[personal profile] wingedbeast
I frequent the blog Slacktivist*. It's a blog by someone who is, at the same time, an Evangelical Christian and, socially and politically, liberal. I enjoy it for its more thoughtful approach and for its engaging commentariat. But, for a while there was one commenter that, for our purposes and to maintain the anonymity, I will call the Declarator.

The Declarator was a conservative Christian and, any time the topic of a blog post came to something in favor of LGBT rights or in favor of a pro-choice position on abortion, one could always count on a nigh-identical post from the Declarator. "Homosexuality remains sinful." It would always be one short sentence making a declaration of the sinfulness of homosexuality or abortion. If it was a different topic, you might find a different short, declarative sentence. Any attempt to extend this into a full on conversation would only get similar declarations in response.

It's possible that you might agree with the Declarator's positions. For the purposes of this tip, the important parts are that this method of communication is ill-suited to convincing the unconvinced and why, when pressed for an answer to that question, the Declarator continues with this method.

The Declarator's claimed motivation is to convince the lurkers of (what the Declarator believes to be) the truth. Those who either frequent the blog or who come across these individual posts, but do not comment, according to the Declarator, might find these declarations persuasive. This is in the face of the evidence that these bald-faced declarations and the egotism displayed by the notion that the declarations, alone and absent any case made for their truth value, often moved people to take more strident sides against them.

The focus on invisible and assumed successes a common sentiment. It's an encouraged sentiment. Movies like "Second Glance", in which a Christian teen (for low-budget movie values of teen) is shown what his life would be like if he hadn't been a Christian, make the case that just by being such a good Christian (see Tips #28 and #50) the main character convinced a bully to read the bible, saved his parents' marriage, saved a teacher's faith in the profession, and stopped a friend from committing suicide... with absolutely no specific connections made.

The message is clear, "just by doing exactly what you're doing, good things are happening, regardless of whether or not there's any visible connection. So, just assume that you're accomplishing good things and keep doing exactly what you're already doing."

This assumption of successes that are invisible and nigh-intangible is a siren's song for exactly that reason. If what you're doing isn't doing any good, isn't convincing the unconvinced, is, in fact, driving you farther from your goals, this sentiment will tell you to still have a sense of accomplishment.

I realize that the purpose of this sentiment is to keep members motivated, keep them acting and trying even when the big successes don't come. When, despite what you might be lead to expect, nobody comes up to you and says that you convinced them to join your faith because of how peaceful you look or the inherent goodness of your position, this sentiment will tell you to keep trying. And, I do see the value in that.

Luckily, there's an alternative beyond assuming an all-or-nothing mindset. Instead of demanding giant visible victories or assuming giant invisible victories, you can focus on the small, yet visible victories.

In a conversation with a theist, my goal isn't to convince them to become an atheist. My goal is to convince them to have a more nuanced and more realistic understanding of those who disagree. This isn't an easy task. Previous tips exist precisely because many of the people with whom I've conversed have a deep and abiding dedication to never admitting that they have anything less than a perfectly accurate understanding of anybody who disagrees with them on any matter of their religion for any reason. So, I take the small successes of getting someone to understand one thing a bit better.

If I can get a Creationist to understand that, no, the theory of evolution does not predict that a cow will give birth to a cat or does not predict a crocoduck, that is a small success. If I can convince someone who sides against legal access to abortion that their methods are actually causing harm to living people, that is a small success. If I am convinced that Christianity, as a faith, is not so all-encompassing as even to be bound to treating Exodus as a factual accounting of history, that, too, is a success.

They're small successes. Someone learns something and the future conversation can be that much healthier, that much more based in a real understanding of the various facts and positions involved, and that much more able to produce a healthy understanding. It's a small thing and it's worth it. And, it doesn't have to be assumed to exist absent all evidence.

More importantly, for that it is something that can be evidenced before me and/or falsified to me, if I do something that hinders that very goal, I have a chance of finding out and adjusting.

* http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/

Date: 2017-06-11 02:01 am (UTC)
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)
From: [personal profile] dragoness_e
"The Declarator". Gee, I wonder who that could be? Major Burns from M.A.S.H.?

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