First and foremost, please understand that this is an atheist blog. I am an atheist, and the intended audience is made up of atheists, secular humanists, and other freethinkers. In fact, 88% of those who read this blog are atheists.
I welcome believers in various gods who are genuinely interested in learning something about atheism. However, those interested primarily in argument, antagonism, or proselytizing should go elsewhere. Blogs are not intended as places for readers to debate each other. If this is what you are seeking, check out this list of great forums. You'll see that some have entire areas devoted to debate.
What is a Troll?
There are several forms of blog trolls, ranging from those who engage in "drive-by link sharing" as a form of self-promotion to those who camp out and hurl insults, make threats, or otherwise try to disrupt the blog. Many trolls do not seem to understand how blogs work; others are bent on converting atheists to their particular brand of superstition. However, nearly all trolls share a common feature: They are not here to learn but to argue, and the nature of their argument is irrational.
The best way for rational readers to deal with blog trolls is to ignore them. This deprives them of what they want most - argument. But since many readers cannot resist engaging them, the following policy represents an alternative to full comment moderation.
The following comment policy was adapted from Lifehacker, Making Light, and God is for Suckers!, with modification to increase applicability to this blog.
- Stay on topic (i.e., the post topic).
- Contribute new information to the discussion.
- Don't comment just for the sake of commenting.
- Know when to comment vs. when to e-mail the author. Use e-mail when what you want to say doesn't contribute to the public conversation.
- Be respectful and remember that nobody likes a know-it-all.
- Own your comment (i.e., anonymous commenting is discouraged and will probably not be allowed much longer).
- Remember that brief comments are more likely to be read.
- Be courteous and avoid personal insults.
- Avoid Christianspeak. It makes you look stupid and contributes nothing of value.
- Absolutely no religious proselytizing will be permitted here.
- Do not feed the trolls. They thrive on argument (the less rational, the better) and will keep returning as long as they find folks willing to debate them. If you find yourself tempted to argue with a Christian troll, please read this first.
Update: This comment policy has been updated again since this post was first published. The most current version of the comment policy can be found here.