Luke 4 (the longer text) »« Bad lip syncing

Bridges and barricades

Atheists are a pretty diverse group, and maybe absolute unity lies somewhere between unrealistic and undesirable. We have enough in common, though, that it makes sense for us to form a united coalition, and that means being willing to build bridges instead of barricades.

In that light, consider the following hypothetical post and comments:

POST: It would be foolish to try and build a social movement based on antisocial behaviors.

COMMENT #1: Oh, so you think everyone who disagrees with you is stupid. Great.

COMMENT #2: I think that’s an oversimplification. Antisocial behavior is annoying, but we need everyone’s support to succeed.

Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, but comment 1 isn’t actually an opinion. It’s an attack on the original poster, and a barrier to dialog—reading it tells you nothing about the original poster’s actual position on the issue is, nor does it inform you as to the commenter’s position, other than to express a certain vague hostility. This is the kind of approach that creates divisions and animosity within a movement.

Comment 2 also disagrees, but instead of erecting barriers, it builds a bridge—it expresses both the commenter’s position and the reasonings which led to that position. There’s enough information here that the commenter and the poster can have a dialog about whether tolerating antisocial behaviors actually does increase the amount of support. Maybe one has misunderstood the other, maybe further dialog will shed enough light on the topic that they can come to an agreement on at least a subset of the issues that divide them. But at least they’re being open, and the coalition as a whole can benefit.

Comment 1 was probably more satisfying to write, in a vent-your-spleen sort of way. But we should stop and think before posting. Is this sort of thing going to produce results that will make my life better? I think more often than not, the answer will be “no.”