Thursday, December 4, 2008

Religion and Politics

Religion and politics -- these are topics of conversation that are best avoided at parties. At least, that's the traditional wisdom for anyone who doesn't want to get caught up in pointless, nonproductive arguments.

I belong to four online forums for artists. Three of those have moderators who insist on keeping the topics related to art. The fourth is mostly that way, but it also features a sort of "let's chat about whatever" where one can start or participate in any subject that's on one's mind.

Prior to the November elections, some of the threads dealt with politics, led mostly by a few people who felt quite passionately about then-candidate Barrack Obama. The problem was: some of us, myself included, felt the pro-Obama folks weren't looking at Obama's claims with any degree of skepticism at all. If we asked for the Obama-ites to offer explanations or evidence that supported those claims, we were treated in an insulting manner and -- needless to say -- were not given explanations or evidence. The forum moderator, in fact, threatened one of the Obama-ites with banishment from the forum if she didn't restrain herself, so this person avoided outright flaming -- but the comments were still insulting.

Now -- I have a Masters degree in microbiology. I did research in college and in several jobs afterwards. A procedure exists for looking at evidence, asking questions and looking for the holes, and trying to find the answers to questions to whatever extent that is possible. The political "discussion" on the forum would not cut it in circles that are used to dealing with evidence -- certainly not science; I'm sure lawyers would have had a field day with it as well.

Mind you -- none of this has anything to do with where I or others stood regarding Obama or McCain. This was strictly about the lack of critical thinking on the part of adults who, I'm sure, are convinced they "won" the discussion.

And the result of all this? Many forum members have not appeared on the forum since the election -- not, I'm convinced -- because Obama won the election, but because we have hard feelings about the way the Obama-ites conducted themselves. The worst of the insulters is still there; in fact, after the election, she brought up the California Proposition 8 "anti-gay marriage" initiative -- but this time, nobody took her bait. A few of us, in fact, sent each other private messages, and we agree this person has a compulsive need (seriously bordering on mental illness) to be the center of attention and to win regardless of her methodology. I and one other forum member have worked with or around mentally ill people before, and what we were seeing was disturbing. Unfortunately, the pro-Obama extremist got away with it, and I don't know if I or the others will return to that forum.

We didn't discuss religion (although it has come up before in this forum), but we did get into politics. I guess we allowed ourselves to get sucked into an unreasonable situation with unreasonable people. And I fear we all lost continued opportunities for building an online community of other professional artists.

Religion and politics -- these are topics of conversation that are best avoided at parties. And online forums.

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