This is just a posting of the rules I have for myself as they relate to religious or quasi-religious philosophy discussions. They are, if you will, my “rules of engagement.” There are four situations in which I’ll take part in a religion discussion. If there have been exceptions, they are mistakes rather than abandonment of my intent:
1] To learn about a religion or a religious position. In this case there is no contention or debate, just learning; not much talking but a lot of listening.
2] To share in a lively philosophical inquiry into whatever mutual exploration comes up. In this case there might be contention, but of a purely intellectual sort. This is the kind of philosophical exchange that 20 years ago enriched my relationship with Rev. Ron Nickle, my good Toronto friend. This only works with discussion partners who are willing and able to question all ideas including their own, all in the service of fun (definitely) and enlightenment (potentially). It isn’t something I’d unilaterally start with an unsuspecting partner.
3] To combat statements someone makes that assume we’re all in agreement about some religious belief or position when we are not…..the kind of situation wherein remaining silent is like giving consent. Examples are statements or questions that just takes it for granted that, e.g., we all know that Christians are more moral than non-believers or that God sent his son as a sacrifice.
4] To combat religiously driven positions that I think are unfairly or inaccurately damaging or demeaning to classes of people or individuals. This is mostly what drew me into the gay issue. In this instance, I don’t feel personally harmed, but protective of those I see as victims of religion.