It's not hard to come to the conclusion that Twitter is not a good place to talk about religion.
The 140 character limit and the sheer number of trolls makes it nearly impossible to actually engage someone on the subject. Because of this, I've been looking into other options.
Try #1: JuanitaI was offered an interesting alternative by Juanita. Her idea was to take our conversation to a private series of Google Docs. We would each spell out our position and comment. We had established rules of dialog. It was very well organized.
Juanita and I didn't even really get into our discussion because part of her requirements to have a conversation was that I needed to allow her to say anything she wanted in public without commenting. It was her idea of "Free Speech". Even if I thought that she was horribly, horribly wrong, I wasn't allowed to comment "in public".
And she did this. Repeatedly. It appeared that she had setup some kind of automated posting service to constantly tweet some of her worst ideas to the world. Ideas that were insulting to not only me and the atheist community, but were insulting to anybody who didn't agree with her on any subject she could bring up.
This didn't work for me.
Somehow, her idea of "free speech" was she gets to say whatever she wants to whomever she wants, and I am not to say anything about it.
Turns out she only wanted "free speech" for herself, and not for me.
I wasn't willing to continue under those rules.
Try #2: OliviaA couple weeks after the Juanita debacle, I saw an offer from Olivia to engage in a group conversation with multiple theists and atheists. We got together in a Google Hangout (text, not video) where we could talk back and forth.
Things seemed to go well for a couple days, but went south really fast.
Olivia brought in what I can only classify as a "hatchet man", who simply proceeded to attack and insult me. I doubt it was anything to do with me, but they only ever managed to get two atheists to sign up for their little venture, and the other atheist had only commented on one occasion.
My patience with this quickly dried up, and I presented an ultimatum. Either he could leave or I would. I had/have no desire to engage someone whose idea of a discussion is to refer to atheists as "buffoons" who are "silly" and "naive".
He elected to leave, but Olivia made it clear that she felt she had no responsibility for his actions. This was despite the fact that she and this individual had discussed the conversation ahead of time, and he had actually informed her of what he was going to do.
Yep, he told her ahead of time.
She brought him in anyway, and while he was insulting me specifically and the atheist community in general, she even participated in her own more reserved way.
After she claimed that she hadn't read the whole conversation, so it looked like I was doing the attacking. Further, she insinuated that I was being childish for holding her even partially responsible. She flat out denied any culpability.
Again, this didn't work for me.
I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when you rejoin a Google Hangout, the backlog comes with the conversation. Seeing her say one thing to him and turn around and say something entirely different to me? I don't know that I can take her at her word even when she claims she feels he was in the wrong. I very much expect that she would do the same thing again if I allowed it to continue.
Where does this leave me?I'm not sure. I'm trying to do this in a way where both sides of the conversation can be civil. I admit that I wasn't completely innocent of being confrontational with Olivia's hatchet man, but I only became so after being repeatedly insulted. I even said a "naughty word" before I left. Shame on me.
Maybe I should just stick to Twitter where we can all engage in 140 character comments and not get too involved.
I've only tried this a couple times, and so far it's universally gone bad. Fast.
Maybe it's me. Maybe I come across differently than I'm trying to. I don't know.
I guess I'm off to find attempt #3. Cross your fingers and toes everybody! Let's hope it goes better than the last two.