Essay:Open Letter to SharonS

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Essay.svg This essay is an original work by AmesG.
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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by petty statesmen...
Whoso would be a Man must be a nonconformist...
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dear SharonS,

I saw the quote attributed to you in the LA Times today. Of course we knew instantly it was you; your interests are fairly unique, and we're not as dumb as we look. However, some of your statements saddened me. I would like to take the time to address what I feel are misconceptions about the RationalWiki and Conservapedia projects. I thank you, in advance, for your time in reading this. I write this only because I care about the education that you are receiving through Conservapedia, and as an American and a man of some education, there is nothing that I consider more important than the proper education of those younger than myself.

I.

First, I apologize for the vandalism attacks on Conservapedia. I can say categorically that I have no hand in them myself. I can also say that this site is not the launching point of the more recent or persistent ones. Certainly there is a small vandal group here, but that is not all this website is. As a smart person, I am sure you can see past that small facade into the rest of the goals of the project.

II.

Because it always bears repeating, I want to enumerate again the goals of this project and of the Conservapedia "resistance." We are not pushing an ideology. We are not pushing a world-view. We are not suppressing faith. We respect faith. However, we do not respect the use of ideology and shallow Biblical literalism to confine the world to a narrow frame of reference, ignoring all of the contrasts and questions that otherwise enrich life, and we do not respect the same shallow literalism, which also confines faith in too narrow a frame of reference. We will continue to spend our time resisting those evils.

Here is the problem. At Conservapedia, you are getting one perspective, and one perspective only. Worse, you are being sectioned off from anything that might challenge you. You are isolated from controversy and told that, where debate exists, the answers have been solved in black and white in your favor. But the world is much more complicated than that: so little is black and white in the world, and most of the great questions of our day are shades of gray. And these shades are what make life compelling, and interesting. By shielding you from the shades of gray, and teaching you only one perspective, Mr. Schlafly is doing you a great disservice. For the mind to grow, it must be exposed to shades of gray. Not only are you not learning; you're also not learning how to learn! To become a full person, you must grapple with dissent, and all of the myriad complexity of the world, with full academic freedom.

III.

You said in your interview that RationalWiki seeks your destruction. We do not seek your destruction; rather, we seek your growth, and the growth of all of humanity through free academic discourse. But we are in favor of some forms of destruction. In brief, insofar as we seek the destruction of barriers to free learning, we do seek Conservapedia's destruction. Insofar as we seek the destruction of ideologies that discourage free thought, the exchange of ideas, and valuable learning (God's gift to Man), we do seek the destruction of Conservapedia. Insofar as we seek the destruction of groups that abuse religion to force a political agenda and keep their followers willfully blind to the world around themselves, we seek the destruction of Conservapedia.

However, we do not seek the destruction of Christianity or Christian beliefs. Religion is a powerful force for good. When followed as God intends it, it impels the human spirit forwards to great heights of charity and grace. The truly devout and truly religious do great things in this world. However, no good is ever accomplished by suppressing independent thought, or by approaching the world from a narrow perspective which assumes the preferred outcome. Rather, that is the great evil of all of human history. I will always encourage religion in its pure, unadulterated sense, but where religion goes too far - in seeking to control public policy or redefine science - religion harms those disciplines and itself. We at RationalWiki, as members of the scientific community of freethinking adults, seek to separate religion from science and politics not for the preservation of science and politics, and the hindrance of religion, but rather for the protection of religion, science, and politics jointly and severally. Only when the mind approaches the world free of religious agenda can the mind be free, and only when religion confines itself to the truly spiritual can it reach the levels of transcendence of which it is capable.

IV.

To conclude, I urge you to look beyond Conservapedia, and beyond what you have read before, and read what you have not. I urge you to challenge yourself: pick up an "evolutionist" textbook, and wrestle with the text and the ideas it contains. Pick up a volume on Christian history, or a volume of early Christian theology, and see how St. Augustine of Hippo himself spoke against unifying religion and science. Read about other religions. Read about other countries, and other lifestyles. Expand yourself', and see how you think of the world afterwards. If, after all is said and done, you remain firm in your convictions, then your convictions will be firmer for the testing. But if they have changed...

V.

Please feel free to write to any of us at RationalWiki. I can answer any questions you have about the law, society, Christian history, and ancient history. My e-mail is Ames@NYU.edu. Many other people are willing to help you, too. You have only to ask. We have nothing to hide.


-AmesG 00:46, 20 June 2007 (CDT)