I’ve questioned whether engaging in online debate with random theists is really a worthwhile exercise in the past and the response I usually get is, sure, virtually no theist is going to convert or even acknowledge that they’ve lost, but maybe, just maybe, there’s someone in the virtual audience who might see the debate and change their mind. The problem with this, unfortunately, is that I’m not really sure it’s true most of the time. Oh, I’ve met people who say they have had their minds changed by watching debates, but those are very few and quite far between. I really question whether there is enough of this kind of thing to make it all worthwhile. After all, we have to think that in most debates, absolutely nobody is going to have their minds changed and therefore, most are a complete waste of time.
See, if I’m going to spend my unfortunately very limited free time debating a theist, and those debates go far beyond the time I spend pounding on the keyboard, they include research and serious thought about the subject matter, I really want to see something come of it. I may spend an hour or two on a thoughtful refutation of some theist’s claims, only to have them completely ignore everything I say and act like they’re still right, even if they’ve been proven totally wrong. I don’t want to engage in wishful thinking, dreaming that something I’m doing might make a difference to some unnamed, faceless person somewhere on the Internet. I want to see it happening. I want someone to come right out and say that my debate actually caused a fundamental change in their way of thinking. I don’t get that very often. Maybe a staged debate, where you have a live studio audience that you can gauge their reactions might be a different animal, but online? You get none of that.
I suppose that, having debated theists for many, many, many years and only on the very rarest of occasions found any that present anything novel or interesting, I don’t even get any satisfaction out of it. It’s old, tired argument A, refuted with canned response B, someone could easily write a simple algorithm that will spit out the proper responses to theist questions and save all of us the trouble of having to type it all in time and time again. In fact, I’ve often thought of just putting my standard responses to typical theist arguments here and just posting links. As I said, it isn’t like they ever come up with anything new, it’s all been responded to and refuted in the past. Theists just don’t listen and just don’t care about the facts.
And that’s another reason why it’s all a big waste of time. Theists don’t care. They couldn’t care less if their beliefs are factually true or not. They just want to feel good about what they believe. Whether it’s actually so means very little. The more fundamentalist the theist, the more they pointedly ignore the facts. Even the very liberal theists aren’t too concerned about the veracity of their faith, in fact I’ve seen a lot of them weasel around clear and present contradictions in their beliefs, saying that it really doesn’t matter. Of course it does! Reality makes a difference and anyone who thinks otherwise has a problem. These people just don’t care.
Because they don’t care, why should I? If they want to delude themselves, they can, so long as their delusions don’t harm anyone else. If it does, then I’ll step in, but not to debate their theological position, but to take them to task for their actual actions. I don’t care what mindless drivel the idiots in ISIS believe, I care what those beliefs make them do. I’m not anti-Islam, except on a philosophical level, I’m anti-murder!
And that brings us back to debating theists online. Yes, I know that other people are usually watching and maybe, just maybe, it might make a tiny number of those people start to ask questions about their beliefs. The information is out there for them to do a thorough and complete investigation of what they believe, should they be inclined to do so. I think many people are actually doing so, or at the very least, realizing that the things they’ve embraced all their lives make no rational sense and are leaving them behind. That’s why the non-religious are increasing in number so dramatically as time goes on. However, I don’t think that I, or any other online debater, has really had much of an impact in those numbers. I think, as I’ve said before, that people are just realizing that it’s okay to be an atheist and not pretend to wear the filthy rags of religion so they’re just giving up their social religiosity and being who they’ve really been all along. Maybe instead of debate, we should just make it more socially acceptable to be an atheist. I’m sure that would be more useful and ultimately more valuable than all of the ridiculous online god-fests we get involved in.