There is a pithy little piece over at The Atlantic on winning online arguments.
What I often see in religious arguments in comment boxes on blogs and so forth thoroughly disgusts me. In the past, I have been on both ends of the rail, but I can barely stand to write comments on blogs anymore, especially when I do take the time (too much time, in some cases) to understand someone's argument only to have my very time consuming response rebuffed, brushed off, or summarily deleted. It's the time of thing that can send any person into a frenzy. I've encountered this quite a bit on many Catholic blogs. Grr!
Just seeing what my online friend Hugo goes through at the SDA2RC blog is interesting. He can humbly make a succinct, balanced, and intelligent point that is devastating to someone's argument, and instead of being engaged in a serious manner, he is subjected to relentless browbeating ("Oh, well, you just haven't taken this class or read this book - how can you possibly expect to be right about X?" or "How dare you question or challenge me? You don't have my superior education"). And then there's also deliberate obfuscation in a feeble attempt to deflect a striking blow ("Oh, well, when I said X, I was really talking about Y and Z, and therefore you're a fool for not seeing that"). And Hugo is probably one of the most humble, balanced, respectful, and educated Christians I have ever met (online, certainly), and he is treated this way by people in positions of ministry who clearly should know better.
I can only think of when I went to hear Fr. Michael Crosby, OFM Cap., speak back in 2003. Of course, this was not a blogging venue, but the attitude was the same. He laughed as he boasted about how great of a scholar of scripture he was, his vast educational background and ministry experience. Then he proceeded to brag about how he once publicly humiliated a couple of young adults who dared to question something he once said in a talk (something he was clearly wrong about, by the way). And I've seen this done elsewhere in other contexts as well, by Catholics and non-Catholics, by priests, protestant pastors, campus ministers, and atheists. These people are not concerned with what is true or good or holy. They are only concerned about themselves. I suppose it's a temptation any of us can fall into. Let us meditate on that today.