Different blogs fill different niches, and this is important and much needed. I recently received an email from a theist reader expressing concern that now that my blog has moved to FreeThought Blogs it will no longer be a place where friendly dialogue between theists and atheists can take place. In response to her concerns, I’m going to elaborate here for a moment, especially for new readers, on the niche I try to fill with my blog.
Even as I have always been passionate in what I write, I have also always tried to show respect and aim to promote understanding. I feel like my past experiences – religious right, antifeminist, evangelical Christian – and my current views – progressive feminist atheist - give me some interesting insight. I see a terrible amount of misunderstanding and lack of ability to communicate in this divided world. One thing I try to do on my blog is explain atheism, feminism, and progressivism to those on the right and evangelicalism, antifeminism, and the religious right to those on the left. This doesn’t mean I don’t take a side – you better believe I do! – but rather that I see more value in promoting understanding than in widening the divide.
Lest you think this means I’m soft on religion, understand that I am very much an atheist and see problems with religion in general (especially the lack of a reality check). Also, understand that I have been harmed by religion more than most. I understand the destruction religion can, and does, cause. It’s just that I have personally found that respectful dialogue can be an extremely productive. Let me share a quick anecdote from my own life to illustrate why I have personally adopted this approach.
My deconversion started with a skeptic friend. He was studying science, and I was convinced I could convert him to young earth creationism. I spent hours and months trying to do so. He always responded with understanding and respect, carefully and gently showing me the problems with my arguments or my sources. He never once resorted to ridicule, and if he had, it would have backfired. I wouldn’t have listened. It was his continuous and respectful presence, showing me the problems with my beliefs without every ridiculing me or calling me stupid, that kept me there arguing and, ultimately, listening. After months and months and months of this, I was able to admit to myself that I had been wrong, and to admit that to him as well. Once again, no gloating, no “I told you so,” nothing but kindness and respect. This was the start of my journey of questions.
This is not to say that I pander to religion. I don’t. It doesn’t mean I think belief in imaginary supernatural beings is just as valid as any other belief. I don’t. It doesn’t mean I think belief in young earth creationism is rational, or that believing humans have immortal souls is anything less than silly and extremely problematic. I don’t. Furthermore, I absolutely do see a place for ridicule of religion. For some people, that approach actually is the most effective. It’s just that that place isn’t here here and that person isn’t me. This is why I think it’s good that there are a variety of different approaches and a diversity of different blogs, each with their own style and niche.
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that I think the best comment threads are those that focus on discussion rather than simple one-liners. I love seeing the insight everyone has on a wide variety of topics. I love seeing people disagree and explain their disagreement rationally. I think this sort of conversation can be very productive, to all involved, and it is this sort of conversation I want to see here. And thankfully, I’ve already seen some of it here.
Thank you all for your understanding, and for the warm welcome!
Note: This entry has been edited in response to concerns from some commenters, and in response to some lack of clarity in the original post. I also want to be clear that I have never had any problems with FreeThought Blogs or with how other bloggers here run their blogs. I think a diversity of approaches is a good thing, and I’d like to think that my blog contributes to that diversity.