Does Reddit Suppress Atheist Bloggers and News?

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You might have noticed that I don’t have a Reddit link on my blog. I used to. But the plugin I was using didn’t get upgraded or properly installed in the current version of WordPress and I never really figured out the social media thing anyway. I have links to StumbleUpon, Technorati, etc. in my sidebar, but I know I’m not using them to their potential. What I need is a tech-savy co-blogger :-)

But I’ve been meaning to get the Reddit thing figured out for a while now. I like to visit the /r/atheism subreddit on occasion and see what’s being talked about and I see these sites are getting a lot of notice. One of the things I do have figured out fairly well is Twitter -I just don’t use it nearly as effectively as I could. It was on Twitter that I noticed VJack’s tweet “vjack: An explanation of why the atheism reddit does not appear on the default front page. http://is.gd/2AnGN (via @AlisonFreed) #atheism (about 6 hours ago from Tweetie).”

Atheist Revolution is probably one of the gold standards of the atheosphere. VJack has, hands down, some of the best content and good traffic to boot. So when he notices something like reddit’s explanation, it’s probably worth reading.

In a nutshell, it seems that the folks at Reddit noticed that the polar divisiveness of atheism and theism creates controversy and, from their perspective, inflates the issue. Here are some quotes (the full explanation is here):

attacking a reddit generates a lot of activity on that reddit and makes our algorithm think the reddit is more popular than it really is, making the problem even worse.

Given the nature and somtimes polarizing tone of the content on the atheism reddit, it will likely always garner the ire of many other users. Showcasing religious flame-wars only serves to lower the level of discourse on the site as a whole

/moviecritic and /atheism aren’t legitimate top ten reddits. They appeared that way because they were under attack, making them appear even more popular. Removing atheism from the top ten by hand isn’t about censoring, it’s about a shortcoming in our popularity metric.

In the words of one of the commenters, “r/politics and r/worldnews both make the front page, and they’re both full of conflict; so that argument smells like bullshit to me.”

This is a very good point and one that I immediately thought of as well. Politics is very divisive and creates probably just as much polarity as atheism if not more. I can’t imagine that they would even consider removing /politics from appearing on the front page. But when you think about it, the purpose of the /atheism subreddit is to bring in one spot a subject matter of interest to like-minded people -to see what’s new, hot, or popular on the web on a given topic. I visit /linux and /science for this reason as well. That controversy is created; that people want their voice heard on the topic is testimony to the vital nature of the discussion. There are accusations of censorship on the part of Reddit and childish bickering on the part of /atheism posters, but there exists a deeper issue: the topic of superstition versus rationalism and reason.

I’m not sure where I stand on the issue and whether I even have a right to voice an opinion. I’m a very casual and passive member of Reddit. I lurk and click. But I do want to share this comment that I noticed:

Very well. Since it seems unlikely we’re going to change your mind about this, don’t be surprised if you see us taking a new tack.

From now on, /r/Atheism ought to be used for the specific purpose you’ve outlined – discussion that doesn’t necessarily rely on “new and interesting content from around the web”. If someone wants to repost a discussion around Bertrand Russell quote or something of that matter, it’ll go in /r/Atheism.

However, if religious idiocy presents itself in some new form in our government, expect us to post that new and interesting article under politics. If some religious kook commits an injustice (say, standing in the way of AIDS prevention in Africa) and tries to justify it with dogmatic rhetoric, we’ll put it in WorldNews instead. If a politician invokes religious rhetoric to rally a vote against stem cell research, or censors the teaching of evolution in a school, expect it under Science.

Most other “new and interesting content from around the web” that would’ve gone under /r/Atheism will most likely filter down into WTF.

I hope you realize that, despite the rationale you’ve given, this is the first non-spam subreddit to have been censored (and I do believe I’m using the word correctly – it is censorship even if you have the best intentions) and a lot of us are not going to be happy about it.

I presume /r/Christianity will be receiving the same treatment, as will any other subreddit that might be considered attractive to a “flame-war”, such as /r/Libertarian, /r/Marijuana, /r/Environment – regardless of whether or not you expect they’ll reach the front page.

This poster, BadDecisionDino, sums it up rather nicely in my opinion. Whether you think /atheism is intellectually bankrupt or a vital contribution, you cannot deny his logic. Moreover, if you, like me, see the atheosphere and online discussions as a means to educate and raise the consciousness of those not already a member of the atheist community, then perhaps it would be best to take the strategy above. After all, religious superstition has its tendrils in all aspects of society: politics, education, sports, health, science, etc.

There are plenty of subreddits on Reddit that still make it to the front page. Maybe the atheists who post in /atheism should step it up a notch.

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