Sunday, 13 December 2009
I enjoy a ( friendly) argument. But it can be hard to find a willing partner.
With my husband, whose temperament is completely different, I have to temper my natural impulse to toss every question back and forth several times and examine it from every angle. To him, this is being picky and splitting hairs.
I think it's energising to have a spirited debate. He finds it draining, isn't excited about the minutiae that I find so stirring, and prefers what he calls a 'live and let live' philosophy ( not, despite the implication, that mine is conversely 'kill or be killed' lol!) and he is not fascinated by following minute points to their ultimate conclusion in the way that I tend to be.
I realise how irritating my 'arguing hobby' must be to some (ok most) but in my defence, it does come with a plus point in that I'm not touchy or easily offended when people disagree with me. Au contraire! Another opportunity to indulge in my favourite hobby!
On one of the home ed email lists I subscribe to, a question was posted about some 'friendly banter between the poster and her good friend who is an atheist.
This is what he said to her:
"Is that the sort of love that leveled Sodom and Gomorrah, flooded an entire planet leaving only two survivors and committed various other genocidal atrocities eg Judges 19:29 , 20 , Numbers 31:18 , 25 and various others? Oh yes, Old Testament god, before the image makeover."
She wondered if anyone had anything interesting to say.
One of the responders said that it was better not to engage him as he was probably only wanting to make faith look foolish and to win the argument. She suggested praying for him instead and offered some very lovely suggestions for how to pray very specifically for him.
Her response got me thinking. Because of course she is right. But she probably isn't an 'amiable arguer' and, like my husband, tends to see comments like this as contrary and even hostile.
I don't. Because it's the sort of thing that I would say and sincerely not mean any offence at all.
So I thought I'd respond giving the perspective of an amiable arguer, because we are a sadly misunderstood and dare I say it, even unappreciated lot.
(Of course I don't know if the chap in question is in fact 'amiable' but since the poster describes him as a dear friend, I'm going to assume he is.)
Here's what I said:
Can I offer another perspective from someone who enoys the cut and thrust of friendly argument?
Sometimes this kind of provocative rhetoric is meant to actually drive the conversation forward rather than stop it in a hard place.
I've been around the tracks a bit in my spiritual journey and when I was questing it was a real treat to meet someone who was bright, articulate, willing to engage in some banter without getting easily offended and not afraid of tackling the hard questions.
I often asked hard, possibly offensive questions myself, not with the intention to provoke or to win the argument ( even though it may have looked like that) but because I really was sincerely interested in whether there could be a reasonable answer, however unlikely that may have seemed to me at the time.
I think a discussion of this nature can easily run all over the place and when it does it loses it's focus and therefore it's power to help us to think and even change our minds.
With the atheism/theism discussion I would use a similar approach to the one I use when discussing the issue of abortion. Be willing to discuss the hard issues, but first clarify why you believe your baseline principle or belief is reasonable and valid.
For example, with abortion, I start by explaining that I believe abortion is wrong because it involves killing a baby, and it is always wrong to do that. Then follows ( hopefully) a spirited discussion on the nature of what it means to be a baby or even human, in order to elaborate further. Once we have established that, it is easier to discuss the hard questions like abortion in the case of rape or fetal abnormality. Or at least, the discussion makes more sense.
Likewise, when discussing the issue of belief in God, I would first want to nail down some of the reasons why I believe it is reasonable, sane and logical to hold this belief.
The bottom line is that Gods existence isn't really something that we reasonably accept or reject because we like the sound of Him and approve of what He does.
We are free to accept or reject the idea of God based on those feelings, but the existence of God, or the non existence of God doesn't change according to our view.
It's either true or it's not.
And that's another very good question for another day.
Please leave me your thoughts, contrary or otherwise. I know you'll be amiable!