Face of the new atheism

January 17, 2010

Craigslist is most famous for its free advertisements, including for adult services and for housing – and it also has a series of active message boards catering to all different interests. One of those is religion:  there is an atheist forum, but no Christian forum. For a few years an impromptu, but unofficial “Celebrate Jesus” forum for prayer requests had served the small Christian community. However, if you visit the prayer forum today, it is over-run by atheists.

Looking through the history, it is possible to piece together what happened. At first a personal request for prayer would meet atheist abuse. For example, to someone experiencing muscle pain, and wanting to go to the doctor:

you’re self-obsessed, uneducated, and you have absolutely NO insight… Pain? You want to know what pain is, you stupid cunt?

There was a lot of this low level stuff, and that is pretty standard for the Internet. Soon, though all Christians posts were “flagged”. Whole pages of Christian posts simply went missing, with only atheist comments left. Sexually suggestive images accompanied increasing volumes of abuse. It  becoming more and more extreme, suggesting that the regular members should commit kill themselves or that they were were paedophiles. Handles were created to impersonate regular Christians. They even impersonated me, even though I was almost never there.

One lovely woman whose ex-husband recently died, was impersonated as saying:

CELEBRATE SCREWING CORPSES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Or the same woman:

Help me! please! I am maries vagina. I need sex like crazy. She deprives me of it constantly

By this this time there was far more spam than Christian posts, so that when a Christian did post, they got a response like this:

josheb isa self-proclaimed alcoholic & sociopath. total gdamn dishonest, manipulative, aggressive, dickwiping, schmoozy, sack of shit… am i glad i don’t have to deal with people like that in the real world, it is why guns were invented.

Unfortunately that is not exactly an isolated example. Even after Christians no longer went to the forum (the prayer forum secretly moved to a different location), spam and abusive posting continued for several months – posting to the silent void. Needless to say there isn’t a rational argument in sight.

To me, this is the face of “new” atheism. They are encouraged by people like Dawkins and Harris not only to despise Christianity, but also to disrespect Christians. It is a sad situation: to spend all day, every single day, for month after month, posting abuse on the Internet. What a bad deal they offer, and what a bad deal they took: To replace love of your neighbour for the abuse of atheism.

Photo: Lawrence OP

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16 Responses to “Face of the new atheism”

  1. morsec0de Says:

    “To me, this is the face of “new” atheism.”

    The face of the new atheism is a forum on a website that the majority of the world has no idea exists?

    Not much of a face, that. More of the soles of the feet.

  2. Nathaniel Says:

    Really? Because people are idiots on Craig’s List, “new atheism” is all bad? Are you serious?

    And what’s this about Dawkins inspiring people to be nasty to Christians. Have you ever heard Dawkins speak, or read any of his books? I assure you, he advocates nothing but civility towards people. Hitchens can be a bit of a jackass sometimes, but that isn’t really limited to Christians either.

    This post is about as accurate as me writing that “Pat Robertson is the face of ‘new’ Christianity”. People are idiots regardless of which deities they do, or don’t, believe in. These morons on Craig’s List are no more representative of “new atheism” than Ku Klux Klan are upstanding, role-model Christians.

  3. Ray Says:

    Stop whining and turn the other cheek.

  4. Jim Says:

    What you’re doing has got a name in the internet society. It’s called “Dumpster diving.”

    I could easily go find a slew of posts by Christians that are ham-fisted and vulgar, then decry all Christians as ham-fisted and vulgar. But that would be improper, wouldn’t it? I would be taking the extreme and vocal end of a very normal, and often kind group of people, and mislabeling them all.

    That’s what you’re doing here.


  5. In response to Jim,

    I’m a Redditor and we have a Christianity forum and a Atheists forum and more or less the same thing that happens to Christians there within the Christianity thread often there are posted made by very mean spirited people driving many Christians away who simply want to share with others the things that are bothering them, hurting them, etc…

    I know that I have stopped myself a few times from posting a prayer request online even on Facebook because I know I have acquaintances who would think of me as ignorant and uneducated and they surely do not shy away from being vocal about it.

    This also happens on the Flipside this happens to both parties and in large part is due to ignorant people wanting to change others minds instead of being fine with others believing other things.

    This gets all muddled together when we take into account that the internet is NOT only American but plays theater to the world. You have to offend somebody or else you probably don’t have anything worthwhile to say. The rock is solid. Boring but no-one would disagree.

    There needs to be mutual respect for each other and we need to be respectful of each others “spaces” if you will.


  6. […] If we were just all secular humanists, the world would be a better place. Here’s proof: The tolerant face of the new atheism […]

  7. Chucky Says:

    Thank you for your comment.

    No, I have not seen him in person. I have read and seen Dawkins through the media and internet, including his TV series “The Root of all Evil”, his essay “Viruses of the Mind”, his exchanges with Mike Poole, Lennox, Alastair McGrath, the recent Intelligence2 debate, and read some of his books including popular science evolution, “The God Delusion” and part but not all of “Unweaving the Rainbow”.

    It seems far fetched to believe that the flames of Internet hatred are not stoked by his rhetoric or that of his fellow new atheists.

  8. Chucky Says:

    Good advice, thank you. We did – once it became impossible to even post in the forums – we moved.

  9. Chucky Says:

    I consider these people online friends. It is not as if I went searching to find the worst representatives of atheism I could – they found me.


  10. Have you had death threats from atheists? I’ve received them from Christians, and they found me – not the reverse. A little vulgar language pales in comparison, don’t you think?

  11. Chucky Says:

    No, Fortunately I haven’t ever had a death threat. It is terrible that you have.

  12. Don Says:

    First,
    Thanks for commenting on my site!
    Ok. I agree. I have seen this time and time again (more so on Reddit). IT seems Christians take a lot of abuse on the Internet and in the public forum. I don’t understand it. Many of the atheists I have come across have claimed we (Christians) have abused them and that is why they do not believe in God.
    But to turn it around and abuse your abuser?
    Odd.

  13. Mr Z Says:

    Okay, it’s wrong to say there is any representative of atheism. There are only people who do not believe in any gods. Some such people are admirable, or have thought provoking things to say etc. Still, atheism is not a club you join, it does not have members. It is the state of not believing in any deity. Every atheist represents themselves and no other. You might find atheists who tell you that Dawkins or someone else epitomizes their view of the world, but still, no one represents other atheists.

    People are wont to behave stupidly, it is human nature to do so, whether it is desirable or not. I’m sure many of the mean spirited posts are not from atheists, but from people who enjoy pushing the emotional buttons of anyone, in this case Christians.

    The Christian abuse of the world is fact, and continues to this day. Laws made based on fairytale beliefs affect all, not just Christians. This is a form of abuse. Atheists do not organize and send missionaries to spread the word, that’s a Christian thing to do. ‘Blue laws’ as they were known are not based on ethics, but on Christian morality. That affects me as an atheist. It is abusive. Sure, you might say I should live somewhere else, but in the USA we have the principle of separation of church and state. When that principle is violated, atheists have a right and duty to complain, and loudly if they so choose.

    Mankind’s natural behavior will dictate that such complaining will occasionally lead to undesirable situations, but the principles of complaint are just.

    You are right to think you should be able to have a Christian forum without being invaded by mean spirited people. The trouble is that you choose to do so on an open forum on the Internet. Not the best choice you could have made. This particular kind of rain falls on the just and the unjust. To claim it as persecution is to twist the facts. Everyone on the Internet is subject to it and all because some folk feel enjoyment at raining on other people’s parades. It’s been around since the first discussion boards, before the WWW. To think these episodes are special is a bit like bragging.

    Now, to be sure, there are mean spirited atheists, and you will see posts from them. Such is life. If you expected less or more from human beings I would suggest you rethink your expectations. Mob rules and group think almost always devolve to baser levels of interaction. Putting yourself and your prayers online opens them to this problem, like it or not.

    Abusing the abuser is human nature, no getting around that. To the victor go the spoils. The victor writes the history. Winning isn’t everything, but it sure feels good. As long as theists are trying to write laws to suit themselves, and thus control the lives of others, there will be ‘blowback’, and it won’t always be gentle.

    Human nature has a way of sneaking into even the lives of Christians. I doubt it was an atheist that kills abortion clinic doctors. Bad behavior goes both ways thanks to human nature.

  14. BaalServant Says:

    To be fair, what you call a prayer forum, is actually the Praise Ba’al Forum, a place to praise Ba’al.

    For people who claim to be able to discern the secrets of life, it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out how to homestead an empty Craigslist forum.

    Praise Ba’al to you.

  15. Thomas Says:

    “According to the March 2000 report, Religion in Prisons, 31.9% of inmates claimed to have “no religion”, of whom 0.2% who specifically answered that they were “atheists” and 0.1% who answered that they were “agnostic”.”

    This is an exact quote. I don’t see how you can list people of “no religion” as atheists. People who proclaim they are atheists/agnostic EG: the .2% and .1% have actually taken the time to see if they believe in a God or not. The people “without religion” obviously have not even wondered about if there was gods or not. This is how religious like to make lies about atheists and its a shame. People who are atheists are not the people who don’t think about the supernatural. People who are atheist actually have given it some thought. Anyone who has not given it thought is not in my opinion an atheist. An atheist in comparison to theist is someone who has decided that they do not believe in such a claim. An atheist is not someone who hasn’t even had the chance to believe or not

  16. Chucky Says:

    That’s the point. Either count no religion as atheists or don’t – just so long as you are consistent atheists are not underrepresented in prison.


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