Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The pride is a monkey on my back. But a cute monkey.

I fully admit that I could have a bias in writing this particular post, as I fall in the liberal Christian/agnostic side of things, rather than the conservative/fundamentalist side, and thus I will see more things "wrong" with the conservative side than I will with the side I favor.

But I'm noticing in blogs I've peeked in on that a lot of debates tend to descend to an attack on a person's character. For instance, a fundamentalist will make a claim about God or the Bible. I'll rebut it, either using "logic" (as in, if we say that God is just, do the actions attributed to Him match the definition of justice?) or possibly a Bible verse that I feel disagrees with the position. The fundamentalist may respond in kind, but more often than not, it debate inevitably ends on the fundamentalist telling the liberal/agnostic/atheist to lose the sense of pride, of being unwilling to submit to God, of loving one's sin too much, and that is why the non-fundamentalist is not exactly like the fundamentalist.

My immediate reaction is usually one of frustration, because rather than stick to defending the claims, we go on the ad hominem route. How is the pride/love of sin at all relevant to discussing the claims made by both parties?

Second, the inability to divide the fundamentalist and God. Now, I understand that the fundamentalist feels that s/he is following the will of God. But to the other side, they are not disagreeing with God. They are disagreeing with what the fundamentalist has *claimed* about God. What comes across is disagreeing with the fundamentalist is the same as disagreeing with God, which is incredibly arrogant.

Third, the inability for the fundamentalist to put him/herself in another's shoes. I can understand someone who honestly feels that all non-Christians are misguided, blinded fools just stumbling their way to hell. I get that. But I truly don't think they can consider things from the viewpoint of another, since the points themselves aren't refuted. They never say "I can understand why you have a legitimate disagreement with this." No, it's a matter of the non-fundamentalist willfully suppressing the truth, or wanting to elevate him/herself over God, or something else like that.

How can a dialogue possibly go forward after that?

19 comments:

Andrew said...

Great points... I really wish I had been blogging much, much earlier... or keeping a journal. I used to be a pretty good fundamentalist, but I cannot really recall what turned me around overall. I guess it was just little shifts here and there.

That is why I don't engage with fundamentalists all too much. They are not discussing anything... they are just pontificating. Any point I make can simply be turned around in their minds to bolster their argument.

If there is when thing I have gotten better at over the years, it is not investing myself emotionally in a discussion with a fundamentalist. It is of no benefit to me, and they often enjoy the fighting... so I just don't go there.

BTW, are you a Michigander? (I am a former)

River said...

I'll just ditto Andrew's comment. I don't have the desire to engage anymore. I read, shake my head silently, and move on.

I wasn't always this way though. It took me a long time to stop debating. A very long time.

Lorena said...

Actually, like the others, I dislike arguing with fundys. Unfortunately, my writing pokes them where it hurts, and they want to argue with me.

I don't like it because there is no point having discussions with a person who will always "be" right no matter what you say.

Admittedly, it is the same with me. If I am arguing with a Christian, I think I am right, and he's wrong. Period.

However, there is a fundamental difference between me and the Christian: I have been where he/she is. He/she hasn't been where I am today.

So basically, it isn't that I believe I know all things. It is that I know all the Christian theories. Fundys DO NOT have anything NEW to say. NOTHING.

atimetorend said...

I agree, if the fundamentalist is not willing to loosen their definitions a bit there isn't the possiblity of real dialog. I have found that with patience, fundamentalists are able to demonstrate flexibility on those points to allow dialog, but in the Internet world that seems unlikely.

Like Andrew commented above, it takes little shifts here and there. Maybe if things are said right, it is like the evangelists "little seeds" planted in the soil, that someone else will one day have the joy of sowing by experiencing real dialog with them... :^)

Sarge said...

I don't argue, if someone asks me I simply state my, well, 'non-credo', I guess you'd call it. Don't believe in it, never have, never will, the evidence is against it.

Has anyone else noticed how often the "Twice Born" in an argument seem to think that one's mere statement of non-belief is an attempt to make THEM not believe?

Like my pal, Tom Jefferson, I don't care if someone has one deity or twenty as long as it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, but it isn't as simple as that, is it?

I admit, they don't have anything to say that I have any interest in, and their "God Said It, I Believe It, That's The End Of It" mentallity vitiates anything like dialog, so what's to discuss between us on religion?

The problem comes, at least with some fundies, in the area of "Something Has To Be Done..."

One must be convicted of one's sin at the very least. They are angry, regard us as "alien other".

I have heard some rather drastic things proposed, and there is no dialogue possible, a picked pocket and broken leg would be the least of it, and all for the unbeliever to "recieve" the message. No such thing as dialogue.

Sarge said...

I've noticed, all my life, that "pride" is usually attacked, and hit hard.

The fact that I don't have a deity seems to be arrogance of the first, worst order.

OneSmallStep said...

Andrew,

**Any point I make can simply be turned around in their minds to bolster their argument.**

yes. Even if it's pointed out that their behavior won't win the non-Christians to them, because it's so offensive. That just proves to them that they're right, because "The Gospel is offensive."

And I'm a Michigander -- born and still raising.

OneSmallStep said...

River,

**I wasn't always this way though. It took me a long time to stop debating. A very long time.**

Which tells me I still have a while to go.

OneSmallStep said...

Lorena,

**Admittedly, it is the same with me. If I am arguing with a Christian, I think I am right, and he's wrong. Period.**

But aren't you at least open to the possibility of being wrong? Maybe not so much in your case, as you've been there. But what I see from fundamentalists is the inability to critique their arguments, or to understand how someone could look at their argument and not find it convincing.

OneSmallStep said...

Atimetorend,

**Maybe if things are said right, it is like the evangelists "little seeds" planted in the soil, that someone else will one day have the joy of sowing by experiencing real dialog with them...**

It would depend on the point of the real dialogue. If it's just to get them to understand the other side, then I'm okay with that. If the dialogue is to get them to think exactly like me, then I would (hopefully) shy away from that, as it comes across too much as treating people like projects -- and that's how I see too many fundamentalists treating non-Christians.

OneSmallStep said...

Sarge,

**The fact that I don't have a deity seems to be arrogance of the first, worst order.**

Which I actually find hilarious, because if I look at Christianity from a purely clincial standpoint, it's saying that this "Guy" who created the entire universe -- the *universe --* mind you, and angels and Satan, considers humanity so important that He dies for them and has a plan for every little detail of their life -- such as helping them get close parking spots.

And that's not an arrogant viewpoint? The creator of the whole universe organizes our parking spots?

the chaplain said...

Unfortunately, fundamentalism, by its very nature is not amenable to open-mindedness. I was never a fundy, but I was a pretty conservative evangelical Christian once upon a time. I know how it feels to "know" that I'm right and the poor sinner to whom I'm witnessing is just blind to her/his fate.

I'll engage with fundies on my blog (and in person, if the circumstances are right) but I don't expect them to really see my point of view. Some of them say very proudly that their intention in coming to our blogs is to evangelize, not dialog. They're free to evangelize on my blog, but I won't shield them from the snide reactions of my readers (and I occasionally get a bit snide with them myself, depending on what they say).

Long comment short, you're right - there is little potential for dialog with fundies if one doesn't agree with them already.

societyvs said...

I liek arguing with fundies - maybe it's just me - but I just have to be reminded how the other 1/2 thinks (I don't hang around a single church person).

And like you OSS, I have had my character attacked over and over - deemed going to hell - etc. But I don't let them get away with it - I resound back on them some of the things you mention - logically. I point out it's great weakness - a character attack is a way to make the other side seem 'right' without any proof they are. It's a form of pride - they don't admit that - but it's obvious.

And I will continue to debate the fundie because they sharpen my points of view and make me look deeper into what it is I am saying. I get a lot of flack over it - but what if the fundie needs some help in their thinking as well? Are we going to just leave them?

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**And like you OSS, I have had my character attacked over and over - deemed going to hell**

Actually, it was one of your encounters with this that sparked my post.

**what if the fundie needs some help in their thinking as well? Are we going to just leave them?**

For me, it's not a matter of helping or leaving anyone, it's a matter of how the two sides approach the debate. One side approaches it with the intent to evaluate the claim. The other is dead-certain in the claim, and I don't even think they're using it as a matter of not engaging the argument, I think they sincerely believe that all the non-fundamentalists are rejecting God out of pride or just need to let something go and then will see the truth. I see no way to cut through that.

MOI said...

I have come to realize that the reason these arguments devolve into name calling is because the fundamentalist cannot see anything wrong with his/her argument so therefore, they reason, there must be something fundamentally wrong with the person. Then the argument moves to personal reasons why you or I wouldn't accept their argument. They cannot see any flaws in their position. They are blind to it, just as they believe we are blind to their arguments. I too cannot remember what specifically led me to start questioning. I think it was the field of missions and Romans. There's a verse where Paul says it would have been better that no one heard the Gospel than to know it and turn against it. I then wondered, then why tell all the poor "ignorant" savages about God if God would be more merciful if they didn't know? What would be the point of missions. Once the chink in the wall started, it was easy to find other problems with the bible and fundamentalist thinking. Anyway, that's my two cents. :-)

atimetorend said...

"I have come to realize that the reason these arguments devolve into name calling is because the fundamentalist cannot see anything wrong with his/her argument so therefore, they reason, there must be something fundamentally wrong with the person."

I think you make a great point there because that's where it becomes about questioning a person's character rather than respecting what they have come to believe. I also wonder if it goes a step further than that, not just that the fundamentalist cannot see flaws in their position, but they have deliberately placed themselves in a position where they refuse to consider if there are any flaws in their argument.

MOI said...

atimetorend,

Oh, you are so right. They are in a position where they refuse to consider. They are warned not to let even a hint of doubt invade their consciousness. The vigilance required to be so closed off was too much for me to sustain. I relented, and "let the devil in!" The rest is history. :-)

OneSmallStep said...

MOI,

**because the fundamentalist cannot see anything wrong with his/her argument so therefore, they reason, **

Possibly because they feel the only way they have their argument in the first place is because God intervened? This is the same group that says faith is a gift from God, and you only get the arguments if God graces you with the understanding. So the fact that we don't get the argument means that we haven't been graced by God, and thus you're wrong, period.

MOI said...

OSS,
That's also a good point. Doesn't it say in Corinthians that we cannot understand the wisdom of God if we don't have the Spirit. Which begs the question about those of us who became Christians, received the Spirit, and still question. We can say that God's Spirit is enlightening us into a new understanding couldn't we? Then it's a question of whose understanding is "correct." Not to sound officious, but if God was any kind of God, the Divine would be inclusive rather than exclusive. That's the test for me. IMHO.