Suggestions for talking with…

I wonder if I might make a few suggestions for conversing with others about religion on a discussion board? I have had some experience with this, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve observed and learned.

The most important thing to know, I think, is that if you ever encounter me on a discussion forum I am always, always right. And if you disagree with me about this you are wrong.

Once we have established that basic and most fundamental of all facts, we can move on to other stuff:

Might I suggest that we never, ever, ever presume to know what other people think, feel, and believe just because they identify themselves as atheist, theist, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, pagan, Christian Scientist, or as a member of any other ideology.
Generalizations, stereotypes, and lumping whole groups of people together as one “type” are not helpful when trying to understand someone else’s perspective.
Don’t tell other people what they think. Let them tell you.
Although pomposity cracks me up, not everyone shares the same reaction as me to puffed-up know-it-allness. Humility is a beautiful thing. Let’s be willing to laugh at our own nonsense before we laugh at someone else’s.
Remember that we’re all human – we all have our own flaws and foibles – none of us is perfect here. Might I suggest that we correct our own flaws before we start trying to correct someone else’s?
Give each other grace.
Listen.
More specifically…

Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist

We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities…
– Mary Baker Eddy (Miscellaneous Writings)

I wonder if I might make a few suggestions for conversing with others about religion on a discussion board?   I have had some experience with this, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve observed and learned.

The…

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Open-Minded Cat

Kitty doesn’t care if I’m male or female,
overweight, underweight, old, young,
Democrat, Republican, black, white,
red, or blue.
Kitty responds to what’s in my heart
and the kindness I do.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“The weapons of bigotry, ignorance, envy, fall before an honest heart.” 
– Mary Baker Eddy

Conversation about Christian Science on a Discussion Board

“…no, you will not hear a CSist knocking at your door. 🙂 Frankly, it took me a long time before I felt comfortable ‘admitting’ I was a CSist or talking about my way of life in an open and honest way. I know there is a lot of… not sure what the word is… misinformation? bias? prejudice?… about CS, and I’m not always eager to enter discussions about CS… sometimes – if I sense that nobody is really interested in having their minds relieved of their prejudices – I choose not to enter those discussions at all. But it felt to me like there were people on this thread who were genuine and sincere in their questions about CS. It is good to hear your voice again, my friend…”
S
ource: Conversation about Christian Science on a Discussion Board

When Hatred Becomes Yesterday’s News

Any politician who plans to use marriage equality as her or his main focus will need to find another issue because – haleleujah, brothers and sisters! – marriage equality is now officially old news. I look forward to that happy day when bigotry of EVERY type is old news. We’re seeing the signs – the flags that symbolize racial bigotry are quietly being removed from their poles ( http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/surprise-move-alabama-confederate-battle-flag-comes-down ) – and people of every race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and non-religion are coming together to speak out for equality and peace.

“What is going to happen, Dave?”
“Something wonderful.”
2001: A Space Odyssey

The weapons of bigotry, ignorance, envy, fall before an honest heart.
– 
Mary Baker Eddy

marriage equality

 

We Shall Overcome, performed by Joan Baez –

 

“Love alone is life…”

Years ago, when I was a teenager maybe, I remember seeing a Star Trek episode that showed a man who was half-black and half-white in a struggle with another man who was half-black and half-white – they were enemies because of their color – and I remember looking at them, thinking, “But… they’re BOTH half-black and half-white… what’s the issue here?” And at the end of the episode we finally see that the reason they’re enemies is because one of them is white on the right side of his body, and the other is white on the left side of his body, and… yeah… I remember thinking how absolutely ridiculous it all was for them to hate each other just because they were colored differently on different sides. But it’s absolutely no more ridiculous than hating someone just because they’re all ONE color, and that color is different than mine.

The summer after I graduated from high school – which was about ten years after the Watts Riots –  I traveled with my dad to California. Dad had grown up in Los Angeles, and he wanted to revisit his old neighborhood and see his childhood home once again. As we drove the streets to his old home, I noticed that we were the only white faces in a several-mile radius.

Dad pulled up in front of a little house, and his face lit up – “This was my home!” he said, getting out of the car. I followed him to the front door, where an African-American woman wearing a house-dress and a really surprised look on her face, appeared. Dad explained that he’d grown up in this house and asked if he could come in and take a look around and go out into the backyard where he’d played as a child. The woman smiled graciously and opened her door for us and allowed us into her home. I followed Dad through the house and out into the backyard where there was still the avocado tree he remembered from his childhood. He looked around, said it seemed smaller than he’d remembered it, and started talking about the happy years he’d spent in this yard as a child. He went back through the house, shook the woman’s hand and thanked her for letting him re-visit his old home. Still looking kind of surprised to find these friendly white people traipsing through her house, she smiled back at dad, and told him he was welcome and it was no problem at all.

A block or so later Dad pulled into a gas station to fill the tank up, and a black attendant came out to help us (this was in the days before people filled up their own cars with gas). He had that same surprised look on his face as the woman in Dad’s old house. He smiled, and filled up our tank for us, and, as we were ready to leave, said in a friendly way, a big smile on his face, “Come back again!”

Every time I think of this trip through that neighborhood in Los Angeles I start grinning. I’m pretty sure we were the only white people in years who’d come nonchalantly driving through that section of Los Angeles. I remember the surprised hospitality of the gas station attendant and the woman living in Dad’s old house, and it fills me up with a kind of joy. I remember my dad – totally oblivious to the fact that he was in a part of Los Angeles that most white people might find threatening – happily traveling down “Memory Lane”, shaking hands with the woman in his old house, greeting the gas station attendant with an open, natural smile – and it makes me really proud to be his daughter.

I am, likewise, proud to be my mother’s daughter. When I was a little girl – maybe eight or so – Mom took my little brothers and me shopping at the local mall. As we were looking at clothes a young African-American family walked by, also shopping. A large middle-aged white man standing near us turned to Mom and said something like, “Those people should stay in their own part of town.” My mom looked up at him, puzzled – she didn’t know what he was talking about at first. He pointed to the African-American family and repeated what he’d said. When my mom finally understood what he was talking about her face turned red with indignation. She looked up at him from her height of 5’2″ and, her voice shaking with emotion, said, “That family has as much right to be here as you or me! We are all God’s children!” The white man realized then that he’d picked the wrong person to share his racism with, and sort of stepped back and disappeared from the store.

I’m really grateful to have been raised by parents for whom  the color of peoples’ skin was a  non-issue, and kindness towards everyone was considered natural and normal.

Thou to whose power our hope we give,
Free us from human strife.
Fed by Thy love divine we live,
For Love alone is Life;
And life most sweet, as heart to heart
speaks kindly when we meet and part.
– Mary Baker Eddy

“I’m putting you on ignore!”

The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity.- Mary Baker Eddy

So there’s this tool you can use on the Amazon discussion forums that will allow you to “ignore the trolls” – you click this button and their posts go into hiding under a sign that says “You are ignoring this customer’s posts.” I myself am too curious to know what everyone else is saying to have much success using this tool, but those folks who aren’t as nosy as me sometimes use this device as a way to protect themselves from personalities they find disturbing for whatever reason.

Of course, there are folks who cannot resist letting the people they have on ignore know they have them on ignore (which sort of defeats the whole purpose, right?) – and then they need to let everyone ELSE know they’ve got these folks on ignore, too – so often an announcement is made to the person who is being put on ignore – an announcement everyone else can see, too: “I’m putting you on ignore!”

And so the fun continues. “Oh yeah?! Well, I put you on ignore first – so there!” “Well, if you put me on ignore how can you see my posts, eh?” “I unignored you so I could see your post telling me you’re ignoring me – and how can you see MY post if you’re ignoring me?!” And so on. Yeah. Good times. Good times.

But I recently found a thread devoted to ignoring “trolls” that gave me some pause for contemplation. Two of the posters that the people on this thread were considering “ignoring” were actually people of education (both had doctors degrees) and intelligence – people who put some thought into their posts. One of these posters identifies himself as an atheist, the other as a Christian – and, although I don’t always agree with them, I usually find something in their contributions to the forums that makes me dig deeper into my own beliefs and thoughts about God and life. Their posts make me think… which… I don’t know… but I’ve always considered that a GOOD thing, right?

So I wrote this response:

Wow. I have now read through this thread. It has been an eye-opener, for sure.

I see some of us are debating whether to put those big bad trolls H. and E. on ignore. And I say, right on! I think it’s best to always ignore intelligent, educated posters – like H. and E. – who might actually make us question our own stereotypes and biases and points of view. I mean, who really wants to spend any time in SELF-reflection when we can better spend our time telling OTHER people how to think, believe, and live, right? So I think we should all scurry off to our separate little groups, fortify our barriers, unite against people who don’t think like we do about stuff, find our scapegoats for every ill that has ever befallen the planet (this could be theists or atheists or Jews or Muslims or Christians or Democrats or Republicans or Ralph Nader, depending on one’s perspective), and ignore the hell out of them. Let’s make sure they know we’re ignoring the hell out of them, too. And let everyone else know we’re ignoring the hell out of them. And let’s gossip about them. Ooh! Ooh! Does life get any more fun than that?!! 🙂

Yeah. I know. I am such a troll.

And, after a little more “discussion” about “group-think” – the need the people on this thread seemed to have to come to a consensus about who to ignore, as opposed to deciding as independent, individuals thinkers which posters are helpful, and which aren’t, I finally was the recipient of the words: “I’m putting you on ignore!”  🙂

Weirdly, this did not have the effect the other poster was probably hoping it would have on me. I found myself smirking. Not so’s she could see – but, yeah, in the privacy of my own home I was smirking. Being put on ignore by a poster simply because I questioned her stereotypes proved what I’d long suspected: We tend to ignore those people who threaten our own comfortable view of the world – we tend to ignore voices that might force us to take stock of ourselves and… yeeks!… change the way we look at stuff. And so we band together with like-minded people – isolate ourselves and insulate ourselves from differing perspectives – and find a television “news” station or other “news” source that caters to our own little conceits, and our stereotypes of others.

It’s all so silly, ain’t it?

How are we ever going to learn and progress if we shut ourselves off from others who challenge the way we look at things?

seagull and cormorant