Monday, August 18, 2008

The discussion of religious differences online is not a game

An excellent think piece by Andrew Brown of the Manchester Guardian on how the Internet has coarsened our debate. Parental warning there is some language that you wouldn't find in an American paper and might be deemed offensive.

"This dismissal, in advance, of everything your opponents might say as meaningless is the hallmark of all popular philosophical or religious discussion on the internet. It's odd to find it so enthusiastically embraced by academics, because it is not so very different at all from the demand of students opposed to all uncomfortable learning that anything they don't understand should be removed from the syllabus. In County Fermanagh, religious differences were real enough for people to kill one another: my great-grandfather is buried in Enniskillen, which was the scene of one of the worst bombings. Perhaps because of that, people learned not to give offence unless there was something really serious at stake. But online, everything feels like a game, and in the teeth of all the evidence we persist in believing that there is a clear sharp line between gaming and reality."

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