Friday, November 14, 2014

Tips For Atheists Who Want to Debate Christians

#1. Start off casual.
You should first show how atheism has impacted your own life in a positive way. Citing peer-reviewed scientific publications at every possible opportunity may be a bit much for most Christians, as most of them wouldn't know how to read a scientific paper if you held a gun to their head.

However, if they bring up their belief that God did this or that in their life, it is okay to point out to them other factors that helped them, such as probability, their own work, or a professional's skill, during those times they believe that it was God doing the heavy lifting.

#2.  Keep your temper.
Try and be polite as you can, regardless of how much you'd rather not, for as long as you possibly can.  This is pretty basic.  Do not be rude.  Be polite, and be understanding.  If a Christian says something you find stultifyingly stupid... and they will... then just take a deep breath and calmly and collectedly explain why it is that what they just said doesn't make sense.

And yes, I know, I haven't always followed this rule.  Doesn't mean it shouldn't be a rule.  Just means I'm bad at following it.

#3.  Get them in the habit of questioning their own faith.
Sometimes pointing out a single fallacy every now and then is sufficient. Likewise, asking them to explain something about their religion you don't understand to get them thinking about deeper meaning.

#4.  Let them try to convert you.
Many Christians will automatically try to convert you the moment they find out you're an atheist. This is the easiest way to engage them, especially if you are familiar with the arguments they use. By simply remaining calm, firm, yet reasonable, you are already bringing in to question the stereotype of the "immoral and angry atheists."

#5.  Stay on point.
Don't allow the subject to be changed.  Once the point of the discussion has been established, don't get tied up in side-arguments.  If you have to (politely) point out that your discussion partner has attempted to change the subject, then do so.  And then maneuver the conversation back on point.

#6.  Read and understand their holy book cover-to-cover.
Read the Bible.  Read the Koran.  Read the Torah and the Bhagavad Gita.  Learn what these books say.  Learn what the most commonly quoted verses are.  Learn where the contradictions and the scientific errors are.  Learn which of these scripture's stories not only contain the contradictions but also have been proven historically false (like the Hebrew Exodus out of Egypt, or the Great Flood).

#7.  Learn common arguments leveled by theists and the best rebuttals.
Although it is not possible to prepare for every conceivable argument that might be brought to the table by a Christian, there are a handful of arguments which do seem to be used over and over and over and over again.  Study the common talking points of Christian apologetics, and be prepared with their refutations.

These refuted-yet-still-used arguments include the "Fine-Tuned Universe" argument, the "Evolution is Just a Theory" argument, Kalam's Cosmological Argument, Pascal's Wager, Arguments from Morality, the "Abiogenesis = Evolution" argument,  the "Second Law" argument, the "Tornado in a Junkyard" argument, the "Banana Man" argument, "Irreducibly Complexity", Arguments from Personal Experience, Teleological Reasoning, and so on.  Also memorize the list of "Arguments Creationists Should Never Use" list, found on the Creationist website "Answers in Genesis", because using a Creationists own arguments against him is often the best way to convince them they are wrong.

Learn the Presuppositionalist Playbook and choose your favorite way of utterly destroying it.

The point is, pretty much all of these arguments have been refuted already.  Learn these refutations and keep them in mind every time you talk to a Christian.  This way, you'll better understand what they are trying to say, and you can more easily explain to them why using these arguments is a mistake. Likewise, become familiar with all of the logical fallacies and the reasons why they are logical fallacies, and be prepared to inform your discussion partner of when they have made use of one of these fallacies.

#8.  Keep your temper.
Try and be polite as you can, regardless of how much you'd rather not, for as long as you possibly can.

Yes, this is a repeat of #2, but it needs to be repeated.  It is a statistical fact that as the length of the discussion increases, the chances that the Christian you are talking to will say something that is either a) utterly and completely insulting, b) utterly and completely condescending, c) a scientific error that any 2nd Grader should have known was wrong, or d) something that you've already refuted utterly approaches 1:1.  When this happens, take a deep breath and count to 10 and realize that they aren't (hopefully) trying to intentionally piss you off.

#9.  Be respectful of their beliefs, even if you find them ridiculous.
Christians have a right to their own opinions, even as you do, and its amazingly rude to be disrespectful of these beliefs.  Likewise, treat the Bible with respect, even as you are proving that its nothing more than a work of fiction (believe it or not, doing both is possible; if you don't believe me, I direct you to Isaac Asimov's "Guide to the Bible").

#10.  Be open-minded.
Listen and understand their point of view. Learn what makes them believe what they do. Remember, we can't prove, in any absolute sense, that no gods exist. We can only show evidence that gods and religion have truly human origins, point out inconsistencies in their belief, and show how scientists have answered a number of the grand questions of the universe. We can only show that the world doesn't end when your faith does.

#11.  Examine the reasons why people end up believing in myths, urban legends, and superstitions in the first place.
If you can gain an understanding as to why people believe stories that are backed by little evidence, you'll be able to understand the thinking of your discussion partner.  Being knowledgeable about the psychology of belief will better prepare you for the challenges ahead.

#12.  Study basic physics and biology, as believers may form arguments using a flawed interpretation of physics, chemistry, or biology.
Understanding the core of these subjects will allow you to identify poor arguments like that from the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

#13.  Don't try to change them too drastically or too quickly.
Deconversion from a lifetime of religious indoctrination is a highly personal activity that inherently takes a long time.  Changes are gradual, so don't push too hard.  Let the other person come to their own understanding of a world without any gods. A journey of personal discovery will always yield stronger results than browbeating them.

#14.  Keep to the same standards of evidence as you are holding them to.
If you make a fact, you should be prepared to support that claim with evidence.  Being able to do so, especially when your discussion partner has openly said that you won't be able to, is an especially strong move in a discussion.

#15.  Admit when you are  wrong.
Usually, you'll only be wrong about the little things, but admit it anyway.

#16.  Have a sense of humor.
At some point, you might be mocked for not believing in God.  Do not get angry, because all  that shows is that you are immature, have a thin skin, and need to grow  up.

#17.  Know when to back away.
Don't let differences and debate cause bad feelings.  Know when to let the Christian off the hook and when their off of it, leave them be for a while.  And also, know when the Christian you are talking to is an utterly bugnuts insane wackadoo to whom talking is never going to be convincing.

No comments:

Post a Comment