Friday, November 25, 2011

Atheism vs Theism

I recently became more active on Twitter after not really paying too much attention to it. Back in 2009, I created the "sacerdotus" account just to reserve it and just out of curiosity on what Twitter was.  I heard about it and my sister also told me about it.

After Pope Benedict XVI told clergy, religious and seminarians to make use of social media and technology for the faith, I began to use Twitter more and Facebook as well. 

While still learning how to use Twitter, I eventually came across what are called "mentions" on the network. This is when people reply to your tweets. At first, I thought Twitter was just to post short status updates reminiscent of the AOL buddy list days. I remember using AOL Messenger where I would put a status update or away message so my friends and others could see what I was up to. With the onset of the T-Mobile Side Kick phone, the feature became more useful as it would alert my friends as to what I was doing and whether or not they could text or call me.  Those were some fun days. Anyhow, I thought Twitter was something similar, but on a grand scale since it had more members and users did not have to be a member in the sense as in the days of AOL.

This is when I realized Twitter was not so good for communication of any sort. I noticed very angry, hateful and abusive mentions on my account. People from gays, pro-abortion supporters, Protestants, and of course, alleged atheists were all there attacking me. They took issue with my tweets and stormed them with vile comments, personal attacks and some even making threats against me and my family. I have never experienced this while using the internet. Never on AOL, its chat rooms or buddy list. It was a whole new experience for me.  Not even in person have I ever faced comments like the ones sent to me. This is when I realized several things 1). There are a lot of angry people out there. 2). Religion is not very popular online.  3). Trolls rule Twitter.  4). People use social media as an outlet to escape reality and behave differently while on it. 5). There is a lot of uneducated people on Twitter and social media in general. 6). Twitter does nothing to stop abusive people. 7). People on Twitter have a lot of misconceptions about many things. 8). People on social media gather in packs of tribes and stick to them loyally. 

Most of the mentions were from people claiming to be atheist. They used all kinds of funny caricature accounts with cartoons or avatars borrowed from popular culture. From a cartoon figure with a paper bag on its head, photos of Dr. House from the sitcom "House," old lady Halloween masks, Pokemon type wolves, to even made up Avengers. They all messaged me with vile comments and attempts to correct my tweets by using nonsense. I replied to as many as I could only to get bombarded by even more. What was interesting was that many others would join in creating confusions as to who replied to what tweet.

The reality that these people worked in packs was becoming more obvious. The pro-abortion people stuck with the pro-abortion people, the gays with gays and the alleged atheists with the alleged atheists. Later on, I learned that many of these people were using what is called a "sock-puppet." A sock-puppet is when someone creates several accounts as back up to defend the main account. This is very common on social media, particularly Twitter.

Reading the many mentions I received told me that there is definitely a tribal sense that takes for on Twitter.  There is one for Atheism and one for Theism.  The one for Atheism seems to be better organized. These alleged atheists who tweet on the hashtag usually follow each other and defend each other against theists. Theists, on the other hands, stick with those who adhere to their own respective religious faith. While theists believe in God and use all kinds of arguments and comments to defend His existence, they are generally not united as well as those alleging to be atheists.  Theists on Twitter unite via politics and their personal sect.  The same goes with theists who claim to be Catholic. There are the conservative ones and liberal ones. These are further divided by religious persuasion. The conservative ones tend to be those who call themselves "traditional Catholics" or are sede vacantists and those who are Protestant, but Evangelical. They tend to support Republicanism and are fixated on criticizing Democrats, abortion, illegal immigration and homosexuality.The liberal ones on the Catholic end tend to be more flexible with homosexuality, but still stern on abortion. They often prefer the ordinary form over the extraordinary, and go after those who prefer the latter. The liberal Protestants tend to be more open to abortion and definitely support homosexual marriage and the like. These show great support for illegal immigration.

This is pretty much what falls under the "Atheism vs Theism" umbrella on Twitter and other social media networks according to my experience. One might think that "Atheism vs Theism" on Twitter is a display of intellectual discourse, however, the opposite is more accurate. I have witness a lot of nonsense from both sides. Those who claim to be atheists posit all kinds of erroneous tweets claiming to be supported by science. In reality, the tweets display a poor understanding of science. Scientific facts are twisted to support the atheist's bias. For example, evolution, the big bang theory or philosophical constructs like free will are used to attack God and religion. Theists who tweet on theism also display similar things. I have read many tweets by theists attacking evolution in favor of a literal 6 day creation period. Some have even gone as far as discrediting science as part of some scheme to delude humanity. Others dishonestly simply rely on the Bible as the sole means to prove God's existence and disregard science, philosophy and even theology. However, not all do this. There are theists who validity present intellectual discourse with ample support. They are few, but do exist. The same cannot be said of those claiming to be atheist. I have yet to see any arguments by alleged atheists on Twitter that actually demonstrates objective science and pure philosophical thinking. What is interesting is that atheists who are actually scientists or philosophers tend to be mute on the topic; with the exception of Richard Dawkins who seems to use his account to bait and draw attention to himself.

So on Twitter we have Atheism vs Theism, but within them are more divisions which pretty much defeats the purpose of having a dialog. If both sides cannot keep their stories straight, so to speak, then nothing gets accomplished. No facts are presented and no conclusions of  truth can take place. At times, it seems like the short debates using 140 characters is more like a competition or game rather than an actual intellectual discourse attempt.  In order words, Atheist vs Theism tend to be more like a tribal batter between groups rather than an actual way to discuss the issues and address them with facts and reason. Because of this, dialogues become puerile and nonsensical. They end up with insults going back and forth and eventually one party giving in to blocking the other.  This is eventually what convinced me to stop replying to mentions as they served no purpose but to bait me into getting into this us vs them battle-game.

Hopefully, things will get better and people can have meaningful discussions on Twitter. In the meantime, it seems trolls are controlling it and are abusive Twitter's lack of response to make the social media their playground. The Atheism vs Theism dialog is then disrupted. Both sides present Theism and Atheism as silliness rather than serious topics to dissect and study.  It becomes a "No, you are wrong... no, you are wrong!"  Pigeon chess is engaged, not reason. 

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