• Shunning and Defriending in the Atheist Community

    There has been a wave of atheists shunning and defriending other atheists because of differences or even perceived difference of opinions. This is what the atheist community has become. Who are we? The Amish?

    Yesterday, I saw a status update of one of the people on my Facebook friend list who was downright joyful about having the opportunity to defriend a few people because they held a belief that this person didn’t like. This isn’t the first time I have seen this type of behavior from atheists and in some cases even prominent atheists on Facebook and Twitter but it still surprises me every time.

    I get that sometimes you need to defriend someone. There have been times when I have had long conversations with someone who just seems crazy irrational. Some people have no interest in a conversation and just spam my Facebook wall and comments with hate. That’s not what I am talking about today though. I’m talking about defriending someone not because of their behavior, but because of a position they hold.

    I’m vocal about my atheism and yet I still have plenty of religious friends and family both on and off line. I see religion as probably the most destructive forces on the planet and yet I don’t defriend anyone who is religious. If they want to defriend me, that’s on them, but I hope that they will see my status updates and articles in their feeds and it might give them something to think about. Maybe it might even start a… dare I say it… a conversation.

    This idea that we have to surround ourselves only with people who are in lockstep agreement with us borders on cultish behavior. There shouldn’t be a “safe space” for critical thinkers. Every space is safe as long as you have the ability to criticize irrational ideas and beliefs.

    Skeptics don’t need to protect ourselves from dangerous ideas. We have reason and critical thinking. We are like Obi-Wan Kenobi, fully capable of walking into the most retched hive of scum and villainy without a care in the world. Death sticks aren’t going to tempt us because we are just not into it. When someone expresses a differing belief on an issue we feel passionate about, we should rip it apart with reason and logic, not delete it and unfriend the person.

    Skeptics should be better than this. We’re the ones who aren’t afraid of facts because the facts are always on our side. If a fact comes out that disagrees with our position, our position changes to fit the facts, not the other way around. So if someone makes an absurd comment denying climate change, the usefulness of vaccines, questioning the morality of atheists, has a different opinion on male infant circumcision, etc., we should educate them, not defriend and shun them. That doesn’t help them or us. If you disagree with that, let me know so I can defriend you. 😉

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    Category: AtheismFacebook


    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.


    1. I’ve only defriended two people on Fb. One was due to the person’s repeated accusations that I was spineless because I didn’t mock Islam enough. (He is Catholic.) The second defriending incident was caused by an evangelical friend who insisted on causing trouble on my threads, and refusing to follow the most basic rules of rational discourse.

    2. I would submit that “skeptic” does not equal “atheist”… at least not anymore. And a lot of this stems from the cult like following of certain bloggers.

      It seems to me that the majority of people need something to follow. They may be atheists and not following god(s), but they are not skeptics. They don’t question, they don’t demand evidence for all sides, they are not subject to changing their mind based on evidence.

      1. Ditto – too many people make the mistake of thinking “atheist” = “skeptic” (or vice-versa).

        As for defriending someone on facebook…meh. It’s childish and has about as much impact as blocking someone on twitter. It just insulates the one doing it and makes them look about 12 years old. If someone is that pathetic, you’re better off without them.

        1. Damn – missed this thought. A few years ago, there was one character who threatened a certain atheist blogger with “defriending” him on facebook. Everyone, including myself, laughed at that idiocy. Now some of the same people laughing are using the same tactic. Pretty sad state of affairs.

      2. Oh my word, yes. The number of skeptics and atheists that are totally unwilling to see basic facts (and I really do mean facts, like “the Holocaust- that happened” kinds of facts) is astounding, given how much they pride themselves on basing their opinions on nothing but facts.

        1. The problem is, it isn’t as big a problem as anyone is making it out to be. Now I don’t use Facebook so I don’t “friend” or “defriend” anyone, but we can make similar evaluations. Take Twitter. You follow someone or you do not. Presumably, you follow them because you want to read what they have to say. If you decide you no longer care what they have you say and unfollow them, why is that the end of the world? I’ve got a list of blogs I read every day. If I take a blog off the list, how has that harmed anyone? People follow or unfollow my Twitter account every day. I change my blog list regularly. Things change. I don’t feel the need to make an announcement when things change, nor does it hurt my feelings if someone unfollows me on Twitter or stops reading my blog. Such is life.

          I really think the idea of “friending” online is pointless anyhow. In most cases, they aren’t your friend, they’re someone you ran into online who you’ll never meet face to face, never have a real-world relationship with, etc. So what?

          1. I think Facebook is different than Twitter in that sense. While I certainly am not friends with everyone on my FB friend list, I do form friendships with many of of them. One person in particular comes to mind. We sent long hours chatting with each other online about atheism and promoting each other’s work. But then she dropped me without any notice or conversation over a perceived difference of opinion.

            1. Which, unfortunately, just goes to show how much she valued your friendship. It’s like atheists who are afraid to come out as atheists because they’ll lose friends. Um, anyone who rejects you because you don’t believe in the same imaginary friend that they do was never your friend.

    3. I don’t use FaceBook so I cannot respond with regard to ‘Defriending’. But if a person is nice and cordial to me, I am always cordial back. In real life I am somewhat an introvert so I don’t have really any friends except my girlfriend. I really only hang around her.

      In terms of online, I usually find Christians as a whole to be generally obnoxious, not because I am not one but because of the unfalsifiablility of their faith. The invincibly ignorance causes them to have a flair of arrogance that turns my stomach. I don’t typically have a problem with any atheist I have corresponded with online. Some people are somewhat stand offish like John Loftus, but that is his prerogative. While others are very cheerful and pleasant like Jonathan Pearce.

    4. Veras, lo que sucede es que algunos ateos, tienden a hacer su ateismo una “religion” de la cual se vuelven fanaticos, se vuelven tan cerrados que nadie los saca de su propio punto de vista (conducta similar a la de un religioso activo).

      Un ejemplo muy claro es la pagina https://www.facebook.com/AteismoBrillante

      la cual me bloqueo simplemente por decir que la teoria de darwin no es la unica asi que deberiamos considerar o tansiquiera leer otras posturas.

      Despues de eso (en otro perfil) insito a a sus seguidores a mandar mensajes y a atacar a ciertos usuarios simplemente por quejarse de la forma en que atacaba a la religion catolica solamente.

      1. As far as I know, the modern theory of evolution is the only theory in the scientific community that works. It is pretty much settled science unless new information becomes available which completely destroys everything we know about everything. Still, I don’t think you should be unfriended just because you have an irrational view of the science of evolution. Instead, I would encourage you to learn more about why the scientific community has all but closed the book on this debate. The evidence for evolution is solid and numerous.

    5. I only deleted one Atheist page from my face book called the Black Squirrel Society. In the comment section of one post someone was promoting violence against religious people. Only myself and one other person stood up to say it was wrong and I deleted the page after people were defending this crazy asshole’s right to free speech. In all fairness though I did not notify the administrators of the page like I should have, I only asked them to remove the comments in the comment section. I should have reported it.

      1. There was an episode IV reference there too. Besides, I liked Episode I. Sure it was the worst of all the Star Wars films, but that’s like saying that’s the worst diamond in the jewelry shop. At the end of the day, it’s still a diamond. 😉

    6. We have the ridiculous situation of people defriending and Twitter blocking people who follow someone else who some other party wrongly accused of expressing an impure thought.

      This is no longer about minor disagreements and personality clashes, this is about prominent ‘skeptics’ who are making a mockery of skeptical principles and laying on the logical fallacies with a trowel. They have made it plain that it is their way or the highway on issues which they are intent on making central. It has gone way past the point where it is possible to not get personal. These people must stop being given prominent speaking positions or you can kiss the integrity of the conferences goodbye. Speaking for myself, I’ve had enough of seeing the main instigator of this rubbish giving sensationalised, hyped up talks full of self-serving misrepresentations to ‘skeptics’ lapping it up with ‘oohs!’ and “aahs!’. Skepticism is turning into a club, not a method.

    7. I think you are being a little naive if you believe that this wave of shunning has anything to do with sceptical thinking. This is all about commitment to specific ideologies and the extent to which some people will sacrifice their scepticism in support of their chosen ideology.

      These people are welcome to shun me as much as they like and, while I’m sure they won’t lose any sleep over it (even if they notice) I reserve the right to disregard them too.

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