Death of the Dawkins forum – The world’s busiest atheist forum closes

Yesterday, I was celebrating. The House of Commons advised that the government should stop NHS funding of homeopathy. I was on a high all day, what a result! But by the end of the day, I was brought back down to Earth as I discovered that the world’s busiest atheist forum was being closed down, and that the disgusting evening was to be filled with lies, censorship and cowardice.

Please note that the following post comes from me personally, and not from the ex-staff of RichardDawkins.Net. Any individual opinions are my own, and cannot possibly represent the opinion of the whole team. Only I am accountable for the thoughts expressed in this post.

If you visit the forum at now, you will find that you can still view threads but no longer post. All explanations seem a little vague and there is talk of misbehaving moderators. If you’ve come to the forum after all the drama, it all seems very confusing. I hope that this blog entry will allow confused forum members to understand what happened behind the scenes. It’s important that the truth is told, since the individuals behind this incident have worked hard to cover up what really happened.

To make sense of this mess, we need to look back into the history of the forum and the structure of the management. Richard Dawkins isn’t directly involved in the running of the forum. He pays a man named Josh Timonen to run the official website. Along with Josh, there are various tech guys such as Andrew Chalkley. They keep the “front page” of the website ticking over, and deal with any forum problems regarding servers or software issues. But they have nothing to do with the running of the forum. The daily running of the forum is all down to the moderation team, consisting of moderators and admins that sit under Josh in the staff structure. They handle countless reports, spammers and trolls everyday. The moderation team has made the forum what it is, and helped foster one of the most successful atheist communities online. The moderation team developed the rules of the forum, they worked to bring improvements and incentives for members to join stimulating debate and discussions. The team held all the formal debates, they even held science writing competitions. Josh Timonen had nothing to do with any of this. In fact, he would usually ignore communications from staff, and didn’t offer any respect. He made it abundantly clear time and time again that the forum isn’t important. He was difficult to work with, but the staff were dedicated. We had been through all sorts of drama in the past, and stood by the community, and that was all that mattered. We could put up with being treated like shit if it meant we could continue to offer a fantastic oasis for clear-thinking individuals. It should also be made clear that Josh Timonen is paid for his work, while the team that really runs the forum does so voluntarily. Our team consisted of caring people working for what we felt was a great cause. The team was multi-cultured, and highly skilled, including scientists, teachers, authors… These professionals offered their private time to help maintain what was arguably the best atheist forum on the internet, and the satisfaction it brought and the chance to be involved in such a community was the only payment.

Last year, the forum ran into major technical problems due to extremely high volumes of traffic, and the servers couldn’t cope. There were issues with archived posts. The search function was removed from the forum in an attempt to ease the stress on the database, and this obviously affected the functionality of the forum. Things gradually got worse and the forum was often unusable. Sometimes the forum would be incredibly slow, sometimes it would grind to a halt. Regular members were frustrated by the functionality, and moderator actions were severely disrupted. Simple tasks like moving and merging threads could take half an hour due to the technical problems. Despite these issues, traffic increased and members were as active as ever. Why? Because of the community. Moderators were pulling their hair out over the speed of simple tasks, but worked for hours everyday to keep the forum running as normally as possible. Why? Because of the community they had helped build. This will make immediate sense to members of the forum, but may seem alien to others. The forum was like a society of its own. The forum was a huge part of many lives. The forum brought rational thinkers together in incredible numbers, from all over the world. It was a safe haven for individuals who lived with overly religious families, or lived in oppressively religious societies where admitting an atheist worldview could result in death. The forum had become so much more than just another website. Firstly, it provided a very valuable service for rational thinkers and anyone wanting to learn more about the world. Secondly, the forum generated connections and relationships. For many members, some of their best friends had been discovered on the forum. People would use the forum for different reasons, but it was undeniable that it had become a second home to many, and that thousands were emotionally tied to this prospering oasis of freethought and rationality and the individuals who resided there. We would watch new friendships emerge, we saw members become engaged and married… we even experienced tragic deaths within the membership. But to Josh Timonen, the forum was a collection of users posting text and nothing else.

It became clear to the staff that something big was going to have to happen. The forum needed a big fix, and it needed to happen quick. We asked for updates, but Josh and the tech gurus would only offer vague excuses and claim that something would be coming along soon. Months passed with no search facility and the slow speeds persisted. When I got no response from Josh Timonen, I got in touch directly with the tech team. I learned what needed to be done to get things back to normal. It was possible but it wasn’t an easy task, and it was clear that creating a whole new forum may actually be an easier option. Josh Timonen continued to ignore my emails. I was a forum admin at the time, which gives you an idea of how much respect Josh offered the moderation team.

Eventually, they approached us with a vague plan. We would have a new forum created for us using completely different software that would make all our technical headaches vanish. They also said that all the content from current forum could be transferred to the new system. This would be extremely important to us and the whole community. But after this information, it became difficult to get answers again. Josh and Andrew became vague as usual and simply promised that the changes would be coming soon and that we would be first to know. The staff began to realize that designing a new system without considering the community could ruin the whole website. They may be talented web designers, but Josh and his people always made it clear that they thought nothing of the community of members and that the culture wasn’t something they considered worth keeping. All their communications seemed to ignore the fact that so many members remained active because of the community they had become a part of. The moderation team stressed to Josh and Andrew how important the culture of the forum was, only to be met with silence. Nearly every decision Josh and Andrew made would fail to take the members or the hard work of the moderators into account. They even suggested removing the Tech Support area of the forum and replacing it with a simple FAQ, not understanding that the staff work with the regular members to dispute warnings, consider improvements for the forum and discuss changes to the rules. If they were left to design the new system themselves, we could potentially lose everything that we had worked so hard to build. Eventually, we got some better news though. Josh said that when the time came for a new system, the staff would be involved and would be able to provide input. We would be able to offer advice on categories of discussion in the system, and they promised that we could test-run the new system before anyone else got to see it. Still no timeframe, but at least they promised to keep us in the loop. I was skeptical. Even more so when I saw this tweet by Josh Timonen earlier this month:

“Using a forum as a substitute for a real website is sloppy and lazy.”

This caused me to panic slightly, but at least the staff would be involved and even able to test-run the software that they would go on to moderate.

Throughout this month, Andrew Chalkley popped into the staff area of the forum a few times to ask some questions and give some vague answers. It became increasingly clear that the new system was to be very different from a standard forum, and more like the comment system we already have on the “front page”, but to allow discussions on various categories. On the 20th of February, Andrew posted the following information to the moderators:

“I have had some discussions with Josh and Richard on the site and I think we’re closer to nailing the requirements for the discussion area – I am working on other things at the moment.

Thanks for your understanding.”

The staff obviously wanted to know more, and as usual they had to ask:

“Thanks for the update Andrew.

Is there anything Josh and Richard said about the requirements that you could pass on to us?

Also, is there any decision about whether we can still call it the forum and keep most of the same categories?”

The staff went on to explain how the forum structure helps the cause. Specific examples included how the highly successful RDFRS folding@home team coordinate their efforts and recruiting from the forum. We had to explain that the forum gets 8-10 times the traffic that the front page gets, and that they had to take this into account when deciding on a new system.

All the moderators still felt that there was time to discuss these issues since the new system must still be quite early in development. After all, the team hadn’t been offered much involvement and nobody had been allowed to test any replacement system, so it must be far away. We were ignored for two days before Andrew reappeared with a short message:

“Josh and I are writing something up and we’ll let you know shortly.”

The staff thanked Andrew for keeping them in the loop. A few hours later, Josh Timonen posted the following information in the staff area of the forum:

“Dear forum moderators,

We know that this is a big decision. We know some of you moderators will be against this change. We ask that you respect our decision and help make this transition as smooth as possible. These decisions have all been approved by our organization, and we ask that you don’t add to our work by causing trouble.

We will not be migrating moderator roles to the new discussion site. Again, we’re sure this might come as a shock, and we hope you don’t take it personally. We can’t thank you enough for your contributions to the old forum. The new system will not require a large team of moderators, as the discussion area will be more focused. We encourage you to contribute to the new discussions area, and are welcome to flag inappropriate activity for review.

Please understand that this transition is going to be a lot of work for us. I’m sure as you read this, you will have a lot of questions and concerns. We also know that this is a change from what we had been discussing previously. This announcement does not require a response, but we wanted you to be aware. Please do not email Richard with complaints, we have discussed this transition thoroughly with him, and he is currently on tour in Australia and New Zealand. Please do not attempt to inflame the users, start any petitions, or “relocate” groups of users to a separate forum. Do not use any of the data held by the foundation (such as email addresses) through the control panel to cause any trouble. Any behavior of this kind will not be tolerated. We don’t expect you to do these things, but we say all of this only to discourage any well-intentioned moves that would only frustrate the situation.

Many thanks again.

Josh Timonen

Andrew Chalkley

The Richard Dawkins Foundation”

Understandably, we were shocked, and we knew that all the regular members would be equally shocked.

Here are some of the immediate responses from moderators:

“Congratulations, you killed the forum.”

“Not just the forum, but the community as well. I’ll stay on until the new site and continue with my mod duties. But not with the format you propose. What you have proposed is going to kill the community, and many people will leave. Opening threads and speaking our mind freely is why we are here. Not being able to do that, not being able to talk about different things, not being able to debunk bad ideas, and more… those are some of the things that we are here for.

Some posts we make take hours even to write, take a look at Calilasseia’s posts, at hackenslash, at Spearthrower, at theropod and many many other contributors. You are going to lose that, and that is a huge crime.”

“Ok. How did any of this add up to either consultation, or more importantly showing even a little respect for the Forum community as a whole, or the staff in particular.

Have they not understood how the forum represents the aims of the Foundation in general – that the network of interconnections generated here supports the work of countless individuals and groups around the world, giving them a core identity under the banner of our patron. I am not being melodramatic for effect here – have they considered the membership in any way other than as a customer base?”

“I’m surprised at the way the staff have been treated. I can’t believe the staff had to be told not to cause trouble, and that they aren’t allowed to start another forum somewhere. Unbelievable. The amount of time I put into moderating this place over the years was unreal, and I know that many staff members worked a lot harder than I did. People have left, angry with decisions and the way things have been dealt with, but collectively the current staff are the people who have stayed through it all. These people are dedicated, and have done great work for the cause. I am very insulted at being told to behave.

The complete lack of respect is what I’m extremely disappointed by. I’ve moderated in several other forums, including smaller ones and one with as big an audience. No other web team would keep staff out of the loop for as long, then thank them by telling them not to try any funny business.”

“The secretive way this has been handled and the exclusion of the hard working staff is an insult. We were promised input into the new site and to be able to test its functionality. We were led to believe that we were going to be included in the process and aid in the transition.

Now it’s presented as a done deal, and we’re condescendingly told to shut up about it and not cause trouble ? To not dare contact Richard Dawkins about it ?

I devote several hours a day to this forum, have been stressed at time, have copped abuse from members for doing the right thing and even caused friction in my family because of the time I devote here, but I persevered as I thought that this forum was worthwhile helping to run. It is not only educational and promotes reason, but has a lovely commmunity feel about it and we’ve all made good friends with other members.

I’m NOT HAPPY with how this whole process has come about and with the demise of one of the best Atheist discussion boards on the Internet.”

One moderator told me he felt like putting on his pajamas and lying in front of a bulldozer. On the subject of Vogons, the behaviour of Josh Timonen does seem familiar. Quoted from the Hitchhikers’s Guide To The Galaxy:

“There’s no point in acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department on Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now.”

Regular forum members were treated to a different announcement:

“Dear forum members,

We wanted you all to know at the earliest opportunity about our new website currently in development. will have a new look and feel, improved security, and much more. Visits to the site have really grown over the past 3 1/2 years, and this update gives us an opportunity to address several issues. Over the years we’ve become one of the world’s leading resources for breaking rational and scientific news and original content. We are focusing on quality content distribution, and will be bringing more original articles, video and other content as we grow.

The new will have a fully-integrated discussion section. This will be a new feature for the site, similar to the current forum, but not identical. We feel the new system will be much cleaner and easier to use, and hopefully this will encourage participation from a wider variety of users.

We will leave the current forum up for 30 days, giving regular users an opportunity to locally archive any content they value. When the new website goes live, you are welcome to submit these posts as new discussions. The forum will then be taken down from the web. You will not loose your username on the new system.

The new discussion area will not be a new forum. It will be different. We will be using a system of tags to categorize items, instead of sub-forums. Discussions can have multiple tags, such as “Education”, “Children”, and “Critical Thinking”. Starting a new discussion will require approval, so we ask that you only submit new discussions that are truly relevant to reason and science. Subsequent responses on the thread will not need approval—however anything off topic or violating the new terms of service will be removed. The approval process will be there to ensure the quality of posts on the site. This is purely an editorial exercise to help new visitors find quality content quickly. We hope this discussion area will reflect the foundation’s goals and values.

We know that this is a big decision. We know some of you will be against this change. We ask that you respect our decision and help make this transition as smooth as possible.

We’re confident that these changes will improve the site experience and we look forward to seeing what you do with the new system.

Many thanks again.

Josh Timonen,

Andrew Chalkley

The Richard Dawkins Foundation”

As you can guess, the regular members were furious. A complaints thread appeared in Tech Support and quickly filled with countless users all expressing the same disappointment, sadness and anger at what was happening. Some even blamed the moderation team at first, since not all members are aware of how the staff are structured. It wasn’t clear that the moderation team had nothing to do with this. To help explain, one moderator posted Josh’s message to the mods, telling the staff that they are no longer needed, that they must not contact Richard Dawkins and that they must not cause any trouble. Every single member I’ve personally spoken to since the incident (hundreds!) all feel the same way. All members of the community have been treated like garbage, especially the hard-working moderators who were kept out of the loop and shoved aside in a rude and offensive way with no warning. The moderators and the regular members were explaining how they felt, and that it was a bad idea letting the number 1 atheist community on the internet be killed. Regular members were also angered by the fact that Josh had used and lied to the moderating team. Many members had come to the forum to speak freely, and were upset that they would need to seek approval to discuss very specific topics on the new system. Everything about the news was a disaster. Not a single post was made claiming this was a good idea. Then the drama really began.

In response to the unanimous criticisms, Josh started playing with the settings in the forum. First he deactivated private messaging. This caused a major problem, as members were starting to share personal details so that they can keep in touch with good friends if the forum really did end up closing. Members also filled their signatures with details and where to find members after the forum had closed. Josh went on to lock viewable access to the forum. For a while, nobody could do anything. With the forum all to themselves, Josh and Andrew deleted any posts that criticised the decision. Next, they removed signatures so that other forums and meeting places could not be advertised. When all of this was done, Josh and Andrew reopened the forum in a read-only state. Nobody could post anymore, and the complaints thread had been completely deleted. They had added the following information to the original announcement:

Update: We had intended to leave the forum fully-funtioning for 30 days, but due to the inappropriate posts by some users and moderators, we have decided to leave the forum in a read-only state. You can still download and archive your posts and private messages, but the ability to enter new posts has been disabled. It’s unfortunate that it had to come to this. We know that change can be difficult and sometimes frightening, but we are all very excited about the direction of the website and the future.”

I’m sure he intended to leave it open for 30 days, the same way he intended the staff to be involved in the new system. Any users who visited the forum for the first time in days were left thinking that the moderators and some members have been causing trouble and got the forum locked, when really Josh couldn’t handle the criticism. Blocking discussion and stifling communication channels took real cowardice and stupidity. This action has only resulted in enraging the members even more. Josh’s actions towards staff and all members couldn’t have been any more heavy-handed. Josh has done more damage to the website’s reputation than any other person could ever have done. To make things worse, Josh and Andrew started deleting members. The moderator who explained that the staff were innocent and treated so disrespectfully, Mazille, had his entire account deleted. This isn’t like a ban where you can no longer access the forum. When an account is deleted, all the user’s posts are deleted too. Mazille had thousands of posts that he was hoping to archive over the next 30 days. All gone, forever. They aren’t in a Recycle Bin of sorts. Next was CJ, a member who had been posting on the front page to explain what Josh was up to and that he was hiding the criticisms and the evidence that the moderating team were lied to and censored. Tens of thousands of posts lost forever. Josh and Andrew permanently deleted several users before starting to remove moderating permissions from the loyal staff.

Josh and Andrew have ruined the reputation of the Richard Dawkins website to a point that I honestly believe is beyond repair. People took pride in being part of a community that promoted freedom of speech and the tackling of issues without censorship. Now the community is lost forever, and if you are unhappy then you are expected to be quiet, behave, and don’t tell Professor Dawkins. I’m not sure what is worse… Showing such disrespect to the mods who helped make the forum what it was, or using censorship and lies in such a way that makes it seem there was no criticism and that the staff were causing trouble!

The reasons I have provided for keeping the forum all focus on the community spirit. But even if you ignore that, Josh’s decision is terrible. It’s a bad idea in every possible way. Even forgetting the relationships and friendships that have been destroyed, the forum provides services and opportunities that are close to the heart of what Dawkins himself stands for, a place where people suffering from religious abuse can find support, and rational thinkers can engage with each other in what was supposedly a “clear-thinking oasis”. The creationists must be celebrating!

Even if you make yourself a robot, and completely forget that we are real people, it’s an awful decision to leave the forum model and elect something like the front page with a more advanced commenting system. I’ve said several times that the forum was the busiest atheist forum on the internet, and I wasn’t lying. Another fact is that the forum generates far more traffic than the front page. If anything, the front page is merely a doorway that attracts some people with articles, but the forum is where the heart of the website existed. Take a look at the stats over the last three weeks:

No. of comments / posts made
—————————————Front page———–Forum
31/01/10 – 22/02/10————6204—————62,367
(average posts per day)———-282—————-2,834

It isn’t only about ruining the top online community for atheists online. These decisions make no sense even when considering only traffic. People do visit the front page and read interesting articles that are snapped up from various places. But most activity at RichardDawkins.Net occurs within the forum. This is where people are learning new things, discovering new ways to tackle superstition and religion, making new friends, and being involved in something special. Taking it all away is bad in itself, but I could never have imagined it would be handled so unprofessionally. If anyone reads this and has the opportunity to work with Josh Timonen or Andrew Chalkley in the future, please think twice. Laughable communication skills, dishonest tactics when covering up their own mess, shifting the blame onto others, and not understanding the website they apparently work on.

This leaves us with the fact that they are currently employed by Richard Dawkins. Josh and Andrew have brought about a PR disaster for Dawkins and his Foundation. Thousands of now-silenced members already announced that they will not be coming back and will no longer donate to the Foundation after this mess. We are left wondering how much Richard Dawkins actually knows about all this. Did he want things to be handled this way. If so, why are Josh and Andrew so desperate to threaten that contacting Dawkins will not be tolerated? The Professor certainly trusts Josh’s judgement, and even dedicated his latest book to him. If he has a good idea for a new website, I personally believe that Richard will roll with it. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Richard has no idea how disrespectful, rude and offensive Josh has been during this whole incident. I’m sure Richard will be thrilled to know that thousands of previously happy members no longer want to have any connection with the website or the Foundation. People are unhappy about what they have lost, and equally unhappy about what they are apparently to gain in the future. Who wants to use a website where community spirit is discouraged, where admins deliberately refrain from website maintenance, where voluntary staff are kept out of the loop and treated like crap?

Who wants to be part of a website that simply doesn’t care about the users?

In 2008, this is what Dawkins himself had to say about our community:

“It is a community, and that is a valuable part of it. Many of our forum threads have an atmosphere of friends going out for a drink and chatting. I think that is valuable, and I don’t think we should insist on sticking to serious topics. That would be a good way to stifle the sense of community, and that would be a real shame.”

If you used the forum and are now wanting a new haunt with some familiar faces, you will find some at RationalSkepticism. Feel free to use the comments here to share details if you need to.

About Peter Harrison

Evo lab rat, student (again), stand-up comedian, magic consultant, writer, skeptic, gamer. Reality is my religion. Follow @Harrison_Peter for English. Follow @kaigishin for 日本語.

Posted on February 23, 2010, in Atheism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 339 Comments.

  1. “It has to be said that there is no case for claiming they acted wrongly.”
    When someone starts rickrolling achive attempts, and delting logs, they don’t just think, the KNOW, they’re acting wrongly – it’s unprofessional behaviour.

    • or they are just assholes who think they are being lolzy

      Either way I don’t know nor care. This has been too much of a clusterfuck to mess with anymore. I’ll be glad when the new forums open.

  2. jukeboxparables

    “We had intended to leave the forum fully-funtioning for 30 days, but due to the inappropriate posts by some users and moderators, we have decided to leave the forum in a read-only state”

    That is just plain scary. Who is Josh exactly to determine for 1,000’s of people what is “inappropriate”? Just because it may be critical of his decision?

    A total disgrace!

    • What a pity josh wasn’t introduced to the right and left fist of reality.
      sounds like he needs a serious thrashing then perhaps a swim to observe the river bottom.

  3. I suppose that’s what you get for believing in something.
    I’m sorry people lost their community, and their posts – I know how well written some of them were.
    I don’t know what the license on the site was, but even Josh’s team should have a backup with deleted accounts in. If they don’t, they have no right running a website. If they do maybe Dr. Dawkins can arrange for it to be passed to the old admins to manually retrieve item.
    All the best with the next great thing.

  4. QQ more why don’t you. This post sounds like crying babies who had their lolly knocked out of their hand and into the dirt. As the expression goes ‘shit happens’, get over it, move on and stop whining – you make the rest of us Atheist look bad.

    If a couple of jerks is all it takes to destroy this “community” then its resilience and status is very wanting. Any clear-thinking individual knows anything can go to hell at any moment, especially when there is such a heavy reliance on one/two key individuals. Everything about life is transitory and brief; deal with the change and have contingency plans.

    Good on the community for starting a new forum. In my mind you all should have told Josh to screw himself and gone and done just that a long time ago.

  5. folks. i know this will be controversial here, but it was only a blody internet forum !

    im pretty shocked a community of rationalists cant cope with a problem more objectively than this. all this emotional talk of ‘disrespect’ about the forum creators to moderators is a bit at odds from those that usually promote a naturalistic, non judgmental view of human behaviour. we would surely be amused at this behaviour if looking on at any other groups of people. we would say ‘look at the silly apes fighting amongst themselves over a silly thing like status and respect’. lets just try to remember there were site technical problems that eventually became onerous to those that had a paid job to do, and were less involved with content than some forum users. lets try to understand that their (possibly incorrect) decisions were objective ways of dealing with the problems they had to deal with. getting all emotional and divisive just reminds me of the ‘other lot’. it looks silly.

    i expect the new RD web presence will evolve into a similar forum anyway after a bit of tweeking. it might even be better. even if its not, change happens. embrace it, its only a website!! those who lost work only have them selves to blame for not backing up on a medium that is by nature highly transient.

    i wouldnt worry about losing the threads of the last years. although interesting to look back on, there will always be new woo to debunk and creationists to take the piss out of. any webspace devoted to bebunking cranks and nutters will soon accrue a sizable community of bullshitters and counter-bullshitters. if RD finds he loses webtraffic, im sure he will quickly reinstate a similar forum.

    • the rationalists are constrained from taking the appropriate action by the religious retards “sanctity of life” crap, without the religious tards Josh and his like would be buried, executed for the betterment of mankind.

  6. Holy… shit.

    So, I’ve been completely in the dark about this. I’d made an account over there awhile ago, but because of family stuff that happened between Christmas and now, hadn’t logged on in forever. Emailed and asked what was up and was told by Andrew that he reactivated my account- but nothing about what was going on (which was, it turns out, THE issue).
    Are these people even suited to handle the PR disaster that this has become? It appears not. Let’s face it- computer geeks (and my husband is one of them) often don’t give a rat’s ass about public relations- or understand relations in general;)
    The only thing that will help heal this is for Josh and Andrew to be fired, and the forum replaced as was. That’s it. If they don’t do this, they’ll have to rely on the slow healing juices of time. And wait they will, it appears.

  7. Oh please people.
    Get a grip.

    Of course what those 2 did seems
    asinine and nobody likes being mistreated. But it’s the internets.

    “Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?”

  8. Wow this was all news, I havent folloed the debate so close but seems there is alot of anger and infection. Seems to me that the moderators are quite angry about something that wasnt theirs from the beginning with. Peopls are making a chicken universe from a feather=) The owner of may do what they want with their property as they please.

    Imagine I owe a land where I built a play ground, for kids, to play. If one day, I so choose, to do anything else with the land then the kids have to either adapt to what I do with the land or play somewhere else. It would be silly if the kids would call me names, harrass me with childish offensive expressions in the abhorrent style of:

    “utter twat”, a “suppurating rectum, A suppurating rat’s rectum, A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.”!
    Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

    But then again, it is KIDS we are talking about here, as is shown by the offensing and foul language used. Best way to get the upper hand for a deal is not allways to piss and shit on the person you are trying to score a deal with. You may test my heory by going into any busyness, smack the fist in their face and ask: Would you like to enter a partnership with me? That maybe works in the Mafia World, but not in the world I like to live in. Change happens – Deal with it! =) Shall we grow up and leave the kids stuff behind? =)

    Nothing lasts but nothing is lost!

  9. My name (among many others) is Trowbridge.

    I’m a troll, with many accounts on the dorkins forum, I have about 23 accounts and all of us are deeply saddened by what has happened. After a few bannings I was ready to restructure my team of sockpuppets, create a few more, and give assignments to some of my sleeper cells, I got myself a new computer, new IP address, new tactics, and I was just about to unleash WW3 when I couldn’t start posting again. It was meant to be a fresh start, I was just about to turn the forum into the punch and judy show when this happened.

    Please, for the sake of all members, and my sockpuppets (who I might add are getting impatient and restless) please give us our forum back. My sockies, as I affectionately call them, are my babies, my family, they depend on me to provide them with fun and laughter. I can’t let them down, I simply can’t.

    By the way, you’d be very surprised to find out who is actually real on the forum, and who is not. But never mind all that, I just want my forum back!

  10. thanks peter for your blog. i read it a day or two after the forum was closed. it helped to read through the original thread from which the “foul abusive” quotes were “picked”.

    richard has been busily trying to turn atheism from a point of view into a movement with an objective. the forum on the other hand enjoyed all the attention and status that richard brings, but failed to devote most of it’s attention to richard and the objective. i feel that in the back of his mind richard envisaged topic after topic discussing his every move. all of us who used to forum know this wasn’t the case.

    so what to do? a bit like iraq, what to do, yes, but failing to think through the nightmare of how to do.

    i think this is the shock. i believe richard has acted honestly and true to character. but it comes across as contemptuous when in fact it’s most likely a failure to be able to empathise, a lack of experience and an anxiety to get the objective “on topic”.

    the forum was like a huge, swirling pool of lava bugs beneath the fiery active volcano that is richard … should have seen it coming but i didn’t. i was hoping that he would tackle irrationality wherever it may appear, not just continue to narrowly focus on religion.

    irrationality? mostly in oneself i find. regards lava bug, rapidly cooling in the chill of cyberspace. been there … no volcano :(

  11. Oh dear what a mess :((.

    It’s a shame, because despite many trivial & repetitive debates on the forum, nevertheless it was clear to me that almost everyone was being stimulated to think more deeply and research subjects more deeply (eg buying books and checking “facts”).

    So that really was a very direct vehicle for advancing education amongst a very large membership.

    And in the end, I think that’s what matters most … that people were motivated to learn and study the issues much more closely than they ever would without a discussion area like the RDF forum.

    Still, from what Timonen said, it does seem this was all done with the full knowledge and wishes of Richard himself?


  12. Hmm so this is what happened !!

    I’ve been wondering for weeks why I couldn’t post on there !

    I feel bad for Prof Dawkins and how he dedicated his latest book to a guy who is soo selfish and frankly stupid.

    But like Peter said, it is still unclear how much of this Prof Dawkins knows about ! So have people contacted Prof Dawkins ? Let’s ignor that guy Josh.

    Anyways Thank You Peter for shedding some light on this.

  13. xsmooth_criminalx

    Aha, so that’s what happened. It was all awfully confusing for those of us who came in post-drama. I didn’t know what was really up until now, thank you so much for posting this!

  14. This is sad to hear.

    I would imagine that RD would have taken the tech teams advice and they offered all sorts of assurances that the exercise was neccessary and there were not alternatives.

    Richard does want to look into this. Tech guys are ten a penny, especially shit ones.

  15. Accusations of Draconian law and bed-wetting aside, how hard would it be to simply add a “General Chat” category?

  16. Thank you for this wonderfully insightful blog Peter. I had not visited the Richard Dawkins Forums since before Christmas and when I returned there a week ago I was confused by the error messages when I tried to post and suddenly realised all the latest posts were from late February. I then discovered and via that, read Richard Dawkins formal apology and explanation for the freezing of the forums which I took at face value.
    I was then pointed towards some other links for a fuller description of what happened, including one to your blog.

    Now things are a *lot* clearer!
    I have added a link to your blog in my ‘Favourite blogs’ link at my site.

    Thanks again,

    Riaz Ali

  17. Hello all:

    I am a member of the RDF but not really a big fan. It’s even worse now of course because of the restrictions on topics.

    For me the problem seemed to be that the Moderators established different standards for those with opposing views. I was consistently ridiculed for my non-comformist position which is fine, but when I tried to defend myself, I was promptly reprimanded and threatened with extinction by the Mods. This 2-tiered system was frustrating as I had to keep my nose very clean while others, the RD followers, were allowed to employ any method of fomenting verjuice.

    In fact I was banned several times but it was child’s play to change my IP address and re-register. So as much as the Mods seemed to enjoy their power to excommunicate, they should have realized how little effect this really had, and put more effort into running the forum with more consistency and less personal bias.

  18. As someone who used to work in the web hosting industry (OK, to be honest I owned a large web hosting company and still have investments in the industry) the technical problems of running a large forum are considerable. I knowof one thats a similar size to the one which was running the back end across half a dozen database servers in different locations. Its very expensive, can’t be done with off the shelf software and requires continuous maintenance.

    However, that doesn’t excuse shutting the forum down and preventing communication between former users. I have been in a situation where I was ordered by an organisation to close a forum I ran for them and close it dead with no warning. I didn’t do it and let people ease out into other places where they could still keep in touch. The backlash from management went on for two years. It was horrible, but worth it as it probably saved a few lives along the way.

  19. Well this turned out to be one big cluster of madness….

    Thanks for the info on this. I left the RD site for a few days and then when I came back I saw the read only message. I was obviously dumbfounded. It said the new site would be up in about a month and so I waited before I did any investigation. I never would’ve guessed that this would have ended up being… what it became.

    This Josh guy certainly doesn’t seem like a jolly character I’d enjoy being associated with. The prof himself seems to be taking an uneeded beating by some of the commentators here. I read the entire blog post and it doesn’t seem as though Richard had anything to do with the a/holish ways that the moderators were treated by the tech guys.

  20. Wow. Just wow.

    I’d been inactive in the Richard Dawkins forum for a while. Just taken up with many other activities and interests, and had let it slide for a few months. Used to like discussing books there, with the user name I’m using for this post. I see that somebody else has taken that name for the new discussions; it’s not like I had copyrighted it.

    Just found this by some belated googling for an explanation of what was going on. I appreciate all the detail. It’s sad, but for me it underlines the ephemeral nature of virtual “communities”. There are other web forums which are a regular part of my daily routine, but this is a reminder of how fragile they can be.

  21. Peter, all ex Admins and Staff of RDF
    I always wondered if the reason they closed the Forums was because they welcomed people such as myself a Christian Secularist who was/is taken into the Atheist Family.

  22. There is something inherently icky about user discussion to business people. The lack of control. It’s too much power taken away from them. The new system where they moderate each OP means they stamp their approval on the beginning and disavow responsibility for user responses, this system is perfect for a business. Not least among the reasons for dumping forums is that they are a traffic black-hole akin to linking users to another website. The forums rarely led BACK to the front page. Why go back to the front page when way more content was available in places like the science or politics forums? All the front page had were articles related to Dawkins in some way or another. Face it, the forums were so much more useful than the front page they had to be destroyed for the front page to stay the dominantly relevant part of the site. It was Cain versus Abel and Cain had the power and the desire to murder his much more successful brother. So he did.

  23. This wasn’t my first ugly encounter with Josh Timonen!

    Two years ago, I joined the RDF message board and was instantly BANNED. The reason? They said I was a “sock puppet”. The IP address I was using was for the entire University of North Carolina school system. They had confused me with a previously banned member.

    Then, about 1 year later, I had another nasty encounter with Josh. I was a subscriber to the RDF Youtube channel and saw a rough cut of an interview between Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. It was a good interview- but the camera editing was really strange. Instead of using 2 cameras, they used 1 camera – and panned back and forth (annoyingly) to each speaker.

    I posted (casually and politely) that they should have used 2 cameras at fixed positions. Josh responded, AND I QUOTE – “Apparently you didn’t read the video description in which I explained why I had to use one camera. Maybe next time you’ll read more carefully before insulting my camerawork.” – and he BANNED me from the Youtube channel. I can’t post comments on RDF videos, channels, or subscribe now. That prick!

    Now, 3 and half years later – I’m not surprised at all to see this fiasco. I’e been saying it for YEARS. They are pseudo-intellectual pricks who wish to rule their petty domain with an iron fist. -JQisAwesome


    ‘Oasis of clear thinking’

    I think not.

    You know ever since Dawkins arrived on the scene i always knew he would attract a huge army of ” fans ”…..yea, ”fans”…hmmm

    It’s time for people to wake up and smell the coffee. ‘This Oasis of clear thinking’ Is nothing more than a mechanism to contain/entertain those who do not wish to be under the dodgy wing of religion.

    Rebellion is healthy, it’s also natural. Dawkins and co should know this, but it appears they would rather that all their little puppets sit on their backsides and keep their mouths shut, wich is a little like ermmm…..oh religion no ?

    It’s good to see young and old flock to a site that preaches….sorry wrong word, stands! for opinions, free speech and the like,but when the same entity starts creating foundations after themselves things start getting alittle pretentious to say the least.

    When an orginization who crawls at the site of any religious symbol starts adopting their own you know your being played in a game of poker.

    Maybe you people should look to become your own heroes and standing for yourselves instead of flocking under the umbrella of some celebrity academic.

    You may think of me as mad if i told you that the same hand that feeds Religion is the same one that feeds atheism, but i ask you to pull both parties together and be in awe at the laughable amount of uncanny resemblance of how they act and conduct themselves.


    No man,woman or child needs to hide under anyones banner! You are free minds so fuckin use them! and stop bitching about some tosser who can’t run a website.

    Anyone with half a brain could’ve told you all Dawkins and his boyfriends were well dodgy from the start, but nope, nobody would have it. They held the God Delusion in their hands like a bible while savagely ripping into religious folk.

    Be happy people, you no longer have the chains on your ankles!

    I’d strongly suggest that you form your own forum for

    REAL ”free and clear thinking”

    Just for the record, i bare no cross and hold no book. I’am a free man!

    Good luck to you all and hope you all have a good day!


  25. I was an irregular theist poster on RDForum. Hadnt visited it for quite few months, just realized today the PR disaster it is. This is the biggest setback to your movement, but we are thrilled. Classic Self destruction

  26. I can’t think of more fitting karma for a thoroughly unpleasant self-righteous unreasonable group of people as the Dawkinites in their militant atheist evangelism. Since the Dawkinites show themswlves utterly unable to show any ability to handle criticism, can’t see any resolution to this. All so very fitting.

  27. I am really getting tired of mooks not getting it!
    Richard Dawkins is a professor at a college, exactly how is he NOT part of the ESTABLISHMENT!
    You can not be part of the establishment and not be part of the CHURCH! Grow Up Folks
    You can not espouse the conspiracy of religion being the backer of slavery and be part of the establishment,IT IS NOT ALLOWED, do you forget they burned the so-called witches,exactly what do you think has changed?
    If the church EXISTS, IT HAS POWER!
    If you treat bible thumpers with ANY respect,they have won! it is war of the simple minded againt the inteligent, and the inteligent will lose as they have every time simply because they think the retarded CAN learn, the retarded CAN NOT learn, that is why the church STILL exists!

    As long as bible thumpers have the right to PRETEND their religion is based on REALITY, the church WILL be in control of EVERYTHING, the MINUTE the people of the world DEMAND the SILENCE of the RETARDED, the church WILL DIE!

    You can not treat the retarded with any form of respect and expect there to any change in the world of any kind until the inbreeds are no longer considered HUMAN, treating these PERVERTS as NORMALS is were the problem began, The Royals are Blue Bloods, that means inbreeds folks, all of the abrahamic traditions are based on inbreeding! when you fools stop treating these MONSTERS as human the church ceases to exist, it can’t exist when these monsters are no longer treted as GODS, and yes folks , you bow down to the retards every time you expect them to understand reality, you do yourself and all you care for a great disservice when you PRETEND these creatures can think, they can’t think, thats where belief CAME from!
    Wke up and smell the shit, THEY are winning the war folks, how can I tell, its easy, the TEA PARTYers aren’t shooting each other folks on disagreements, when the retards behave, the inteligent are losing!
    Thats the only reason they behave folks, they see they have the upper hand!

  28. Thought Criminal

    What lovely Karma for a nasty self-righteous intolerant bunch.

    • nasty self righteous bunch, by that I assume you mean atheists?
      and I assume you don’t mean the church of the inbreed perverts, in other words, self righteous clowns that use their “religion” to further their perversions>
      and how can I say that, its easy, ALL that follow the “abrahamic traditions” believe in inbreeding, from the “Blue Blood” royals down to the peasants, they all hold the idea of screwing family members HIGH!
      The church gave you this disease by RAPING your women more than a millenia ago, but you perverts haven’t grown or seen the light.

      the reality is that NORMAL people don’t get excited when they think about family that way, they get nasueas!
      You pervs think everyone thinks the way you do, so the fact that you believe must give you some form of special control, what a load of CRAP!
      you have NO special control, your belief protects you not, but it does keep your perversion alive and well, it gives you the excuse not to take responsabilty for your actions, to not make decisions for your self, and to pretend you and yours ain’t low life slaves( take your choice-slave of church, Jesus or preist) that would COMMIT murder for your church just like all good Nazis” I was just following orders”!
      the simple fact is that you can’t be truly inteligent because you pretent that pretending is something more than pretending!
      Well Buddy, Its NOT, pretending is just pretending, no special magic trick like the Jews pretend, and yeah, they TRULY believe that their faith that their story is true makes it true, that by simply believing that the story happened the way it was written can change the past to fit their story, and the grand majority of christians have no idea the jewish religion is totally based on make believe nonsense, now Jews get very indignent when you bring this up, they will tell you” But that is my faith” like that some how change the fact that its a made up story!


  29. “What lovely Karma for a nasty self-righteous intolerant bunch.”

    No, that would be Christianity and Islam. LOL

  30. Dear Mr. Harrison,
    Long time before R. Dawkins, the eminent Louis Pasteur, known for his deep religious belief said: Quand j’entre dans mon labo, j’accroche le bon Dieu sur le porte-chapeau. When I enter into my lab, I hang the good God on the hats-holder. And as R. Dawkins exactly portrated: If a person has delusions, we may call him “schizophrenic” but if a community of persons has delusions, we may call it “religion” And this is the case of all religions if monotheistic or any others hindouism, bhuddism, taoisme… But the worst of these infinity of delusioners persons are the three monotheistic, abrahamic ones judaism, christianity and islam, and the worst of these last three by far is the islam.

  31. I may be called too an atheist, if this supreme personage does really exist. Did some one sometime saw him, how he looks like, what language does he speaks? So it is endeed a universal delusion. According to my research on the birth of the so called abrahamic beliefs, I am deeply certain of 2 facts. The one is, that the five books presumabily written by Mosis, were actually written more than 1000 years later, during the babylonian captivity, not of the hebrew folk who actualy did not exist at this moment, but of an “Elite” of palestinian scholars, of canaanite origin, who dwelled the land of Canaan, and due of their knowledge and approch to the sassanide religion, the “mazdaic” which they imitated. So Ahura Mazda became Yahweh, and zaradascht became Mosis. Further the modern egyptologist who deepened their research of the Antique Pharaonic Egypt, proved that an Exodus like described in the Torah and in the Koran, never happened, and that slavery never existed in the pharaonic Egypt. So an infinity of delusions for the jews, the christians and the moslems.

  32. Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

  33. That’s really good hints….

  34. Why not get together a bunch of mates and bash the hell out of the retards causing the issue… ???

    Why do people always let the assholes win..????

    Bashing assholes should be Mankinds entertainment, then executing them can be dessert.

  35. Cool story, bro.

  36. short quick answers to the scourge of christianity! you are welcome to participate

    with forum

  37. Dave Y… you need help. You really need to find a little love for others (and perhaps yourself) in your heart. Unfortunately you wont find it by studying atheism. God bless you.

    • Study atheism,huh Stephen? not believing in the Bible requires study of the bible, htere is nothing to study about atheism, it is ONLY the lack of belief in gods of any form!
      that is called a DECISION, some thing the religious don’t seem to have a comprehension of!
      and as far as finding love for hateful retards, thats not good for the health of those capable of thought, you see , the retarded believe in the burning and killing of those that don’t want to be one of the retarded, that leaves me little reason to give a damn about these clods!
      these pigs have the belief that slavery is some thing that their god invented because the Jews had slaves, so those of inteligence would figure that making these believers slaves and REMOVING their ability to breed would cure the world of these PIGS!
      realize believers, that the world WILL NOT lose the knowledge that has been gained and your Archaic desire to be ignorant WIIL NOT make you the masters of the world the way your bible says it will, but it WILL make you the SUBJECTS of the masters!

  38. I am an Atheist, and I always thought the “free thinkers” on that forum to be incredibly closed minded and arrogant.

    I have no feelings about the forum. I don’t really care. But, even though I don’t know them, I’m sure this Josh fellow, and Andrew, have a different side to the story that is being blocked out and ignored by this article.

    There are always multiple sides to a story. This is the nature of the world and the Internet at large. NOTHING lasts forever, not in the real world or on the Internet. Usernames get deleted, posts get purged, forums get locked and domains cease to exist. Deal with it and move on with your lives.

  39. I have to be honest. From reading this post I actually agree with John and Andrew. I mean sure they changed things around a bit and I do disagree with how they did some actions that whether they had the authority to do is questionable, but overall, I think they chose the lesser of two evils and just did what they had do. I honestly think they had the interests of the community at heart, and besides- Richard Dawkins himself seemed to agree with them, didn’t he? But for all that, they’ve had to cop all this abuse from furious members who seemed to be looking for a scapegoat.

  40. Does God really exist?

    Why would anyone with a brain not question writings of over two thousand years ago which profess to be divine in origin, written and then translated from two ancient languages (Aramaic & Hebrew)? I mean Really, let’s look at it logically. Think about it. All the stories from the bible, The Garden of Eden, The parting of the Red Sea, Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, Sodom and Gomorra, The Resurrection . . .They’re myths. Archetypal, Monumental, clever, resonant – but still myths. People believe in God because they need that comfort, that crutch, but it’s a primitive masquerade, A bunch of tales cobbled together a couple thousand years ago by some very savvy guys in order to turn a superstitious world into one they themselves could control.

    With a new martyr and a stolen body, The members of this ancient cult had the great Idea (which only naturally follows)” Hey guys, We can make some money at this”. That’s religion. It’s about control, and about money. Belief in the absurd is also a very dangerous thing. The people who flew the planes into the twin towers knew FOR A FACT that they would be instantly transported to heaven for what they had done. They weren’t hoping; they believed it completely.

    From The Bible:
    Numbers 31:17-18
    “Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” One and a half thousand years later, people were still burning witches. Is this God’s will or mans?

    It wasn’t until the 18th century that we began to wise up as science started to explain the previously unexplainable. But now? With everything we know? We’ve sent men to the moon, We’ve mapped the human genome, we’ve sent probes the furthest reaches of our solar system. We can now see to the very edge of the known universe some 15,000,000,000 light years distant. We have made discoveries that just a few decades ago were unfathomable. The Idea that some wondrous, unknowable, invisible, all knowing and all-powerful deity is in control of all things is laughable.

    The only reason, the only need to believe in God is to explain where all of this came from right? Where WE came from. But it doesn’t work. If there was a creator, a designer of the universe, then there had to be a creator to create the creator and so on. It just doesn’t hold water. If you ask a pastor or preacher or Pope or whoever the simplest question, you’ll just get sound bites, , “You must have faith”, “I’ll prey about it”, “She’s with God now”, “He’s testing us”, “it’s God’s will” and all kinds of other platitudes that, frankly, sound like complete lunacy. I mean, get real, You can’t reconcile religion with modern life. Knowledge and science tell us so. We know that evolution is fact. That Darwin was right. The world was not created six days.

    Which is the most likely scenario? That an all knowing, all seeing, all powerful God who refuses to make himself seen, created the universe and everything in it and Man in HIS image, or that Man, unable to explain what he could not yet understand, created God in HIS image to fill the void? With no proof whatsoever, people believe in God. That’s fact. They actually believe they can have a one way conversation with an unseen god and that he hears and responds to every word they say. Why aren’t these people in an Insane Asylum?

    If we look at it psychologically, People in general are social by nature. In prehistoric times, it was a matter of survival. It’s in our very DNA. Therefore, it’s not a stretch to say, we created the Gods simply so we wouldn’t feel so alone in the universe. This is understandable, but organized religion is a business and has been from day one. Polytheism, then Monotheism. The promise of immortality being the reward for your belief, your labor, your money.

    When will we wake up? If God does exist, Prove it. I believe I can prove that he does not.

    Rob Hollar

    Two videos that say a lot for me:

    Niel deGrasse Tyson: the God of the Gaps

    And a little known music video from the 80’s: XTC – Dear God

    Yes, I’ve become quite militant about my atheism.

    Get a copy of the book, The God Delusion and you’ll realize that religion isn’t just silly, it’s extremely dangerous.

    Oh, did you hear about the atheist in Australia who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for raping young boys?
    Just kidding; it was a priest.

  41. It’s a fucking internet forum. Go outside and make real friends and relationships.

    • JC: “It’s a fucking internet forum. Go outside and make real friends and relationships.”

      Says the sad little troll posting on a comment a webpage – not even trying to talk to people! LOL! The joke is clearly on you, dumb little weed.

      • DestroyerOfDouchebags

        He has a point though….. maybe Birdieupon is just mad because he’s too much of a loser to even go outside? Makes you wonder why he’d get so defensive about JC’s comment when all JC is doing is stating the obvious. Getting outside is good for your body and mind. And hey Birdieupon, it’s not like you’re anything important yourself, keep that in mind next time you call someone a “dumb little weed”….

  42. As already mentioned, it was a lot more than an internet forum.
    For some it was even a place where they could reveal their true feelings about religion without being afraid and without running the very real risk of being cast out by their family or, in some cases even killed for lacking a belief in a god.
    So please think before you write something so ignorant again.

  43. Extremely well written and enlightening, Peter.

    Well, what can I say? Josh Timonen sounds like a complete and utter scumbag. I’ve read that Richard Dawkins is apparently suing him for embezzling money from RDF?

    This all raises the question, how on Earth did Richard Dawkins not detect that any of this was coming? How does he choose his staff? How can he be so unaware of all the unprofessionalism of his own EMPLOYEES?

    This entire scenario sounds frighteningly similar to one in which absent parents choose a child-minder hastily and without doing adequate background checks. They simply disappear and leave the child in the hands of an abuser who threatens them if they “dare tell your mummy and daddy the little game we’ve played today”.

    Josh sounds, no doubt, like the villain. But one has to wonder what on Earth was going through Dawkins head – of all the people he could have chosen and of all the ways to completely distance himself from the running of his own website.

    No wonder so many atheists turned on him once they found out he wasn’t a God!

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