Tag Archives: debate

A Pointless Debate

I spent some time over on Minds today, having a bunch of good discussions in general and enjoying myself… except for one.  Now this took the most time, it was a debate over several hours and, in retrospect, it was a complete waste of my time.

She started off asking me questions about my views on immigration, since we were in a thread on it. I spent a lot of time going into why I am opposed to illegal immigration and all that and she was clearly a no-borders kind of person.  But every time I asked her a question, she would ignore it and keep asking me things.  She was obnoxiously nice, to the point of being saccharine sweet, always thanking me for putting up with her and begging forgiveness when she wasn’t fast enough, which I found annoying. But the one thing that bothered me the most was that every time she let something slip and I called her on it, she would say “you’re right, of course” and change the subject.  I mean, it isn’t like she has no opinions of her own, she is clearly a crazy libertarian, she let slip natural rights and once I said that was stupid, she agreed and moved on to something else.

I mean honestly, what was the point of it all?  She had no interest in expounding on or defending her own views and I don’t think she really cared about mine.  She just kept asking questions, as if looking for some point of agreement with her libertarian ideology and not finding any, instead of giving up, she just kept at it for hours.  I don’t know if she thought she was going to break me or what.

I wish I could say this is my first encounter with this kind of debate tactic but it isn’t.  It’s relatively rare but not unheard of.  I just don’t understand it.  What’s the point?  What are these people hoping to accomplish? Someone, please explain!

Nothing Worth Talking About

Recently, I was bored so I decided to stop in over at one of my old stomping grounds, the Debating Christianity & Religion forums.  Now I had walked away from it a while back because very little ever happened there, you really never got any decent debates and most people there on the religious side were either complete fanatics or so mild in their beliefs that I don’t know that they really take it seriously at all.  Neither were at all interesting to have a debate with because they were either too committed to their beliefs and unwilling to consider alternatives, or so uncommitted to their beliefs that it was like talking to jello.  So I just walked away for a while.

But upon going back, the problem hadn’t changed, in fact, I’d argue it got worse.  The majority of the Christian fanatics were gone, banished for being assholes, but the milquetoast theists were still around, albeit in smaller numbers.  The whole forum is now atheist-heavy, which honestly isn’t much fun for someone like me who doesn’t want to be in an echo chamber, but who wants to engage in debate with serious theists.  But as before, everyone is just talking about minor doctrinal matters and such and is ignoring the only question that makes any difference:  do gods exist?

Because without that question, everything else is meaningless.  It’s putting the cart a couple of light years in front of the horse and expecting it to move.  Who cares about doctrine when the basis for that doctrine hasn’t been established?  That’s really the only debate that matters and it is the one that nobody wants to talk about.  Why quibble about minutia in the Bible when the whole basis for the Christian faith hasn’t been demonstrated?  Why argue about faith when the subject of that faith is so nebulous?  And of course, once you establish whether a god actually exists in objective reality or not, most of the rest of these debates become pointless because there will be very few people on the other side to argue against.

So why doesn’t anyone argue over the existence of gods?  Because there is no argument to be had. The theists have nothing to present and the atheists have nothing to argue against.  You get some theists who don’t know the difference between a philosophical argument and actual evidence, but they’re not fun to talk to because they just make unsubstantiated claims and expect you to take them seriously.  And at the end of the day, they won’t change their minds anyhow because their heads are muddled with blind faith.

I’m one of the oldest people there, I’ve had an account since 2007 and have never won a “most civil debater” award because I don’t care about making people happy, I care about getting evidence and nobody has any.  I guess it’s only a matter of time before I say the hell with it and walk away again. I’ve largely given up talking to theists at all because I know that they have nothing and it’s all ultimately a waste of my time.  I have better things to do than watch philosophical masturbation day in and day out. What’s sad is that none of these people have anything better to do than engage in it.

Terminal Stupidity Burnout

Does this ever happen to you?  You spend a considerable amount of time debating religious, political and social issues with the usual band of idiots and after a while, you just can’t take it anymore because you know that ultimately, it’s a pointless exercise.  You know that the people you’re talking to are beyond reason and don’t care what you have to say anyhow, so you start to wonder what the hell you’re doing in the first place.

That’s me.  Right now.  And while this happens to everyone from time to time, it seems to be happening more and more often for me recently. It used to be that I could go for a couple of months before getting tired of the abject stupidity, now it only takes a couple of weeks.  In extreme cases, a couple of days.  Then I have to take a big step back because I find that I just don’t care anymore.

A long time ago, I resolved to know when to walk away from pointless conversations, I swore to not engage in debates against those who didn’t have good reasons to hold their positions, but quickly learned that if I really did that, I’d never talk to anyone, especially in the fields of politics, religion and social issues.  These are all filled to the brim with people who only operate on pure emotion.  They don’t think about anything, they only feel.  They are incapable of logically considering their positions and rejecting them if it turns out that they are wrong.  It’s blind faith and nothing more and I cannot stand that.

So you have to pick your battles and honestly, in an increasing number of cases, those battles don’t last long because I quickly realize that the people I’m engaging are a bunch of assholes.  Literally 5 minutes ago, as I write this, I walked away from a complete prick who I’d been debating gay marriage with.  I pointed out that a generation or two ago, interracial marriage was in the same position and the world didn’t end because we legalized that.  So he said that there are virtually no interracial marriages, blacks only marry blacks and, interestingly enough, American Indians, his example, only married American Indians. Both of these are completely wrong.  I showed him the studies that showed that 19% of blacks are married interracially and an astonishing 59% of American Indians are.  He comes back with “well, blacks are just marrying up when they marry white women”.  Great.  Racist asshole.  How do you respond to that?  So I didn’t.  I just walked away.  But I do that at least 5-6x every single day anymore, these are not debates worth having and I have little enough free time as it is, I’m not going to waste it on obnoxious pricks.

And there’s the rub.  It’s very hard to sit down and have an intellectual discussion with a rational individual because there are so few of them out there.  The ones I meet, I already agree with.  The ones I don’t agree with are disgusting, awful human beings, operating on pure emotion, who don’t really care if what they believe is true, so long as it makes them feel good.  Banging my head on the wall gets tiresome and gives me headaches and I’ve got better things to do than that.  What’s an intelligent, rational person to do?

Debating the Religiously Incredulous

spock
How I feel debating these idiots.

I keep running into people on religious debate boards that are convinced that if they hold a religious position, they have no responsibility at all to defend any of their claims whatsoever, just because they are religious.  Of course, they hold everyone else accountable for answering any questions put to them, but questions they can’t answer?  It’s just not their job!

Recently, I had someone go into a whole long diatribe where he argued that “Christianity doesn’t make factual claims about the real world. It does make theological claims and mythological claims.”  Okay, so he’s saying that the Christian God doesn’t exist in reality, because Christianity only makes mythological claims and not factual ones?  Nope, God is real… but not real enough to actually make any Christians have to back up his existence.

Now forgive me if I don’t understand how anyone can possibly think this way, especially someone who pretends to be at all rational and critical about their beliefs.  If your claims are wholly beyond any kind of real-world evaluation, then how can you possibly test them in any demonstrable way?  And if you can’t test them, then how can you be sure that they are reasonable at all?  This is the big question that I keep asking theists and the question that they all side-step and ignore.  If you have no way of objectively observing God, how can you know anything about the existence or characteristics of God?  If you cannot verify anything, how can you know that it isn’t all a big delusion?  If they refuse to step beyond their own imagination, then why should anyone else take their claims seriously?  How do you get from step A to step B?  They can’t and they know they can’t and they don’t even pretend that they can, or even should have to.  If it makes them feel good, that’s all that matters.

But that doesn’t stop them from continually making claims that must be borne out in the real world.  They claim that God actually exists, that God actually had some hand in the creation of the universe, that Jesus was a real person that died on a cross and rose from the dead, yet none of these claims are demonstrable, yet they all must have happened in the real world. There is a fundamental disconnect between the claims that they make and the reality that must be demonstrably true if their claims are true, yet they cannot bridge that gap and they refuse to acknowledge the requirement that they should.

So what do we do about it?  Nothing.  There is literally nothing we can do about it, you can’t force these people to engage in rational debate in good faith.  All you can really do is point out their hypocrisy and stop talking to them, which I’ve done in many cases, only to have them come back and pretend they won the debate because you refuse to engage.  It makes me just want to cancel my membership to a lot of these debate forums some days.  It’s all just a waste of time.

Wanting the Mutually Exclusive

idiotsI’ve been debating online on various forums for a very, very, very long time.  Mostly, I stick to general purpose forums, not dedicated to politics or religion, because it gives me a one-size-fits-all solution, with members from all walks of life and subjects across the board. You have the far right neo-cons and the far-left-liberals, you have the hardline atheists and the hardline fundamentalists and everything in between.  However, one problem with these general purpose forums is that you don’t get any really good topical debates with people really passionate about their subject matter, there is so much to see and do that you don’t get many single-topic debaters.  If you want to talk about religion, you either get the crazies or you get people who just wander by for a bit until they are distracted by something else.

Therefore, I tend to keep one or two strictly religious forums around, just so that I can go and debate religion in a place where everyone is there for the same thing.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that the moderation on religion-specific forums is very hard to keep balanced and what one group of people look for in moderation is antithetical to another group and this tends to drive away those whose desires aren’t catered to.

Case in point, I’ve been on Debating Christianity & Religion since 2005, although I often take extended vacations from it. I actually started there after another general purpose forum I had been a member of dropped their religious forums and suggested people go there.  It’s a great forum, lots of fantastic people and it has had it’s fair share of religious crazies. It also had a rule that I’ve pointed out a couple of times, it’s rule #5 which reads:  “Support your assertions/arguments with evidence. Do not persist in making a claim without supporting it. All unsupported claims can be challenged for supporting evidence. Opinions require no support, but they should not be considered as valid to any argument, nor will they be considered as legitimate support for any claim.”  This is fantastic because it does away with theists who think proclaiming faith automatically wins arguments.  I wish every debate forum would do this and hold people accountable to it.  Unfortunately, it also drove away most of the theists who knew they could never follow that rule, thus the majority of people on the forum now are atheists and a couple of theists who simply refrain from arguing for their religion at all.  I wander back over there from time to time, make some posts and quickly remember why I left because it just isn’t much fun with nobody to debate.

The other is Religious Forums, which is more geared toward theists, although there is a very healthy atheist community there, but they have the exact opposite problem.  The majority of their theists only deal in emotional pleas and blind faith and nobody stops them.  In fact, when anyone tries to point out how absurd emotional claims are, they get in trouble.  A lot of the more reasonable, rational theists have left because of the crazies and I’ve found that it really isn’t that much fun when the majority of people you talk to just make faith-based pronouncements and have zero interest whatsoever in talking intellectually.  I just opted to take another extended vacation there because I got sick of crazy theists just being crazy.

My question is, what other choices are there?  I want to talk to people who are reasonable, rational, engage in critical thinking and are able to examine their own beliefs intellectually.  That’s damn hard to find when it comes to religion.  You either get the idiots condemning you to hell because you’re not a fanatic like they are or the ones who go opposite extremes and say that everything is their opinion, they have no evidence and have no reason to try to justify anything to anyone.  The middle ground really doesn’t exist on either forum, unfortunately.  Is hoping to have a good debate with a theist ultimately impossible today? That’s certainly how it feels.  Apparently, I want something mutually exclusive, an intelligent theist who will actually try to defend their beliefs credibly, yet doesn’t just blow off any and all challenges.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Religious Admissions of Failure

religious-facepalmI really get sick and tired of this kind of thing, but it is the final wheezes of a failed position.  How many theists have said to you, after going through a long debate where they have never been able to back up a single thing except through professions of faith, that they’re going to ignore everything you’ve said to them and just take their particular religious position anyhow. Why are so many theists entirely unable to admit failure?

I just had that happen again, a theist went into a debate full of proclamations that they could prove their religion correct and after I’d gotten done shaking it around like a rag doll, spilling it’s contents all over the forum for everyone to see, he simply declared that he was going to believe what he believed and there wasn’t anything I could do about it, then he threw in that little “fuck you” at the end, that he was going to heaven and I was going somewhere else.

This is really why I don’t get into heavy debates much anymore, I know it’s ultimately a waste of time and even when shown to be completely wrong, the theists aren’t honest enough to admit defeat, they just go back to bobbing on the Jesus knob as though nobody had ever said anything to challenge their faith in the first place.  You might think that this is only a problem with fundamentalists, but you’d be wrong.  In fact, I’ve found it to be even a bigger problem with some of the ultra-liberal Christians because they won’t even stand still long enough to get a bead on.

I had a recent discussion with a “progressive” Christian (I guess even he is ashamed of the liberal label) who assured me that there was no discovery that could possibly be made that would change his faith because he didn’t actually care about anything in the Bible, he didn’t care if Jesus existed and he didn’t care if God was real.  He was a follower of the teachings of Jesus, not the person of Jesus.  If Jesus turned out to be a complete myth, so what?  The writings in the Bible attributed to Jesus were still there and nothing else mattered.  Thus, so long as the Bible existed, his faith was secure.  He even argued in favor of picking and choosing what parts of the scriptures he wanted to believe because he wasn’t after salvation, he wasn’t after eternal life, he just wanted to feel good.  When I pointed out that virtually no Christian on the planet would consider him a Christian, he shrugged, said they were all wrong and didn’t care what they thought.

I don’t have a particular problem with that, after all, I know of a couple of secular Buddhists who ignore any of the supernatural crap in Buddhism, they just read the writings of Gautama Buddha and get something out of it.  However, this guy, even though he says he doesn’t care about God or Jesus, still believes in God and Jesus.  He says he’s not doing it for eternal salvation, but he still believes it exists.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say this guy was a troll, but he’s a really consistent troll if so.  He’s also hardly the only one I’ve ever had that told me that.

So what’s the point in having these debates if theists are so utterly dishonest that they cannot acknowledge that they’ve lost, or that any of their blind faith claims are wrong?  Don’t give me that “you’re doing it for the audience” crap.  It seems that on the forum I’m on, either everyone is already an atheist or they are the “I’m never changing my mind” crowd.  This is becoming the norm in discussions and debates everywhere.  What’s the point?

6 Things Atheists Should Say to Christians

Morpheus
That doesn’t change the fact they believe in imaginary friends in the sky.

I came across a video by Hemant Mehta called “6 Things Atheists Shouldn’t Say to Christians”, but I have to admit that as I watched it (video at the bottom), I actually think that his points aren’t all that great.  Therefore, I wanted to take a look at his 6 things and explain why I think most of them are actually good points that atheists ought to point out to Christians.

1. Don’t assume Christians believe for simplistic reasons.  Of course, people hold beliefs for a wide variety of reasons, some simple, some complex.  What Christians, and indeed all theists, fail to do however is to examine their beliefs with a critical eye and a demand for their beliefs to map to reality.  Granted, we can say the same thing about some atheists, I’m not above criticizing anyone and everyone when they fall short of critical thinking, but there isn’t a single Christian out there who has done it or they wouldn’t be Christian.  Religion of all kinds is believed for emotional, not intellectual reasons.  Therefore, there isn’t a logical reason to accept what they accept and we ought to point that out.  It might not  be simplistic but it isn’t intelligent either.

2. Don’t dismiss Christianity easily.  While I admit that a lot of Christians, and this probably goes for most religions, go to their churches or synagogues or mosques or whatever for reasons outside of hating gays or being afraid of their bodies, that happens to be part and parcel with the belief system whether they like it or not.  Yes, churches can and do charitable work and they can and do help people.  However, the vast majority of such charitable work isn’t really there to help people, it’s done as a vehicle for pushing their beliefs on the most vulnerable members of society who feel obligated or threatened to buy into the message in order to get a hot meal or a place to sleep for the night.  I’ve done stories about charitable organizations who refuse to help those who won’t listen to a sermon or feign religious adherence.  That’s not charity to be proud of.  Sure, you can find Christians, typically the very liberal Christians, who totally eschew the hatred that has marked Christianity since it’s inception, but those really aren’t the ones that we often complain about, are they?

3.  Don’t assume there’s one “correct” form of Christianity.  I don’t.  I’d be surprised if any atheists did.  If we thought there was a “correct” form of Christianity, we’d be Christians, not atheists.  We’re convinced that all forms of Christianity are wrong.  While yes, it is true that some Christians can be pretty decent people and support some decent social causes, the fact remains that they are still delusional adults with an imaginary friend in the sky.  Religion is limited to one’s spiritual beliefs and as we’re convinced that all of those spiritual beliefs are wrong, why would we give a pass to any religion, Christianity or otherwise?  Just because they are good people outside of their religion doesn’t mean that their religion is good or that it contributes to their goodness.  Remember Steven Weinberg’s saying, “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.

4.  Don’t say religious people are stupid.  Sorry, but when it comes to their religious beliefs, they *ARE* stupid!  When it comes to believing in an invisible father figure for which no objective evidence exists, they are stupid.  Sorry, that’s just the way it is.  That doesn’t mean they are stupid in everything they do, it just means that when it comes to religion, indeed, they are stupid.  We want to convince them to stop being stupid and to look at the world around them intelligently and rationally, to learn about how things actually are instead of reacting to the world emotionally as they’ve done all along.  I  honestly don’t get accommodationists who are convinced that a single word must always describe everything that a person does, says and believes.  If I call someone ignorant, it doesn’t mean they are ignorant of every possible thing, it means they are ignorant of the idea that we are discussing.  The same goes for stupidity.  There are some really smart people out there who, when it comes to religion, are absurdly stupid.  People need to deal with reality.

5.  Don’t say religion is a virus or a mental illness.  Okay, he has a point there, at least on the mental illness side.  Certainly, religion does operate like a virus, the model maps very well to the reality of religion so I have no problem with saying that.  Perhaps a better way to say the second though is to acknowledge that those with religious beliefs engage in a mental aberration.  It’s really no different than conspiracy theorists who take a long walk off the short rationality pier when it comes to their crazy conspiracy of choice.  I don’t think that being extra nice to theists so they’ll keep talking to you is a good idea necessarily either.  The goal isn’t to keep them talking, it’s to convince them that they are wrong, or failing that, as you almost certainly will, to show other people watching how absurd their beliefs are.  If that means saying there is something wrong with them or their beliefs, so be it.  We’re not here to make friends.

6. Don’t say “let’s tax the church”.  While it is true that there are lots of credible non-profit, tax-exempt organizations out there, the overwhelming majority of them actually have to do something with that money that actually helps someone.  Churches don’t.  They automatically get tax exemption and never have to actually do any charitable work.  I have no problem with actually giving a church tax exemption on demonstrable charitable activities, I don’t see why they should get it on the building which does nothing but exist to delude people sitting in the pews.  Maybe it’s time to break up 501(c)(3) charities into groups that actually do charitable work and those that do not but are only religious in nature.

So anyhow, here’s the video:

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNrCXgHaIc8#t=160′]

See, I don’t buy that our goal as atheists should be to convince theists to come to our side.  This isn’t a popularity contest, we don’t want to say “come to the atheist side, we have brownies!”  The only way I want a theist to come to atheism is because they are intellectually convinced that belief in gods is unwarranted.  Because so many of them are utterly incapable of doing so, the debate becomes more about convincing the crowd than convincing the theist and even then, most of it is a waste of time.  Winning isn’t about making them agree with us, it’s about actually being right and being able to defend your views with critical thinking, logic and reason.  If nobody else ever agrees with you, so be it.  It doesn’t matter anyhow. Most religious debates are just an exercise in logic, not in changing minds.

Why Start At the Beginning?

???????????????????????????????????????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.

Arguing Free Will is Religious

Free Will2There are a lot of subjects that I really don’t like to talk about, not because I can’t, but because people on the other side really haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about and they’re often very emotionally attached to one side or the other.  One of those subjects is abortion, another is natural rights and, unfortunately, one more is free will.

Free will is an odd critter.  People will often cling to their beliefs about it with an almost religious fervor. Unfortunately, I think most of the time, people on both sides of the argument are just talking past each other because nobody ever bothers to rationally define their terms.  You’ve got the people on one side who are very sure that free will can’t possibly exist because we live in a deterministic universe.  They define “free will” in such a way that it cannot possibly exist, they’re convinced that we’re all just automatons programmed by the universe to wander around and do things for reasons inscrutable.  Those are the people I have most trouble with because they’re really using “free will” in an absurd manner.  Since I won’t use it in their terms, they really don’t like me much when I point out how ridiculous their claims really are.

Take a discussion I had today with someone who was a strict determinist.  I gave him an example of being at an intersection and having a choice of going left, right or straight ahead.  I could make any of those decisions I wanted, I could go left, I could go right or I could go straight ahead, barring obstacles like brick walls and the like.  So what is it in his deterministic universe that decides which path I will take?  I could go left and then, the next second, I could  go right.  He says no, the universe has changed in the second between my decisions.  Oh really?  Please show me the specific changes in the universe that have altered my ability to make a choice?  He couldn’t, in fact, he didn’t even try, which is hardly surprising because he couldn’t do it and he knew it.  He just asserted that there must have been a change because he had to keep to his original religious faith in determinism.  Sorry, that’s not how rational debate works.  If you make a claim, you have to back it up.  If you cannot back it up, don’t make the claim.  In fact, that’s exactly how religion operates, isn’t it?  Make claims that cannot possibly be supported and get upset when people don’t take your unsupported claims seriously.

What’s worse, these people tend to get really upset when people won’t buy into their unsupported drivel, it wasn’t long until this guy was calling me names because I wouldn’t take his word that the universe worked the way he insisted that it did. The more I pointed out the irrationality of his position, the madder he got until the moderators shut him down and banned him from the thread.  As I said, people get really emotionally attached to things, even if those things are really absurd. They lack the ability to step back and look at their own position from an intellectual perspective and see the flaws in their own beliefs.  This is true of the religious, this is true of many political debaters, it most certainly is true when it comes to free will.  It stops being about accepting the best supported and most rational positions and becomes all about standing your ground, even when you’re wrong.

Why do so many people do that?

Debating Theists: Is It Worth It?

Laptop MegaphoneI’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.

Endless Emotional Reactions on Abortion

Says the guy whose church supports and defends child molesters.
Says the guy whose church supports and defends child molesters.

It bothers me a bit that so many people are totally unable to set aside their base emotional reactions and actually deal with arguments intelligently.  Quite often, I see this from the liberal side, as I did today on quite a few different claims, where they just reacted, wholly without reason, because they really had no answers to what was being asked of them.  Then I made a mistake and wandered, quite innocently, into the abortion forum to make a single and quite simple statement and I got immediately attacked for it.

Someone had posted that a million fetuses (that’s not the word they used) were killed via abortion per year in the United States.  I said, quite accurately, that in 2012, more than 56 million people died worldwide.  So what if a million fetuses were among them?  It is an honest question and one that anti-abortionists are completely able to parse because they can’t move beyond their foolish “what about the children” rhetoric.  People die every day, often from natural causes, often from disaster, sometimes from human-caused violence.  In the U.S., 37 people, on average, are killed by lightning every year.  What makes  those lives any less valuable than an aborted fetus?  After all, we don’t see these “pro-life” people campaigning to save the electrocuted.

But yeah, the shit hit the fan and I found myself in the middle of a shitstorm because I dared to suggest that all fetuses aren’t that important.  Well, they’re not.  Let’s be honest here, between 25-35% of all pregnancies end in miscarriages, we don’t see the “pro-life” crowd running around whining about those fetuses, do we?  It’s not even a concern because they’re natural occurrences.  In fact, the overwhelming majority of fertilized eggs fail to implant in the uterus at all and are simply flushed from the system, but there is no outrage from the “pro-life” crowd whatsoever.  That means that if they believe in God and are at all honest, then God is the biggest abortionist in history.  Yet bring up that nugget of joy and they run around like someone raped their chihuahua.  There is something wrong with these people.

That’s really why I don’t bother with abortion debates often, usually neither side has the capacity to be at all rational.  You have the rabid, insane anti-abortionists and the rabid, insane hyper-feminists screaming at each other and there’s no point to being involved.  You can’t reason with either side and posting something rational just gets you attacked by both of them.  The simple fact is, there are over 7 billion people infesting this planet today and losing a couple million of them a year to abortion isn’t a big deal.  In fact, if half the population of the planet dropped dead tomorrow, I wouldn’t shed a tear, most people are totally useless sacks of shit in human skin.  We could stand to lose a sizable percentage of them.  Why would I cry about a bunch of fetuses that will almost certainly not amount to anything?  It makes no rational sense to me.

In any case, I might watch the antics in the abortion forum for a little bit, just to have something to shake my head at.  Granted, I don’t need any more things to be frustrated at their stupidity, but hey, when the opportunity presents itself, I might as well.

Opinions vs. Statements of Fact

fact opinionThe recent discussion on natural rights has resulted in yet another concept that libertarians and others of their ilk don’t seem to get.  See, there was one libertarian who was honest and admitted that “natural rights” was just his opinion.  Well no, it’s really not because for every single natural-rights advocate I’ve ever come across, it’s never stated as an opinion, it’s stated as a fact.  There is a difference.

An opinion would be “it is my opinion that everyone has these particular rights”.  A statement of fact is “everyone has these particular rights”.  In close to 100% of cases that I’ve encountered, natural-rights advocates have said the latter and I’m only hedging because I’ve never seen anyone say the first, I’m just giving the benefit of the doubt.  Even our libertarian who admits that it’s his opinion, stated it as a fact and when I pointed this out to him, he didn’t correct his error.

What he did do, though, is declare that it was a “core value” and therefore, not open to debate.  Wrong.  Everything is open to debate.  Absolutely everything, without exception.  If you cannot provide a compelling case for your arguments, no matter what you want to call your position, you lose.  He says, though, that no core values can be defended, that’s the nature of a core value.  I call bullshit.  All of my “core values” are defensible, I can argue why I think they are important, why they have an important impact on society and why they ought to be in place.  I just don’t claim that any of them are necessarily true or that everyone actually respects or recognizes them because clearly, they do not.

The natural-rights crowd doesn’t do that though.  They pretend, and most are actually convinced, that these things are actually so and in that, it places them in the same camp as the religious, who are similarly supremely convinced of their own delusions.  In fact, I’ve run into plenty of theists who claim that they don’t have to defend their “faith”, just because it’s faith.  No, the only way to avoid having the burden of proof for your views is to not talk about your views.  The moment you bring them up, you’re automatically on the hook for defending them. That’s the way rational debate works, you don’t get to just opt out.

Maybe if both the libertarians, at least those who are natural rights advocates, and the religious figured that out, we might have more productive debates.  Instead, we’re just left with the religiously and politically faithful demanding things they cannot show to be true and the rest of us are left shaking our heads.

More Evidence Christianity is Dead

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I’ve been part of the community over on Debating Christianity & Religion since 2005.  I initially went there on the recommendation of a different forum whose name I no longer remember because it was stopping all religious discussion because it offended the religious owners.  While I find that generally pathetic, it was their site and their rules and I left the forum not long thereafter, moving over to DC&R.  It was, at least at the beginning, a breath of fresh air.  They had rules that didn’t favor the religious.  They expected everyone to produce evidence to support their beliefs.  Faith was not an adequate reason for making a claim.  Even though the owner was a theist, he tried his hardest not to cater to religious sensibilities, he made sure there were moderators from every possible religious stripe, etc.  It was one of my favorite forums for a long time.

Then the theists started to complain that it was unfair to expect them to present evidence for their claims.  It was unfair to ask them to back up  their assertions with anything other than faith.  Unfortunately, the owner decided that theists just didn’t have to follow the rules.  It wasn’t an official thing.  The rules were never changed on paper, theists just stopped being held accountable.  The quality of the debates went down dramatically.  Most of them were little more than “I’m right because I believe I’m right, therefore I win!”  That’s when I walked away, it just wasn’t worth my time or effort to debate against people who could just declare victory because they had blind faith that they were right.

I was gone for a good, long time, 3-4 years at least.  I looked in from time to time to see if things had improved and they never really did and so I’d move on for another 6 months or so before trying again.  Recently though, I stopped in and things had changed pretty dramatically.  Oh, the rules weren’t any different, theists still weren’t required to back up their claims. what had happened, for reasons unknown, was that atheists had almost entirely taken over the forums.

For some reason, the overwhelming majority of theists have vanished.  People who I remember being theists way back in the day were now identifying as atheists.  There are literally a mere handful of theists remaining,  There are still debates going on, it’s still active, but the majority of them seem to be more academic, between just atheists rather than between atheists and theists.  There are a few theists still around but they don’t seem to be very fanatical about their faith and they aren’t winning debates, at least from where I’m sitting.  They’re losing. Consistently.

That’s not the only place I’ve noticed this change.  On other forums, where healthy debate has always gone on, the theists are vanishing.  The ones that remain, by and large, are the zealots.  People who are not only ignorant of their own religions, but of the world around them.  They are the creationists, the presuppositionalists, the idiots who just demand they’re right because they’re right.  They’re little more than laughing stocks who lose every debate because they have nothing intelligent to say.

I’m just wondering if anyone else has noticed this trend.  On debate-specific forums, are the theists vanishing?  Are they finally realizing that they have nothing worthwhile to say, or are they simply realizing that their religious beliefs are stupid and either deconverting, or just vanishing into the night to hide in a dark corner?

The problem is, DC&R isn’t much fun right now, it’s little more than an echo chamber because most people have no vested interest in religion and the few who do aren’t very skilled at making their case.  It seems I just can’t win, either the theists get to ignore the rules and declare victory or they just leave and there’s no one worth debating with.  I suppose this is yet more evidence of the downfall of organized religion but I find myself missing the good old days when you could challenge a theist and they had to at least make an attempt at a good showing.  I guess even success has it’s downside.

The Bitchspot Report Podcast #67

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Here we go again!  This week, Fox News falls for a 4Chan hoax, or do they?  Egypt outlaws unlicensed Imams and we wonder where you get an Imam license?  Christian persecution, a new study shows it’s nonsense but the Christians probably don’t care.  Pat Robertson encourages children not to involve the authorities in domestic abuse.  Plus, we have a long discussion on where religious debates go wrong and why apologetics fail but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Give it a listen!

Why Not Debate the Truth?

deism godI just came across a long-running debate on “Is there enough evidence to support a deistic god” between a self-professed atheist and someone who describes themselves as a fundamentalist, Biblical-inerrantist Christian.  I’ve seen plenty of these kinds of debates go on, even the big-name Christian apologists will often debate for a deistic god instead of the God they actually claim to believe in, but I always ask myself, what is the sense of debating for a deity that you don’t actually worship?  Is it because the God you actually profess is absurd and cannot be defended rationally so you might as well set your sights lower and go for a generic deity that might be a little simpler to argue for?

Personally, I’d never enter into a debate like that.  I’m not interested in my debate opponent picking a topic at random, I want them to defend what they actually believe and prove that their faith is actually logically and objectively valid.  You can be sure that at the end, assuming they’ve demonstrated their point, and even if they haven’t, they’ll try to twist things to say that their God is actually real.

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.  It makes no more sense than claiming that demonstrating Vishnu is real somehow also proves the Christian God is real as well.  The deistic god and a theistic god are not only two entirely different things, they are entirely antithetical to each other.  Proving that a deistic deity is real also has the effect of proving that no theistic deities can possibly exist.  Therefore, our religious friend above is continually shooting himself in the foot with each and every post he writes because he’s attempting to show that the God he worships cannot possibly be real!

I’m sure he hasn’t realized that.

This is really why I refuse to engage in debates over theoretical things, just for the fun of it.  When the individual has no real horse in the race, when they’re not personally engaged with the outcome, what’s the point?  Besides, it’s a no-lose proposition for the theist.  If they win the debate, they can pull the bait-and-switch between the god they argued for and their god and if they lose, well, it proves nothing about the god they worship at all, does it?

It’s not just the amateur atheists who get taken in by this, big-name Christian apologists do this all the time too. I’ve seen people like William Lane Craig push points that simply do not apply to the God he believes in, mostly because I think he feels the need to make a point when he’s losing.

For atheists who are debating, insist that your opponent only support and defend the gods they actually believe in. This isn’t an academic endeavor, it’s debating position against position, belief against belief.  The best belief, or lack of belief, ought to win and if they have no personal stock in the outcome, why bother running the race to begin with?

The Problem With Theist Assumptions

assumptionsOn a relatively recent edition of The Atheist Experience, the show from 11/10 to be exact although it won’t matter because this happened in the aftershow and doesn’t show up in the regular feed, a theist called in and started asserting that the Bible couldn’t have just been written by good and holy men because good and holy men would not have said that God told them what to write, therefore, God must have been responsible.  This is an absurd claim to make, it relies on a lot of really nonsensical beliefs and I don’t know that Matt Dillahunty really addressed it in the kind of detail that he should have.  Granted, it was in the aftershow and he was trying to get out of there and this particular theist was obnoxiously stupid so I place no blame whatsoever on Matt, but this is something that really needs to be addressed.

At issue, and I think Matt did a good job here, is the unwarranted assumptions that the Bible was written by good men.  It was written by men (or humans if you want to be more generic) and humans are not inherently all good or all evil, they are a mix of motivations and drives that, no matter how hard they try, they cannot do things that are all good or all evil because, at least in my opinion, good and evil are inherently subjective anyhow.  Further, I’d argue that, especially in the Old Testament, anyone who wrote those things was an immoral animal, there can be no good or holy justification for the horrors visited upon innocents in many of the slaughters of old.

Of course, where all of this really fails is the blind assumption of God and the goodness of the Bible.  Theists are often blinded to the utter evil contained within the Bible and to their own blind faith in the existence of God to begin with.  This is clearly the case with this caller, whose predisposition to believe God actually exists and actually wrote the Bible entirely overshadow his ability to actually consider the facts in this matter at all.  To him, God is an undeniable fact and he’s just trying to rationalize his way to God without actually demonstrating that God is real.

We see this constantly with religious apologists of every stripe, they are unable to evaluate their holy book, whatever that hold book might be, rationally and objectively, using the exact same tools that we would use to evaluate any textual source.  They have to utilize special pleading for their favored source because they are trying desperately to reach a specific conclusion, instead of following the evidence to see where it really leads.

None of the people who wrote the Bible, or any other religious book, are all-good or all-bad, they are just all-human.  Therefore, assuming that these people are somehow moral paragons because they came up with a book that you happen to prefer is absurd at best, dishonest at worst.  J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books, may be considered an excellent author by her fans, but that doesn’t make her a better person than anyone else  because of it.

People need to learn how to operate critically and rationally and while I’m not thinking that the religiously delusional will ever be able to do that, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be able to explain to them why they are wrong.  Maybe it’ll spark a couple of random neurons into activity.  You never know.

What Social Media Ought To Be

social-media-with-donuts
What if you don’t want any of this?

I’ve talked about this in the past and I know that I am not the target audience for social media, but there simply are no social media sites out there that do what I want them to do.  Social media is, almost by definition, shallow.  It’s meant to appeal to the short-attention-span crowd.  It is designed to transmit short, stupid messages, memes and other incoherent nonsense.  It’s hollow, trivial expressionism, like waving to your neighbor, except to a much wider audience that has as little interest in getting to know you as you do getting to know them.  I weep for this generation.

I don’t want any of that.

What I want is the ability to have a conversation.  I want to be able to debate in great detail.  None of the current social media allows this.

What I’d have to see in a site to make it worthwhile:

  1. Threaded conversations that allow you to easily follow the action
  2. A WYSIWYG editor, complete with the ability to extensively quote, add pictures and graphs, etc.
  3. Intelligent, rational people to debate with.

Yeah, that last one is the hardest to find, I know, but what’s the point of debating over and over with idiots?  That’s why I’ve stopped debating in any real fashion over the last couple of months because finding someone worth debating is even harder than finding somewhere that you can actually debate them.

Honestly, while I’m convinced that forums are the best of the bad options, even most forum software fails in most regards.  A lot of it doesn’t even allow you to quote the message that you’re responding to!  Of all of the forum software that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot, the only one that remotely impresses me is the most recent version of vBulletin, most specifically v4.2.1, with a lot of add-ons.  It’s spiffy.  It tells you if someone has responded to one of your posts and takes you right to it, it allows multi-quoting, it allows numerous pictures, etc. It doesn’t guarantee that there’s anyone worth debating with though.

Now I’m sure scientists and other rational thinkers use the Internet and I’m sure they have intellectual discussions online.  Presumably a lot of it is through e-mail, at least that’s what I’d do, but there has to be somewhere that they can gather collectively to have interesting discussions. Where is that place?  I’m sure it’s got to be a private network to keep the riff-raff out and that’s a bit depressing as well.

I don’t know.  Just thinking about this makes me weep for humanity.

The Bitchspot Report Podcast #49

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It’s a non suicidal week mostly, we talk about goblin craziness in Zimbabwe, Ken Ham declaring victory before the debate, exactly as we predicted, a televangelist telling a caller to kill themselves and a satire piece that we take somewhat seriously because it’s not that far from the truth.  We also address listener Iamanatheist’s questions about higher education and teacher salaries. Come on, you know you want to listen!

A Pseudo-Conversation with Matt Slick

Matt SlickAfter having an encounter a couple of days ago with Matt Slick, I took a run over to CARM.org to see if he had written anything in response.  While I didn’t find anything, I did run across something he calls “Apologetics Dialogues” and in particular, one he labels “An atheist says there is no evidence for God“.  Since that’s my position as well, I took a look and, while I think it’s unlikely such a conversation actually took place, even though Matt claims that it did on some unnamed chat room, I think it’s clear that he’s simply taking the worst examples of atheist discussion and trying to present it as the norm.

Therefore, I thought I’d take some of his statements in that “conversation” and apply my own responses, just to show that not all atheists are idiots.  Please, go take a look at the original “exchange” to see the way he twists things around.

Matt: Why is it that you do not believe in God?

Cephus:  Because there is no evidence that any god, not just the Christian God, exists.

Matt: You can’t say that because you have not looked at all evidence in the world. That isn’t possible.

Cephus:  I didn’t claim to have seen all of the evidence in the world.  You have not seen all the evidence in the world for the existence of any other gods that you don’t believe in, yet you still hold that no gods but yours exist, right?  Likewise, you haven’t seen all of the evidence in the world that unicorns don’t exist but I suspect that’s your position.

Matt: But, if a person asked you what kind of things you’d accept, within reason, as evidence for God, what would you say? If you have nothing to offer, then you haven’t thought your position through… and if you haven’t done that, then can you honestly lay claim to the title atheist?

Cephus:  An atheist is simply one who lacks belief in gods.  As that is my position, I am indeed an atheist. Regardless, the way the Christian God is typically described, he is all-powerful and all-knowing, thus it  stands to reason that God would know what it would take to convince me and would be capable of providing it, whatever it is.  Since I remain unconvinced, it is safe to assume that such a deity is unlikely to exist or that he doesn’t care to convince me.  If God doesn’t care to convince me, who are you to try to  do otherwise?

Matt: The way to believe in unicorns is to find one, or have pictures of one, or a fossil of one, or a bunch of people who said they saw one, and they all described, basically, the same thing: a unicorn. That would be a way.

Cephus:  That’s very correct, the way to believe in unicorns is to find one, how can it be any less for a god?  Have you found any gods lately?  Have you any pictures of one?  Any fossils?  Any demonstrable eyewitness reports?  Anything?  I didn’t think so.  Therefore, I reject gods the  same way I reject unicorns, as a claimed creature for which there is no objective evidence.

Matt: A square circle is a non-sequitur. It is self contradictory by definition. God cannot violate his own nature. Besides how would you comprehend such a contradictory thing if it somehow were able to be done? You wouldn’t know it and your proof would be useless since you couldn’t understand it. Besides, it can’t be done anyway.

Cephus:  Yet, according to most Christians, God is all-powerful, he can do anything he wants to do.  A self-contradictory action should be quite simple for a deity that supposedly created not only the entire universe, but all concepts within that universe.  If God wanted to make a square circle, make up down, left right or big small, he ought to be able to do it or he cannot be logically described as all-powerful, can he?

Matt: Can you violate your own nature? Can you will yourself to be bigger than the sun?

leprechaun-goldCephus:  You can’t even demonstrate what God’s nature actually is.  All you can do is arbitrarily assign characteristics to God which you cannot prove he actually has.  People can claim that leprechauns are short men in green clothes that guard a pot of gold, but are they really?  Of course not, there are no leprechauns, they’re made up creatures with entirely assigned characteristics, no one has been able to point to a real leprechaun as an actual representative of those features.  The same is true of God.  Until you can point to an actual, demonstrable God that has those characteristics, it’s just an empty claim.

Matt: Perhaps, but not against logic, since He created it.

Cephus:  This goes back to an earlier question about logically contradictory things.  If God created logic and had the power to change it at his whim, why could he not simply do whatever he wants to and have it violate logic?

Matt: If God created the universe and everything in it, then he created it out of his own nature. The design and natural laws had to originate in His mind. Therefore, it will have His characteristics woven into it: logic, physics, etc. These are all reflections of Gods awesome creative character. Also, since God is self-sufficient, He cannot be self contradictory. Otherwise, He could not sustain Himself. Therefore, He cannot violate His own nature.

Cephus:  This is where it starts getting silly.  How do you actually know any of those things?  Faith, particularly blind faith, is not a virtue.  You’re just accepting a story of how things happened, you have no way of verifying that any of those things actually happened and science does not support your claims regardless.  You can arbitrarily assert that God did the things you want to believe he did but I can make counter claims, equally without any verification or validation, that the Flying Spaghetti Monster did things the way I feel like presenting them and we’re at a logical impasse  because neither set of claims is demonstrable.

Matt: He could. He could destroy the entire universe. But He chooses not to.

Cephus:  How do you know this?  Where did you get this information?  Certainly, you can claim to get this information from the Bible, but you haven’t shown that the Bible is actually true or a reliable source of information either.

Matt: Why? Just because God doesn’t choose to do something He has the power to do, it does not mean He does not exist. After all, does it prove that you do not exist if you choose not to do something you could do? If you choose not to clap your hands right now, does that mean you do not exist? Of course not.

Cephus:  Again, these are just claims, made without any demonstrable source.  You can neither demonstrate that God exists, that God has the power to do anything, or that you have any means of making competent claims about God’s desires or motivation.  All we have is your say-so about things that you cannot possibly know.  Why should we be impressed by that?

Matt: Think about this. God choosing to not exercise His will in something is the same as you choosing not to exercise belief in a god. You could, but you just don’t. Both are a lack of action. So, how can you complain against God for not moving according to your criteria, when you choose to not move at all in believe in Him?

Cephus:  No, belief is not something one can choose to do.  You cannot simply decide to believe in magical pixies one day, out of the blue, through force of will alone.  You have to be convinced that something is actually true to believe it is so.  No atheist complains against God for doing anything because no atheist is convinced that God is actually real.  I do not choose not to believe in God, I have been presented with no convincing evidence that God exists in the real world.  It’s the same reason you do not believe in Krishna or Odin or alien abductions or Bigfoot, assuming that you do not believe in any of those things.  I don’t want to put words in your mouth and you can correct me if I mischaracterize you in any of those assumptions.

Amazing how the conversation still makes sense, even more sense this time through, in my opinion.  Maybe Matt’s problem is that he’s talking to the wrong atheists.

The Absurdity of Social Media

social-mediaIt’s funny but the more I look at social media and the more I partake in social media, the less impressed I am with it all.

Take Twitter, for example.  Of what use is Twitter?  All I see is people throwing insults, retweeting endless memes, tons of pictures with famous quotes but nothing else, etc.  What is the point of it all?  What does it accomplish?  Over this past weekend when I was listening to a podcast, I sat down and watched Twitter for a while and it was just appalling.  There’s nothing useful going on.  There was one point when the same meme was retweeted more than a dozen times in a row.  It’s short attention span theater!

I’m not trying to insult people, but honestly, I don’t see Twitter attracting the best and brightest people.  The majority of them seem to be, well, idiots.  That may very well be because of the way I use  Twitter, I don’t invade other people’s hashtags and make fun of their religions, I sit and wait for something intelligent to be posted to #atheism or #atheist or retweeted by one of the very few people I follow.  Maybe there’s a secret that smart Twitter users know, other than simply avoiding Twitter altogether, but I haven’t found it yet.

Then there’s Facebook and Google+.  Of the two, I like Google+ better, but none of these services are set up to allow intellectual discussions to occur.  They’re not threaded, it’s just an endless string of comments and following one particular conversation is next to impossible, especially when a couple of  discussions are going on at the same time.  You have to try to follow the links, when people actually use them, and it ends up being a pointless waste of time.

Plus the fact that there are so many different groups on both Facebook and Google+ that the message gets diluted.  I know that on Google+, I’m a member of 3 atheist groups, 2 skeptical groups, an atheist blogger group, several atheist podcasting groups and even though some of those groups have tens of thousands of members, very little is actually going on in the group.  Lurkers outnumber posters 1000-to-1 most of the time and of the content that actually does get posted, there is a very low signal to noise ratio.  It’s like watching 8 year olds post fart jokes.

I’ve written before about how pointless I find StumbleUpon and Reddit.  Their members are just content locusts, they swarm over linked websites, read the first dozen words and then move on.  This does nothing whatsoever for gaining large numbers of intelligent, dedicated, committed readers for a blog, it just gives a momentary blip on the radar as they descend on an article and then fly off to the next one.  I don’t find anything valuable in their community either, every time I’ve gone to read any of the subreddits, they’ve been filled with rude, stupid and obnoxious people and, of course, they’re not designed to facilitate intellectual long-term discussion or debate either.

So am I out of luck?  My New Year’s Resolution this year was to know when to get out of pointless debates. Originally it was aimed at religion, but I’ve taken all debates to task and so far, I haven’t engaged in any good debates this year.

I even went back to the IRC channel that I helped to found many years ago.  Sure, it was chaotic, but at least there were some good discussions to be had.  Apparently, that’s not even a thing anymore because in the hour or two that I sat and watched, people were making fart jokes and banning any theist that came into the channel because they might have to talk about religion or atheism!  Isn’t that what a channel named “#Atheism” is supposed to be about?  That’s why I left originally, because people in the #atheism channel didn’t want to talk about atheism, they wanted to talk about anything but, post memes and generally do what Twitter has turned into.

So where do the intelligent atheists go?  It can’t be to any of these social media sites, they feel like they appeal to the lowest conceivable common denominator.  Where do the intelligent theists go?  Semi-intelligent theists? People who have two brain cells to rub together?  I can’t find any of them.

Too Dumb to Debate

not-sure-if-stupid-or-just-christianI find it funny how much flack I get for saying that debating theists is a waste of time, but time and time again, I find that with the religious, its just pointless to engage in any kind of intellectual religious discussion, they just don’t comprehend the basics and dragging them, kicking and screaming, through the most rudimentary logical discourse, only to have them remain blindly faithful at the end seems like a waste of my time.

I had that experience yet again today when, on Twitter, some theist showed up, spamming the #atheism hashtag with a load of nonsense.  Now if I’m bored, sometimes I’ll respond to something absurdly nonsensical and correct the theist and on rare occasions… wait… make that absolutely no occasions at all, a decent discussion will arise from that interaction.  I cannot remember a single instance where I’ve thought there was as worthwhile talk with a theist of any stripe on Twitter, where something was actually concluded or I thought progress had been made.  This is no different.

The guy, @PhillyLector, started spamming the channel with the typical “believe in God” nonsense and I responded that I’d think about it if he could present any objective evidence that God was actually real.  Of course, he couldn’t and was rather insulted that I’d even ask.  Oh course there was evidence, he told us that God existed and that should be all we need!  How dare I ask for more than his credulous word!  So I pointed out that all religions make the exact same statement and if he isn’t willing to take their word for the existence of their gods, why should I take his word for the existence of his?  Oh, because only his God is actually real!  How does he know?  Because he knows!  Now wait a minute, he’s already admitted that he has no actual evidence for God, how did he come by this knowledge?  He just did!  And what if a Hindu said he had the same knowledge about the existence of Krishna?  That Hindu must be lying because his gods don’t exist!

I trust you can understand the frustration of the next hour of around and around and around again, he couldn’t get through his head that every other religion out there is doing the exact same thing he’s doing and declaring their gods to be real and all other gods to be imaginary.  He is entirely incapable of even imagining the merest possibility that his beliefs could be wrong.  He is so totally and fanatically convinced that his beliefs are true that getting him to apply any reason or logic to his faith is sure to be met with failure.  He cannot fail.  He cannot imagine failure is even a remote option.

Yet this is how it is with all theists that I talk to.  It comes at different points, but there is always a point where they dig in their heels and won’t budge another inch.  I know people like to say “maybe you planted a seed”, but judging by these idiots that come back night after night, repeating the exact same claims, I doubt that’s true. Maybe someone in the peanut gallery got the message and deconverted?  I also doubt that happens very often, especially on something like Twitter where it’s a free-for-all.  I’ve noticed that a lot of the deconversion stories tend to come from people who were already looking for a different voice.  You don’t tend to find them among people who never leave religious forums and websites, you find them from people who are venturing out, reading atheist forums and blogs and specifically seeking out people outside of their religious tradition because they’re already having questions.  The likelihood of getting some random Christian on Twitter to deconvert is somewhere between slim and none because that’s not what they’re there for.  It’s the people who might come here to read my blog that I’d have a better chance at and frankly, I’d only try with those who weren’t here to stir up some shit.  I have no interest in converting to Christianity, that’s why I avoid looking at religious blogs, websites, forums, reading religious hashtags on Twitter, etc.  I’m just not interested in what they have to say, except in those rare cases where it’s so absurd that I laugh at it and I never go seeking those out.

So now I wonder why the hell I just wasted my time on this moron.  Maybe I ought to just ignore all theists on Twitter entirely, all of them just lead to frustration and face-palming.

The 30-Second Debate

shot clockI’ve mentioned before that I favor a 30-second debate format for any and all debates between atheists and theists.  I think that so many debates are an utter waste of time because they never actually establish anything.  Take an article written over on Hausdorff’s blog, and for the record, this is being written the same day that article was released, showing just how far ahead I’m writing.  Now I admit to not watching the particular debate referenced in his article.  I tried but it was exactly the same as a dozen other debates I’ve seen in just the past couple of months alone and they are all pretty much identical.  The problem with each and every one of these debates is that nobody ever actually expects the theist to demonstrate that their claims about their god are factually true.

I treat every other woo claim exactly the same.  Bigfoot?  Trot me out a body.  Aliens?  Same thing.  Ghosts? Prove they are real.  Telepathy?  Read my mind under controlled conditions and get it 100% correct.  NDEs?  Let’s see you read that sign on top of the cabinet with perfect recall.  Why should God get any special treatment? If theists want to talk about God, the first thing they need to do is prove God is real.  If they cannot do so, then why should I take the existence of God any more seriously than I take the existence of leprechauns or unicorns?  This is something that needs to be pointed out to all religious apologists everywhere, there’s no more free lunch when it comes to debating their religious beliefs.  Put up or shut up.  The gauntlet is thrown down.

Of course, the second you say this, they get upset and call you intolerant and unreasonable, but why is this unreasonable?  Because they can’t do it?  Why not?  Failure to back up claims with evidence is exactly why we shouldn’t take those claims seriously.  That’s how every rational endeavor humanity engages in works, why is religion the exception?

They can’t really claim that God magically exists outside of any rational ability to evaluate because they, themselves, have simply invented that quality.  Look over the history of Christianity, God used to be easily verifiable, but as science and reason grew, theists realized that they were dangerously close to being found out and kept stuffing God into smaller and smaller holes until they finally just declared that God is undetectable. Why? Because that’s what they needed to do in order to keep from having their fraud discovered. It’s no different from some psychic trying to win the James Randi Foundation prize by saying that his psychic powers are inherently unable to be studied.  Sorry.  Doesn’t work that way.  Next!

I do not accept that God is an unchallengeable given.  I do not accept that God is inherently impossible to objectively evaluate.  If that’s the scam then it deserves to be tossed onto the trash heap of con artistry, it is a sham, a hoax, the ultimate deception in a long, long line of religious rackets.  You don’t get to declare that your beliefs are both correct and that they cannot be challenged.  What’s to stop me from inventing a god out of whole cloth, like Bobo the Tree God, who can magically avoid any test you can conceivably give to him, yet is all powerful and all knowing and in control of the universe?  How is that any different than what Christians or Muslims do today, other than the fact that I know I’m spinning a bullshit yarn and they buy into theirs hook, line and sinker?

So, no more.  No more word salad.  No more undemonstrated claims.  No more blind faith.  No more free lunch. Put up or shut up.  That’s my new position when it comes to religion.

Careful Who You Debate With

angry_coupleI debate a lot of theists and while a small percent of debates go on for a while, the majority fizzle or explode in very short order.  I chalk this up to my refusal to allow them to get into absurd apologetics without being able to back any of it up, they realize they can’t bamboozle me by waving their arms around and flee for the hills.  I’ve come to see this as typical theist behavior, it only confuses me that they can’t see just how ridiculous the things they say are.

The first that comes to mind is something I’ve written about already, but it turns out that it gets worse.  See, while I totally shredded this lady in a debate, to the point that she’s walked away swearing under her breath, apparently she’s a staffer on the debate forum and she told some of her other religious staffers about how badly I trounced her and they’ve decided to retaliate.  From what I understand, they have a rule that says that you’re not allowed to disagree with staffers.  Presumably, this is to keep moderation battles from taking place in the forums, but they’re arguing that people should not be able to disagree with staff for any reason, moderation-related or not.  I’m currently fighting it, but since this was a forum I went to in hopes of finding a better class of theist debaters and have not been able to do so, it’s not a big deal.  I’m not getting thrown off, I’m just getting a demerit, but it’s ridiculous to say that because someone volunteers on a site, that anything and everything this person says is completely beyond reproach and they just win any debate they decide to engage in because nobody can even disagree is ridiculous.

The second, and I admit this happens quite often, comes when I debate presuppositionalists and the like and won’t allow them to simply make their “presuppositions” unchallenged.  This tends to shut down these debates at the starting line because I don’t allow them to simply declare “God did it!”  I don’t care how much they believe that God is required to engage in logical arguments, until they can demonstrate it, it’s never going to fly and since that’s really the basis of their entire claim, they go and sulk because I saw through their dishonesty right off the bat.  And it is dishonest, they wouldn’t accept a Hindu, for example, claiming that the existence of logic presupposes Krishna, why should I accept that it requires God?  They have no answer and spend a lot of time pouting and insulting me.  That’s fine, it just proves how absurd their ideas are.

Finally, how about those crazy panentheists?  The people who think that the universe is God?  Why?  Because that’s what they choose to call it.  Never mind the fact that it has a perfectly good name already and that they cannot give any good reason why they ought to refer to it as God, it’s a bizarre glitch in their thinking and nothing you say can possibly change their mind.  There’s this crazy idiot on Twitter who keeps spamming the #atheism hashtag, claiming that atheists have to believe that the universe is God, otherwise they have to prove that the universe is not God.  Huh?  It makes no sense, but this is religion we’re talking about, sense and religion never cross paths.

To be honest, the more I debate with the religious, the more I spend my time shaking my head at their stupidity. They’ll even admit to it, although not in those terms.  I can, for example, tell a presuppositionalist that I really believe in Lug, the god of the leprechauns and that everything in the universe requires a belief in Lug.  They’ll scoff and laugh at how absurd that is, but they can’t seem to apply that same realization to their own statements which are identical in nature, they just use a different name.  I just had to post something similar to someone who demanded that I prove the Holy Spirit isn’t real.  I asked them to prove unicorns aren’t real because, clearly, if they’re not, they should be able to prove it.  I predict they won’t find their own failure.  Nothing you can do will get them to recognize the problem with their own argument.  The same is true of people who fall into the same predicted pattern that you point out ahead of time, they refuse to deal with the factual reality of their fallacies, it’s something that they are purposely blind to.  These are only three examples out of potentially thousands, all of which leave a rational person who evaluates the world skeptically and critically scratching their head.  It’s like you’re speaking an entirely different language from the theists.  They have no clue what you’re saying and what they’re saying makes no sense at all to you.

Maybe that’s why virtually all religious debates end with nothing being accomplished.  The longer I do this and the more that I think about it, the less anxious I am to waste my time and effort talking to people who don’t even live in the same reality that I do.

More Theist Debate Craziness

StraightJacketJohnnyNow we all know that there are a lot of crazy theists on Twitter, I’ve written about it plenty of times before, but it never ceases to amaze me just how horrible the claims from Twitter theists actually are.  If you’ve been out on Twitter for any length of time, you’ve probably run into @SoCalTheologian, he’s one of a handful of really crazy theists who hangs around on the #atheism hashtag daring atheists to debate him, but he’s really got nothing but the catalog of William Lane Craig and other apologists to rely on and he doesn’t really understand what they have to say so debates with him are utterly pointless.

So tonight, I was just hanging around, had my Twitter window open and I saw someone talking to him.  I’ve given him a shot from time to time and he’s proven to be an absurd waste of time, he cannot imagine that he’s wrong so no matter what you say to him, he just repeats the same old tired and completely disproven claims over and over again.  He’s so bad that at one point, I would have sworn he was a troll, although now I’m convinced that he’s just really, really stupid.

Or at least I was until tonight, I might have to revise my thinking because this argument is so utterly and completely off the wall, maybe he is just messing with people.  It started, as so many debates with him do, with his claim that the universe must have a creator, mostly because he says so.  He has a small number of “gotcha” arguments that revolve around, as he puts it: “Someone had to start the Big Bang, est the laws of the univ, fine tune the univ, & write the DNA Code”.  He’s also very impressed with the Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument and things of that nature.  He can’t actually prove any of it, but he’s supremely convinced that he already has.  His only ending argument is “I keep giving you evidence but you keep rejecting it!”  No, he doesn’t give evidence, he claims there is evidence, but is totally unable to actually present it.

Anyhow, he starts to claim that a creator is required to establish the laws of the universe and we ask him how he knows this.  Of course, he has no evidence so he starts to argue that because the definition he pulled out of a dictionary for “law” required a “lawgiver”, that the physical laws of the universe also required a lawgiver, because both use the same word “law”.  Seriously, this is the best some theists can do!

When we point out that there is a significant difference between legal laws and the physical laws of the universe, he doesn’t want to hear it.  It’s all the same!  We produce dictionary definitions for physical laws and he rejects them out of hand.  His definition is the only one he’ll accept because he can twist it to conform to his beliefs.  This goes on for a couple of hours until he stops responding, but one thing we all agreed on is that he’ll be back tomorrow with the exact same arguments, not at all bothered by the sound thrashing he took tonight.

Theists need to understand just how harmful people like this are to their position.  Yes, @SoCalTheologian is a stupid little ignorant twat, just like @Sacerdotus and @GodisCosmos, the latter who is supremely convinced that all atheists are already convinced that the universe is actually God that he should have to bother defending the proposition, but these people make religion look utterly laughable.  Granted, it is, but these people do a valuable public service by proving it to everyone.  They are the worst enemy that religion has, people who believe it but are demonstrably too stupid to be taken seriously.

And people wonder why I get tired of debating the religiously credulous?

10 Stupid Things Theists Say to Atheists

Say Something StupidAs atheists, we see this kind of thing all the time, really absurd things that are said to us by theists in the midst of a debate or discussion that leave us rolling our eyes.  This really isn’t intended so much for the atheist, but for the theist, who really needs to understand that none of these things are going to convince anyone of the validity of their arguments.  Maybe that’s okay with them, but maybe, just maybe, they never realized just how pointless any of the following statements actually are.

It leaves me wondering if theists are really debating to come to a mutually agreeable conclusion, or if they’re just “debating” to hear themselves talk or see themselves type.

And so, in no particular order, these are ten statements that I see routinely from theists that are simply not helping your case, and why.

10. I’ll pray for you…  This is totally and completely useless.  If you really feel the need to talk to yourself about us, I suppose it’s your time to waste, but this statement really comes off as a final flip of the finger to the atheist when the theist has run out of other arguments.  It’s essentially “I’m still right, so there!”  It appears to be childish, even if it’s sincere.  We don’t want you to pray for us, we want you to  be able to defend your beliefs. Maybe you should spend more time worrying about that.

9.  The Bible says…  We don’t care what the Bible says.  In fact, we probably know the Bible better than you do and not only the Bible, but many other religious texts as well.  Often, that’s why we’re atheists, because we had the courage and commitment to read the Bible and think about what it actually says.  We don’t limit our knowledge to the words on the page though, we often know why it’s there, where it came from and how it came to be accepted by your religion.  We’ve engaged in higher criticism of your religious text and can almost certainly show how and why your book isn’t trustworthy.  Don’t pretend we’re not well-versed in what your book says, we are.

8.  This website says…  This is probably even worse than the previous statement because not only does it show that you think we’re not well-versed in all of the standard apologetic arguments, it demonstrate that you are not. If the best you can do is grab a claim off some apologist’s website or YouTube video, there’s really no point in talking to you because clearly, you don’t understand the argument well enough to present your own take on it.  I don’t care what William Lane Craig says, I’m not debating William Lane Craig, I’m debating you.  Make your own arguments and understand what you’re saying because I absolutely will attack the argument and expect you to defend it.

7.  You can’t prove God doesn’t exist…  No I can’t, it’s not my job to do so.  It’s yours.  You’re the one claiming that God is real, it rests solely on your shoulders to prove it.  After all, you can’t prove that Krishna doesn’t exist, does that mean that the Hindus are right and Krishna does?  You can’t prove that unicorns exist, does that make them real?  The burden of proof is always on the individual who makes the positive claim.  Most atheists do not claim God does not exist, they just reject your claim that he does based on lack of corroboratory evidence.

6. You really believe in God, but…  Theists make this statement to make themselves feel better, it has no critical validity.  It is a form of the argument from ignorance, where a statement is made, not because there’s evidence that it’s so, but because the individual can’t come up with a better argument.  You don’t want to believe that there are people out there who really reject your deity, thus you imagine that nobody actually does, they’re all lying.  That’s just not the case.

5.  I know God is real!  No you don’t, you *BELIEVE* God is real.  Knowledge requires some demonstrable basis.  You can no more say you know God is real than you can say you know unicorns are real because you have no evidence to present in either case.  Claims of knowledge do not impress unless you can show us that you have any objective means of coming by that knowledge.

4.  You’re not really an atheist, you’re  an agnostic or some other term which makes the theist feel better. For some reason, theists tend to feel uncomfortable around the word “atheist”, mostly, I suspect, because it suggests that there are people who reject the central tenet of their worldview.  They don’t like that so they want to get around that word if at all possible.  There are a couple of problems with that, however.  First, it’s not up to you to decide what terms mean and/or what other people believe or do not believe.  Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of gods.  If the shoe fits, stop pretending that other people ought to wear sandals because it makes you feel better.  Secondly, it’s really not up to you to decide what terms people can adopt for themselves.  If I want to call myself an atheist, I can call myself an atheist.  I have no obligation to choose another term because it softens the blow on you.

3. If you don’t believe, you’ll go to hell…  This is utterly pointless, we don’t believe hell exists.  You might as well be threatening us with Hogwarts.  Hell, to us, is no more real than the Greek underworld, heaven is no more real than Valhalla.  If someone approached you and said that if you don’t accept Odin as your personal lord and savior, you’d be sent to Helheim, to be punished by the Norse goddess Hela for all time, would that bother you?  If not, then you understand why Hell doesn’t bother us.  Save your breath.

2.  I have evidence for God…  Then by all means, present it, you’ll be famous and a multi-millionaire, the first person to ever present actual evidence for the existence of any god.  Oh wait, that’s not what you really mean, is it?  You have *CLAIMS* about God.  You have *ASSERTIONS* about God.  You have *BELIEFS* about God.  You have no evidence though.  This is one of those wiggle words that we see from theists all the time, like “knowledge”, it’s something that’s claimed, but once you really get down to the nuts and bolts, it’s totally false.  There isn’t any evidence for God that has heretofore been presented, just like there isn’t any evidence that has been presented for Bigfoot or alien visitations.  If you’ve got some, present it, but it had better be more than “this convinced me”. That doesn’t mean it will convince anyone else.

1. You can’t take away my faith!  Nobody can “take” anything away from you, atheist mind control technology is still in it’s experimental stages and won’t be ready for testing until early 2015.  If you lose your faith, that’s on you, but let’s be honest, faith really isn’t a rational way of looking at the world anyhow.  Besides, your faith is meaningless to us, we don’t want to take it away, we want you to deal with reality as it actually is.  So far, if you believe in an unseen and unproven god, you’re not doing that.  You can argue that point all you like, but I’m sure that argument will fall into one of the above categories.  Don’t have faith.  Don’t believe.  THINK!

So what about some things that you should say or do in a debate?  I’ll give you my short list:

1.  Know your argument.  If you don’t know what you believe or what you’re trying to prove, how do you think you’ll manage it?  I don’t want to hear what someone else thinks, I want to know what you think and I want you to prove to me that you have a functional understanding of your claims and have worked out in your head, logically and rationally, how it’s supposed to operate.

2. Know your source material.  Again, this means prepare your arguments and get your ducks in a row.  If you want to claim that the Bible is the source of your information, be ready to defend the Bible’s validity with more than “I believe it”.

3.  Understand proper debate techniques.  Most theists stumble blindly from one logical fallacy to the next, they don’t understand how to properly construct arguments or build logical syllogisms.    Learn how to move from one segment of your claim to the next in a logically demonstrable fashion.  Avoid absurd leaps of irrationality, say, from making a claim to asserting a cause unless you can actually demonstrate a direct link between the cause and the effect.

4.  Stop being so emotional.  The purpose of a debate is to reach a conclusion based on the evidence and the best delivered argumentation.  How your position makes you feel is entirely irrelevant.  I’m interested in how you come to your conclusions, not how your conclusions make you feel.

5.  Be ready to concede defeat.  If you lose, lose graciously.  Your claims are only as good as your evidence and your arguments.  If you are emotionally unable to evaluate your claims intellectually, don’t bother debating, you’re just going to look foolish.

6.  Be ready to change your mind if you lose.  This is the most important part and the hardest one theists have in accepting.  You, as an intellectual, rational and logical individual, ought to want to believe as many factually true things as possible and reject as many factually false things as possible and know how to differentiate between the two.  Unfortunately, as in point #4, most theists don’t really care if what they believe is true, the y have an emotional attachment to their arguments and when it comes to rejecting heartfelt beliefs or ignoring evidence, virtually all theists will clench their eyes shut, stick their fingers in their ears and scream “I’m right! I’m right! I’m right!”  This is a problem and a serious one at that.  It separates the metaphorical philosophical men from the philosophical boys.  It reveals who is willing and able to deal with reality and who would prefer to curl up inside their comforting fantasy world and pretend everything is going to be alright.

If you’re not someone who can put aside your feelings and deal with the facts, who will overlook the evidence if it gets in the way of the blind faith, then you have no business pretending to do so, you have no business trying to debate with educated and intellectual atheists.  We’ve been there.  It’s how we got where we are today.  We put in the legwork, we did the math and we came to conclusions because we weren’t afraid to follow where the actual evidence led.

Maybe one of these days, you’ll be willing to do the same, even if it doesn’t lead to your religious convictions.

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.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2N-JqGK7ws’]

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.