People need to learn how to argue better on the internet, especially about religion, Catholic media personality and Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said in remarks at Facebook’s headquarters on Sept. 18.
“Seek with great patience to understand your opponent’s position,” he advised, adding that it can be “very tempting just to fire back ‘why you’re wrong.’”
Instead of going after what’s wrong, he said, one should seek also highlight what your opponent has right. This is an “extraordinarily helpful” way to get past impasses.
Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire website and media content reach millions of people each year over the internet. The bishop spoke to Facebook employees Sept. 18 at the company’s Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters on the topic “How to have a religious argument.” The event was live-streamed to around 2,500 viewers.
“If we don’t know how to argue about religion, then we’re going to fight about religion,” he said.
For Bishop Barron, argument is something positive and “a way to peace.”
If one goes on social media, he said, “you’ll see a lot of energy around religious issues. There will be a lot of words exchanged, often angry ones, but very little argument.”
Bishop Barron praised the intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas and his time’s treatment of disputed questions. A professor would gather in a public place and entertain objections and questions.
“What’s off the table? Nothing as far as I can tell,” the bishop summarized. He cited the way St. Thomas Aquinas made the case for disbelief in God before presenting the arguments for rational belief in God.
“If you can say ‘I wonder whether there’s a God,’ that means all these questions are fine and fair,” Bishop Barron continued. “I like the willingness to engage any question.”
Aquinas always phrases the objections “in a very pithy, and very persuasive way.” In the bishop’s view, he formulates arguments against God’s existence even better than modern atheists and sets them up in the most convincing manner, before providing his responses to these arguments.
Further, St. Thomas Aquinas cites great Muslim and Jewish scholars, as well as pre-Christian authorities like Aristotle and Cicero, always with great respect.
Bishop Barron said authentic faith is not opposed to reason; it does not accept simply anything on the basis of no evidence.
Full story at Catholic News Agency.