Why Don’t Christians Use Snopes When Sending an Email? June 27, 2010

Why Don’t Christians Use Snopes When Sending an Email?

Jon Acuff explains what we all know to be true: Christians don’t use Snopes or Google when sending email.

He writes about how to tell when an email from a Christian is worth deleting:

2. Crazy subject line.

If you see the word, “Horrible” or the phrases, “If you’re a Christian, you must read this,” or “Fourth horseman spotted outside Cleveland,” go ahead and delete that email immediately.

6. The claim is gigantic.

The bigger the claim, the greater the chance is that it’s fake. A few months ago someone sent me an email from “James Dobson” that said all Sunday worship services on the radio or television were about to be removed from the air unless we signed a petition. Chances are, if thousands of gospel programs are going to be instantly removed from both radio and television, the first time you hear of this won’t be in an email from your friend “BillKingBeliever777.” Also, there are scams aimed at Christians that ask for your email address in order to keep prayer in our country. They just want your email. Avoid these like one of the plagues. The frogs for instance.

I’m amazed that Jon has to explain what Snopes is in his introduction. There’s something you’ll never have to see on an atheist blog. We’re the people who “Reply All” to the “Christian forwards” and explain in detail why it’s all bullshit 🙂 I know I’ve sent plenty of those with links directly to Snopes.

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  • I recently got an email from a Christian revealing that Snopes is run by only two people (which I thought was common knowledge) and that they have not debunked Obama’s fake birth certificate and therefore cannot be trusted.

    The Christian in question forwarded this with the comment, “so who can you trust?”

    Obviously not fundamentalist Christians.

  • Greg

    As an example of #6:

    If someone sends you an email claiming that they speak regularly with someone that died over 2000 years ago, and then rose from the dead, before physically floating off upwards in order to enter a non physical realm which is not actually above us where everything is bliss… then you’d better ignore them for being crazy.

    And if they try to tell you that that person that died over 2000 years ago did so in order to allow you to join him in that place of bliss, because otherwise you’re going to be tortured for all eternity then…

    Sorry – but the irony is just too much.

    Seriously, what kind of claim is ‘gigantic’ compared to the Bible?

  • Chris Jones

    This isn’t just Christians, though it predominantly is if you consider that most of the conservative activists who also exhibit this behavior also just happen to be Christians. I don’t see that it’s at all an ignorance of what Snopes is, but a complete mistrust of Snopes and anything else that doesn’t originate from an overtly Christian and/or ultra-conservative political source (Fox News). I posted a Snopes debunking of one of these outrageous e-mails and a conservative activist informed me that Snopes is “liberally biased”.

    I’ve run into the same thing with respect to FactCheck.org and Politifact.com. Some bullshit misinformation on the health care reform last year was making the rounds, and upon posting a reference to both of these, I was again informed that these sources are “liberally biased”. In fact, if I recall, it may have even been suggested that these are just fronts for the DNC. Conspiracy theorism (is that a proper term?) is alive and well among conservatives and Christians.

    Conservatives see everything that doesn’t come from Fox News or James Dobson or the likes of those sources as being “liberal bias” which cannot produce anything other than lies and propaganda. CNN or MSNBC could report that it’s a clear, sunny day in Atlanta when it is in fact a clear, sunny day in Atlanta, and the conservatives in Atlanta will run for an umbrella and bunker down for a monsoon.

  • dejah

    Well, “liberally biased” is short-talk for “I’m too stupid to look things up for myself so I just believe what the church/GOP/my priest/preacher/etc. tells me and if any fact-check site disagrees with the church/GOP/whatever form of idiocy I believe in, then that site is biased against me and hates Christians, so there.”

    Pretty easy to decode that one. I usually delete the crap these “believers” send along and remind them that they COULD be using the brains they think their god gave them for something more useful than sending along hysterical spam.

  • Chris Jones

    I failed to edit my comment to add another thought, which is how ironic it is that these guys will disbelieve literally everything that comes from a news source other than those propagandists on their own approved short list, while uncritically believing the most outlandish, wacky, improbable, bizarre, conspiratorial assertions that show up in an e-mail from a fellow conservative/Christian.

  • Kandy

    I always correct this kind of misinformation on Facebook and the last time I got the “Snopes” debunking reprimand AND unfriended, by my xtian sister! Over a Diamond Rio “In God We Trust” song that had NOT been banned at all by anyone. But, see, I just do that stuff because it’s about god and I’m petty that way, not because I am an educator and have a hard time ignoring baseless crap being unquestionably and mindlessly forwarded, and because I know my sister isn’t that stupid and hope for something else out of her.

    It’s not about forwarding lies for jeezus, it’s about persecution, I tells ya!

  • Cathy Ray

    I think this is a gross generalization! I am a Christian and I always verify anything, religious or otherwise, thru snopes.com and similar clearing sites. The majority of my friends and colleagues do as well. Educated and reasonable people do not assume everything they read or see on the internet or any mass media outlet is true. Research is an absolute necessity. FYI I do not assume every thing posted on this site or Atheist Nexus is wrong or has no value. Much of what you post is dead on. BTW, most of us do not wish to be associated with the Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Jerry Falwells, etc. of the right-wing evangelical Christian faction.

  • TheRealistMom/Spamamander

    Hmm… debunking the fake Kenyan birth certificate: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthers/kenyacert.asp

    Supporting the authenticity of the Honolulu birth certificate: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/birthcertificate.asp

    Then again, I about live on the snopes message board community.

  • Cherie M

    I think it has more to do with how willing the person is to believe certain things/how gullible they are, and I’m definitely not including how much education they’ve had – from my experience, the level of education doesn’t seem to matter.

    My sister-in-law recently forwarded me an e-mail that was just a “all women should be scared for their life” that was stupid, sexist, and not at all helpful. I sent her a polite reply, stating the supposed “sources” in the e-mail didn’t exist, nor did the institution. I told her basic safety was smart to follow, but to not be scared by everything she hears. Another family friend sent me an e-mail about a supposed bill that was going to be put into law. Again, a simple google-search (not even snopes!) turned up my answer within 5 minutes.

    I think it’s just easier to believe that you’re a victim, it’s less effort to accept what is said instead of investigating, and I think there’s also a sense of “well, -I- knew about this first, so I’m smart!” that comes along with these sorts of things. Religious people may be more susceptible due to the emphasis many religions put on faith, but really, anyone who isn’t prone to skepticism can be easily caught.

  • Luther

    Snopes workss sometimes. I have found it better to just put in the title of the email into the Google search bar. Sometimes it comes up with Snopes and other times with Urban Legends.

    I used to respond to the whole email list and even picking up the previous forwarders list. My Xtian “friends” still email me but have learned to use BCC so I can only respond to them.

  • Kenton Forshee

    They don’t fact check because…

    1. They don’t let a little thing like Facts get in the way of a good story.

    2. They would have nothing to gossip about if they checked their facts first.

    3. Pure laziness.

  • Epistaxis

    Why Don’t Christians Use Snopes When Sending an Email?

    Same reason they don’t use their brains when reading the Bible?

  • Christian fact checking seems like an oxymoron.

  • I’ve been told by more than one Christian, over the years, that Snopes is “biased.” The nature of this “bias” has never been explained to me, but the folks who’ve said it have never bothered substantiating it. Basically, any time they’re confronted with something they disagree with, they dismiss it as “biased” and that’s the end of the matter … for them, at least. The mere disagreement IS the bias, I guess.

  • Jen

    I remember I used to get lots of those forwards. I don’t know if people got smarter, if they took my off their lists because I sent them back the appropriate snopes response, or if there are just too many websites these days to let them waste their time on email forwards. It doesn’t hurt, I think, to throw “People who send email forwards should die in a fire” into conversation with people. They think less of you, but can’t say they don’t know what you think.

    Incidentally, the Mikkelsons appeared in The God Who Wasn’t There. I remembered that I thought they were atheists, but I couldn’t remember why. Now I can’t remember if they actually said that they are or not. Let’s start a rumor that they are!

  • ungullible

    Although focused more on politics than religion, this blog shows (via Snopes analysis) that conservatives forward bogus emails more than liberals both proportionally AND in sheer volume.


  • My family no longer sends me as many “inspirational” or “shocking” messages as they used to. I guess it was my detailed “Reply to All” rebuttals that finally got them to drop me from their forwarding list. (Praise be!)

  • Dan W

    Hemant, that blog post you linked to should be read by as many Christians as possible. There’s be a lot less stupid glurge-filled emails if more Christians checked Snopes before forwarding one of those idiotic emails to everyone on their contacts list.

  • justanotherjones

    @ Zeno. LOL, mine too.

    I once had some friend of my sister’s (a stranger to me) demanding I tell her who I was after one such rebuttal.

  • geekgazette

    Once I started sending emails of this nature back with links and explanations as to why they were bogus/ridiculous, everyone quit sending them.
    We live in a world where scripted and heavily edited shows are considered “reality TV” and where every channels has some sort of paranormal/ghost hunting show that is portrayed as scientific and real. Is it any wonder that people still believe you can have your wishes fulfilled by forwarding an email?
    The version of reality where most people in this country live has absolutely nothing to do with what’s logical, true or actually real.

  • I only wish the 80s had the internet. I remember having the stupidest of playground arguments. I was always being told dumb shit in some fashion or another and often would get in knock-down-drag-out arguments over urban legends. I found myself even trying learn to hold my tongue but only have my expressions out me for my low tolerance of bullshit.

    Snopes has saved me a lot of time in my adult life. I remember there was a time when I had to explain to my relatives that they indeed would not be getting any money from Bill Gates, nor Outback Steakhouse and why I would forever break any chain mail.

  • Bob

    It’s not just Christians. Sometimes it’s people who I otherwise consider to be well-educated and intelligent.

    And when you explain WHY it’s a hoax and/or how to recognize a hoax, you get the, “Well, I only sent it because I care … so if you don’t want to hear from me, wahhhhhhh!” (Or the equally inane, “Well, now the friend who sent it to me is mad at me!”)


  • Evan

    My boss used to forward stuff to me. Nothing religious (surprisingly) but definitely on the side of idiocy. Finally I had enough, quickly pulled up two snopes links and replied back with a note saying “check snopes before passing these things along.” I haven’t gotten any email from him again that wasn’t work-related.

  • JD

    I love (or hate, but still amused by) the claims of Snopes bias. Maybe they are, but no one that I’ve seen that claimed this alleged bias has discussed it in any detail other than to cry bias. You need to ask for specific examples and that they explain their claim. More likely than not, it’s probably a talking point, the kind where they don’t expect any questions.

    One thing that I’ve generally found to be true is that if someone believes something, and they hear something that plays to that belief, they are generally far less interested in looking into it than if it was something they didn’t believe.

  • plutosdad

    It is more of the conspiracy mindset, people who draw connections. It’s not just conservatives, I’ve known plenty of liberal conspiracy theorists (the “FDR was a setup” is started out as a liberal one, the evil conservatives killed him)

    I think all you need is 1. a credulous mind and 2. anger/hate/looking down on people who disagree with you, so much that you’ll believe any crazy thing said about them.

    After all, who believes conspiracies about people who they agree with and like?

  • Matto the Hun

    Some of my favorites are the emails that back up their crazy claim with a Snopes link, only when you go to check it out it debunks their crazy claim.

    I received an email forward from a family member bemoaning all the advantages black people get over white people. (Oh the repression I’ve felt under the word “Honkey”)

    I replied to the family member and every one that had was on the list.

    Turned out my family member, being new to the internet hadn’t realized that if you don’t type something like “This shit is whak!” before your racist email, then it reads like you agree with the content and that’s why you forwarded it. I believe my family member on this account.

    Supposedly my family member’s friends who received my rebuttal were also new to this emailing concept.

    That didn’t stop them from being really upset with me.

    Apparently even though they are not racist and were supposedly sending the email on to talk about how crazy it is; it didn’t stop them from thinking I was a large black man who was coming to their house.

    Which makes me sad since I carefully crafted the rebuttal to educate these sender on the points the forward claimed. I made sure to rebut the named author specifically, and even mentioned more than once that I am a white.

    So as much as their reaction made me laugh, I am sad that most of them could not be bothered to read something informative that I spend hours crafting. Yet they can read something stupid (whether they agreed or not) and forward it onto every one on their mailing list.

    (I did receive 2 replies thanking me for the info, so that made me feel like it was worth it)

  • BeamStalk

    My mother knows what Snopes is and never checks it. She sends me all these crazy emails, then I have to respond back with the Snopes or Urban Legends link (or both).

  • trikepilot

    What is sad is that even the Christian mythbusting sites will denounce a particular email and the Christians will forward it anyway.

    The “reply to all” button has diminished my junk email more than any other method. I only have to use it once or twice with a complete debunking and like magic, I get removed from their list.

  • L. Foster

    “BillKingBeliever”. I LOL’ed.

  • I recently replied all to one of “those” forwards with a related link to snopes.com in the subject. I didn’t hear anything back, but I wonder if I ruffled a few feathers.

  • Chris Jones

    I recently picked up a bit of insight on why these debunking sites are alleged to be biased, at least by some of the claimants. To follow up from my post above, I challenged a conservative on the claim that FactCheck is biased (a political Snopes-like site) and was told exactly how they know. It went like this (wish I had the blog link handy)….

    “World Net Daily ran the numbers and found that 75% of the conservative claims are being labelled by FactCheck as false, while only 25% of liberal claims are being labeled as false. This proves that FactCheck is liberally biased.”

    Except that it doesn’t. It could actually be that the ultra-conservatives are fabricating more bogus crap than their liberal counterparts. Someone above posted a link that provides support for this hypothesis.

    Most bothersome to me is that even when the debunking site is totally transparent regarding the research that was done, the offended forwarder must use “liberal bias” as an excuse to avoid admitting that bogus material is being readily forwarded by their colleagues and that it is going on and on without being checked. Admitting that this is happening leads to the ultimate conclusion that SOMEONE is making the shit up in order to forward a political or religious position, presumably under the pretense that the ends justify the means. And maybe the oblivious forwarder concurs with that sentiment. Maybe they realize that SOMEONE is going to be outraged enough to get onto the bandwagon or to entrench further with it, and whether a truth or lie is used to make this happen, it just doesn’t matter.

  • Chris Jones

    Cathy Ray:

    I do hope that you haven’t taken to heart the generalization that is present, because I think implicit in that label “Christians” among this thread is an unstated assumption that we’re talking more specifically about the evangelical/fundamentalist/conservative activist varieties that do uncritically forward these kinds of e-mails. They are indeed a different breed. By this, I mean the ones who are certain that Obama is a Muslim, that his administration is a communist conspiracy, that health care reform is a plot for control and to make people miserable, and that Obama is a citizen of Kenya, that the census is domestic espionage, that atheists are out to make Christianity illegal. The others, those who aren’t doing this, are completely off the hook. I guess I (and others) should have made this clear. I really am sorry for not doing so. Kudos to you for not being a part of that paranoid culture, though your help in setting them straight would be very welcome.


    I concur that conspiracy-mongering and bogus claims are made and perpetuated on both sides, but (anecdotally speaking, FWIW) I don’t see it as anything approaching “equally so”. I’ve circulated among the activists on both sides and just don’t see nearly the volume or magnitude of this on the one side as I do the other. My Facebook news feed, for instance, while it has a roughly equal balance of liberal and conservative friends, is showing a far heavier volume of political/religious BS from the conservative posts. Same with my e-mail, and same with the blogs I’ve circulated among. And if I had to characterize the mood/tone, I’d say that the conservatives are overall far more into the anger and hysteria and calls-to-arms. My ongoing joke is, “what are they pissed off about today?”

  • irritable centrist

    Crazy emails haven’t died, they’ve just moved to FB. Probably three-quarters of my friends and family are some flavor of conservative– a few are a little too wrapped up in their worldview and will “like” any batshit crazy page that supports it, no matter how improbable, unsubstantiated, or flat out untrue it may be.

    I like these people on a personal level, but lord, you hate the constant reminders of how STUPID they are sometimes.

    And yes, “liberal bias” is the right’s version of “white privilege;” a sometimes-true accusation that shields every bizarre contention from real debate among true believers,

  • Peter / Birmingham, AL

    I started writing a post and it turned into an essay. (And, yes, it was even longer than this “abridged” version. Sorry: it’s a chronic problem.) BUT, I believe there are no “coincidences” in life, including my stumbling (joyfully) onto this particular webpage while reading my email. I am heartened by the comments throughout this particular thread. I despise getting “this” kind of email (that you all have described so well in this thread). It is especially unpleasant when they come from people who (otherwise) I KNOW to be good folks. I don’t know what to do! I feel a strange, unpleasant mixture of emotions: confusion, anger, self-consciousness, sadness, and a sense of alienation. I have tried (without success) to respond with “information” (I LOVE Snopes.com) – only to be frustrated and baffled (and enraged) and the response I get. My family has a saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts! My mind’s made up!”

    I want to emphasize something that I hope will be reassuring. I am a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying Christian. My dad and my grandfather both were – no kidding – Southern Baptist ministers. Here’s the key, though: I was fortunate enough to have a spiritual “education” in my family and the churches we were involved in that did not _harm_ me. I have often enjoyed the looks on people’s faces when I told them I grew up in a “liberal Southern Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama.” (And, sadly, I absolutely understand why they think I’m joking.) I was taught, though, that – first of all – we f***ng don’t KNOW EVERYTHING! (I think it was the apostle Paul who wrote that we “know in part.”) Starting from that premise, then, why in the WORLD would I EVER think I have the right to malign someone else’s spiritual beliefs (or there questions, or doubts, etc.)? My experience with spirituality and with organized religion has been an asset, a blessing in my life – not the painful, frightening, soul-damaging influence that so many people (from all kinds of “religious” backgrounds throughout history) have experienced.

    I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist and I hear all kinds of heart-wrenching stories about the failure of “The Church” and “Religion.” (ONLY) when it is appropriate clinically, I will remind people not to confuse “God” (or their spiritual equivalent) with “Church” and “Religion.” The latter are made up of people who can be counted on to be stupid, while the former is (thank God – no pun intended) beyond our finite understanding. Fundamentalists – of any stripe – FEAR doubt and uncertainty. While, yes, they’ll kill us (or worse) in the name of their religious dogma, they are terribly fragile and terribly afraid. The more rigidly they feel they have to “protect” their beliefs, though, the weaker they become spiritually. How ludicrous for something as important as your _spiritual_ beliefs – something that should form the core of who you are and guide the person you strive to be – to have to be “protected” from doubts or questioning or disagreement !! But, in their fear (and even in their stupid-a**, fear-mongering emails) they can do so much damage to the creatures (and the planet) around them.

    OK. I’d better stop. Thank you, though, for this dialogue, for being strong enough to doubt, and for trying to understand “those who persecute (us)” – in the name of [ INSERT YOUR FAVORITE DOGMA HERE ]

    Peter – White, male, upper middle class, protestant / Zen Baptist, physician (child & adolescent psychiatrist), living in Birmingham, Alabama. (Talk about “not fitting in”!)

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