Choosing When and How to Act or Respond
Excuse the title of this thread because I had difficulty conceptualizing a label for the issue that I'd like to discuss.
After I read The End of Faith, I started keeping an eye on Sam Harris as he made his way from talk shows to podcasts. One of the things I noticed is that he recycles a lot of the material in his book for his discussions. People that aren't overly familiar with his presentations or his work are probably unaware of this, but it's surprisingly common.
Comedians often recycle jokes, so if you watch Robin Williams when he promotes a new movie, you'll often hear the same jokes on different late night talks shows. Scientists like Richard Dawkins do the same thing when they're discussing a particular issue.
One of the advantages of recycling material is that it gives the presenter, debater, or interview subject a foundation for their particular topic. It limits the possibility of making a mistake when you're nervous. For atheists, a detested minority, this seems particularly important because we're usually being dissected. We don't want to slip up because for some of us a great deal rests on our ability to be better than what we're fighting against.
Unfortunately, most of us aren't like Sam Harris. We may have done some research for a debate or out of general interest, but how many of us can recall specific statistics, the writings of Thomas Aquinas, specific passages in the Bible or Qur'an, or the many arguments regarding the problem of evil when confronted by a theist?
Sure, many of us can get by when he have something planned or when we're debating on a forum, but it's unrealistic to expect most of us to respond as well as we'd like when attacked in a lecture theatre or pulled aside by a group of angry Muslims after we've likened their beliefs to a social virus.
This brings me to my reason for posting this thread. When and how do you choose to act or respond to the theistic beliefs that surround you every day? Do you keep certain pieces of information in memory, ready to be thrust into a discussion at a moment’s notice? Do you carry a Bible around, just in case you have to point out something? Do you bother debating with theists or other people that make outlandish claims? Do you stand up in the lecture theater, hand raised, every time someone uses God in a sentence? If you hear a whispered conversation about how God hates homosexuals in an elevator, do you correct? When you’re stumped by a question from a clever theist, do you abandon the discussion to take it up at another time? Do you ridicule and mock? When an academic smothers you in unfamiliar epistemological bullshit, do you shy away? Do you attack or defend?