Monday, 13 July 2009

Persona non grata at CiF Belief

It appears that I have committed an unforgivable sin.

As a result of recommending that commenters should boycott Andrew Brown's blog for a week to express displeasure at his unwillingness to adhere in his own above-the-line behaviour to the standards that he expected of the rest of us below the line, I have been told that no more articles from me will be commissioned or accepted, and the article on personal experiences of God (which I know some of you have been awaiting for some time) will not be published on CiF Belief even though it was commissioned and accepted.

The thread was O come all ye faithless, in which (in the opinion of several) Andrew made rather a prat of himself trying to ban WoollyMindedLiberal from attending the CiF Believers get-together in London on August 8th. The offending comment was as follows:

I've met Andrew, he bought me dinner last November prior to my first ATL article, and he is perfectly amicable face-to-face. I'm just a bit disappointed that his recent online behaviour hasn't come up to the standards he has been saying he expects of others. We can get banned for it - but we can't ban that behaviour in him. Or can we?

There is a very simple and effective way in which you can show your displeasure. For the next week, decline to make any comment on any of AB's blog articles (apart from this one) and decline even to view the page (this will affect page hits and therefore ad revenue). Click Recommend on this comment if you're prepared to do that.

If this comment happens to get deleted by the mods, I've kept a copy and will put it up on my blog instead.

But this was just the latest in a series of actions from Andrew that displayed a sense of double-standards between what is acceptable above-the-line and below-the-line, and for that matter what is acceptable amongst theist as opposed to atheist authors. At the time, Andrew seemed to view the matter somewhat lightheartedly. An hour or so later he posted saying
I would just like to say that I have clicked recommend on JW's most recent post.
But it seems that this was just for show, and in fact he regarded the matter very seriously. He has my email address and phone number. It's a pity he couldn't have contacted me to get it sorted at the time.

Andrew is of course perfectly entitled to decide who he will commission articles from, and perfectly entitled to decide not to take any more from me. I'm rather surprised and disappointed though that he chose to leave it three weeks before making any mention of this to me, and initially to lie about the reasons the personal experiences article would not be published, saying it hadn't been commissioned. He only offered this new reason in an email after I sent him the correspondence in which the commission was clearly stated and raised the issue with Matt Seaton (overall CiF editor).

So that's where things stand. To an extent, I have no reason to complain. I stated in a later comment that the purpose of the boycott was to show "that actions have consequences", so I can hardly whinge when my own actions have consequences other than those I would prefer. I would have been happy to contribute to the success of CiF Belief by politely stating an atheist viewpoint on issues both above and below the line. But it seems that is not going to happen.

I don't feel inclined to continue contributing to CiF in the present circumstances. I hope to write plenty more and put it up here instead. I hope that those of you who have enjoyed my articles on CiF Belief will continue to read me here and comment.


  1. Jonathan

    Hi it's Beor here

    You know, I recognise that AB runs the show over there and there is bad blood between you. I can only regret that you have decided to walk out on CiF belief. Your posts are a welcome reinforcement for the side of the "angels" so to speak. You will certainly be missed as a voice of reason and sometimes cruelly accurate analysis.

  2. Beor

    I wouldn't call it bad blood. When I received the email from Andrew, I responded saying I would see him at the Churchill on August 8th and would buy him a drink.

    He's a perfectly nice bloke to meet face to face. I just don't think he thinks things through properly - an opinion I've held since the first couple of articles on his blog when he spoke of religious beliefs being the same as any other variety of belief. Recent events, for instance the furore about the Charlotte Allen piece and the subsequent exchanges on how to interpret statistics haven't given me any reason to revise that opinion. And I suspect he's not happy at that assessment of him.

  3. Beor again

    Are yoou still around in Edinburgh in the week beginning the 10th?

    Only I plan visiting Glasgow to see family and was wondering if you're still available.

    I'd be glad to meet up for a bite and a drink if you are interested.

  4. Hi Beor

    Yes, will be travelling up on the 9th, returning 15th. Click on the "View my complete profile" link and from there you can send me an email so we can make arrangements.

  5. Hi Jonathan,
    I have been an avid reader of CiF and can honestly say that your comments and many others have kept me chuckling and thinking far too frequently.

    I think you have come to a point where you needed to move on and I share your dissapointment that Andrew Brown has revealed himself to be someone who fears intellectual discourse which may reveal the real Andrew Brown -warts and all.

    You are doing the right thing and can now spend less time promoting/elevating AB's blog and more on ensuring more people read your own.
    You may notice that you have now been included in my section of my blog as a 'blog i like'.

    Keep up the good words!

  6. SiliconEngineer14 July 2009 at 02:04

    Hi Jonathan,

    I've not been posting on CiF lately (and even when I was, I was usually too busy to post often!) but I have been lurking.

    I'll be sad to see you go... but at the end of the day CiF/belief has lost it's lustre. It's almost come to the point where saying anthing definate, without weasel words, is seen as confrontation. The differing standards above and below the line are grating.

    Did you see ABs article declaring that closed-mindedness is a common (but useful!) trait of Software Engineers, and apparently the course of religious discussions reaching dead-ends? Don't ask my what S.Engs - as a group - have done to AB to make him state that. I was fuming for, well, all of 5 seconds or so after reading it. :)

  7. SiliconEngineer14 July 2009 at 02:06

    apparently the cause of...

    Seems my typing isn't very good at 2AM ;)

  8. sorry if this is a double post, but my first one got eaten by god. however, i will not be silenced.

    anyway, best to leave CIF to simmer in it's own juices, JW. AB and bunting have have become common, garden variety bigots and don't really require further response. the refusal of AB to even engage the central point of atheism, i.e. the truth claims of religion (he maintains it's 'boring'), make a mockery of the whole enterprise of CIF religion.

    CIF has provided a space over the past few years for a real community of secularists to get to know one another. i hope that the realization of this fact will, in times to come, give AB a good case of indigestion. but of late, CIF religion has become quite off-putting (above-the-line) and lacks even minimal intellectual legitimacy. for that reason, i'll not post there under any moniker.

    remember: always avoid the synthetic judeao-christian wrapping and hold out for the rich, creamy greco-roman filling.

  9. What a sorry development. The editors and mods at CIF have notoriously thin skins, but I thought AB was a bit better than that. Dissension in the ranks, I suppose. Did you try the "grovelling apology" tactic: that has been known to work.

    Heresy Corner is always open to guest posts.

  10. Hi Jonathan

    Well, a difficult situation. I dont know what history there is between you and AB but I suspect that with such differing ideas and such different approaches a schism was inevitable. I have only been a Cif belief contributor for about a year but I must admit that I have always felt quite uncomfortable reading his pieces. Your confirmation the other day that there is a Templeton connection came as no surprise. In my comment on his last piece I likened it to something by Erich Von Daniken in that he tends to start with unsupported assertions which are later reintroduced into the discussion as facts. Anyway, I regret that you may not be making comments in the future but even more will miss your above the line offerings. I'll keep an ear to this blog.

    Kindest regards


  11. Hi heresiarch

    I don't think a grovelling apology would work. First, it wouldn't be sincere - I meant what I said at the time and Andrew realises that perfectly well.

    Second, I'm not that good a liar.

    Third, if he's choosing to operate according to the principle he's described - which is that after I've led a boycott of the editor aimed at hurting ad revenues it's unacceptable for me to be published by the same editor, then at least that is a principle, and I can respect that. I don't think it is a particularly good principle, since I think he brought it on himself by his own bad behaviour, and a little recognition of the fact might be in order, but we all hold opinions as to the quality of each others' principles.

  12. I think you take yourself very seriously, and that is a little bit of a shame. You've had a fair crack of the whip above the line. If you don't like it, leave it - as, indeed, you say you will do.

  13. An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

    Karim - Positive thinking

  14. Very thoughtfull post on belief .It should be very much helpfull.

    Karim - Creating Power