New Comment Guidelines: Exhibit A

I hate having to ban commenters. It’s a last resort. But the alternatives are:

  1. Spending precious minutes addressing bad arguments that have been rebutted countless times.
  2. Leaving unrebutted fallacies at the end of posts, making it seem as if the point was conceded.
  3. Ban the commenter.

Given the options, I will choose the latter, especially when their arguments have been shot down repeatedly, and they continue to assert them. So in the process of banning the latest religious apologist gadfly, I came up with a new set of examples I’m sure many on the Atheist Blogroll will appreciate. From BSJ’s updated Submissions and Comments tab:


  1. Religious Apology, proselytizing or witnessing. It doesn’t matter if you believe it, saw it, or felt it. Sorry, one person’s reported experience is less than meaningless without strict corroboration under scientifically valid conditions. Bring us the evidence. With regard to morality, it is obvious that religious people and organizations do good in the world. While atheists and humanists are quick to acknowledge this truth, it seems believers are loath to accept religion’s pitfalls. Here are a couple of stunningly stupid comments along those lines to show you the kind of morally and intellectually bankrupt religious apology we’re really sick of:
    • In response to a review of Fall from Grace, a film about Fred Phelps hateful Westboro Baptist Church, the “no true Scotsman” fallacy: “A bunch of religious zealots that do not speak for christians nor is there anything in the bible to support their thinking and actions only rebuke.” Wrong. Phelps and his gang claim to be Christian, and they referred to the actual bible quotes (Romans 1, to be exact) to support their hatred and harassment campaign.
    • In response to the story about Christian Sponsored Nigerian Witch Hunts, the commenter claimed: “Christians should never take the word of men only, we have a duty and responsibility to pray, read, study and discern for ourselves his scriptures making absolutely sure our “minister” is on the right track” Brilliant. Then what’s the point of religion? If people are supposed to figure it out for themselves, what’s the point of having scripture or leaders? How is a believer supposed to know which parts of scripture to follow with all the cherry-picking going on? What good is a text that contradicts itself and requires constant interpretation? What is to be said about a moral system that empowers leaders with ‘divine authority,’ but then holds followers responsible for ‘discerning’ when the leaders go astray?
    • In the story about the murder of Rudy Boa by a creationist over an argument about evolution: “Sounds like two men with a heated argument that went overboard, it happens all the time for the most asinine reasons. You can’t blame an ideology for one man’s stupidity because the same can done to yours and trust me evolutionist / atheist have been just as responsible, so don’t get on your high horse.” Again, this commenter is taking none of the blame when religious beliefs lead people to do evil things. “No true Scotsman” once again, then he throws in the “tu quoque” fallacy for good measure.
    • In a story about a father in Canada who strangled his 16-year-old daughter who refused to wear her hijab, the commenter cited cultural relativist justifications and once again tried to let the religion off the hook. “This deals more with culture than religion. People from that region (Pakistani, East Indian, Middle Eastern etc…) believe the father is a highly respected figure head therefore must be obeyed.” So it’s OK for Pakistani, East Indian, and Middle Eastern fathers to kill their daughters. Sick. Just sick.
  2. Circular arguments referencing scripture to support belief in scripture.
  3. Relativism, “tu quoque” fallacy: Comments bearing the tu quoque fallacy will be deleted. (In other words, stating that atheism and religion are both equally bad, two sides of the same coin, both guilty of us/them thinking, atheism is a ‘belief system,’ etc.). If that’s what you think, this site is not for you. We assert that religion is a coercive phenomenon involving scripture, group psychology, and social control. Atheism has no scripture or foundational text, and supports individual inquiry and freedom of thought, tempered by empirical observation and reason.
  4. Mysticism, espousal of spirit-matter dualism and critiques of “reductionism” or “naive realism.” This includes new-age interpretations of quantum theory.
  5. Equating atheism with the crimes of Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or Mao. This is a red-herring. Read your history (or the Hitchens book). Totalitarian states were and are personality cults and were and are in every way state-religions. When it has suited them, they have co-opted existing religions, and at other times, they have brutally suppressed them. Dictatorships, communist or otherwise, are an extension into the modern world of the “divine right of kings.” As an alternative to these coercive systems, we advocate humanism, which is neither the enforcement nor the eradication of religion, but a redirection of the religious impulse into the private sphere, and a focus on the prolonging of human life and the elimination of human suffering.
  6. ‘Positivism is dead’ or the ‘Enlightenment has failed.’ Please don’t tell us that Popper had it wrong or quote Godel’s incompleteness theorem to prove that knowledge is inherently inconsistent and therefore “nothing can be known.” We may never be able to effectively answer conundrums like the problem of induction, or come up with a fully consistent mathematics. Nor are we likely to ever find out the origin of the universe. But it’s not necessary to know everything to know something.
  7. Faith in science. Debunked here.
  8. Conspiracies. ‘Nuff said.

Comments (2 comments)

YY4Me / December 19th, 2007, 5:35 pm / #1

I came here after I posted a comment, and it didn’t show up on the page. I figured that you might screen comments for content, so came here to read your policy.

What a surprise this page is. It’s not simply a policy page, but has some very good points, as well. I think this is the first time I’ve ever bookmarked a Comments page.

Love your site.

YY4Me / December 19th, 2007, 5:38 pm / #2

Oops. I mean it’s the first time I’ve bookmarked a site’s policy page.

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