June 19, 2018

The Toxic Atheists You Encounter Online

toxic waste

Some people seem to have an awfully big chip on their shoulder, don't they? Not only are they often mad about something, but they seem to expect the worst from others. They do not accept the principle of charity and are quick to condemn others even for what might be simple misunderstandings. They find little value in being open-minded because they are right while everyone else is wrong. In observing how they interact with others, it seems that they are convinced that their role is to sharply criticize almost everything they encounter. I have little doubt that some of them believe they are playing a valuable role, but it quickly becomes tiresome and tends to be off-putting to others.

It no longer surprises me to find plenty of people like this among atheists online. We'd have to expect it because atheists are human and suffer from all the same flaws that go along with that. Additionally, atheists (and skeptics) often pride themselves on being critical, argumentative, and the like. Of course, it is not difficult to find people like this who are religious believers as well. This is not an atheist problem. I'm addressing it in that context because many of those with whom I interact online happen to be atheists.

We all have to judge for ourselves the degree to which this is a problem and make our own decisions about how much of this we'd care to expose ourselves to. I find that I can handle such people in small doses but that they quickly become boring, draining, or counterproductive. I may interact with them, but I usually stop once I recognize the pattern (i.e., once it becomes clear that they have nothing of value to contribute and are focused on tearing down everyone around them). They seem like chronically unhappy people determined to pull others down. I have plenty of my own issues and little desire to take on their baggage.

For me, the question to which I keep returning when I encounter such people is something like, "How is what you're doing helping?" If you are contributing nothing positive but merely nitpicking everything others are trying to do, then I find myself less interested in your opinions. But I'm not sure that this really is (or should be) the most important question. Toxic people are not merely those who aren't contributing; they are people who are pulling others down in various ways. Perhaps the real question should be whether I am more or less inspired after interacting with you.

If I was going to give advice to someone looking to be happier, there are many things I might tell them. I think that one of the most important would be to learn how to identify the toxic people in their lives and cut them loose. Obviously, that is easier said than done when we're talking about friends and family. It shouldn't be that hard when it comes to people with whom we only encounter online.