December 26, 2020

Handling Christian Trolls on Atheist Blogs

Troll

Although many of the blogging tips I have shared over the years are aimed at atheist bloggers, most have a wider applicability to all sorts of blogs. This one is different because it focuses on how to handle Christian trolls on atheist blogs. Thus, it isn't really designed to generalize beyond atheist-oriented blogs.

Start by accepting that Christian trolls will require some sort of response. I realize it may be tempting just to ignore them because they provide entertainment for some readers (and some bloggers). There is nothing quite like a Christian troll to generate lots of comment activity on your posts, and you may find the increased activity desirable. The thing is, these arguably positive effects tend to be short-lived and are likely to alienate the atheist readers who will make up the bulk of your audience. Over time, you'll discover that Christian trolls are not contributing anything new (i.e., they still haven't figured out how to convert atheists), and your readers will tire of seeing the same weak arguments trotted out again and again.

So, what should you do? Here are some tips I have found helpful:

  • Think proactively. With sufficient time, every atheist blog will attract Christian trolls like moths to a flame. Some hope to convert you and your readers. Others come to cause trouble. But they will come, and you'll want to decide how you plan to deal with them before they arrive.
  • Write a comment policy. Chances are, you'll end up modifying it a few times as you encounter more trolls. But you should put it together now and refer suspected trolls to it. You can find mine here.
  • Be prepared to moderate comments if you have to, but don't overdo it. Nobody likes to have their comments moderated, and we tend to comment less on blogs that moderate every comment. Use moderation sparingly, selectively, and only when necessary.
  • Recognize the toxic effects a Christian troll can have, and don't let it get to that point. You may have to delete comments, enable selective moderation, or ban certain trolls. This may make you uncomfortable, but failing to act will drive away some of your readers. Remember, most atheists who visit atheist blogs do not do so because they are seeking Christian proselytizing.

And now it is time for a brief story. I visited a fairly new atheist blog some years ago and was preparing to leave a comment on a post that caught my interest. As I entered the comment thread for this particular post, I quickly discovered that it was filled with nothing but drivel from a well-known Christian troll. I am not going to name him here, but he has a long and well-documented history of mental health problems and arrests for making violent threats against atheist bloggers. There were at least 10 of his ridiculous rants and nothing else.

I'm sure you can guess what I did next. I moved on without commenting. Sure, I suppose I could have commented anyway in an effort to provide the poor blogger with something positive amidst the sea of garbage. That might have been a nice thing to do. On the other hand, I suspected that the blogger was not reading the comments or else they would not have allowed them to fill up with this nonsense. That's the take-home message here: if you want thoughtful people to comment on your posts, allowing Christian trolls to run wild on your blog probably isn't going to help matters.

The first version of this post appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2010. It was revised and updated in 2020.