Before I begin, I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I believe in God.
Don’t run away! I’m not trying to convert you! Honestly!
I respect that you have your beliefs. I’m not going to haul out a twenty pound Bible and threaten to thump you over the head if you aren’t a believer. My faith includes a very important thing called “freedom of choice”, and if Iï¿½m bullying you in an attempt to make you believe what I do, then you donï¿½t really have that feedom. So instead, I say, “Go your own way. Work it out on your own.”
But in return, I expect people to respect my beliefs. Don’t bully me because I have faith in something that others can’t see. Donï¿½t harass me because I choose to accept on faith things for which others require incontrovertible facts. And don’t treat me poorly because I have made a choice with which I’m quite comfortable.
Until recently, I never had a problem with that where the Internet is concerned. Iï¿½ve met people of all different faiths and became friends with a great many of them. Even when people didn’t agree with my views as far as religion is concerned, they’ve kept quiet. And, in the case of a few blessed folks, they have tried to find some common ground between their faiths and mine.
All that changed a couple days ago when the help desk folks at Tightcircle.com decided to badmouth me due to my faith.
What Tightcircle is
Tightcircle.com is a service much like Yahoo Groups or MSN Groups. It provides a place through which people can sign up for private mailing lists. It also allows file sharing and includes a cute little gallery feature that rotates the images at the top of pages.
I learned of Tightcircle.com over a year ago when some pals invited me to join their Tightcircle group. For me, the group was like many other message boards but smaller. The group was an unusual combination of folks who alternately loved and hated me depending on the day. But I loved the open discourse, even when I was being criticized. Over the time I was in the group, I found (and I think all the members found) that we had much more in common than any of us had previously thought.
When we first started using Tightcircle.com, the service was free. But as the tech boom became the tech bust, Tightcircle started charging for the service. For a mere $36 per year, we could continue our little group as before.
The first person who started the group wasn’t too convinced that the money was worth it, especially with the economy being so bad and other free services being available. So when our “trial” period expired, she didn’t bother to pay the bill. This was around Christmastime last year, and, since I was feeling particularly festive and generous, I decided to start up a new group and pay for the service for the year.
What Tightcircle isn’t
In a wordï¿½ perfect!
Over the year that I paid for the service, we had multiple members complain about lost messages from the group, delayed posting times, etc. Some of the members reported sending messages to the help desk, but no one ever seemed to get any kind of satisfactory response other than what boiled down to “that’s life!”
The problems were so bad that, when I received the renewal notice for the group, I thought long and hard about whether I should bother paying for the renewal. Many of the members had been extremely busy over the past few months, and the number of posts to the group was declining. I looked around at other services to determine if there were any that provided the same features with greater reliability. Unfortunately, with the holidays and the mad rush to get everything done before we had to leave town for Christmas, time got away from me. I finally posted a notice to the group informing the members that our time was up and that someone would need to pay if the group wanted to stay with Tightcircle.
This is where it gets interesting, and it’s the kind of thing that can easily happen when you have a group of good-hearted people who donï¿½t know all of the in’s and out’s of the service being used.
One of our members privately stepped forward to pay for the coming year. Unfortunately, Tightcircle.com doesn’t make it easy for anyone who isn’t an administrator to pay the bill for the group. So the member wasn’t able to get the bill paid before Tightcircle.com closed the group.
Without knowing what the other member had tried to do, another member decided that she wanted to keep the group going. She opened another group with every intention of paying for it herself. She then started inviting the members.
When I received the invite, I quickly emailed her and said, “Whoa! Hold the presses! We don’t need another group! Just pay for the one that we had.” But again, Tightcircle.com doesnï¿½t make it easy for a person who isnï¿½t an admin to pay the bill. So she sent the money to me via PayPal.
In a perfect world, that would have been the end of this story. But it isnï¿½t a perfect world. Itï¿½s a world with obligations and inconveniences, and things that should go seamlessly donï¿½t. I was on the road (traveling from Texas to Ohio for the holidays) when she sent the money, so I wasnï¿½t able to pay the bill immediately.
The fact that I was away from my computer turned out to be a good thing, in a weird kind of way, because Tightcircle.com took this opportunity to show how grossly unprofessional they really are. They wrote the member who had sent me the money, accused her and the rest of the group of trying to bilk Tightcircle.com out of the renewal fee, and then treated her like a common crook by blocking her email address so that she couldnï¿½t respond. Then, in one of the oddest changes of direction, they gave the member admin access to the group without first checking with the existing admins. (See pogomomï¿½s review for details.)
But what does this have to do with my faith?
Hang onï¿½ Iï¿½m getting there.
As you may understand, I was quite upset by this turn of events. First, I hate having my character called into question. Iï¿½m not a thief, nor are any of my friends. Second, and even more important, thereï¿½s the issue of privacy. Tightcircle.com makes a big deal out of privacy. They even have a whole web page devoted to it. But what they donï¿½t tell you is that they are more than willing to give away the admin privileges to the group without consent of existing admins. This, to me, is a huge breach in privacy. Granted, none of the messages on that site were state secrets, but what if they were? And what if the person who received admin privilages after the fact was someone with malicious intent?
So I wrote Tightcircle.com and told them that I was displeased with their unprofessional behavior in this matter. The email exchange that followed was quite enlightening, especially to someone who believes in God.
Their first response to me included the following:
You know, it appears the country is run by a insane, religious bigot.
I thought that was odd. I never asked to hear their political beliefs, and it had absolutely nothing to do with my groupï¿½s problems. I stated as much in my reply to them.
But my comment that started the negative comments about my religion was:
Well, may God forgive us for being ignorant enough to think that you know what is going on with your own service.
To which they responded:
There’s no god, but perhaps you were using a figure of speech.
They also said:
ps We will continue to malign any our political leaders who attack our basic rights and the separation of church and state. Citizens who believe their individual judgments are more important than the constitution of the nation are dangerous in a far-reaching way.
I was appalled. I have never, in all my years of Internet use, had anyone from a so-called professional organization make comments like these. They were entirely uncalled for! I responded:
Excuse me? That is your belief, not mine (nor, for that matter, the belief of millions of others on the planet).
At no point during this exchange did the Tightcircle.com actually try to be considerate. Nor did they apologize. Instead, I got even more insults. This final bit was emailed not only to me but to other group members who had expressed similar concerns:
Verbally poking at our political figures is not “forcing [our] political views on [you].” That’s called satire. It’s protected by the right of free speech.
Of course, it all is moot. By revealing that you are religious you show that you are not very interested in rational thought or civilized discourse. That fits with all of your mail, too. You suggested our opening about the god myth was “a belief.” No. There is no god. That’s a fact. There’s no evidence for it, so that’s a fact. (That’s what facts are, things you have evidence for.) You believe there is a god, that’s fine, that’s FAITH. You have faith that something exists without any evidence for it. Bully for you. We’re all Brights here at tightcircle.com, so we don’t truck with that nonsense.
In short, it appears that they ignored my valid complaints because I admitted to believing in God.
I donï¿½t know about yï¿½all, but I ï¿½donï¿½t truck with that nonsenseï¿½! At no time should any ï¿½professionalï¿½ organization descriminate against individuals based on religion, but I feel that Tightcircle.com has done exactly that.
FWIW, I have yet to see incontrovertible evidence that God doesn’t exist. I have, however, taken a Statistical Mechanics class and done some pretty advanced mathematical calculations that proved to me that there is sufficient evidence that He does exist.
But that’s neither here nor there. The level of service (and the politeness of support for said service) should not be based on whether those on the help desk agree with the beliefs of those seeking assistance.
All believers should take this as a warning. Avoid Tightcircle.com!