|You need the right rhetorical tool |
for the right rhetorical job.
Oh-oh, someone thinking of me can lead to all manner adverse situations. I was thinking of something you can do for me. I was thinking how irritating you are when you do that particular thing . I was thinking you're not half as clever as you think you are. (In my defense my self deprecating humor is not a joke.) Seeing that it was my kids' martial arts instructor, Mario, talking to me, I was also thinking that he may have some story to tell about Will scratching his butt in class or Ali roundhouse kicking some other student. I think I could handle the latter better than the former. After all, Ali does have a good roundhouse kick for a 6 year old, and who doesn't want to show off every once in a while?
It wasn't any of the above.
"I was on Facebook and there was a discussion about the Pledge." Mario reads Purgatory every once in a while, and while saying he doesn't agree with me on atheism, he is entertained. He had read my post about calling into the local radio station, and giving my pro-Godless position on the matter.
"Yeah,' he continued "there was a guy who was totally against God in the Pledge."
"Good for him," I thought.
"And then after going back and forth with other people the guy said, 'Anyone who believes in talking snakes is a nut job.' And I mentioned, without saying your name, that my atheist friend may disagree with someone's position effectively without calling them a nut job."
Now, I've gotten into heated conversations on Facebook, but I haven't called anyone a nut job. Things have gotten passionate, and I've mentioned that religion opens the door to barbarism and other such inflammatory (though true) observations. However, those online conversations were with friends. When I discuss religion with strangers, whether it's online or face-to-face I do my best to keep the argument to the matter at hand and not indulge in personal attacks -- especially when the other person is spoiling for a fight.
Atheists and secularists, when we're doing our jobs properly, argue against the absurd idea of a talking snake first and foremost. Especially in debates where who knows who is observing, it's far better to come off as the adult rather than the child. Even if you don't sway the believer's point of view (an unlikely occurrence at the best of times) there is virtue in swaying an onlooker from being anti-atheist to someone who respects our community.
It's about behaving professionally.