Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on LinkedIn

Why It\’s Hard to Dialogue With Secularists and Leftists‏

August 20, AD2013 106 Comments


My blog title, Little Catholic Bubble, is a bit tongue-in-cheek. I love my faithful Catholic friends, but I also enjoy engaging the left, mostly secular humanists, in cultural debates. Three main frustrations, however, make it hard to have a productive discussion.

The first frustration is the tendency by many liberals to duck out early. I take a pseudo-Socratic approach to dialogue, asking a series of questions in an attempt to follow an argument to its logical conclusion, and often my opponent quits right at that threshold. It might look like this:

Me: Do you think the unborn are as human as you are?

Abortion Advocate: No, I don\’t.

Me: What do you think they are?

AA: They are potential humans.

Me: At what moment do they become fully human?

AA: At viability. {Other answers include: brainwaves, heartbeat, the second trimester, birth, three months after birth, sentience, etc.}

Me: Is that objectively true, or is that simply your opinion?

AA: After deep inquiry and thought, that\’s my conclusion.

Me: Okay, well, how do you pinpoint the exact second that humanity begins, so that we don\’t accidentally kill any innocent people?

AA: We can\’t pinpoint an exact second, but it\’s a good estimate.

Me: Isn\’t that arbitrary and subjective?

AA: Well, we have to draw the line somewhere.

Me: Why do we have to draw the line anywhere? Death is irrevocable. If we might be killing innocent people, shouldn\’t we always err on the side of life?

Suddenly, silence. One of numerous unanswered questions on my blog.

If a thread doesn’t end in silence, it might end in the next frustration, which is an irrational explosion of raw emotion, either offensive (“You racist, sexist, patriarchal, judgmental, pedophile-protecting, bigoted, homophobic fetus-lover! You hate the poor, you rape the earth, and you don’t care about children after they’re born!”) or defensive (“You think I’m evil! You don’t think I have any morals! You are calling me a monster!”). Not to mention myriad other choice phrases and obscenities that cannot be printed here.

The third frustration is when I encounter the “jaw droppers” — statements that are so bizarre, illogical or disturbing that I want to confirm, “Do you actually believe that?” and then ask the heavens, “How did we get here?”

Some Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole moments:

Many secularists proclaim that, except for genitalia, there is no difference between men and women. At all.

I’ve been told often that mothers and fathers are \”interchangeable\” to a child, so having both is not needed.

A sex educator informed me that she and her husband leave out “judgmental words like ‘marriage’” when teaching underprivileged school children.

I’ve been scolded by a recent college grad who has a “big issue” with my “assumptions about women, that their bodies were made to breed and sustain other people”. (Biology, anyone?)

A science major told me that although “it’s true” she started life as a single cell, “that zygote that I started out as wasn\’t me”.

A college atheist couldn\’t say whether a fully-formed baby girl aborted in the third trimester deserved love or was literally a piece of trash. She looked at the dead girl’s photo and said she would need to know the “circumstances”.

Two undergraduates told me that torturing, raping and killing a six-year-old girl to spare the lives of fifty people “would be the only moral thing to do” (though “moral principles aren\’t necessarily easy to live out”).

An abortionist mocked me for imposing my \”mystical, spiritual beliefs\”, after I presented strictly secular pro-life arguments based on biology and civil rights.

A homosexual activist and his boyfriend staged a \”mock civil union\” on campus to challenge traditional marriage laws, yet when I asked him to define \”marriage\” he admitted he\’d never thought about it.

But there is another category of discussion that I can respect, even as I recoil: When a secularist is consistent, willing to push his idea all the way to its logical conclusion.

Take for example the young atheist wife and mother who admits that since love is “just a series of random chemical reactions in the brain”, she and her (currently beloved) husband should, and will, divorce should those chemicals shift.

Or the academic who conceded when pressed that adult siblings (homosexual or straight) should be allowed to marry: “If two siblings really, really want to get married and enjoy a happy relationship – then go right ahead.”

Or, famously, Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer, a supporter of both abortion and infanticide who rightly argues that the two acts are not different, and that birth is an arbitrary line drawn by abortion proponents to make themselves feel a distinction where none exists. Singer understands that “birth does not mark a morally significant dividing line” when it comes to killing infants.

Aside from those rare cogent moments, the frustration in dialogue remains. I pray my interaction with those on the left can move past the silences, the emotional outbursts, and the jaw droppers towards a mutual search for clarity and truth. Though chances of that seem slim, there is wonder and fruit in the Little Catholic Bubble nonetheless: Fence-sitters email me behind the scenes, thankful to have found their way to objective truth by watching the debates unfold. For that reason alone, I will gratefully keep talking taking on the difficult dialogues.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

Filed in: Social Justice

About the Author:

Leila Miller is a wife and mother of eight children who has a penchant for writing and a passion for teaching the Catholic Faith in simple ways. This summa cum laude Boston College graduate also enjoys debating secularists, and in her spare time she fancies herself a bit of a Catholic matchmaker. She manages two blogs that accommodate those hobbies well: Little Catholic Bubble, and the invite-only Catholic Moms Matchmaking.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe below to receive a daily digest of all our essays.

Thank you for supporting us!