Since this blog is fairly new, we have been trying to publicize topics by using various communication channels, such as Twitter and other blogs. But one of the greatest stumbling blocks we have come across is that of censorship.
I first noticed this when Nathan tried to leave a comment on the source page for our Starbucks story and nothing happened. At first, I attributed this to the simple fact that I found the story on Fark.com, so I assumed that the sudden deluge of traffic from the Fark community had simply cause the website to fail. However, upon reading the Fark thread, it became obvious that several other people had tried to leave comments and were effectively being censored.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I honestly cannot blame USA Christian Ministries for blocking comments from Fark. I personally enjoy reading Fark, and there are the occasional nuggets of wisdom to be found among the comments, but I can only imagine the kinds of things that people were attempting to post…
But this seems to be a recurring theme among religious websites. For example, I follow a link on Twitter and read an article on someones blog that is relevant to something I have written about. In an atttempt to foster discussion (and I’ll admit, to perhaps encourage a few more people here), I will leave a comment and a link to the relevant article, only to be greeted with a message that says something along the lines of “Your comment will be posted after approval” – and of course, it is never approved.
It is entirely possible that these websites do not appreciate me dropping links to this website in the comments section of their own site. And I understand that – I’ll be the first to admit that it could be seen as being a little rude. (There is slight distraction here, as one could argue that the web was founded on swapping links, but for now I will just assume that people don’t appreciate having their readers lured away).
However, if you glance at the comments section on most religious blogs, you cannot help but notice the total lack of discussion. There is no back and forth of ideas, no-one playing Devils Advocate, no opinions other than those that the site author deems “appropriate”. How can constructive dialog take place, when one side of the conversation is removed? Readers of these blogs are given the impression that everyone is in agreement with the author. Everyone must toe the party line and dissenting comments are swiftly removed, or in most cases, simply never appear.
This not only skews the conversation, but is dangerous as well. These readers are not being given a chance to see arguments from the other side. They are living in a bubble where their viewpoints are reinforced at every turn and are never given the opportuinty to visualize the discussion from the point of view of someone else.
And I have to wonder why this is? Is religion really so fragile, that it cannot stand up to questioning? Contrary to popular belief, we do not ask these questions just to irritate people and make them angry – we ask them because we are genuinely curious about the answers. If your religion cannot sufficiently answer them to our satisfaction, then that indicates a problem with your religion, not with the question.
As I said above, I really have no issue with sites cleaning up spam, or removing comments that are simply useless or obviously baiting the audience, but to remove one half of an entire discussion is simply disingenuous and cowardly.