Friday, October 23, 2009

The asymmetry of Christian and atheist blogging

I've been reading some of the better known atheist-focused blogs recently, and I've been struck by their presentation and persuasion styles. Many of the blog posts are criticisms of Christians.

Some are rather heavy-handed insults of Christians. For example: Christianity is associated with mental illness. Others are more respectful in tone, bust still highly critical, such as Friendly Atheist (which is one of my favorites). It seems that the better the put-down of Christianity, the better the atheist blogger.

In contrast, most Christian blogs tend to focus on elaborating Christianity and urging Christians to do better. A Christian blog that posted primarily anti-atheist insults would miss the mark because part of Christianity is loving others, which usually doesn't include insulting them.

I suppose there are other reasons for this too, in part because there are far more Christians than Atheists, at least here in the U.S. (where most the bloggers that I read live). Maybe 2/3rds+ Christian and several percent atheist.

Whatever the reason, the result is an asymmetrical dialogue across the blogs. I'm not saying that's good or bad, just noticing it.


Jay Livingston said...

This is really interesting in that it goes against what I might have expected. I thought that Christian bloggers would be like the Christians in the street, trying to save souls by converting heathens, Jews, atheists, et. al. Instead, they're more interested in talking to one another. And since I never see atheists out on the street (or my doorstep) trying to convert believers to atheism, I figured that they'd want to be left to themsevles in their nonbelief.

Knumb said...

I had to kill the newsfeeds of a couple of atheist friends on facebook. I didn't "unfriend" them, it just got old, loggin' on to their frequent criticisms of religion.

You describe well the tones I pick up, also.

I'm struck by this: if there is no God, then why should you care what others believe? If you're a bunch of cells, what does it matter what the bunch of cells in the next (figurative) petri dish over does?

Knumb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"I'm struck by this: if there is no God, then why should you care what others believe?"

Because the beliefs of religious people may have a direct affect on the lives of nonbelievers. Think about intelligent design in schools, church/state separation, or gay marriage just to name a few. Nonbelievers wouldn't care if believers did not cite their faith as fundamental basis for their perspective on life.

"If you're a bunch of cells, what does it matter what the bunch of cells in the next (figurative) petri dish over does?"

Because we are all locked in a mutually cooperative state of survival. I don't want to drag this into a Meaning versus meaning debate since your implying that without God there is no reason to live or no one to have a meaningful life.

Anonymous said...

*one cannot have a meaningful life*

Jay Livingston said...

"if there is no God, then why should you care what others believe?"

Why should you care what others believe even if there is a God? The people who try to convert me probably tell themselves that they're doing it for my sake -- to save my soul. The atheists that try to convince me that there is no God, they too probably think that they're doing it for my sake -- to lift the burden of irrationality and error from my consciousness. But it feels much more to me as though they're all doing it for themselves.

Brad Wright said...

Interesting discussion. Being theological-challenged, I won't way in on the connection between God and ethics. I will not, as I've done before in this blog, that it seems that Atheists are acting more and more like evangelists.

Anonymous said...

Twos ways to look at your last comment,

If by evangelizing you mean, being more vocal and creating awareness. then yes, quite affirmative. Just like any group which is attempting to battle for public space, making people aware is a first step.

If you mean attempting to deconvert, I tend to disagree. There are no real fibers which tie atheists together other than a lack of belief in a theistic being. Other than that, nothing not even science, reason or what have you. I have met many atheists who readily have abandoned theism but quickly pick up the newest of new age woo out there. I know many want to take up some mantle including science and the such but its just realistically and philosophically untrue. This is why i no longer tend to use such a moniker but instead refer to myself as a secular humanist, a much more affirming label of what I do believe in.

Knumb said...

Sure, what Christians believe may affect you. What used car dealers believe may affect you. What tax collection agents believe, *that* affects you. And there are plenty of blogs criticizing all three of those groups, so I guess Christians are fair game (as are atheists, ice cream salesman, and anyone else in society who might affect you).

There's a gag in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about God not being able to exist if you you can prove that he exists. So, one day, He shows up, proves He exists, and disappears in a puff of logic.

When someone who doesn't believe in anything beyond, basically, biology, argues about theology or spirituality, or Right or Wrong (capital letters), I just wonder what the baseline rules in their paradigm are.

Obviously, there's something they believe in strongly enough to espouse. It just seems to disappear in a puff of logic when I try to get a grip on what it is and why it matters, as viewed from a paradigm of no God possibly existing.

Ultimately, the best I can come up with is: "we don't like religion because it adversely affects our existence." The focus on this tends to be grousing about proselytizing.

Which, I guess, then leads to counter-proselytizing, atheistically. There's that puff again. And with that puff: why do you care so much?

And, since this counter-proselytizing has been annoying me lately, I've been tuning it out (but not knocking myself out blogging about it... this is the sum total of my typing on the subject and I'm mostly musing).

Mark said...

It seems to me that it would be crazy to spend a lot of time and energy over something that does not exist. Thus an Atheist web blog to discuss non-belief is really rather silly. So it seems to me that what Atheists are really doing is speaking out against religious hegemony.

This brings up a really important question: Did Jesus empower Christians to judge others? I say no but it seems that most (if not all) of the Christian world is caught up in judging others. Many of the worst offenders love to quote Paul and seem to ignore the words that Jesus actually said on the matter.

In my view, if you think you can judge others then you are actually not a Christian at all but a charlatan in Christian clothing.

That's right, you are no more a Christian than a Muslim would be.

I really enjoy seeing the Atheists speak out against the horrible abuses that Christians inflict upon the world around them. There may be a lot of good Christians but I can't see very many of them at all. Every Christian I can see is obnoxious, angry and judgmental and most of all a terrible hypocrite.

Knumb said...

That last line sounds like part of the title of a book I am looking forward to reading. :)

Edward T. Babinski said...

Hi Brad,

I think you're committing a fallacy of selectivity.

You're not recognizing and distinguishing between different categories of atheist and Christian blogs, and not recognizing all the doubters, agnostics and atheists who do not wear their atheism up front. And also ignoring atheist-hating Christian bloggers.

I'm an agnostic. I've found that the biggest debunkers of the Bible (i.e., of each other's interpretations of the Bible) are Christians, not atheists, and it's been that way ever since competing Christian denominations have been around (and more recently, since Christian biblical scholars began asking questions concerning how the Christ of faith relates to the Jesus of history, questions like that).

Also, there's a sub-culture of both Christian and atheist blogs and forums that goes after one another tooth and nail. For instance, after John Loftus showed up on TheologyWeb and announced that he had left the Christian fold and started arguing why, he has been stalked, insulted, and personally maligned by a group of Christians from that forum who created a parody blog and an anti-Loftus blog. While J.P. Holding is a Christian apologist who has attracted detractors on the web among atheists and deconverts.

If you studied the above sort of sub-culture you'd see such people engaging in sometimes heated and mocking exchanges, including at Christian blogs like "atheism sucks," and others I've seen.

Neither does it strike nonbelievers as being kindly when Christians state that they know for a fact without doubt that all unbelievers will suffer eternal punishments, no matter how "lovingly" such information is delivered.

As for people not amongst such a sub-culture, i.e., secularists in general who do not wear their doubts, agnosticism or atheism up front, the web is filled with them, just as the web is filled with moderately tempered, generalized Christians as well.

Brad Wright said...

Good point about selectivity, Edward. I tried to compare the 4-6 best known Christian sites with the best known atheist sites as a way of lessening the selectivity. Certainly we can find a website that says anything, if we look hard enough.