I read a lot of atheist blogs. It’s what I do in the mornings while waiting for my head to clear. Today’s post on the Friendly Atheist was as good as every, but what caught my eye was down in the comments section. In brief, the article was about a Kentucky lawmaker attempting to establish legal religious discrimination and defending it by citing some pretty average examples of Christians not being allowed to discriminate.
The comment I saw that made me angry is near the bottom of the page, when someone says “He’s probably pissed because he looks like a 70s porn star”. Whether he’s right or not is irrelevant. What gets me is that I live in a culture where we attack someone’s physical appearance instead of their position.
It happens everywhere. Look in any comments section in the entire online world, and you find this. It’s not ok. Disagreeing with someone is fine, it’s normal, and engaging in debate is a brilliant way to learn about others and even to change your own position if you feel that you were wrong. But personal attacks are low. They shut down debate by shutting down the rational part of people’s brains.
Attacking a person – saying that they look funny, that because they are against equal marriage reform they must be closet gays, that they’re fat as though that makes them less legitimate as a person – it’s sick. It’s not scoring you any points, it just makes you look petty.
I want to imagine that atheists are better than this, because their identification as skeptics means that they have better things to say than just attacking physical traits. I’m wrong though. Being nasty is not based on your religion or lack of such, it runs much deeper. I want this to change, but I don’t have much hope.
If you’re going to make an argument against a person’s position, go right ahead. It’s a good thing. But don’t lower yourself to attacking them personally.