I always post under my own name, and also use my name when commenting on other sites. As I’ve written before, I think this should be standard practice on the Internet. It not only tells people who is commenting, but dampens the sort of nastiness, trolling, and name-calling that has caused so many websites to become toxic cesspools of discourse. People should take responsibility for their words spoken in public. Only a very few writers with websites or a public presence resort to pseudonyms, and the ones who don’t include those most endangered by public exposure: people like Maajid Nawaz, Sarah Haider, Ali Rizvi, Asra Nomani, and so on. These people, who criticize Islam, are risking their very lives by exposing themselves, and they are brave folks. We who risk less should do no less.
Now many readers do use their real names here, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate, though, that there are good reasons for some to withhold their names: fear of “outing” as an atheist and its attendant ostracism (but the more people who come out, the more who will come out); fear of public exposure and harm, especially if you have children; and fear of intolerableharassment (sometimes valid, often not—after all, I get harassed several times a day on email and even by phone). I think that pretty much exhausts the valid reasons. Most of pseudonymity, I claim—though not necessarily on this site—is practiced by people who want to be free to say whatever they want without taking responsibility for their words. That’s not a good reason.
So I’m writing this to encourage (not demand!) posters to use their real names unless they have a good reason to do otherwise. If you want to maintain pseudonymity, I ask (again, not demand!) that you let us know why below. I’m asking not to pressure people, but simply to know if I’ve missed some good reasons why people don’t use their real names when posting.
Finally, remember that there’s a reason why newspapers demand that, when you publish a letter to the editor, you give your real name.