Living in a small conservative town, I am surrounded by theists on a daily bases.  As soon as they find out that I'm an atheist, they always want to start a debate with me.  Because most people here are college students, I encounter liberal Christians more often than not.  

Most of them don't take the bible literally, and basically think that the bible is one big metaphor and use it as some kind of self help book.  They usually have a good understanding of science, and don't think that science and religion contradict each other.  I will gladly debate these people about philosophy and the history of the bible, and a lot of them eventually end up abandoning it after a while.

However, there are other types of Christians that I have a hard time talking to.  I often run across people who are young earth creationist types, and have more apologist arguments than I could count.  These type of people are very difficult to debate, because the layers upon layers of bullshit explanations run so deep, that I usually don't even know where to start.  I feel like in order to debate these people, I would have to explain to them high school freshman level biology, which I really don't have time to do. 

 I can usually take these arguments apart pretty easily, but they usually don't even understand my explanations.  A lot of these people were home schooled or went to religious schools their whole life, and have no idea what is wrong with these arguments.

How do you talk to people like this?  How do you start, and is it even worth it?

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It is worth considering the potential audience when talking to hardcore fundamentalists. You may have no hope of ever converting the person you are debating, but you can sow the seeds of critical thought in the minds of anyone on the sidelines. For that purpose alone it can be worth confronting them.
[shameless rip-off of 'I am ashamed of some monkeys' alert]

There are so many people that huff in my town. How can I talk to them? They won't take their face out of the paper sack and I cannot really understand their muffled voices...
You can't expect to educate people before making your explanations. It's not feasible. And not worth it.
Just try to play a game. Try to convince them to tell you what their beliefs are and where do they come from. This usually plants a seed. Also, keep your cool and be nice. Works in the long term.

It is hard with fundamentalists. The whole is summed by Scott D. Weitzenhoffer:
"Debating Creationists on the topic of Evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon; it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory."

Not only for evolution but the scientific method in general.
Personally I don't think the idea is to 'win' the debate. If you can spark off a bit of interest in just one area then maybe that person will be interested enough to go & start to educate themselves. I found this conversion story very enlightening...

In it she outlines how one small thing after another led her to investigate her beliefs more fully. Also, from reading a few deconversion stories on here, I think a fair proportion of people actually come to non-belief through attempting to back up their religious beliefs. Someone mentioned how a lot of religious people have actually not read the Bible very well if at all - perhaps following the instruction in a study guide. One of the things that LovingDoubt mentions in the video above is that when she went to the Bible to try to prove her beliefs she actually found massive discrepancy.

I can't really suggest a subject to start with, but maybe you can suggest to these people that they come back with specific bible verses backing up what they are saying - chances are they can't!
So you are trying to convert them to nothingness?Take their arguements apart? My you are very smart.No one can defeat you except death then you will prove your point-or those nasty theists will prove theirs!!!
No one's trying to convert anyone, people are free to believe whatever they want to. Also, no one is trying to prove a point, we can't ever prove there is no God.
Actually, I make it a point to never start religious conversations. It's just not something I care to do. However I CONSTANTLY have Christians trying to convert me. As soon as they find out I'm an atheist, they want to start some huge debate or discussion. I usually don't mind having these types of discussions, but when people don't know anything about science or critical thinking then it is frustrating to carry on ANY discussion where we disagree.

Also, I am not worried about anything happening to me when I die. One of the reasons I left Christianity was because I started learning about other religions when I was a teenager, and I was worried that mine could be wrong, and that I might be going to hell for believing the wrong one. This led me to study as many religions as I could, trying to find the 'right' one so that I didn't go to hell. I soon realized that there was just as much proof for Christianity as there was for any other religion, and when I studied the histories of these religions and not just the books themselves, I realized that there was nothing divine about any of them. They were all started by people and fit the agenda of the times, and they all had flaws. I'm not going to live in fear, wondering which of the infinite number of possibilities that could send me to heaven or hell are right. I prefer to just live my life.

Sometimes a raised eyebrow can speak volumes. A little light mockery can also do wonders.

I had that problem earlier this week. It was just me and a guy on facebook arguing that marriage is not a right and it dissolved into him trying to prove that god existed to me while I was just trying to prove that evolution could happen to him--he answered every bit of proof with completely unrelated blocks of questions, and I eventually gave up and had to block him.

Perhaps in front of someone, it is worth it, but, don't even try.

I am tempted more and more to just shout "STRIKE ME DOWN NOW GOD, IF YOU ARE REAL!" or similar and see what happens. I know nothing will but the looks on their faces could be as priceless as a mastercard commercial.

Imagine you're on a train car and you're sitting at a table with a Young Earth Creationist having tea and debating religion.  On the table is also a brief case with science that is proven and also compromises the Creationists arguments.   They stand up while still talking to you and holding your gaze, while simultaneously throwing proven science out the window and only the look in their eyes tells you what they're thinking...  "Look how easily I deny what is irrefutably proven with rock-solid evidence to defend my lies from the barrage of education you're about to use to "school" me, while simultaneously pissing you off because it makes me feel better and helps me make up for the fact that I know I'm wrong."


That is why you can't argue with a YEC.  lol.  Am I wrong?

Don't argue with them.  Just throw in an a short pithy comment that cuts to the quick of what they say then walk away--literally, if you have to.  They are dangerous.  The more you try to reason with them, the more likely they are to decide you are "evil".


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