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The Four Reply Rule

March 10, 2014 4 comments

by Noah Lugeons

I started this blog several years ago and expected to get a lot of religious trolls, but I didn’t.  Of course, for the first couple years it was up I was hardly posting and nobody was reading it, so I guess that goes a long way toward explaining it.

I started the podcast over a year ago and expected to get a lot of religious trolls, but I didn’t.  Of course, the podcast audience is so small that you’d really have to be looking for atheist shows to find it, so it’s no surprise that the religious folks are still unaware of it.

I got active on Facebook and Twitter shortly after starting the show and expected to get a lot of religious trolls, but I didn’t.  I suppose there are far too many prominent atheists on social media for any of the trolls to take time out to fuck with me.

I started putting the diatribes on YouTube to expand our audience and expected to get a lot of religious trolls.  And it’s YouTube so of fucking course I did.  YouTube is troll crack so of course, if they were going to show up anywhere, it would be there.

As the show grows, the troll activity has slowly grown on all our media and I’m sure it will continue to do so.  And while I still see trolling as a badge of accomplishment, it gets tiresome pretty quickly.  Because I can’t help but respond.  I can out-troll most trolls and I enjoy arguing.  Even arguing with an idiot can be good mental exercise, as you have to find ways of dumbing down what you’re saying and explaining why the thing they just said is horseshit.

But, as we all learn at one point of the other, there is no time limit in mom’s basement.  Feeding trolls is an unending cycle if you allow it to be and once they’ve stuck their fingers deep enough into their ears there’s no real point in responding.  Well… I suppose there’s virtually never a “point” in responding, but at a certain point is also stops being fun.

So to keep myself from falling into that infinite loop, I have a four-reply rule.  It’s something I implemented after reading back over pages of stupid arguments I had over an entry on this blog.  I realized that with the same effort I could have written a whole extra episode rather than devoting the time to one slobbering jackass.

I should note that I’ve been using the term “troll” pretty liberally.  I’m actually referring to damn near anybody who leaves a comment that disagrees with me and then fails to articulate any rational argument against my point.  If somebody leaves “FUC!K YOYU ASSHOEL!!!!!!!!!” I probably won’t respond at all, but if somebody says, “You’re wrong and fuck you, asshole,” I probably will.

And if the conversation or the point of contention is interesting and the discussion seems to be going somewhere, I’m happy to keep a thread open for days.  But if I discover that it’s a pointless “No I’m right!” dick waving contest, I have to check out.  My dick waving propensity makes that difficult to do, of course.  Hence, the four reply rule.

It usually takes a little back and forth to determine whether somebody is engaging in a debate or an argument, but within four replies it’s clear.  And if somebody is making no attempt to refute my point or defend the flaws I’ve identified in their own within four replies, I feel comfortable cutting the conversation short.

My ego hates to do that.  My ego shouts “somebody’s wrong on the internet!” and tries to force me back into the void, but my more rational mind usually wins out and explains to my ego that just because this person said something last doesn’t mean we lost.  It tells my ego to calm down, smoke a bowl and remember that the only real way to lose an argument with a troll is to spend time arguing with a troll.

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On iTunes Reviews

February 7, 2014 4 comments

by Noah Lugeons

(Warning: Excessive naval-gazing ahead)

Up to this point, reviewers on iTunes have been quite kind to us.  I’d love to fan the flames of my own arrogance with this fact, but in truth it tends to be the case that the vast majority of the reviews for a new podcast are overwhelmingly positive.  This probably has something to do with the fact that most of the people who would take the time to search out a new podcast would be (a) predisposed to like podcasts in the genre and (b) willing to overlook some of the flaws that newer podcast producers are working through.

I have to admit, I check iTunes daily and at least once a week I go international and check our reviews in the rest of the English speaking world as well.  I suppose every podcaster is compelled by a need for approval on some level so this is probably largely the norm… or at least, I hope it is.

iTunes gives reviewers the option of leaving a rating (1-5 stars) and writing a review.  You can rate without taking the time to add a written review and about 33% of the people that have rated us have chosen that option.  Almost all of our negative ratings have come sans-review.  There was one one-star review that dismissed Heath and I as “mean”; which I’ll admit to.  A three-star review asked that I get rid of the crappy music and another three-star review faulted us for not being less like us.

But yesterday we got what I consider to be our first honest negative review.  On a five point scale you can’t exactly call a three star review negative and I can’t take the “you guys are mean!” review too seriously, but the one I read yesterday was a two-star review that didn’t seem ideologically motivated:

It seems like he’s trying too hard to rile religious folks up.  There’s too many strong man arguments and no variety of opinion… not exactly inspiring intellectual conversation or provoking real convincing thoughts.  It’s really all for entertainment value and I can easily say the fans are just finding more broken records to reinforce their beliefs.  I mean, the quality of the audio and everything was really good.  Content on the other hand..?  It’s a lot of fool’s humor and pathetic stories of other fools to mock.  Suit yourself if you like.

Obviously there are a few things there to unpack.  He’s free to say whatever he wants, obviously, but I think it’s a bit of a low blow to go after the fans of the show (he’s talking about you!).  The notion that I’m “trying too hard to rile religious people up” is kind of stupid, as it would require religious people to be listening to our show (I’m guessing none do).  I could also pick on him for saying “strong man arguments” but I’m too highbrow for that.

But my main issue with this review (and similar feedback I’ve gotten via email) is that the gist of the review is: “I want this to be a different show.”

I don’t mind that he doesn’t find our brand of humor funny.  Obviously it’s not for everyone.  I don’t mind that he doesn’t find the thoughts and ideas we express compelling… most of them aren’t meant to be.  But the unspoken premise of this review is that an atheist show is supposed to be a certain way.  It’s supposed to include diverse opinion, thought provoking discussions, weaker man arguments (okay, I was bullshitting about the highbrow bit).  And I’d be happy to point him to a few shows that are more likely to suit him.  But I’m not persuaded by the “this shouldn’t be this!” argument.

And yes, I’m probably pissier than the review warrants.  It’s good that the people who don’t like the show take the time to rate it so that people won’t start getting the impression that it’s beloved by all.  I’m glad that he took the time to actually tell me what he didn’t like and why.  And I’m glad he was so complimentary about the sound quality because, in my opinion, that’s the worst thing about the show.  But I’d feel better about it if he hadn’t felt the need to say it in such a “I’m better than people who listen to this show” way.  There’s too damn much of that in the atheist movement.  We’re often drowning one another out by criticizing the methods and ignoring the message.

Incidentally, if you’d care to hear me opine a bit more on that exact subject, don’t miss my appearance on Atheistically Speaking next Thursday, where David, Thomas and I discuss this exact point in depth.

And forgive me for all the caterwauling.  I’m halfway through the Phish Food and I’m already feeling better.

Here’s Hoping Heaven Has a Leash Law

January 28, 2014 3 comments

by Noah Lugeons

For fuck’s sake, there’s something called the Christian Veterinary Mission.

I know this because among the many awesome and generous people who listen to the show is a veterinarian.  She was recently at a conference and sent along a little care package full of goodies she’d picked up there for our cats.  Along with some new toys, some flea medicine, and a bounty of cool shwag were a few pamphlets from the Christian Veterinary Mission.

The first one shows a little pug with his head cocked in that adorable “curious puppy” way and above him is the burning question “Will I See My Pet In Heaven?” and believe it or not, it gets stupider from there.  When you open it up, you find a dodgy answer to that question and boy do they cover their bases.  They offer up three contradictory possibilities, inadvertently highlighting the stupidity of asking questions for which no data could possibly be collected, and then they offer an unrelated bible verse.

So why create an entire pamphlet if your ultimate answer to the question you, yourself posed is “Fucked if we know?”  It turns out it was all a trick.  The rest of the pamphlet takes the “Who gives a shit about Fido, what makes you so sure you’re going to heaven?” tack.

It’s essentially a chick tract in pug’s clothing, but it serves as a perfect reminder that those motherfuckers are everywhere.  Think about it; there’s an entire ministry that exists for the sole purpose of evangelizing to veterinarians at conferences.  They sponsor veterinary missions where you can go out and medicate goats in third world countries for Jesus.  Because who needs the word of god more than a third world villager who’s injuring his goat?

Somewhere out there is an enterprising Christian trying to figure out the best way to proselytize to Norwegian, bipolar semi-professional left-handed bowlers.  And when she figures it out, she’ll have financial backing.  It’s depressing to see how far-reaching the opponents of reason are, but it’s encouraging to see how desperate they are.  After all, there was a time when they could sell Jesus without resorting to cute pugs with cocked heads.  Pretty soon they’ll have their own computer animated gecko.

Our Wrongness Proves Us Right

January 27, 2014 5 comments

by Noah Lugeons

There was an ancient tablet and it referred to a boat, so I suppose it was inevitable that the douche-shooting Christians would claim it as proof of Noah’s Ark.  You probably saw the story by now, but in case you haven’t it goes like this: Ancient Mesopotamian tablet is found and upon translating the cuneiform researchers discovered a portion of a story very similar to the story of Noah’s Ark, with the notable exception that this tablet specifies the boat as being round.

Despite the explicit addendum that this tablet provides absolutely no evidence that such an ark existed, the bulk of the headlines about the piece read the exact opposite.  Stories like “Was Noah’s Ark Round?” are cropping up all over the place and the more credulous ass-tards like Bryan Fischer are actually referring to it as “scientific proof”, betraying a lack of understanding of both of the words in those quotes.

And while the newly uncovered tablet says nothing at all about the shape of “Noah’s Ark”, it does prove just how circular the reasoning of Christian fundamentalist are.  They’re able to take what amounts to proof that their story is false and hold it up as evidence.  A story about their legend that clearly predates their version and demonstrates that they got key details wrong should be an embarrassment.  It should be enough to close the topic for good.  In fact, we probably should have shut down debate on that topic the first time we found indisputable evidence that the Jews plagiarized this story from the Sumerians.

It reminds me of the eleventh time I saw a headline about some idiot finding a dusty piece of petrified wood on a mountain and claiming he discovered the legendary ark.  You would think after two people discovered it, additional discoveries of the ark (taking place on different mountains) would turn into evidence against the historicity of the story, but the motivated reasoning of fundamentalists is easy to underestimate.

Every time I see one of these ridiculous claims make the news cycle I almost feel sorry for the more rational blend of Christianity.  They have to realize how stupid this looks to the non-Christian world.  It’s as though every time an old house was discovered in the woods it was presented as evidence for the historical Hansel and Gretel.  And yet somehow vast swaths of Christianity obliging line up to provide rationalists with ammunition every time the words boat and ancient appear in the same article.

As atheists, we should remember to thank them more often.

Italian Nun Fucks Man

January 17, 2014 6 comments

by Noah Lugeons

Why the hell is this news?  I saw it on HuffPo this evening and by 9 o’clock I was seeing it on half a dozen social media sites and forums.  A nun in Italy had a baby.  She was quoted as saying, “I had no idea I was pregnant” and I, for one, believe her.  She’d have had an abortion if she knew.

It’s a ridiculous concession to religion to pretend that this is newsworthy.  A nun has a baby on the other side of the Atlantic and it’s headline news in America?  As though this is some unheard of circumstance that defies explanation?  She’s a 31 year old woman who fucked a dude.  Probably more than one.  And almost certainly more than once.  In fact, she lives in Italy and she named the baby after the Pope.  I’m not saying he’s her baby’s daddy, or anything, but he has expressed a recent interest in tits.

So yeah, she had a kid.  I don’t need to tell you how that works.

 

An Atheist Behind Enemy Lines

December 30, 2013 15 comments

by Noah Lugeons

It’s a long story, but my wife and I bid a fond farewell to NYC this week and moved south.  Our destination?  The duodenum of the bible belt; south Georgia.

I can hear the incredulous echo of “Why!?” already, so I should note that Lucinda’s family lives there, I grew up there, we both have a number of friends there and it costs about as much to rent a house there as it costs to park a car for a month in the Big Apple.  So when I got laid off and the most expensive city in the US was no longer a viable option, Georgia was the first option we considered.  And as much as there is to hate about this part of the country, I was wearing shorts and short-sleeves this afternoon.

But I’m also a firm believer that if we want to make progress as a movement, we’re going to need vocal atheists in every part of the nation.  The disturbing national trend of voluntary relocation for the purposes of political hegemony is certainly a factor in our gridlocked government.  And while I would never recommend that anybody move to or even visit South Georgia for any reason whatsoever, I also wouldn’t recommend that anyone shy away from a place they’d like to be just because the religiots got there first.

And sure, there’ll be issues.  My new landlord let us know that if there was an emergency we could call him on Sundays, but otherwise it’s the lord’s day.  I’ve already been asked three times if my wife and I had chosen a church yet (we’ve been here almost two days).  The guy who came to hook up our cable was really friendly until he saw Lucinda’s Bible (and the Atheist sticker on it).  Not to mention the witless church signs packed so densely they could be knocked over like dominoes.  And the bumper stickers.  And the confederate flags…

But I don’t see any of this as a negative.  After 46 diatribes in a row, I was starting to worry that I’d run out of shit to be pissed about.  Now I’m fairly certain that I’ll be good through episode 348 at least.

 

Being the Atheist Guy

July 22, 2013 5 comments

by Noah Lugeons

Before I started this podcast, I wasn’t very public about my atheism.  I’d tell anyone interested enough to ask that I was an atheist and if they wanted to know why I would tell them.  But I never invited the conversation.  I’d been told so many times that it was rude to “attack” someone’s faith that I started to believe it.

And now that I’m “the atheist guy”, I really wish I’d flushed that nonsense along time ago.

Again, I’ve been an “out” atheist for years.  It wouldn’t be fair to say that I was “quiet” about it, as I’ve always been quick to point out the bullshit in a religious claim and I’ve never given much of a damn about whether the person I was pointing it out to was religious.  But I never allowed it to be a defining part of my personality.  I’d never been an activist.

But now I am.  Now everyone I work with or regularly interact with knows that I’m a vocal atheist and many of them see this as my defining characteristic.  I’d never wanted this before because I feared it would land me in one pointless debate after another.  But it turns out that that fear was entirely unfounded.  Much of this is geographic, of course.  Living as an open atheist in NYC is quite a bit different than being the atheist guy in Vinegar Bend, Alabama, but even with New York’s notoriously diverse religious population I worried about the constant barrage of well-meaning devotees trying to save me from the bad parts of the afterlife.

And yes, there’s been some of that.  I have an acquaintance that seems obsessed with turning me “back to Jesus” (her phrase, mind you, as I’ve never been a Christian).  She’s a nice person, she means well and I put up with it with a smile.  I rib her a bit for it and I tell her I know she means well and I avoid her every chance I get.  To be honest, she’s one of those people everyone kind of tries to avoid.

But those interactions are a trifling minority compared to the people who have come to me with genuine curiosity.  Many of these people have known me for years without knowing that I was an atheist.  And contrary to the fear that I would lose some of their respect, it turns out that by and large I’ve given them more respect for atheism.  They know that I’m a moral, friendly, intelligent, well-mannered, polite, hard-working (and occasionally self-aggrandizing) guy and knowing that I’m a nonbeliever has helped chip away at their stereotype of the angry, unhappy atheist.

Of course, this shouldn’t be a revelation to me.  It’s been one of the dominant thrusts of the atheist movement for the last several years.  Be vocal, counter the stigma by being openly atheist, give them an example of an atheist that isn’t frothing at the mouth.  In fact, I feel like I’m one of the last people to the party on this one.

But I’m not the last person.

So I’m writing this to everyone who is still on the fence about “coming out”, or, more appropriately, being vocal about your atheism.  I was guilty of overestimating the negative reaction and underestimating the positive reaction.  I think most of the people who are vacillating are probably guilty of the same.  Sure, some people have to be careful, as they risk alienating family, losing friends, losing social and financial support, damaging their marriage, losing their job… but that’s all the more reason the rest of us should be as vocal as we can be.  It’s up to those of us who can change the image of atheism to do so for the sake of all those who stand to lose so much.