Reasonableness is vital.

There is much argument to be had on the issue of reasonableness. Extreme religionists will argue that faith in the revealed word is reasonable, and those of a secular bent will argue that it is not. In fact, let me rephrase that: religionists know that their position is inherently unreasonable. To take Christianity, faith is a virtue, and reasoning only brings sad pandas. There is no reasoning to be had here.

Take reasonableness in everyday life. There are all manner of polarising ideas about, each with their own proponents and detractors, regardless of the evidence. Global warming. Political left vs. right. Evolution by natural selection. Bible vs. Qu’ran.

I believe reasonableness has just about disappeared on the internet. Those with the greatest opinion will hold the greatest sway. Is it because they hold a firm position in which no greys are permissible? Or are the arguments so nuanced that nobody is willing to really learn bar the most engaged?

One example of this is the frequent incorrect definition of an atheist: that they are those who are angry at God and therefore reject him/her; or believing that an atheist does not believe in the existence of a supernatural deity full stop, regardless of proof.

This is a (deliberate?) misinterpretation of the facts. As an atheist, I will happily admit that should there be sufficient evidence, I will change my outlook based on it. A believer does not change their outlook regardless of the evidence. Furthermore – how am I to be angry at a God I don’t think exists, or at least has insufficient proof for it’s existence? It’s barmy.

So reasonableness is vital, especially when evaluating what appear to be extreme statements. Look at what the person is saying, and evaluate. Take your time. Don’t jerk your knee, and for goodness sake, look at your own beliefs in a reasonable light.

Perhaps you might learn a thing or two.




Reader Bias

As an internet-savvy fella I often find myself reading blogs, and having my opinions formed by them.

As I was reading through this article on the recent spat of religious/secularist rhetoric in the UK, I noticed that I had already formed a preconceived opinion. As a hopeful scientist, this wasn’t good. Not good at all. I found that whenever I read about Baroness Warsi, a voice in my head was going “boo, hiss”, and taking an intense dislike to the woman.

The article itself, written by Doug Saunders – which reminds me of Winnie the Pooh, incidentally –  is a relatively neutral article. He neatly describes the recent clash as that

In truth, no one is calling for a religious state or attacking faith. Rather, we are witnessing a showdown, across the West, between two competing definitions of “freedom of religion.” In one definition, the public sphere is a wide-open space: Citizens are free to try to impose religion, to invoke their gods in legislation, to wear whatever symbols they like. It’s a marketplace of beliefs, and may the strongest prevail.

In the other definition, that sphere is a neutral space: Religion is private and public places are unencumbered by competitions for divine supremacy. This definition recognizes that freedom of religion depends on a strongly defended freedom from religion. And freedom from religion is just as important for non-believers, who don’t want public life to be corrupted with spiritualism, as it is for devout believers, who don’t want their sacred beliefs to be sullied by the vicissitudes of politics.

It was a definition I’d never thought of before, especially given that secularists want the wall between church and state to remain standing (here in the UK and around the world, to paraphrase Nicholas Parsons); and the religious want their own religion to hold the greatest legislative sway. I may be generalizing a lot here, but I was still surprised. The “marketplace of religions” is reminiscent of the religions of America – where churches are businesses, and indeed is part of the reason why such an ostensibly secular country is so church-happy.

It’s my firm hope that the secularist idea wins out in this particular war for hearts & minds. It is rational and not discriminatory, but that’s a just part of why I hope this, and perhaps I will bore you in another blog to come about this.

Back to the original point – has anyone ever found themselves biased before even reading through an opinion piece? Is there an official term for it?