Conversations Should Happen in Both Directions

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

Image courtesy of Stockvault.

A few months ago Nate wrote this post regarding some conversations with family that are still practicing Christians. In a nutshell, he pointed out some specific problems he had with the Bible, and he received avoidance in return. Just recently, I had another disappointing interaction with someone who tried convincing me that the Christian deity can (and does) change its mind. When I tried explaining the problems with that position, I was ignored and had the subject changed.

These nonversations happen all too often.
I grew up with them, and they can be incredibly frustrating to the uninitiated and initiated alike. It’s basically a form of the silent treatment, where someone maintains silence in an effort to obtain power. Unfortunately, the people I’ve known who are guilty of it the most used their faith to justify such petty tactics. Whether fairly or unfairly, I tend to notice when it happens in religious discussions the most (although lately I’ve been noticing it in many other contexts).

Behind it all is a simple concept: power. The interaction isn’t important so much as one person must submit to the will of another. When I have conversations regarding others’ beliefs, too frequently I get that impression that the person only wants to score another soul for team Jesus. As soon as people realize it isn’t going to happen, I get excuses or derision (or both).

This lack of common courtesy takes its toll.
This is mainly why I don’t interact with too many Christians regarding their faith anymore. I keep getting reminded that I’m just a category to them, or a target, or simply something that needs to be put in its place. It’s gotten to the point that any time the conversation gets near such a topic, I look for the door myself.

The most disappointing thing about all of this is that it means a lot of conversations I’ve tried to have about faith were never conversations at all. As soon as I state a contrary position (no matter the tact), I become a statistic rather than a person. But if I don’t disclose who I am at all, I can find kindness and maybe even courtesy. I can’t help but find that tragic.

Sometimes as a deconvert I feel like I have a foot in both worlds.
Granted, it also might have something to do with my current living arrangements, but even if I lived elsewhere, I’d still feel that my old faith is still part of who I am. Whenever I see someone misrepresenting atheism, I feel like it’s not something difficult to grasp. I just don’t believe deities exist. That’s it. Case closed.

Since I understand both worlds, I sometimes forget that they can feel like a foreign language. So much misunderstanding abounds, and these misunderstandings can hurt interactions between people. Individuals who might otherwise get along end up getting at each other’s throats because one doesn’t believe the same mystic beliefs as the other.

Conversations need to happen both ways in order to be a conversation. But I really think that until people start admitting when they don’t want a conversation, I will continued to be disappointed.

Advertisements

70 thoughts on “Conversations Should Happen in Both Directions

  1. Thanks for the shoutout!

    I completely agree with you, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about an awful lot since the election and the growing prevalence of “alternative facts.” We can’t get past things like that unless we’re all trying to understand one another’s position, even (especially) when we think our position is obviously the right one. Beware of certainty!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And as the saying goes, if they do not value logic, how much logic can you use to tell them they need it? I feel when talking to a lot of religious people that inside they are saying to themselves ‘aw, he just doesn’t understand, does he?’ when speaking of rationality to someone that feels God is beyond that.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I try to have few conversations about faith. Most of those I have attempted believe by faith and it is quite some work to argue with that. We live and let live and in the meantime have a beer and all are happy.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I see what you mean. I am not so sure wether it is always or even often necessarily deliberate, as such. I come from a culture much outside the religious heritage, and it is often difficult for me to understand the religious perspective. Add to that, that I often discuss these issues not in my native tongue. For example, I have learned the hard way, that when I ask for evidence, or especially when I happen to mention the word witness, the religious person thinks they are called to offer “witness” to their faith. The terms by wich to evaluate reality are so different, that instead of keeping to any logical path of a conversation, they simply go into this storytelling mode, where they give their anecdotal “evidence” or make wild and unsubstantiated assertions, they have learned to be appriciated in their cultural sphere as “witnessing” something holy and precious.

    I do not see people to be obligated to answer questions they do not know the answers to. When you happen to ask a religious person about some ridiculous contradiction – in let’s say a text – that they have been taught from a very early age is holy, innerrant, and beyond question, that it is a virtue to believe this crap without questioning it, and that it is infact not only wrong, but also very dangerous to question it, (or in other words indoctrinated) how do you think they feel they are supposed to answer that? I think it is quite natural, that they retract to their shell, and do not even try to reply, as they feel they may simply assume there is a logical answer, that they do not even need to know. However, there is a bit of hypocricy about such a behaviour, as it is often the very same people who demand, that for example not knowing what caused the universe to exist is a weaker position in comparrison to claiming it must have been their universe creating god entity for wich they have absolutely no other evidence for (exept those anecdotal stories). As if acknowledging not know something, was an admission of defeat in comparrison to an obviously made up explanation with no evidence behind it at all, that at best amounts to a mystery being explained whith even a bigger mystery.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hey Sirius!

    I totally agree that conversations need to go two ways. Fundamentalists do tend to plug their ears when they hear something contrary to their personal views.

    We were having a conversation similar to the one you described above so I wanted to make sure you didn’t think I “ignored you and changed the subject.”

    Our conversation stopped when I asked you the question:
    “If morality is subjective, how do you condemn slavery as immoral?”

    Like

    • Hey JB.

      (1) “I totally agree that conversations need to go two ways.”

      Based on our past interactions, I hope you’ll forgive me for not believing you.

      (2) “Our conversation stopped when I asked you the question:
      [‘]If morality is subjective, how do you condemn slavery as immoral?[‘]”

      Actually, our conversation stopped after you said:

      “(HINT: Your godless mentors were asked this question and refused to answer it. I suggest you squelch your youthful optimism that you’re capable of answering this question and back away slowly.)”

      Did you not want me to back away from the conversation?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No.
        I wanted you to admit the inconsistency of subjective morality. But, knowing that you would refuse,

        Like

      • So you tell me to back away from answering your question, but you meant for me to actually answer the question. Also, if you want me to admit that subjective morality is not consistent, why not just flat out ask?

        Like

      • If you want to admit that subjective morality is not consistent, why make me ask?

        My position was/is that an objective sense of right and wrong is built into human beings. Call it a conscience. Call it ‘natural law’. Call it whatever you want. People ‘know’ what is right even when it runs counter to cultural norms or laws.

        Like

      • I would very much like for you to answer my question I put to you above:

        “[I]f you want me to admit that subjective morality is not consistent, why not just flat out ask?”

        Like

      • I didn’t expect you would answer such a question.

        Do you admit that subjective morality is not consistent?

        Like

      • And now we find ourselves back at the original question…
        “If morality is subjective, how do you condemn slavery?”

        Like

      • Actually, we don’t. You admitted above that this question was aimed at getting me to state that subjective morality is not consistent, which I have done. Since I have obliged you, it’s concerning that you’d just repeat a question you already seemingly got a desired answer to.

        Or are you asking a different question now, desiring a different response?

        Like

      • And you still haven’t answered that question. This is what I expected.
        You’re complaining about people who ignore and change the subject.
        Look in the mirror.

        Like

      • “And you still haven’t answered that question. ”

        That’s false. You said the question you kept repeating was to get me to admit that subjective morality is inconsistent. I gave you the answer you allegedly desired.

        Look, it’s not my fault if you can’t be clear on what you want. I’m not a mind-reader. If you wanted an answer to the question you asked as plain English ought to dictate, you should have said so when I asked you.

        So, my question stands, are you trying to ignore my answer and change the subject to something else?

        Like

      • No. I’m not ignoring your question.
        No. I’m not trying to change the subject.

        If morality is subjective, why do you condemn slavery?

        Like

      • If you were speaking truthfully earlier about wanting to talk about the inconsistency of morality, then yeah, you’re trying to change the subject to something else. And considering that you’ve also admitted to not saying what you mean earlier, I have to ask.

        Look, if you want me to go back to your blog and answer your question differently, I’ll be more than happy to do so. It would be more appropriate than trying to change the topic of conversation here.

        Like

    • I am not sure why subjectivity should preclude us from condemning a practice. Why can’t we just treated like a scientific finding? To the best evidence we have now, owning people and denying them rights of self-determination is immoral. Should new evidence come to light that changes this, perhaps we could have slavery again. I am not sure what such evidence would look like, but the fact that science has something to say about morality and how various behaviors impact human beings and society is important. When slave owners do the measuring they tend to have a positive view of it. But those who are slaves tend to view things differently. That is the value of science is that empirical evidence should agree regardless of who of you are. We also know how the brain works and the fact that someone can be brainwashed into believing they deserve their lot in life, so a careful scientific investigation must also look at how practices indoctrinate someone into a particular world view and limit their rights for self-determination. Given that we evolved in relatively egalitarian tribal communities, when things become too unequal this does tend to lead to great societal dissension.

      It could also be that science may reveal moral truths. And these morals may be at least part and parcel shaped by our biology. For instance as primates we have a strong sense of morality towards caring for our young. Had we evolved from frogs we might just have large litters and leave them all to fend for themselves hoping for the best. So moral truths may also be particular to our species. As we search for practices that increase the value of the human experience we may arrive at those objective and non-subjective morals. That doesn’t imply that there is a divine standard for those morals. Much like scientific laws and principles they are simply difficult to observe and thus it takes time to find them. It took us a long time to discover the first law of thermodynamics or the law of universal gravitation, and even that last one required some tinkering once relativity came along.

      Liked by 2 people

      • “I am not sure why subjectivity should preclude us from condemning a practice. Why can’t we just treated like a scientific finding? ”

        Because the decision to treat morality like a scientific finding is subjective.

        Like

      • Subjective in this context means slave owners and slaves have different opinions about slavery. Neither is more correct.

        Like

      • Ah I see…I guess I was thinking you are talking about subjective in the sense that our understanding of a particular practice being moral or immoral might change.

        So in your sense I guess that’s true. But the fact that we can objectively analyze morality and gather empirical evidence about a practice, then I guess I can agree that morality is objective to the point where I can only draw conclusions about the morality of a practice depending on what data I gather to make my analysis. If I only polled slave owners I would come to different conclusions, then if I polled both the slaves and slave owners. And as I said before that I would probably want to look at other evidence such as examples of other societies and the overall well-being of people who don’t practice slavery, as well as historical data.

        Like

      • Well I might if I wanted to be sure that it wasn’t ethnocentric. Also I would need data to perhaps determine what could be labeled as abuse. There are those that might protect their daughters from much harm but would still practice female genital mutilation. There are some communities who feel that hitting your kid or mentally or emotionally abusing a kid, as a means of disciplining the child is your right as a parent. So I think data is needed. In fact the impact of look at the evidence is what has led to many child protection laws.

        Like

      • Which is why consensus matters. If you come to a different conclusion as some other research that means that more work needs to be done. Just like any scientific endeavor. It’s the reason why we’ve made moral progress over the course of human “civilized” society.

        Like

      • So we’re back now to morality by majority. If people agree that child abuse is moral, it doesn’t matter what your opinion is regarding the data.

        Like

      • How are we back to appeal to popularity? I never started with appeal to popularity. That’s a fallacious argument. Science is about using sound methodology to get consistent results in practices that cause harm to human individuals and societies. This is something that is not subject to popularity. In fact science cares little for the popularity of an attitude. Sorry I am not sure where at all I send that popularity was a means for determining morality.

        Like

      • I didn’t use the word popularity.
        You used the word “consensus” and apparently that means something different to you than “the majority view”.

        Like

      • You used the word majority. Majority is definitely different than scientific consensus, which is a consistent result obtained by many people conducted studies with similar conclusions, and having those studies anonymously peer-reviewed. Even scientific consensus can be overturned upon the discovery of unknown relevant information to the problem. Now you implied that the majority gets to determine what immoral regardless of my conclusions based on the data. That isn’t at all what I said. Sorry if that was unclear.

        Like

      • Not sure how you arrived at that. I assumed you were using the dictionary definition of subjective: based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions

        In that case, no it’s not subjective as I’ve already indicated that we can determine morality through empiricism and not personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

        Like

      • “as I’ve already indicated that we can determine morality through empiricism and not personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.”

        Yes, you said that. But you didn’t mention how we might do that.

        Like

      • You don’t know how you can collect data on how practices harm individuals or societies? LOL I don’t think harm is that hard to determine how to measure. There are plenty of studies out there that demonstrate how people are being harmed by various practices. We do it all the time. It’s one of the bases for law and government, which has also evolved over time. Sorry I’m not going to do the research for you. It’s widely available.

        Like

      • LOL! I know how data is collected!

        What I don’t know is how you empirically measure ‘harm’ or ‘well being’. I don’t expect you to do the research for me. I’ve already done a fair amount of it. That’s why I’m suspicious of your answers.

        I’ll keep going though! Ever hopeful that I’ll discover whatever mathematical formula you’re using to parse the data and objectively know that child abuse is wrong. I’m told it’s widely available.

        Like

      • “Which is why I’m suspicious of your answers.”
        I mean, you being a scientist, Swarn, and Branyan being a slapstick comedian(sic) and all. ..

        Like

      • It could happen, I hope not, but there was that time when the majority considered slavery was moral. I’m glad that was overturned, the child abuse thing probably would be too. Though I doubt it would ever become a majority opinion so I won’t fret about it myself.

        Like

      • I see. Well he’s done a good job. lol Thanks. Yeah, he wasn’t really providing any evidence that morality is fixed by some higher power that’s for sure.

        Like

  6. JB, why didn’t you sic your daughter on SB? That’s what you do with most other posters.. .
    And you forgot part of your above phrase. I’ll fix it for you:
    “Fundamentalists – like ME – tend to plug their ears when they hear something contrary to their personal views.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amanda is locked in the basement. That’s where females in my family are kept until I command them to do my bidding.

      My fundamentalist’s ears are wide open! That’s why I asked the question of the host.
      You should try and answer the question. I’m ready! Be contrary to my personal views!

      Like

      • My fundamentalist’s ears are wide open!

        At last, a point we can all agree on. In fact ,so open one can see right through.

        Were you aware, Branyan that in my country the bible was cited as justification for apartheid?
        Gotta love them Christians, right?

        Like

      • I am surprised he is gallivanting outside his sty. amanda has always suggested he doesn’t venture onto atheist blogs.
        I think it may have something to do with truth and facts, and evidence and honesty, and integrity – these being some sort of Kryptonite to him. And also not being seen in ‘public’ with his red underpants over his running tights.
        Just a thought.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Pingback: On morality. Again | Random thoughts

  8. John Branyan says:
    “Of course! The truth is in the data.
    Do you need data to decide about child abuse too?”

    Actually, yes we do. 100 years ago members of various religions were perfectly happy to marry off their children. Especially young girls. Today we’d consider that child abuse. The difference is we’ve developed thought, reasoning and with it our capability for empathy and morality.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Just imagine that there are still patriarchal religious sects that guard their daughter’s virginity like it was a commodity, Mr. M. And further imagine that those same young women must get married in their teenage years because they ‘can’t wait’. . . Sick, eh?

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Unfortunately that hasn’t ended in many parts of the US,

    Branyan’s daughter, gleefully informs the world she is second-in-command and happy to answer to her (presumably) commander in chief hubby.
    I suspect this is the Christian way, yes?

    Like

  10. Certainly for the homeschooling, purity-ring, patriarchal, fundagelical crowd. Very rigid — but ‘god-ordained’, you understand! — roles for women.

    Like

  11. “Hey Swarn,

    JB’s trolling for Jesus here. You’re not going to get a straight answer from him. He’s trying to drag this thread off-topic.”

    So much for ‘two-way communication’, eh? Apparently, trolling for Jesus doesn’t require mentioning Jesus! Why didn’t you just tell me you can read minds? Then I would have known better than to try ‘dragging the thread off-topic’.

    I’ll leave you and Swarn alone to congratulate each on your decisive philosophical victory!

    Like

    • JB, don’t get bitter when people call you out for your behavior. It’s juvenile.

      Look, the only reason why I haven’t had to warn you about my rules for commenting is that your behavior here in and of itself is a shining example of what I was talking about in my post. I should probably congratulate you on finding a loophole to troll my blog.

      That said, thank you for not making a liar out of me. I greatly appreciate that.

      Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s