I spend a lot of time on Livejournal arguing with atheists. From this some might make the logical assumption that I am a theist. I'm not. I'm also not an atheist, or an agnostic, or a UFOlogical Unicyclist, or whatever. I'm not anything, in that sense.

I've been a Christian, twice, and I've been an agnostic, and I've been someone who was convinced God existed and was an evul monster who personally hated my guts, and I'm probably closest to being a pagan at the moment, but I am not any of those things now. I'm keeping my options as open as I can.

The thing about any kind of belief, even the most tolerant in the world, is that you close off everything else. If you're a pagan, you aren't a Christian. If you're an atheist, you aren't a theist. If you're an agnostic, you aren't a which what I mean is that agnostics, as I understand the term, believe that not only do they not know if there's a God or not, but nobody else does either. And that makes sense--if you don't know one way or other about God but you think somebody might, then you're going to find them if you can and stop being an agnostic, but since agnostics don't do that, then their agnosticism must depend on a belief that it's a universal condition.

And I don't know that. If you follow me.

So why, in spite of not believing in God, do I argue with atheists? Certainly not for fun, and not for my health. No. I argue with atheists when they don't bother to argue with theists (and let's just cut the baloney and say "Christians" because most of the atheists I have encountered seem to me to be primarily aChristian). By which I mean that I keep encountering anti-Christian blog posts and articles which offend me because they aren't thought through. They set up straw men ("Christians believe in an old man with a white beard who lives in the sky and doesn't want people to eat shrimp") and use false logic to knock them down ("if they think God is so loving, why does he allow people to kill each other?"). Circular reasoning abounds ("People must be stupid to believe in a god, because anyone who believes in a god is stupid."). It's lazy, and it's sloppy, and it obviously proceeds from a conviction of rightness so ironclad that they don't feel the need to defend it at all. Because science works, they seem to feel, therefore God doesn't exist, and anyone who believes he does is fair game for a sneer or a snigger or a metaphorical beating.

Obviously this happens on the other side as well. Fundamentalist Christians do exactly the same, and that irritates me just as much, but you know what? There's always an atheist or several dozen ready and eager to point out their errors of reasoning and their sloppy thinking. Nobody else is doing it for the atheists, as far as I know. What I see in the responses to these posts is (for the most part) a chorus of unqualified approval and agreement from other atheists. And by whatever gods may be, if you're going to go on a non-holy crusade to defend reason and logic, I think you'd frodding well better be using them properly yourself. And so I lift my head above the ramparts and I point out the problems, and generally get jumped up and down on for it. It's a public service I'm performing really.

So no, I'm not a Christian, or a pagan, or an anything. I just believe in reason and logic, in their place, and also that nothing useful whatsoever is achieved by sneering and sniggering and treating people with contempt. Religion is not going away, whatever anyone does, and if it is not to be our enemy (and how many enemies do we want, for pity's sake? Isn't entropy enough for anyone?) then we need to talk to its adherents as equals, with the respect due to any human being, and suggest that peaceful co-existence might be an option. Which, of course, it is. The wrongs done by humans in the name of religion are not going to be put right unless the religion changes, and the religion won't change if it's fully focussed on defending itself from attack. Change is brought about by dialogue. Dialogue only happens when you start talking to people rather than at them.

And so I have come round to talking about something positive I believe in after all. Have I closed off other options by settling on this belief? Of course. I've deprived myself of the opportunity to feel superior to masses of strangers because they believe something I don't, or don't believe something I do. I can never allow myself a cheap joke at the expense of a Christian, or an atheist. But since I'd never want to do that anyway, I don't really mind.