Monday, November 12, 2007

Debate & Gratitude: An Interlude

I get really annoyed at bloggers who censor comments and only allow posts praising or agreeing with them. One blog in particular (I won't say which, as it would be unfair and this isn't a platform for tirades, anyway) has censored me several times when I've attempted to reply thoughtfully to posts that included ideas with which I disagreed (usually these ideas were along the lines of "all Christians are ignorant bigots who are destroying the world"--and I try to point out that I consider myself a Christian, I see the theological value in forms of spirituality other than pure polytheism, and I'm not bigoted; furthermore, I know plenty of Christians who are also loving, open-minded people). I just needed to express my frustration because, in response to a post for which my comment had been blocked, I recently discovered another person's comment (posted anonymously) that proclaimed the blogger a man of amazing wisdom and (what really shocked me) said: "You are a wonderful, wonderful teacher, sir!! I'm sure I speak for a very large number of people who usually remain silent." O, if only this anonymous commenter knew what some of these supposedly silent readers had really tried to say. I wonder how many others have tried to express disagreement with this blogger's posts and simply never got their comments through his self-interested filter.

This is not to say that this particular blog doesn't often contain some very interesting facts about paganism. But I've finally removed it from my feed-reader because, in the end, I'm not so interested in mere facts, especially when they're mixed with intolerant language and ignorant assumptions about vast, stereotyped groups of people. Instead, I enjoy writers, artists and thinkers who seek to deal openly and lovingly with other human beings as valuable, unique individuals who each have something to contribute, even when they disagree. I'm sure plenty of people would ask me why I continued to read and respond to this blog for so long if I so often found myself disagreeing with it or finding its message offensive. It is precisely because I want to challenge myself to consider more carefully my own ideas, to be forced to articulate them and ground them in thoughtfulness so that I can better know my own mind and beliefs, and respond more effectively to those who disagree or who simply want to understand. It is, perhaps, a flaw of the internet and Web 2.0 that it is so easy to avoid confrontation with ideas or systems of belief with which you don't already agree. It's so easy to subscribe only to blogs that reiterate your own worldview, your own assumptions about how things "really are." Likewise, it is easy to bombard blogs with generic partisan comments, without taking the time to think honestly about what the bloggers are trying to say.

This is why I wanted to reiterate my policy about commenting: I will never censor a comment for any reason other than that it uses intentionally hateful or inflammatory language (or if it's obviously irrelevant spam, though the CAPTCHA helps cut down on that), and I will always indicate publicly when I have chosen to remove a post for this reason, giving the reader a chance to respond with an explanation of the original post if she or he feels it has been removed unjustly. I believe that communication must be based on openness, honesty and trust, and that any philosophical or spiritual theory that cannot rise to the challenge of politely-given criticism is probably on shaky footing, anyway.

I also wanted to express my gratitude, again, for those of you who continue to read and respond to my most recent posts, especially those about "the meaning of 'God.'" Just today, for instance, someone added a new comment to this post, quoting Epicurus about the nature of God in relation to "evil." Though I do not really agree with this commenter's point, he sent me on a whole new line of inquiry--about the nature of evil, suffering and goodness--which has given me a lot more to think about, to write about, and to learn from. I'm so thankful to be able to have this kind of dialogue with people, and I only hope that my writings can provide the same kind of food-for-thought that my readers provide me with in return.

In any case, thanks as always for indulging my rambling. I hope you return, as I'll probably be writing something of substance (or not! ;) again soon. And keep the comments and the disagreements coming!


  1. The person you're talking about is kind of a "pagan fundamentalist" - he seems to believe that monotheists and monotheism are evil in the same way that some monotheists think of polytheism as evil. His intolerance and general unpleasantness are notorious in some circles. It's unfortunate because I think he's an interesting writer with occasional flashes of real brilliance and original thinking.
    I just wanted to let you know that you aren't the only one who has noticed this, and even a polytheist like me finds it very unpleasant.

  2. Ah, there's nothing like the gossip circle, which operates even among so-called Pagans and Polytheists.

    The ancients were very wise. They had a saying, which goes:

    "See and judge for yourself, for reputation seldom flatters".

    Reputation seldom flatters. How true, then and now! Well, for those of us who are mature enough to understand the implications of the spiritual and cultural war that IS the conditional reality of mankind's unfolding history, and who have the courage of their convictions, being called names by playgans is not a big deal to me.

    In fact, people like "nettle" are only making my case for me and for us. Centuries of misinformation about the Gods and about the past has led people to want to embrace Monotheism and monotheistic culture, even when they call themselves "polytheists" and "pagans"- and furthermore, it leads them to attack those who dare to step out of line with their own notions of "tolerance"- not very tolerant, is it?

    I love how nettle and others speak so highly of tolerance, but don't show it much, except to the little sheep who stay in lockstep with their comfort zones.

    That is the way of the world. We aren't all sheep. Some of us are lions- and one day, you'll be happy you knew us. Because there is no future for a movement that is full of nothing but sheep.

  3. Nettle, Thanks for the moral support. It does help to know I'm not the only one to have noticed.

    Ule, Please don't attack my readers. It's inappropriate, not to mention ineffective as I know they are not as sheepish as you would like to believe.

  4. Why Ali, darling, I'm not attacking anyone- I'm pointing out the obvious, which I might add, has not been contradicted. Tolerance doesn't seem to be equally dealt out here, and the gossip wagon keeps on rolling, even in your pleasant corner of the internet.

    And as far as these people not being as sheepish as they seem, well, that remains to be seen.

  5. I see what you mean, Ali...

  6. Ule - I apologize if I mischaracterized your beliefs, but my admittedly flip description was based on your own words, not on some imaginary gossip circle. Feel free to correct anything I said that was untrue.

    You say you're stating the obvious, but whatever that may be is not obvious to me. You didn't actually respond to anything I said, only to the fact that I dared to speak at all. I think you have some kind of logical disconnect around the word "tolerance."

    "I tolerate you" is not at all the same as "I like you." Tolerance actually implies that I find you kind of annoying. It also means that I allow you to go be annoying in your own way. The fact that you don't extend that courtesy to others was what led me to use the label "intolerant."

    You control what is said on your blog, which I happen to find absolutely reasonable; it's your place to do with as you please. Out in the big world and away from your private space, however, you don't control the discourse. I have a voice too and it's not intolerant of me to use it. I get to find you unpleasant and say so out loud whether you like it or not. I can be tolerant and still not be particularly nice.

    There's no support at all for saying "tolerance is not dealt out equally here." Ali is doing an excellent job of letting us both speak, regardless of what she may think of what's going on in her comment section. She wants us to be polite, which is a reasonable request, but she's not silencing us.