I feel like this sometimes.
There’s some strange force field covering the concept of religion that does not extend to people, which is insane. If we treated people as well as we are forced to treat religion, we would all be eligible for sainthood. Talking plainly about religion as a theory is considered offensive by most religious people, which means a calm, logical conversation with religious people about religion is impossible.
Our court system is something I bring up whenever attempting to have a conversation like that. I don’t understand how we can all agree to use a court system that relies upon scientifically substantiated evidence to determine guilt or innocence, while at the same time refusing to believe that science is a reliable resource for producing plausible theories for the origin of our universe, our planet, our humanity. Everyone agrees that forensic evidence is admissible, while visions from god are not. I can’t imagine the family of a murder victim choosing to allow the murderer to be judged by god instead of by a jury of his peers.
25 thoughts on “Everyone play nice”
I like your post. I feel like the people in your cartoon draw a negative perspective on Christians and Christianity.
Yeah, it’s a shame. If there were more Christians willing to discuss their faith without getting offended, I would have more respect for them. I went to a business lunch, and the woman hosting it stood up to bless the food. I had to walk out of the room to avoid having her faith inflicted on me (and my food, ha).
So you want a Christian to respect you but you are unwilling to show or have respect for them??? Doesn’t make sense…
The cartoon illustrates the fact that when religion becomes the topic of debate, the atheist will “attack” religion, and the religious will “attack” the atheist. Attacking your opponent instead of addressing the issue is a frustrating aspect of any religious debate for atheists, and it happens a lot. Religious people think religion is “special,” and shouldn’t be questioned. This is ridiculous, of course.
To bow my head or sit in silence while this woman “blessed” our food would be the same as encouraging her beliefs, which I can’t do. Further, I shouldn’t have to listen to that at work. The fact that she felt comfortable inflicting her beliefs upon her colleagues shocked me. She did this twice during the meeting.
A quick correction: I don’t “want a Christian to respect” me. I want to be able to have calm, logical chats about religion without them getting offended because I question their beliefs. I can’t have respect for people who get offended when I don’t share their beliefs, and have the gall to say so.
How do you respond when someone questions your beliefs?
I respond like an adult: I attempt to have a calm discussion. I question my beliefs occasionally (because I have a healthy, active mind), so if someone else happens do to so as well, it would be silly to take offense.
I’m back tracking a little…what you are saying is that if you were the host of a meeting and started saying something someone in the crowd did not agree with you would not feel disrespected if they got up and left the room?
First of all, I expect people to leave their religious views out of the workplace. Having a difference of opinion on work matters in no big deal, but obviously that’s not what happened.
Second, she was not opening a discussion about religion, nor was she simply “saying something someone in the crowd did not agree with.” She was spontaneously exercising (and inflicting) her religion on a room full of people whose religious backgrounds she didn’t even bother asking about. I didn’t want my food blessed by her god, but she didn’t care. She wasn’t just saying something I didn’t agree with, she was demanding that everyone silently comply with her religious views, which was wildly inappropriate and totally insensitive.
Walking out of the room was the polite thing to do in this case. The alternative would have been to stop her in her tracks and ask her to not say her blessing. I chose to excuse myself silently for a minute rather than make a scene by starting up (what would have seemed like) a belligerent discussion about religion (which, again, is not what she invited when she started asking her god to bless the food). She would have been just as offended by my asking her to stop blessing my food as I was when she did so. The only difference is that I’m aware that I don’t have the right to inflict my religious views on people simply because we disagree on them.
Third, to answer your question directly, I can’t think of anything I would feel free to say in the workplace that would offend anyone enough to make them want to leave the room. I avoid talking politics and religion at work. My coworkers are good people who work hard and have earned my respect. I wouldn’t want to say anything to make them uncomfortable. If someone left the room because of something I said, I would make a point to get to the bottom of it, and discuss the problem (since it’s a pretty huge problem to force people from a room where they should feel welcome and included).
Is this discussion over? I feel like it consisted of you asking questions without replying to any of my carefully thought-out answers. I expected more of a back-and-forth.
Most of these discussions begin with grand generalizations. There are references to personal tales and ultimately the modicum of cordiality starts to wither under an ever increasing verbiage of simplistic maxims spouted by all sides.
Would that people state their arguments and draw upon scholars as opposed to their own interpretations sometimes.
You’re totally right about the pattern of religious debate. That’s definitely how it tends to go. It’s hard not to let your views get boiled down to a few hilarious phrases rather than state your case carefully, but I get the sense that that’s what happens because our views are so different that neither side feels that the other is actually listening. If they were listening, they would agree with ME (obviously, lol). I’m kidding of course.
It’s a battle to keep your goal in mind when debating about something important to you. Having said that, I’m not entirely with you on the “draw upon scholars” thing. It’s essential to be educated in the area you want to discuss, but at some point we have to flex our creativity muscle and come up with reasons of our own to believe what we believe.
Discussion is healthy, framing any talk about religious/religiosity as a debate does not do anyone favours; it creates a sense of competition which in turn creates an aura of hostility.
As for the scholars, I stand by my position; all sides of these discussions tend to make spew out facts that are not really facts; how hard would it be to say “Person xyz says this in relation to your beliefs, deriving from that here is my spin on our particular case.” as opposed to “Your side believes this! And I can in no way validate the claims I just presented!”?
“Discussion is healthy,” but when the topic is religion, it sounds like you don’t think there’s a point. I have to say, most of the religious discussions I’ve been drawn into (online, of course) have taken on the negative (and fruitless) pattern you mentioned in your first comment. However, to assume that that’s how they’ll all go would force me to say that I don’t believe people are capable of discussing any difficult topic rationally. Is there any case in which religion could be a topic of discussion, in your opinion?
I see your point about quoting “scholars” in a debate like this. There’s so much misinformation floating around, it’s difficult to take the other side seriously if they’re just going to speak nonsense. Perhaps I took your use of the word scholar too literally. I find that someone who has given serious thought to the topic, and educated themselves on it (from more than their own perspective) is a worthy participant in a discussion of this nature. People who can’t validate their claims frustrate me, so I think agree with you.
There are plenty of times religious discussions can be fruitful; between religions it gives viewers a chance to evaluate the conscious difference between practices and strains of beliefs. With this in mind religious discussions should be over a period of time, a discussion should not trip over a whole slew of issues.
I have not seen many discussions between atheists and theists; however I do suspect that they fall into the same mess.
It surprises me how people think that an hour long conversation can suddenly be the sole reason in changing a person’s outlook. That is miraculous, possibly holistic argument to make. When theists discuss there is a common ground from which arguments can be paraded and valuated.
With atheist and theist discussions it seems slightly murkier because there is no set parameter to start from; so in debates one spends more time hammering down some sort of framework for talking than the actual discussion.
I’ve noticed that religious discussions tend to lack any significant goal other than to allow either side to feel justified in their beliefs. The discussion I’ve been having with Simple Theologian (the other person commenting on this post) is about the proper etiquette between a Christian and an atheist. Regardless of the outcome, I’m just glad it’s not devolving into a shouting match.
I find religious discussions extremely helpful. That being said if one is an atheist then these conversations are irrelevant; a crude analogy would be attempting to describe two pieces of art while a person on a phone is listeining in.
Your analogy is crude indeed. Do you mean that an atheist couldn’t understand what it’s like to have religious faith?
Hardly, what I meant is that there is little point describing the theological nuances if you do not believe there is a valid reason to believe.
A better example; if two creationists are debating the finer points of creationism would there any benefit to you listeining in on the conversation?
Your first sentence says there cannot be a useful exchange of ideas between a religious person and an atheist. The second sentence gives an example of an exchange of ideas happening between two groups that do not include an atheist (while an atheist looks on). If the atheist isn’t participating in the conversation, clearly there isn’t an exchange of ideas between religious people and atheists, which is what we’re talking about.
The topic of conversation in the other thread is how to deal with another person’s religious views, and the complications that arise when religious views differ in a workplace. This is a conversation worth having among all kinds of people, even atheists, because the topic isn’t religion, it’s human interaction. Surely an atheist would have a vested interest in this topic. This is, in my mind, an example of a useful conversation between a religious person and an atheist.
To clarify I believe there is no point in having a discussions between atheists and theists if they are only for a short period of time. Having an hour chat over the idea of evil sounds rather…partial because all sides employ unexplained caveats.
The point I was attempting to make In the second part (and failed to do) is that if one is an atheist religious discussion between theists is of little use. I apologize for not stating the assumption in my sentence.
And one could argue that religiosity affects all aspects of social parameters. For example you could be eating blessed food at any restaurant you visit. Perhaps she knew everyone in the room, perhaps the people did not mind, perhaps this is the norm in her workplace; there at this time is only speculations.
I’m still not sure how a discussion between a religious person and an atheist is “of little use.” You seem to think that, since religious people and atheists disagree, they wouldn’t find discussion helpful (or at the very least informative). If we followed that doctrine, we should never have any discussions with people with whom we disagree. This would mean that people would never hear another perspective about a topic about which they had already decided what they thought. Your isolationist argument is depressing and fruitless. I’m also not sure why you bring up the duration of a discussion. Would a longer discussion be more useful?
You went off topic here, but I just want to point out that “religiosity” does not affect all aspects of social parameters. It has no bearing on whether I say thank you when someone holds the door for me, how well I treat my coworkers (who are all religious), whether I enjoy a concert, etc.
I once had a discussion with an atheist; cordial fellow. We spent roughly three hours discussing a whole slew of topics ranging from the historical narrative of religions to the idea of what divinity is.
The problem was that we were talking on entirely different levels. He would for example would utilize quantum physics in his arguments against divinity whereas I would draw upon philosophical tracts.
In the end our discussion did not bear any benefit because neither side was talking on the same level. Did my philosophical tracts negate his argument? Did his understanding of Quantum physics negate mine? We did not know because by the end of the discussion we had veered off from our original topic.
If an atheist and theist discussion occurs then there should be more time devoted towards establishing the what the topic is (Eg. Divinity and only that) and what arguments are going to be used (Philosophical, Scientific, etc.).
When the topic is set and the actual genre of the arguments are going to be used made clear then the discussion is beneficial but you can hardly do that in a two or three hour debate. They need to be stretched over time; days, months, even years.
Like you said, it sounds like the problem is that you got off topic. So the issue isn’t that religious people and atheists can’t have a useful discussion, it’s that you haven’t had one. I’ve had some fascinating discussions with some very intelligent, reasonable religious people. We maintained our focus throughout the discussion. Both sides made concessions and ended up enjoying themselves immensely. This did not take years to accomplish, just enough mental focus to remember what our objectives were.
I’d be happy to pick a topic and have a discussion like this with you, if you’d like.
I look forward to your future articles and the topics you pick then.
With that in mind I thank you for you cordiality, patience in responding so promptly.
I don’t often post about religion or atheism, but I am a happy, friendly atheist, and more than willing to discuss religion whenever the mood strikes. Thanks for chatting!