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For this question, Is it acceptable to use words like "heaven" and "god" when the narrator is agnostic?, my answer (with 80 votes at this writing) had a dozen or more comments, with my answers to them. They were deleted, and though Michael explains himself below, I believe this was wrongly done and perhaps targeting me for the content.

There are plenty of comments, including on this question and other answers IN this question, as well as most questions, that are never deleted in mass for not complying with the suggested use; and are only moved to chat if they stray into discussions, as these did. On this same question, there are 17 comments that do not "ask for more information", "suggest improvements", or refrain from "Thanks": They are all semi-answers and opinions users did not want to phrase as answers, and that is true of almost ALL questions. So what is different about MY comments that deserves deletion? Is it the fact I am espousing an atheistic opinion that rubs Michael the wrong way?

Nothing in these comments got flagged and the only unusual aspect, compared to to other questions, is that this question was specifically about religion in writing and my answer was about atheism, and my comments were responding to a self-avowed Christian arguing points about atheism.

They were not abusive, they were not profane, and they were not "not nice."

Thus I believe my particular discussion was targeted for its religious component, but a religious component was appropriate given the question and my answer, and I object; I would like these comments restored and moved to chat; as they should have been. Deleting them is inappropriate, and is not how this situation is handled in any other circumstance I have seen since I have been on StackExchange.

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    Amadeus, FWIW, while I frequently find the content of your answers to be very valuable, you're the only regular poster on this site who I hesitate to leave comments to --because I tend to find you respond to them defensively, or in an argumentative manner. For that reason I don't offer you the same suggestions for post improvements I offer to other posters. I mention this because, while I did not read the original comment thread, it would not surprise me (to your point above) if the content and tone was indeed distinctly different from the normal expectation for on-topic comments. – Chris Sunami Jun 15 '18 at 3:22
  • @ChrisSunami Perhaps both defensive and argumentative! But you shouldn't read any animus into that. I've spent most of my work life (40+ years and still going) on projects with lives depending on it (aircraft safety, battlefield weaponry, medical applications like preventing adverse drug interactions) and / or $millions riding it. I defend my thinking and provide my arguments for it. Few answers I give are driven by dogma; I have reasons and I will state them. If I have a counter argument to yours I make it, I expect the same back, defend and argue. So we can progress to our best answer. – Amadeus Jun 15 '18 at 10:17
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    I don't read any malice into it, but it's exhausting, and it's also decidedly not the norm here, except among new or inexperienced posters, neither of which describes you. I have more to say on the topic, but to avoid contradicting my own point, I'm going to take it to chat. – Chris Sunami Jun 15 '18 at 13:17
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    A lot of your comments on answers here talk about how you feel unfairly singled out because your comments were deleted rather than moved to chat. For what it's worth, I can't even begin to count the number of my comments that have been outright deleted across all of SE. Purging of comments is definitely not handled consistently, so when it happens it often appears to be unfairly targeted, but I've never doubted that what's really going on is mods struggling to keep up with the flood. It's not that yours are targeted, it's that everyone else's are being neglected and should be purged also. – Todd Wilcox Jun 20 '18 at 18:24
  • @ToddWilcox If it appears to be unfairly targeted, perhaps it is. When enforcing laws uniformly would overwhelm the justice system, law enforcement choices to enforce are necessarily personal, and (like many real-life traffic laws and 'loitering' laws and 'suspicious behavior' laws) these decisions end up almost always being made by law enforcement officers by exercising their personal biases. That isn't my opinion, it is science, and well-documented by quantitative sociology. – Amadeus Jun 20 '18 at 18:59
  • @ToddWilcox Oh, did you have evidence to suggest SE mods are not humans? The phenomenon is a function of being human, not a function of where we are being human. You say they are struggling to keep up with the flood, how do YOU think they are prompted to action for the 1% or whatever they choose to purge? When there is no other way to decide an issue, the vast majority of humans fall back on personal bias, even if that is subconscious. I think that is obvious; but I won't argue the point further if you don't; perhaps our life experiences differ too widely to be reconciled on this point. – Amadeus Jun 20 '18 at 19:10
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Comments have been cracked down upon SE wide. Many of the sites I frequent now do not allow for people to freely comment to make remarks and on some of them, you will actually get yelled at for it. They are also deleting anything that does not offer a suggestion to improve the answer, even if your comment adds good supporting information to the answer.

Sites like IPS have changed the "add a comment" label to read "suggest improvements" so that it's more explicitly clear that comments are not meant for discussion.

Why this has suddenly changed, I am not sure. But someone somewhere decided that a crackdown on how comments are being used is needed.

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    That will be an unfortunate and pointless destruction, to be sure, I rather enjoy the comments and remarks. Nothing good lasts forever, I guess; I just wish the demise of so many good things would happen on somebody else's watch! – Amadeus Jun 14 '18 at 18:23
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    @Amadeus I think that this was always how the site was intended, but they let things go to be moderated by the individual communities. It is a QA site, not a discussion site. I do agree though that comments that are good, relevant mentions should be sent to chat instead of deleted. I believe this is why the chat was created, to provide a supporting area to discuss and separate discussion from the answers. – ggiaquin16 Jun 15 '18 at 15:44
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    As a scientist, I believe Answers are improved by discussion, other POV, additional examples and even disagreement if it is not offensively done or insulting; even if the Poster chooses NOT to include those points in their post. It is how the comments are actually used and the primary reason comments get liked. I have no problem being dinged if I am Not Nice, or engaged in Endless Debate, I like comment moderation. I think this action was heavy handed and improperly motivated. Rules that can only work to impair understanding and diminish the value of answers are not good rules. – Amadeus Jun 15 '18 at 16:00
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    I concur with you and it feels really weird with the struggle to not comment on something you can provide valuable information on simply because you know it will be deleted.... I am just trying to offer a view point that they may have on the situation. – ggiaquin16 Jun 15 '18 at 16:14
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I deleted the comments to your answer to that question because they appeared to be a side discussion to the answer, which is not what comments are for, and because they were drawing flags.

You might choose or want to see this as somehow a religious act, or discrimination based on religion, but I can assure you that my religious beliefs, whatever they are and which I have absolutely no intent whatsoever of discussing here, had precisely nothing whatsoever to do with my moderation decision.

Note the placeholder text when you click the "add comment" action link:

Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid comments like “+1” or “thanks”.

Comments are not for engaging in extended discussion.

Comments are not for adding additional information in response to other comments. (An exception to this can reasonably be made for information that itself is legitimately ephemeral in nature.)

Comments are intended to be ephemeral. While comments are often allowed to remain, and can be moved to chat, neither should be relied upon. (Additionally, actually not everyone is happy to see their comments being moved to chat; they might have intended their comments to be strictly ephemeral, which chat is not. Any time we move comments to chat, this is something to take into consideration as well. Just because comments can be moved to chat doesn't necessarily mean that moving comments to chat is the right thing to do.)

If a comment is legitimately useful, then it should be incorporated into the post it is attached to, or it should be used as a basis for expanding the post, or in some cases it could form the basis of a new post. (For example, if someone posts a comment asking for clarification on something in the context of a post, the answer to that should be incorporated into the post, not posted as a comment of its own. I have on occasion taken points raised in comments on other peoples' questions or answers and posted a brand new question about that aspect, then added a comment to the original post with a link to the fresh question.)

As for your comment on your answer to SealBoi's question,

Who deleted the 50 comments on this question? They weren't even moved to chat?

there was nowhere near 50 comments on that answer, and near as I can tell, no comments have been deleted on the question. It's fine to ask what happened (though typically the first step in raising this kind of question might be to raise a custom moderator flag on the specific post the actions on which you're inquiring about, but Meta is okay too; a comment by itself can trivially be overlooked, and in fact I only saw that one after I saw your post here on Meta), but please don't make exaggerated claims.

As for undeleting the deleted comments, yes, that is possible; however, in line with common practice on Stack Exchange, I will leave the decision whether or not to actually do that for one of my fellow moderators to make. Any post to a site's child meta shows up in the inbox for that site's moderators, so this is already on the radar screens of the other moderators, or you can raise a custom moderator flag on the post where (in this case) the comments were, in your opinion, incorrectly deleted, to draw attention to your grievance.

  • Then they should have been moved to CHAT, not DELETED. There is a function for that. Why were they DELETED? – Amadeus Jun 13 '18 at 12:01
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    How do I get other moderators to review this action? – Amadeus Jun 13 '18 at 12:11
  • I fixed my comment on my question by the way. – Amadeus Jun 13 '18 at 12:18
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    I feel that this answer does not address the single bold-ed statement in the question: "So what is different about MY comments that deserves deletion?", and thus creates a sentiment of appeal-to-authority (not the fallacy). Quoting: "Sure, it may be technically illegal to jaywalk, but when virtually everybody does it every day anyway, and I am the only one that gets arrested (...)" As I understand it, this is the crux of the question; and not addressing it worsens the problem. – ANeves Jun 14 '18 at 17:13
  • @Amadeus I think it might have been the discussion about Santa Claus and that it was considered non-related to answering the question that got it deleted. – SealBoi Jun 14 '18 at 17:25
  • @SealBoi In the answer I mentioned some things few people believe in; but talk about anyway. Later I realized I had forgotten one of the most obvious examples of that; Santa Claus; calling him the pagan elf. That caused a Christian to claim Santa was based on Saint Nicholas (280AD); but this figure pre-dated Christ in pagan rituals and all the "Yuletide" symbols and traditions are pagan in origin: Holly, mistletoe, Wodan the gift-giver, elves (and Santa is an elf), wreaths, magic flying reindeer, the tree, even the Winter Solstice celebration, even stockings on fireplaces & coal for bad kids. – Amadeus Jun 14 '18 at 17:55
  • @Amadeus Yeah, I saw that - and I don't think I would have deleted it had it been my job - but perhaps whoever deleted it believed that the conversation surrounding your comments was tangential to the answer, so merely deleted them all for convenience's sake? – SealBoi Jun 14 '18 at 18:10
  • @SealBoi Thus, although debating the question of whether Santa is a pagan fiction or based on a real person was tangential, it was not completely unrelated. People do indeed frequently speak of the magical version of Santa as real when they do not believe in him at all. As atheists and agnostics freely speak of a God, Heaven, Hell, soul, and other religious things we consider complete fictions, as if they were real. I did not add this to my post because IMO it is bad form to alter a post that has already received many votes; save typos and punc. It isn't what they voted for. – Amadeus Jun 14 '18 at 18:11
  • @Amadeus Yes, and as I said, I personally don't think they should have been deleted, but it's up to the mods I guess. – SealBoi Jun 14 '18 at 18:39
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    @ANeves When I answered this meta question, it was at revision 1. I really didn't feel like completely rewriting the answer because Amadeus changed the question entirely in response to my answer; chasing chameleon questions rarely ends well, in my experience. See the revision history on both the question and my answer, and pay attention to the timestamps. – a CVn Jun 15 '18 at 7:54
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    Michael, that is perfectly fair; thanks for clarifying. – ANeves Jun 15 '18 at 9:30
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    I really like the description of comments as "intended to be ephemeral". At first I bristled at your answer, but after seeing that I realized that it truly applies all of the time. – Nonny Moose Jun 17 '18 at 21:03
  • Deleted or moved to a chat, a message should have been made. And I mean not only this time, it should become a common practice if you delete. – rus9384 Sep 18 '18 at 8:29
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I have no further discussion, I will not recant or change my mind; I suspect neither will you. I'd rather end this, it really is tangential to my answer, and this is not a forum for endless debate. I have explained myself, more than once, and I stand by my claims. End of discussion

That was the last comment you left before the thread was purged. After that, a couple more people left comments about the color of Santa Claus, at which point the system triggered an automatic flag on the post for excessive comments.

Before the automated flag could be handled, a passing reader raised another flag noting that the entire conversation was tangential and getting snippy.

That a moderator handled these flags by purging the thread shouldn't be surprising. What's surprising is that you disagree with this action, given you appear to have come to the same frustrated conclusion that the conversation was irrelevant and going nowhere.

A third flag - on the comments left between then and now - is currently pending.

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    That a moderator handled these flags by purging the thread is surprising and what I object to. In every other instance I have seen, which are several, such threads have been moved to a chat, not purged. Thus anybody wishing to read them, could, and if I or anybody else wished to harvest something from them, like any research I did or comments based on research, to add to my Answer, I could do that as well. My complaint is that purging the thread is heavy handed, I think due to anti-atheist bias, and I want the comments restored and moved to a chat. – Amadeus Jun 16 '18 at 18:04
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    Yeah... That's dealer's choice. If a mod moves a conversation to chat, then they're responsible for moderating what happens in chat, which ain't necessarily appealing. Participants can opt to continue a conversation in chat at any time, so if they haven't - if, in fact, it appears that at least one participant does not wish to continue the conversation... Well, moving to chat can seem kinda like pressuring them to do something they don't want to do. If I was you, I'd leave a quiet "thank you" to the mod who spared you another week of chatter about Santa's dress and leave it at that. – Shog9 Jun 17 '18 at 1:48
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    @Amadeus "I think [the comments were purged] due to anti-atheist bias," This is something that you added after you posted the original question (it's in plain view in the revision history that you added it after I answered). I told you days ago (on UTC June 14) that it's not the case, yet you keep repeating it. Please stop reading into moderator actions intent and justifications that just aren't there. If you absolutely have to, then at least keep it to yourself. Frankly, to repeatedly accuse a moderator of somehow having a hidden agenda does not help your cause in the slightest. – a CVn Jun 17 '18 at 5:28
  • @MichaelKjörling I see no other difference between this comment thread and many others that are NOT completely deleted or even sent to chat, even on this same question, much less on other questions. Including threads longer than this, less offensive than this (in my view), less factually oriented, and more impolite than this. Nor did your answer explain WHY this thread was completely deleted instead of being moved to chat; simple denial does not constitute an explanation. Your answer is what convinced me you had no good reason to single me out for such harsh and unusual action. – Amadeus Jun 17 '18 at 9:57
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    @Amadeus Please re-read the very first sentence of my answer. Also, might re-read Shog's answer as well as the comment above, too. – a CVn Jun 17 '18 at 13:59
  • @MichaelKjörling A "side discussion" is precisely what CHAT is for; and for flags, you could have deleted those comments and in my view left the discussion intact; that is my view because I never saw them. I also believe that is the common approach, deleting ALL the comments is very uncommon in my experience, thus you took an unusual and in my view harsh and punitive approach as a moderator, for reasons that IMO remain unjustified and are still outside of common practice on Writers. I changed my question because once you answered, I could see the truth of that. – Amadeus Jun 17 '18 at 14:22
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    @Amadeus "In every other instance I have seen, which are several, such threads have been moved to a chat, not purged." I suggest you consider that comments get purged regularly (probably at least as often as moved to chat), but the times they simply get purged there is no evidence left behind so you don't notice that the purge happened at all. So, of course, almost all the times you notice comments have been moved, it is the times they have been moved to chat -- they are the easiest kind to notice. Anyone would notice moved-to-chat more than purged; they are more noticeable. – doppelgreener Jun 17 '18 at 15:44
  • @doppelgreener Fair enough and likely a true phenomenon; but specifically I have many Answers with comment threads and even more threads I was participating in, and although many have been (rightly) moved to chat by moderators, NONE of them (until this one) were purged in their entirety, at least not while I was still engaged in the discussion. It is my observation of that, and that the only unique thing I see about this discussion was me defending my atheistic observations, that make me believe a discussion being moving to chat (which is its purpose) is the norm and purging is not. – Amadeus Jun 17 '18 at 15:53
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    Ok, look - this is all entirely irrelevant. You had the opportunity to move this to chat yourself. You didn't. Blaming someone else for not doing something you weren't willing to do is already sketchy; going on about it for days is down-right rude. I see no evidence of bias here, but maybe there is - so what? You publicly wash your hands of a situation and leave to someone else to sort out then you gotta accept whatever bias, preference or whim they bring with them. Want your conversation kept around? Don't stamp away angry when folks disagree with you. – Shog9 Jun 17 '18 at 18:42
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I see 24 deleted comments, almost all about Santa Claus and Coca Cola. I don't know anybody who considers secularized Santa to be part of the Christian religion, and thus I don't see religious discrimination. I see the deletion of a thoroughly-tangential thread that was not at all about improving the post.

Do you and others actually want to continue the discussion in chat? Or are you just upset by what turned out to be a mistaken assumption?

  • I am upset at receiving unusual punitive treatment to which I have never seen anybody else subjected, an indiscriminate mass deletion of all comments on my answer, for stated reasons that would apply to most comments on this site but were only applied to me. Sure, it may be technically illegal to jaywalk, but when virtually everybody does it every day anyway, and I am the only one that gets arrested, I suspect discrimination. Just because you don't see value in my otherwise compliant comments is immaterial, that is not a reason to mod hammer them. I saw no flags & got no notifications. – Amadeus Jun 14 '18 at 9:57
  • P.S. In those deleted comments, you can see I am discussing Santa with a Christian that DOES think he originated in Christian tradition, while I, an atheist that decades ago researched the origins of Christmas and Easter, argue they are both Pagan celebrations appropriated by Christians, with Christian elements attached as their excuse to participate. Christians (like my commenter) might see my assertions as an attack on their faith. I don't think I have made a mistaken assumption in discrimination; I still have no answer for why these comments were singled out, for something everybody does. – Amadeus Jun 14 '18 at 10:29
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    We've deleted other long, tangential threads. Usually we leave 'em alone unless we get flags; we don't go looking for them. Naturally you only notice the ones you're involved in, but it's not targeted in any way. You just happened to be involved this time. – Monica Cellio Jun 14 '18 at 13:01
  • As of the night before, I did not see any flags at all. If any comment of mine was flagged I would likely delete it. If one comment were flagged in the ten hours between my visits, why was the whole thread deleted? It was just a discussion, not abusive. At least if it had been moved to chat, I could harvest any of my arguments in it to add to my answer with an edit. I have been denied that opportunity and lost any work I did. – Amadeus Jun 14 '18 at 15:26
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    @Amadeus : It happened to me on other questions that my comments which actually pointed out flaws in an answer and provided references for it, were deleted without being moved to chat and I have strong suspicions it was done out of ideological reasons. In your case here, what I've seen is that you started talking about Santa Claus and you engaged people in discussions who wanted to point out why it's not a good example, and you did it in a passive-aggressive voice, making assumptions about the beliefs of others just because they disagreed with you. – vsz Jun 14 '18 at 18:48
  • @vsz I think there is a difference between "disagreeing" with me and saying something that is actually untrue. Nor did I do it in a passive-aggressive voice, there is a difference there between "authoritative" and "passive-aggressive"; I am a professor and research scientist that deals with students that have counter-factual notions all the time; firm rejection of those notions and unequivocal statements of what I know is true is not "passive-aggressive." The truth may not be pleasant, but that unpleasantness is not due to any aggression on my part. – Amadeus Jun 14 '18 at 18:57
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I'm going to address specifically the "not sent to chat" part of your complaint.

Moving comments to chat isn't a way to enshrine them safely forever. It's a way to move a hot discussion out of the comments and put it somewhere else so as to not accrue a whole bunch more mess that needs to be cleaned up later. I expect "This discussion has been moved to chat" links to also be removed after the interest has died down.

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    However, if they WERE moved to chat, I can go there and harvest any arguments I wanted to migrate to an edit of my answer, long before the chat vanished. I am denied that opportunity, and the work I did to answer the arguments. Also considering the number of up-voted comments in those 24, I would not say that "interest has died down." – Amadeus Jun 14 '18 at 15:21
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All long comment discussions are subject to deletion. Comments here on SE are "written on water." Their purpose is to improve an answer or a question, and they can all disappear at any time. They are not meant to be permanent, and if they are in the form of an argument they are intrinsically off topic.

  • They are also not used that way, a very small % of comments on any question or answer are intended to improve them or request more information. Thus, although that is the stated purpose, we have the equivalent of a law that is very selectively enforced, and as everybody knows, such laws are fertile ground for law enforcement to exercise their discrimination, bigotry, grudges or personal animus. In this case, moderators can use the law to get away with hammering topics or posters they personally dislike, while claiming Hey, it's the law! This is what I think happened here. – Amadeus Jun 15 '18 at 9:54
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Stack Exchange (the company) aim for a site that is sober, rational, and impersonal. What they ask you to do is ask for information and give information. Anything else, such as discussions, even basic human friendliness ("Thank you"), is most strongly discouraged. This aim is reflected in the fact that most of the company's employees act anonymously (hidden behind user names) and do not disclose their identity. Usually, that would be a clear first sign that you shouldn't buy from someone. Here, it is a first indicator for despotism.

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