I did an interview with Eve Tushnet (a fellow Patheos blogger and a friend from college debate) over at Catholic Lane. Now that I’m reading it, it’s a little embarrassing how many times Eve had to use brackets to translate a gesture or noise I was making into, y’know, words. (Meanwhile, at rationality camp, I was trying to help someone correct an error in a math question by saying “No, no, you need to throw up a [holds up forearms, perfectly parallel and makes a clicking noise] which, shockingly, the person at the board did not immediately realize meant “Put absolute value bars around the expression.”)
So fair warning that any lacuna and weird conceptual leaps are way more my fault than the result of Eve’s condensing. I had a lot of fun in our chat, because I know Eve well and I could skip right to the weirder, more interesting ideas instead of spending so much time on background. So here’s a sampling from the article:
ET: How did the experience of writing a blog about atheism affect your conversion?
LL: It was interesting for me to see, in writing and in speeches, how much my language was shifting toward the other team. One example was that in some of the discussion after Osama Bin Laden was assassinated I said, I’m glad he can’t hurt people, but it seems like one of the worst things is that he didn’t get better and I don’t see any way he could have. And that’s very A Wrinkle in Time [another L'Engle novel], where IT still needs to be loved even if Meg isn’t the one capable of loving IT. [Another example is] whether it’s wrong to hate people even if you don’t do anything to harm them. Is there anything wrong with that? And I said yes, you’re callousing your soul. And they said, “Where do you get off using the word ‘soul’?” And I said, “It’s a metaphor—lay off!”
ET: What do Catholics need to know about atheists?
LL: A lot of people who might make what is a philosophically-useful attack have made it in stupid ways before. You should have a good idea of what arguments atheists usually encounter. Because a lot of [good arguments] look like echoes of bad arguments they have heard before. It’s on you to do the groundwork of saying something that sounds new and is new. “What is the grounding of your morals?” [can easily be presented so it sounds too much like] “Atheists are immoral.”
If you haven’t, read some of the atheist blogs or books. Otherwise it’s really easy to use “dog whistles” that make it hard for someone to listen to you because the last person who used that phrase was dumb or nasty. It’s good to give the benefit of the doubt but you don’t always have the time. So it’s more your job to make it easier for people to listen to you than it is their job to be patient with everyone.