It’s April 2020 as I write this. The UK has just been told we are about to enter into a further 3 weeks of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with an expectation that things will continue after that as well. Most people have found themselves with a little more time on their hands compared to normal. People are taking up hobbies which they never had the time and space to do before, others are finding themselves working through a stack of books that have been sat on their bedside table for a few years, having done nothing by gather dust and coffee rings thus far. Still, others are volunteering on the front lines with patients or behind the lines distributing essential supplies and keeping people afloat with things they need. Others have lost everything, loved ones, jobs, businesses, friends and relationships.
It’s been a crazy time for us all and when I first went into lockdown, I took a day out and had a think about the sorts of things I wanted to use this time for, alongside work and family commitments. One of the things I have started to do more recently is to engage more on social media or YouTube as When Belief Dies. Commenting on posts, videos or putting my own posts out there with hashtags attached to get people to see my stuff as they search within those hashtags. The main reason for this is because I have the time to engage online (at least 30 mins a day) and if I can talk to others and make points then I can get people to become familiar with When Belief Dies as a voice, I hope.
I have had some brilliant conversations online because of this. I have also had some very strange responses from possible believers who want to belittle and challenge anything a nonbeliever says in response to a Christian message or video.
Take this video as an example:
I will post the comment thread below so that you get an idea of the kinds of comments I am trying to talk about.
I don’t know if people respond like this because they are upset and/or angry at being locked up and someone is questioning the thing that gives them hope. But for whatever reason, I have been (naively?) shocked at people reactions to me online.
Now I think Van PastorMan is trying to start a possibly interesting conversation here – but I clearly never got back to him due to time. David R is expressing his view, which I happen to think is really interesting. Now compare that to 20july1944 and Pervert Pedophile Prophet (who would pick a name like this?!), who I think is just trying to be aggressive or maybe in their eyes defensive. 20july1944 had commented on EVERY nonpositive comment on this video at the time I responded to them here, which just shows someone who is unable to allow people to disagree with them. They also assumed things to try and make an argument, and I had seen them engage in this same way to other posts I have made on other videos in the past. It’s almost like they have an auto-response to anyone who is clearly a nonbeliever so that they can win an argument and/or defend a theistic stance. Pervert Pedophile Prophet seems to be revelling in me ‘running away’ from this conversation when I made it clear I didn’t want to give 20july1944 their fix, which is frustrating – they clearly know how to push someone’s buttons.
Now, I don’t want to go into too much depth about these specific responses, rather I wanted to highlight the sorts of responses I am getting on YouTube and Twitter to anything posted which can be viewed as being concerned, negative or frustrated in response to a religious post. It’s really interesting how some want to drag people into the fray and begin an assault. This is something I have been reflecting on over the last week or so.
If you are not ready for people to push back against you in a hard and fast way, you need to get the heck of the commenting section.
Then I started to think about the sort of online presence that I want When Belief Dies to have. I want to post responses and thoughts, but I don’t want to engage with people who are only out for a quick win or easy pickings. I don’t have much spare time, and if I spent all of it on my phone responding I would never have time to read, relax and enjoy my family. I feel like the only way you can ‘win’ these things, is to have the last word or to write the most – surely that isn’t the point of online engagement? The person with the most time wins each time – it seems so counter-intuitive.
I do however want honest dialogue when people want to work through ideas and thoughts – but at my own pace, where I don’t have to respond within moments, or it is viewed as I have walked away and abandoned a fight.
Take this feed from Twitter which I posted under the same video linked above.
Sure, I agree that what I put out is just a subjective opinion but that doesn’t mean my point isn’t valid.
No one seems to be trying to smash what I say apart and assume the belief system I am working out from, and no one is trying to ‘win’ anything – rather we are trying to clearly expound my original comment. Something that I think is really healthy – because if it is wrong or if it doesn’t make sense, then I want to know that. No one wants to be wrong, but we must learn to not attack another person’s views just because we think they are wrong. We need to respond and listen – which is why I watch videos like this from Unbelievable?, but tend to steer clear from commenting these days.
I have recently signed up for a Webinar with Bart Ehrman on his latest book: Heaven & Hell. I have a bit more time in the evenings now, and I want to learn and engage on topics that I find really interesting. I am watching a lot more live videos on YouTube and I am talking to people as and when I have the time and space to converse. I am passionate about people not claiming things to be true that they can’t prove to be true.
Maybe I am asking too much when I comment and engage, then say I don’t want to be dragged into the fray for the sake of argument, unabashed opinions and to solve someone else’s boredom. I want to engage in honest conversation, and I want to reflect on the style and types of conversations I witness online, conversations that I might be involved with – or I might see beneath a thread, article or video.
Everyone, these days, is online. This means you have a lot of people with a variety of reasons who are going to engage online on subjects that I care about. I won’t agree with a lot of these people, because they are writing from a place that I either don’t understand or if it is explained enough, don’t agree with. But that doesn’t mean I want to bash them – if they seem coherent and open to dialogue, I may very well talk with them – rather than at them.
I guess that’s the fundamental difference and where I need to begin to make a distinction with what I do and do not respond to. Are people wanting to talk to me, or at me? Then if I have time, I can respond or engage with those who want to talk to me. Hopefully, I can model a difference and show that a nonbeliever can be loving, caring and honest in the comments section 😉
_End of Blog Blurb_
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.
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Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.
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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂
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