Thursday, March 10, 2016

My Writing Style Around Religion

In my last two posts, I've been writing to a young man, named Tom B. He was kind enough to attempt to bring me  back to Christianity by some very poor logic. So poor, I almost wept with the deepest of pity. In the first post, I spoke about Tom's view of authority and his role in a defined hierarchical society. In the second post, I got down to brass tacks, speaking to Tom about the idea that rigid rules don't allow for the nuances of life.

From those posts came two types of responses. I was thanked, profusely, for my calm and collected demeanor, while taking the kid down a notch from his perceived superiority. Secondly, I was approached by a dear friend who told me the following:
If I didn't know you personally, I wouldn't want to get to know you better, after reading your responses to Tom B. You come across as a dick, making a mountain out of a molehill, seeming to desire to argue about everything.
I found the stark contrast of the two reactions to be quite fascinating. If you've been following Incongruous Circumspection for any length of time, you will see a plethora of reactions to religion.

Sometimes I am very angry, and in my view, rightly so. Especially if the individuals or groups the post is directed toward, are treating those they find different than themselves, in a hurtful manner. I have no time for that.

At other times, I write in a very theoretical way, speaking directly to theology, with an eye to the practicalities of life. I find this approach to be helpful to both my readers and myself, giving me a moment in time to point back to if I ever doubt who I am, if I am asked about what and why I believe or don't believe, and finally, to be able to update my convictions when I am presented with new information.

But these two approaches aren't where I am most comfortable. Sometimes, in my anger, I enjoy being an asshole. But later, I go back and read my words, wincing, yet realizing that, caught in the moment, I want my readers to witness my intense passion. Also, the theoretical missives that I write are a bit dry for my taste. I feel that while good information is being disseminated, it isn't the best way to change minds, being that the attention span of most people ends at the third paragraph. (By that assumption, you're done reading by now)

My favorite approach is to respond in a personal way, to those who write to me, to those who publicly make a statement, and to those that talk to me face to face. I am convinced that this style of writing is the most effective. While it may appear that I am "making a mountain out of a molehill," I'm not really writing to the person the post is directed toward.

I'm actually writing directly to the reader. I want them to identify with my target, being able to personalize the words on the page. 


  1. My take on this is pretty much the opposite. If it has to get personal, and emotionally florid, then the actual data, the actual logic and argumentation, are losing out.
    If religiously- or politically-motivated tactics like guilt trips and whipping up anger are any indication, emotional arguments can be used to argue successfully for something that we'd both agree to be definitively wrong.
    If you've got the truth on your side, however, you shouldn't need rhetorical or emotional prybars to help things along.
    Argument from emotion is, at least for me, a flag that something's not aboveboard.

  2. I've been fighting against that notion since religious loons from my past have used the "argument from emotion is irrelevant," coupled with "women argue from emotion," to control women.

    Any argument that is purely logical and yet has no emotional buy-in leaves me suspicious of the presenter. No. I reject your premise.

    1. I'm not sure I'm understanding.

      To me, that seems akin to citing the stereotype of women being bad at math (which I can attest they aren't) as proof that math is false or useless. Or the idea that women can't drive as proof that driving is not an effective way to travel.

      F = m*a has no emotional buy-in, but is a robust and useful way to describe human-scale mechanics. "Give your soul to Jesus" has massive emotional power, but we'd both agree it isn't tied into the most effective picture of reality or human behavior.

    2. The flaw with the statement "argument from emotion is irrelevant...women argue from emotion" isn't found in the first statement, but the second.

      One can be emotional about a topic and emotionally invested in a debate, but as soon as an appeal to emotion is used as a valid reason for one's stance, objective reasoning has left the debate and we may as well be arguing over which My Little Pony character is more attractive.

      Using emotion to gather support is a very religious tactic, and has no place in the realms of convincing others to use reason and logic as a means to move away from their current emotion based views.