Saturday, January 27, 2007

An appeal to reason and better natures.

The following was written by Matt D., co-host of the NonProphets and Atheist Experience.

On today's episode of The Non-Prophets, we discussed the protracted drama occuring on this blog. I spun off into a rant which, while earnest and sincere, was intentended to goad William into responding. Reflecting on this particular issue, I'm of the opinion that my actions were wrong - and I may have inadvertenly been a poor representative of atheists, in general. My comments may have even confirmed some of the misconceptions that promote an anti-atheist bias and, to top it all off, William appears to have graduated from 'annoying' to 'near-stalker'.

I realized the problem while the show was still on the air and attempted to correct the situation by suggesting a much more reasonable and productive course of action. It's hard to put the genie back in the bottle and the appeal to reason and honest debate may have been too little, too late.

At least one of our listeners sent an immediate e-mail to point this out, and suggested that we missed a golden opportunity, as not everyone listening was necessarily aware of the comments William had made and the reasoned responses we'd already attempted to give. Some of the people listening may have been from William's congregation and rather than provide the same, intelligent, reasonable points that had been made at this blog, we appeared to be simply taunting a Baptist preacher.

Someone hearing those comments without knowing the back story would surely think that we were ranting - rather than simply expressing frustration at the repeated failure to have any sort of reasonable discourse with this particular individual. It's unreasonable to expect everyone to sift through the comments and responses posted here in order to gain a proper context and several people have pointed out that it should have been a clear from the outset that reasonable dialog wasn't possible. Perhaps it would have been better to highlight some of his comments and provide the sound, logical responses that had been offered.

I do stand by the points behind the statements I made on the program, but the tone was born of frustration and may have appeared unreasonable. For that, I apologize.

Some of the folks posting here, either following my lead or acting on behalf of their own frustrations (which I feel are entirely justified) have, like myself, given in to the temptation to respond with polemics or name-calling. While I don't feel any obligation to show respect to religious beliefs, challenging beliefs in a reasonable manner would seem preferable to emotional attacks - even when other means have failed. There's a marked difference between ridicule and rudeness.

Somehow, the comments and actions of a single individual have managed to overshadow the reason we were all drawn to this blog in the first place - the compassion and sagacity of a young lady who simply wanted to point out that what may appear to be an innocent bias to one, may be viewed as divisive and inconsiderate to others. I read the original essay on the program in order to make this point, and people of a variety of beliefs were able to connect with the sentiments expressed. That's something that shouldn't be overlooked.

(My debate offer is still open, though I think it's unlikely that William will ever take advanatage of that opportunity. The offer is also extended to any other theist who feels that there are sound, rational justifications for their beliefs.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post folks,

For me it demonstrates one of the great benefits of a rational approach to the world: the ability to modify ones views when faced with the need to do so.

A. P. said...

Some of the people listening may have been from William's congregation and rather than provide the same, intelligent, reasonable points that had been made at this blog, we appeared to be simply taunting a Baptist preacher.

I belong to the church that William ministers at. He discussed Possum One's essay last week in our young adult bible study. I must admit that I was shocked to come here and read what he has said. He really isn't like this in our discussions. I am, unfortunately, very disappointed in him. As Christians, we are supposed to conduct ourselves in a better manner than this.

I read this blog last week and tuned in to the nonprofits show.

I have been going through a rough phase with my spirituality. I read back in this blog and, prior to this blow up, Possummomma has been very respectful and comical. I have enjoyed reading about this family. I'm only 19 but I'm torn on family. I'm supposed to want children but I really don't want them. I guess I'm just torn on everything. Religion. Kids. Jobs. School. Everything.

I watched an episode of the ACA on google. When I heard the callers, I wondered if I ever came off so stupidly. I can't put my finger on it but I just feel like I'm not feeling the way I should feel about Christianity. I should be defending it. But when I hear those callers, I realize how lame it sounds. I'm sorry to have rambled on and on and on. I'm just confused.
I can't believe that a twelve year old kid has a better grasp on this then I appear to have. Can I e-mail you?

intepid said...

I too was a little disappointed in how previous comment thread (which I was a part of) got out of control and degenerated into insults, but this last comment gives me some hope that we are not all just brick walls shouting at each other (sorry best metaphor I can think of for now)

A.P. I hope that you are real, and good luck to you :)

Matt D. said...

There really were paragraph breaks in the originally message. I'll talking to Possummomma and see about fixing that.

It's a bit difficult to read the post without the breaks. For me, anyway. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt,
I'll try and edit it. Should be pretty easy. I think I can manage that without Russel's help. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm not a computer geek. And, far be it from me...after all of this madness, to be skeptical, but...when you e-mailed me, your IP was awfully close to William's IP (on his e-mail).
So...I hope you're real, too.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Thanks for writing that Matt. I for one was getting uncomfortable with the hostility on all sides. I think atheists get enough criticism as it is and it's irresponsible to let our emotions get the best of us when dealing with people like William. It only gives them more ammo and shuts down any possibility of meaningful debate.

Who knows, maybe in time William himself will start to realize that people who are atheists are not automatically evil and are usually quite the opposite. You broke free of the dogma Matt, maybe William can too someday. I'm not saying he's likely to turn into an atheist or that he should, but perhaps he will see how harmful his dogma is and soften a bit. One can hope.

And to William's credit, I think it was big of him to apologize to possummomma for making her uncomfortable. He probably let his emotions get the best of him too.