July 8, 2014

Holding Back When Blogging

Skulptur "Refrain" von Juraj Gravula...
Skulptur "Refrain" von Juraj Gravula im Fennpfuhlpark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The first part of the tagline of this blog includes the phrase "breaking free from irrational belief," and this is something I've always understood as applying to me as well as others. I don't get a free pass. The value I place on skepticism, reason, and critical thinking means that I need to hold myself accountable for my own irrationality. And because rationality is one of those aspirational goals we can never quite check off our to-do lists, this requires ongoing effort.
This post addresses an example where I have fallen short (and continue to fall short) of being rational in a particularly disappointing way. It has to do with atheism, at least in a broad sense, and it also has to do with blogging.

I've recently been asking myself a couple of questions to which I do not yet have satisfactory answers. The first is this:
How often in writing this blog do I hold back and refrain from writing something because I worry how others may react to it?
It is an odd question, especially coming from an atheist blogger. After all, many people are going to have strong negative reactions to practically everything I write merely because this is an atheist blog. I'm used to such reactions coming from religious believers, at least to some degree. But somehow, I'm still not used to the intense reactions I sometimes encounter from atheists.

As much as I'd like to say I never hold back when I write, I can't. There are times when I hold back. I have certainly written posts and then decided not to publish them. It doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen. In some cases, this is just because I decided I didn't like what I had written. But there have been times when I've opted against publishing a post because I worried about how it would be received. There have also been times when I've deleted some of what I wrote before hitting publish for the same reason. This is surprisingly difficult for me to admit, and this leads me to suspect that I may do it more than I'm aware of doing it.

The second question is even trickier:
When I do refrain from writing something out of concern over how others may react, are there certain types of content more likely to be involved? That is, do I find myself more likely to avoid particular content?
This is more difficult because it requires that I catch myself doing it, have an accurate memory of my concerns, and am willing to admit it. I don't have a complete answer to this one just yet, but I suspect that I am more likely to refrain from writing certain types of content and not always for reasons I understand fully.

I think I tend to do this with some political topics. For example, I find myself agreeing with much of what Jerry Coyne (Why Evolution is True) wrote here but find myself somewhat reluctant to write similar posts. Worst of all, I'm not sure I fully understand what this reluctance is about.

Other areas in which I seem even more likely to hold back involve subjects like feminism, race, and other subjects which could collectively be referred to as social justice issues. I have been more aware of my reluctance to address these issues lately, and I am trying to combat it. It has not been easy, but I do believe I am making some progress in understanding what this reluctance is about.

One aspect of my reluctance, although certainly not the only one, is that I can guarantee that virtually everything I write on certain topics will be assailed with accusations that it is not relevant to atheism. It will be misinterpreted by those with an axe to grind, and it will be met with reactions characterized by excessive angry emotion. So what? It isn't that I mind criticism or am not accustomed to it; it is that criticism that does not seek to be even mildly constructive grows tiring after awhile. I find the whining about relevance and the over-the-top emotional reactions with which some respond to anything with which they disagree to be tedious and discouraging. Silly, I know. And yes, I feel awful that this leads me to shy away from certain topics. I recognize that this is my failing. I suppose the silver lining is that I can work to overcome such tendencies.

I realize that some bloggers primarily write about strong opinions they hold. I've certainly done this at times, but it is more typical that I write in order to explore and clarify my opinions. For that to work, I need to hold back less. I am making a conscious effort to catch myself holding back and to push myself to write what I want to say. Freethought demands nothing less. There can be no place for thoughtcrime here, and I must do what I can to avoid worrying about it.

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