Board Culture Question: Defining Others

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Monkey

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"Well, if they believe that, they aren't a real Christian."

"That's not really a religion, more of a Path, or a religous philosophy."

"You can't be a Christian/Buddhist; they're mutually exclusive."

I've come across these sorts of statements a lot, both in real life and on the internet--even at AW. It always bothers me. I don't think any of us have a right to tell someone that their own definition of thier own religious beliefs is wrong, and we know what they really are.

But that's just my opinion. We're establishing a board culture for this room, and to me, this seems an important question. Are we allowed to make these sorts of determinations for others?

I guess the question is primarily for MacAllister, but I posted it in hopes of establishing some sort of board agreement, or at least understanding. After the discussion on Evil, I realized that simply agreeing on terms might be difficult on this board. Not that I'm complaining. This has been a lot of fun so far. :)
 

Bartholomew

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I'd say we're allowed to be whatever amalgamation of religions we want.

I'm a buffet buddhist; I took the parts I liked and kept them (thought the parts I took look suspiciously Theravada) - I give a good portion of my day to God, though it is more to wonder if it exists and in what form. Everyone around me is Christian, and that influences me whether I accept it or not.

I have Buddhist ideas, Christian ideals, and atheist tendencies.
 

Calla Lily

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"Well, if they believe that, they aren't a real Christian."

"That's not really a religion, more of a Path, or a religous philosophy."

"You can't be a Christian/Buddhist; they're mutually exclusive."

I hear those and similar statements in RL too. They annoy me. Who appointed any one person the arbiter of deciding what constitutes a "real" Christian, or Buddhist, or Pagan, or Jew, etc. etc.

Since I'm not Jesus Christ Himself come back from Heaven, I have no right to judge how anyone defines their faith. We're all working folks trying to pay the rent and find the path we need. Period.

*wondering where I found this sopabox so early on a Sunday morning...*
 

Medievalist

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"Well, if they believe that, they aren't a real Christian."

Nope. Not kosher. Note the problem here is one of tone--it is perjorative.

Note too that the same underlying assertion could phrased quite differently.

"It strikes me that for a self-described Christian to assert that anyone who disagrees with her about the necessity of communion at the altar is going straight to hell is contradicting Christ's basic teachings."


"That's not really a religion, more of a Path, or a religous philosophy."

This might be OK, if rephrased. "I would have thought Druidism was a path, rather than a religion; that the religion would be Celtic Paganism?"

"You can't be a Christian/Buddhist; they're mutually exclusive."

Meh. Not awful, but it doesn't have any where to go in terms of meaningful discussion; it's just sorta mean-spirited and likely to shut down discussion.

Better: "How do you deal with some of the basic conflicts in philosophy between Buddhism and Christianity, like the emphasis on enlightenment versus the emphasis on faith ?
 

MacAllister

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Monkey, right. We're not defining others, here. We're not offering our observations, criticism, and religious advice. We're not proselytizing, berating, or editorializing about others. We don't get to say "X is a religion, but Y is a cult" because honestly? I think most of those distinctions are bullshit, anyway, designed to make the guy making the statement feel superior/better about himself or herself.

I will quash stuff like that zealously, when I come across it. I'd also appreciate any help y'all feel comfortable providing to other participants who take longer to "get it"--because as new people come in, we can be pretty sure there will be some who come in guns a-blazin', to "teach" us the error of our ways. :)

(Those Pastafarians can't stay out of trouble, you know...)

That said, we can and will be examining, questioning, observing, and comparing different aspects of different faiths. So there's a line to walk.
 
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Monkey

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I'm really happy to read these responses.

We're not offering our observations, criticism, and religious advice. We're not proselytizing, berating, or editorializing about others.

That deserves to be stickied somewhere.
 

Mr. Chuckletrousers

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We're not offering our observations, criticism, [snip].
I'd like some clarification on those terms. For instance, say someone were to post an argument against the existence of God or an argument for the eternity of the soul for discussion, and then someone else were to say "well, your argument fails because it doesn't take into account A, B and C" -- this is both offering an observation and making a criticism (of their argument), is it not? Are such discussions not permitted?
 

Bartholomew

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I'd like some clarification on those terms. For instance, say someone were to post an argument against the existence of God or an argument for the eternity of the soul for discussion, and then someone else were to say "well, your argument fails because it doesn't take into account A, B and C" -- this is both offering an observation and making a criticism (of their argument), is it not? Are such discussions not permitted?

Mac is pretty good at letting the people participating in a room define what is too far and what isn't. I think her definitions of what is and is not allowed are still nebulous, and that a few people are going to have to stumble over the line before anyone really knows where it is.

The forum has always had one rule; respect. I think of everyone minds that rule, this room will be A-OK.
 

Yeshanu

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I'd like some clarification on those terms. For instance, say someone were to post an argument against the existence of God or an argument for the eternity of the soul for discussion, and then someone else were to say "well, your argument fails because it doesn't take into account A, B and C" -- this is both offering an observation and making a criticism (of their argument), is it not? Are such discussions not permitted?

I don't see a problem with this sort of discussion. You're offering an opinion on the person's argument, not on the person. Huge, huge difference.

I think what the original poster was trying to get at is the tendency of some Christians (of all stripes) to define those who don't hold the exact same beliefs as they do as being "not Christian."

For example, I've actually been in a room where one Christian told another person she wasn't really a Christian because she didn't pray like he did. It's terribly hurtful, and it's also disrespectful, which is the one thing that's against the rules of the board.

At least that's my take on it.

Personally, I've had philosophical differences with a lot of people on this board, and many people disagree with what I have to say on various topics. But no-one has ever said that I'm not a Christian because I hold beliefs that are different from theirs.
 

ColoradoGuy

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I agree that tone is crucial. In these virtual discussions we don't have hand and facial gestures, pitch of voice, or body language to help communicate what we mean -- when, for example, we're being dead serious and when we're being playful. All we've got are the words. Since talking about religion is such a potential minefield we need to be more mindful of that in this room than in other AW rooms. Still, it's a fascinating minefield all the same, and well worth the extra care we need to take as we post.
 

Monkey

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I think what the original poster was trying to get at is the tendency of some Christians (of all stripes) to define those who don't hold the exact same beliefs as they do as being "not Christian."

Yes, that's exactly it, except that it's not just Christians.

It's not uncommon for people to try to define other people's beliefs for them. I run across it distressingly often, and am glad it won't fly here.
 

veinglory

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I think stating things in the personal/positive helps. i.e. "for me being a Gnome worshipper means x, y, z." Versus "if you value q, r, s you aren't a real Gnome worshipper".

I am most irked when people who don't hold a belief "correct" the understandings of people who do. That is a bit like the pot calling the kettle a crock pot.
 

Smiling Ted

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Yes, but...

Monkey, right. We're not defining others, here. We're not offering our observations, criticism, and religious advice. We're not proselytizing, berating, or editorializing about others. We don't get to say "X is a religion, but Y is a cult" because honestly? I think most of those distinctions are bullshit, anyway, designed to make the guy making the statement feel superior/better about himself or herself.

I will quash stuff like that zealously, when I come across it. I'd also appreciate any help y'all feel comfortable providing to other participants who take longer to "get it"--because as new people come in, we can be pretty sure there will be some who come in guns a-blazin', to "teach" us the error of our ways. :)

(Those Pastafarians can't stay out of trouble, you know...)

That said, we can and will be examining, questioning, observing, and comparing different aspects of different faiths. So there's a line to walk.

Sometimes a religion holds an article of faith that's written down right in its Scripture. It's what the religion is all about. If you don't hold that belief, can you claim to be a member of that faith?

For instance, every practicing Moslem says, every day, "There is no god but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet." Monotheism is central to the faith. If you are a polytheist, can you also claim to be a Moslem?

Likewise, some movements practice coercion (including threats, harassment, and mind-control techniques) and use "false flags" to retain members, attack opponents, and propagate their ideas. If you don't have a free choice about leaving, if the organization has control of your labor, property and thought, isn't that a cult?
 

James81

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From a purely general standpoint (and not having to do with specific rules on this board and how we are to act), I would say that people have the right to say whatever they want about a particular religion.

And it also depends on the context.

For example, the bible clearly says:

Thou shalt not steal.

It doesn't get any clearer than that, really. So if someone who claims to be a christian would come along and say something like "It's ok to steal," then obviously you could make a judgement about that and say "Well, stealing is not something a christian would do. Here's why..." And then show them the verses where it says that.

When you get to the greyer areas, though, it becomes less clear how a christian should act. Is going to a restaraunt that serves beer wrong? Some christians assert that it is, even though there is no direct scripture stating so, but there are some scriptures that can be interpreted as such (i.e. "Abstain from the very appearance of evil").

So, in a general sense, sometimes it's legitimate to say "a christian would never do that, unless in the sense that it's a mistake made out of weakness" or something like that. Sometimes it's purely judgemental and out of line.

How that applies to how we are supposed to handle such discussions on this board, though, is a question that I'm curious about.
 

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Should I force others to say about me only what I want them to say about me? I don't think so.
 

MacAllister

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Sometimes a religion holds an article of faith that's written down right in its Scripture. It's what the religion is all about. If you don't hold that belief, can you claim to be a member of that faith?
Of course. You can claim anything you want to claim. It's not my job to tell you otherwise. That's simply not my judgment to make.

Nor is it yours.

For instance, every practicing Moslem says, every day, "There is no god but God, and Mohammed is his Prophet." Monotheism is central to the faith. If you are a polytheist, can you also claim to be a Moslem?
See above.

Likewise, some movements practice coercion (including threats, harassment, and mind-control techniques) and use "false flags" to retain members, attack opponents, and propagate their ideas. If you don't have a free choice about leaving, if the organization has control of your labor, property and thought, isn't that a cult?
You know what? If you can find evidence -- actual, documented legal facts -- then you've proved that the single specific chapter of whatever religion you're looking at practices those techniques. You've not proven anything at all about cults, or the overall beliefs of the majority of people practicing that religion.

And any blanket assertions otherwise will get you escorted politely out of this discussion.

From a purely general standpoint (and not having to do with specific rules on this board and how we are to act), I would say that people have the right to say whatever they want about a particular religion.
Sure they do. Just not here.

So, in a general sense, sometimes it's legitimate to say "a christian would never do that, unless in the sense that it's a mistake made out of weakness" or something like that. Sometimes it's purely judgemental and out of line.

How that applies to how we are supposed to handle such discussions on this board, though, is a question that I'm curious about.
We don't make those criticisms on this board.

Guys, honestly, what part of "You don't get to criticize, attack, berate, editorialize, or otherwise make value judgments about what someone else believes here (Full Stop)" is so very hard to understand? Because, frankly, I'm about done explaining it. If you just can't wrap your heads around what on earth I can possibly mean, then this is clearly not the room for you.

Should I force others to say about me only what I want them to say about me? I don't think so.
No one is forcing anyone to say anything.

I can, and will, force you not to make sweeping generalizations out of some kind of screwed-up sense that you're smarter or better-informed or otherwise superior to someone else in this room, simply because they hold different beliefs than you do.
 
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