I believe it is wholly pointless to invite atheists and agnostics to an interfaith discussion.
Drawing on Bertrand Russell, it would be like inviting people who didn’t believe a chocolate teapot was orbiting the sun to a meeting of those who did.
The meeting would be entirely devoted to squabbles, often vitriolic and hurtful, about what type of teapot it was: did it have a lid, how big, was it of a modernist design or maybe it was Meissen, and so on.
The squabbles would be periodically suspended so all believers could gang up to deliver stupid, ill-informed ad hominem attacks on the non-believers.
The problem that religionists have is that their beliefs are founded on nothing more than beliefs—ie, faith. The thing they are most scared of is not eternal hellfire and damnation. The thing they are most scared of is that they might be mistaken.
They are terrified that they might be presented with an argument against the existence of this god thing which they are incapable of refuting.
I can well imagine that this would be an appalling existential revelation and, seriously, some of them would not be able to cope with it.
This is why religionists are so tenaciously attached to their need to be right. Indeed is not the word “faith” a nice way of saying “unmoving refusal to let go of a need to be right”?
However, religionists are “right” about different versions of the same thing, hence the internecine squabbles. And hence the complete pointlessness for people with a rational cast of mind to attend such a meeting other than to be the religionists’ whipping boys.
© 2015 Jeremy Marchant . image: Free images