I’m an active member of the Pattern Review community and have greatly enjoyed participating there over the last few years.

In recent days, we’ve had a number of discussions pop up regarding topics to post, to avoid, and what constitutes consideration in posting.

The whole thing began with a post titled Volunteer Sewing for Secular Organizations. A poster who identified as an Atheist wanted to find some secular organizations that would be interested in sewing contributions (I applaud her desire to give of her time and talent to help others).

It just struck me as a little odd that the poster was looking for organizations that “share my values” implying that organizations connected with a religious group would not have values in common with her. She might have meant organizations that shared her beliefs, or opinions, or world view, but that’s not what she posted. Other posters appeared to be a little frustrated with the wording used as well.

On the other hand, it was clear that some posters had extremely negative views of religious organizations. They posted their views that those organizations tended to be:

  • Homophobic/Sexist/Racist
  • Hate-based
  • Sending missionaries that aren’t really helping in a situation
  • Taking advantage of the uneducated and those in dire need
  • Condescending

I’m really not bashing on the thread…there were many helpful suggestions given to the OP, and for the most part things were civil. It ended up being a reminder of of just how divided we all are in contemporary American culture. I’ve been involved with churches and religious organizations my entire life. I’ve seen many people selflessly devote their time and effort, and sometimes their entire lives, to helping others, because of their faith. And it does hurt to see them characterized as having the above characteristics.

There are a lot of assumptions underneath those comments. Such as…

  • People that don’t share their views regarding gay relationships are full of hate.
  • Christians don’t really care about other people, they just want to push their religion on them, as if those who have the most converts win a prize or something
  • Christians are idiots (ie, alluding to Intelligent Design)

I don’t think that Athiests and other secularists would have been really happy if other people on the board had spouted off along the lines of…

  • Secularists are really close minded because they have shut themselves off from the supernatural
  • Secularists tend to be condescending because they think they are above religion and better than all the weak people that need a “crutch”
  • Secularists want to destroy stable families, push our children into risky and immoral behavior, and kill innocent children in the womb.

See…both sets of bullet points are disrespectful. There may be some truth to some concepts expressed in both. Some people who claim to be Christians do have issues with hate. And some secularists think abortion is fine and dandy until the woman goes into labor (and a very few condone infanticide). Nonetheless, you really can’t get very far in conversation with other people if you don’t handle your differences in a respectful way.

The discussion spun off onto some other threads (here and here).

On one of those threads, I posted the following comment. I hope you will consider it worthwhile to five this some thought.

I think part of the problem, culturally, is that we have “tribalized” so much.

When someone only associates with the like minded, than all their views are “normal” and “right” and of course “everyone” with any intelligence and common sense knows that. It really doesn’t matter who the “like minded” are – I’ve seen examples among extremely conservative Christians, and heavily progressive secularists.

Compound that with the fact that many people don’t ever even bother to read a news article, listen to a radio show, or watch a commentator on TV who has a different ideological perspective than them. And there’s way too much acceptance of whatever the like minded news and information sources tell us (I dislike it when books about politics and social issues lack footnotes, because I tend to want to check the original source material on a hot issue).

We have lost the skill of being cordial with people who are different than us. And we’ve also lost the skills of attempting to persuade with reason, and knowing when to let go.

Please think about it. What do we really gain by expressing so much disdain for those who are different than us?