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How Christians Can Effectively Debate with Atheists in 11 Easy Steps

Posted by on May. 24, 2014 at 9:51 AM
  • 142 Replies
1 mom liked this

Top 11 Conversation Killers for Atheists

How Religious Theists Can Hurt Their Cause

By 


Atheists and theists frequently get into debates over the existence of gods, over the nature of religion, over whether religions do more harm than good, etc. Although every atheist and theist are different, it still works out that a lot of these conversations keep hitting the same topics and keep running into the same problems. Both sides can be at fault for this, but there are a number of common errors which theists make that can kill any chance there might have been at having a productive, interesting, and substantive discussion. These errors can be avoided if theists know about them in advance and care.

1. Presume to Instruct Us that We're "Really" Agnostics, Not Atheists

Strategic meeting in office
AMV Photo/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Many conversations between atheists and theists are killed at the very beginning when a theist lectures an atheist about what the "real" definition of atheism is, who "real" atheists are, and that people who call themselves atheists are "really" agnostics. More often than not this religious theist has no idea what they are talking about: they read some false claims in an apologetics books and are now repeating them as if they were gospel truth. Instead, they should take some time to learn how atheists and dictionaries define atheism and agnosticism, not presume to impose their own on us. Atheism vs. Agnosticism...
2. Presume to Preach and Proselytize, As If We Needed It
Far too often, religious theists enter conversations with atheists not to learn something and not to merely communicate their perspective, but instead to simply proselytize and preach. That's not a conversation because a real conversation is a two-way street where both contribute and both are interested in taking something away. Preaching or proselytization is a one-way street where one person does all the talking but none of the listening and none of the learning. Atheists don't need this and are almost never at all interested in it. If you feel the need to preach, ask if the person wants to listen.

3. Commit Obvious and Egregious Logical Fallacies

No one is perfect and few learn how to construct logical arguments, much less how to identify and avoid logical fallacies. Even so, few things are more annoying than to see someone commit the most obvious and egregious fallacies, even those which should have been noticed without specific education. If you commit such fallacies, and especially if you commit many of them, many won't even bother trying to explain it all to you. If your position isn't worth your spending time to identify and eliminate basic errors in how you explain it, how can it be worth others' time listening to or rebutting it? Logical Fallacies

4. Try to "Prove" Something By Quoting the Bible

Christians regard their Bible significant in their lives, but for most atheists it is little more than literature at best — ancient literature mixed with a bit of mythologized history. For atheists, quoting passages from the Bible proves nothing about any gods whatsoever. At most, it may prove that the person doing the quoting doesn't have anything better to offer. That the Christian doing the quoting considers this the best possible sort of evidence to offer reinforces the tragedy of this miscommunication. Avoid this by remembering that you can't prove anything to atheists by simply quoting the Bible.

5. Threaten Us With Damnation or Say Atheism is a "Bad Bet"

Many religious theists believe there is a punishment for bad people in an afterlife. In certain religions, like Christianity, this punishment plays a central role in their mythology. They always live under the threat of punishment if they don't behave and believe correctly, so it may seem reasonable to pass the threat along to nonbelievers — but that will likely have the opposite effect. Many people react negatively to threats and telling atheists that they will go to hell if they don't convert, or that atheism is a "bad bet" with bad consequences, will likely push them away. Atheists Have No Reason to Fear Hell...

6. Pretend that You Don't Have the Burden of Proof

People making a positive claim have a burden of proof; this means that they voluntarily assume an obligation to support their claim. All theists claiming that their god exists have such a burden of proof. Atheists only have such a burden when they make a specific claim. Some theists pretend that they don't have any obligation to support what they say, like for example arguing that such a burden lies with those who hold a minority position (atheists), regardless of whether they make any claims or not. Atheists shouldn't fall for such tricks and won't take the attempt very well. Why Atheists Ask for Proof of God...

7. Cut & Paste Arguments From Others That You Can't Defend

Theological arguments can get very difficult and very complicated. Many people, atheists and theists, can quickly get in over their heads and have no good answers or arguments to offer. There's no shame in this, but occasionally a person will simply take a short cut by copying arguments from someplace else and pasting them into their own conversation. Even worse, they don't understand the argument well enough to adequately defend it. Quoting others is fine, but only in support of arguments you are making on your own. If you can't make your own arguments, then it's better to admit this and bow out.

8. Ignore What We Say and Pretend that We Didn't Just Object to that Argument

A large number of debates, no matter what the subject, can end up with all parties just talking past each other: each is more interested in what they have to say than in listening to what others have to say. Everyone does this, but when it comes to discussions with atheists many theists do something in particular: they offer arguments for the existence of their god and then ignore the various objections and rebuttals offered by atheists. It's one thing not to agree with those rebuttals, but quite another to go on repeating the argument as if no objections had been raised at all. Please don't do that, it's annoying.
9. Offer That Same Argument Again That We've Refuted a Million Times
There are only so many arguments for the existence of gods, so we can't expect theists to offer something completely new and original every time. This doesn't excuse offering the most simplistic forms of these same arguments, nor does it excuse a failure to do some research to learn what the most common objections and rebuttals are. If you do this, atheists will often assume that you really don't know much about the argument or even about how to argue this subject in general. If you want to kill your chance at a substantive conversation with an atheist, demonstrate that you didn't do any research ahead of time.

10. Tell us to Go Read a Book or Do Research When We Challenge You

Sooner or later in every debate, atheists will challenge a theist to provide evidence to support their claims. The proper response is to actually provide evidence. What you shouldn't do is insist that it's up to atheists to go do research to find out whether there is any merit to your claims. There are a potentially infinite number of claims we could encounter and we don't have time to thoroughly investigate them all. It's up to the claimant to show that their position has enough merit to be taken seriously and be looked at more closely. If you can't provide enough evidence to do this, then don't start making claims to begin with. We certainly aren't going to go out to research your claims just because you say we should.

11. Announce That You'll Be Praying for Us

One of the most condescending things a theist can do to an atheist is to make a point of announcing that they'll be praying for us. Atheists don't believe in the power of prayer, but even theists can't think that prayer will be more effective for having announced. So what's the purpose? Some say that it's to express well-wishes, but people say that they'll pray for someone when the person is sick or having trouble. One way or another, the theist appears to be expressing superiority over atheists in a passive-aggressive manner. That suggests they weren't interested in serious conversation to begin with.
by on May. 24, 2014 at 9:51 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Pema_Jampa
Report
Friday at 4:19 PM
Labrinth - Earthquake ft. Tinie Tempah

The album Electronic Earth is released on 2nd April. Click here to pre-order now! iTunes - http://smarturl.it/LabrinthEE (Standard) http://smarturl.it/Labrin...

by 2HotTacoTini on May. 24, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Avoid this by remembering that you can't prove anything to atheists by simply quoting the Bible.

Pema_Jampa
Report
Friday at 4:19 PM
Labrinth - Earthquake ft. Tinie Tempah

The album Electronic Earth is released on 2nd April. Click here to pre-order now! iTunes - http://smarturl.it/LabrinthEE (Standard) http://smarturl.it/Labrin...

by 2HotTacoTini on May. 24, 2014 at 11:17 AM
2 moms liked this

Piss one off and they do this ..everytime...

Announce That You'll Be Praying for Us

One of the most condescending things a theist can do to an atheist is to make a point of announcing that they'll be praying for us. Atheists don't believe in the power of prayer, but even theists can't think that prayer will be more effective for having announced. So what's the purpose? Some say that it's to express well-wishes, but people say that they'll pray for someone when the person is sick or having trouble. One way or another, the theist appears to be expressing superiority over atheists in a passive-aggressive manner. That suggests they weren't interested in serious conversation to begin with.

Pema_Jampa
Report
Friday at 4:19 PM
Labrinth - Earthquake ft. Tinie Tempah

The album Electronic Earth is released on 2nd April. Click here to pre-order now! iTunes - http://smarturl.it/LabrinthEE (Standard) http://smarturl.it/Labrin...

by 2HotTacoTini on May. 24, 2014 at 11:28 AM

Oh and today is my first day of vacation. Y'all girls have informed me that when I sin that you are sinning also. Just get ready. Today will be a busy prayer day for some of you. 

Ms.KitKat
by Gold Member on May. 24, 2014 at 11:33 AM
1 mom liked this

You do know that those who could benefit by this op are not going to read it.

But- I'll pray for you

 BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

rolling on floor

Enjoy your vacation! 

Quoting Pema_Jampa:

Oh and today is my first day of vacation. Y'all girls have informed me that when I sin that you are sinning also. Just get ready. Today will be a busy prayer day for some of you. 


Pema_Jampa
Report
Friday at 4:19 PM
Labrinth - Earthquake ft. Tinie Tempah

The album Electronic Earth is released on 2nd April. Click here to pre-order now! iTunes - http://smarturl.it/LabrinthEE (Standard) http://smarturl.it/Labrin...

by 2HotTacoTini on May. 24, 2014 at 11:37 AM
1 mom liked this

I think they will read it but not comment. You will only anger them. 

Thank you!

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

You do know that those who could benefit by this op are not going to read it.

But- I'll pray for you

 BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

rolling on floor

Enjoy your vacation! 

Quoting Pema_Jampa:

Oh and today is my first day of vacation. Y'all girls have informed me that when I sin that you are sinning also. Just get ready. Today will be a busy prayer day for some of you. 


Peanutx3
by Silver Member on May. 24, 2014 at 11:42 AM
1 mom liked this

Haha.  OMG I love you Pema.  :)

Quoting Pema_Jampa:

Oh and today is my first day of vacation. Y'all girls have informed me that when I sin that you are sinning also. Just get ready. Today will be a busy prayer day for some of you. 


blondekosmic15
by Blonde on May. 24, 2014 at 11:43 AM
4 moms liked this

My older brother is an atheist. I love him dearly. I pray daily for the salvation of his soul as I do my other siblings and friends. We share many conversations about Religion and God. Civil, thoughtful, interesting talks together. My brother is a history buff. I've learned alot from him. I see God working in his life frequently. As a Christian I place my trust in God and the power of prayer. Jesus said, if I can find one person in a family that will surrender their life to me, I will save their family. 

Some of you like to use the argument Christians threaten non-believers with damnation. An unfair blanket statement to justify your denial of God or unwillingness to change. Change sometimes can be difficult, even painful and fearful. I know...I've lived on both sides. I have not always been a Christian. Many like to toss the blame on Christians as an excuse not to examine your own conscience for the sake of repentance. God's love & mercy can penetrate the hardest of hearts through prayer and fasting.

God reveals Himself in the Gospel message of love and repentance. Love is the virtue that touches our lives and leads us to God. Many yrs ago I didn't care about God nor his Commandments. My mother's prayers, example and love inspired my conversion. A very humble, mild tempered women who shared God's love with me and the consequences of sin. I owe my life and change of heart to my dear mother and to Jesus Christ who gently worked through her to save my soul. 

Yes, people respond more readily to love, not threats of punishment and condemnation. This is human nature. But Jesus himself said, the path to Heaven is narrow, few find it. The path to hell is wide, many go therein. The Apostles suffered martyrdom with the exception of John whom Jesus gave the mission of caring for his Mother Mary at the foot of the Cross. They were hated & despised by many because they shared the fullness of the Gospel message of love and true sorrow for sin.  Love without repentance bears no fruit. A reminder of God's infinite love for each one of us is manifested in the ultimate sacrifice of his divine Son Jesus upon the Cross. No greater love than when you lay down your life for another~


5. Threaten Us With Damnation or Say Atheism is a "Bad Bet"

Many religious theists believe there is a punishment for bad people in an afterlife. In certain religions, like Christianity, this punishment plays a central role in their mythology. They always live under the threat of punishment if they don't behave and believe correctly, so it may seem reasonable to pass the threat along to nonbelievers — but that will likely have the opposite effect. Many people react negatively to threats and telling atheists that they will go to hell if they don't convert, or that atheism is a "bad bet" with bad consequences, will likely push them away. Atheists Have No Reason to Fear Hell...

Ms.KitKat
by Gold Member on May. 24, 2014 at 11:43 AM

It was actually Grandmab who gave me the idea. She posted something about how religious debates are not civil. I thought this would be helpful. I hope "they" don't take it as an insult because that is not what it is meant to do. But then again, all I can do is post. It is up to 'them" to decide how "they" want to receive it.

Quoting Pema_Jampa:

I think they will read it but not comment. You will only anger them. 

Thank you!

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

You do know that those who could benefit by this op are not going to read it.

But- I'll pray for you

 BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

rolling on floor

Enjoy your vacation! 

Quoting Pema_Jampa:

Oh and today is my first day of vacation. Y'all girls have informed me that when I sin that you are sinning also. Just get ready. Today will be a busy prayer day for some of you. 


PamR
by Platinum Member on May. 24, 2014 at 11:47 AM
1 mom liked this

I find it obnoxious when anyone who disagrees with someone else, tells them they will "pray for them."  It's sort a smug, self-important thing to say.  If you want to pray for someone, just do it.  You don't have to announce it.

Ms.KitKat
by Gold Member on May. 24, 2014 at 11:56 AM
1 mom liked this

blonde- Thank you for sharing that. I agree with what I highlighted in your post in pink.

People do respond more readily to love.

1 Corinthians 13

New King James Version (NKJV)

The Greatest Gift

13 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I am wondering, Have you found this op helpful to you in how to debate with others in regards to religious matters?

 

Quoting blondekosmic15:

My older brother is an atheist. I love him dearly. I pray daily for the salvation of his soul as I do my other siblings and friends. We share many conversations about Religion and God. Civil, thoughtful, interesting talks together. My brother is a history buff. I've learned alot from him. I see God working in his life frequently. As a Christian I place my trust in God and the power of prayer. Jesus said, if I can find one person in a family that will surrender their life to me, I will save their family. 

Some of you like to use the argument Christians threaten non-believers with damnation. An unfair blanket statement to justify your denial of God or unwillingness to change. Change sometimes can be difficult, even painful and fearful. I know...I've lived on both sides. I have not always been a Christian. Many like to toss the blame on Christians as an excuse not to examine your own conscience for the sake of repentance. God's love & mercy can penetrate the hardest of hearts through prayer and fasting.

God reveals Himself in the Gospel message of love and repentance. Love is the virtue that touches our lives and leads us to God. Many yrs ago I didn't care about God nor his Commandments. My mother's prayers, example and love inspired my conversion. A very humble, mild tempered women who shared God's love with me and the consequences of sin. I owe my life and change of heart to my dear mother and to Jesus Christ who gently worked through her to save my soul. 

Yes, people respond more readily to love, not threats of punishment and condemnation. This is human nature. But Jesus himself said, the path to Heaven is narrow, few find it. The path to hell is wide, many go therein. The Apostles suffered martyrdom with the exception of John whom Jesus gave the mission of caring for his Mother Mary at the foot of the Cross. They were hated & despised by many because they shared the fullness of the Gospel message of love and true sorrow for sin.  Love without repentance bears no fruit. A reminder of God's infinite love for each one of us is manifested in the ultimate sacrifice of his divine Jesus upon the Cross. No greater love than when you lay down your life for another~


5. Threaten Us With Damnation or Say Atheism is a "Bad Bet"

Many religious theists believe there is a punishment for bad people in an afterlife. In certain religions, like Christianity, this punishment plays a central role in their mythology. They always live under the threat of punishment if they don't behave and believe correctly, so it may seem reasonable to pass the threat along to nonbelievers — but that will likely have the opposite effect. Many people react negatively to threats and telling atheists that they will go to hell if they don't convert, or that atheism is a "bad bet" with bad consequences, will likely push them away. Atheists Have No Reason to Fear Hell...


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