I haven’t felt the need to clarify this before because it wasn’t generally necessary, but as time has gone on I have seen the need grow to be clear about what sort of posts I allow on this blog. Part of the reason haven’t felt that need is because I am a pretty easy going person. I have been debating and discussing relevant spiritual, social, and political issues for thirty years. I have personally and virtually engaged at least hundreds, if not thousands, of people of all sorts – atheists, agnostics, Marxists, liberals, libertarians, anarchists, gay-activists, etc. And 99% of the time if someone can present their ideas with a modicum of reason and logic, I’ll interact with them with in the same manner. This is not to say that discussions shouldn’t be robust – I am fairly vociferous in my defense of certain ideas. I don’t suffer fools easily, and tend to pursue ideas to their ruthless logical conclusions. Nonetheless, I make an effort to deal with ideas, not personalities, because this blog isn’t about me or who I like or don’t like, but what is true and real and right. I can strongly disagree with a person, even a group of people, and not hate them – in fact, as a Christian I am obligated not to hate others.
Of course, this being the net, not everyone is reasonable and or logical. Some prefer to approach discussion on a much more visceral level – the level of hatred, of personal invective utilizing the foulest language. And as a staunch defender of the 1st amendment where it is properly applied, to the written and spoken word, I think that even the nastiest folks should be allowed to express themselves in the written word. In fact I think allowing them to do so is a benefit in that such public expression allows the civil to identify and ostracize certain people from reasonable society. It is through such expression that one can easily identify those who are confident in their ideas, and can defend them through sustained argument and ordered thought, and those whose ideas are merely an excuse for a lack of civility or morality, as evidenced by their inability to express them without resorting to personal attack.
And as someone who is unafraid to take on the toughest ideas, and reasonably defend my own faith, I have often been the subject of such attacks. I am regularly called names, I have had my life threatened, had my family threatened, and been falsely accused of all manner of acts. It’s a risk one takes when publishing one’s thoughts online; it’s one I have been willing to take because I believe truth and freedom are worth it.
And I have not always been perfect in my responses – I am fiercely protective of my family, of those I see as the weaker elements of society – the elderly, the unborn, those who are physically impaired or who don’t fit our society’s ideas of beauty. I am also not above mocking claims that are foolish on their face, particularly when made by those who are obviously full of themselves; I am no stranger to snark. I give no excuses for that, but I do admit to reacting to those I should otherwise ignore because not every statement deserves a response. Often the best response we can give to the foolish is to not take notice of them at all – they are the authors of their own destruction, and it isn’t necessary for the civil to sully themselves with interaction with them.
To that end I need to make clear a few simple rules I have here – one’s that I have always had, but didn’t feel the need to make public before, but now feel compelled to.
First off I filter foul language – if you can’t say anything without dropping the f-bomb or referring to a body part in the crudest of terms, then it won’t get posted here. It is a pretty simple rule for most to follow, but some can’t seem to help themselves.
Secondly, I don’t post personal attacks or responses to them. This blog isn’t about people, it’s about ideas. Now I acknowledge some public figures are associated with certain ideas, and their names inevitably come up as a result, but that is not what I am referring to. I am referring to posts which consist primarily of calling someone a name, or of referring to an individual out of personal animus or desire for revenge. If one wants to engage in a name calling contest then one can find an elementary schoolyard or publish one’s own free blog – I don’t have the time or patience to deal with it here.
And along with that readers should know I never call or email strangers or people who I interact with online. Because I have a family, and community, and career outside of what I publish, I don’t intermingle one with the other. Other than a few I have met over the years that I call friends (the real sort, not just the Facebook variety) I never call or encourage others to call anyone they interact with on the web. Other than being potentially creepy, the sad fact is that there are people on the web whose beliefs and politics are such that they would do harm to others. In fact that is one of my issues with so called ‘new’ atheism – it seems to encourage fringe elements to confront others in potentially violent ways. Of course most atheists are perfectly pleasant people, but I think it’s good to be wary.
So that was longer than I intended – but I just wanted to clarify a few simple rules that won’t affect the vast majority of people who post here, but which will hopefully keep the conversation civil and sane.