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How to win a debate with an atheist…
First of all set a structure to the discussion! The atheist will most probably start with an all-out attack mentioning various things. In his anger he will seem unstoppable. Explain to him calmly that there must be a specific logical sequence in a civilized discussion. Atheists usually are extra zealous and say many and confusing things. Because the things in their head are indeed confused. Help them get them straight. Christianism – which is usually their greatest “enemy” – has many facets: Philosophical, theological, ethical, political, societal. Discuss about these sectors separately and in order. He will try to convince you that this is not the case. Try to explain to him that not distinguishing the purely theological or philosophical part of Christianity from its political and/ or social part is an over-simplistic way of seeing things. Almost childish. (ask him of course if he sees things in the same “holistic” way in the case of science which some time ago supported eugenics)
0. Read the basic articles of Harmonia Philosophica!
1. Regarding evidence and logic: Try to explain to him that many atheistic beliefs (yes, “beliefs” – see Religion and Science Unification) are illogical and not based on evidence. Ask him how does he think the universe was created. Randomly? Does he accept “random” as a valid reason for anything? Ask him how does he believe matter can develop (immaterial) consciousness. Ask him why does he think the parallel universe theory is valid, even though he will never see them. Ask him why does he believe in infinity even though he will never experience it.
Explain to him the difference between “blind faith” and “faith based on logic and evidence”. And explain to him that science needs faith as well. Add that believing in a scientific axiom (which is by definition unproved) requires more faith than to believe in love like Christ taught. Tell him that it is more irrational and unscientific to believe that everything exist out of pure luck than to believe that everything has a cause. And that Aristotle (the founder of Logic) and Gödel (the second greatest logicologist after… Aristotle) believed – based on their logic – in the First Cause. Logic is not a privilege of atheists. And that the great so called atheist (so called? could it be that…?!? Yes!… Check out here) Nietzsche was an irrationalist.
For advanced Harmonia Philosophica readers: Life is inherently irrational. So why all this love of rationality? Read the Main Thesis.
ONE LINE ARGUMENTS: In some cases you have to deal with a hardline atheist who actually does not want to discuss but to “fight”. There is no need to get into an argument with such a person. The only thing you can say to such a person so as to easily and quickly pinpoint the irrationality of his beliefs is to remind him that he believes (not a random choice of word here) in a universe which was created by accident, randomly and with no purpose. Or in a universe which existed for…. ever for no reason at all! And that opinion needs more justification that the opinion requiring a Creator for the creation of the cosmos! And if they speak to you about the greatness of ancient Greek logical thought, remind them that even ancient Greeks had RELIGION. And in fact this religion was not even something distinct from science – these were no even considered as different fields! And remind him of Aristotle speaking of the First Mover. If finally they speak about science and religion incompatibility, remind them of all those great scientists who believed in God. (see the reference to Nobel prize winners and the images with quotes in this page). A reference to the Theory of Evolution (ToE) is even more easily dealt with: The ToE is simply a scientific theory. It does not answer philosophical or metaphysical problems. It just presents a possible mechanism (and is full of dogmas while doing so – see here). And no, it does not answer to the question how life came to be. “God allows children to die!” fake-argument is easily refuted: See below.
2. Regarding the teachings of Christianism: Usually atheists tend to use the things written in the Old Testament. Older books tend to have harder meanings and more symbolisms. They can be explained of course, but not in a harsh debate with a rude atheist who does not want to listen. So focus on the teachings about love and forgiveness. These are the cornerstones of Christianism. Are there people who killed in the name of Christ? Sure. But they were not christians!
For advanced readers: Read the Old Testament: Not for the faint-hearted. (An easy interpretation) article. Check out here or here for some explanations of phenomenally “wrong” Old Testament texts.
3. Regarding the effects of Christianism: Christianity was the foundation of the free thinking Europe. Knowledge flourished in what is called “The dark ages”. Modern science was born in Christian Europe even though this is something atheists would like to forget. Humanism and Renaissance were first developed in the christian Byzantine Empire during those “dark” ages. Arts flourished in the “dark ages”. The first universities were the monasteries in these “dark” medieval ages (Dawkins teaches in one of those “dark” places). If it wasn’t for Christianism’s support of the “Help the helpless” way of thinking, we would now have the prevalence of the powerful over the powerless as some (scientific) theories support. Remind him that everything he knows about ancient Greek philosophers he so much admires, he knows because a monk somewhere saved their works. And that even the ancient “free thinking” Greeks had religion. And the logical Greeks were the first to adopt Christianity.
If he tells you that Christianity killed a lot of people ask him if Christ taught murder. If he tells you that Christianism oppressed people tell him to read how Jesus behaved to people who were outcasts in His time. If he tries to refer to various Byzantine christian emperors who led war campaigns, remind him that Christianity – besides its philosophical and theological aspect – also has a secular one. And remind him also that if it weren’t for this he would be speaking Arabic now. Ask him if he really knows and understands the difference between religion’s secular (practical) and religion’s philosophical/ theological aspect. And if he can detect such a difference for every bad thing happens in the name of science. And if he believes Mengele represented science (even though he did in his time – see here).
For a great summary of all the positive effects of Christianity in society and the negative effects of our modern (scientific) way of living, read “Religion: Its contribution to society (and other subjects)“.
4. About the relation of Science and Religion: Science analyzes the How. Religion the Why. Science analyzes mechanics. Religion analyzes ethics and the way of living. And the latter is more important. As the Interacademy Panel announced: “Human understanding of value and purpose are outside of natural science’s scope. However, a number of components – scientific, social, philosophical, religious, cultural and political – contribute to it. These different fields owe each other mutual consideration, while being fully aware of their own areas of action and their limitations. While acknowledging current limitations, science is open ended, and subject to correction and expansion as new theoretical and empirical understanding emerges” [one can see that statement’s full text here or here]. Most great scientists who won a Nober prize were theists. (see here and here)
5. Accept the rudeness of your interlocutor. This is how many atheists who debate are most of the times: Rude and aggressive. Show them how the Christian guy can discuss with politeness no matter what. This will really make the atheists explode with anger. Show in practice what it means to be a Christian. Love your enemy. (tip: That is when their rage explosion will reach unprecedented levels) However note that there are many Christians being rude like many atheists who are polite and correct when debating. With such people discussion is easy and this advice is not needed. The point of this chapter is not to generalize about atheists but to show how to deal with rude people.
THE “I DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD” SOPHISTRY…
Some atheists will try to say “Hey, I just do not believe in God” in order to avoid getting into details. Well, as being a “Christian” does not simply mean “Believing in Christian God”, being an “Atheist” does not simply mean “Not believing in any god”. This is a generalization and a highly suspicious generalization if you ask me. The word “God” has so many meanings in so many religions and philosophies that stating that “Atheists do not believe in god” is simply an utterly (intentionally?) wrong statement. They do not believe God in what sense? God as a creator? God as the source of soul/ spirit in humans? God as a source of Love? God as a Designer? God as the One to which we all return after death?
I would like to meet atheists who believe in First Cause. I would like to meet atheists who believe in a Designer. I would like to meet atheists who believe in human soul. I would like to meet atheists who do NOT believe in materialism.
Atheism is a System of Beliefs. And as such it should be treated.
6. Understand the motives of your interlocutor: Atheists want to gain control of their lives with science. Explain to them that by accepting God you will have even more control in your life. Explain that nothing is really under control. Tell them to relax. Always politely. Atheists want to become gods in the place of God. That is why they are so eager to make him go away. Because without God ethics is replaced by “personal ethics”. By “opinions”. Discuss about abortions. No, it is not easy to argue in favor of killing a human being because… well because! Atheists often feel angry because they look only the surface of the problems they face. Discuss about the “Problem of Evil”, a problem which atheists believe is on the hands of the theists but it is the other way around! What defines evil if there is no God? Is it a personal matter? A matter of opinion? Where do atheists base their own notion of “evil”? “God allows children to die!” he will say to you in anger. Explain to him that the belief that our body is everything is childish. The problem of existence is much more deep than the simplistic “death” event, which for every serious philosophical system in the course of human history was simply a stage in a transformation path.
THE “I DO NOT KNOW” ANSWER: Some atheists will try to play the “I do not know” card. Don’t misunderstand me. There are some people who are genuinely agnostics. I respect anyone who truly says “I do not know”.
But most of these cases are cases where atheists hide their anti-Christian feelings behind this. And in any case, if one “does not know” then surely it is quite alright for accept the christian opinion. Right? Unless the “agnostic” has some good arguments against the theistic view of the cosmos. Because he “knows” something… Last but not least, one should note that we almost never “know” anything with certainty. But we all have opinions. (this is how science progresses) Stating “I do not know” in important philosophical matters is not a genuine scientific answer. It is just like avoiding to move so that you are not checkmated. (related article: Why you can’t be an agnostic)
7. Do not accept statements as arguments. Simply saying “This is like this” does not make it “like this”. Ask for explanations. If someone tells you “You have not read things” tell him to explain to you these things. Usually most of the things atheists take for granted are impossible to explain (e.g. how consciousness stems from lifeless matter).
8. Hit them when they believe they are the strongest. Ask them why they believe Sun is at the center of the solar system (a very important story of philosophical dogmatism lies behind that phenomenally stupid question – see here) Ask them what is a particle. Are particles against materialism? (see here) Explain them why medicine is NOT a pro-science argument! (see here) Explain them why astrology is more valuable than astronomy (read here before you judge this sentence as stupid) Refer to transubstantiation and to resurrection. Refer to the Old Testament. Refer to miracles. If turning water to wine or resurrecting people seem so funny, then what about modern science? What about quantum mechanics which has proven that the mind can actually affect the very existence of matter? What about NDE cases being officially recorded? Start a discussion about Galileo or Ypatia. (see the end of the Religion and Science Unification article) Explain to them that Giordano Bruno to whom they refer to with such love, would be an object of mockery by today’s scientists due to the things he said. Argue about consciousness and remind him of the TV analogy. Explain that reductionism is as much “proven” as the 5th axiom of Euclid is. Adding a recommendation for some more in depth reading regarding the brain and the mind. (see “Human Consciousness and the end of Materialism” and here) No, we have not found where memory is stored! (see here) Discuss about why God allows evil in the world etc (see the Problem of Evil in the Point no. 6).
Materialism is ridiculous. Arguing in favor of religion is truly easy for someone who knows the basics. Science is the new religion nowadays. But one must have free thinking is he wishes to be true to himself. Atheism is trendy nowadays. But one must resist the trends if he wants to be called human. Christ taught love, compassion, forgiveness (Gr. Συγ-χώρεση). If all agree with all these, why so hatred against Him?
9. Leave the discussion in peace. There is no point in debating for ever. Explain your arguments and leave them be angry about it. Atheists are fed with rage and anger. Give them love. No point in being part of the imaginary “war” some people believe there is between science and religion. Remember atheists need guidance through love and understanding.
All the above generate a serious question: Why do atheists still exist?
Forgive me asking, but if you think about it this is a very valid question in today’s science era.
In the old days one could have many excuses to be an atheist. Science had not progressed much, archaeology had not made many discoveries, quantum mechanics did not even exist, Near Death Experiences were more something like an urban myth, scientists believed that consciousness was a by-product of the brain such as bile was produced by the liver, we read the holy texts and tried to interpret them all literally or believed they were just fairy tales, there were no nutritionists and people believed that all the church advice on fasting was mere compulsion of some mad men etc etc…
I would really understand someone being an atheist at that time back then, even though some reading and philosophical research can help you see the light somehow.
But now we know that man can affect matter with his conscious immaterial mind (quantum mechanics – see the wavefunction collapse after a conscious observer observes the experiment, how random number generators are affected by the sheer will of humans), that dead people can back to life (officially documented NDE cases by doctors), that many of the Biblical locations are real, that a text like the Bible can have hidden meanings or symbolisms, that human consciousness can exist beyond the limits of our brain (see Princeton experiments), that modern nutritionists suggest the same fasting the church suggests and so on…
With so many arguments in favor of religion and in favor of the idea of an immaterial consciousness/ soul, how can really someone be an atheist? What is the excuse?
Relative discussions (indicative list)
- The limits of science @ Sciencechatforum
- The limits of science @ PhilosophyNow forum
- Medieval times – A enlightened era… @ PhilosophyNow forum
- Consciousness – The End of Materialism? @ Sciencechatforum
- Why Medicine is NOT a pro-Science argument! @ onlinephilosophyclub
- Religion and Science Unification @ onlinephilosophyclub
- Philosophy of Religion and Science @ ReasonableFaith
- Why the Nazis actually won… @ ILovePhilosophy forum
- Earth at the center of the Universe? @ ILovePhilosophy forum