I’ve been debating online on various forums for a very, very, very long time. Mostly, I stick to general purpose forums, not dedicated to politics or religion, because it gives me a one-size-fits-all solution, with members from all walks of life and subjects across the board. You have the far right neo-cons and the far-left-liberals, you have the hardline atheists and the hardline fundamentalists and everything in between. However, one problem with these general purpose forums is that you don’t get any really good topical debates with people really passionate about their subject matter, there is so much to see and do that you don’t get many single-topic debaters. If you want to talk about religion, you either get the crazies or you get people who just wander by for a bit until they are distracted by something else.
Therefore, I tend to keep one or two strictly religious forums around, just so that I can go and debate religion in a place where everyone is there for the same thing. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the moderation on religion-specific forums is very hard to keep balanced and what one group of people look for in moderation is antithetical to another group and this tends to drive away those whose desires aren’t catered to.
Case in point, I’ve been on Debating Christianity & Religion since 2005, although I often take extended vacations from it. I actually started there after another general purpose forum I had been a member of dropped their religious forums and suggested people go there. It’s a great forum, lots of fantastic people and it has had it’s fair share of religious crazies. It also had a rule that I’ve pointed out a couple of times, it’s rule #5 which reads: “Support your assertions/arguments with evidence. Do not persist in making a claim without supporting it. All unsupported claims can be challenged for supporting evidence. Opinions require no support, but they should not be considered as valid to any argument, nor will they be considered as legitimate support for any claim.” This is fantastic because it does away with theists who think proclaiming faith automatically wins arguments. I wish every debate forum would do this and hold people accountable to it. Unfortunately, it also drove away most of the theists who knew they could never follow that rule, thus the majority of people on the forum now are atheists and a couple of theists who simply refrain from arguing for their religion at all. I wander back over there from time to time, make some posts and quickly remember why I left because it just isn’t much fun with nobody to debate.
The other is Religious Forums, which is more geared toward theists, although there is a very healthy atheist community there, but they have the exact opposite problem. The majority of their theists only deal in emotional pleas and blind faith and nobody stops them. In fact, when anyone tries to point out how absurd emotional claims are, they get in trouble. A lot of the more reasonable, rational theists have left because of the crazies and I’ve found that it really isn’t that much fun when the majority of people you talk to just make faith-based pronouncements and have zero interest whatsoever in talking intellectually. I just opted to take another extended vacation there because I got sick of crazy theists just being crazy.
My question is, what other choices are there? I want to talk to people who are reasonable, rational, engage in critical thinking and are able to examine their own beliefs intellectually. That’s damn hard to find when it comes to religion. You either get the idiots condemning you to hell because you’re not a fanatic like they are or the ones who go opposite extremes and say that everything is their opinion, they have no evidence and have no reason to try to justify anything to anyone. The middle ground really doesn’t exist on either forum, unfortunately. Is hoping to have a good debate with a theist ultimately impossible today? That’s certainly how it feels. Apparently, I want something mutually exclusive, an intelligent theist who will actually try to defend their beliefs credibly, yet doesn’t just blow off any and all challenges. Anyone have any suggestions?