I don’t typically do “one-on-one” discussions:

Especially not extemporaneous “debate” on what is likely to be contentious issues — religion, politics, etc.

My reason for this is simple:

There is a better than even chance that EVEN WHEN two parties in a discussion/debate happen to be using the same word(s), they are NOT discussing the same THING.

For example, consider the following snippet from Wikipedia discussing Mordecai Kaplan:


Kaplan’s theology held that in light of the advances in philosophy, science, and history, it would be impossible for modern Jews to continue to adhere to many of Judaism’s traditional theological claims. Kaplan’s naturalistic theology has been seen as a variant of John Dewey‘s philosophy. Dewey’s naturalism combined atheism with religious terminology in order to construct a religiously satisfying philosophy for those who had lost faith in traditional religion. Kaplan was also influenced by Émile Durkheim‘s argument that our experience of the sacred is a function of social solidarity. Matthew Arnold and Hermann Cohen were among his other influences.

In agreement with prominent medieval Jewish thinkers including Maimonides, Kaplan affirmed that God is not personal, and that all anthropomorphic descriptions of God are, at best, imperfect metaphors. Kaplan’s theology went beyond this to claim that God is the sum of all natural processes that allow man to become self-fulfilled:


The article goes on to quote Kaplan.  Suffice to say, what Kaplan meant by “God” is decidedly different from what your typical “biblical literalist” type Protestant would mean by the term.

For one thing, most such individuals/groups regard “God” as a “person”, and at least implicitly ascribe such characteristics as: omnipotence, omniscience, omnivenevolence etc.

My point is: until and unless both participants explicitly define what they mean by the term “God”, no “discussion” can actually take place.   No matter what either participant says — whether they appear to be “agreeing” with one another or not — they will merely continue to talk “past” one another, without even noticing that they have do so.

The unfortunate thing is: most people don’t want to bother with the above.  Ensuring that all participants “agree” on a definition at the outset basically ensures that you won’t get to the “higher level” questions during that discussion.   Most people would rather jump in “mid-stream”.

This is also why I don’t allow myself to get tricked into discussions of whether or not I’ve read ‘the bible”.   WHICH version?  The KJV?  NIV?  Douay–Rheims?

Most Protestant bibles either omit certain books which Catholic bibles include, or relegate those books to a separate section as “apocrypha”.  I think this should be at least admitted up front before people blithely assume that just because they both claim to have read “the Bible”, this means they’ve actually read the same book.

(This is also why I cannot take “inerrancy” seriously:  EVEN IF — for the sake of argument — you accept the notion that whoever originally authored the various books of the bible were mere “pens of God” (IE: that Yahweh was basically using them as “hand-puppets” or something), that still doesn’t justify the claim that ANYTHING downstream retains that status.

Not the various “councils” where books were voted into “The Bible”, while others were (imperfectly) suppressed as “heretical”.

DEFINITELY not the subsequent antics of various Protestant “reformers” (many of whom had ulterior motives — the “Anglican” church was originally created because Henry VIII wanted a divorce, or some such thing.

The “reductio ad absurdum” of this notion is, of course, various forms of KJV-only, “Young Earth”, literalist weirdos who throw pants-shitting tantrums when their children are subjected to the “Satanic” theory of evolution.  There’s a predictable pattern to that, too:

The more intelligent/curious folks originating from such  denominational subcultures tend to ask the “wrong” questions (such as whether or not rabbits “chew the cud”).  Their “spiricual leaders” (who are often rabidly literalist and barely literate) typically begin shrieking at them about “walking by faith, and not by sight” (IE: the rational faculty is Satanic).   Eventually (at least judging by Exchristian.net and suchlike) those people come to the conclusion that the whole thing is idiotic fairy-tale superstitions unworthy of further consideration, and often become militant “anti-theists”.  (I’ve seen this happen with “Ex-Mennonites” several times.)

But back to my original point: I don’t do one-on-one discussions.  I definitely don’t get sucked into “online” debates.  If one participant thinks “God” is an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent “person”, and the other one things “God” is “the sum total of natural phenomena comprising the Cosmos itself” — what may at first appear to be “constructive dialog” (or even “agreement”) — is, at best, superficial, and uninformative in the extreme.




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