The Perils of an Open Forum

David Hume famously said that truth springs from argument amongst friends, but he certainly didn't anticipate internet discussions involving people who are "Facebook friends."

In the last few months, I've noticed quite a surge in the number of people who friend request me, send me e-mail, and want to discuss various topics on my Facebook profile, so I decided to allow ANYONE to post and share their views so I didn't have to go through the process of friending people before they were able to chat. Unfortunately, this opened the floodgates for mass hysteria.

I have over two thousand friends on Facebook who, along with many non-friends, are regular posters. Many of these people can easily propel threads to over 150 posts and enable quite a discussion. Unfortunately, as some threads progress, the conversation seemingly gets nowhere and personal attacks are levied when some "just don't get it."

People see the posts of some who might agree with me on a basic issue (abortion, the existence of a deity, gay rights, etc) as representative of my opinion. This isn't necessarily the case. I don't go through and moderate every comment made and I don't always follow the discussion an every thread. I don't automatically endorse whatever is said by anyone by any means. I greatly differ from many others on matters of presentation, delivery, argumentation, etc.

You can't possibly group all people who share a basic viewpoint and think that they all represent others' thoughts, hold the same beliefs, etc. Don't do it with atheists and don't do it with religious people.

I want to have a discussion and I want to keep it civil. Be cool, come with an open-mind, and be ready to defend claims that you make. Critique of a belief, as always, is not critique of a person and is simply a pathway for discussion. I want to keep my Facebook site and blog open for anyone to comment, so please don't ruin this and force me to say "this is why we can't have nice things." I can't possibly police every commenter and I can't know what people are going to post before they post it. Skeptics should especially be skeptical and call out the skeptics who aren't being skeptical.

I'm not calling for people to cease posting disagreement with others by any means, but what I am asking for is a "toning down" in which people don't levy personal attacks against others. Continue to criticize the Catholic Church for shielding rapist priests, but don't call all priests rapists. Continue to note that Mother Teresa's works were not as good as people think they were and point out her countless misgivings that can't possibly be brushed off as minor or paling in comparison to the good. Tone it down, continue civil discussion, and treat people with respect.