The top 5 points on talking to a theist

doctoro
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The top 5 points on talking to a theist

I'd like to post my own challenge to all atheists in the group. I can't offer some kind of monetary reward or DVD, but I will offer a toast to your brilliance in the stickam chatroom on a friday night.

Here goes:

Jake was talking about how it is easy to use philosophical terminology that blows over the heads of theists. When you have a conversation with a theist, it is quite possible that focusing on obscure terminology, such as epistemology or a priori knowledge can cause a theist to "shut down" altogether and simply stop listening to you.

My question, then is what 5 points are the easiest to understand and most effective in striking up a conversation with a theist in the hopes of getting them to embrace rationalism?

And as a sidenote, what major 5 obstacles do you see in "deconverting" a theist?

I will post my feeble attempt in my next post.


doctoro
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5 points for

5 points for deconversion:

 1.  Question to the theist:  If I provide you with proof that Christianity and belief in God is unjustified and false, will you change your beliefs?  Explain that you will change your beliefs if they successfully prove their position to you.

 2.  Ask the theist, "Why do you believe X?" or "By what standard do you determine whether your beliefs are true?"  X can be christianity or Islam or any religion.  Moreover, it can be ANY irrational belief.  Realize that this is not the same a, "What do you believe?"  It is "Why do you believe what you believe?"

Discuss why faith is a poor means of deriving truth.  Discuss how there are two ways of knowing something, through our minds and our senses.  Discuss the unreliability of "feeling" that something is true.

3.   Ask how the theist explains suffering in the world if God is all good, all knowing, and all powerful.

4.  Discuss ethics and how ethics cannot be derived from God.  God must have reasons for determining what is good and what is bad, and there is no reason why we can't figure out these reasons ourselves.  Moreover, if someone claims to have commandments from God that contradict our sense of reason, we must be very critical of the authenticity of their revelations.  Since moderate christians scour the Bible, cherry-pick all the good stuff, and "re-interpret" the bad stuff, they obviously have an innate sense of good and bad that is PRIMARY over the bible.

5.  Ask the theist, "why do we need God to be happy and have a meaningful life?"

6.  (Cheating with a bonus point) Ask the theist to explain how the soul interacts with the physical structure of the brain to create consciousness and physical events in the brain.

 --As I said, these are feeble attempts.  I'm so caught up in my own philosophy and all the jargon, I need to be levelled to the ground by someone in order to figure out how to "bring it down" on a level that a layman can understand.  Any takers?


doctoro
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5 obstacles to

5 obstacles to deconversion:

1.  The theist has a family or social structure that would crumble or be severely negatively affected by deconversion.  In effect, "coming out" as an atheist would be as difficult as a gay person coming out to his or her family or society.

2.  The theist believes that "inner feelings" or "spiritual experiences" that they have had are valid ways to know things.  They believe this "spiritual sense" is reliable and something real.  (As opposed to imaginary.)  In sum, the theist believes that emotions can derive the truth.  This is an appeal to emotions and cannot be a valid form of figuring out the truth.

3.  The theist has lived with these theistic beliefs for so long that prying the delusions out of their skull is virtually impossible.  The defense mechanisms are so ingrained that meaningful discussion is a waste of time. 

4.  The theist has not engaged in any debate, been challenged to think, and has not read any atheist literature.  This is the easiest to overcome.  The above 3 are almost impossible to overcome, and this 4th point is really the only one we can work with.  For this reason, we are looking for people who are "on the fence" or already beginning to question their beliefs.  Non-threatening debate in a "socratic" style and references to good books like Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation" could be very helpful in initiating a process to help a person overcome theism.  I do not think people "choose" their beliefs, rather, I think that beliefs are determined by prior thoughts, reasoning, and reading.  Beliefs are sophisticated phenomena in the human brain, and it is simply absurd to berate someone for not spinning their beliefs on a dime.

I've thought I've pwned or defeated many theists in debate, and I've been amazed at how they still "don't get it".  Because beliefs are the result of a longer process, we can't expect it to be a quick flash. 

 5.  Atheists and theists both will come across debaters or arguments who are smarter or more eloquent in their speech.  I believe that some defense mechanisms arise in which people experience a kind of faith in their prior beliefs.

By this, I mean that you concede you are not as smart as someone else, but that you believe there are debaters smarter than you who hold to your position.  As an atheist, you may reason to yourself, "Wow, this theist makes a lot of good arguments.  I feel intellectually inferior.  But there is most certainly an atheist smarter than me who could debate and defeat this theist."  So in essence, you might claim ignorance when faced with brilliant arguments from the opposing side.  In this way, sometimes we can be "too successful" in arguing against theists.

It works both ways.  I read an intelligent design textbook called, "Of Pandas and People."  I found myself faced with all sorts of arguments I really couldn't answer effectively even though I have a undergraduate biology degree!  So based on my faith in my evolutionary position, I did more research.  I found an entire critical analysis of "Pandas and People" from evolutionists that really put it in its place as unscientific hogwash.

So I can empathize with this "defense mechanism."  And by using the term, "faith," in this context, I do not mean, "believing without evidence."  I mean "holding steadfastly to beliefs based on the idea that there are better arguments for your position that you have not discovered yet."  In this way, it is a kind of "rational faith".

I think the way to fight this problem is this:

You tell the theist that you are going to make some arguments, and that you encourage the theists to do some reading on their own and make up their own minds.   You do not want them to base their beliefs on unsound reason, rather, if they become atheists, you want them to have a sound basis for what they believe.  You want them to understand why they believe what they believe, not embrace your reasoning as dogmatic truth.


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Quote: My question, then is

Quote:
My question, then is what 5 points are the easiest to understand and most effective in striking up a conversation with a theist in the hopes of getting them to embrace rationalism?

Morality and teleology seem to be the most common reasons theists embrace god, at least from my own personal, anecdotal encounters.  So as you metioned, I would point out that theism doesn't solve any of the "problems" of morality -- i.e. where morality comes from, how to derive "ought" from "is," etc.  Of course, I use the word "problems" loosely there because I don't regard some of these as real problems, but only projections of concerns theists have, such as the concern that people would devolve into degenerate reprobates if they stopped believing God was watching their every move.

As far as teleology is concerned, I would point out that all teleological arguments for god beg the question.  I have never heard a teleological argument presented in a non-question-begging way.  To state that the universe was designed with us in mind becomes untenable when you realize that the rock sitting in your backyard also has it pretty good, as far as the universe's "design" is concerned.  If the parameters of the universe had been slightly different, that rock may not come to exist, but as Carl Sagan pointed out, nobody talks about lithocentric principles the way we talk about anthropic principles.

Quote:
Discuss why faith is a poor means of deriving truth.  Discuss how there are two ways of knowing something, through our minds and our senses.  Discuss the unreliability of "feeling" that something is true.

It should also be noted that when people claim to have "revelations" or "personal experiences," we ought to ask how they derived knowledge of and drew conclusions from them.  If the revelation was such that they had a "spiritual vision," well then, what is vision if not an observation -- an application of empiricism?  As such, a revelation falls into the realm of the empirical and is subject to the same criticism and scrutiny as any other empirical observation.  So we can ask if there were material phenomena contributing to the vision that was not controlled for, and we can ask whether there were cognitive biases influencing the way in which conclusions were drawn.

If atheism is a religion, why am I paying taxes?


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I am a Christian. I'm

I am a Christian. I'm getting the feeling here that the general thought is that all Christians are morons. I never grew up as a true Christian, and in fact was an atheist for most of my high school years. I came to my belief in Christ as God through rational thought, which most of you think is probably impossible. Anyway, I know that there is a lot of hostility here towards anyone with a belief in God, and I understand that. People do all sorts of crazy things "In the Name of GOD" and that's wrong. I just hope that you will understand that not every Christian is dumb, or conservative, or fundamentalist. If you guys want to ask any questions, please feel free to message me or just reply to this. I'll try to check back often.


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What is a "true" Christian,

What is a "true" Christian, in you're estimation? In other words, how do you discern a "true" Christian, like yourself, from a "false" Christian (or whatever terms you would use)?


KevenJ
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Laker-taker wrote:What is

Laker-taker wrote:
What is a "true" Christian, in you're estimation? In other words, how do you discern a "true" Christian, like yourself, from a "false" Christian (or whatever terms you would use)?

 What I had meant by "I wasn't a true christian" was that I had grown up in the US, and was told that there was a guy named "God" who was going to send people to Hell if they didn't do a thing called "pray" and ask for him to forgive them.


KevenJ
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I guess I would define a

I guess I would define a true Christian as someone who believes that he is in rebellion against God, and that his rebellion must be punished. That God sent his Son Christ Jesus to be punished as a substitutionary atonement. That the recieving of this atonement is only possible through faith in Christ.


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My bad....   This is

My bad....

 

This is perhaps not the proper area of the forums for this discussion. I'll take it to PMs instead.


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All your points are good

All your points are good Doctoro, and the first 3 obstacles to deconversion are really hard to challenge.  Most people are happy to collude in something that they may not really believe in their hearts if they think it does some good for their family and society.  Even as a convinced atheist I'd struggle not to tell a dying child he/she's going to heaven, or to say there's a real atheist alternative to the various Christian volunteer movements (even though many who volunteer may not believe, it's the social cohesion etc that a local church brings that's motivated them).  I think the best way forward is to debate and implement small steps that even theists can agree with - get religious organisations taxed if they're money-making, or overseen by the state if they're like any other charity, so as to limit the con-men, child abusers and preachers of hate.  Make it impossible for a child to leave school without having learned basic facts about the age of the universe, evolution, history of religion, separation of church and state in the constitution.  State intervention when someone refuses a blood transfusion for their child on religious grounds, etc etc.  It's the special priveleging of religion above all other faction and opinion that gets me, and how the teaching of fundie Xianity is insidiously becoming a force beyond the law.


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Faith is just a word that

Faith is just a word that means that you refuse to think about or address alternative arguments because disbelief would negatively affect you in some way.  Faith is a "cop-out" for refusing to think.


doctoro
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KevenJ wrote: I am a

KevenJ wrote:
I am a Christian. I'm getting the feeling here that the general thought is that all Christians are morons. I never grew up as a true Christian, and in fact was an atheist for most of my high school years. I came to my belief in Christ as God through rational thought, which most of you think is probably impossible. Anyway, I know that there is a lot of hostility here towards anyone with a belief in God, and I understand that. People do all sorts of crazy things "In the Name of GOD" and that's wrong. I just hope that you will understand that not every Christian is dumb, or conservative, or fundamentalist. If you guys want to ask any questions, please feel free to message me or just reply to this. I'll try to check back often.

You've really hijacked this post.  Your reply has nothing to do with the original thread.  Moreover, this part of the forum is made specifically for atheists only.  There are plenty of areas for you to discuss your theism with atheists here.  I forgive you -- you may not have known.  Try going to the theist/atheist area on here.  Then I will be happy to discuss this topic.  Welcome to the group.  We like to discuss these issues with theists.  And as always, if you provide rational arguments that overturn my position, I will convert to your position.  Give me your best arguments. 


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What I usually do when

What I usually do when talking to a theist is just ask them questions.  I try to ask questions such that their answeres very quickly start to contradict answers that they've already given.

The biggest problem that I run into is that people are afraid to be wrong.  So instead of searching for truth they just kinda curl up and ignore anything that you present to them. 

"It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan