1. First and foremost: we are not enemies. The goal here is to discuss the issues of the day on an informed, elevate level. This cannot be accomplished with vitriol and attacks. Try to imagine that you are talking to a person at a dinner party in your own home surrounded by friends you’ve invited from church (the only difference being we can link to data sources, charts, news articles, etc..) – or imagine socially conservative elders who you respect and don’t wish to offend if you are unchurched.
2. Facts – once presented – must be acknowledged and addressed; and false facts – once DISPROVEN – must be abandoned. I have no tolerance for people who continue to repeat known falsehoods after they have been debunked, and no tolerance for people who reject simple and indisputable fact because the propagandist that they watch every night told them otherwise. Once authoritative data is offered it must be addressed and respected. There is no point to just talking past one another indefinitely. (I suppose I could have just summed this up by saying I will delete posts from trolls).
3. Logical fallacies – once identified – must be acknowledged. Similar to #2, but if you use a logical fallacy to present your argument, it helps no-one. The conclusion might even be perfectly valid and defensible, but if your presentation is rife with scatterbrained nonsense you won’t be doing anyone any favors by clinging desperately to your argument as it stands. Back off a little and try to rethink what you are trying to say. You may find yourself changing your mind as a result, or you may find yourself able to change other’s minds as a result.
4. Authority is earned, and evident. It’s quite easy to claim anything behind an anonymous handle. So whether you say you are a multi-doctorate professor who was on the short list for a Nobel Prize or you say you are a middle school student, you need to know that your familiarity with the topic will be easily spotted by the readers. It is far better for you to be honest with what you do understand and admit what you are uncertain of – and even question/challenge the assertions of those that have a better handle on the subject, then to just claim authority and bulldoze your assertions. If you have the expertise you claim, you should be able to defend your stance.
5. There will be some far more personal posts on topics of philosophy, religion, social norms, entertainment, etc… In these cases, a person is stating a belief or a conviction. This becomes rather difficult, but in these topics we specifically have an absence of hard evidence. This is not a place where you can just bash someone else’s faith because you disagree. It may be impossible to maintain social discord in these topics, in which case they will have to be abandoned, but my hope is that we can tread lightly and with mutual respect… and find the places where we have common ground (our center), and the places where we cannot have common ground, which we will have to figure out how to accept as well.
6. I am not non-partisan. Neither are you. Partisan influence is natural for anyone who has an interest here. I have a strong religious conviction – I am a Christian Unitarian, or Liberal Christian. You could be anything from a Mormon to a Muslim to a (sigh) militant atheist; from agnostic to Catholic priest or firebrand Baptist preacher, etc… There is no expectation that you must somehow pretend to be neutral in whatever conversation comes up. There IS an expectation that you be willing to listen and consider other’s viewpoints. Please respond to people who engage you in a respectful way. Ignoring other voices and just continuing to chime in to repeat your own assertions is not the hallmark of an adult conversation, and listening to other’s points and viewpoints – even if they are clearly in opposition to something you believe – may deepen and mature your understanding of your own stance.