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goood31200 A Charlotte Allen published an op-ed in the LA Times about just how dreadfully sick she is of atheists.

A Facebook friend asked me what I consider to be the “negatives of church.” A good question that I answered.

Another Facebooker asked why I am “so against God.” An unanswerably silly question. He rephrased, I answered.

Yet another FB friend went positively ballistic when I strayed from the apparent party line in response to the President’s Nobel Prize.

After seven years, my youngest daughter stopped sucking her fingers. Just boom, stopped cold.

A participant in one of my recent seminars wrote to thank me. She had followed my advice for talking to her religious father. A four-year rift was healed, she said, in about five minutes.

I received my 27th email from a Christian gentleman in Missouri letting me know he’s praying for me.

I de-friended an old HS friend on Facebook whose page was filled with Bible verses (perfectly fine) and unfiltered hatred of those unlike him (not fine). Then I wished like hell I hadn’t.

I saw that seven new reasons for not believing in God have been added to a website that for some reason lists such things.

Robert Krulwich of my beloved Radiolab interviewed Richard Dawkins and made me nearly drive into the Hudson River. And I live in Georgia.

I came across a fascinating quote from Charles Darwin with great whacks of modern relevance.

I read the now infamous article in Newsweek in which (atheist journalist Chris) Mooney and (agnostic biologist Sheril) Kirshenbaum suggested that science is done no favors by insisting that it is necessarily incompatible with religion — followed by an epic blog-tizzy of sarcastic proportions.

I read the Richard Dawkins interview in Newsweek, and the blog-tizzy that followed, including many atheists who wondered if Dawkins had become an “accommodationist.”

They probably seem disconnected, this baker’s dozen. But as each happened, the same string was plucked in my head. I decided to blog. The topic strikes me as pretty much all we should be talking about, and I’ve thought about it so intensely for the past ten years or more that I think I might have something useful to say. Who knows. It’s too big for one post, so it’ll be an occasional series for the remainder of 2009.

I’m motivated half by anger, half by frustration, and half by hope. The first two make me want to chuck the whole topic. It’s the third half that makes me care enough to blog — the hope that some of us are finally on the verge of learning how to communicate effectively, both within and between our “camps,” and that naming the problem and suggesting ways around it might do some good.

That’s the topic, by the way — communication. How to stop talking past and through and around each other. Hearing and being heard.

In order to practice what I recommend, I’m going to try very hard to frame this thing in terms of what I have learned, what I have found effective, and how I have changed in my approach in recent years. I don’t plan to scold anyone for how they approach these things, since that puts an end to listening, and hearing and being heard are my primary goals here. But I might ask that others consider how lovely and useful those two goals are, and whether it isn’t a shame that we all give them so damn little attention.

(I tried four more ambitious expletives before settling on ‘damn.’ Like I said, I’m half motivated by anger here. But then I remembered my objectives.)

My intended audience for this series is my fellow atheists etc. Any religious believers who drift in are more than welcome to read along and even comment, but know that even as I talk about how to talk across lines of difference, I’m not doing that now. This is an in-house meeting.

I’ll start next time with Delaney’s fingers.

[Complete series]

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.