Talking to Trolls and Idiots

I watched Best of Christopher Hitchens Arguments And Clever Comebacks Part Five on YouTube a few days ago. Hitchens was a fine speaker with a sharp mind and a ready wit that he would unleash to hitch-slap a debating oppponent or heckler. There are any number of videos on YouTube featuring Hitchens on atheism and the existence of God, why religion is bad, and so on. One thing that often strikes me is the ludicrous nature of the comments that viewers leave. Occasionally, there some semblance of a civilised argument, but by and large, the exchanges quickly degenerate into abuse and name-calling. Typically, the same thing happens for videos about evolution and creationism/intelligent design. The pattern is: Person A, a Christian/Young Earther/Creationist, will make some remark about the video. Person B will initially respond with some relevant scientific argument, which A will either completely ignore, deny or counter with some fake science. A will resist all attempts at rationality, and B (and others), at some point, exasperated will simply start name-calling. A (and others) will reciprocate in kind—indeed often they will have started the insults.

This video is no exception. The most recent comment, as I write this, is from some idiot, called Walter White, who wrote:

I wish he was still alive, so I could punch him in the face repeatedly until he begged God to stop me.

Often we see the fatuous use of text-speak: “Ur just a stupid athiest dood”. And douche is a popular jibe: “Congratulations, you pretentious douchebag!” and “This guy is a fat, sweaty, slug douche”

This is a lovely piece of fake science:

“Why do you preach your atheism religion when science has proven you are wrong? How is it that you people claim science and can’t see the possibility of Hell in the other dimensions that quantum physics is showing us?”

I’d like to propose a variant of Godwin’s Law that applies only to discussions about religion, but for references to Hitler or Nazism we substitute references to paedophilia:

“… your fat, sweaty, slug pastor whose predominant fanbase is 7 year old to 10 year old boys frequenting the altar boy training section of your local church.”

“You look like the priest at your church has taken a liking to you…”

Imagine my surprise when—amidst all this, admittedly sometimes amusing, dross—I read an eloquent and powerful statement written by a woman under the pseudonym, Jenny Blank. I emailed Jenny asking whether she had posted her statement on her own website or blog, and if not, would she mind if I posted it on ODDROPS. After some consideration, Jenny gave her permission. What follows is taken directly from Jenny’s remarks on YouTube with no editing other than fixing minor typos and layout. I have added a title taken from her text to properly distinguish her words from mine.

Militant Atheism by Jenny Blank

Your argument is valid, your observation of rules of debate, good. The problem is, your assumption that you are engaging someone who shares your understanding of the word, “evidence”. If you use Webster’s Standard definition, and your opponent uses Genesis, there is no point in going further! If you are playing a game with someone who doesn’t follow the rules (aka, cheating), do you continue to play? No matter how good your argument, no matter how meticulous your research, it will be met with arrogance, disrespect, and refusal to recognize the merit of anything you say, proving only the ineffectiveness of your beloved logic. We are being asked to stop allowing ourselves to be disrespected by those who choose ignorance, to stop throwing our pearls before swine. We are being asked to stand up and show some dignity. We are being called upon to become Militant Atheists, and to defend the honor of science, evidence, and truth. Do NOT engage, or lend credence to nonsensical raving, ignorant statements of “fact”, or respond to questions used to pull you into defending your position.

Do NOT talk TO religious zealots, talk ABOUT them. Do not acknowledge their comments, or respond to trolls. Continue to bring your thoughts and opinions, but discuss with fellow Atheists. Educated Elitist rants welcome, but let your fellows knock you off that high horse, not the religious halfwits. Allowing your critical thinking or superior concepts to be shit on by morons (pearls before swine) is shameful, so stop it! Dawkins (and others) suggest that “respect for others’ beliefs” has been woefully ineffective, and should be discarded as useless. Religion is rude, accusatory, opinionated, and pompous… borrowing from their playbook is allowed. Our goal is to take long abused power away from organized religion… to get and keep it out of our government, schools, and courts… before it does further damage. The immensity of this is no less than world-changing.


  1. Dear lord, you found an intelligent youtube comment.

    That’s as impressive as proving if god did or did not exist.

    Largely agree with Jenny, except for the part about “borrowing from religion’s playbook.” I wouldn’t want to lower myself to the level of someone I don’t respect. When someone is pushed they tend to push back.

    • AtheismDefended says:

      I am proud to say I know Jenny and I agree with everything she states in her essay here. I do understand what you say about us ‘not lowering ourselves to their level’. However, from extensive experience engaging the deluded as Dawkins calls them, there is a vicarious pleasure in doing just that – mimicking their silly arguments with fake ones of our own to simply mock and ridicule them. This may not persuade them, of course, but it does a great job of restoring our sanity. Example – they were bringing up the Ark thing again (naturally, right?). They kept saying it was sealed with pitch so it couldn’t sink as one of my comrades had posited. So I jumped in and said ‘everyone knows pitch was not used because they had a better product to seal it – Crazy Glue’. I also said the ark was built exactly like an aircraft carrier and was even christened the USS Noah. When they finally realized I was mocking them and responded, I pretended to apologize by saying ‘Sorry, you’re right. It wasn’t crazy glue after all – they just had a ton of Scotch tape to seal the sucker up’. I still laugh about this and you know what they say about laughter being good for the soul, right?

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