The whole of last week, the Guardian’s comment is free – belief section included the following question:
Is it possible to discuss religion online in a way that makes sense to believers? This question is worthwhile, if only because if the discussion doesn’t make sense to the people discussed, they aren’t going to join in.
One answer would be for everyone to adopt a kind of golden rule online: not to say about anyone else’s belief system what they would not wish to hear about their own. But this is difficult to do honestly and in any case insufficient. As has often been pointed out, we owe ideas much less respect than people. Bad ideas should not be treated with the respect due to good ones. If no one hears the real and honestly held objections to their positions, how will they learn?
Another, simpler rule, might just be to listen, so that we are certain we are talking about the beliefs which the other party actually holds. But how could this be enforced? Perhaps the wide-open nature of the web means it is impossible to talk about certain subjects. Perhaps the answer lies in indirection – that we learn implicitly what can only be shown and not proved. But what in that case is to be done about blinkered crusaders?
As UK and Ireland District Manager for the Christian Science Committees on Publication I was invited to provide Thursday’s response. I focused on the thing which I feel fills the gap between the two polarised opposites of religious denominationalism and strident anti-theism – namely the spirituality that the vast majority of people do, in some way, embrace.
You can read my answer on the Guardian, under the (very appropriate!) title and subtitle they gave it:
Spirituality is too often overlooked in the God debate – Faith in a higher power is a widespread belief that gets buried beneath polarised discussion about religious theory and practice.