If we're establishing a "moderate, middle ground" here, I suggest that the term "moderate" refers less to specific positions on various issues, but rather to taking a moderate approach to discussing and debating those issues. To that end, I hope you'll excuse a bit of "tone trolling" as I propose the following list of principles for promoting the kind of moderation I mean.
The list is adapted from a post that Ardent and I wrote a couple of years ago at Skepticism and Ethics
, so the original audience was skeptics, rather than atheists, but I hope that wouldn't matter too much to folks here.
Please bear in mind that I'm not proposing these as hard-and-fast rules to be used to beat each other up with when we violate them (and, being humans, such violations are likely to happen, at least once in a while). Instead, I'm suggesting these as principles that we could each adopt and apply to ourselves, in the interest of making our discussions more productive.
- Humility and introspection.
- You acknowledge that you, like all humans, have cognitive biases, and you recognize such biases not only in others, but in yourself as well.
- You are willing to admit when you don't know something, or you are straying outside your area of expertise.
- You own your mistakes and apologize for them.
- You seek to understand others' points of view, rather than dismissing them because they are different from yours.
- You exhibit patience, ask questions, and educate, rather than disparage and belittle others.
- Nuanced thinking.
- You recognize complex questions and problems, and refrain from oversimplifying them.
- You understand that situations vary, and context matters. You refrain from hastily generalizing from specific cases, and from hastily using general rules in contexts where they may not apply.
- An open mind.
- You approach new topics with inquiry, and refrain from judgment until you have sufficient evidence.
- You alter or refine conclusions that you have reached, in light of new evidence.
- You invest the time and effort to do your homework on a topic before rendering a position.
- You spend the time to apply critical thinking to your own conclusions, as well as those of others.
- Logic and sound argumentation.
- You understand logical fallacies and refrain from committing them yourself.
- You apply the principle of charity, taking opposing arguments at face value. Only when those arguing with you have demonstrated that they are acting in bad faith do you question their motivations or characters.
- You understand the use of examples to illustrate a larger point, and do not confuse the specifics with the general.
- You understand that anecdotes may indicate the need for further investigation, but are often not, in and of themselves, sufficient as evidence.
- You recognize the difference between a question and an answer.
- You use argumentation as a tool to discover truth, and refrain from cheap rhetorical tricks -- quote mining, cherry-picking, appeal to emotion, and others -- simply to "win" an argument.
- When promoting skepticism, you adhere to skeptical principles over other beliefs that are important to you.
- When promoting other causes or beliefs you consider important, you refrain from calling them "skepticism."
- You conduct yourself with honor and integrity; you don't just preach skepticism, you practice it.
- A sense of humor, or a recognition that you don't have one, and may not realize it when others are joking.
You may not agree with everything on this list, and I probably missed something, too.