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 Anne Halligan on September 3, 2009 at 5:19am
The user was not Wholly Prophit, and as Tracee says, he had some language barriers from the outset. He was certainly not proselytising but rather was trying to define himself within his understanding of theism. It may be that he is in fact an atheist, he certainly subscribed to no religious affiliation, we won't know now.
Comment by david brooklyn on September 3, 2009 at 4:56am
May I ask if the user in this case had the screen name 'Wholly Prophit'? We had a couple of comments back and forth over the weekend and Monday he disappeared.

Anyway, I am also fine with the idea of allowing theists some access if they would really like to understand our point of view better, with the provision that proselytization is a ban-able offense.
Comment by Louis Davout on September 3, 2009 at 4:49am
Now I'm not sure if the theist in question is the same individual that I 'Tarred'. If so and he/she was truly seeking a discussion then I apologize and should have kindly redirected him/her else where. However, to me his message certainly did not seem of genuine interest of discussion.
Comment by Louis Davout on September 3, 2009 at 4:37am
I agree with with Shlarg, John D, Kaimana, this site should remain a non-theist site. If a theist wants to have a serious conversation, fine kindly ask them to discuss it on another site.
Comment by Kaimana on September 1, 2009 at 7:53pm
There's plenty of other places to argue with theists. What is nice about A|N is that it doesn't come up here. We don't, and shouldn't allow theist members. It's not an issue of discrimination, or an issue of "conversion". This is a site exclusively for atheists, and there is just no reason for theists to be here.
Comment by Anne Halligan on September 1, 2009 at 4:52pm
A|N may not be about converting anybody, but we should grasp the opportunity if it presents itself to us.
Comment by Shlarg on September 1, 2009 at 11:53am
This is "The World's Largest Social Networking Site Exclusively For Nontheists!" I personally prefer to keep it that way. I like having a place where you can converse with people who've abandoned superstition and I can get away from the rehashing of the same old tired theist arguments over and over again.
If theists want to go somewhere they can learn about or try to convert atheists there's
Comment by Фелч Гроган on August 31, 2009 at 10:16pm
Calvin: however, wingnuts (see landover baptists) should have the idiocy of their beliefs pointed out to them

You've got an uphill battle if you can't spot them.
Comment by JayBarti on August 31, 2009 at 10:01pm
If they are actually here to have a discussion and take the time to listen as well as talk, I wouldn't have a problem with an active theist joining the site. A civil point of view is never a bad thing in my humble opinion. I wonder how many cultural theists there are who would agree with a lot of the commonly held views on this site.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on August 31, 2009 at 9:46pm
Anne and I actually discussed this at some length. There is nothing positive to be gained from being trigger happy. True, there are some idiots that are idiots through and through and its immediately evident. Then there are the "guerrilla evangelists". A no mercy policy is fine with me in those cases. However there are borderline cases, where people are just dipping their toes in the water, that do deserve special consideration. Then there are the folks who don't use English as primary language...

People should be aware that non-English speakers who join this site, especially from Asian or Middle Eastern countries, may have difficulty communication their intent. Not only that, culturally, they may not even have the words to express what they are trying to say. Case in point was a Bangladeshi new member that appeared in chat. His language was fractured and convoluted, to the point I came within a hair of dismissing him as yet another theist troll. But, eventually, with a bit of patience, the guy's sincerity was evident. He just didn't know how to express himself. What you need to bear in mind is that this person comes from an environment that is 99+% rabid theist, so of course they're going to have difficulty communicating. The person Anne mentioned was a Phillipino. I didn't see the actual chat, so I don't know. But it could have been possible he was like our Bangladeshi pal - tripped up by language. Both of these people prompted this discussion.

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