Springy G confessions time: I enjoy arguing on the Internet. Even worse, my favourite topic for arguing is religion. This is a Sisyphean task, because the prospect of coming to any sort of agreement is vanishingly unlikely. When the battle lines are drawn (generally with me on the side of humanists, atheists and liberal believers, and all manner of fundamentalists on the other), it can literally go on for days.
If you’re lucky. Sometimes a particularly wild and emotionally-charged melee can go on for months on end, and I’ve been known to occasionally throw a fresh log on the embers of a discussion thread that was that close to slipping off page 1 of a discussion forum.
Why do I torment myself like this? Because it’s fun. Not trollish fun, but an ongoing challenge to find new ways of getting a point across. It’s a great writing exercise, if nothing else, and you can learn a lot: Biology, physics, geology, history, sociology, languages, logic, and a whole lot more.
When I first started this odd hobby back around 2004, I was angry about the interference of religion in civil society and the rights of individuals. The more backstory I learned, the angrier I got; in fact, at one point I was skirting the fine line between “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” and “barking mad.” Eventually I came back to my senses, became more selective about getting embroiled in a debate, and started to curate my bookmarks and now only visit three or four sites on a regular basis.
I still come down hard on people who wander in and cheerfully threaten their brand-new Internet acquaintances with eternal torment at the hands of whatever supernatural being they worship, but in all other matters I’d rather be the adult in the room: Say what needs to be said, generally with civility, and walk away. Occasionally some particularly apt phrase springs to mind that just stops an argument cold. Call it a mic drop, call it a /thread tag, but when days go by and no one adds to what I wrote, it’s quite satisfying.
I’ve also had some of my one-liners outlast the conversation where I originally thought them up, and blushed all the way down to my socks when someone took a longer quote from me and made an actual meme picture with the quote, attribution, and my forum avatar.
Every now and then I wonder if this is something I could or should do professionally -- for example, expanding on some of my ideas and turning them into a book of essays. It’s tempting, but first I need to finish things I’ve already written. Rather than going on the lecture circuit with a book of theo-political rants, I think I’ll pull out my old National Novel Writing Month and Script Frenzy projects (11 of them at last count) and work on them for a while. What a concept: Staying up late writing something that’s more fun and considerably less fury. It’s a crazy idea, but it just might work.