I ran across this article today, but what I want to talk about is not so much the article as the comments on it. I saw some things I wanted to comment on so I signed up and made a couple of rather innocuous comments, or so I thought. I thought I was rather polite about the whole thing, I disagreed with a couple of people, but that is par for the course, you would think that people would be used to people disagreeing with them on the internet. One guy posted back and I responded to it, I thought nothing of it until he posted back hours later ripping into me, attacking me, and questioning my ethics and honesty.
I tried to recover, and open some conversation with him but was shut down and insulted at every turn, along with the poster using some of the poorest reasoning skills I have ever seen outside of fundamentalist religious believers or homeopaths. You are welcome to read them all yourselves and reach your own conclusions, but I was shocked by the amount of vitriol this guy seemed to have for atheists. I did try to remain composed but for shame I did let my emotions get the best of me for all of about ten or fifteen minutes during the exchange.
I was struck during the exchange with a problem that seems to come up in these exchanges. With people like the one I was speaking with it is impossible to win. When one attempts to be civil they use it as an excuse to walk all over you, your points get drowned by a sea of insults and shoddy logic, and none of their posts even attempt to address your points. If you dare to respond with the slightest bit of anger, not because you hate them personally mind you, but because you are tired of being disrespected and insulted, they declare victory, in some cases, like this one, quite literally. This is, of course, because such people are not really interested in truth or expanding their knowledge. They seem to believe they have won the debate once they bring the other guy down to their level.
The thing I find interesting is that all of these people tend to say that all the atheists they ever speak with are rude or obnoxious. I find this an odd statement, because I have rarely met the atheists they seem to meet, and though I am far from perfect, most people I know think I am a pretty good guy, reasonable, good sense of humor etc. So I thought of an example when I was talking to this guy. If you were hiring for a job and interviewed a guy who had been fired from 10 jobs in the last few years would you find it likely that he just had difficult bosses or is it more likely he is just a bad employee? I can imagine if you took a random sampling of such people you would find a statistically significant portion were just bad at their jobs in some way. What I mean to suggest is this, if every atheist these guys meet seem like jerks, is it more likely that every atheist he meets is just typically mean, or is it more likely that he is doing something to provoke these reactions? My money is on the latter.
Another thing this guy did late in the conversation , which I also often see, is to claim that he knows all of these people who are atheists that he gets along fine with. I call this the “Canadian girlfriend argument,” You know, the guy who always says, “I have a girlfriend, she lives in Canada,” but no one ever sees her. Of course the guy may actually know some atheists, but after pages of posts showing he knows little about what most atheists think it is a little hard to believe.
Like most of these faux debates it ended with him declaring a victory because I decided to get on with my real life rather than arguing with someone who seems to have about an 8th grade education, and the writing skills to match.