I’ve been involved in a discussion today about the behaviour of people, especially atheists in online debates (read: Twitter) and it has certainly given me food for thought.
We can, us atheists, be less than charming in our dealings with believers, regardless of how they have been with us. And I include myself in that, having gone for the throat on more than one occasion when in retrospect, I have realised that my rabid response was something of an over reaction.
Even people who I count as friends have not been spared my misplaced wrath, as evidenced by this post discussing a theist chum. If you knew her like I do, you would agree that the post was a little on the harsh side. But I won’t be changing it. Not because I still completely agree with it, I don’t. But because it stands as testament to my own militant folly.
A point raised by @NancyDrewPI was how atheists are equally guilty of jumping in to a debate and turning it into an argument of mud slinging and ad hom attacks, purely by resorting to ridiculous arguments or starting out with an ad hom.
That really helps, guys. No really. It is such a joy to watch our carefully worded debating points that are causing our opponent to begin to question their position dissolve in a sea of, “YOU THEISTS ARE SO STOOPID!!!”, “Do you live in your mum’s basement?”
Question: Do you know what that does?
Answer: Ruins any chance of adding another individual to the steadily growing ranks of atheism. What you’ll have instead is a trench dug as the previously wavering theist takes umbrage and resists any further attempts to change their mind.
Well done, warrior of the godless hordes. We can put this one in the fail column.
All I can say here is carrot and stick.
Not only can we be less than tactful when we ‘debate’ believers, we can also be less than rational in our dealings with each other!
Godless Mom pointed out some evidence leading to the conclusion that people read the headline, but not the supporting article. and she gave an example. She tweeted a link to this article, entitled Overcoming Sin With The One Minute Jeebot, in which she lambasted a god botherer for his ridiculous opinions.
Her tweet elicited this response:
Yes, we know sin’s not real, which was the point of the article, if only you had read it, you would’ve known that… But you didn’t, did you?
Seems to me, that if atheism had a guide book, it would run something like this:
- Examine the evidence.
- Formulate opinion based on evidence.
- As new evidence is discovered, rinse and repeat.
It’s hardly rocket science.
This individual has gone straight to step two and clearly broke the unwritten rule of atheism. He didn’t bother looking at the evidence.
If we, as atheists, who pride ourselves on critical thinking and intelligent examination of the available information are unable to follow such basic guidelines, how can we declare our position on the moral high ground when we do exactly the same thing that we bemoan of theists!
It seems to me, that the best thing we can do is remain calm in our dealings with theists, regardless of how they are treating us.
Ignore ad homs, but simply reply with good grace. Base our arguments on fact, reason and rational thought. By all means point out #ThingsTheGodlySay, but don’t respond in kind.
After all, we can then truly take the moral high ground and surely that can only speed up the deconversion of otherwise reasonable people who hold a single unreasonable belief.