Is Every Discussion a Debate?

Don’t you dare question my opinions!

I get challenged on this from time to time, but it’s something that I’m really interested in.  I like to debate.  That much is a given fact.  But I also like to discuss less heated topics, where one side or the other may not be “right”, but I’m still interested, just as I am in a religious debate, what someone believes and why.  However, I get a lot of flack for daring to question the validity of an opinion, no matter how calmly or dispassionately I do so, because apparently, people’s opinions, like their beliefs, should not be open to question.

I don’t get it.

Let me give you an example.  I was having a discussion with someone a couple of weeks ago regarding comic books, specifically why we prefer one “brand” of comics over another.  I took the position that I liked Marvel comics better than DC.  He took the opposite position.  I could present a lot of reasons why I thought Marvel was better in my eyes, I might even do a post about it sometime, but then I asked him why he held his position?  What brought him to that conclusion?  The guy pretty much had a fit and accused me of trying to turn a friendly discussion into a debate.

Um… what?

I never said he was wrong for his opinion, or that he should feel stupid for holding that position, I just wanted to know why he picked it so I could compare it to why I picked my own.  I even went into considerable detail, explaining my reasoning and the facts along my path that led me to adopt my position.  I have my reasons for thinking the way I do and I have no problem enunciating those reasons.

To be honest, the whole situation confuses me.  It’s not like any of these people have seen my bulldog attacks on religion, they have no clue I’m capable of such things.  They’ve never seen me be anything but kind and polite and nice.  I never denigrated the other person’s preference, I never suggested that DC comics suck or that they were stupid to read them.  It really seems that there are people who just hold opinions and have never given a moment’s thought to why they hold them and they get upset if anyone even points out that fact.  It’s like having an exchange like:

I like chocolate ice cream.

Oh?  And what it is about chocolate ice cream that you like?


How do you have a meaningful discussion with someone like that?  It really feels very much like a religious discussion where the theist just assumes their beliefs are true and they shouldn’t have to say anything beyond “I’m right, screw you.”

Sometimes, just trying to communicate calmly drives me crazy.

5 thoughts on “Is Every Discussion a Debate?”

  1. I think this happens, at least in part, because we seem to be far too attached to our ideas and far too concerned about being right. Instead of making genuine efforts to understand one another, we prefer to snipe, argue, and insult. This tendency is amplified on the internet because the costs associated with being a jackass are typically much less than offline.
    My recent post Atheists and Interfaith Dialogue

    1. There's no problem with being concerned about being right, the problem comes in when you assert you are right without actually making sure that you are. Lots of people are more interested in appearing to be right than in actually being right.

  2. I've never been one to have too many "favorites", as I prefer a broad knowledge and appreciate all kinds of things in life. As a result, I've never understood why people get so emotionally attached to certain cultural things, ideas, or trends. I think this is amplified by my experiences….in food, music, movies and art, a large part of my tastes are outright rejected by a huge majority of the society in which I live. Some of my "favorite" things in life (not really accurate…perhaps "more favored" is more accurate): I love Frank Zappa, Devo, almost all of the 70's progressive rock, Terry Gilliam movies, Stanley Kubrick movies, documentaries of all kinds, unusual foods, pickled eggs, lots of onion and garlic, funky seafood, etc….while these things do have cumulatively large audiences, they are definitely minorities of the population as a whole. I'm used to having almost all of my "favorite" things be regarded as boring, stupid, foul, offensive, and/or pointless.
    This experience has really helped me not get too attached to being "right" about them.

    A similar thing holds true in my politics, and in my perspectives on religion. I wasn't raised in a particularly religious household, or in one with enforced political values, and I have always tried to think for myself. This process takes a lot of the unreasoning emotion out of the equation, therefore it is very hard for me to understand why people seem to feel so threatened when even their most mundane and trivial beliefs are challenged….I've been used to such challenges since I was a child, and learned to keep an open mind, while not making my identity dependent on being 100% right about my ideals. I don't feel threatened or defensive unless I perceive that I am actually being attacked in some way, not just intellectually challenged.

    1. Unfortunately, some people have been raised to think that their opinions are sacred and anyone who questions their opinions in any way is launching a potent personal attack on them. No one is allowed to disagree with them in any way but they're perfectly welcome to go after any opinion they disagree with.

      This planet is screwed up.

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