I Still Want a Respectful Educated Discussion of the Ideas That Separate Us

Have I changed my attitude from wanting a respectful discussion of the issues that divide us? If so, why? Have believers changed me? Should I let them change me? Will they be better off if they do?...or worse off? Can I remain steadfast in hopes of the ideal in the midst of some utterly ignorant comments and personal attacks from people I think are delusional? Am I that kind of person? Should I even care?

Once again Victor Reppert has taken a pot shot at me. He has become somewhat fixated on me. I guess that's a compliment since he wouldn't do this if I was not a threat to his faith. And while I don't respond to many criticisms posted by Christian Bloggers I do feel the need to respond to him, which is a compliment to him as well. Should I bother responding?

You decide. Here are links to what may be perceived as my changing attitude toward ridiculing one's opponents.

On Feb 19 2006 I wrote my comment policy where I expressed the ideal of not ridiculing one's opponent. [Disregard the date of this post since I had re-posted it a few times, and in so doing edited it where I can't say what the original said.]

On August 15th, 2006 I wrote a blog where I stated the ideal of not ridiculing one's opponents in agreement with Reppert. [This is the post Reppert linked to today].

On February 23, 2007 I decried the ridiculing that believers think is justified against apostates. [Disregard the date of this post since I had re-posted it a few times, and in so doing edited it where I can't say what the original said.]

The debates and personal attacks continued over the months and for a couple more years as I tried to keep my head above the waters.

On December 4, 2009 Richard Carrier and I were talking about such things and he emailed me that sometimes ridiculing one's opponents can be very effective in our culture wars. In the comments of that post I wrote:
I am gravitating to the dark side, having argued with fundamentalists for about five years online now. It's just that such an approach has a justification and it's needed. And it's not as if Carrier or I don't also have the arguments to back up our ridicule, either. Just consider this on a continuum. Perhaps I've been too polite and need to move in that direction.
On August 8, 2010 Phil Plait weighed in by decrying the use of ridicule, to which I responded with Don't Be a Dick, Phil Plait. There I argued that "Ridicule in a social grouping does have it's effect because we are social human beings. There are some beliefs we can never argue people out of because they were never argued into them in the first place. Religion is one of them. So ridicule and social approbation do have their effects." And I laid down this principle:
"If skeptics want to argue believers out of their religion then when addressing believers skeptics need to treat believers and their beliefs with a good measure of respect and dignity." This should be non-controversial I would think, once we grant the distinctions. If however, you don't think a particular believer can be argued out of his or her religion (and I've known plenty of believers like this), or, if you need to vent (which I've also done when totally frustrated), or if you are speaking to other skeptics in front of believers in order to encourage these skeptics, then what Plait argued for simply does not apply.
Let me end by quoting what I wrote today on Reppert's latest pot shot at me:
No one can be personally attacked almost daily for six years by people he thinks are delusional without some kind of change in perspective.

If all I ever had to deal with were intelligent and respectful believers then I probably would have never wavered from the ideal expressed in that [original 2006] post.

In some ways my gradual change has been because it has to do with my audience. When I wrote that in 2006 I was aiming at a respectful discussion with respectful believers. When discussing these issues with a believer whom I respect as an intelligent person I treat that person with respect without any ridicule at all.

I am the same person. What changes me is the people I deal with. I adjust my responses to the overall perceptions I have of the people who argue against me.

Just watch at the reactions to what I just wrote and you'll see why they gradually change my perceptions. It's probably impossible not to be influenced by the people you deal with on a daily basis....You want a decent, respectful discussion from me? Then do this. Be respectful of me as a human being. Be educated and make educated arguments that learn from our past interchanges. Show that you are willing to learn from me. Don't personally attack me or take pot shots at me like this particular post did.

The more that Christians do this the more I'll revert back to the ideal. Randal Rauser does this with me. That's why I've agreed to co-write a respectful book with him.
So I still want a respectful educated discussion of the ideas that separate us. It really depends a lot on the other side of this debate. It also depends on how well we are winning our cultural war. Everyone ridicules the belief in Zeus, Ra, Hathor, Baal, Thor, and Odin. As more people think Yahweh is no longer a credible god then more of us will ridicule such a belief. That's how gods die.