Why I don’t do online comments

I’ve made it clear elsewhere on this website that I don’t do online discussions, including interacting in the comment boxes. The comments under my recently published interview with Randal Rouser reaffirm my conviction that online discussions are a waste of everybody’s time.

Typically, online comments fall into one of three categories.

  1. Fair questions
  2. Didn’t carefully read the article or they would know that their question was already answered, and
  3. Please go back to playing Halo in your mommy’s basement and leave the adults alone while we discuss these issues.

And it’s tempting, oh so tempting, to interact with the fair questions. After all, it’s a legitimate question, and there is a possibility that the questioner actually wants to have a real discussion; really exploring the issues. In my years online I have had a small handful of such conversations.

But all too often the “fair question” was just bait so they can then proceed to harass you. Once they’ve sucked you in to a conversation and confirmed that you’ll engage them, when you pull out later on because you recognize their duplicitous ploy then they can claim they “beat you” with their tough questions. I have had way too many of those kinds of conversations.

One fair question from the comment boxes at the link above is the question of Heaven. If suffering is necessary for virtue, then is virtue impossible in Heaven? Good question, and I do take a crack at that objection in my book. I guess you’ll just have to buy it and read it.

Then there are questions / comments that fit under the second category. The first comment is a prime example. The claim is made that Theists cannot imagine a world with less suffering, and that we appeal to mystery when dealing with these issues. However, as I make clear in the interview, in my book I go to great pains to imagine, and describe, a world with less suffering, even no suffering at all; it’s just not the utopia we all like to think it would be. So do I lack imagination, or do God’s critics lack a realistic assessment of what life would be like if they got exactly what they seem to be asking for?

And the accusation that Theists punt the conversation off into the realm of “mystery” flies in the face of the fact that we’re having this interview at all, and that I wrote this book in the first place. Writing the book, and having the interview, are both precisely aimed at striving for understanding so we don’t have to punt it off into the domain of mystery. That’s a prime example of just trotting out the usual anti-religious tripe instead of actually giving any real consideration to the subject matter at hand.

Then there’s the third category, also well represented in the comment boxes. The “Atheist Missionary” ends off with “However, if it is true, your deity can … [insert whatever blasphemous insult you please].”

Right. Yeah. Thanks for exuding all the maturity we would expect from a 14 year old who’s finally allowed to use the internet without direct adult supervision. The annals of philosophical inquiry are just that much more enriched by your profound contribution to this millenia-old discussion. Move aside, Aristotle!

I asked Randal about this and he said it just comes with the territory. I strongly suspect he’s right; the territory being “online discussions.” Which is why I’ve moved out of that territory. I’ve waved goodbye and moved to more… shall we say… mature territory. I blog for the sake of working through issues and putting food for thought out there, but I am extremely reluctant to actually discuss anything I blog about online. Or through email. While I do make extremely rare exceptions (and often regret it) for the most part if you want to talk about this with me we aren’t going to discuss it in web-land. You are going to have to join me elsewhere.

Some of you may have heard of this magical land called, “the real world.” It’s a place where people sit together, in person, in the same room, breathing the same air. No monitors. No keyboards. And definitely no banal pseudonyms like “Atheist Missionary.” Instead, people in the “real world” will talk instead of typing, and they will use their real names and discuss these subjects like real people. Real adults.

Well, most of the time, anyway. The batting average isn’t 1.000, but it’s a whole lot higher than in web-land.

So my apologies to all those people who might actually want to have a real conversation online, but the rest of the internet has ruined it for both of us. How about this; let’s do coffee – live and in person – and leave the juvenile riff-raff to play Halo and troll websites from their mommy’s basement.

Coffee’s on me.

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