Advice for Christians: Twenty "don't do"'s in discussions with nonbelievers.

Todd Pence
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Advice for Christians: Twenty "don't do"'s in discussions with nonbelievers.

ADVICE FOR CHRISTIAN DEBATORS:
A LIST OF TWENTY "DON'T DO'S" IN ARGUMENTS/DISCUSSIONS WITH ATHEISTS/NONBELIEVERS IF YOU EXPECT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY.

DON'T make statements like "You can't prove that God exists" or "You can't prove that Jesus didn't rise from the dead!"
Let me introduce you to a little concept called the burden of proof. It's a fundamental principle governing both logic and rhetorical discourse.  In any assertive statement, the burden of proof is always on the claimant.
Claims that a being named God exists or that the fundamentals of the Christian religion are factual truth fall under the category of assertive statements. That means that the burden of proof is upon the person who holds these viewpoints to provide the evidence for them. Such an obligation does NOT reside with the person who doubts or denies such evidence until such time as sufficient evidence is provided to make the original proposition viable.
Got that? Let's go over it one more time. It is the Christian's job in any discourse to provide the initial evidence for their God or their beliefs. It is not the job of the person who doubts to provide reasons or evidence for their doubt (until, of course, the Christian first offers some sort of tangible evidence for their proposition to be examined).
So, when you make a statement such as "You can't prove God doesn't exist", you do two things. You not only demonstrate that you are ignorant of the fundamental laws governing intellectual debate, but you also further emphasize that you really have no evidence for your own beliefs and therefore are attempting to pass off the burden of proof on your opponent.

DON'T make the claim that atheists are atheists because they "hate God" or they are "rebelling against God". Atheists do not believe in the existence of God, so they can't hate him. Get it? Do you disbelieve in Santa Claus because you are in rebellion against Santa Claus? Do you believe that the Earth is round because you hate the idea of a flat Earth?
Admittedly, however, the God described in the Bible is deserving of nothing but contempt from any decent individual.

DON'T refer to atheists or nonbelievers in the Christian religion as being "closed-minded" because they refuse to seriously consider the claims of Christianity. Is a mature adult who has grown out of a childhood belief in the Tooth Fairy "close-minded" because they refuse to seriously entertain the concept that such a being might exist? Rejecting or discarding a childish and foolish belief is not close-mindedness.

If your aim is to defend the Christian or another specific religion, DON'T waste everyone's time and effort by making arguments for God in the abstract. (Example: "The universe is a little bit too complex to have come together on its own, therefore it must have been made by a God!&quotEye-wink That "God" could just as well have been Odin or Zarathustra. It's a familiar bait and switch tactic for Christians to argue for the possibility of God in the abstract, and then act as if they have made a point in favor of the God specific to the Judeo-Christian Bible. If you are trying to argue for the claims of a specific religion such as Christianity, such abstract arguments are irrelevant to that aim. (Also, when believers go this route, they tend to quote terms such as "the second law of thermodynamics" that make it painfully obvious that they don't know what they're talking about.)

DON'T make the claim that Christianity is true because details of Jesus Christ's life, ministry, and death were foretold in "hundreds of amazingly detailed and accurately fulfilled prophecies recorded in the Old Testament." This particularly silly and long-refuted contention is a sure way to get you laughed off any reputable discussion forum.
Briefly - all of the supposed "prophecies" cited in the New Testament books such as Matthew are Old Testament passages quoted out of context and made to seem prophecies by being inserted into the narrative. Examination of the original passages show that either they were not intended as prophecies at all or that they were prophecies concerning a completely different individual or event which had nothing to do with Jesus Christ (usually demonstrated by the fact that the prophecy contains conditions which the Christ of the New Testament never fulfilled.)
For further detail, read the definitive work on the subject, Thomas Paine's "The Age of Reason Part Two: Examination of the Prophecies" available from numerous on-line sources. But please don't embarrass yourself any further by invoking so-called "prophecies" which simply never existed.

In serious discussions of Biblical scholarship and religious history, DON'T refer your opponent to works by such authors as Josh McDowell and Lee Stroebel.
The works of McDowell, Stroebel and their ilk are notorious for their dishonest "scholarship", specious reasoning, and pandering to the uneducated. Informed skeptics are already well aware of the names of authors such as McDowell and Stroebel and are also well aware of their mendacity. Those authors employ many fallacies which are pointed out in this list, and invoking their names will only send the signal that you are an amateur who knows little or nothing about the subject of Christian and Biblical history.
Quoting a Josh McDowell book in a serious discussion on Biblical history is like quoting a Sydney Omarr book in a serious discussion on Astronomy.

DON'T claim that the Bible doesn't contain any contradictions, or that the contradictions identified by others can all be satisfactorily explained. The Bible contains hundreds of contradictory statements, and an attempt to take any position counter to this fact is completely untenable - as you will find if you attempt to take it. Nothing is quite as ridiculous as a Bible inerrancy defender making the claim that "there are no genuine contradictions in the Bible" and then trying to manufacture a series of more and more contrived "defenses" and "resolutions" to Biblical contradictions.

In discussions of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection, DON'T claim as if it were a historical fact that "Five hundred eyewitnesses" saw the risen Jesus.
The claim that 500 saw the resurrected Christ in all his glory comes from the fifteenth chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians and such a number is corroborated nowhere else in any of the Gospel accounts. It is obviously intended by the author to be an impressive piece of evidence due to the high number of the supposed witnesses. But it would have been much stronger evidence to have just TEN witnesses - but also to give their names, their relations to the events, and perhaps some independent testimony from them. Because the passage contains none of these things, it is worthless as evidence to anything but the scope of the imagination of its author.
The aforementioned Josh McDowell is particularly enamored of this bit of supposed "evidence." McDowell enthuses, "Do you realize that if each of those 500 people were to testify for only six minutes, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony?" Well, unfortunately, Josh, they didn't and we don't. Hey, if wishes were horses, than we'd all be up to our necks in manure.
Christians, I'm afraid you're going to have to give up the notion of "500 witnesses" as a serious piece of evidence for your doctrines. Sorry.

DON'T make arguments along the lines of "So-and-so used to be a hardcore atheist and then he investigated the evidence and came to the conclusion that Christianity was the one true religion so he renounced his atheism!" In the first place, this is the fallacy known as the "argument from authority". In the second place, such anecdotes usually turn out to be slightly loose with the facts and the supposed "convert"'s true story usually turns out to be not quite the apostasy the Christian dropping the name would have us believe.
A good example of this is the case of Anthony Flew. Flew was a scientist who for most of his life was a confirmed atheist, who in recent years went on record as being open to the possibility of the existence of a deity. Christians crowed about this, despite the fact that Flew maintained that his newfound beliefs did NOT involve an acceptance of the Bible or the doctrines of the Christianity. Essentially, he was no more a Christian than he had been as an atheist. One then has to wonder exactly what value his "conversion" has to Christian propaganda.
Genuine atheists, once they have become aware of the falsifying evidence against the Chrsitian religion, rarely go back to believing in God again; anymore than mature adults return to a small child's belief in the Easter Bunny.

DON'T ask a moronic question like "If you don't believe in God, then where does your morality come from?" If you really want to go this route, be prepared to provide satisfactory explanations for the fact that there are far less atheists, proportionately, within the walls of prison than there are on the outside. Atheists are not the ones who have to face difficult questions about the motivations for their moral behavior. Witness Christianity's first great champion, Constantine, who adopted the religion precisely because he viewed it as the one faith that would not only wipe out his past sins, but allow him to continue to sin. Some basis for morality.

DON'T try to associate atheism with Hitler or Stalin, etc. In the first place, this is pretty much an ad hominem attack. In the second place, the non-believer can easily turn around this type of mud slinging and come up with just as many baddies throughout history whose crimes against humanity were motivated by their religious beliefs.

DON'T characterize atheists as "angry." This will be patently obvious for what it is - an indirect ad hominem attack on the atheist position. Labeling one's opponent as an "angry" person implies that they are not in their right might and no one should listen to anything they have to say, a rather transparent rhetorical tactic. Of course atheists often demonstrate angry emotions in discourse (and they have good reason considering how their beliefs are marginalized in vilified in mainstream culture). But so do Christians. I'm sure this post will garner plenty of angry Christian responses. But a God-believer using that emotion as a pejorative against an atheist opponent is really nothing more than the projection of the believer's own anger at having their belief's challenged.

DON'T make any reference to the "new" atheism. There is nothing "new" about the philosophy or position of atheism - it's as old as religious belief. Another lame ad hominem (the adjective "new" implies something trendy, without tradition or substance, a passing fad). Authors such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are the latest in a long line of a tradition of freethought literature criticizing orthodox religion. The only thing "new" about them is that in our information age these types of viewpoints can no longer be as suppressed as religious institutions to a great deal effectively managed to do in the past.

DON'T make the following argument: "If you think that the story of Jesus is just a myth, then how do you explain away the EMPTY TOMB???"
Seriously. Just think about it a moment. This is equivalent to asking "If you think the story of Perseus of the ancient Greeks is just a myth, then how do you explain away all those people the Gorgon Medusa turned to stone?" or "If you think 'The Wizard of Oz' is just fiction, then how do you explain away the wicked witch melting when Dorothy threw water on her?"

In discussions on the historicity of Jesus Christ, when someone asks for contemporary accounts of Jesus' life from secular historians, DON'T mention the following names: Tacitus, Josephus, or Pliny the Younger. In the first place, these are not at all contemporary sources, since all three historians were born AFTER the time Jesus was supposed to live. In the second place, the supposed references to Jesus in the works of each man are highly suspect in terms of authenticity, for various reasons. In the third place, the references to Jesus in each of these works is so sketchy and insubstantial that it hardly proves a thing towards the truth of the Christian religion as Christians claim it does. If such citations are the best you can come up with when pressed for extra-Biblical historical sources, perhaps its best that you avoid the subject entirely.

DON'T invoke the hoary "Who would die for a lie" fallacy. The argument goes along these lines: The early disciples of the Christian faith were martyred for their belief in the resurrected Jesus. Their refusal to recant in this belief, even when threatened with death, constitutes bona fide proof that the resurrection must really have happened, for . . . who would die for a lie?
There's so many things wrong with this stance only a few of the more glaring problems can be outlined here.
There is no historical evidence for the death of the early apostles and disciples. The majority of the alleged martyrdoms are not even alluded to in the New Testament and are the product of much later apocryphal church literature. Once again Christian apologists are attempting to prove mythology as fact by citing mythology.
This scenario further presumes a situation where the Roman authorities who executed these alleged martyrs gave them a chance to recant before their executions, a presumption which is dubious in the extreme. Possibly people who postulate such a situation have the Roman authorities of the day confused with the Spanish Inquisition. The Romans who executed early Christians did so for mainly political reasons, not theological ones. Would a Roman tribunal really be interested in a recantal of faith from such an exectutee?
Of course, the most fallacious part of this argument is the idea that the willingness to die for something precludes the authenticity of the belief in question. Consider the case of Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult, who persuaded two score of his fellow human beings to not only believe in his delusional fantasies about extraterrestrials, but to willingly die for that belief. Why couldn't the same thing have happened with Peter and the early disciples, and in such a case, how would their convictions have been any more substantial than that of the Heaven's Gatists? History contains many more examples of people willing to die for a religious belief or conviction.

DON'T make self-evidently ridiculous statements like "Stories of Jesus and his miracles and his resurrection were being circulated just twenty to thirty years after his life! Twenty to thirty years is much too short a time for a legend like that to develop!" This statement has to be one of the silliest and most patently false apologists contentions out there. Human experience and history show that myth-making is a process which can happen overnight, as witness the amount of people who claimed to see Elvis living again within a few days of his death.

I realize that only the most ignorant and clueless will even try to make this claim, but DON'T refer to the gospels as being "eyewitness accounts." They're plainly not, nor do their authors claim them as such.

DON'T make an argument to the following effect: "Hey, there are thousands of different copies of the New Testament surviving from ancient times, and only a comparatively few copies of (name the works of an ancient secular historian). This just goes to show the tremendous textual authority of the Bible, doesn't it?" Please. So what if we have a thousand copies of the NT printed up during the middle ages? What we need are the originals, which we haven't got. Also, there is a reason so many copies of the Bible survived compared to other literature - because the Bible's proponents periodically went on book burning sprees aimed at any and all kinds of secular literature.

And please, please, DON'T put your ignorance on public display by making any reference to America being a "Chrsitian nation" or the Founding Fathers intending it to be a "Christian nation". The exact opposite is true. The Founders clearly intended the government to be separate from religious beliefs, as indicated by the writings.
At this point in the essay, I really don't feel the need to once again reiterate arguments that every high school graduate should be familiar with. If you don't believe me, just try arguing to the contrary in any forum and I'm sure you'll be set straight in no time.

 


Kavis
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Quote:DON'T try to associate

Quote:
DON'T try to associate atheism with Hitler or Stalin, etc. In the first place, this is pretty much an ad hominem attack.

You fail to mention why this argument really falls flat: it bears no relation to reality.  While Stalin was unquestionably an atheist, Hitler's position on religion is somewhat murkier.  I haven't been able to find any convincing arguments one way or another; there are plenty of quotes, however, indicating sometimes he felt one way, sometimes another. 

The anti-semitic policies of Nazi Germany had a religious root, even if it's not direct.  Hatred of Jews was a long-established fact, especially in the Holy Roman Empire, for the alleged role of Jews in the crucifixion of Jesus. Hitler and the Nazis capitalised on that, they didn't create it out of whole cloth.

Stalin's policies, too, capitalized on religion, by giving the Orthodox church an official nod.  However, the horrible things Stalin did had more to do with paranoia than with atheism.  So far as I know, he didn't especially target religious figures, just people he felt threatened his rule.

Quote:
In the second place, the non-believer can easily turn around this type of mud slinging and come up with just as many baddies throughout history whose crimes against humanity were motivated by their religious beliefs.

This would be as much mud-slinging, and ad-hominem by proxy, as the original is. The error of the Hitler/Stalin argument should be corrected, and then the argument dismissed as invalid. It would be no better to say, "Yeah, well, I know you are, but what am I?"

Religion is a virus.
Fight the infection.


butterbattle
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Overall, nice list.Todd

Overall, nice list.

Todd Pence wrote:

In discussions of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection, DON'T claim as if it were a historical fact that "Five hundred eyewitnesses" saw the risen Jesus.

Yep, it doesn't matter if the theist claims that there were one billion witnesses. The weight of the evidence is determined by the amount and reliability of the documentation that we have.

Todd Pence wrote:
DON'T make the following argument: "If you think that the story of Jesus is just a myth, then how do you explain away the EMPTY TOMB???"

They kind of need to explain how they know it was Jesus's tomb and how they know it's empty because Jesus rose from it.

Edit: DNA only has 23 chromosomes? Hehe.

Todd Pence wrote:
Human experience and history show that myth-making is a process which can happen overnight, as witness the amount of people who claimed to see Elvis living again within a few days of his death.

Scientology. Mormonism. Etc.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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:3

Oh yeah? Well obviously you don't understand the idea of magic! Solve that with your "facts" "science" "common sense" and "reason"!

 

 

Checkmate, atheist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theism is why we can't have nice things.


Presuppositionalist
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Calling an argument "stupid"

Calling an argument "stupid" is unpersuasive. Calling twenty arguments "stupid" is unpersuasive and a waste of time.

Q: Why didn't you address (post x) that I made in response to you nine minutes ago???

A: Because I have (a) a job, (b) familial obligations, (c) social obligations, and (d) probably a lot of other atheists responded to the same post you did, since I am practically the token Christian on this site now. Be patient, please.


Awelton85
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All good stuff. Kinda sad

All good stuff. Kinda sad that the brainwashed theist masses will read this, then proceed to attempt to disprove all of it using the processes that were just disproven. It is a cycle that never seems to end: the bible is easily disproven, the theist arguement always comes from the bible (or thin air).

Until someone becomes educated enough to refrain from making their arguement from the bible, I just pretend they are the parents from "peanuts" (wah-wah-wah-waaaaa). It makes the ignorance easier to ignore.

"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence." - Bertrand Russell

Stewie: Yay and God said to Abraham, "you will kill your son, Issak", and Abraham said, I can't hear you, you'll have to speak into the microphone." "Oh I'm sorry, Is this better? Check, check, check... Jerry, pull the high end out, I'm still getting some hiss back here."


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So um. assume atheism is

So um. assume atheism is true and ignore all evidence to the contrary ... yeah... right.. not all big into the thinking thing.


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WillieBop wrote:
So um. assume atheism is true and ignore all evidence to the contrary ... yeah... right.. not all big into the thinking thing.

 

WillieBop is obviously correct! Atheism can't stand up against the mountains of evidence the religious community has provided! I mean, like the bible!

 

That must mean that atheism is irrational, and the one right religion that I follow is true because the religious scripture I believe, which is clearly an objective text of historical facts, says so!

 

 

So it is only rational to believe what I believe because I told you!

 

 

 

 

Checkmate again, atheists!

Theism is why we can't have nice things.


butterbattle
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ClockCat wrote:Checkmate

ClockCat wrote:

Checkmate again, atheists!

Have you been watching too much EdwardCurrent or something?

 

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


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:3

butterbattle wrote:

ClockCat wrote:

Checkmate again, atheists!

Have you been watching too much EdwardCurrent or something?

 

 

Yes. Sad

 

I'm bored.

Theism is why we can't have nice things.


Awelton85
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To ignore "evidence" I would

To ignore "evidence" I would have to hear some (scientific) evidence. I do not ignore actual evidence or facts, just the bullshit claims that come from made up books. If this second explaination doesn't do it for you, pm me so I can tell you you are a dumbass directly.

Again, the burden of proof is on you, not me.

I am in quite the rude mood tonight, so do your worst. Back up that little thiest badge, and your invisible sky fairy. I hate to break your tiny teapot, but I will not abide a hit-and-run attack.

"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence." - Bertrand Russell

Stewie: Yay and God said to Abraham, "you will kill your son, Issak", and Abraham said, I can't hear you, you'll have to speak into the microphone." "Oh I'm sorry, Is this better? Check, check, check... Jerry, pull the high end out, I'm still getting some hiss back here."


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Presuppositionalist

Presuppositionalist wrote:

Calling an argument "stupid" is unpersuasive. Calling twenty arguments "stupid" is unpersuasive and a waste of time.

You'll notice that he doesn't simply make fleeting reference to the argument and then label it stupid. He explains the fallacy in every one and then gives evidence for how they have already been refuted. All he wants is for theists like yourself to start making arguments that haven't already been shot down hundreds of times. Don't be so butthurt, if you don't like it, make a list of arguments atheists shouldn't make. 

"Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven. Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine, himself the primrose path of dalliance treads. And recks not his own rede."


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cervello_marcio wrote:He

cervello_marcio wrote:

He explains the fallacy in every one and then gives evidence for how they have already been refuted. All he wants is for theists like yourself to start making arguments that haven't already been shot down hundreds of times. Don't be so butthurt, if you don't like it, make a list of arguments atheists shouldn't make. 

 

Heh... now thats a list i'd love to see

 

What Would Kharn Do?


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 I'm glad you're here Pence

 I'm glad you're here Pence ( seriously ).  I stumbled across your book reviews at Amazon and I enjoyed your dissection of the theist "rebuttals".  Hope you'll continue to contribute to this forum.

www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/misanthropy

"A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition." Rudyard Kipling


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Todd Pence wrote:(hits nail

Todd Pence wrote:
(hits nail on head)
I think I can compress that into an easier to remember list:

1. Be honest

2. Learn what logic is and how to use it

"I've yet to witness circumstance successfully manipulated through the babbling of ritualistic nonsense to an imaginary deity." -- me (josh)

If god can do anything, can he make a hot dog so big even he can't eat all of it?