Have you ever heard the saying that goes something like, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar"?
I do not wish to compare my readers to flies, but I think there is a lot of truth in this, and wanting to "catch flies with honey" is one of the motivations behind this blog and its title.
I recently engaged in a discussion with other atheists about the tone of our message.
I read some words written by an atheist that rubbed me the wrong way. This is not a smear campaign and I am not even going to say who, I only want to discuss what I think are ineffective ways of communicating.
The first problem I had, which was definitely not the biggest, was with the profanity.
This may be partially due to the remnants of my religious upbringing, but I really dislike profanity.
Of course I use it sometimes. But I think the setting is entirely important. It is one thing to use it with my friends or in private, but to use profanity in a loud and public way, I find, is very juvenile.
When I meet people who overuse profanity or who use it inappropriately, I usually interpret that as a lack of consideration or politeness.
Just because we have the freedom of speech, that does not justify our saying anything that comes to mind!
When one is attempting to make a point, or to spread their ideas, I find the use of profanity to be highly ineffective and think it is really a turn-off.
The thing that most bothered me was that this person was obviously representing an atheist view-point with his/her writing. It bothered me that a believer or someone looking for answers or who is just curious might stumble upon these words and be turned off by them.
If I were to walk into the public library looking for information or help, I would definitely be put off by the librarian yelling at me, and using personal attacks and profanity. I would probably stop my search for the information or atleast never patronize that library again.
I found the tone and language to be very ineffective at conveying any kind of message, and it bothered me that this kind of attitude or message is only perpetuating negative stereotypes of atheism.
I was then told that it is the reader's own fault if they choose to associate these words with a group, not the writer's. But don't we do the same thing every day when we read Ray Comfort's blog or hear about some denomination or church doing something ridiculous in the news?
I was also told that I was basically labelling atheism as a religion just like "fundies" do, which I find to be completely ridiculous because of course when you are writing a public blog that attacks religious beliefs from an atheist view-point, you are representing atheism. I'm not saying it is right or that people should see you as a representative, but they do and they will.
I am a representative for atheism on this blog, and I know that. As such, I do my best to be polite and to give thoughtful responses, not just rants, hatred, and profanity.
It is a fact of life that we are constantly representing a group by our actions and words. As a person living in a foreign land, I am constantly seen as a representative of my country. As a young person, I am often seen as a representative of my age group. I could go on to include hair color and many other factors, but I think I've made my point.
The issue is not whether or not it is right that your words represent the group as a whole. The fact is, that they do. Whether you like it or not, your words are posted on the internet for the world to see. Why would you use language that alienates instead of using "honey" to communicate your message?
Obviously the point of having a blog is to communicate a message, to share your views, and hopefully, to atleast make them think about it. If this is not your goal, then perhaps your blog would better be labelled as a private diary if it is only a place to vent your anger at the world.
And if you wish to continue using vinegar in your methods, understand that you will probably not have much success catching any flies. This fly was definitely not impressed.