I was looking at some of the email you receive on your site and post up. Of all the things you get the most though, nothing makes me more of a misanthrope then when people insist on attacking you personally for your beliefs. All you seem to want to do it instill a sense of questioning what we are told. Truth based upon logic as opposed to faith. I often try to have conversations with people of faith, Atheists, and all those that fall in between and a lot of people dodge talking about religion. One of the most open minded conversations I had was with a Catholic, they didn’t damn me to hell or anything but they truely had the intent to listen to me as well as answer questions I had about their religion.
The thing that stands out most to me is an answer I got. I do not remember the question I posed to them but the answer was, “I don’t know, I guess I never really thought about it.” Thinking is one of the great things about being human, why would something so giant as religion just be a thing they do out of habit? Most of the other Atheists I know are really closed minded about their views though, which is a shame. I can’t talk to them without getting a “LOL Religion sux.” Unfortunatly most of the internet is the same way, just a giant flame war between those that believe, and those that don’t.
To close I would like to ask you some questions. I know that you must have dealt with a good share of hateful or ignorant people, from both sides, have you found anyway that would make them more open minded towards each other? For the second questions I just want to hear your response to one of my favorite quotes by a greek philosopher, Epicurus.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
You are right that my big goal is to get people to think about their own beliefs. I don’t even mind faith if there is logic behind it (which sounds like an oxymoron, but I don’t think it is).
I agree with you when you are puzzled about people not thinking about some of the biggest questions of reality and morality. There are so many people who say they believe in God but then treat God like He’s not that big a deal. I mean, I don’t understand how a religious person can even consider breaking one of the Ten Commandments when they supposedly think that these rules were handed down by the creator of the universe, a being with the power to torture them forever if they are not deemed worthy.
I also agree that there are too many “flame warriors” and not enough “thought warriors.” Atheists who thoughtlessly or rudely bash religion embarrass me to no end. I don’t want to be associated with such people. Unfortunately, that’s the only kind of atheist a lot of people see, and it makes my job a lot harder.
To answer your first question, the best way I’ve found to get people to treat each other better is to get them to see things from the other person’s perspective. It’s difficult and it’s time consuming if you want to do it right, but it can work very well. I find that many people — both atheists and theists — have no idea how to think outside their own context. This is why you get religious people asking “Why don’t you just try believing in God?” and atheists saying “How can you believe in something that makes no sense?”
My response to Epicurus would be, “Let’s start by defining all those terms.” When it comes to topics like this, I find that many people can discuss them endlessly without really stopping to think if they know what they’re talking about. Try asking a theist what “good” means. You might be surprised at the variety of answers you get.
In: Dealing with religious folks, Defining god