Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Me and General Robert Lee

Sunday, November 25, 2012

How to be Objective About Faith

One of my favourite sites on the internet-- come to think of it, it's probably my very favourite-- is Snopes.com. As you almost certainly know, it's a site devoted to the subject of urban legends, misinformation, and rumours. It's not just a "debunking" site. It tries to say something about the themes and psychology behind the various tall tales that get passed about in schoolyards and coffee mornings and sleepovers.

I like pretty much everything about the site. I like its colour scheme (which is pleasantly bright and clear). I like the length of the articles, which are just right. And I think Barbara Mikkelson, the woman who does most of the writing, is a wonderful stylist, with a superb light touch.

Another thing I like is the site's attitude to religion. Since most of the stories analysed on the site are shown to be untrue, and since those relating to religion tend to be of the more hysterical variety, it would have been easy for the site to have an anti-religious tone. But in fact the treatment of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, is deeply respectful and tactful. The miraculous and the supernatural are never ruled out in principle. I find this especially admirable because I get the impression that the site is written from a left-liberal and secular perspective (though I could well be wrong about that).

I think Snopes could be a model for how to write about religion in a neutral tone.

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