“I like to ask: What is my opponent in love with?”

Ireland interview

Back when I was in Ireland, giving a talk on ways to have better fights about religion, I did a short interview with a local news outlet, and I've just found the video.  In our conversation, I talk a little about my own conversion, and why my approach to argument resembles Ender's empathetic approach to a fight: "In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand … [Read more...]

Avoiding Glib Grace-Notes in Advent

OH-I-SEE (from Lifeprint)

Yesterday I talked about trying to find an Advent discipline that wasn't just hard-for-the-sake-of-hard, but that would form my conscience in some way.Here's my attempt: I'm trying to undertake a conversational fast this Advent season.  I want to avoid using any one-liners or other kinds of glancing, meant-to-be funny comments in conversation.It's not that I want to make Advent humor-free -- I'd still be allowed to tell a funny story or an actual joke -- I'm looking to prune the comments … [Read more...]

And You Shall Know the Free Thinkers By Their Cussing?

hands on ears

Last week, an atheist friend of mine posted a link to Mark Oppenheimer's feature article on misogyny in the atheist movement, sharing a quote and a comment: "Jillette embodies that side of the freethought movement that prizes absolute free speech above feelings."In other words, the only side that enables free thought, period. The Oppenheimer article had written up several instances of alleged sexual abuse or harassment, but Penn Jillette had wound up included in the piece because he … [Read more...]

My turn to play #mencallmethings


After a little more than four years of blogging, last night is the first time I got called a c-word online.  And then it happened again.  And then again. What provoked this?  These two tweets: Not going back to the convenience store on the corner after clerk aggressively asked for my number (but not my name) #YesAllWomen I really don't like that sketchy clerks, etc can de facto bar me from places, since it's imprudent to return & keep saying no #YesAllWomen It was medium-unpleasant en … [Read more...]

Fixing Fights in Ireland

irish catholic talk

I had a great time speaking at the offices of The Irish Catholic this past week on tactics for having better fights about religion.  It also wound up being written up for The Irish Times by Breda O'Brien.  The video is now up on iCatholic.ie, plus, I've embedded it below:Often, here on the blog, I talk mostly about tactics for online fights, but, during the talk and the Q&A, more of the focus was on engineering productive conversations between small groups or even pairs of people, rat … [Read more...]

Trigger Warnings and Coal Mine Canaries


In discussion of trigger warnings  (particularly when requested by college students), I've seen a fair amount of think pieces suggest that this is more evidence that young'uns have gone soft.  It's not quite "When I was your age, I walked uphill both ways, five miles, through a sea of graphically dismembered bodies marked with racial slurs, and it made me stronger!" but there's a certain family resemblance.  There just seems to be a suspicion that attaches itself to people complaining that the st … [Read more...]

False Friends and Tone Policing

ear trumpet

When I went on a two-week exchange trip to China, it was clear the cultural briefing was informed by whatever mistakes or misunderstandings had occurred on previous trips, recorded and relayed to us so that we wouldn't think, for example, that our host siblings were hitting on us if they took our hands while we were walking.But the most memorable warning had to do with Mandarin filler words.  While English speakers cover gaps with "uh" "um" "ah" and so forth, the equivalent filler words in … [Read more...]