In the world of Reddit, /r/atheism is an insanely polarizing place: either you love it for its ridiculous memes (Sheltering Suburban Mom) or you can’t stand its endless stream of nonsensical images and general shenanigans from trolling Redditors.
But the /r/atheism that everyone loves and loves to hate is no longer around, thanks to new rules implemented by moderators. And boy, are Redditors mad.
The long and twisted history of /r/atheism as a corner of the internet that somehow made became a hallmark of Reddit’s behavior (and misbehavior) is too long to recount with brevity, but the recent history is the most important: After years of acting as moderator, /r/atheism founder skeen was stripped of his title via an admin request and two new moderators, jij and tuber, acted in his stead.
The new rules they introduced earlier this week are specifically designed to curb down on image macros, silence users heading to the 2 million-strong forum to submit funny off-topic posts, and enforce strict measures on trolling. The overall intent was to bring /r/atheism back to the discussion of atheism.
But plenty of the godless redditors have turned on jij and tuber, calling for the two moderators to step down, to restore the “lawless” land of /r/atheism, and to just pipe down and let Redditors do what they want. The result is an out-and-out fight among those who side with mods, those who want freedom, and the trolls just fueling the conversation for kicks.
The battle at /r/atheism is important for Reddit — in fact, I would argue that the community at large needs it. Reddit has long spent its years on the Internet toeing the line between eye-opening discussion (journalists love it) and a gathering place for racism, debauchery (/r/deadjailbait) and general internet grossness. The fight between the Redditors asking for freedom and the mods looking to encourage thoughtful discussion on one of the biggest subreddits around will alter the way the website approaches the role of moderators and just how free the speech should be on a platform that is increasingly becoming the go-to place on the Internet.
The fate of /r/atheism will certainly unfold tomorrow morning, when jij and tuber will host an AMA to discuss what the community wants out of the subreddit. It’s bound to set precedent on how the hive mind of Redditors is best maintained, and whether we’ll be seeing more of Sheltering Suburban Mom on the front page anytime soon.