There is something that I have noticed about the theist/atheist debate. It is something I think that prevents productive conversation from occurring. The starting point is always the same. The argument always follows the following formula:
"I am a theist. I believe in God."
"I am an atheist. I do not believe in God."
Given the nature of the discussion, and the fact we tend to enter these debates with these ideologies cemented into our minds before we start with nitpicking each others arguments, we have already decided that we will not sway from our original starting point. Regardless of what the other one says. So why start here? Why start on what we disagree on? I want us to work together in this thread. Let's put our differences aside, and figure out what we have in common, in regards to spirituality. For example, we may not agree whether or not god exists, but we can all observe the effects the religion has on society. Theists, can you think of any negative effects that religion has had on society, and atheists, can you think of any positive effects? Maybe this will produce some topics that both athiests and theists can agree on, talk about and build ideas on.
You're heart is in the right place and I do appreciate your desire to foster more productive conversations between people who disagree with each other. I would like to see that kind of civility, respect, graciousness and politeness in all conversations... whether it be in the area of "religion" or politics or philosophy, etc.
I do sincerely hope that this thread is a success and that your efforts are not in vain. But personally, I am not confident that it will be. I desperately hope I'm wrong, but I've been around long enough and seen too much to share your optimism.
I mean, think about what you are asking in terms of what you have already observed and confessed about many of the participants in here:
You're starting with the premise that the people in here have ideologies that are CEMENTED
into their minds, implying they can't or are not open to changing their minds about their cherished beliefs.
You even say as much when you say that WE (btw, I don't include myself in the "we")
"have already decided that we will not sway from our original starting point. Regardless of what the other one says."
If people like the above are so closed minded in their thinking (as Case pointed out), then why would things be much different in this thread?
I'm just asking. Trying to keep it real and honest.
The problem is that the word "religion" is too closely related to the word "God" and so I think the same problem will exist that you think exists now between the theists and atheists in here.
People can be as passionate (or closed minded) about the word "religion" as with the word "God". Look at what Sam Harris said: "If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion"
Anyway... I disagree with what you appear to imply that everyone (we) has already decided that they will not sway from their original starting point. Regardless of what the other side says.
But more importantly... I'm totally on board with Sam Harris when he says that he doesn't care if a religion or a belief of some kind will make a person happy and if it gives them some kind of warm fuzzy feeling. He wants to know if the religion or belief is true. That to him is more important than how a person feels.
And I agree. It doesn't matter what the negative or positive effects of "religion" are. What really matters is if a person beliefs are true or not. I mean, do we really want to hold onto beliefs that are untrue even if they have positive effects? I don't think so. At least i don't want to.
To sum up... I wish this thread well and I hope it accomplishes everything that you hope for it. It will be interesting to see how much stamina this thread has.