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Commenting Rules and Tips

Strange Notions is all about conversation. Whether you agree or disagree, whether you're Catholic, atheist, or agnostic, we want your input. But to keep the dialogue serious and fruitful, we must agree on some simple ground rules. By commenting you agree to the following:

1. Use your real name.

This provides a basic level of accountability and transparency. Strange Notions does not allow anonymous comments. You can verify your name using Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Disqus—it’s up to you. If you aren’t registered with any of those services you can create a free Disqus account right in the comment box. All you need is your name and email address. If you’re having trouble logging in or creating an account, click here for step-by-step instructions.

2. Feel free to disagree...

Catholics and atheists can find plenty of echo chambers online. Strange Notions is not another one. We know that conversation about the Big Questions is bound to provoke disagreement. But that's alright. Recognizing where and why we disagree is crucial to finding the Truth. Your comment will never be deleted simply for disagreeing with the original post.

3. ...but understand the position first.

It’s easy to misrepresent an argument and then quickly tear it down. But this is merely refuting a “straw man.” Before commenting make sure you understand the arguments being made in the original article and the preceding comments. Psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport sums it up best:

1. Attempt to re-express your target's position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says: "Thanks, I wish I'd thought of putting it that way."

2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

4. Critique ideas, not people.

The rhetorical assault known as ad hominem, Latin for "to the person," is one of the most common fallacies online. Instead of engaging actual arguments, the culprit criticizes, insults, belittles, judges, or mocks the person making the argument. He blasts the opponent's character, intelligence, education, background, motivations, or sometimes all of the above. Attacking persons is fallacious and uncharitable and will not be permitted here. If you are wondering why your comment was flagged or deleted, consider whether it was ad hominem. (Comments that are vulgar, mocking, or insubstantial will be deleted, too.)

5. Engage the argument, not the source.

Another common fallacy related to ad hominem is the genetic fallacy, wherein a person’s claim is dismissed because of its source. However, an argument is not refuted merely because of where it came from. "Two-plus-two equals four" is true whether it's Einstein or Hitler who claims it. If you disagree with a claim, please do not merely belittle or disparage it; show exactly why it is flawed.

6. Stay on topic.

The comment boxes are for discussing the corresponding posts, videos, and comments. They're not a forum for voicing one’s opinion on irrelevant topics, expressing oneself, or driving traffic to your own product or website. While it’s true one topic often leads to another, some comments veer too far from the original idea and may be removed.

(We've discussed many issues here, so be sure to use the Search Box to find a more relevant discussion thread.)

7. Keep it short.

Long comments aren’t necessarily bad and none will be deleted solely because of length. But the shorter your comment, the likelier people will read it and respond. Before posting your comment, consider making one final pass to tighten up the prose (unless your comment is poetry, in which case we prefer haiku).

8. Help moderate.

There is currently no commenting approval process which means as soon as you post your comment, it's live on the site. But that means we need your help to maintain the high-level, charitable dialogue we're aiming for. If you see a comment that violates any of these rules please let us know. At the top right of each comment, there is a dropdown arrow that appears when you hover your mouse cursor over the comment. Click on this arrow and click “Flag as inappropriate.” When a comment is flagged several times, our moderation team will be alerted.


Our goal here is to host interesting conversations with caring, honest, and respectful people. We believe these simple ground rules will facilitate this and we really appreciate your help.