Guest post: Reasoned debate was lumped in with proselytizing

Originally a comment by Sastra on In a free society.

Back when New Atheism was a ‘thing,’ liberal believers and liberal atheists criticized it for being simply the flip side of religious fundamentalism. New Atheists were attacking people’s faith; New Atheists weren’t making the proper distinction between good religion and bad religion; and, worst of all, they were trying to get people to agree with them. Reasoned debate and rational persuasion on the truth and benefits of religion were lumped in with proselytizing and conversion. It was saying “I’m right and you’re wrong.” The unforgivable sin.

People have the right to be who they are.

A lot of conservative religionists were guilty of manipulative tactics and double standards when it came to attacking faith, granted. But I remember there were plenty of conservatives I’d call “liberal,” in that they played by the rules, respected the doubter, and believed, deep down, that truth mattered. “If you became convinced that Christianity wasn’t true and God didn’t exist, would you want to change your mind and become an atheist?” And in between the epistemic meltdowns, the topic-changings, the gruesome scenarios, and the flat denials of the bare possibility, there were cool voices saying “Of course. And I’d still be me. And I’d still care about the same things. And I could just be wrong about God..”

There’s being a parent (“We must protect the weak”) and then there’s being an adult (“Follow the evidence and be damned.”) I understood some of my opponents better than I understood some of my friends.

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