Positive Atheism Forum
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Internet Chat-Room Decorum
-- 'Positive Atheism' Style
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Here it is: our attempt to develop the "Positive Atheism" flavor of proper decorum when discussing atheism in Internet chat rooms. Please read these suggestions and comment on them. We will look over the results and post what we like (or maybe all of it, you never know). Eventually, we may develop an official list of Internet Chat-Room Decorum -- "Positive Atheism" Style!

You are invited to browse the "Discussing Atheism With Others" section of our FAQ file. If you use chat rooms and see some points in our FAQ file that are particularly pertinent to the chat-room scene, feel free to bring them to this discussion and tell us your experiences.

From: Johan Grahn
To: Positive Atheism
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 12:31 PM
Subject: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section

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I never "preach" in Christian chatrooms or send mails to religious homepages unless they publish outrage lies to further an agenda. I DO chat in atheist newsgroups and if religious people enter I try to make them think before they leave. I also notice that I at this point am rambling and I shall therefore finish this letter.

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From: "Johan Grahn"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Positive_Atheism_Letters_Section
Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 11:27 AM


Thank you for your thoughtful reply, and it was quick too. I hope you had some time celebrating your independence day.

I picked the chatroom I'm currently active in for mainly two reasons:

I realise that some of these rules are redundant and that I've probably missed a few but I wrote them of the cuff while being somewhat hung over so I hope you'll find them usable anyway.

Johan Grahn

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From: "Bob Southwell"
To: "'Positive Atheism'" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: RE: Forum: Internet Chat-Room Decorum -- 'Positive Atheism' Style?
Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2000 5:34 PM

Thanks Cliff,

I think that was an excellent article.


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From: "Pieczul, Pawel"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: RE: Forum: Internet Chat-Room Decorum -- 'Positive Atheism' Style?
Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 12:54 AM

Johan's initial list looks very much like Bertrand Russell's 'Liberal's Decalogue' [mirrored in box below].

But to make the discussion sensible and on track shouldn't both sides finally respect the same rules?

Would it ever be possible to make a dogma-follower discuss as a liberal? Perhaps further discussion might then appear unnecessary.


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A Liberal Decalogue
by Bertrand Russell
(from The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 1944-1969, pp. 71-2)

Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:

  • 1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  • 2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  • 3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  • 4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  • 5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  • 6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  • 7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  • 8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  • 9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  • 10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness."

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From: "Grahn, Johan"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Chat-Room_Etiquette_9634
Date: Friday, July 14, 2000 7:52 AM

Pawel Pieczul wrote:

Yes, of course! This doesn't always happen though and the question is what to do then. Gandhi uesd his non-violence techniques against violent people and it worked even though the price was high. Our stakes are not as high so we don't have to pay an equally high price.

I would suggest that you use the technique Cliff, and that I, more recently, use too. Just finish the conversation. If the conversation is on your turf, tell them not to write again and if they do, block their e-mail. If it's on their turf, explain why you are terminating the discussion and simply leave. There are enough sensible religions people around.

I have also noticed that, if the "rules" are followed, the religious person starts following them too, more or less on automatic. It is hard to insult someone who is courteous at all times.

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From: "Huascar Terra do Valle"
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: Re: Forum: Internet Chat-Room Decorum -- 'Positive Atheism' Style?
Date: Wednesday, July 05, 2000 6:18 PM

To Cliff Walker:

Johan Grahn's list of chat-room decorum is timely and wise. I take the chance to suggest a little change in the 5th item:


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From: "Gijsbers V.A."
To: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
Subject: RE: Forum: Internet Chat-Room Decorum -- 'Positive Atheism' Style?
Date: Thursday, July 06, 2000 3:08 AM

I suppose were talking forums here (and not chat-rooms in the traditional sense).

My proposed list of rules (I just wrote something down):


Visit me:

"The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round,
   for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more
   faith in a shadow than in the church."
          -- Magellan

"The fact that a believer is happier than a sceptic is no more
   to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than
   a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and
   dangerous quality."
          -- George Bernard Shaw

"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as
   erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin."
          -- Cardinal Bellarmine, during the trial of Galileo in 1615.

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