By Editor-in-chief
updated 11/20/2006 8:05:30 AM ET 2006-11-20T13:05:30

An atheist named Ron M. posted the question: Can religious issues such as the separation of church and state be discussed without rancor? “I don’t know,” he said. “Does anybody see hope in all this, or are we just spinning our wheels?”

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And so began an intense conversation between believers and non-believers at HOTSOUP.com, an issues-based community that encourages civil exchanges between highly opinionated people. They often come to the site skeptical of its goals.

“It does seem apparent … that no intellectual or scientific argument is going to change the mind of a true believer and no faith-based argument is going to change the mind of a non-believer,” said a community member named “ladylavender” in reply to Ron. “So we might be spinning our wheels or we might be involved in a friendly discussion where we can learn from interesting facts from each other. Certainly, I’ve gained an education from some of the more informed posts.”

Next up was Scott, who called himself a “Christian, Sunday-go-to-meeting type. “I believe there are other like-minded individuals posting on this site. We just don’t feel the need to beat anyone over the head with it,” he said. A school teacher, Scott said he agreed with the atheists on one thing: The line between church and state is never clear. “Do I struggle with deciding where the line is drawn? Yes. Do I struggle balancing science and religion? Absolutely (I’m a big advocate of science). Do I want to bash other over the head with irrational, emotion-filled diatribes? No. Do I want others to bash me over the head with irrational, emotion-filled diatribes? No.’’

“I hope this is the kind of discussion you would hope for from a Christian,” Scott wrote. “I hope this doesn’t seem to you like ‘spinning wheels.’”

Ron said he was impressed. “I come to this site partly to read post likes yours,” the atheist told the Christian. “These are the ones that remind me that there are other ways to look at the world than mine, and that without them, the world would be poorer.”

Join this conversation at HOTSOUP.com.

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