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Ask the Patriarch 229
What should be my penance?

from: Kelly Martin

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As a duly ordained Agnostic (thank you for the service) I generally stay clear of engaging in contentious dialog during heated web debates.

Reading one such debate I detected a posting which I conceived of as a baiting attack against a particular faith, and cautioned the poster to avoid any confusion, and either voice a clear complaint, or retract a somewhat slanderous statement whitewashing an entire organization with the actions of an unrepresentative few as this could only draw trouble to the particular discussion for all the participants. 

I was subsequently accused of attacking that individual because I didn't back their statement. 

My question is this:  What is my penance for failing to be properly apathetic in this situation?

The Patriarch replies:

Oh, you bring back memories of my own participation in various religious discussion groups back in the early 1990s - a more innocent time when we were all unaware that some organizations were carefully creating, for research purposes, periodic file images of the entire internet. Our thoughtless comments from that time are now available online in all their rancour - if you know where to look.

I have no regrets; perhaps because no-one has yet found enough dirt clearly attributable to me to hold me to account - or alternatively, enough can be found on this site alone for which to criticize me for being insensitive without digging deep in the internet archives.

But enough about me.

As to your question, you should have no regrets either. Just bear in mind that pretty well anything you put on the internet risks getting archived, and thus stands to be recovered.

But I think you don't really have any regrets about what you posted, just that you were temporarily not apathetic enough. And that you actually care about not being apathetic enough indicates you are still in this unfortunate state of a-apathy.

Accordingly, I assign you the following penance: Go to every religious discussion group in which you have been active and post the following:

I understand that some of my posts may have offended some individuals personally; further I may have offended the deeply-held religious beliefs of some individuals; in addition I may have by mocking the religious symbolism cherished by some, offended those individuals; also, I may have made offensive statements about religious writings some people hold sacred; I may even have made highly offensive and inflammatory remarks about religious leaders, living and dead, reverred by some of you. In some cases the offense was deliberate; in others, it was inadvertent. Regardless, to each and every one of you so offended, I wholeheartedly want to emphasize to you that I really don't care, not even enough to suggest that you can eat my shorts. Thank you for the opportunity to get this off my chest.

I think once you post that ten times, your apathy will be restored.

Oh - and if you thought your message seeking penance would be protected by the seal of the confessional and not subject to publication, you were mistaken. But I don't really care.