Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
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02-02-2013, 12:03 PM
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
(02-02-2013 10:18 AM)DeathsNotoriousAngel Wrote:  I'd like to add 2 things to the whole list that is somewhat rare, but I've experienced enough times to think they should be addressed.

1) Christians who believe that atheist really do believe in God and are just in denial.

2) Christians who don't see the logic error of believing in the bible while at the same time not supporting the church (any church)

Let me explain the 2nd one. Without the bible, the church has no leg to stand on. While on the other hand the modern bible is a product of the church's translation, editing and rewriting process. It was essentially created by the church and is the foundation of church doctrine. These two things support each other because the church gives the bible a faux pas legitimacy due to the size of it's congregation and the bible supports the church by giving the people who run the church interpretation duties, allowing them to come up with whatever twisted rhetoric they could possibly draw from what is written.
I'll definitely try to squeeze (1) in. For (2), you make a strong argument, I could see some counterpoints, but bottom line it's more about what Christians are doing on their own time than what they are doing vis-a-vis atheists. An interesting discussion, but off-topic for inclusion in the list.

Quote:I
am seriously considering shrinking this down to buisness card size and
just handing the card out to anyone I meet who babbles about god. I
like it!
Crap. Brevity. I SUCK at brevity. Okay, I'll see what I can do.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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02-02-2013, 01:08 PM
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
An artist friend of mine had some business cards made up for his atheist group. He gave me some and I like them -they are small and attractive.

Once in a while, I've found myself at meetings which happen to take place in churches so, I usually leave one or two laying around... maybe in the restroom or on a windowsill or mixed in with the free literature. Also, whenever I'm at a hotel, I leave one in the bible and... in case you don't know, some hotels also have the book of mormon - I tuck one in there, too. It just states: "Hello, I am an atheist." and at the bottom provides a web address for his atheist group. He's told me they've had a couple of closet atheists seek them out.

Another artist buddy printed up some generic stickers with a disclaimer; he sticks them in the inside covers of the hotel bibles and mormon books. It basically states that this book is a work of fiction written by human beings. Pretty innocuous but... he happened to be in a hotel room he'd been in before and the sticker's words had been scratched out and replaced with a penned "This is the TRUTH, the WORD of GOD!" ... he said it seemed a bit angry.

***
I'm thinking of making up my own business cards to casually leave lying around to counter the christee bullshit I see everywhere. Something along the lines of the "Good without God" billboards... simple phrases.

Those cards can be made up pretty cheaply. Hell, I can probably do it on my own computer but since I'm lazy, I'll probably just do a kinko thing. It's the least I can do... kind of makes me feel like an atheist activist. ... Ok, and armchair atheist activist. I'm triple A!! Tongue

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02-02-2013, 01:20 PM (This post was last modified: 02-02-2013 01:24 PM by DeathsNotoriousAngel.)
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
(02-02-2013 12:03 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  
(02-02-2013 10:18 AM)DeathsNotoriousAngel Wrote:  I'd like to add 2 things to the whole list that is somewhat rare, but I've experienced enough times to think they should be addressed.

1) Christians who believe that atheist really do believe in God and are just in denial.

2) Christians who don't see the logic error of believing in the bible while at the same time not supporting the church (any church)

Let me explain the 2nd one. Without the bible, the church has no leg to stand on. While on the other hand the modern bible is a product of the church's translation, editing and rewriting process. It was essentially created by the church and is the foundation of church doctrine. These two things support each other because the church gives the bible a faux pas legitimacy due to the size of it's congregation and the bible supports the church by giving the people who run the church interpretation duties, allowing them to come up with whatever twisted rhetoric they could possibly draw from what is written.
(02-02-2013 12:03 PM)Reltzik Wrote:  I'll definitely try to squeeze (1) in. For (2), you make a strong argument, I could see some counterpoints, but bottom line it's more about what Christians are doing on their own time than what they are doing vis-a-vis atheists. An interesting discussion, but off-topic for inclusion in the
Well the mistake I was alluding to in the second one was arguing their point using the bible, while at the same time dismissing the church, even though the bible needs the church to be legitimately considered. Without an assembled consensus, the bible may as well be a Grimm Brother fairy book tale by society acceptance standards.

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03-02-2013, 01:19 AM (This post was last modified: 03-02-2013 12:45 PM by Reltzik.)
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
Okay, finalish draft. Again, while this is directed at Christians talking to atheists, some of the advice is good for atheists talking to Christians, Christians talking to other religions, or really anyone talking to anyone. (So no complaining, hey, atheists do that too!) I didn't get it down to wallet-card size, but maybe it's a decent three-fold pamphlet? If you use 8-point font? Maybe? Crap.

I'll make it its own thread if no one proposes any changes that I feel are worth adding. I figure I'll spend a lot of time linking to it and saying things like, "Hey, mistake 4a."




Advice for Christians about Atheists:

Part 1: Wheaton's Law (Don't Be A ****)

Treat atheists as you would want to be treated yourself. Put yourself in their shoes. Don't harass, insult, or persecute. If you feel an atheist has done this first, be the bigger person, turn the other cheek, and don't sink to their level. Kindness, offense, and abuse are all usually returned in kind, and you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Remember, you are an ambassador of Christianity to an outsider, so be on your best behavior.

Common mistakes:

1a: Disagreement is not a personal attack. Attacking a concept is not the same as attacking a person. It's not about you.
1b: Don't share your opinion or belief, and then get offended at the atheist sharing hers. Turnabout is fair play.
1c: Don't lose your temper. Stay mellow and polite, no matter the offense.
1d: Don't stereotype. Not all atheists are the same. If one is rude and offensive, the next might be considerate and polite.
1e: Don't blindly believe characterizations of atheists you hear from others. Draw your own conclusions from your own experience.
1e: Atheism is not grounds for violence, vandalism, firing, denial of service, poorer service, or ostracism. These can be illegal, can cause atheists to hate Christians at large, and invite reprisals against yourself and others.
1f: Don't be inconsiderate. Before saying anything about atheists, ask yourself if you would be offended if it was said about Christians.
1g: Unless they're actively trying to convince you of something, an atheist is under no obligation to prove anything to you.
1h: An atheist is not required to hear you out, especially if they have something else they'd rather be doing. Let them walk away if they want. Don't harass. If you want to be heard, find a way to spark their interest. Don't invade personal space or territory. Going door-to-door is ill-advised.
1i: Don't go after an atheist's minor children. Think how you would react if an atheist went after yours.
1j: Remember that atheists are people. They have families, jobs, hobbies, interests, friends, troubles. Don't focus on just their atheism.





Part 2: Priorities

Understand why you are talking to these particular atheists. What are your overall objectives? Are you trying to educate about what Christianity says? Actively convert? Trying to educate yourself? Simply trying to get along with a family member? Choose your tactics to further these objectives. Deliberately avoid tactics which sabotage them. Analyze what you've done after the fact, ask yourself what worked and what didn't, and apply those lessons in the future.

Common mistakes:

2a: Focus on active dialogue rather than talking points. Few objectives are actively achieved by tossing stock arguments back and forth, because no one really listens to canned rhetoric or one-way lectures. Engage!
2b: Don't forget Section 1. Very few objectives are furthered if you piss an atheist off. You don't stop them thinking you're wrong by making them think you're wrong and a ****. If your objective is simply to get them angry or vent your own rage, take a deep breath, count slowly to 100, and try again.
2c: Don't be cryptic. Clearly communicate your objectives. Many times atheists will give you a fair hearing and even help you cut to the chase. Also, dissembling leads to mistrust.
2d: Are you trying to educate others about Christianity? Don't assume what the atheist is ignorant and don't just toss out stuff. Find out what they don't know and want to know first. Consider a Q&A format.
2e: Are you trying to educate yourself? Don't assume. Be open in what you don't know and ask plainly. Don't argue, that's not your objective.
2f: Are you actively attempting to convert? Don't even try a one-size-fits-all strategy. Atheists are not all the same. Identify the major obstacles to conversion for this particular atheist. Do this by asking, not assuming. Consider them carefully and understand them completely. Then tailor your efforts accordingly.
2g: Does your objective require the atheist to actually listen to you, consider what you're saying, or have any sort of contact or dialogue with you? Then don't destroy their good will or respect.
2h: Don't expect an atheist to automatically have much interest if you simply state your beliefs or opinion. Beliefs and opinions are a dime a dozen, and atheists are often subjected to unsolicited sharing to the point of apathy and aversion.
2i: Don't make your goal simply having a message heard. This is a tactic, not a goal. Consider also how the message will be received and whether it will be believed, and whether these further your goal.




Part 3: Critical Thinking and Fallacies

Critical thinking (critiquing claims and arguments to discern if they are true or valid) is popular (albeit not universal) among atheists. Expect any argument or claim you advance to be critiqued. Common flaws in arguments are called fallacies, and these have been cataloged, categorized, and named. Learn the fallacies and avoid them. Atheists will often identify these fallacies by name, so it helps to know the language. If you push forward a blatantly flawed argument, you can lose respect, interest, even trust. A list of fallacies can be found on Wikipedia (under "fallacy"). Some of the most common applications are below.

Common mistakes:

3a: A critique of your argument, claim, or belief is not necessarily a sign of disrespect. Often it is a sign of great respect. It assumes you're interested in pursuing the truth, and have the integrity to consider that you might be wrong and the toughness to endure that examination.
3b: Just because you assert something, doesn't mean the atheist will believe it.
3c: Just because it's in the Bible, doesn't mean the atheist will believe it.
3d: Just because a famous philosopher or apologist said it, doesn't mean the atheist will believe it.
3e: Just because a lot of people believe something, doesn't mean the atheist will believe it.
3f: Just because we might want something, doesn't make it true.
3g: Just because we don't understand something, doesn't make God the explanation.
3h: "God did it" isn't an explanation without a clear how and why.
3i: If everything requires a creator, then so does any creator. A rule can't have an exception and be universal.
3j: If you wish an atheist to buy into a conclusion as the logical explanation of some phenomenon, you must establish both that the phenomenon exists, and that the conclusion is the most reasonable (or only) explanation.
3k: Occam's Razor is a common technique. Expect straightforward, mundane explanations to be favored over convoluted, supernatural ones.
3l: Conclusions that contradict existing understanding have a heavy burden of proof. Exceptional claims require exceptional evidence. If you want to persuade an atheist that they actually DO believe in God when they think they don't, you've got your work cut out for you.
3m: The more convoluted the argument, the easier it is for a fallacy to hide in it and the less it will be trusted.
3n: Arguments are founded in premises, and are only believed if their premises are believed. Don't expect to persuade atheists by quoting a Bible they think is false. Don't expect an atheist to want salvation from a hell they don't believe in. Above all, don't expect an atheist to believe in any argument dependent on God existing.
3o: Understand what a hypothetical question is. An atheist who asks why God would do this or that isn't admitting the existence of God.




Part 4: Avoiding Confusion about Atheism

There are a couple of definitions for atheism floating around out there. It almost always means people who fully believe that God (and other deities) do not exist, with little or no doubt on the subject. This is called "strong atheism", or "gnostic atheism", or just plain atheism. It can also include not believing that God or gods exist, but also not fully believing they don't or that there's a lot of room for doubt. This is also called "weak atheism", "agnostic atheism", or simply agnosticism. Be clear about how others mean the word, how you mean it, and any gaps between the two. This can avoid some of the worst misunderstandings. Also be aware that atheism is about a current absence of belief and worship, and does not imply a countervailing belief or worship, or a previous absence.

Common mistakes:

4a: Being an atheist does not imply faith or even belief in either evolution or the Big Bang. Belief (without faith) might be the way to bet but it's not a sure thing. Regardless, undermining either theory does not undermine atheism. (Also, if you MUST go off on a tangent about evolution, actually know what the theory says and how it is distinct from abiogenesis. Be prepared!)
4b: Atheists do not worship Satan, for the simple reason that they do not believe that Satan exists. The same goes for any other supernatural power. If you want to redefine worshiping Satan to literally mean not worshiping God, fine, but then atheists get to redefine donkey to mean hat and say you have your head up your ass.
4c: Some atheists are ignorant of the religions that surround them. Most are not. Many are quite knowledgeable. Some hail from those religions and have a deep, insider's understanding.
4d: Atheists are not immoral. Atheism itself is amoral, in that it neither prescribes nor proscribes moral behaviors, and has no moral code. But individual atheists usually adopt moral codes from other sources such as ethics, humanism, enlightened self-interest, and social mores. The moral codes they adopt often have a lot in common with Christian morality, and are sometimes indirectly derived from it.
4e: Atheism is not a religion. It requires no faith, has no congregation, no system of belief, no dogma or doctrine, and makes no statements about the metaphysical. (Some subsets of atheism might, like strong atheism, but atheism as a whole does not.)
4f: Most free, Western societies explicitly or implicitly grant the same freedom to be an atheist as to be a member of any religion, even if atheism is not itself a religion.
4g: Do not equate all atheists with particular atheists. Not all atheists are communists, or subject to the same moral turpitude as Stalin or Pol Pot.
4h: Do not assume a universal atheist agenda. Most desire the legal and social freedom to disbelieve as they are inclined, but otherwise atheists are all over the map on what they want. In particular, not all atheists want to abolish religion.
4i: Do not assume a vast atheistic conspiracy. Organizing large numbers of atheists is like herding large numbers of argumentative cats. A vast conspiracy comprising a majority of these people would be utterly unworkable.
4j: Don't mistake atheism for secularism. Secularism is about separation of church and state -- not having established churches, not mandating religion, keeping religion out of the process of governance, not funneling tax dollars to religion, not allowing religion to dictate laws, and not allowing government to dictate to religion. Many, but not all, atheists are secularists, but many secularists are non-atheists who who think government does its job better with that separation, and many are strongly religious people who actually wish to protect religion from governmental interference or the temptation of worldly power. Atheism and secularism do not imply one another.
4k: Just because a person isn't a Christian, doesn't make them an atheist.



Part 5: Avoiding Confusion about Christianity

If there's a couple of definitions for atheism out there, then there is a multitude for Christianity. They range from the twenty members of a particular church out in the middle of nowhere (who insist that they are the only Christians) to anyone who identifies as a Christian, with no doctrinal test at all. Common variants involve being part of this or that organization, believing certain doctrines, or having undergone certain ceremonies. Because the word Christian means so many things to so many people, it is very difficult to understand what it means to someone who is saying it. Be utterly clear in how you are using the word. The broadest definitions are "anyone who calls themselves a Christian", and "Someone who follows Christ and worships the Abrahamic God, as at least roughly related to what is described in the Bible". If you use a definition other than one of these, expect to encounter confusion, expect to have some people who identify themselves as Christian but whom you do not identify as Christian take umbrage, and do not expect others to use the word the same way. Also, if you are attempting to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians, spare a moment to ask yourself whether the distinction you are drawing is practical.

Common mistakes:

5a: Don't insist that others use the same definition you use, especially if it's not one of the two above. Being clear on the definition you're using is one thing, but don't expect everyone else to adopt it on your say-so.
5b: Don't make arguments about how some people who identify as Christians are not true Christians and don't actually represent Christianity. The atheist has likely heard the same thing said about your branch of Christianity, and will be skeptical.
5c: Don't insist that (identifying) Christians who became atheists were not true Christians. There might be doctrinal basis for this, but it is still a narrowing of definition past the norm. See 3l and 5b. Be aware that the atheists in question thought of themselves as Christian, and at the time had no way of realizing otherwise. Ask yourself whether the distinction has value, if it robs you of the ability to say of anyone that they are a Christian because you don't know if they might become an atheist in the future. This includes yourself.
5d: Do not assert that Christianity is the exemplar of moral behavior, and then try to rule out counterexamples of identifying Christians who behaved really, really badly as not being Christians. In particular, be aware that Hitler publicly declared himself to be a Christian and made (a version of) Christianity into a cornerstone of Nazi Germany. This also includes priests who abuse children and identifying Christian husbands who abuse wives. Atheists are generally aware of some bad examples, and will be skeptical of claims to the contrary or attempts to brush them under the rug.
5e: Don't ignore that there's some nasty stuff in the bible. Argue old/new covenant if you want, or that God's above morality. Argue that this or that portion is flawed, inapplicable, or misinterpreted if you want. But don't outright deny it. It's a part of Christianity and the atheist likely knows it. For example, don't say God would never order genocide and the mass slaughter of infants, and then be surprised if an atheist asks about the book of Joshua. Similarly, be aware that Christian faith has been used to spark and justify atrocities, small and large, across the ages. The atheist will likely be aware of some examples, and this will often be a sticking point in arguments about morality.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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03-02-2013, 06:56 AM
AW: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
It's "Occam's razor". Smartass

Other than that, well done, well done indeed.

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03-02-2013, 08:08 AM
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
You might add a paragraph regarding not confusing secularism with atheism.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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03-02-2013, 10:50 AM
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
Fixed, and added (4j).

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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03-02-2013, 12:18 PM
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
Relttzik, you may want to change "Don't Be a Dick" to something that can apply not just to males since we get female Christians that want to educate or convert us. Maybe asshole or jerk might work?

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03-02-2013, 12:29 PM
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
(03-02-2013 12:18 PM)cjs Wrote:  Relttzik, you may want to change "Don't Be a Dick" to something that can apply not just to males since we get female Christians that want to educate or convert us. Maybe asshole or jerk might work?
Well, Wheaton's law is quite literally, "Don't be a dick", but your point on inclusiveness is well-taken. I think I'll just asterisk it out. That should work nicely. Fixed.

"If I ignore the alternatives, the only option is God; I ignore them; therefore God." -- The Syllogism of Fail
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03-02-2013, 12:33 PM
RE: Common mistakes Christians Make When Arguing with Atheists
Perhaps another paragraph stating that atheism should not be confused with naturalism, materialism and (scientific) skepticism? Consider

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