How I feel about atheists faith-baiting on Twitter: Stop it.Posted: 05.28.12
It’s never been any secret that I think poorly of the tendency of some atheists to combat theists head-on. Recently, a number of atheist Twitter users were blocked/banned/something or another for faith-baiting, a practice that entails getting into (often very condescending) arguments on Twitter with theists, and then openly mocking same. I’ve seen it in my timeline, and it disgusts me. While I do very rarely get into discussions with theists on Twitter, I try not to faith-bait (with the exception of the one time I mind-fucked a guy from WBC, and I admit that I was in the wrong to do it no matter how nasty those people are). I think it’s abhorrent.
Why? I find it to be a form of bullying. I’m not saying that the theists don’t start it, and I’m not saying that they don’t also bully atheists, because they do bully atheists. I’m not a theist and that group doesn’t represent me, so I’m not dealing with them right now; but I find them attacking us also abhorrent, for the record. I still don’t think that we have any reason to respond in-kind–and in fact, I think it weakens our case considerably. “But s/he started it!” is not a valid, grown-up reason to engage in a pissing match, folks.
“Oh, but atheists are not a group the way theists are and we don’t represent other atheists and only ourselves” blah blah blah. Save it. While that may be technically true, it’s not perceived as true by the vast majority of the theist population; also, we atheists do tend to congregate online. We join atheist websites and we follow each other on Twitter; we comment on each others’ blogs. We do have a community. Maybe it doesn’t represent every single person, but yes, we have a community. Y’all are making our community look bad.
“But, but but, we’re just trying to enlighten them and tell them the truth.” Yeah, that’s not what I see. I see a lot of smug people poking fun of other people that they consider to be backwards and unenlightened. A lot of times, the people are backwards and unenlightened. (Individually, not because they’re theists.) So, congratulations: you’ve just expended a ton of mental energy and loathing on a person who isn’t even going to understand you while also making my Twitter feed a place of rudeness and negativity. Awesome job, yo–are you going to go make fun of children who still believe in Santa Claus next?
“THEY NEED TO BE ENLIGHTENED THOUGH. THEY NEED IT. THEY ARE IGNORANT.” Orly? Who appointed you head of Deciding Who Needs to Be Enlightened? And do you really think that a caustic Twitter conversation is going to get to that end? Theists are taught that God is the center of their lives; I don’t think @RandomAtheist55734 is really going to be able to upend that with YouTube videos, snide remarks, and spelling corrections. I think we also all know this. One’s journey with faith–especially the one that leads one to divorce faith–is a deeply personal experience that will be little affected by a digital stranger pointing out how wrong you are. Plus, it takes a pretty hefty amount of self-inflicted fact-blindness to go against solid, scientific evidence in the first place. Breaking into Fort Knox might be easier than cracking that particular nut.
Despite all of the protests I’ve ever heard that people faith-bait theists to educate them, I think people faith-bait because it feels good. This practice gets in the way of actual progress, and it’s pretty childish, in my opinion.
Let’s take the conversation that came across my feed earlier. A woman had professed her faith on her Twitter, and questioned atheism–how can we say we don’t believe in God? An atheist found this, RT’d it, and said, “Because God isn’t real.” The woman didn’t have any grasp of what the words “proof” and “evidence” entailed,so she was already a lost cause for her end of the argument. Then another atheist jumped in, and the snarky remarks started. Suddenly, it was two vs. one. The theist dropped out of the conversation, and the two atheists went on, poking fun at her. Good job, guys–now she dislikes atheists even more, and she’d probably fight harder to keep us down if given the opportunity.
Another person came across my feed calling a theist “crazy.” Really excellent, really. Just an aside, you know that if you provoke people about their religion, it makes them upset and they might seem “crazy,” right? You probably don’t care. Being right is more important than being humane toward others, amirite?
I think what upsets me most about all of this is the fact that being supposedly “enlightened” about religion doesn’t do anything to change human nature. I guess that makes sense; I mean, religion exploits actual weaknesses of humanity, so the weaknesses would obviously still be there even if you took away the God figure. It saddens me because the answer to becoming better humans is more complex than, say, eliminating religions that teach destructive ideas. It’s all still going to be there. We’ll strip away obstacle by obstacle, but we’ll still be left with ourselves. We have a inescapable duality in our nature. The sinner and the saint. The corrupt and the noble. Selfish and selfless.
I guess it’s futile to ask people to stop faith-baiting. If it feels good, people are going to do it. I really wish people would concentrate their energies on positive things–things that could actually change the world for the better. I know. Pipe dream. A girl’s gotta have dreams, though.