There has been a great deal of rational, constructive dialogue in the comments on recent posts here about moving beyond the rifts in the atheist and skeptic communities. Some people from both perceived ‘sides’ of the rifts have been actively engaged in this constructive dialogue.
Also, some comments have used language that is both unfair to the people they are addressed at, and unhelpful to the process that we are trying to develop. Some people from both perceived ‘sides’ of the rifts have made such comments.
I am confident that those of us who are interacting reasonably will continue to not be provoked by the unhelpful comments, and I ask those who are posting hurtful or unhelpful comments to please phrase your points more charitably.
I have moderated this process lightly for several reasons.
- One is that I understand that a mode of hostile interaction has built up in the past two years that I think has become habit-forming. I hope that as the process continues, people will voluntarily choose to hold back from making unfair statements.
- Two is that we will soon be having a more structured dialogue which will have a clear agenda. That will be focusing on ideas and issues, without personal attacks, and I hope that this structure will move us nearer to positive outcomes.
- And three is the reality that, when people are in conflict and mistrust each other, we can’t insist on already being where we want to get to, as a precondition of getting there. This is not an easy process for anyone, but slow progress is better than no progress.
That said, I again appeal to everyone to comment in the spirit of what we are doing here, and to follow the example of the people who are interacting reasonably, refusing to respond to personal attacks, and interpreting ambiguous statements charitably.
Correction re Ophelia Benson
I asked a while ago that anyone should contact me if they believe a defamatory comment was made about them here, and Ophelia Benson has asked me to correct such a statement about her.
Two comments on a previous thread asserted that Ophelia made up and fabricated the origin of a particular abusive phrase about somebody else.
The link that was cited showed that Ophelia used that phrase before it first appeared on the current Slymepit forum. But it doesn’t follow from that that Ophelia made up the phrase.
Indeed, in the link that was cited, Ophelia says that she read it, along with other abusive phrases, on earlier threads at ERV. A commenter on Atheism Plus also recalls the phrase as being first used at ERV. While the ERV threads do not appear on google, it seems to me to be unreasonable to disbelieve Ophelia when she says she read it there.
Also, a commenter on Furious Purpose used a differently-spelled version of the same phrase as their username before Ophelia mentioned it.
On this basis I have removed, from the comments Ophelia brought to my attention, the allegation that she fabricated the origin of this phrase.
As I have said before, please contact me via the contact page if you believe a defamatory comment is made about you here. I won’t always get to it immediately, but I will deal with it as soon as I can.
If you are commenting here, one easy way to avoid making unintentionally defamatory statements is to avoid attributing malign motivations to people.
So feel free to say and substantiate that somebody said or did something, but don’t assert as a fact your speculation as to what was going on in their minds when they said or did it.
Formal dialogue with agenda next week
I hope that we will be able to start a formal dialogue process next week based on the agenda proposed in the last post:
1. How we can work together on core issues on which we broadly agree, including promoting reason, critical thinking, science, skepticism, atheism and secularism in the real world.
2. How we can balance the right to freedom of expression and robust debate about ideas and issues, with the desire to not unnecessarily hurt people who disagree with us about those ideas.
3. How and to what extent our various communities and groups should have ethical and equality and social justice issues on our internal and external agendas.
4. How we can each, as individuals, lead unilaterally by example by behaving reasonably and charitably and constructively, while others are not doing so.
5. Any other issues that people believe are important to address.
I know that this process is difficult, but please let us stay focused on the aim of moving beyond the rifts and building strong, inclusive, caring and supportive atheist and skeptic communities and groups, that promote robust and rational debate of issues while avoiding needlessly hurting people.