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…the heart of the matter…

August 31, 2011

I know I have spoken before about civility in discourse, about assuming the best in those you converse with and seeing past the words to the pain that drives the anger…or at least something to that effect.

However, I have more to say.  Shocking, no?

It’s no secret that I visit the CNN.com boards, particularly the religion blog.  I see something echoed there that I see in life outside the internet as well.

Now, I don’t mean to pick on Christians or Atheists here, but it is largely among that group of people that I see the phenomenon that I’m talking about.

It happens whenever the religion blog posts an opinion piece about Christianity or Atheism.  Suddenly the entire world is divided into those two camps.  You’re either a “believer”-which clearly means Christian, or you’re a “non-believer”.

There’s a certain self-centeredness about it, a lack of willingness to see past your own nose to understand anyone else.  That carries into the conversations, which are less likely to actually be civil or even really conversations as those involved talk past each other with no real attempt to communicate and quickly devolve into name calling and nastiness.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been known to get baited into the same from time to time.  I let my emotions get the better of me on occasion.  I am human, after all.

But I guess lately I’ve gotten my fill of the bickering and the persecution complexes.

For example:  An article you disagree with regarding the faith you claim is NOT a sign that the world hates you.  It does not mean that the website hosting the article hates your faith.  It does not mean that the evil “other” is “winning” or that “God” (for whatever value/flavor of God) is being dissed, removed from schools/government/public discourse/etc or otherwise maligned.

It’s an opinion.  It is a single person’s take on a situation/political statement/religious practice.

The same goes for those who claim Atheism.  Just because the piece is in favor of some religion does not mean you have the right or the duty to tear down anyone and everyone who believes.

It’s religion.  It’s personal.  You don’t share the belief?  Fine.  Make the statement, share your reason.  There is no need to denigrate someone because they disagree.

Besides, calling other people names and responding with what translate across a computer screen as vehement hatred and verbal violence is no way to make your point.  In fact, it does the exact opposite.  It paints you as an angry troll who can not communicate and can not be trusted with civil words let alone heartfelt emotion.

And do not be fooled.  It is exactly that.  It is heartfelt.  Even when they do not believe the same thing as you.

It takes getting past the words, past the rhetoric though to see it.  It takes getting to the heart, seeing the person as a person, as a human being with feelings and reasons for what they believe.  You don’t have to agree…and you can disagree without falling to the part of the victim or the part of an aggressor without heart.

Calm, courteous discourse is not only possible, it is an amazing gift that yields lessons in not just the topic at hand (whatever topic), but also in human behavior and social interaction.

You should try it sometime.

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