Some of you will be aware there was an incident in chat recently regarding a 'theist'. The individual involved was claiming not to be a theist by virtue of following no religious dogma. They thought there may be some 'god type thing', but were exploring the idea. Before there was a chance for any further dialogue, the chat erupted and the individual in question left and was promptly reported. I suspect that that person has been banned, but I have no real idea.

This got me thinking about how we as a community deal with those theists who come amongst us. Given that atheists already seem to have a negative reputation, are we playing into the hands of theists if we immediately harangue any who dare to come on and question us? I discussed this with a fellow A|Ner and we wondered about whether there is a smart response rather than a gut reaction response we ought to be employing. Should we always assume a theist is here for ill or can we take a rational perspective and engage said theist, perhaps with a view to converting them?

Irrespective of the religious affiliation of any chatter, I am personally uncomfortable with any situation where one person is under scrutiny from a larger group. It looks like hectoring and can be seen as bullying, is this how we want to be seen? I have no doubt there are theists who will infiltrate A|N with a view to causing maximum disruption, in which instance the full might of the collective response is to be expected. If however a person comes on and merely wants to explore some ideas for their own understanding, isn't it incumbent upon us to allow them the benefit of the doubt and listen before we attack?

I recognise this is an atheist site and that one of the joining criteria is that a person be godless, but it isn't as though nobody here has bypassed religious sites sign up rules for their own motives. I am not even saying that no theist should be held to account for their comments and/or beliefs here. I am proposing that we have something like a code of conduct where we treat all chat/forum users with respect until and if they demonstrate they do not deserve it. Immediate attack on sight of potential theism undermines our case as rational thinkers, moreover it plays into the hands of those who would portray us as immoderate, closed and defensive. More worrying though is the impact we may have on those wavering theists who are looking to free themselves of religion. If contemplating a life changing decision requires that you explore your options, meeting with animosity is hardly going to encourage you in that direction, is it?

That's my two penn'orth worth, how do you all feel about such a code? All responses gratefully received.

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Comment by JayBarti on September 3, 2009 at 1:10pm
The whole reason for this blog, is that a member was pounced upon and treated like a second class citizen.

I understand that. I like this blog post because it highlights the point of trying to understand a person before rushing to judgment, something as humans we are all guilty of at one time or another (I know I at least I am but I try not to be that way).

However I will say that on average, I still find that this is a more accepting community, to others who think differently then most. I think that after the whole Charliegate thing, people might be a little more trigger happy to stomp down on misconceptions in the first place. Still most of what I see here is an ability to talk first and judge later. It is one of the big reasons I stayed.

As I understand it a big part of the problem with what happened in that circumstance is that there was a language barrier. IMHO there is always a language barrier of some form or another. Self expression is something that some people find hard to do, in a way that makes what they think actually understandable. I go out of my way on my own posts to re-read them and make sure my thoughts are in order, and still I make mistakes despite the fact that English is my first and only language.

If the result here is that the next time, a new person comes along who is obviously having troubles communicating, that that person will not be treated like a second class citizen so quickly. If they turn out to not be what they say they are then appropriate steps can be taken at that time.
Comment by Anne Halligan on September 3, 2009 at 12:45pm
JayBarti:"In a theist community, these people would get pounced upon, and possibly treated like second class citizens..."

The whole reason for this blog, is that a member was pounced upon and treated like a second class citizen. The validity of that membership has been discussed a bit here, not before they were reported however.
Comment by JayBarti on September 3, 2009 at 12:13pm
This is especially true in the case of those living in places where atheism is virtually unheard of and as a result they don't even possess the vocabulary to aptly express their thoughts.

My view is if they are starting to waver and are looking for a safe place to talk about what they are going through, I can think of no better and on average a more supporting community then this one.

An atheistic stance isn't something one arrives at over night, it is not an active emotional state. It is more of (I hate the phrase) an intellectual one. I think Atheistnexus could be a safe harbour for exploration of these idea and thoughts. In a theist community, these people would get pounced upon, and possibly treated like second class citizens by the people that once claimed to be their friends and companions. Bullied into re-believing, it is no wonder actively being an atheist is a scary concept for these people.

Active theists like "WhollyProphit" have no place here, I completely agree on that. As soon as he made his first post he clearly stated what his views where, and that he didn't even consider an aesthetic stance as anything but in-valid.

When I said I wouldn't mind an active theist, I mean more in the lines of Cultural theists, who often only mouth the dogma or actively commit to it outside of maybe a few visits a year to church. I know a lot of cultural Christians who probably only believe because they have never really been challenged or thought about it before.

I am not out to "actively convert" believers, but those who are on the edge of being reasonable and might be having doubts shouldn't be shut out because they are confused and looking for answers that the might not like, but might somehow agree with. Often people just need to know that they are not alone in what they think, to find the strength to break free and take that final step outside the narrow confines of religious thought.

There are a few people who have joined up, that I would consider active theists verging on agnostic atheists of one stripe or another. In most of their conversations they are obviously willing to talk about it and are actively trying to understand the aesthetic point of view. These are the people we should be on the lookout for and encouraging to speak and talk about what is going on in their heads.
Comment by Louis Davout on September 3, 2009 at 11:36am
Well I'm all for helping someone break free of religion.
Comment by Nate on September 3, 2009 at 9:19am
I hear you, Louis. It's nice not having to rehash the same stuff, over and over. But as Anne, Felch and others have noted, the line between an exiting theist and a burgeoning atheist can be blurry. This is especially true in the case of those living in places where atheism is virtually unheard of and as a result they don't even possess the vocabulary to aptly express their thoughts.
Comment by Louis Davout on September 3, 2009 at 8:58am
Nate,

Here is my view point. To my knowledge, this is the only non-theist social site. There are other sites where theist and non-theist can go talk. In a podcast with moJoe and Brother Richard they talked about the possibility of a sister site where theists could also join. That sounds that a perfect solution.

The reason I became an active atheist is because my state issued a "In god we trust" aka Jesus license plate. Unless I don't leave the house, I see that plate every single freaking day. And even today it ticks me off. I want a place (even if just virtual) where I'm not surrounded by pro-religion or the religious. I want a place where I can talk and vent with like minded people. It's my free thought sanctuary.
Comment by Nate on September 3, 2009 at 7:48am
What harm is a questioning theist going to do to a bunch of atheists? I don't see what we have to gain by running people off the site.

I feel much better about their presence than I do about that of people that use the site to enhance their commercial endeavors.
Comment by Louis Davout on September 3, 2009 at 7:38am
"Incidentally, how is anybody supposed to be redirected if we don't even listen to what they say? "
Well you're going to have to at least read what they say.

"however agnostic is a very long, blurry grey streak."
I have no problems with agnostics being members.

BTW, it was Wholly Prophit who I responded to.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on September 3, 2009 at 5:32am
Louis: I agree with with Shlarg, John D, Kaimana, this site should remain a non-theist site

Nobody said said anything about inviting theists. At all. however agnostic is a very long, blurry grey streak. That does include theists who have admitted that they doubt - they are technically agnostic at that point. But I don't even want to defend them in this instance. What we are talking about is people that have abandoned theism, yet don't know where to turn. For lack of language and communication skills, they shouldn't be pounced upon and eviscerated on sight. They are entitled to some benefit of the doubt to begin with. The Bangladeshi chap I mentioned before is a perfect example.
Comment by Anne Halligan on September 3, 2009 at 5:20am
Incidentally, how is anybody supposed to be redirected if we don't even listen to what they say?

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