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Posted by on Jan 3, 2013 in Atheism, Free Speech | 9 comments

The Open Market of Ideas

If you ever spend any time on religious YouTube channels or on religious blogs, you will notice that more often than not, comments on religious YouTube channels are often disabled and heavily moderated on religious blogs. This is because religious communities tend to be fearful of the free market of ideas. Religious believers know that when they put their beliefs on the internet, atheists are going to criticize their beliefs.

Don’t get me wrong, religious believers have every right to restrict comments and/or heavily moderate comments on their forums. They are under no obligation to allow the expression of descent, criticism, or any opinion or fact that they don’t like on their forum. If it is their page, they make the rules. Why would they want some atheist going on their page and proving them wrong?

Again to be clear here, people have the right to police their forums as they see fit. I have that right too. This is my blog and if someone makes a comment in the comment section that I don’t like for whatever reason, I can delete it… but I usually don’t!

I am someone who values the free market of ideas. If I am proven wrong about something, that’s fine with me. I’ll just change my position to fit the best available facts or argument. I have in fact changed my position on many issues not the least of which is whether or not a god exists. Yeah, I used to believe a god existed and now I don’t.

I don’t fear criticism or differing opinions. In fact, I welcome it! But if someone becomes threatening in any way, then I just might have block them from commenting. This has happened at least once that I can remember, but it was surprisingly an atheist who was the one stalking me and posting veiled threats against my kids.

And that brings me to what has become an epidemic within the atheist community as of late. Several well-known atheists have started to block, restrict, delete, etc. differing opinions and criticism. A few atheists have started disabling comments on their YouTube channels. Some have even waged a war against anyone who criticizes their ideas in any way.

Now again, they have the right to delete comments on their forums that they don’t like. But it is still a dick thing to do and it seems to fly in the face of the free market place of ideas which some of them still claim to value. Sure there are going to be some abusive assclowns who will say some fucked up shit. I get that too from time to time. Sometimes I might delete those comments if there is nothing substantive to them. But usually I leave them so that everyone else can see what an asshat that person is. That’s the great part about the free market of ideas.

Look, I’m not naming names here because I don’t want needless drama. I just want to express the point of view that I think people should support the free market place of ideas whenever possible. If someone has a popular blog or a Facebook account with lots of friends and they receive criticism for something they said on one of those forums, they should allow that criticism to be voiced. If threats are made or if comments start becoming abusive, that is another situation. But criticism of ideas should not be restricted. You might have that right, but you should not exercise that right unless it is absolutely necessary. Defend your opinions with facts and strong reasoning, not by silencing descent.

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  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    Some atheists seem to feel every bit as threatened by certain ideas as do many Christians. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me as much as it does, but it has required some adjustment. It helps me to remember that people have different expectations for their online experience, and some are looking for something far more sheltered than what I might prefer.

  • SmilodonsRetreat

    Atheist does not equal skeptic.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      Yeah, but many atheists consider themselves skeptics and some of those people are doing shit like this.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        I agree. They think they are skeptics, but I think they are militant/fundamentalist atheists instead.

        • http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

          I wouldn’t call them that either. They are skeptical about some things but not about other things. It’s sad.

  • AnimalAndy

    “A folly,” sighed Tyrion. “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not
    proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he
    might say.”

  • http://www.skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    How funny would it be if I had to delete someone’s comment on this post?

  • Vic

    This tells us atheists are becoming populous enough on the Internet to represent very different kinds of views and attitudes. With different interpretations of freedom of expression (or its application).

    I, personally, often perceived atheist blogs and websites as places where we do “circle the wagons”, moderated comments in effect or not. Opposing views, while not banned, are usually quickly addressed by the “resident commenters” and often in quite verbose ways. Maybe that’s a result of the local strength of numerical superiority.

    Silencing opposing views, so far, seems to have been primarily a method of the religious, and in a way it’s just symptomatic for religions or absolute belief systems (or at least its more fundamentalist tenets).

    While I agree that everyone has the right to do on his own webiste as he chooses, people who claim the label “skeptic” (or rationalist, or free-thinker) would be, I think, hard pressed to justify such behaviour. Such a persons convictions should be changing according to the information presented, and that development is inhibited if information is voluntarily surpressed or ignored.

  • MosesZD

    Funny, but I see a lot of that banning/blacklisting on certain ‘skeptic/atheist’ blogs. ostensibly, it’s about protecting against ‘trolls’ who provide nothing. And, in some cases, it’s true in practice.

    But more often it’s really about power, group-think and enforcing a certain lock-step behaviors without allowing for POVs that could shed alternative perspectives on things going awry. Pretty much like any cult of personality.

    That the religoius do this, almost reflexibly is understandable. They’re dogmatic. And while it might of been a surprise to many in the atheist community to find many of the so-called ‘skeptics’ and ‘liberals’ were closet authoritarians, I’m a bit old and I’m not surprised.
    After all, I’ve seen people, like David Horowitz, go from uber-left to uber-right. For them the issue/cause is less important than becoming a ‘leader’ and getting power, fame, etc.