I had an online discussion (or perhaps a “run-in”) with a Mormon guy who I disagreed with on some issue. The issue isn’t important (gay people). What was interesting was his way of dealing with the disagreement. His response was essentially: I don’t expect you to agree with me. I’m a Mormon. You’re an ex-Mormon atheist. Our worldviews are too different.
Now I think this is a cop-out. I’m very open to hearing other views, and if they’re based on sound evidence and logic, I’ll even change my mind. But his “different worldview” view allowed him to miscast my reasons for not accepting his argument. It wasn’t that his reasons or his argument weren’t good ones; no, no. It was that I wasn’t open to change, or that our views just weren’t reconcilable.
I think this is projection on his part. While reason and evidence would change my mind, I seriously doubt that it would change his. He’s the one who is immune to reasoned argument because reason isn’t how he arrived at his religious opinion. And if he tries to use secular arguments, they’ll be hollow because they’re not his real reasons. He’s just using them to justify his religious reasons. He hauls out the secular reasons when he’s talking to secular people, but if those arguments are faulty, it won’t affect him at all. He’ll just shrug and keep believing.
I mentioned the discussion to an ex-Mormon friend who knows him, and to my surprise she said essentially the same thing: What did you expect? He’s a Mormon. He lives in Provo, for crying out loud.
I find this baffling. Here I am on the blog, and a lot of readers probably agree with things I write because, after all, we can’t read everything, and we like to pick things to read that make us feel good about our worldview. (Or I do.) But I’m also happy to engage with readers who disagree, and in fact I hope I get a lot of them. I learn a lot more that way, and it’s more interesting. But I feel like I’m standing on a chasm, shouting to ideological opposites.
Is there any point to discussing things? (Have I done any good on the blog today?) Or are we doomed to be divided into two camps that can never understand each other because of our different worldviews? I don’t think so. I think there’s a point to engaging in the Great Debates for two reasons.
First, people do change their views. I have, quite a lot, and I’ll do it again. Engaging with others is my way of saying that maybe no one’s beyond hope. Okay, maybe an online discussion won’t change the committed, in which case I’ll still keep arguing and discussing because I’m not trying to convince the committed — I’m trying to convince uncommitted bystanders.
The other reason I engage is that if I’m wrong about something, I want to know about it. How is it that I can say so confidently that there’s no evidence for the Book of Mormon? that that arguments for gods are uniformly awful? Because I’m here on the blog, and anyone who wants to can tell me something I don’t know, and I’ll consider it and change my mind if necessary. It’s not just meme propagation. It’s my continuing education.