One question I get from a lot of theists is why do I spend so much time harping on the existence of gods? Why does every single debate circle around to whether or not gods actually exist? The answer is simple. It’s because all religious arguments hinge on that specific claim. If gods don’t exist, then all the claims made by religions that rely on that particular belief become irrelevant and therefore unworthy of debate. If gods aren’t real then all the things that gods supposedly want us to do or believe or think don’t matter. It does away with sin and the afterlife and all of the claims that religions make that only make sense if the gods they worship are actually so.
That means that debating the contents of the Bible is a waste of time. It doesn’t really matter if the Bible preaches slavery or rape or misogyny if God isn’t real, it just makes the Bible a book of human myths and therefore irrelevant. Everything starts at step one, until that point is demonstrated, going on is a complete waste of time. Since is is unlikely that theists will ever be able to demonstrate the factual existence of their gods, that means religious debates are guaranteed to be pretty short.
What always amazes me, but perhaps it shouldn’t, is the fact that so many theists want to gloss over that particular point. I suppose they are well aware that they have nothing worthwhile to say, leaving it all to blind and utterly empty faith, and therefore they want to get past it with as little comment as they possibly can. When your basic position is that weak and you recognize it as such, trying to sneak past irrational problems is probably your best bet. It isn’t, however, in the best interests of anyone rational who wants to point out the imaginary elephant in the room, who has somehow sneaked into the theist’s pajamas.
So what do we do when theists refuse to debate this most central point of their theology? Don’t let them off the hook. Keep pointing it out. Keep bringing it up. Eventually, they’re going to have to address it or they’re going to just run away. Both are a win for the atheist. If they address it, or more likely, admit that they cannot address it, you reveal their entire theology as a sham. If they run away, you show them to be the irrational coward that they are. Either way, you win and probably piss off a whole load of theists who are upset, more that you showed how weak their beliefs actually are than that you were “mean” to them. It’s not mean to reveal the truth. Anyone who is offended by the truth has some issues.
So get back to the basics and hit them where they live and don’t let them wiggle out of answering the central tenet of their entire spiritual claims, the existence of their gods. Too bad they have no answers. That’s why we start at the beginning.