There are many problems in philosophy such as the problem of evil, the problem of miracles, the problem of historical knowledge, the problem of what there is (Quine), the Gettier problem, and several others in various fields. However, I’ve noticed a problem with the ‘internet atheist’ community.
Before I continue I want to give a general indication for what I mean by an internet atheist, which can include several agnostics as well. An internet atheist will have certain giveaways such as: trolling, one who cites Richard Dawkins as a philosophical champion, appeals to the tactics of PZ Myers (anyone who reads PZ Myers and is quite aware of logic, fallacies, and social etiquette may suffer from face-palm syndrome–the problem of excessive disappointment resulting in the face resting on one’s palm followed by a deep sigh), being completely oblivious of opposing views, as well as the following properties…
Internet atheists have this habit of coming out of no where. What I mean by that is they have the habit of plowing their way into conversations. For instance, while writing this last sentence I received a tweet from some internet atheist about some tweet I made several days ago in which I said that the OT law didn’t treat women immorally and that the problem was a societal issue. (Edit: 3 Nov. 18.08: Tweet removed. The individual didn’t really fall into the category I’m describing here.) I could provide more tweets but I honestly have no desire to go back and read them.
This brings me to my next point. The vast majority of internet atheists rest comfortably behind the veil of anonymity. This gives them the perceived freedom to say whatever they want. Being anonymous has its tactical advantages for trolling but not much profits from it. I understand if someone keeps their identity anonymous because if their material were linked to them it would create a problem in the offline world. That’s understandable. However, I seriously doubt that’s the case with internet atheists. This also allows for profane, vulgar, insensitive, vociferous, visceral, instinctual, emotional, and clamorous language. It truly is the case that if there were more symbols on a keyboard, then the internet atheist community could master the English language (or any language, we all know more use of profanity symbols entails the mastery of a language…psh… obviously…) I know that I’m horrible with the English language; just ask my blog editor!
Now that the internet atheist has anonymity, which allows for the abuse of human language, they don’t have to worry about taking responsibility for their actions. To whom may I predicate charges of profanity, awkward emotion, and trolling to if all I have is a half-thought of Twitter name and a cartoon for the image? At least some people are willing to out themselves and be bold about their beliefs and not hind behind the veil of a computer screen. Actually, what’s even worse is when such persons aren’t anonymous yet still behave like a schoolboy bully or a child (no substance, impolite, non-reflective, etc.). That’s just embarrassing.
When in dialogue with an internet atheist, they have the habit of ignoring pertinent issues and specific questions posed towards them. Instead of giving meaningful, irenic responses they’ll focus on some detail that’s got hardly anything to do with the thesis of the discussion. This inevitably results in not reading the actual argument being made or spending their time building a straw man from scratch straight from the farmer’s field.
When in doubt or fear or losing an argument, the internet atheist typically appeals to mockery and self-flattery. That is, insulting the other person[s] and inflating their own head to the point that they run the risk of falling out of their seat should they lean too far to the left. The sad thing is that it’s just embarrassing when anyone does this. Just imagine the reasoning process (if there is one). “I should ridicule this person simply because they disagree with me and I refuse to have an intellectual, rational, and meaningful dialogue.” (I see the internet atheist comments already: “You’re not intellectual or rational! There’s no point in arguing with someone who might as well believe in a flat earth, Zeus, or Santa Claus.” Believe me, I’ve actually gotten all of those responses before. Thanks for proving my point, internet atheists.)
So, what’s the problem here? Whose problem is it? The problem is not for the theist or the Christian here. Behaving like this isn’t a problem for us. The problem is with the atheist community at large. I’ll be the first to say that theists and Christians out there who behave like this are unjustified. However, let’s be honest, it’s much more prominent in the atheist community. Now, for those who consider themselves ‘free thinkers’ this type of behavior is intellectually reprehensible. I feel sympathetic to the atheists who spend time publishing their material, getting degrees (if an option), having peer-review by competing against their peers to sharpen their own work and thought, and are reasonable, rational, and polite. There are atheists who desire for a meaningful exchange in the marketplace of ideas. I have the utmost respect for atheists who are not condescending and care about the other side’s arguments. Well, atheists, these internet-types are making the rest of you look bad when it’s not even your fault. Internet atheism is an intellectual crime.