Posted by Richard Rawlinson
…Venus and Mars and all that: relations between those with and those without faith can get prickly, something which inevitably affects discussion of funeral ritual and belief in the afterlife.
Two small pleasures of posting here are occasional positive feedback, and amicable sparring when there’s polite disagreement. A more shameful pleasure is gleened from niggling an intemperate minority who would prefer it everyone spelt God and Christian without the capital G and C.
This situation is clearly a microcosm of the wider debate about religion. Yes, crackpot Creationists get up people’s noses. Yes, some atheists are militant, too. But there’s plenty of common ground to be explored between the moderate majority.
The gist of a typical argument now is:
A: ‘Only a brain-washed idiot could fail to realise that God is a delusion.’
B: ‘Well, I believe in God, and I don’t consider myself a brain-washed idiot, so I don’t think I can agree with you there.’
A: ‘See, I said you were brain-washed’.
Inane stuff, eh? The root of the problem is mutual suspicion that we’re trying to change each other’s attitudes. Of course we debate because we want others to understand our world view, but we’re also realistic enough not to expect to change minds. But does this mean a debate that transcends name-calling is not worthwhile?
For an example of a reasonably good-natured and illuminating discussion between an atheist and believer, check out the below link to BeliefNet. Hats off to Sam Harris for choosing to debate not with a loony literalist but with a thoughtful Christian like Andrew Sullivan.