Hi, everyone. First post here. I'm so glad to have found this site--had no idea such a thing existed. I was beginning to think I was a lone nonbeliever/skeptic where I lived, but here we go.
Anyway, my topic is about posting in online forums as a way of "safely" trying to either lead people from fundamentalism or criticize dangerous beliefs from behind a username one hopes is impregnable and untraceable. I have been doing this a lot for some months now on a somewhat notorious site, Dominica News Online, and while I've found some other nonbelievers with the courage to post there, my impression by and large is that I am not making much progress. Mind you, progress cannot be measured simply by people posting comments that agree with mine, but I still feel discouraged, nonetheless.
The reason I created this topic is not because of that, per se, though--it's to ask whether or not you think this form of debating--i.e., hiding behind a username for safety, not unlike here--is the way we (that is, those of us who do this exclusively) should continue to try to spread information about science, belief, evidence, etc. to the religious community in the Caribbean. My preference would be to arrange actual meetings with locals or whoever in town and just have discussions, but I cannot imagine this actually working, and the threat of violence feels too real for me to truly entertain this notion. Therefore, I post my thoughts online, where it feels safer. But I am not only not reaching those who are not online; I don't even know if I'm reaching many or any locals online.
Has anyone else thought about this? Sorry if it's a simple or already-done bit of questioning and venting--I just want some feedback from others here.
Hey Calliope22. Good to have a fellow Dominican (are you? or do you just visit/live there) here at last. Ha. I thought I was the only one as well for a long while. I have heard that there were others, but I guess they don't go about advertising it. I can't blame them, for the same reasons you mentioned.
I do share your concern for the goings on at DNO (Dominica News Online). So much intolerance, bigotry, hatred, ignorance and hypocrisy. I shudder to think I was among those ranks not too long ago. Ha. In any case, I was like you. Getting so disappointed at my country men and how warped they are as a result of being brainwashed by religion. I have posted a few points on stories. But as you noted, I feel like my point is not getting very far. I do see a few persons posting some more secular ideas from time to time as well. And this reassures me, however, that there are still rational thinking people out there.
I would suggest to continue posting. Someone has to act as a buffer to all the ridiculous ideas folks spout on sites like DNO.
Yes, just sent you a message about that, lol.
Well, I was born in the USA to Dominican parents and then moved back with them to Dominica when I was young, and so I grew up there. I've lived there since, although I go to school now in the USA.
My own belief is that these conversations would be more effective if I could just talk to people face-to-face, the conversation flowing where it needs to. That people also tend not to read long posts is another, though lesser, concern of mine. But I'm afraid that if people begin to recognize a face or voice too well, they'll find out where that person lives, and he or she will one day or night find violent company waiting outside (or, worse, inside the house). On a small island, anonymity and superficial neutrality are the only ways to hide, to delay violent responses. I used to post on Dominica Diaspora, too, before I got too afraid of my name becoming associated with something.
Ah, well. The irony is that if I show a friend in the States the mad comments some people make about religion on DNO, they crack up laughing.
Welcome Calliope22! I was away on holiday for a while, I'm just now catching up! (As we say in Barbados).
I like your post and the discussion it has elicited.
In my opinion sites such as Nexus are an excellent way for atheists to gain confidence in their world view, exchange ideas and hopefully build fellowship. To really change the societies in which we reside we will have to build real-world associations of like-minded rationalists. While exploring how real-world atheist organizations started, I found they tended to begin first as social groups, for example people with common interests meeting at a coffee shop. Only after they gained some social momentum did these people begin to officially organize with a view to creating a "lobby" on issues that concerned them.
This is a direction that I would like to pursue, ever mindful of Richard Dawkins' analogy of the act of organizing atheists being similar to herding cats!
I decided to publicly declare my atheist views on facebook and to my friends (if the topic arose) because;
1) I was sick and tired of being constantly bombarded with religion in public and the media.
2) I'm in an uber minority anyways (white ex-patriot jazz musician with not many close social connections - no, I'm not looking for sympathy)
3)My wife understands where I'm coming from.
4) After reading Dawkin's book, watching youtube debates and sharing discussions with Nexus members I feel increasingly confident that I can calmly and effectively defend my position if attacked.
5) I think I have a reasonable reputation here in Barbados as a good citizen (not by any means perfect:)
6) I have the growing certainty that religion is unjust, breeds conflict and is holding civilization back.
7) Did I mention I was fed up?
So I said to hell with it. I'm atheist, there's nothing wrong with that and I'm not going to hide it.
I was paranoid in the beginning, understanding full well that lurking within the otherwise friendly and intelligent ranks of Barbadian society exists an ignorance that defies belief. I was particularly concerned about my young sons at school.
One evening, a few weeks ago, fueled by a glass of wine and my usual foolish curiosity, I decided to try an experiment.
First I challenged one of the many Christian Facebook "friends" who are constantly (and annoyingly) broadcasting christian propaganda. In my comment to him, I simply asked if he could provide any empirical evidence for the existence of god (Gaps in our knowledge and Bronze age texts written and edited by man didn't count). Many christians immediately joined and replied with attempts to defend their belief system. Many were convinced that I needed saving. When I rationally invalidated their arguments and informed them I was atheist and didn't need saving I got a few slightly vindictive comments but that was all.
The second part of my experiment was to broadcast a very nice positive message about atheism on my FB page that went out to all my "friends"...... and nothing happened. As David Ince (Caribatheist) drily commented "the silence in here is deafening". Finally after a week or so, a FB friend commented and we began a cordial debate discussing atheism and christianity.
So far so good.
I don't think I will ever change any fundamentalist's views, but perhaps if we stand up and show ourselves, we will have the opportunity to clump together like so many magnetized iron filings and gain mass and momentum. If we engage in calm positive debate, show ourselves to be good role models and a source of benefit to society through charitable works, then perhaps we can make a difference. Who knows? Maybe this so called christian society will accept that we are not the agents of Satan(tm).
If we directly challenge the historically strong and influential Barbadian Anglican church or rile christian evangelical groups we will be in for a very rough ride indeed. Quietly gathering social momentum is the key.
Thanks again for your post - sorry if this one was long :)
Nice post and very good discussion. Spoke about something relating to this in my blog this week. Will include the link at bottom if you wish to look at that.
In short, I think we need to keep making comments online. One point that I heard Matt Dillahunty of 'Atheist Experience' make is that you have to remember that in online debates you are not only speaking to the people commenting on the forum. There are always others lurking reading on the sidelines that you may be influencing, these may be far more than those you are actually talking to. You have no idea where the seed you sow will lead.
In terms of decisions to 'come out', I fully understand the reservations people have. It was one I thought about for a long time. But it simply came to the point where I felt that my atheism was too important a part of me to just hide away. I do want to make a difference and I think that this is far easier to be achieved if I am not 'behind the curtain.'
I am hoping that by 'coming out' others will be encouraged to as well. I was very moved when I decided to 'come out' on my blog, that I got emails from a few people telling me that hearing my story had encouraged them to do the same. I still go as 'caribatheist' on Nexus and in my blog, since that is what I was known as in these places from before and I am fine with keeping on using it as my " atheist name." But I have no problem with exposing my real name 'David Ince' at the same time. It also makes it easier for people to connect with me on Facebook or through other online means. However, I have to admit that I am a doing my doctrate and working at a university in Canada where such disclosures are really no big deal. If I change my job tomorrow, things may be different, but I will cross that bridge if and when I come to it.
So Calliope 22, I don't think you need to 'come out' if you do not feel comfortable with it. Dominica is a very small country. So continue what you are doing, the message is more important than the messenger at this stage. We know that for every message challenging religion we put out, there will be 100 that the other side will put out in support of faith, but we can't afford to give up. We have logic on our side and I am confident that will win out eventually although I have no idea when that eventually will be.
I agree that face to face discussions are always better, but again you have to balance that with risks of identifying yourself. I must admit that the people I have spoken to so far on my lack of faith have been curious rather than violent in their response. Pitying me for not having the 'truth' moreso than anything else. So, although I don't go out of my way to discuss my non belief with anyone, I am glad to talk about it if the subject comes into conversation naturally and the time and place is appropriate.
I used to think it might be annoying to talk about atheism in public discourse, since I myself get tired of hearing preaching and proselytising from their side. Now, I am thinking differently since the point of view we give is one that is so rarely put out in public. Very often I realise that what I am telling them, they have never heard from anyone else. So, to me that makes what we have to say more important to be shared than the average preacher who has hundreds of others beside him and around him happy to hit you with that same message.
We are all in our small corners so we have to let our lights shine, to use a little religious imagery :).
Best of luck and don't lose heart!
David Ince a.k.a Caribatheist