Written After Midnight

Sleep-Deprived Ramblings

A Little Light Plagiarism to Start…

Okay, so I’m basically stealing the format of this post from JT Eberhard’s excellent exploration of flirting and boundaries, but instead I’m going to talk about dialogue between members of the Christian and Atheist communities; um, please don’t leave yet.

As a Christian who is also a member of CFI, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with and get to know a group of people that is largely comprised of Atheists/Agnostics, which is new for me.  I do believe that my involvement, and the friendships I’ve made because of it, have gone a long way to opening my eyes to the discrimination and hostility Atheists/Agnostics deal with, and also the social privileges granted to religious individuals, especially Christians.   However, there’s a problem.

In my attempts to engage with Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, etc., (and I don’t mean try to change them) I try to be both respectful and open, but I sometimes make my conversational partners(s) uncomfortable, especially when I’ve just met them.  I’ve found myself in situations where someone has assumed I was also an Atheist because of the event I was at or because we share certain opinions that are more common in the Atheist community.  When correcting the misunderstanding, I’ve seen this cause unease and sometimes suspicion.  But if I slip into the conversation early on that I am religious, I find that the conversation is usually a lot shorter.

Personally, I don’t blame anyone for reacting this way.  I’ve had my own run-ins with religious peers, so I can only imagine how many of these new acquaintances have been treated, but that’s kind of my point.  Imagining really IS all I can do.  I want very much to facilitate open discussion, (whether it’s about religion or what cartoons I like), but I recognize that it requires a level of trust that I haven’t earned yet. Especially when I’m dealing with people who have been mistreated by the church, or just the church-centered culture we live in.

What I would like to know, is how do I be honest about myself in a non-threatening way?  How do I make it clear that I don’t have ulterior motives for talking to you?  Am I obligated to state my religious affiliation from the start?  If not, when is an appropriate time to mention it, to avoid misunderstandings?

The main reason I’m starting off with this topic, is that I would like to address religious and cultural issues with this blog, but my hope is to do so in a respectful and productive way.  So this is me officially (probably awkwardly) asking for help in reaching that goal.  Tips?


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3 thoughts on “A Little Light Plagiarism to Start…

  1. laursaurus on said:

    I just clicked over from the FtB post. And based on this post, I’m going to have a look around!
    You and I have something in common.
    When I discovered podcasts a few years ago, I was delighted to find out about skepticism. I like to leave the radio playing while I sleep. The main station I tune into airs Coast to Coast during the graveyard shift. It’s so different from anything during the waking hours, makes it interesting. The weird stuff that people believe is fascinating, yet occasionally frightening when there could be a grain of truth. Back then I would maul it over on my own, and pinpoint why it didn’t fly.
    I was enthusiastic to discover there was whole genre dedicated to something called skepticism. Sadly the first few shows, despite rave reviews, were extremely disappointing. They were more focused on complaining about how dumb people are than analyzing the evil “pseudoscience” itself. Then I read a review on Skeptoid. The comment was something to the effect of how this wasn’t just another “skeptical podcast” and definitely give it chance. I LOVED it. I listened to every episode within a week. Then joined the Skeptalk email list (which has now moved to Google Groups). Finally, I had access to a group that probably had a number of atheists and boy did I have questions. Turned out they were all atheists (or so it seemed). I outed myself by asking why the motto “In God We Trust” bothered them. How could something that doesn’t exist have the power to offend them? Theists believe that God is powerful. If there is no God, why does the phrase trigger any emotional reaction, especially feeling personally insulted? Well, like you I realized it was more of a perception of being marginalized for passionate atheists. I’m speaking in generalities, here. One thing non-theist take particular exception to is being categorized. So to any unbeliever reading, I get that atheists are not a monolith.
    The point I want to make is that I learned why they objected. It had nothing to do with God’s non-existence. I completely sympathize with the resentment against Bible-thumpers pronouncing that they were hell bound.
    However, as a group, they can get rather nasty. While a Christian leader can routinely admonish fellow believers to treat atheists with dignity and respect, as Christ taught, such a suggestion from one atheist to another erupts in flaming vitriol. The activist secular community considers this as betrayal. Richard Carrier, for example, identifies as an evangelist for atheism. Then we’ve got PZ Myers.
    Where are the atheists who want harmony? Not on FtB’s. There is no such thing as discussion. Only winning the debate for the benefit of onlookers. I have no desire to convert anybody. Yet we are called to rise above the maliciousness.
    OK, this is my first comment. I will read some more of your blog. Thanks for giving me some hope and encouragement. I hope I can be part of the solution.

  2. laursaurus on said:

    This is your only post?
    I wanted to read more!

  3. jaimewise on said:

    Thanks for your response, although I can’t say that I share your observation about how Atheists and Skeptics react to attempts at harmony. I’ve seen a fair amount of acid on both sides, but I’ve also seen a lot of sincerity and good-will. All groups, religious or otherwise, have extremists. It’s my hope to foster discussion among those on all sides (for lack of a better term) who are interested in creating a truly open and equal discussion. It’s also my goal to learn what pre-conceived ideas I have that I’m not aware of. Before there can be any kind of solution, there has to be an admission of a problem. I fully admit that I’ve taken part in the problem myself.

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