By Isaac Butler
There's something going on in our culture where we want to find common ground with people. Particularly people with whom we disagree. The greater the disagreement, the greater the search for common ground.
The latest example of this I've found was this article in the Guardian about Julian Baginni's quest to find common ground between atheists and religious people (mainly Christians) by, well, neutering religion. He's written out what he thinks some articles of a "reasonable faith" which include, amongst other things, agreeing that perhaps nothing supernatural has ever occured, that God is a metaphor for something else and that the Bible was entirely written by people.
Not suprisingly, no one has signed on to these articles, leading Baginni to write, " since the main purpose of posting my articles of 21st-century faith was to find out just how many could support them, the project is not worthless if we find out the answer is hardly anyone at all."
Now, it appears that perhaps the purpose behind Baginni's articles wasn't really common ground but instead to show that religious people are arguing in bad faith when they assert their problem with New Atheists is that they focus too much on "the supernatural aspects of religion" and thus "miss the point.":
...the rejection of the articles suggests that either most liberal religious commentators and leaders are inconsistent or incoherent; or that they ultimately do believe that when it comes to religion, creeds and factual assertions matter; belief that supernatural events have occurred here on Earth is required; religion can make quasi-scientific claims; and that human intellect and imagination are not enough to explain the existence of religious texts. If that is indeed the case then DiscoveredJoys is right that when it comes to belief: the middle ground is virtual deserted.
Which is all fine and good, I suppose, but I wonder why we need to find common ground between people who believe in God and people who don't. Or rather, why we'd search for common ground within the nation of things people believe. The common ground between Atheists and Religious people is not things they believe, it's secularism in government and the protection of religious freedom.
When you have two diametrically opposed groups, the common ground you are going to find is not going to be about the thing they're diametrically opposed to. It's going to be something else that's in their mutual self-interest. The problem (to loop around to politics for a moment here) with Obama and the Democrats negotiating strategy is that the Republicans have defined their self-interest as Democrats not getting reelected. There's no common ground to be had there, and thus tactics need to shift to extreme negotiating postures, hardball and hostage taking. And it just so happens the Democrats have two pretty damn good hostages at their disposal.