A discussion going on over at Ninemsn - bizarrely, in the money section - has been illuminating to say the least.
The initial blog post - about some Seventh Day Adventists or other door-knocking religious folk - interrupting a non-believer while she tried to prepare dinner for her family led to a debate about the prevalence of god in small communities. Her basic point was that religion seemed to be dying out, and that she was part of it, and that the door knockers' place in the world was beginning to dwindle. The question asked at the end of the blog post went thusly:
"Do you live in an area where religion has a strong presence? Or are your churches empty? Do you think communities need religion to thrive? Share your thoughts below."
Open ended, I think you'll agree. When you ask a question this broad on this topic, your responses are going to be equally as broad. And hoo-boy, were they broad. Across approximately 200 comments at time of posting, the gamut of religious and non-religious responses were gone through. I took part quite actively myself. Some of the responses to my posts were encouraging, others were hair-pullingly frustrating.
I encourage you to go and have a look at them. I was slightly surprised to see that the replies were disproportionately faithful. I ran this through a little filter in my head, however, that accounted for the fact that this was ninemsn and it made a little more sense.
Putting aside all atheism versus religion, though, there was one common problem with nearly every single post on the site. Religion is a topic that absolutely everyone in the world feels they are an expert on. So when a blogger makes an innocent post about being bothered at dinner by door knockers, one responder saw fit to chastise her for talking about such a trivial thing while there was so much more that could be talked about. Including, to quote, 'wars, malnutrition and diseases'. I suppose he is right. Then again, this is in the 'your suburb' section of the website. So unless there are wars, malnutrition or diseases rife in the neighbourhood, I'm willing to cut the writer a little slack. But I have digressed. The point is that nearly every comment, be it pro or anti religion, suffered from the same problem - a willingness to debate the topic, but an unwillingness to know even the slightest thing about the topic.
A list of the topics trotted out by commenters that even a cursory google search will dispel:
- Evolution is only a theory.
- Atheism is just as dogmatic and fundamentalist as any religion
- Science is arrogant and can't deal with real human issues
- Without religion there can be no morality
- Religious folk are more generous than non.
- Christianity is being picked on
- One sect/offshoot of a religion can be somehow more unfeasible than another
- Science and Religion are not in opposition
- There was a big bang and, like a whirlwind through a junkyard producing a jumbo jet, life sprang into existence by chance
- Everyone would believe in god if only they took the time to read the bible/torah/quo'ran
- Religion itself is just a metaphor/fanciful way of telling good moral lessons
- Organised religion is giving all of religion a bad name/individuals don't share the burden of the institution
And the biggest sin of all - Godwin's law came rapidly to fruition. Secular Humanism was referred to as being the basis of Hitler's final solution. At which point, as we all know, the argument was immediately lost.
These are all topics worth talking about and getting cleared up early on. They may not be as cut and dry as I make out - I am bound to be biased after all - but you've got to work past this stuff, the novice stuff, before you really start to get to the crux of the arguments. Over the next few weeks I'll come back to fill these in.
For now, if you're interested, head on over and read through some of the comments on the ninemsn blog. Or leave one here. All efforts are made to answer questions and challenges given. And let's face it - nobody knows this place exists, so it won't be a problem.
Update: The author of the blog post, Rosalind Scutt, has previously written glowing pieces about Feng Shui. I am utterly confused as to her skeptic status now. Dammit, why can't people be consistent?