Vox Populi 8 – Positive or Negative Language

Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Thoughts | 5 comments

I’ve been doing this blogging thing for just on a year and a half now. I’ve written over 200 articles here and there doesn’t seem to be any sign I’ll give up soon. Over that time I have used a variety of approaches, some sharp and with an intended sting, and some more gentle, hoping that the beauty of reason will prevail.

I have noticed that with different approaches I get different types of comments back, different numbers of comments, or even seeming apathetic responses (i.e. nobody reads it). I am not sure what my voice is, but whatever tone I use I try to be as honest as I can, honest to myself and to you, dear reader.

There certainly are a lot of writers and bloggers in the circles of atheism, rational thought, free-thought and reason that write either with an intended sting, or even with an intention to ridicule the people they are talking about. There are others, like myself, who think that the easy target, the obvious target, is far too juvenile to attack (mind you I love reading a good rant).

I wonder, from your perspective, what is the most effective writing style for making some sort of progress in this world? Do you think that the obvious and sometimes scathing attacks against religion etc. are effective, or is it just like screaming at a brick wall, that nothing gets through? Or do you think that a more measured approach, one that uses logic and not emotions as a weapon will prevail in the end? Which do you think has more power psychologically?

Also, which atheists are your favourite speakers/writers? I particularly admire the style of Sam Harris, and the fervour of Hitchens, though I doubt I could ever be as good as either of them.

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  1. I think you gotta roll with whatever your emotions are telling you at the time (but not in anger – if your really hot and can’t think straight its best to give the topic a little space so you appear rational, albeit positive or negative) The most important aspect for writers of columns/editorials/blogs is letting honesty show through your writing and writing about subjects with which you have some background, experience or have done research. I like your styles, so keep on keepin on and let the words fall where they may.

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  2. Firstly, as Bill Owen points out, you have to be true to yourself.

    Then you have to consider your target audience. I expect that most of your readers are atheists rather than religious types.

    Assuming that atheists are your target audience, the “most effective writing style for making some sort of progress in this world” is to encourage those readers to be open and active in spreading the atheist point of view. In other words, you should leverage your writing to motivate others, thereby multiplying your effort.

    Because I blog and post infrequently, I have chosen to create an atheist resources site to support those other atheists with more spare time than myself, as they fight the meme-war out in the real world.

    I have been rewarded in my efforts by people contacting me to see if they can use my resources on an information table, say, or if they can translate my pamphlets into French or German. Of course I say yes, and I have put the various translations up on my site as well.

    I have also chosen other atheist writings that have inspired me, and (with permission) turned them into pamphlets or posters to inspire others. All free from http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~edmin/Pamphlets.

    So I feel that my effort has been found to be useful, and is being leveraged to help and inform people around the world, in at least three languages to date. All from a pathetically modest web site.

    So, in my opinion the “most effective writing style” is one that enables your readers to be better atheists – a truly noble pursuit.

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  3. I enjoy Jerry Coyne’s site best because many of his posts revolve around his area of academic expertise. It helps that he’s witty, humane & a little quirky at times.

    When I read him & his many well informed commentators I come away with new insights, new questions & new knowledge.

    Bad Astronomy is similar

    I don ‘t learn much of anything at the more philosophical sites because everything gets bogged down in impenetrable discussions about meaning & nuance

    The bloggers who know their stuff are confident enough to be controlled in their use of language, but also aren’t afraid to call an arse an arse when necessary.

    I avoid blogs that attract too much inane commentary chatter & loveins

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  4. Hey there,
    Sam Harris reminds me of a budhist, he always appearscalm, rational and mindful of his answers, I believe he has spent some time studying eastern spirituality. I adore Hitchens and Dawkins for their brutally frank thoughts, unforgiving, unapologetic and full of knowledge. They are the inspiration to me more than most. I enjoy reading debunking chrsitianity blog, there always appears to be theists actively debating on the blog and I enjoy the exchanges between both trains of thought. PZ Myers of course is wonderful, as I write this I can see that I enjoy the more regular bloggers who are unapologetic and speak freely and critically. It has been too long that we have had to tiptoe around religion and faith, meak and accepting as it has appeared to be deserved of a special consideration. I applaud the loud spoken, knowledgable people of today that make fun of stupidity. It is this that motivates me as well as entertains me rather than quiet spoken and considerate. (even though Sam Harris is quiet spoken, his quick wit, particularly on an online arguemtn I read recently, is cutting, and complete without consideration for the ‘feeling’ of the religious).

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  5. Martin, I think you’re doing just fine! There are so many voices worth listening to, and what makes them great is that they are each a bit different. Like, well, people. The best are those I wish I could have a bagel and coffee with, or a couple of beers. A little atheist anger goes a long way, and so does wisecracking. The only thing that really turns me off is grim humorlessness. But that’s usually the religionists’ problem, not ours.

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