What Do You Do If You Are Fed Up With the Debate?

I think a lot of people, me included, are tired of the worn out debate between believers and nonbelievers. Surfing the blogs on the Internet you see articles like this:

I read an interesting article in Newsweek this week. “Is God Real?”, which is basically a debate from America’s favorite Evangelical pastor Rick Warren and well known Author and Atheist Sam Harris (I don’t know much about him).

The debate was interesting for a while, but then I grew tired of it. Honestly I’m tired of all the debates that follow along these lines pitting Christians vs. Atheist arguing about truth, the existence of God, evolution, creationism, etc…

Can’t we just except the fact that we disagree, and that’s ok because everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Both sides are so polarized in their views, their minds are closed, there’s no real dialogue taking place on the issues, just rhetoric. I don’t think this approach is helping either side (From A Pilgrim’s Way)

I agree with the Pilgrim on this one!

From The Fire Sermon blog we get this:

There is an interesting debate going on in epistemology right now. It is called the epistemology of disagreement. The question is, “can people reasonably disagree?” This question is not whether we should be tolerant or not, but how to evaluate our own beliefs in the midst of dissenting views.

The question isn’t whether people who are reasonable in general can have disagreements. It is a question of whether or not people, equally intelligent, can both be reasonable and come to opposite conclusions, when they are presented with the same evidence….

From my reading of the articles there are four possible positions.

(1) Stick to your guns– You continue to think you are right and your peer is wrong. This claim usually entails that the person you disagree with is still “missing something” regarding the evidence in question.

(2) Compromise – You give in a little. You alter your beliefs such that you move closer to that of your peer. As David Christensen says, “you split the difference.” This view requires that you see disagreement as new evidence against your position.

(3) Suspend Judgment – You take a skeptical stance toward your previous position. This doesn’t mean that you are skeptical generally, but that you withhold assent or dissent when your peers disagree.

(4) Submit – You give up your own position entirely and switch to your peer’s. I must say that no one believes this, but I wanted to include all the possible options.

So which option do you think is the best? When confronted with people who are equally intelligent and believe conflicting things, what should be the response? I have not made up my mind on this one, but I am leaning toward either (1) or (3). I am just not good at compromise, good thing I’m a philosopher and not a politician.

And finally, we have those who just want the other side to go away, as Sam Harris does:

Where I think we disagree is on the nature of faith itself. I think that faith is, in principle, in conflict with reason (and, therefore, that religion is necessarily in conflict with science), while you do not. Perhaps I should acknowledge at the outset that people use the term “faith” in a variety of ways. My use of the word is meant to capture belief in specific religious propositions without sufficient evidence-prayer can heal the sick, there is a supreme Being listening to our thoughts, we will be reunited with our loved ones after death, etc. I am not criticizing faith as a positive attitude in the face of uncertainty, of the sort indicated by phrases like, “have faith in yourself.” There’s nothing wrong with that type of “faith.”

Given my view of faith, I think that religious “moderation” is basically an elaborate exercise in self-deception, while you seem to think it is a legitimate and intellectually defensible alternative to fundamentalism.

Assuming I’ve got that about right, I propose that in my next post, I launch into a brief diatribe about religious moderation, and then you can respond any way you see fit. If I have misconstrued any of your views above, please sort things out for me.

All the best,

Sam

What I find fascinating is that men are doing most of this obsessive debating about religion. And, if women are chiming in, I can find no evidence of it except for comments here and there on men’s blogs. The blogs written by women that I frequent just get down to the business of women’s justice and write off religion as irrelevant to the needs of society, justice, and human rights. I tend to agree with them. While it is always a good thing to try to show people that some of their arguments for the existence of God and the veracity of the bible are not justifiable, engaging those fanatical about faith is really a No-Win situation. Religious adherents simply aren’t open to other viewpoints. It’s admirable to want to help them see reason, but sometimes it’s like butting your head up against a wall. You only end up hurting your head.

You see, one will EVER answer the question of whether God (or gods) exists. No one CAN answer that question, which is why debate about God’s existence is stupid and has been raging for thousands of years. What you can reasonably debate is whether 2000+ year old texts have any relevance to 21st century life. We can reasonably debate whether religion offers any viable and proven alternatives to hunger, poverty, domestic violence, or civil justice. If not, then Christian apologetics is simply a waste of time.

I want to add a fifth possible position to The Fire Sermon’s list:

  1. Agree to disagree and go your separate ways before hurt feelings and possibly violence ensues. (Such violence usually seems to come from the religious side and especially when they are disagreed with, i.e. abortion clinic bombings, beatings of gay individuals, clitoridectomies, wife beatings for those women who don’t submit, bombings of another countries’ embassies and buildings, beheadings, child abuse in the form of corporal punishment, stoning of adulterers, shunning from communities, murdering those who cross imaginary country boundaries mandated by “God,” etc.).

I think, agreeing to disagree is the best possible solution for all concerned. Now I’m talking about reasonable people who agree to disagree, not those who refuse to hear anyone else’s side of things. That’s not agreeing, that’s just stubborn.

So, can anyone else come up with a good solution that doesn’t involve name-calling, violence, condescension, and rudeness?

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2 thoughts on “What Do You Do If You Are Fed Up With the Debate?

  1. “What you can reasonably debate is whether 2000+ year old texts have any relevance to 21st century life. We can reasonably debate whether religion offers any viable and proven alternatives to hunger, poverty, domestic violence, or civil justice. If not, then Christian apologetics is simply a waste of time.”

    I agree with your statement. Maybe the debate of is God real should be more like is Christianity real? If it is real, and Christians are following the way of Jesus, then there should be evidence in areas like hunger, poverty, domestic violence, or civil justice. If there’s no evidence in those areas, then the words of the Bible, the doctrines of the church, and everything else “christian” is meaningless.

  2. Rich,

    I agree. I think my frustration lies with a church that is so much about navel gazing and not enough about real solutions for real people. I don’t think people care one wit about heaven or hell; if they are “saved” from or to such places if they are starving, beaten, or in situations far worse than any doctrine can conjure up.

    Thanks for visiting! 🙂

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