Logic and Reason vs. Emotion and Belief
Lately I've been following and sometimes contributing to some discussions on Facebook. While some of the discussions are calm and rational, there are a few that really bother me. Not so much as the subject matter but rather the way it is presented, defended and argued over.
Maybe I've just become pedantic since I've gone back to college, but even back in high school I was taught that the best way to present your point of view was with logic and reason. If you present facts, you also present the sources of this facts. You cite them. That way, everyone can refer to those sources themselves, and you can't be accused of making them up.
Unfortunately, on the Facebook pages I've been watching, while there has been a lot of information presented as fact, very few sources are given. I say "unfortunately" because some of these "facts" I know are not facts at all, but rather opinion or apocrypha masquerading as fact.
You also have to be careful of what sources you use. For example, if you're basing your beliefs on the Bible, or your understanding thereof, you need to remember that not everyone believes the Bible to be the unerring Word of God, or even an accurate historical record. While it's true that modern archaeological discoveries have indeed born out many of the events described therein, the Bible itself contradicts itself in many places. When discussing belief, then, be aware of those contradictions and inaccuracies.
Ultimately, citing any religious source is chancy at best, because not everyone in your audience shares your beliefs. There is still too much in scripture--not just Christian scripture, but any religious scriptures, that simply cannot be verified independently. For example, there is very little doubt that a man named Jesus did in fact exist, and was the same Jesus referred to in the Bible. Even His enemies didn't deny Him, or His claim to be the King of the Jews. That fact was one of the reasons that Pilate caused the sign to be affixed to the cross stating "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. He recognized Jesus' claim to be the rightful heir of the crown of David; what Pilate was doing was recognizing His legitimate claim to kingship, and then, in effect, saying, "Okay, folks. This man is in fact your king. But we're putting him to death, so no one has any rightful claim to the throne anymore. Give it up! You lose, we (Rome) win."
But with the exception of religious scripture--not all of which is accepted by everyone--there is no independent proof of His claim to be the Son of God. Indeed, He referred to Himself as the "son of man." So don't expect people who don't share your beliefs to accept them without independent verification. You have the right to your own beliefs, just as I have the right to mine. But what you don't have is the right to force your beliefs on me, any more than I have the right to force you to accept mine. I respect your right to your beliefs; I do not accept your right to claim that my own are false. And I especially don't recognize your right to make your or anyone else's religious beliefs the law of the land.
Look, I'm not expecting you to use APA or MLA or Chicago citation rules. I don't even do that myself. But at least tell me the source of your information so I can verify that I am indeed reading legitimate facts, rather than your interpretation of them. How do I know you're not simply making stuff up?
This, then, is the problem I have with most religious discussions: no matter how they start, they invariably degenerate into arguments.