Arts & Media Columns Combating Online Hate Speech Mark Silk: Spiritual Politics Opinion

To my commenters

Raphael, School of Athens

Over the years that I have been writing Spiritual Politics, first as a blog and now as a column, I have taken the position that commenting should take place as if in an open public forum where pretty much anything goes short of incitement to violence, obscenity, and outright ethnic or religious slurs.

My sense was that if I was going to offer my opinions about religious goings on, readers should be free to offer theirs, regardless of how intemperate or ill-conceived. In part, I was simply interested in learning what was out there in the way of attitudes and opinions on what I chose to discuss.

I have come to feel differently, in large part because the comments section of this column—and, indeed, of the RNS site generally—has been turned into a battleground for a group of religious adversaries to hurl insults at each other. A specific piece serves as little more than a prompt for the warfare to continue.

It could be argued that there’s no harm in this. If there are people who want to engage each other in verbal assault, why prevent them?

I have two answers.

First, it only adds to the ugliness of public discourse in our time. The public square of old was a place where you would have to meet those you disagreed with face to face, where the need to live together in a community would act as a brake on hostility. The digital public square provides no such brake. Indeed, by offering a cloak of anonymity and the assurance that direct personal contact need never take place, it does the opposite.

Second, continuing verbal battle discourages those who would like to engage the author and each other in civil discussion and debate. Why write a comment when the likely result is that one troll or another will rise up to bite your head off?

So from now on, I am enforcing the commenting policy that RNS has established, the heart of which is:

We understand that people feel passionately about religious belief and other topics we report on, and we fully encourage debate and disagreement – including criticism of our articles. But comments are expected to be civil and respectful. We will delete material that is defamatory, abusive, bullying, harassing, racist, hateful, violent, sexually explicit or obscene; we will block commenters who post material that is deemed to be of this nature, and we will remove anything that is itself or is a link to something that is vulgar and obscene. Also not permitted are ethnic slurs, religious intolerance, homophobia, and personal attacks.

Conversations can encompass many ideas, but they must remain on the topic of a story or related issues. And commenters should understand that they may be misunderstood and should make an effort to be clear and maintain a mature and moderate tone.

From now on I will delete comments that disrespect entire religious traditions such as these examples of anti-Catholicism in the comments to my last column:

Most Catholics suffer from the Three B Syndrome, Bred, Born and Brainwashed in their very flawed religion as are all believers in angels , devils, atonement, resurrection and an afterlife.

I do not need to “order” any tracts from a Roman Catholic website in order to grasp what Catholicism really is, for history bears out the egregious behavior and falsehoods that it has propagated.

So glad that I’m not involved in this nutso denomination.

Those who persist in making such comments will be blocked. I will also delete comments that depart from the topic of the column, and block those who persist in making them.

And as of now I am blocking the following commenters: Bob Arnzen, Ben in Oakland, Bob Cariozen, HpO, Givethedogabone, Arbustin, Reason over Religion, Michael Dowd, Rational Conclusions, and jaareshiah. If any one of you wish to be unblocked, you can drop me a line at Trinity College, 300 Summit Street, Hartford, CT 06106 and make your case.

About the author

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

148 Comments

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  • I respect your decision, Mark. I’m sure you took it only after a good deal of reflection. I hope it will be received as a signal that civil discourse is still possible. – Monica.

  • “First, it only adds to the ugliness of public discourse in our time. The public square of old was a place where you would have to meet those you disagreed with face to face”

    If you want to eliminate abrasive commenting in your comment section, that may be all to the good. But you should not use the “it didn’t use to be this way” excuse. Anonymous (but not always) polemical tracts have been disparaging people and groups for centuries.

  • I am aware of the history of invective, including anonymous invective. What exists today, in terms of extent and availability, makes it different in kind.

  • The message may be the same, but the number and accessibility of messages are orders of magnitude greater.

  • I am happy to see that you will observe the guidelines, Mark. I think that there is a difference between abrasive and offensive comments. I also think that people are perfectly capable of disagreeing without being obnoxious. Sometimes, it’s a matter of not responding for a while to a comment that gets one riled up.

  • sigh, I wish Jana would make the same decision at flunking sainthood.

    She seems to encourage serial trolls in the vain hope their hate will rev up sales of her book.

  • Thank you Mark Silk for your new stance. I hope you stick to your guns. I am not a religious person, but I like reading what religion has to say about various issues. I stumbled on this site via a link from Yahoo a few years ago. But I have found this site to be overrun with religious extremists, many of them hateful and denigrating toward those who aren’t Christian fundamentalists like they are.

    Honestly I’m shocked at how the owners of RNS have let it devolve into mud slinging on a regular basis. It’s given their site a bad name. As I understand it, the intent of RNS is to cover the whole range of religions and even non-belief. But somehow it became inhabited in the comment sections by mostly Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, and they’ve been very hostile to other Christians and other religions. It helped bring the end of a very fine writer on RNS, who grew weary of being attacked and how vile the comments became.

    I have to mention one other faction that has taken up residence here: anti-gay Evangelicals. They pounce on every article where the issue comes up and they are vicious and hateful toward LGBT people and those who support LGBT people. They’ve made it impossible to have anything close to a civil discussion on here. It’s just a handful of them, but between them they’ve made thousands of anti-gay posts. Again, it’s nothing but mud slinging every single time the issue comes up. What they don’t realize is they’re driving people away from their faith by being so hateful and mean.

    I severely limit the time I spend here because the comments are so poorly monitored, and it’s just nothing but insults and hate. Very little civil conversation takes place on here. And of course I haven’t even mentioned politics, which has also made things unbearable around here now that it’s tied so closely to people’s religious faith.

    I wish you the best in getting a rein on things. I’ll be watching to see if you can fix this mess. If you can, you’d see more participation and more civil conversation. You’ve got a tough row to hoe.

  • Thank you for making this decision and enforcing it. There is no point in leaving a comment on this site if the same names appear in a mutual slanging match. Especially since the reporting is of praise-worthy quality. A moderated commentary is hard work for you, but the alternative is no commentary at all.

  • Honestly I’m shocked at how the owners of RNS have let it devolve into mud slinging on a regular basis.

    I second your statement, ‘Til Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, have a look at other threads going on right now, in which some of the people Mark Silk has just banned keep right on slinging their mud with glad abandon, and with no restrictions that I can see from RNS moderators — though they engage in one personal attack after another, using slurs and insinuations to mount their attacks, covering the hate up with pious language.

  • Since evangelical Christianity has made antigay animus a cornerstone of its belief in recent decades it should come as a surprise to no one that loyal foot soldiers of the religious right would be on the march fighting for the cause they hold dear. This is not defend these people, obviously, I’m just saying that their vitriol is not happening in a vacuum – it’s happening because it is the logical outgrowth of a branch of Christianity that has grown diseased with hatred for the “other” disguised as “concern” for their spiritual well-being. No one should be at all surprised when that hatred finds expression on these pages or elsewhere.

  • Never — and let’s honestly add on a little emphasis in this case, given the history — be too quick to point fingers, Tuesday.

  • ALL of us, not just Mr. Silk have a part to play in keeping discussions civil. When someone is attacked we ALL need to reply back to that person and show our disapproval. There is a thumbs up and a thumbs down arrow that can be used. But we can also ALL use the reply button and tell them what we think of their remarks. AND we can do it in a civil fashion.

    Bullies seek out lone and what they perceive as weak individuals. When they realize that a person doesn’t stand alone but is supported by others they often, though not always, back down and look for someone else to bully.

  • Consider this a warning, floydlee. If you want to criticize my decision, go ahead. If you disagree with their characterizations, state your disagreement. A debate on what constitutes homophobia is legitimate. But snarky personal remarks head down a road that I’m not going to permit.

  • Elagabalus, this characterization is excessively broad-brush, and violates our rule on tolerance. I’m going to take it down shortly. Clearly, many evangelicals consider homosexual behavior sinful and oppose same-sex marriage. But that is not equivalent to “diseased with hatred” There are many evangelicals who see things differently. If you want to repost in a more modulated way, go ahead.

  • No thanks. I meant what I said and believe it to be true, broad-brush or no. Do what you see fit. It’s your show.

  • Keep in mind the flaws and errors that you promulgate. As a summary of the top of the list flaws via the The Great Kibosh of All Religions: (and note the offer to back up all of these bullets)

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • “excessively broad-brush, and violates the rule on tolerance”

    What you are saying here is that you are going to apply your own subjective parameters as to what is acceptable and not acceptable, and we have to guess what those parameters actually are. It is your blog, of course, so you have every right to be the arbiter of what constitutes valid vigorous self-expression.

  • I have offered you no criticism or comment of your decision, Dr. Silk. Indeed, I have only given a cautious, watchful silence. That is my current position.

    But I do see some names on “both sides of the banned fence” list there, and so my simple replies to the two posters that I addressed, is meant to encourage that same caution for them as well, rather than what appears to be finger-pointing, lecturing and/or gloating.

  • It won’t be long before the usual suspects reappear with different handles, as has happened so often in the past. People who want to get around the rules usually find a way of doing so. I think we can help keep that to a minimum by not taking the bait when someone attempts to hijack a conversation, or shifts to ad hominem (ad mulierem) attacks. I hope we can now enjoy a vigorous debate about the issues Mark raises without feeling diminished by the process.

  • Your comment about the anti gays is exactly to the point. Whatever nasty comments I have made have always been directed at them, for the reasons you cite. And I try to keep them short.

  • ‘Clearly, many evangelicals consider homosexual behavior sinful and oppose same-sex marriage. But that is not equivalent to “diseased with hatred” ‘

    Yes, it is. You just wrote in this article that homophobia should not be tolerated. Hypocrite, much?

  • And this is where I must agree with Elagabalus and disagree with you, Mr. Silk.

    It is one thing to believe that homosexual behavior is sinful and oppose same sex marriage for that reason. But what the anti-gay faction does is not that, or at least, not that alone. All of the rest of the lies, false beliefs, and bigotry that hides behind that it is what’s important, and what i usually address.

    Again, I will take the trouble to write to you, as per your request. I am with my family on vacation right now, and I’ve had very little time to even read any blogs.

  • You’re right, it’s my space and I’m the arbiter. I will make the parameters as clear as I can. Wholesale denunciatory mischaracterization of 25 percent of the American population falls outside the parameters of acceptability here.

  • You seem to have no problem with “wholesale denunciatory mischaracterization” of LGBTQ+ people as “sinful”. Hypocrite, much?

  • I will do my best to monitor the section. If abusive comments appear under any handle, they will be dealt with accordingly.

  • And you will decide what is and is not a “mischaracterization”? That brings a lot of subjectivity into the arbitration.

  • Calling all LGBTQ+ people “sinful” and opposing equal rights for them is abusive, FYI. It’s not OK to oppose interracial marriage or equal rights for racial minorities, either.

  • We do not negotiate with terrorists who wish to rob us of control of our own bodies, including but not limited to our sexuality and reproductive processes.

  • And how about the rampant “wholesale denunciatory mischaracterization” of LGBTQ+ people?

  • What professional is going to get rid of all the homophobes, transphobes, and abortion-phobes, exactly?

  • I think Mr. Silk will find he is walking a tight rope between censorship of ideas he and others disagree with and censorship of bullying behavior aimed at one particular person as opposed to comments being aimed at people (or a group of people) in general. I agree the dirty words, name calling, and attacks on characters have gone too far.

    The issue over comments about homosexuality and same sex marriage raised by ‘Til Tuesday” is important. Is it hate speech to say that homosexuals are sinners, unloved by God, doomed to he–? Is it hate speech to claim the Bible denounces same sex marriage when there are many (me included) that say it doesn’t? Is it hate speech to call women who seek abortions murderers? Is it hate speech to say that Atheists (like me) have no morals, or ethics, or hope in life?

    Where does freedom of speech and freedom of religion to believe what one wants to believe cross the line and become the hate the “us the good guys versus them, all of those that aren’t like us climate” that tears and has torn and will continue to tear our nation apart?

  • “Is it hate speech to say that homosexuals are sinners, unloved by God, doomed to he–? Is it hate speech to claim the Bible denounces same sex marriage when there are many (me included) that say it doesn’t? Is it hate speech to call women who seek abortions murderers? Is it hate speech to say that Atheists (like me) have no morals, or ethics, or hope in life?”

    Yes.

  • Dr. Silk, can you monitor DOWN arrows as a clue to what might constitute rule-breaking? Thanks.

  • I agree that it is truly sad rhat those who run the RNS website choose not to enforce the civility code.

  • Well I can say there has been a particular commentator, I forgot their name unfortunately, that I have flagged on several occasions that was never removed.

    My concern here, is that open dialogue that challenges or contradicts, will be removed because it goes against a PC narrative. This does not mean that comments where people are openly hostile should not be removed, but in this day and age I think we all need more clarity. My other concern here is that this is going to turn into another NCReporter commenting problem where diverse and lively comments are not welcomed. That unless one does not prescribe to a certain view point comments will be removed. If you could also clarify this as well it would be appreciated.

  • I fully accept that I have, on occasions, made points robustly.

    Forty+ years as a, fairly successful, salesperson taught me that, to be effective, communication has to take place at the level that the person one is engaging with will respect. Sometimes, my preference, that level is extremely civil and courteous, sometimes one is dealing with a person who does not respect politeness.

    I don’t believe that I have deliberately kicked off an atmosphere of unpleasantness but I may be wrong about that – it’s a subjective judgement. If I have initiated an inappropriate tone I apologise to those I have offended by so doing – I should not have done so; but if my less than genteel responses were measured ripostes to another’s tone I stand by those responses.

    I not only dislike bullies, I have, throughout my seventy years, always stood up to them. My last S&M Director (who was 6′ 4″ and ten years my junior) tried putting me down in front of customers and colleagues – I don’t think he had ever before had someone stand on tiptoe and give him as good as he gave. We didn’t become friends but he never started a public argument with me again. As I see it, I carry that attitude on to these boards.

  • Re: “Clearly, many evangelicals consider homosexual behavior sinful and oppose same-sex marriage. But that is not equivalent to ‘diseased with hatred’.” 

    Maybe it’s just me — cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen that I am — but I find this contention makes no sense. It’s not evangelicals’ business to decide whom other people should be allowed to marry. That they would presume the the authority to make such decisions for other people, can only be motivated by contempt for, and hatred of, those other people. Otherwise there’d be no reason for them even to care. 

    You’re giving them way too much credit. Far more than they deserve. Oh, and full disclosure: I once was a fundagelical Christian. I can confirm there is, in truth, a great deal of hatred for gays (and lots of other groups of people) within their camp. That’s not to say every single one of them “hates” gays; that wasn’t true of me, back when I was a fundie, nor was it true of most of the fundies I hung around with. But the literature was riddled with hatred, and some of the preaching I saw and heard dripped with condemnation of gays (and, again, other groups). 

  • Just to be clear. I won’t tolerate homophobia, though there may be some difference about what constitutes it.

  • Calling all LGBTQ+ people “sinful” and opposing equal marriage rights for them because “the bible says so” is OBVIOUSLY homophobia. We do not negotiate with terrorists.

  • There is nothing even remotely “civil” about homophobia, transphobia, and abortion-phobia, yet that’s practically all this forum is good for.

  • And most especially so when there i not the same concern for a whole panoply of other acts that they find to be sinful. There is no other conclusion that can be rationally drawn, other than homophobia.

  • Many Americans recognize that the question of abortion is quite complicated. I would not equate “abortion-phobia” with homophobia or transphobia.

  • I would. Get other people’s opinions out of my uterus. All restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional.

  • I agree, well said. I especially identified with the sentiment that at times I have gotten ‘less than genteel’ in response to trolls. In point of fact, I can become quite trollish with certain commentators. I am glad to see Dr Silk has banned a few of my irritants. I may actually behave myself for now.

  • As far as I’m concerned, you can have as many abortions as you want. However, it’s not absolutely clear that all restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional.

  • Yes, it is. If we don’t have control over what goes into or out of our bodies AT ALL TIMES, we do not have free speech. Go ask Savita Halappavanar.

  • I hate to disappoint you, colkoch, but I have not found you trollish, at all! Sorry about that! 🙂

  • Charlotte, I’m on the point of blocking you. To call those who oppose same-sex marriage rights terrorists is beyond what I will allow in this space. Since your phrasing is slightly ambiguous, I’ll let this go for now. You are of course entitled to your opinion.

  • Yes, it’s something of a tightrope. What I don’t like is name-calling, and I particularly name-calling that’s directed at an entire community. Arguments against permitting religiously based discrimination against same-sex spouses are clearly acceptable. But calling those who favor such discrimination homophobes or terrorists is not something I want to enable.

  • You have no problem enabling those people to call LGBTQ+ people such colorful names as “sinners” and “perverts”.

  • Excuse me charlotte why do you say anyone who opposed to your opinion is homophobic
    Jesus says lover the sinner hate the sin that is what all biblical christians should practice
    Charlotte and we are only following what the bible says about sin god hates sin but loves you charlotte and also being gay is not a sin it is acting upon those feelings that are the sin their are many gay people who are in the church they promise to live a chastened and celibate life and agree not to act on those feelings and the church welcomes them as members
    All sin are equal no one is saying one sin is more terrible then another you are getting angry for no reason ask yourself Charlotte did god make adam and eve or adam and. Steve and when god told adam and eve to be fruitful and mutiple can two women or two guys be fruitful and multiply or was their a reason god made man and women different so they could get together and create life and populate the earth if all people were gay then we would not have 7 billion people in the world currently roughly 10 percent of the population identify as transgender gay lesbian

  • I think charlotte you need to accept that you have the sin of acting upon those feelings then give it to god and he will take the urge away from you to do so
    Will you have doubts and urges to relaspe of course does god understand yes he does he loves you charlotte
    His son jesus took all the sins of man kind jesus choose to leave his throne in heaven and come to earth and live like us to know what his creation goes through the pain and suffering and to set us free it and forgive our sins all you have to do is say yes charlotte no one is saying you have to perform any acts or rituals just say yes charlotte i need a savior and i trust in him fully and make him your personal savior and the holy spirit will reside in your heart and he shall never forsake you and when you bodily life comes to a end it is not the end of the story charlotte a new chapter begins being in jesus present for all eternity in heaven and having eternal life and having all your tears wiped away and being in a place where love and joy and happiness and security is all around you
    The other place is where fear the nashing of teeth uncertainty their is no joy or love
    Or security or light it is a place where you are separated from god for all eyernity
    That place is called hell charlotte do you want to risk it for pride or anger or a ego

  • How about calling those in favor of same sex marriage immoral and a threat to the foundations of society? Does that comment go against your principles?

    If you are going to be seen as an honest broker you will need to enforce your rules equally across the board. I wish you luck.

  • God does not exist. Stop expecting everyone who is different from you to be celibate forever. That’s completely unreasonable.

    Attn: Mark Silk,
    Deal with the rampant homophobia on your forum, or I will do it for you. We do not negotiate with terrorists.

  • Mark, I think it would be helpful to know your criteria for abusive comments. I’m surprised at some of the comments that continue to be made by people who repeatedly disrespect others. Any clarification would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Yes, Susan, it does go against my principles—specifically against name-calling. By contrast, if someone makes a comment arguing that same-sex marriage is immoral and threatens the the foundations of society, I would not expect to delete it. But tone matters too. I’m assuming by the way that your comment was made in good faith rather than as a way to smuggle in a bit of name-calling under the guise of a hypothetical question. Let me say for the record that the object of this exercise is not to devise a fail-safe mechanism for adjudicating comments according to a set of absolute principles but rather to make this a sufficiently safe place for reasoned and temperate discussion. If anyone doesn’t like it, I encourage them to look elsewhere for the kind of discussion they want.

  • I would equate the two.

    The anti-abortion and anti LGBT stance both involve a callous disregard for the lives of people and a desire to impose upon them for specious allegedly religious reasons.

  • No, for many of the people you’re referring to Spuddie, the reasons are legitimately religious. You are entitled to reject their beliefs, as I do. But that does not mean that the beliefs do not reflect a bona fide religious commitment. “Specious” and “allegedly” simply serve as insults.

  • Spuddie,
    I was reacting to what she wrote a bit back — “abortion-phobia” . I’m not sure what she meant by that, but to me, it could indicate those who would simply never have an abortion. I know women who would not have an abortion, because they believe that is wrong. I don’t think that those women have a callous disregard for the lives of people. I also think that not wanting to have an abortion is very different from refusing people the right to enter into same sex marriage.

    I agree with you that people should not impose their religious views on others.

  • Please be assured that I have no interest at all in your uterus.

    Just an FYI — the Roe v Wade decision was based on the due process clause of the 14th amendment. And Roe v Wade did not provide an unfettered right to abortion.

  • I recently found out about RNS and have read many articles and comments…but have not commented much myself. Simply stated…my rule of thumb is never to attack…insult…argue with anyone. I am not articulate and am a very private person…so when I do make make a comment, I aim for it to be one that would be positive and edifying…i can’t claim perfection…but I don’t want to stand before God one day and be found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon…my words!

  • I am not buying it at all. Religion is used as a pretext and excuse in those examples to attack others. I am sure they are quite vehement in their belief. But sincerity never enters the picture.

    Respect for ones beliefs are earned. One does not automatically get to demand it simply by calling it religious beliefs.

  • On the contrary, the pretextual use of religion cannot be assumed. Indeed, the opposite must be assumed for pro-life Catholics, given the longstanding opposition to abortion in Catholic doctrine. If you have actual evidence of someone using religion as a pretext, that’s something else.

  • Its telling that you use the term “Pro-life Catholics” Most Catholics largely ignore the directives of the Vatican concerning family planning (in places where it is an option).

    Yet Catholics are not the backbone of the anti-abortion movement anymore. The opposition to abortion among Conservative Evangelicals is hardly as longstanding as they claimed. It represented a political calculus to pivot from the segregationism which defined them. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133

    Both segregationism and anti-abortion platforms are also method for fiscal conservatives to enlist the aid of poor and working class people to vote for those who attack their economic interests. Its telling that even now “Anti-Abortion” political figures are also invariably “Pro-Corporate” and “Anti-Regulation”. Brett Kavannaugh is a perfect example of this.
    https://medium.com/senator-sheldon-whitehouse/whitehouse-reveals-kavanaughs-pro-corporate-right-wing-record-in-scotus-hearing-opener-7dec87eaac65

  • Boy, God sure has a friend with you and it is special how you appear to not put yourself into a superior position. I do not have your good nature, as my identifying with nothingness has made me verbally attack God. Some of this is my emotional immaturity, some of it is the downward spiral of powerlessness, and some of it is my need to antagonize God for being “told” who I am not. Yet it is people like you who renew me to inspiration and lets the Light come back in. You are delightful and I hope you realize you appear to have effective leadership qualities. My way of affirming you and your words.

  • Thankyou for treating my comments fairly. The difference I am trying to point out is between arguing that same sex marriage is immoral and threatens the foundations of society AND for someone to say that because I support same sex marriage I am immoral and a threat to the foundations of society. The latter is a direct attack on my character and is the same as or a form of name calling.

  • There is a statue of John Harvard in the college yard with the inscription “John Harvard, Founder, 1638.”

    The statue is true to its nickname of the “Statue of Three Lies.” The likeness is not of John Harvard, though it is a reasonable guess. John Harvard was the college’s main original benefactor, but not its founder. The college was founded in 1636 by a vote by the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, two year’s earlier than the statue claims.

    Is it rational, then, to dismiss Harvard and all its works and put the kabosh on it as an institution of higher learning?

  • Professor Silk,

    I agree with you attempt to tone down the vitriol in the comments. But I must ask, have you ever used name-calling in your posts?

  • Mr. Silk got annoyed when I mentioned that multiple types and images of Buddhas aren’t actually a refutation of the religion’s beliefs, but an affirmation of it.

    Even to the point where they celebrate it in bronze at one of the freakiest* shrines in Kyoto (link entirely SFW)
    https://www.remoju.com/en-us/spots/detail/60535

    *meant with endearment.

  • 96% of Catholics ignore the pope and use artificial birth control. They ‘vote’ with their genitals, I guess. That someone would point with pride at being a “Pro-life Catholic” is bizarre to me. It’s none of their damn business what the rest of us get up to. Particularly since these same cranks are often attempting to distract from the clergy sexual abuse epidemic. (The church has done nothing and keep saying, “trust us”. They are bankrupt and have no moral authority whatsoever to speak on abortion.

  • Authority resides in the individual. The Church or the president (especially the present disaster) has zero moral authority. Trump set out from the first to hamper and silence all ethical oversight in the White House and in the country.

  • Sorry. If a blogger hits a DOWN arrow under someone’s comment, do you detect it? Now that I think of it, I vaguely recall the FLAG (?) notification, which I think Disqus intends for notifying moderators of questionable content in a comment. (Perhaps I answered my own question :o)

  • It’s a fair question. I’ve certainly criticized people, and do not hesitate to identify individuals or groups as, for example, “conservative evangelicals” or “right-wing Catholics.” But that’s about it. You’re welcome to check.

  • I think we need to expand this discussion to what constitutes Civil Discourse. Where do we draw the line between the right to believe what one wants to believe and when stating those beliefs in public forums becomes uncivil discourse–attacks on other people or a group of people’s character. I think this is one reason why our founding fathers tried to build that metaphorical wall to separate church and state.

    This issue involves more than discussions on web sites like this. College campuses are having speakers shouted out and prevented from speaking when their views aren’t politically correct. The halls of Congress political leaders on both sides demonize and demean their opponents, they can’t seem to stick to the content of the issue at hand. NOT to mention the example set by our current president. What are young people learning by watching him and his supporters?

    Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a day (I paraphrase here) “where all of Gods children would be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin”. I would add to the ending–or by their sexual or gender orientation, or their religion or lack of religion, or their ethnicity, immigration status, age, wealth, education, etc.

    Until this happens people of good conscience need to be able to speak up in public forums and object when religion is weaponized and used to justify and sanctify the persecution and discrimination of all of those that reject a certain set of beliefs, for all of those that are different and not like us–the good guys!

    The question comes back to how do we do address uncivil words and actions in a civil fashion? Or whether incivility should be fought with incivility? Do we go high when they go low? Is it wrong (uncivil) to say they have gone low?

  • Martin Luther King believed people who profess homosexuality need a psychiatrist, Susan.
    You are suggesting censorship.

  • Martin Luther King Jr. was no saint. In other words he wasn’t perfect! He was a man of his time. Who knows what he might think today if he had lived!

    There is a difference between censure and censor. I am talking about censure. I suggest you look up the definitions of the two words.

  • MLK would think the same – the Bible hasn’t changed

    cen·sure
    /ˈsen(t)SHər/Submit
    verb 1.express severe disapproval of (someone or something), typically in a formal statement.
    “a judge was censured in 1983 for a variety of types of injudicious conduct”
    noun
    noun: censure; plural noun: censures
    1.the expression of formal disapproval.
    “angry delegates offered a resolution of censure against the offenders”

    synonyms: condemnation, criticism, attack, abuse;

    And who judges “injudicious conduct”? – censorship.

  • Seems fair. I hope it works. Of course people can simply reappear under another name, but even so they will be more cautious.

  • You are only partially right about the Bible not changing. Actually modern translations and scholarship have corrected many errors in earlier translations, and identified changes inserted based on cultural bias.

    Many educated people have changed their interpretation of the Bible.

    NOW go look up the word censor. It is different from censure.

  • I’m afraid this discussion stream has not improved since the new policy was announced. It’s not clear whether people are being blocked or banned (two different functions in DISQUS) and there continue to be dismissive comments meant to insult whole groups of people.

  • “if someone makes a comment arguing that same-sex marriage is immoral and threatens the the foundations of society,” that’s religious discrimination against same-sex couples. There’s nothing “reasoned and temperate” about it. Get your fascist theocracy off my civil rights.

  • You have no problem with anonymous trolls like “JP” claiming that gays do not have civil rights. Hitler felt the same way. You are promoting fascist theocracy.

  • “I know women who would not have an abortion, because they believe that is wrong. I don’t think that those women have a callous disregard for the lives of people.”

    Yes, they do, if they attempt to restrict other people’s access to abortion because of their own inhibitions.

  • Attempting to legislate one’s “religious commitment” onto other people simply serves as a violation of other people’s 1st Amendment rights. Get your fascist theocracy out of my bedroom and my uterus.

  • But I did not say that these particular women attempt to restrict the access of anyone else. And their position on abortion is not because of inhibitions, but because of sincerely held beliefs. Why are you minimizing their position?

    You write as if you had a corner on the truth market. I’m not quite sure how that attitude differs from that of some of the other posters whom you regularly deride. I know that their positions differ from yours, but this attitude of a unique hold of the truth — that seems to me to be remarkably similar to theirs.

  • I’m surprised that you say this, monicadeangelis. It seems to me that the discussion stream has in fact become less vituperative, and personal insults of individual commenters are gone. I’m not sure which dismissive comments you’re referring to. I do not propose to delete all comments characterizing groups of people—and, no doubt, this may annoy some readers. An old friend of mine used to say that any sentence that beings “Jews are…” will be perceived by Jews as anti-Semitic unless the rest of the sentence is something like “people who embrace education for their children.” I have blocked rather than banned some commenters, to provide readers with some awareness that there are in fact would-be commenters who are being denied the opportunity to post comments

  • It’s certainly a tricky issue, Susan. But I’d say that it’s not uncivil to call a spade a spade. If one commenter calls me a cretin, there’s nothing uncivil in my saying that in delivering that insult she’s gone low.

  • Mark, by blocking instead of banning commenters, you leave their comments there for everyone to read, personal insults and attacks and everything else. The fact that you can no longer read them doesn’t make the site less offensive. If you’re proposing that we all block commenters, that seems to defeat your purpose in actually being the moderator.

  • Their position is indefensible, so they resort to terrorism and murder of doctors and patients alike. We do not negotiate with terrorists who wish to rob us of control of our own bodies, because they have irrational phobias about abortion.

  • As I said, you seem to believe that you have a corner on the truth market. In that aspect, what you write is like what those whom you oppose write.

    People can believe that abortion is wrong for rational reasons, just as others can believe that it is acceptable for rational reasons.

  • There are no rational reasons to restrict access to abortion. What you like or don’t like has no jurisdiction over my uterus.

  • Sure, there are. You just don’t like them.

    But that’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about women who believe that abortion is wrong, and so they will not have one. But they do not do anything to restrict anyone’s access to abortion.

  • They vote for other abortion-phobes like themselves, who seek to impose their abortion-phobia onto the entire country. This is a problem to me.

  • I grew up in Alabama. It’s like a third-world country down there, thanks to all the abortion-phobes.

  • There are many other reasons why Alabama is like it is, other than opposition to abortion.

    Perhaps for you, abortion is the only important issue around. For many of us, it’s one issue of many.

    I don’t understand your need to call those with whom you disagree names.

  • I don’t understand Christians’ need to call LGBTQ+ people names or restrict their civil rights.

  • You must be new to this forum. The word “sodomites” gets thrown around a lot here, despite the supposed rules against name-calling.

  • I stopped posting here for a while, because the name calling is offensive. I have tried flagging the offensive posts, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. I came back now and will see how long I stay.

    Although some of the posters who advocate literal reading of the Bible are probably sincere, I believe that others do it just to get a rise out of people. I don’t see any purpose that is served by the name-calling. I’ve blocked a number of them, so that I don’t have to see the comments.

  • I do not block them, because their deadly bigotry cannot go unanswered. They have had a bubble chamber on this forum and others like it for far too long.

  • “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/99574-we-must-take-sides-neutrality-helps-the-oppressor-never-the

  • THANK YOU. I complained over a year ago about the nasty, judgmental comments that are scattershot through thoughtful responses. I simply stopped reading comments, which is too bad. I’ll read yours now that civility will reign. Thanks again.
    P.S. I just read the comments to this post about civility! Nice try, Mark.

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