Why Are Internet Atheists So Gullible?

Over at the Richard Dawkins webpage, they showcase a youtube video by internet atheist  Jaclyn Glenn entitled “How to make an atheist cry.”

Glenn spends 9 minutes responding to a comment she received that began, “Warning: the following story has been known to make atheists cry!”    The comment then tells the story of an atheist father who takes his 5 year old son to the zoo to feed the animals pages from the Bible (it’s supposed to make the point that God does not exist, otherwise God would have prevented this).  When he gets to the last page of the Bible, he tries to feed it to an octopus on a rock.  The octopus doesn’t eat the page, but instead, with an inhuman voice, reads Psalm 14:1 –  “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God! ” The atheist then converts to Christianity.

It’s obvious the comment was a Poe.  What makes it painfully obvious is the handle of the person who posted the comment: CopyPasta4CancerBanana.  As someone in the comments section of her YouTube page noted,

Title should read: “Women gets trolled by 4Chan/Reddit Full-time meme generator God into thinking that his copypasta was a legit post”

And for those atheists who badly want to believe the comment was posted by a sincere Christian, Google will help you find that CopyPasta4CancerBanana changed his/her YouTube handle to Cutie Patootie Senpai soon after Glenn’s video went viral and is someone interested in unwrapping a tesseract.  Sounds like someone who thinks atheists would cry because of that story, right?

Two questions come to mind.

1. Why are atheists so gullible about this stuff? Glenn bought it hook, line, and sinker. She spends nine minutes ranting against….a Poe.  She pats herself on the back for not believing the story, but she is totally oblivious to the fact that she has been Poe’d.

Over at the Dawkins webpage (which has a track record of being easily Poe’d),  the atheists who comment are all just as gullible.  They too pat themselves on the back for not believing the story while lapping up the notion that the story was told by a sincere Christian.  In fact, this is the common theme on various atheist websites and forums where this copypasta is retold.  Rarely do you see the faintest glint of skepticism where someone raises the mere possibility of a Poe.

2.Why are so many internet atheists Poes? Not surprisingly, this Poe story is retold on a forum full of Poes .  Are their lives so empty that they truly get meaning by impersonating people who are supposed to be dumb Christians?  Or does it give them some sense of atheistic superiority by watching their fellow atheists so easily mock their obvious mock-bait?  Or is it that the Poes need to actively reinforce their own stereotypes because reality isn’t doing enough for them?  I really don’t get the psychological need to impersonate others.

I does leave you wondering about the world of internet atheism.  How often is it that atheists are busy arguing with and mocking Poes?  It’s like both sides willing live in their strange psychodrama cut off from reality, replaying the same type of bizzaro exchanges over and over again.  And they love it!  You would think a community so devoted to skepticism and evidence would be immune to this type of group delusion.  But then again, I think we have established that the internet atheist community is not characterized by skepticism and a commitment to evidence.

So it’s not surprising it is so, so easy to Poe the internet atheist community.

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14 Responses to Why Are Internet Atheists So Gullible?

  1. TFBW says:

    Why are atheists so gullible about this stuff?

    Because it matches what many of them already believe about Christians: that they are evil, irrational, delusional miscreants who tell lies for Jesus. Poes just give them what they’re expecting — laid on thick.

  2. Dhay says:

    > So it’s not surprising it is so, so easy to Poe the internet atheist community.

    It seems to be exceedingly easy to Poe the RDF website and its staff; here’s an e-mail in the tagged “Ugly” section:

    A warning MR Dawkins
    Atheism is yet another example of the attempts of the JEWS to denigrate society. It is no surprise that the Jews who rule society are the biggest pushers of homosexuality, capitalism, atheism, mixed-raced marriages, mass-immigration, multiculturalism, transsexualism, leftism, conservatism (especially neo-conservatism which is as Jewish as a bar-mitzvah), libertarianism and many other degenerate ideologies.

    The only way to combat the Jewish stranglehold on our society is authoritarian, racialist socialism, following in the traditions of the heroic Mussolini and the eternal avatar for peace and freedom, Adolf Hitler. Atheists like you will be hanged when the white race rises up under the banner of the swastika.
    TotalFascist

    https://richarddawkins.net/2013/08/i-hate-atheists-ugly-fri-aug-09-2013-2086/

    But I’d say it is very obviously a Poe e-mail. Does nobody there use their brains. Is atheist rationality just a hand-waving exercise at the RDF?

  3. Allallt says:

    I came to the conclusion a while ago that when I speculate about why things happen, especially if I’m psycho-analysing people, perhaps more so when it’s people I’m not hugely familiar with, my speculation is cynical and often wrong.
    If I were to attempt to keep the news — which you have said is the goal of this blog — my experiences would lead me to be little more reserved and give the facts and massively telegraph my assumptions/speculations/accusations, if I were to include them at all.

  4. Michael says:

    Allallt,

    Not quite sure what you are trying to say. Are you trying to make the case that I am not be charitable enough with the Poes?

  5. goldrushapple says:

    Because they’re neither as “free thinking” nor intelligent as they think they are.

  6. Dhay says:

    Allallt > I came to the conclusion a while ago that when I speculate about why things happen, especially if I’m psycho-analysing people, perhaps more so when it’s people I’m not hugely familiar with, my speculation is cynical and often wrong. …

    I don’t suppose you could dig deep within your reserves of courtesy and common-sense and find there that ability which comes so naturally to many others, namely the ability to specify, each response, who it is your response is addressing.

    Michael > 1. Why are atheists so gullible about this stuff? Glenn bought it hook, line, and sinker. She spends nine minutes ranting against….a Poe. She pats herself on the back for not believing the story, but she is totally oblivious to the fact that she has been Poe’d.

    Allallt has a point; it’s very hard to discern intent; that Glenn has been hook, line, and sinker Poe’d is not the sole possibility.

    The CopyPasta (see Urban Dictionary, likewise “Cutie Patootie” and “Senpai”; “Cancer Banana” Googles as being a super-food hoax) story being such an obvious Poe, it would be astonishing if Glenn hadn’t been bright enough to spot that; on the probabilities, it looks more like she decided to create a new, improved, gorgeous blonde “cutie patootie” fronted Poe that would emphatically get everyone’s attention, a yet better version of that Poe for extra-impact Poe-ing purposes; that instead of being a stupidly naive Poe victim, Glenn was a Poe creator, adding value to cynically create a super-duper Poe that would go massively viral.

    Allallt, have I managed to “massively telegraph my assumptions/speculations/accusations”? Or is stronger language more appropriate.

  7. TFBW says:

    Why are so many internet atheists Poes?

    One thing to consider in this regard is the culture of mockery (under discussion here of late) which is a defining part of New Atheism. Doing an impression of a mindless fundie is itself a form of mockery. The whole point of a site like Landover Baptist (as far as I can tell) is to engage in exactly this sort of “herp derp, look at me, I’m a mindless fundie” lowbrow satire/jeering. While it’s contained in a forum dedicated to that practice, it can be understood as a special case of the more general culture of mockery. However, those with a mischievous, trolling streak (common enough on the Internet), might then be tempted to take their mindless fundie act into an actual hair-trigger rage-against-the-fundies atheist forum, with predictable results.

    Lest anyone think that any of the above entails the claim, “all Poes are atheists,” I’d like to explicitly disclaim that here: it’s entirely likely, in my view, that a good portion of Poes are just plain trolls of no particular religious bent doing it for lulz. Large-scale organised trolling is an Internet reality which must be taken into account. It’s just inherently likely (without implying a causal link) that there is an overlap between the set of trolls and the set of New Atheists. It’s an easy transition from “argue against a strawman”, to “do an impression of the strawman”, to “do an impression of the strawman in a forum that argues against the strawman”.

  8. Dhay says:

    TFBW > Lest anyone think that any of the above entails the claim, “all Poes are atheists,” I’d like to explicitly disclaim that here: it’s entirely likely, in my view, that a good portion of Poes are just plain trolls of no particular religious bent doing it for lulz.

    Having seen the internet community vote “Boaty McBoatface” as the name of the new Antarctic research ship, and turn MicroSoft’s recent experimental chatbot into a racist bigot — just for fun — I concur with this heartily.

  9. Allallt says:

    @Dhay – it was a comment to the author specifically.

    @Michael – charity has nothing to do with it. Although the obvious Poe is an obvious Poe, speculating as to why atheists believed the Poe to be sincere was the bit I was concerning myself with. You seem to fall foul of the same thing I do when I speculate about other people’s actions: taking a cynical view immediately. It could be that in any large group of people, the most vociferous are often among the stupid. It’s not that atheists are particularly stupid, it’s that the more rational ones tend not to waste time writing about how obvious Poe is obvious Poe.
    Indeed, I often have discussions in my own mind about how stupid an idea has to be before it is excluded from getting sufficient time from me to write a post about it. Obviously, other things play a part, like perception that other people are taking it seriously… still..

    To the deeper point, I’d avoid psycho-analysing people. You may think you’re making honest and rational observations, but because such efforts often have a cynical bias to them, you come off as being an irrational and judgemental fool. (Even if true, you’d want to hide it, right?)

  10. Rudy Serra says:

    Wish I know what you were talking about. Poe? No clue what you mean and you never define or explain it.

  11. Kevin says:

    Basically a Poe is someone acting as a caricature of a belief they do not actually hold in order to make it look stupid or bad. It’s also a form of trolling, pretending in order to get people riled up.

  12. TFBW says:

    @Rudy: in addition to what Kevin said, look up “Poe’s law”. By extension, a Poe is a person doing a parody of something (e.g. a mindless fundamentalist), but has done it in such a way that others have mistaken him for the genuine article. If you read “Poe” as “fake” in the original article, you’ll get the gist, but it helps to know the context: this isn’t a new or obscure problem.

  13. Michael says:

    Although the obvious Poe is an obvious Poe, speculating as to why atheists believed the Poe to be sincere was the bit I was concerning myself with. You seem to fall foul of the same thing I do when I speculate about other people’s actions: taking a cynical view immediately. It could be that in any large group of people, the most vociferous are often among the stupid. It’s not that atheists are particularly stupid, it’s that the more rational ones tend not to waste time writing about how obvious Poe is obvious Poe.
    Indeed, I often have discussions in my own mind about how stupid an idea has to be before it is excluded from getting sufficient time from me to write a post about it. Obviously, other things play a part, like perception that other people are taking it seriously… still..

    Yet so many internet atheists seem to be so easily duped. That story was told on several atheist forums and websites and no one seems to recognize it as a Poe. Glenn spends 9 minutes arguing against a Poe, Dawkins ‘s site promotes it, and everyone is oblivious. What makes this significant is way the atheist movement postures – we’re told (again and again) that atheists champion reason, evidence, and skepticism. Now, if you are going to sell yourself that way, then you should make some effort to be someone who is not easily duped.

    To the deeper point, I’d avoid psycho-analysing people. You may think you’re making honest and rational observations, but because such efforts often have a cynical bias to them, you come off as being an irrational and judgemental fool. (Even if true, you’d want to hide it, right?)

    I don’t think you need psychoanalysis to explain why atheists are easily Poed. Basic confirmation bias accounts for that nicely. Psycho-analysis is called for when trying to understand why people Poe. There is definitely a troll-factor, but that doesn’t explain the people who spend so much time pretending to be religious fundies on sites like the Landover Baptist forum. There you will find people who have posted 1000’s of impersonations over a period of years. To me, that behavior is fascinating and in need of an explanation.

  14. Reason1 says:

    I had an atheist tell me belief in God was no different from belief in leprechauns.

    I produced a list of people he respected (doctors, civil rights leaders, rescue workers, scientists, humanitarians, scholars, etc) that believed in God.

    I asked him if he could produce a similar list for leprechaun believers.

    He cited this study and thought it was true:
    http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/one-third-of-irish-people-believe-in-leprechauns-do-you-118981264-237768641.html

    A “study” by a liquor distillery? LOL!

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