    It is a two way street.

    • So in addition to it being my fault for your behavior, it is also other Christians here that are responsible for your behavior? That doesn’t make sense. Unless it is valid for me to say whatever perception you have of me is the fault of other atheists I have had interactions with. Are you ok with that? Can I blame Atheists for my behavior toward you?

  11. Let’s make this really simple: Do you think your rhetoric style and techniques can use improvement?

    • It ultimately comes down to the objective of writing the blog now doesn’t it.

      It also depends on what improvement means. What I would consider improvement isn’t necessarily what you’d consider improvement.

  12. Indeed

  13. Sabio,

    You said:

    “So the other atheists may not push your buttons as well as I do. Like I said, maybe they are cuter when they are on leashes. I don’t wear a leash well.”

    While I generally like it when I’m called cute – mainly because it feeds my grossly under-nourished Narcissus complex – I don’t think I much appreciate your unfounded swipe against people with whom you’ve never even interacted. Aside from Jason Torpy, I’ve had interactions with all the atheists on “John’s list” (expect a copyright shortly) and I can unabashedly say that every one of us pretty much disagree with John on almost every subject; we also have no reservations with expressing our dissent. Yet, somehow, we seem to have side-stepped such admonishment from the caretaker of this blog.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to keep up with this blog as much as I would like to because it always seems that there are already 30 comments before I get a chance to even read the post. In any case, of the few comments of yours that I’ve skimmed through (on other posts, as well), it seems that your comments always have a healthy helping of sarcasm and name-calling with only a dash of substance. Did you notice that you even started to criticize John’s dissenters simply because he respected them? (I submit to the court as evidence the aforementioned quote.)

    Please, just proffer your arguments and leave aside the ad-homs. Atheists are demonized enough without giving actual foundations for such bigotries.

  14. Oscar, you are a bit sensitive. It wasn’t about you all, it was about how John handles certain sorts of challenges which reveal his style and underlying positions.
    John’s rhetoric is full of pejoratives, if you have the eye to see them.

  15. I don’t think I’m all that sensitive, actually. I just don’t take kindly at little euphemisms in which I personify the role of a domesticated animal, or, at worst, a slave (though, I imagine you were just going for the animal metaphor); especially when said euphemism is made against me by someone who I don’t even know.

  16. Marshall Art says:

    It’s kind of ironic that Sabio tries to insist he’s only addressing “underlying principles”. Yet, when I call him out on what are the underlying principles of his comments, I’m accused of attacking.

    If, Sabio, you are sincere in trying to address said underlying principles, you might want to find a better way to do it. From what I’ve seen, you’re not good at it in any case.

  17. @ Oscar
    Yes, I agree. The LEASH metaphor was John Barron’s — see his OP. You made one of my points perfectly.

  18. In the spirit of Hitchens, John has certainly managed to post something as highly divisive as possible. I’m pleased to see which side of the divide I ended up on.

  19. In the spirit of the day, I’d like to wish our host and this entire community a wonderful day of peace and goodwill to all and our loved ones. May you all have a joyous and happy celebration of that which is most meaningful in your lives.

  20. 01

    You gotta cool it with the inflammatory language. This isn’t the environmental for it.

    But I am surprised you consider me a bible thumper. You ought to read around a bit.

  21. John, do you realize how ironic it is that here you have me, a pretty polite fella, who used to comment here until you told me to go away and quit posting my comments. You appear to be fine with dissension as long as it isn’t coming from a fellow Christian, then you ban away.

    Do you see the irony?

    For my part, the folk who moderate and ban most consistently have been conservative/fundamentalist-type Christian bloggers. But then, I haven’t visited many atheist sites.

    • Dan

      It was heaps more that difference of opinion with you. I’ve been over it too many times. You’re welcome back, hopefully it doesn’t revert.

      • Well thank you for that. I hope we can agree that there has been nothing more than a polite note thus far.

        But I would ask, “revert” to what? To me, that suggests some unpleasantness on my part and that just didn’t happen (or at least, not any more unpleasant than disagreeing with you…).

        Thanks for the tentative welcome back.

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