Originally Posted by PouringRain
Those are some quite good questions, which I'm happy to answer.
When it comes down to it, I suppose that one of the main things I want to learn here, is what it would take for me and Muslims to co-exist, and how peacefully that can be managed. I have had discussions with Muslims who insist that eventually the entire world should be run by governments run on Islamic principles, and in which all people be given the choice to 1) Convert to Islam; 2) be People of the Book, accept dhimmi status, and pay jizya instead of zakat; or 3) be killed. Until such time as I encounter reasonably good evidence that miracles really do happen, I cannot honestly convert to Islam; since I am not a Person of the Book of any sort, I cannot become a dhimmi by those peoples' standards; which, given the only option remaining to me under their plan, gives me a rather direct incentive to oppose their particular interpretation of the Quran and Hadith. Sun Tzu has been quoted as saying something along the lines that the greatest warrior is not the one who fights a hundred battles and wins them all, but the one who wins without fighting - thus, I hope to learn how to convince Muslims to take a path other than one which involves coming into physical conflict.
There are many other things I hope to learn, of course, such as enhancing my own critical thinking skills, which logical fallacies are commonly used in attempts to convert others to Islam, how Muslims tend to respond to evidence that directly contradicts a belief they hold (whether that belief is Quranically or Hadithly based or otherwise), and, of course, generally refining my understanding of how Islam is practiced in practice, rather than described in theory. "Knowledge for knowledge's sake" is a pretty good description, as is "understanding".
As for what I hope to contribute... I have had some success in some forums in being the Friendly Neighbourhood Atheist, explaining my own beliefs, and, more importantly, why I have them; as well as demonstrating that it's entirely possible to be an atheist who is a good, moral person, rather than someone who, say, goes around killing kittens for fun just because I don't have any fear of any consequences in the afterlife. Once I've been here a few days and gotten a better feel for the board, I'll probably start up a thread in Comparative Religion called "An atheist would like to converse", or the like, to open the floor to anyone who has any questions. I am hoping to encounter at least one Muslim who can at least understand what my arguments for my beliefs /are/, and accept that, at least from one standpoint, my thinking processes on the matter are rational, even if they disagree with the conclusions I have reached; because that seems to me to be the minimal level of respect necessary to lead to the start of some /real/ conversation on matters of shared interest.
Thank you for your time,
lu .iacu'i ma krinu lo du'u .ei mi krici la'e di'u li'u traji lo ka vajni fo lo preti