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Debate:Is RationalWiki Becoming More Bigoted?

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Debate.png This is a Debate page.
Feel free to add your own spin on the story. Please keep it civil!
Information icon.svg This debate was created by AKjeldsen.

The answer is maybe. I propose that the theists of the site leave, and found our own satirical wiki, mocking, refuting, and analysing Rationalwiki and its membership. This will then have its own, smaller scale drama (remember, we have the secret Team Killing weapon), and attempts by Trent to shut it down will result in the formation of an even smaller wiki.

The end result shall look something like this. --מְתֻרְגְּמָן שְׁלֹום


AKjeldsen Continues[edit]

Thanks to Interpreted for providing an introduction. That's something we'll have to look into, I guess.

Anyway, to get straight to the point, I believe that we have in recent months witnessed an unfortunate trend on RationalWiki. Some editors are displaying an increased willingness to make sweeping and usually quite unfair and unfounded generalizations about religions in general, specific religions, or religious people.

These statements often seem to be founded in certain beliefs/prejudices about how 'Christians' or 'religious people' in general act, or how this or that religion is somehow irrational or represents a threat to society, and so on and so forth. On the other hand, it rarely appears to be based in much experience or understanding of how perfectly ordinary religious people live their lives (much like anyone else, basically), or even when it is, they're often treated with a fair amount of intolerance. For that reason, I'm going to call a spade a spade and talk about bigotry here.

I think this development is detrimental to the Wiki, because it generates a lot of bad feelings for at least some of us, and contributes to an overall negative atmosphere. Also, since prejudices are not exactly neither rational nor liberal in nature, one would think that they should have no place on RationalWiki at all.

The Touchy-Feely Stuff[edit]

Personally, however, I believe that prejudices usually originate in a lack of knowledge about a certain group of people, and since I realize that it is often quite difficult for those of our members of a more atheist persuasion to enter into what exactly it means to be religious or have religious feeling, it is only reasonable to expect that they might not have a great deal of knowledge about this. Nevertheless, I'd like to try explain what being targeted by these generalisations feels like from our perspective, and why that is so - and naturally, I can only speak for myself here.

Religious feelings are often very personal. In many cases, they have their origins in or are tied closely to very intense events in our past, both positive and negative. This is especially the case for those of us who have gone through a process of conversion, which involves a great deal of soul-searching and doubt, and is not undertaken lightly. Maybe this is less the case for those who grew up with a particular religion - that's not for me to say.

In any case, this means that when someone starts throwing around flippant or mean remarks about 'religion' or 'religious people' without taking the trouble to at least trying to understand what's involved, this is often an unpleasant experience for those of us on the receiving end. It can hurt pretty badly, especially if one combines the "very personal feelings" part with the "feeling targeted by prejudices" part.

Also, we must recognize that we theists are, as far as I can tell, a bit of a minority around here. While I'm not exactly asking for affirmative action on any level, I would at least request that you take into consideration that being a part of a minority makes most people a good deal more sensitive to unpleasant remarks, especially if there's a perceived marginalization going on. That's just sort of a psychological mechanism that can further complicate the things mentioned above, and which should be considered.

The Worst[edit]

One of the worst things, however, is blanket statements about "Christianity" or "religion" or whatever. People! Please remember when talking about Christianity that there are somewhere between 1.5 and 2 billion Christians in this world. This is a label that has to cover a lot of people. Further, it is a group that include individuals as incredibly diverse as Andrew Schlafly, Barack Obama, Freeman Dyson, Archbishop Rowan Williams, Raúl Gonzales, the Pope and yours truly. If we want to talk about "religious people" in general, that's even worse.

Effectively, when using the label "Christians", people are throwing left-wing Christians like me together with far-right Christians like Andrew Schlafly in one big undifferentiated union set, and this is incredibly bothersome. And it gets much worse when they base their opinion of this whole group on fringe members like Schlafly, and then assume that it can safely be attributed to all those two billion people as a whole.

As a matter of fact, this is much the same as when those dear fellows over at Conservapedia try to draw a connection between a fringe group like NAMBLA and homosexuals in general: Bloody unpleasant, and also a bit intellectually lazy. Please make that extra little bit of effort to identify the actual group you're talking about. It prevents a lot of disagreements, it makes the argument much better, and it improves our spirits considerably (no pun intended). Everybody involved wins.

What I am not complaining about here[edit]

Finally, to get this out of the way, and hopefully avoid misunderstandings:

  1. First of all, I am emphatically not complaining about those of our atheist members who want to criticise or debate religion in a reasonable and sober way. Quite on the contrary: This is great, because it allows everyone to examine their principles from different perspectives. The problem only appears when there is a lack of respect for one's opponent - something that would be a problem in any discussion on any subject.
  2. Secondly, I am not complaining about stuff that makes fun of religion, assuming they're actually funny, such as the article on Jesus Christ, or especially Divine retribution. Those are magnificent articles. What is not so magnificent are articles or remarks that aren't really funny, but just fairly mean. Certainly, people may have different standards for what is or is not funny, but we could at least try to aim for some high standards, right?
  3. Thirdly, I am also not complaining about criticising religious people who do something stupid, and I realize that there are a lot of those. Ridicule where ridicule is due, but let's try to keep it where it's due, and not accidentally hit 2 billion other innocent bystanders with it.

Concluding Remarks[edit]

I hope that no one will think that I'm trying to stifle debate on the subject through this - rather, I hope to improve the level of the debate and to prevent conflicts and hurt feelings due to a lack of understanding about the other side.

Also, you may note the lack of examples in the above. That's because I'd rather avoid making this a question of individual editors, instead of one about a perceived trend on this wiki. Most of the examples are buried pretty deep in the talk pages anyway.

Other than that, thank you for your attention. Discussion is now open.

Institutionalized bigotry?[edit]

One thing I would like to try and differentiate the difference between would be bigotry that is institutionalized as part of the rules/regulations/procedures of the wiki itself and that displayed by individual editors. What are the elements of the sites regulations/rules that are displaying bigotry to those we should not? If it is only individual editors it is a much more diffused issue and the response will have to be on a case by case basis and probably rooted in the discussion at hand and not really a meta-issue. If however we are coming down "harder" on religious people than non-religious people for the same issues that could be a serious issue.

The other point I wanted to make is that web 2.0 is a medium that perverts language and concepts in order to simplify and decrease time. When saying something like "Christians do 'x'" it may not be much different from the whole "text speak" phenomenon like "wat r u up 2?" Always qualifying our nouns becomes a pain in the ass so sometimes it gets shortened up. Instead of saying "right wing authoritarian young earth bigoted Christians" I will just say Christians and hope that the context of what I am talking about can help elucidate the population I speak of. 18:03, 19 February 2008 (EST)

Hmm, that line of thinking could get very dangerous when carried to its extension. --מְתֻרְגְּמָן שְׁלֹום
Which part? I still say on a talk page in a specific context if I fail to fully qualify every noun I bring up it is not "bigotry" but laziness. 24.36.229.24 18:18, 19 February 2008 (EST)
Well, I certainly feel it is an issue (obviously, otherwise I wouldn't have written the massive rant above at the expense of my night's sleep), and I suspect I'm not the only one to do so. I don't think there's anything inherent in the Wiki as such that causes this problem, though, if nothing else then because we don't really have any formal procedures as such. Although this being officially a mobocracy, I guess the procedures are whatever the people who shout the loudest say they should be.
As for the question of language, I agree that the tendency is towards faster and less exact communication, but I think that's really something that one needs to be very careful with. I mean, we already know that any text exists independently of its author once written, and is made open to interpretation, and that gets much worse in cyberspace. The Web is bringing together people from many different backgrounds, and I think that makes it that much more important to be if anything even more careful with communicating exactly what it is you mean. Otherwise, there's a lot of room for misinterpretations. --AKjeldsenGodspeed! 18:35, 19 February 2008 (EST)
When writing about controversial or nuanced topics, the level of written discourse becomes even more important, as many of us have noted in our own writing or cyber-communication. I have, more than a few times, pissed people off when trying to praise them. When discussing some of these issues, it is important to be clear. IRC and talk pages allow for a free flow of ideas, however.--PalMD --You don't know harsh! 18:45, 19 February 2008 (EST)
While the "Web 2.0" comment carries some explanatory value, it does not excuse sloppy writing, especially when being harshly critical of groups in a sloppy fashion. Sure, those extra letters are tiresome to type, but, once the work is done they are 1. free and 2. clear. I have commented recently in a few places on the shorthand conflation of "creationist" with "young earth creationist" - for which we do have a reasonably legitimate shorthand (YEC) that keeps the target clear. humanUser talk:Human 19:57, 19 February 2008 (EST)

No Clear Line[edit]

I think the problem with debating the religion is the opportunity and large chance of generalizations and personal feelings being expressed and attacked. I will openly criticize a person's beliefs and their personal feelings because that's often times the only way to debate and address the issue of religion. If we step back and start drawing lines in the sand, attempting to separate when religion can and can't be attacked, then I think you create a sort of cage that keeps religion protected from criticism, even the most personal aspect of it. Sometimes there is no way to be tactful about it. When an individual tells me that they accepted Christ because of the death of their grandmother, I'll openly question their judgment.

I think that you bring up an interesting point though, but I just wish it were more black and white. There's no definite line to be crossed that determines when somebody gets too offensive or when debates turn into flamewars, especially with the topic of religion. --e|m|c [TALK] 18:12, 19 February 2008 (EST)

I think there's a very profound difference between 'debating' and 'attacking'. A debate is an exchange of viewpoints with purpose of either understanding or convincing the opponent, and it requires a level of respect between the opponents at least on a personal level, if not for each other's opinions. An attack is something entirely different, which does not require any respect. The former is always valuable, the latter only sometimes.
Let's assume a fictional Mr. Smith who as you say has accepted Christ because his grandmother died.Now, assuming that Mr. Smith is a normal mainstream Christian, who keeps his faith at least reasonably private and doesn't run around trying to get his neighbours to convert or introduce creationism in science classes or whatever else our more wacky co-religionists are sometimes prone to do, I don't really see what the point is in "questioning his judgement" or attacking his religion. Smith is just going to have his feelings hurt, and he's certainly not going to renounce his faith because it's being attacked - more likely, it's only going to be strengthened. Meanwhile, in the eyes of the surroundings, you probably appear as a bit of a jerk towards poor Mr. Smith, so you're not really convincing anyone there either. Other atheists may think it's all great, but that's really just preaching to the choir - uh, if you'll excuse that expression.
So all we get out of this attacking religion are a lot of hurt feelings and a lot of conflicts, but nobody has changed opinion or learned to understand each other or the world better or really achieved any other positive benefit that I can imagine. As John Sheridan said, "You don't start a war just to honk off your neighbours," do you? Wouldn't it be much better to try to understand Mr. Smith and his motivations a bit better and, while you may disgree profoundly with him, try to get better along with him? Celebrate diversity and all that? --AKjeldsenGodspeed! 18:59, 19 February 2008 (EST)

Only a Jew would think that.[edit]

Hahah okay not for serious.--Tom Moorefiat justitia 04:57, 1 November 2009 (UTC)

Only a bigfoot would attack that beef jerky. ħumanUser talk:Human 05:02, 1 November 2009 (UTC)