Religious Debates are Pointless

Brewster VaculaA little bit ago, Justin Vacula got into a public debate with Reverend Michael Brewster and we had him on The Bitchspot Report afterwards to talk about it.  We didn’t have a lot of time and I had a lot to say, not just on that debate but on debates in general, so I thought I’d go off rambling here.

As I watched the debate, the first time Brewster opened his mouth, I started scribbling furiously, trying to catch all of his fallacies and failures and I eventually gave up, there were just too many of them.  However, Brewster is no worse than most Christian apologists, he falls into the same kind of fallacious thinking that most of them do.  He starts off by making a bunch of claims about the Christian God.  How does he know any of those things?  Some of them, certainly, come from the Bible and we’d have to examine the Bible in detail to see if it’s worthy of belief (hint: it’s not), but a lot of them just come out of the clear blue sky.  He states that God is eternal, loving, intelligent, rational, etc.  Says who?  Where do they get this supposed information?  These are just characteristics they want their God to have but they can’t demonstrate that their God actually has any of them, mostly because they can’t demonstrate that their God actually exists.  You could substitute leprechauns for God in any of his arguments and point out that you believe in leprechauns because it says so, right here in this book if Irish myths!  That has every bit the validity of what Brewster tried in this debate.  Of course, Brewster wouldn’t acknowledge that, he stated quite clearly that he was operating under the presupposition that the Bible was true but that’s a very poor debate tactic.  So is using faith, which Brewster did continuously.  Faith doesn’t mean anything to those who don’t have faith.  Apologists don’t think faith is all that valuable, after all, they reject the faith of other religions.  If they don’t take the faith of other religions seriously, why should they expect that non-believers are going to take theirs seriously?

The only real argument he made during the entire debate was “the Christian God is real because I believe the Christian God is real.”  He never justified his beliefs, he just tried to rationalize them and none of it too well.

Unfortunately, virtually everything he, and most other Christian debaters, said comes from a fallacious position.  I’ll coin a new logical fallacy here, they continuously engage in the fallacy from “I want that to be true”.  They really, really want these things to be true so they act like they have to be. Like it or not though, faith is not a bandage that you can use to cover over the weaknesses in your argument.

It was worse in the Q&A section when Brewster started refusing to answer hard questions from the audience, under the guise of them falling slightly outside the debate topic.  If I were Justin, I would have openly welcomed any and all questions from the audience, to show that atheists aren’t afraid to discuss anything, whether it’s on some approved list or not.

Please don’t think I’m picking on Reverend Brewster, he acknowledges that he’s not a skilled debater and I think he did quite well for his lack of experience.  However, he did demonstrate that he, like virtually all apologists, is not a very skilled theist.  In one of the few questions he did answer at the end, about why he came to believe, I called it before he ever opened his mouth, I knew he was going to say he grew up in the church, was indoctrinated and had some kind of vague spiritual experience.  He said that almost word for word.

However, I wanted to segue from this particular debate into religious debates in general.  I’ve seen tons of them and you want to know what they all share in common?  They’re far, far, far too long.  A religious debate ought to last about 30 seconds.  It should start with “do you have any actual evidence for the existence of your god” and end when the theist admits they don’t.  The same can be said for most of these stupid debates.  Aliens?  Got evidence?  No?  Move on.  Ghosts?  Evidence?  No?  Come back when you have some.  None of these debates are actually about the existence of a god, they’re about rationalizing around the utter lack of evidence for the existence of a god.  The Ontological Argument, the Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument, these aren’t evidence, they’re excuses to hide the fact that they have no evidence.  They’re attempts to shoehorn an undemonstrated deity into the claim.  They’re a distraction from the only question that actually matters, can you show that your god is real?  Nobody would take a Teleological Argument for Bigfoot seriously, why does God get a pass?  Put up or shut up.

We need to stop playing by the theist rules.  Either their god is real or it is not. Faith is no defense.  End-runs around the truth are no defense.  Only facts matter and they have none.

I think they can come back when they find some and not until.

5 thoughts on “Religious Debates are Pointless

  1. I'll agree with everything here except the title. While I find these debates pointless in the sense that I have zero interest in watching them, listening to them, or reading them, I do think they can be valuable from the perspective of those in the audience.

    My lack of interest comes primarily from my familiarity with the arguments on both sides and the number of these debates I've seen. They just seem to re-hash the same handful of arguments. I used to enjoy them before I'd seen so many. If I was not already familiar with the arguments on both sides, I'd probably still find them interesting.

    I have to imagine that debates like this are valuable to those who haven't thought much about these issues. And sadly, that seems to describe much of the population. For that reason, I'm glad there are still debates like this even though I no longer have much interested in watching them.
    My recent post Understanding Safe Zone Programs

    1. The idea that these debates can convince someone who watches it really has nothing to do with the debate itself. It's like saying that beating yourself over the head with a brick is worthwhile because someone watching might figure out that it's a bad idea. These debates really don't achieve anything, two sides enter, two sides leaves without changing a single opinion. I honestly think there are better uses of time that can achieve the same results.

  2. In the years prior to my deconversion, i was a member of the Churches of Christ. I was also an old Earth creationist of the theistic evolutionary bent. I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the teachings of the C of C as they were all YEC types and took Genesis literally.
    I made contact with the NCSE and actually spoke a few times with Genie Scott, who not only directed me to some books on evolution, but also coached me personally on how to deal with the creatards in my church, specifically one elder who wanted to debate me. Her advice? "Don't debate creationists."
    I disregarded her advice and got an education in just how deceitful and idiotic some folks can be. After numerous discussions with this particular elder, I became convinced that evidence was not held in especially high regard by my opponent and that truth was whatever he decided it was at the moment…especially if it furthered his own specious arguments.
    Arguing about differences of opinion when both parties occupy the same universe is one thing. Trying to yell at each other across some sort of Bizarro inter-dimensional chasm makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and I cannot see any good coming from such an exercise.
    If both sides cannot even agree on what constitutes reality then a debate is completely pointless. Can these be learning opportunities? I would assume so, but to what degree I do not know.

  3. Wow, I listened to the debate. I cannot believe the minister said the question of slavery is irrelevant to the topic. I mean if the bible is the word then surely this is relevant to the existence of god, especially when he gave no evidence for the existence of a god.

    On a side the debates in my opinion are worth listening too just to learn how theists are restructuring the old arguments they use. I mean the arguments never change they just change how they state them or structure them.
    My recent post My hope is you dont see something as stupid as this again this year.

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