Answer by Jim Ashby:
If you feel that way, why not frequent any of the many Christian-only discussion forums and groups instead? The way I see it, you have to know that, if religious topics are open to everyone, there will be discussions critical of religious beliefs.
There are, sometimes, personal attacks here. But they're fairly rare. I saw one yesterday and I probably see one or two a week out of the many hundreds of atheist comments I read. Normally, the wording of the OP question and question details determine the wording of the answers it receives. Sincere questions always seem to generate sincere answers. Insincere questions get the kind of answers they deserve. Go figure.
Personally, I write as if you're standing in front of me and that we're both on equal footing (we can both express ourselves honestly). My attitude is best summed up by Ayaan Hirsi Ali:
“Avoiding offense means that we don't accept each other as equals.”
If you and I were discussing the historicity of Jesus, I'm sure we'd both agree that Jesus really did exist . . . though we would probably disagree about the veracity of the miracles he (allegedly) performed.
Where we're really going to stress-test our equal footing is when we discuss articles of faith. I say this because believers tend to get upset at my honest opinions about faith. I don't criticize them personally but they seem to take it personally anyway. I normally interpret this as thin skin on the part of the believer, prompted by (ironically) having to admit belief is a matter of faith: belief without objective support (evidence or proof).
If your pastor or priest tells you that belief in God boils down to faith, you wouldn't give it a second thought. But if an atheist tells you the same thing, it's a completely different matter entirely. Odd . . . don't you think? Within the insular community of the church, faith is a virtue. But in an open forum, faith is what it is: unsupported by anything in the world around you. If there's nothing external you can point at to justify faith, its virtue is internal: all in your head.
I find it very telling when believers claim their faith is off-limits and that criticism of it is ridicule or rude or belittling. They're not seeking equal treatment, they're seeking special treatment. Such special pleading begs the question: 'If faith is belief without evidence, why try to justify it?
Faith is the bottom line. Is it not enough for you?