Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Apologetics, Debate, and Good Sportsmanship

The Jehovah's Witness gentleman (see below) and I have apparently decided to pretend genteelly that our little discussion never happened. This is fine with me. I will never be much of a debater. Not because I can't think of good arguments; I can, especially if the subject isn't something serious. I can even think of really silly arguments that are too logical to counter. But when it's a serious subject and I feel deeply about it, the distance between argument and me going off on someone is very short indeed.

So those folks who take up apologetics as a debate sport really puzzle me. My mother and father taught me not to discuss sex, politics or religion in public, as being only slightly less impolite than picking my nose or nether bits. But I know a lot of churches train their folks to do this. I soon learned to hate that "I've got you in my crosshairs" tone in their voices, since I got a lot of it in college. Now, my mother's old Catholic textbooks included stuff to say to people who argue with you. And certainly there's plenty of fine amateur and professional Catholic apologists out there doing their thing, enjoying it like it's a sport, and good for them. I suppose we should be ready to explain our hope, as Peter said. But why the heck should we have to?

It's just hard to take it seriously, isn't it? I mean, if somebody reallllllly wanted to know about Church doctrine, wouldn't they just _look it up_? Thousands of years of great saints and great thinkers and great poets are easily available, and they're asking me?!?

So clearly people aren't really looking for information; they're looking for some kind of "how much do Catholics really believe this" and "do Catholics know why they believe". Which is an annoying sort of way. And I suppose it's useful to see things from other points of view. I positively enjoy a discussion of religion with my friends (and yes, we discuss sex and politics, too). But it's bad sportsmanship to force somebody to play a game with you. And one of these days I'm going to go off on somebody who puts me in their crosshairs. I'm sure they'll feel all persecuted and smug, and they won't be the ones feeling embarrassed and guilty about it afterwards. But they should.


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