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  • Marc Jessel

    Marc Jessel asked in Humanities 13th May '15:

    How can believers and non-believers find a common language?

    Tan Meng Yoe replied 25th May '15:

    Hi Marc,

    This is a complex question which has no neat answer, but I will try to highlight some points to think about further. However, before that, there are a few things that require clarification.

    Firstly, "believers" and "non-believers" are too non-specific. Assuming we are discussing religion, even within the category of "believers" we have various religions with significantly different identities and beliefs. It is impossible to label one or all religious groups as "believers". The same can also be said about non-believers.

    Secondly, the issue matters. On a contentious issue like "does God exist?", a common language may prove to be a difficult achievement. But on other matters, such as "murdering", I don't think believers and non-believers are too far apart in terms of agreeing. In short, what I am saying is that we need to make the effort to be specific - the convenience of generalization is one of the contributing factors of why religious and non-religious people can't seem to talk to each other. Statements like "all religious people are bigots" or "atheists are arrogant", immediately positions the other camp as inherently villainous... in which case there will be no attempt to find a common language.

    When it comes to common language, the answer is: there will be many instances where no common language can be found. In this scenario, the most important thing is learning how to manage differences of opinion. Respecting and even learning to love those who are different from us will go a long way in creating a platform where more meaningful dialogue can take place.

    I guess that's really it. It begins with respect, and accepting that not everyone is like you, and not everyone who is not like you is to be hated.

    Go look up a speech by one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman on the subject of learning to engage different ideas. It can be found here: https://

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