Why I Troll Christian Sites

ugly_trollThis post is directed toward Christians who question why I am commenting on Christian blogs.  After reading my points below, I hope Christians will realize that I am not attempting to be a generic troll on these sites.

Shared Values

I am an ex-Christian and lost all my Christian friends on leaving Christianity.  But since then, I have made a few Christian friends in my community and now also on-line.  My Christian friends and I share a great deal in common and focus on our commonality, rather than our differences.  Though we often do discuss our difference we can always laugh and return to our shared values.  Here are some of those values:

  • The reflective life
  • The felt need to constantly improve ourselves & discipline our moral habits
  • A community where we watch and encourage each other: “Accountability”
  • Nurtured Virtues:  Love, Forgiveness, Compassion and many others
  • A culture that does not accept the values thrown at us by our commercial societies
  • Transcending the limits of our human nature
  • Love for classic literature and the Bible is one such example
  • Many of Jesus’ teachings
  • A few of Paul’s teachings

Learning

Though I am fairly well read, there are many things I do not know about religion, including Christianity.   So I still love studying Christian history, theology and culture from an anthropological, sociological and philosophical perspective.

Generous Translations

I believe that even mistaken beliefs can still serve good purposes.  Heck, I also believe that correct beliefs, if held with wrong attitudes, can serve bad purposes.  So I am not a belief-centric person.   I am deeply interested in the human mind.  So even if I may not agree with your beliefs, when taken literally, I may be trying to understand how you use your own beliefs to improve your own life.  Read my post on Generous Translations & Web of Beliefs to further understand what I mean here.

Subversive Patience

 

Trolling for Fish

Trolling for Fish

 

All Christians are not alike. Just as Christians find certain types of atheists more tolerable than others, so I also like certain types of Christians more than others.   See my post on “My Favorite Type of Christians“.   So please don’t jump to the conclusion that I am trying to talk you out of your Christianity.  I may simply be trying to argue you towards the sort of Christianity I like.  Now this may sound paternalistic, but it is not.  But you will need to read more about my philosophy (including the above section on Generous Translations) to see why I think this attitude is respectful and allows both parties to learn.

I do this debating with subversive patience (my phrase).  I realize that very few people will change on the spot.  All of us, myself included, change slowly and often the people who first introduce us to an idea are never around when we finally embrace that idea.  This sort of incrementalism is behind much change in our lives — good and bad.   So I am patient with others as I am with myself.  I try to stay open-minded and try to discuss in a way to keep the other person open minded.  Sure, I am trying to persuade, but most communication is persuasion.  So let me thank those of you now who will probably influence my thinking in a year or two but whom I may forget and never thank.

 

Playful

Heck, probably like the rest of you, I love sharing ideas, I like reading, and I like debating.  I also like trying to systematize my thoughts — the purpose of this blog.  So this on-line stuff is fun.  Thank you for helping to make it fun.

Avoiding the Echo Chamber

I could hang out solely on Atheist sites, but that would be boring.  I don’t look at myself as primarily atheist, but view myself as primarily a person with great emphasis on many of the shared values I listed above.

Blog Material

Heck, talking with you guys also can give me great blog material.  Smile.

Conclusion: I aint’ no Troll !

I choose many of my post titles to catch the eye of readers.  Thus for publicity purposes, this title was meant to be ironically false and enticing.

Troll:

A troll is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community with the primary intent of provoking others into an emotional or disciplinary response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. (Wiki)

I hope readers now see that my primary intent is not to disrupt on-topic discussion but to offer other perspectives or I may just be there to learn.  I have no desire to inflame, but of course I have a desire to post controversial comments.  If a site is does not desire such participation, they can delete or spam my comments (and this has happened to me) or they can tell me to stop, and I will.  But again, I hope the above information softens their initial response to view me as a simple atheist troll and that we can engage in fruitful dialogue.

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31 Comments

Filed under Philosophy & Religion

31 responses to “Why I Troll Christian Sites

  1. Ian

    I found your initial list very interesting. I too still hang out with Christians after loosing my faith, although, like you, I’ve also developed a healthy interest in a range of other faith positions.

    * A community where we watch and encourage each other

    This is the thing I miss most about church. When church is done well, in my experience, it is a world-leading way of doing this (I’ve seen it done poorly, too, but I’ve seen secular institutions do it worse still).

    Atheistic and humanistic groups I’ve met *talk* a good game in this regard, but their practice doesn’t come close.

    It is the biggest frustration I have with non-theists. They don’t seem to ‘get’ community, and they don’t seem to understand what they’re not getting. Community is not a club, it isn’t a group of friends, it isn’t a discussion group, and it isn’t very common.

    * A culture that does not accept the values thrown at us by our commercial societies

    Excellent point, I’ve not thought of that before.

    * Love for classic literature and the Bible is such an example

    Agreed. But I’ve not found that in churches. I’ve found love of the Bible, sure, but not love of it for what it is, more love of it for what somebody claims it is. Most people in most churches I’ve come across are rather biblically illiterate.

    * A few of Paul’s teachings

    I get an anaphylactic reaction to Paul’s teaching. I’m physically unable to mount a proportionate response, my mast cells just go into overdrive. :)

  2. @ Ian : ROFL at your mast cell analogy. Thanx for commenting, nice to know I am not alone on some of this.

  3. You go right ahead and “troll” around on my blog as often as you want! ;^)

    Seriously, thank you for your comments… If you are trolling on Christian blogs then I guess that I troll around on atheist blogs… and oddly enough for some of the same reasons you give here!

    The trouble with people like you is finding the right folder in Google reader for the subscription… not the same as other atheist blogs, but definitely a different (can I get away with saying “more refreshing”) perspective on Christianity… Maybe I just need to make a whole new category… but then what to call it….

  4. Sabio, I like the cut of your jib.

    I’ll be back around – sorry you lost your Christian friends. I lost some of mine too, and I’m still a Christian. Just “the wrong kind” of Christian, at times….

  5. See, folks, it is people like Aaron and Peter that keep me going back and learning.

  6. Al

    Sabio, I appreciate your transparency and humility–particularly in your ‘author’ post. Few of us are willing to admit that our lives are a journey, and not every step seems to be a step forward. Not to mention those who don’t really seem to be moving anywhere.
    Like one of the commenters on another of your posts, I tend to see some of the ‘shared values’ as some indication of ‘the image of God’, or however you might want to generously translate that. Some innate sense of the decent way to live ones life.
    And I like your generosity of spirit towards people with rather diverse firmly held beliefs. That kind of generosity is often missing in our interaction with others.
    Ian, I agree with your thoughts on community, although I was hoping for a magic bullet that would encapsulate what community is. I guess I will just have to figure it out myself :( ! Maybe we don’t tend to recognize what we need, what we are willing to sacrifice in order to build it, and how strengthening it is once it exists. I know my church experience is only mediocre regarding community. It certainly needs to be more than an hour on Sunday morning.
    Peter, good to see you!
    As I moaned on another blog recently–”Oh dear, yet another blog that I want to read regularly. How will I have time to actually have a life?”

  7. There was a point in time that I would go to Christian sites to debate but it was always respectful, at least on my part and I was always met with a ton of insults and opposition so it stopped being fun. Today, I simply don’t bother. At best, I might occasionally stop by a Christian debate channel on IRC to see what’s going on, but it is specifically set up for debate and they do openly invite people of other faiths (and no faith) to visit.

    I’ve really got too much to do to bother with people who don’t want to interact with me to begin with.

  8. Ian

    Al,

    There’s no pithy statement on community. But just a couple of examples:

    1. Community is a rule that nobody with a new baby has to cook, do laundry or clean for at least 2 weeks (they could, of course, if they really wanted to). People would show up at the door with evening meals ready to go, and would take laundry and so on. When a woman with chronic fatigue had problems, the same mechanism kicked in for months. Everyone in the church *expected* to do extra, and looked for people to bless with it.

    2. Community is being in a group with *only* a common religious allegiance in common. We regularly got together with people of various races, an age range of 100 years (literally), educated and not, surgeons and those who left school at 12 for domestic service, the able bodied and disabled, highly spiritual people and agnostics. A group that genuinely loved each other and would do anything to help.

    Not every church does that, of course, but I’d suggest it is much more common in the church context than in the secular context. I wish it were otherwise.

    Ian.

  9. Peter: Yes, I deleted it. I happen to know the person who wrote it and they were trying to be falsely provocative and thus giving a bad name to another group. He broke one of my important comment policy points:
    * Do not feed the trolls
    I wrote him a private e-mail to ask him to not repeat.
    I rarely delete. Thank you for asking.

  10. Jedi's Bane

    Sabio and Peter,

    In the past I have had long discussions with born again types whoes entire dialogue was centered around my ‘search for God.’ They seemed to feel that my entire life was a quest laid out and guided by some all-mighty invisible puppeteer. I remember one such recent conversation ending with some provactive comment that ‘I am going to be her next project.’

    So, although Ritchys comments may have been falsely provactive, what is your response to this line of reasoning? How can you argue sanity when they are arguing ghost and spirits.

    For Peter and Others: As Sabio knows I work in a rural WV urgent care and My wife’s family and friends are very christian, so I often wind up in these sorts of conversations about salvation and god’s grace.

  11. quandmeme

    Thank you, this is great. Like another commenter, as a Christian I … peruse … atheist blogs for many of the same reasons you list. You referenced the echo chambers we find ourselves in. I see a lot of what I call intellectual tidal pools (yes, some are _shallower_ than others) periodically the tide comes in and I’m amazed that America includes so many voices. So now between tides I like to skip around and stay acquainted with the world of thoughts in a few of the pools.

  12. Jedi’s Bane,
    I find the “project” language unbelievably condescending.

    Thankfully, I don’t remember Ritchy’s comment, but it was entertaining at the time.

    I don’t have any hope to argue “santity.” I believe in ghosts and spirits too, I’m just not a cock about it ;) Or I try not to be… And I don’t expect anyone else to believe if they don’t already have some personal gravitation toward it. And I don’t secretly bemoan their lack of belief. I recognize the difference in their existential vantage, and I respect it.

    I’d like to think I’m personally “very Christian,” but it doesn’t manifest in typically, overtly “evangelical” ways. I believe that I love Jesus – whatever that means (I admit I don’t really know) – but I trust that God is something good, someone loving. I think everyone chooses their destiny and path – we’re not puppets. But I believe there is an undercurrent of goodness running through creation that none of us escapes entirely, even when we try. That doesn’t mean: “JESUS IS GONNA GET’CHA!” It just means justice and goodness and love are going to prevail.

    And I don’t believe one needs to tattoo John 3:16 to one’s forehead, or repeat the “Sinners Prayer” to participate in such justice and goodness and love.

  13. Pingback: Pwning the Religious « Carmen Gets Around (II)

  14. ric14u

    [ deleted by admin: violation comment policy. ]
    [ Comment unrelated proselyting]

  15. JoanieD

    I am a liberal Democrat who was brought up in a loving Catholic home. As an older teenager, I began questionning things and learned TM and even went to Spain to study to become a TM teacher but didn’t follow through with it. I eventually found myself spending time with some non-denominational evangelical type of Christians and then later discovered Centering Prayer as taught by Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington and returned to my Catholic roots, though with very little attending of church. Although Centering Prayer is fully within the Christian tradition, it has some features similar to those found within Buddhism.

    I say all this to agree with some of you above, that all Christians are not the same. I tend to believe that anyone who truly seeks God will find God. I believe that we don’t EARN our way into God’s good graces, though. What we really have to do is to learn to relax, trust and accept the grace that God has poured upon us. It’s not easy for us to do. We tend to want to control things and that is the opposite from what we need to do.

    I see horrible things done in the name of Jesus, in the name of God. Sometimes it’s enough to say I want no part of what is called Christianity. But, there is also Truth within Christianity and I will stay here, attempting to understand and love the best I can. I often fail, though, and then I am almost glad that I am not in the world as a very “visible” Christian as I don’t want to be giving it a bad name!

  16. Hey Joanie,

    (1) I am glad you were able to learn from other traditions. Relaxing is great.

    (2) Do you believe that all who seek truth will find YOUR god?
    People who seek Elvis, find Elvis — this is not surprising. Thus people who seek God will find God — the human brain often gives you what you want.

  17. JoanieD

    There is only one God, the creator of all that is. So if anyone finds God, they find God. And it’s not like God is “lost.” God is nearer to each of us than our very breath. But we are occupied with the busy-ness of our daily lives and forget that. Once we quiet down, we may remember that we “live and move and have our being in God.” And if we can take some of that love out into the world that we encounter as we approach God in prayer and meditation, then that is a GOOD thing!

  18. @ Joanie
    That all sounds nice, but you didn’t answer my question — or it seems you didn’t.

    But let me rephrase it:
    (2) Do you believe that all who seek truth will find God? Or do you only believe those who seek God will find God?

  19. JoanieD

    I believe both #1 AND #2, Sabio. Those who seek truth will find God and those who seek God will find God. Love=God=Truth. God IS love. God doesn’t just contain love or have love. God IS love.

    http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/mugridge/jred/jredcont.htm
    Have you read this book by Malcolm Muggeridge? I have not, but may soon.

    I have enjoyed our little conversation here. Just so you know, though, I am not one to seek out a lot of confrontation, so I may not spend a lot of time on your blog. I can see you are a very studious, sincere person. I believe you are the very type of person that God has a “special fondness” for. (Have you read The Shack?)

    I am not nearly as educated as people like Michael Spencer (internetmonk.com) so it’s better for people like him to answer the kind of questions that you have for “simple” people like me. See you on his blog if you choose to continue responding there. Take care!

  20. @Joanie,
    I know you may not come back to read, but I must finish a few points:

    (1) If you believe those who seek truth will find God then you have to account for all those truth have sought truth and did not find God. I think your faith in that statement is unfounded.

    (2) You might want to read my bio (the “Author” tab) since you seem to think I am seeking answers — I am not. There is a difference between “seeking” and “exploring”. Part of my thing is also to help people like you think about their assumptions.

    If I don’t see you again, peace.

  21. JoanieD

    http://thetruth.atspace.com/inclusivism.html
    Hey, Sabio, I saw somewhere on your blog about exclusivism, inclusivism and the like. Until a couple years ago, I had never heard of those terms, but I was spending time on a blog and the fellow told me I was an inclusivist. I read up on that and determined that he was correct. I just read the webpage I have given the URL to at the beginning of my post here. I like what that man wrote very much. There is a part of me that would like to go all the way and be a Universalist and some days I think I AM one, but the matter of free will gets in the way. And then I think things like, “What if I had a child who was horrendously sexually abused by someone or maybe murdered? And what if the one doing this was not remorseful at all and intended to go on doing similar things? What if this person rejected any love that was offered to him by humans or by God?” N.T. Wright says it’s possible that some humans have rejected so much of what it is to be a loving human being that they become almost something less than human.

    I regard to your mentioning all those who sought truth but did not find God…I cannot say that they did not find God. Who knows what is in the heart of another? Who knows what happens in the final seconds of another’s life? Not me.

    I can appreciate your difference between “seeking” and “exploring.” And I can appreciate that you are wanting to help people think about their assumptions. That is a good thing to do. We all have no idea just how deluded and self-deceiving we can be! And yet…I still think you are seeking…just a little bit maybe, but still that little bit.

    Spread love, seek peace, take care.

  22. Joanie,

    We agree much in spirit but little in theology. But I feel spirit is much more important than theology or doctrine. If you are an inclusivist, then you can relax about putting things in your religion’s term when dialoguing with others. You can feel more free to explore their maps of reality and how it cultures their hearts. You may be surprised. You can save the witnessing to those who you perceive are truly in need and not just do it reflexively.

    Just my thoughts — great having you visit,

    Sabio

  23. JoanieD

    Thanks, Sabio. Actually, the majority of people who meet me would never hear me talk about religion, Christianity or Jesus. I am not the type of Christian who goes about verbally “witnessing” about Jesus. The only time I “talk” about it is on these blogs. I just live my life and do my best to treat others the way I would want to be treated. And I pray and meditate…alone. I attend Mass when I can do it without inconveniencing my husband who is not Catholic or Christian. So, I may not be a very “good” Christian in the eyes of many Christians. But I am doing the best I feel I can do at this point in my life.

    Merry Christmas! ;-)

  24. @ JoanieD — sounds fantastic to me!
    Happy Winter Festival (that is what my family calls it at times !) ;-)

  25. Really have enjoyed reading your thoughts. Even though we disagree on the existence of God, I agree with you on a great many things concerning morality, rejecting the status quo commercial society, accountability etc.

    Blessings.

  26. Pingback: Carmen Gets Around » Blog Archive » Pwning the Religious

  27. I loved this one… and I hope you consider me one of your friends. I’m still changing as a Christian, still finding myself in so many ways. No telling how I’ll wind up, but I think you’ve impacted my walk with Christ more than you know.

  28. @ warrioress:
    Over on your site you encouraged you fellow Christian to be loving and kind because if they aren’t, you said, “no one will ever be brought to Christ like that.”

    That is why I have NO evangelical, fundie Christian friends — they aren’t real friends. They treat you like a mission. In the end, it is not about a real person relating to a real person but about getting you to sing their song about their god and their precious Jesus.

    I have found fundamentalists in several religions do this to me. It is not just Christians. Treating people as lumps of beliefs instead of as real people is horrible.

    That is why when I left Christianity, I was actually much more free to truly love and befriend other people — of all walks of life.

    If that is your goal — “that I be brought back to Jesus” — they why would I ever want to consider you a friend if your only aim is to see me think like you. Really??

    I hope I impact that part of your walk in humanity.

  29. Andrew Boone

    Thank you so much for providing a clear, loving, and open-minded post from the perspective of an atheist who is not antitheist. Raised Christian, I had little doubt that my religion was “the right one” until this past year or so. While I am still Christian by definition, it is people like you, and not close-minded Christians, who have shaped my faith and life over the past six months. Peace.

  30. What a nice note — thanx Andrew

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