The end of the year is a traditional time for reappraisal, reexamination, and rededication to one’s personal goals. When it comes to this column, one of my major goals is to avoid fixating overmuch on the online outrage-of-the-day, which tends to inflate page hits at the cost of substantive discussion, not to mention the development and reinforcement of in-group norms at the expense of robust and civil debate. Another writing goal is to avoid getting stuck focusing on just one of our four canonical categories here at Skeptic Ink: skepticism, atheism, philosophy, and secularism.
With those goals in mind, I’ve compiled and reviewed my most widely read posts from 2014. A few thoughts to follow.
- Good Friday to you – Basically a seasonal atheological post, questioning several varieties of Christian soteriology, especially the necessity and nature of blood atonement.
- Twenty quotes from historical Americans – A review of alleged quotations from American Founding Fathers. Found everything from accurate quotes that carry essentially the same meaning in and out of context, to badly excerpted quotes that twist the meaning around, to completely fabricated quotes that cannot be traced to any source document.
- Skepticon in review – A fairly popular two-part post: 2014 wrap-up post , Historical trends by genre of talk
There is inevitably some sort of weird drama at Skepticon, but I tried really hard to leave that part out this year.
- Why America is doomed – A chart of the week post comparing the strength of belief in various scientifically validated statements to the statement that “[t]he universe is so complex, there must be a supreme being guiding its creation.” As you can probably guess from the title, the results were not encouraging.
- SCOTUS vs. Nonbelievers – In which I express frustration at the Supreme Court’s mirthful marginalization of atheists.
- Freezing Peaches at AACON – An outrage post, responding to feminist demonization of mildly erotic nudes at an atheist art show.
- Disgusting intimidation tactics should be met with public resistance – Another outrage post; responding to the doxxing of a friend followed by targeted attempts to smear her reputation and impact her career.
- It’s all Greek to me – Having a go at a silly old meme by applying a bare minimum of Biblical literacy.
- An encounter with street preachers – This one is basically just what it says on the tin.
- Dudebro America – A frivolous map based on some serious data mining, smoothing, and visualization from a massive linguistic dataset.
The sixth and seventh most widely read posts fall clearly into the category of online outrage-of-the-day, even though they both ultimately boil down to the ethics of balancing the value of free expression against competing values. (Two out of ten isn’t all that bad, though, given the constant temptation to vent outrage into the interwebs.) The second and fifth most popular posts fall under the heading of secularism, specifically the relations between church and state. The third most widely read post was a two-part piece recounting and analyzing a popular regional conference created for skeptics and atheists. The most popular post was an atheist broadside against the core teachings of Christianity, and the eight and ninth most read posts were also about taking a more evidential approach to Christianity. The remaining two posts were basically just playing around with data from the social sciences.
Overall, I’m fairly pleased with how 2014 played out. I need to tamp down a bit on the outrage and get more into philosophy, since that category doesn’t really pop up on the radar here, alas. Probably there are other lessons to be learned here, but I’m at a loss for now. Feel free to school me in the comments section.
Looking forward to a glorious 2015. Onward and upward!