My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
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04-02-2012, 10:53 PM
My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
Alright, I go to high school in Texas (USA), and I have friends from several religions (mostly Christian, a few Buddhists, a few atheists, I don't know too much about others). This is a pretty smart school, specializing in Science and Math, not a Bible freak school. Occassionally, the topic of religion comes up (I like to argue on this topic, to gain knowledge of what people think and to see if I can hold my atheist ground. Not too often, someone else brings it up.) I try not to be a real jerk about my atheism, although I do poke fun sometimes. When we do argue (on friendly terms), there are some arguments that I like to bring up, and there are responses that I hear often, and some weird ones. Not having read the Bible or any religious text, not having read much religious/anti-religious material, but conducting some research and formulating my beliefs on my standards of acceptable logic, my arguments may not be very powerful, and I might not be executing my arguments to their fullest potential. I also know that the people I argue with could use some work as well. Here are some examples of my arguments, and I ask that you critique both sides, give me tips, some killer arguments, and general advice. Thanks in advance! Also, I include not only arguments, but informal conversations and comments.

1. My first argument (my favorite argument, one that I came up with independently, although I cannot possibly be the first) is one that attempts to undermine religious credibility. I see similar arguments commonly. I state mine something like this:

There are thousands of religions that man has made. Of these, all claim to be correct. We'll say that there are 1000 religions (although there were surely more), leaving at most .1% to be true (unless you could be more than one religion, like Shinto/Buddhism, although those might not be religions, but more like belief systems.) This leaves 99.9% of the religions to be false, at minimum (100% could definitely be a possibility). If man has created 1000 religions, and has been wrong 999 times, how does the thousandth differ? How is Christianity special (to which I have received faulty responses, such as argument #3)?

2. My second argument (one that I've never used in a real conversation, btu that I will try to remember to include) is one that shows the characteristics of religion to be ignorant to new facts, evidence, and improvement. I characterize religion like this:
a. Belief from an early age, traumatic event, or other event compels a person to believe in this religion, assuming it is true without necessary evidence.
b. Infinite threat (infinite pain, torture, etc. i.e. Hell) compels this person to never question belief (no salvation). Basically a scare tactic.
c. To compound belief, everything is attributed to the supernatural. If you flip heads on a coin, "God did it". If you pray for tails, and you get heads, "It was God's will." If you get heads, "THANK YOU GOD, this is OBVIOUSLY proof that God exists."
"Miracles" are chance events that give credit to God. Obviously, there is not a 0% chance of things like this happening, and it has to happen sometime, and it just happened to occur at this particular moment in time in one particular place.
"Tradgedies" are chance events that give credit to God's omnipresence, omnipotence, and infinite wisdom. To increase the argument of "God's Will", the religion may say that there is a larger plan, or there is a larger accident that would've happened (Your car didn't start because there was a drunk driver on the road that would've hit you. Obviously, this likely does nto qualify as a tragedy, and there are better examples, but why not just take away the drunk driver and let the car start?)
d. Lack of faith, irreligion, free thought, and questioning are viewed as dangerous, sin, and evil. This further compels the person to not question, and the "proof by majority" concept comes in.
e. There are other mechanisms that contribute, but I need to stop because my post is getting quite long.

Overall, religion seems like the perfect control tactic. I'm sure many people here would agree.

3. This is a faulty a response that one of my Christian classmates gave, a proof by majority, when I gave him argument #1. We stopped arguing afterwards due to a teacher interrupting us for educational purposes (needed to talk about grades (not bad grades, he talked to everyone, bad or good) with this person). What he basically said was this:
Do you think it is a coincidence that Christianity is the largest religion in the world?
In response to this, I see there are several courses I could take in response, along with other I have not thought of. Among these are: "Christianity was not always the largest religion, so are you saying that the largest religion at a point in time is correct? If so, consult: (insert most common religion 3000 years ago).", "Christianity does not hold the majority of religious followers, with majority meaning less than one-half, with 2/3 or so of people not Christian. Islam is growing faster and is approaching, with 1.5 billion or so.", "If 51% of the world was composed of atheists instead of Christians, would that influence the truth value of Christianity? If every Christian died today, would Christianity be true tomorrow?

4. SCIENCE. I once said "I find it silly that you would believe a 2000 year old mythology book over the theories and experiments of the greatest minds the world has ever seen", possibly unwise, and a 'shot' at religion, to which I received the ridiculous response "I find it silly that you consider yourself an agnostic atheist considering that agnostic and atheist mean two completely different things" (Others pitched in comments such as "got him..." and I promptly told him that many, if not most, atheists are agnostic atheists, he should go do research and find out what those terms actually mean before he tries to ridicule them, and that I probably know my stuff more than he does). Really, if the most brilliant minds of all time come together to formulate these theories, constantly try to improve them, and day by day become closer to explaining the phenomena of the universe, while the Church, an incredibly old, outdated institution, following a human-written, wrongly translated, 2000 year old 'mythology book', as I called it, attempts to silence all outside opinions (the Inquisition?), claim that the Earth is flat, the Earth is the center of the universe, among other ridiculous arguments, how do you still side with the Church? I think that an explanation might be found if you refer to argument #2.

5. On the Bible's truth, and the proof that it is true, is an argument that I had a while ago, that I remember faintly, although I can piece together the most important parts. Here, I touch on circular logic.

Christian: "The Bible proves itself."
Me: "That is impossible. You NEED outside resources and valid proof to support your claims. For example, if you replace every instance of the words "God" and "Lord" with the word "napkin" (I saw a picture on circular logic, where the napkin 'proved' itself by saying that it is true, so I just used the napkin idea, in my own way), does the Bible hold the same truths? You must be implying that the arrangements of the words gives truth, so this should work with napkins as well, correct?"
Christian: "You know there is more to it than that."
I can't piece the rest together too well in conversation form. I can remember myself saying that his last statement is irrelevant, that I am simply asking if the truth holds, and I include the Quran as an example of circular logic, asking if it can prove itself as well.
Christian: (after long thought, stalling with random interruptions by others in between): "I can't answer that question."
I am glad he replied with "I am not qualified to answer", instead of trying to BS me. As someone (Hitchens?) said, or somewhat close to what he said, "An argument explaining everything explains nothing.", and I'm glad he didn't try to explain everything through a bunch of BS. I definitely cannot answer many questions, and there is no shame in acknowledging your ignorance in a particular area of the subject. As long as you strive to figure things out, then all is well, and you can come back with a better argument, armed with more knowledge, another day.

6. Lastly, since my post is very long now, I present a question I hear pretty often:
"If God didn't create the universe, then how do you explain the universe? Something can't come from nothing. Do you expect me to believe we came from monkeys (facepalm, what have we been learning in Biology all this time? That is not what evolution says. This is why you should stop messing around and start paying attention in class!)?", in some form one way or another, sometimes including the cliche Big Bang Theory as an example.

My typical response: "I don't know." We have theories at the moment, but we are not yet technologically advance enough to conclusively test these theories. There is no shame in not knowing, except in not knowing and being against learning (willful ignorance). I also am not qualified enough to explain these theories in detail (and neither is anyone that I argue with), and the concepts might seem silly without the incredibly complex Math invloved in them, concepts such as higher dimensions (which I believe are a valid possibility, but again, I am not qualified to speak). I say that Science has come through us countless times before, and given time, will possibly one day be able to answer that question.

I often hear people say: "You don't belive in religion, you believe in science." (Along with a negative, sarcastic connotation.)
I reply: "You can't believe in Science, you can only support and attempt to improve its claims."

For anyone who has bothered to read this post, I add one final gem that one of my few atheist friends produced during English class:
(Muslim? Not sure) Person: "Wow, you must have some serious balls to be an atheist."
Witty Atheist Friend: "No, I only have the sense to be an atheist."
(In truth, he is an apatheist, but that is irrelevant.)

"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned" - Anonymous
I am glad to live where there is no God, for I am moral, and mortal; I do not wish to worship He who crafts an immoral immortality.
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04-02-2012, 11:34 PM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
Wow.
I don't have any detailed critique to add right now. I just want to say, where were you when I was in school? I could only wonder what might have happened to my unshakeable faith (at the time) had I been exposed to a free-thinking friend like you.
Smile

"All that is necessary for the triumph of Calvinism is that good Atheists do nothing." ~Eric Oh My
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05-02-2012, 09:39 AM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
Good arguments. Smile

My two personal favorites are the argument from nonbelief and problem of evil.

Out of curiosity, were you raised an atheist or did you de-convert?
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05-02-2012, 10:29 AM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
Ha! Good arguments! Smile

My favorite sentence of all you wrote:
"If every Christian died today, would Christianity be true tomorrow?" Angel

PRICELESS! Heart

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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05-02-2012, 11:47 PM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
Alright, thanks guys. Here's are answers to your questions:

In response to Ben, I could say I converted. I would say I was never a really strong Christian, but I kinda developed it on my own. Briefly:

As a kid, I went to church, but was too young to understand.
For a while, I was undecided, but I always kinda thought there was a God, and off-and-on prayed.
Briefly, I prayed nightly, indepently, because of fear of not doing what I was supposed to, and obligation. I also was praying for family members health and things like that, as my uncle had a stroke, my dad was out of a job or something, and things like that. I always felt it was a pain to pray, but I felt I had to.
I went through an agnostic phase later, somehow, and I do not remember the transition, but I know that one kid said "You don't believe in God? You're going to Hell" to a friend, and he said that that guy was ignorant for saying that, and that he's agnostic. That gave me the courage to say I was agnostic.
My dad asked me, and I told him agnostic. He's not forcing his beliefs on me (he says he's a Christian, which I have no doubt about, but he doesnt go to church, for several reasons, such as he thinks it's corrupt).
Then, I became an atheist after a while, technically agnostic atheist, because while I cannot know, I live on the assumption that there is no God, and carry out my necessary business as I need to. This is where I am now.

By the way, I found this website through a Facebook post, where an atheist and Christian were arguing. I decided to check it out, and here I am today! Big Grin

Also, thanks, the question "If every Christian died today, would Christianity be true tomorrow" was something I made while typing the post, something that I will attempt to include in future arguments. I not only included actual arguments that I said to these people, but things I planned to use in the future (unless I indicated conversation, or was describing our exchanges).

"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned" - Anonymous
I am glad to live where there is no God, for I am moral, and mortal; I do not wish to worship He who crafts an immoral immortality.
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06-02-2012, 06:23 AM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
very interesting! Read the whole thing, a lot to digest but wow, at school I didn't have the (non existent) balls to talk about me not being Christian. So, respect!

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06-02-2012, 01:39 PM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
While it is true that Christianity is the world's majority religion, this trend is more recent than you may suspect. A few years ago Confucianism, a religion that follows the teaching of Confucius, was a state religion in China. But now that the Chinese have religious freedom, Christianity has become dominant and is the reason for Christianity's overall population advantage.

But you're right, it's fallacious to believe that something is true simply because a lot of people believe it --- belief doesn't create fact. At one time, the majority of the world believed that the Earth was flat. It didn't become round just because people stopped believing it was flat.

Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion made the same case that you do in point #1 --- that we are all atheists, but theists simply believe in one more God than we do. In that same book, Dawkins points to "cargo cults" as religions that have sprung up before our eyes (although Scientology may be a better example), and so we see that religions can be manufactured. Christians may argue that their religion is true because "it's old", but that doesn't make sense either --- just because we don't have a specific date that it was manufactured doesn't mean that it wasn't. And the term "old belief" usually means "what we believed before we had a better understanding of science". Astrology, drilling holes in skulls as medical relief, and (I love this example) a flat earth are all "old beliefs", but that doesn't make them true.

On point #6, you've stumbled upon the fallacy of Argument from Ignorance. When we talk about Christianity, we use the term "God did it" to mean the same thing, that Christians believe that "God did it" if we lack a better explanation. Again referring to the example of a flat Earth, the Earth was not flat just because we didn't have a full understanding of cosmology. It was never flat, and it was not logical to assume it was flat just because nobody knew for certain what shape it was.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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06-02-2012, 10:19 PM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
Thanks again guys, I need to stock more ammo for the larger battles in the future. I have "God is Not Great" in my room (It's under a desk in my room, my Christian dad got it from someone, and it wasted away in the closet. He brought out a box of books he was never going to read one day, and asked if I wanted any. I took that book while he was not looking, and it was on top, so I'm lucky because I automatically assumed that I wouldn't need any of those books.), and I'll read it (or finish it) when I get the time. I'm sure I can find a few bullets in there.

"Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned" - Anonymous
I am glad to live where there is no God, for I am moral, and mortal; I do not wish to worship He who crafts an immoral immortality.
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07-02-2012, 12:28 AM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
(06-02-2012 10:19 PM)nsguy1350 Wrote:  Thanks again guys, I need to stock more ammo for the larger battles in the future. I have "God is Not Great" in my room (It's under a desk in my room, my Christian dad got it from someone, and it wasted away in the closet. He brought out a box of books he was never going to read one day, and asked if I wanted any. I took that book while he was not looking, and it was on top, so I'm lucky because I automatically assumed that I wouldn't need any of those books.), and I'll read it (or finish it) when I get the time. I'm sure I can find a few bullets in there.

Have you read the Bible by any chance? It's been said in studies that most Christians have never even read the Bible. I would imagine reading the Bible would give you the most ammunition possible when arguing with someone who believes it. Though I have not read the Bible yet I think if you're more informed on the subject than they are, you stand a good shot. Smile I plan on reading the Bible in full when I get a chance.

I think the reason most people tend to believe in their religion is because they really don't think about it themselves other than to defend that in which they were taught. What they were taught is the fluffy side of things. I don't see how someone who can think for themselves can possibly believe in some of the things these religions are feeding them.
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07-02-2012, 12:44 AM
RE: My (Elementary) Arguments with Friends
(07-02-2012 12:28 AM)Kinger Wrote:  Have you read the Bible by any chance? It's been said in studies that most Christians have never even read the Bible. I would imagine reading the Bible would give you the most ammunition possible when arguing with someone who believes it. Though I have not read the Bible yet I think if you're more informed on the subject than they are, you stand a good shot. Smile I plan on reading the Bible in full when I get a chance.

I am one of those atheists that understand religion's faults better because I was a Christian at one time, so I had the benefit of reading the bible 5 times through before I realized that it was stupid and batshit. I would recommend to any atheist that, if you decide to read the bible, that you check out the Skeptics' Annotated Bible. The annotations here are interesting reads and they point out every inconsistency with science, morals, and other parts of the bible. There's also a Book of Mormon and a Qur'an here --- I've read through both, but I don't think I could've survived them if I wasn't reading them on that site.

My girlfriend is mad at me. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried cooking a stick in her non-stick pan.
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