I have come to the conclusion that while arguing with a theist, being aggressive is a very counter productive way of doing it. In an argument, there is ultimately the one goal of one side convincing the other side to agree with their original statement, or at least understand their perspective. I have seen atheist online social groups who argue with theists and their aggressive way of communication seems to never achieve the ultimate goal of the argument. Which is why I say its counter productive, I believe it is from the cognitive dissonance in the religious mind that when their religion is contradicted by a fact, they have an emergency ignorance switch bottled up behind their cognitive dissonance. If it seems as though their belief is being "attacked", this triggers the emergency switch and everything you tell them, as factual as it may be, is interpreted as nonsense in their narrowed perspective. So to ultimately achieve the goal of argumentation the theist must overcome their cognitive dissonance, which I believe cannot be forced. You cannot make the change in their mind, they must make it for themselves. An atheist is potentially able to contradict everything in the holy books or belief system of a religion but I believe that the best way to reach this argument goal is by presenting an idea that will cause them to think radically, beyond the confines of their original perspective. Force them to think so that they can make this change on their own.

Any thoughts on that?

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I agree, and would also add that there's little hope of 'conversion' when discussing religion/atheism with a believer.  The best targets of those discussions are the 3rd parties who are listening, and demeanor and tactics should be geared more toward them.

I disagree. If you push the right emotional buttons and ask the right questions, you can plant a seed of doubt. It's much easier to do this when the person isn't feeling defensive.

At first, I thought you were referring to "passive aggression," which is defined as "a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting, or misplacing important materials." 

Might be worth a try.

I often engage in a debates with theists. They are often just regular everyday believers who have engaged in a debate with me without knowing I am an Atheist. It is not possible to reason someone away from their faith because it is not based upon evidence or reasoned logic in the first place. They never reasoned themselves in it in the first place. It is usually built upon lifelong held assumptions which they see as evidence and on the emotional sense of wellbeing that they get from it. My arguments are delivered in an assertive manner but with civility and respect for their point of view. I don’t care if they continue to keep their faith, I just want to get them to start to think critically about what I have said.

This is only done once I can plant a little doubt in their minds. I don’t mean doubts about their faith but rather about their own arguments. Just enough to put a little crack in that wall of cognitive dissonance. Then they might eventually do what no argument can - that is they reason themselves away from their faith all on their own. Then more cracks will appear and they might free themselves completely. Of course, the opposite may happen and the doubts that have been created by my arguments scare them into running back to their book. Alarm bells go off as the voice of god in their head reminds them that doubt is planted by the devil. If I cut into the dissonance enough it will often feel to them that I am being aggressive. It is nothing to do with the arguments I am presenting. It does not matter how eloquent or logical my points. It is seen as aggressive because it starts to undermine the reasons they have for believing which are emotional.

That is a critical part of why people continue to believe. They get emotional support from their faith. Theists do not think critically about their beliefs. So my logical and reasoned non aggressive argument with not be responded to with a logical and reasoned rebuttal. This is because it is first seen as an attack on what gives them emotional support.

That usually leads them to become aggressive towards me and some will tend to shun me in future.  If however they re-engage with me and continue the debate I am very happy to talk some more. They often are already Atheists but don’t know it. They are just looking for clarity and to get over the emotional loss they feel. Once they break the wall of cognitive dissonance they will be able to debate the merits of my arguments without getting emotional. That is when they start to learn critical thinking skills. That is when they stop saying that they have a personal (emotional) relationship with Jesus.

This is not true for all theists. There are the fundamentalist that are so brainwashed (brain-soiled?) by the constant confirmation bias of their faith that the cognitive dissonance has rendered them so emotionless that they are nearly always on the defensive. They are ready to get aggressive at any perceive attack upon their faith. Their magical thinking mind starts to see everything that is not part of their faith as offensive to them. They start to take offensive at the slightest thing and see people that do not think and act the same way their enemy. Yes, they are sheep in the sense that are easily led and manipulated by their leaders who are often just as emotionally barren.

They will gravitate towards the teachings of apologists like WL Craig because they will never see through his clever rhetoric. They will never critically walkthrough his well-constructed arguments to debunk them. They don’t need to because such intelligent sounding arguments from apologists tend to give the theist a massive jolt of confirmation bias in one sitting. This gives them an evangelical emotional high. So they get faith further embedded into their psychic. When you debate with them your points will first have to penetrate their emotions before they can criticize them intellectually.

I have pointed this out before in many other discussions. 

The main reason why it's usually pointless to engage in discussions with theists is that you are basically functioning as a vehicle for them to demonstrate and prove their faith.

Faith, basically, is the capacity to believe something in the face of disconfirming evidence. You can't demonstrate or prove your faith without someone challenging it.

The greater and more conclusive the challenge, the greater one's faith. They don't meet the challenge as a challenge but rather as an opportunity.

Arguing with theists generally will not shake their faith and that is why.

As yourself how many times you have changed your opinion about something because they called you a stupid idiot and told you your opinions are useless and hopelessly pathetic. How many times have you changed someone else’s opinions by patronising them, not listening, interrupting them and telling them that they are utterly wrong and this is what you should believe? How many people have changed their ways while being laughed at and ridiculed with an audience of 5,000 people in an auditorium slapping their knees by how retarded the person is to ever think such stupid shit?

Those people were not trying to exhibit and prove their faith, however.

Yes. This 100%. Who better to break down their shields than themselves?

you will very seldom change the mind of a theist in open debate.  Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but I never have.  What I aim for, is to see the glimmer of deeper thought in their eyes, even for a second.  That may be the spark that will eventually light the fire of free thought.

In failing that, I feel that an argument with a more deeply indoctrinated person, The argument is won when they circle back to something along the lines of 'well, its all about faith really' or 'you just gotta believe'  the belief for beliefs sake argument (at least, that's where the moral victory is anyway)

S/he's not there to offer up her/his mind to be changed. Rather, you represent a test of her/his faith. Until you realize that you won't understand your part in the game s/he's playing. The theist, no matter what s/he says, doesn't believe the existence of God is a scientific fact because God leads a meta-existence.

Arguing with theists, as I've said before, is like trying to teach pigs to dance.  It doesn't work and it annoys the pigs.  Of course, this applies to arguing with atheists also.  I find the best thing to do is just dance and let the pigs be.  Unless, that is, the pigs start demanding that everybody live according to pig standards.  Then all bets are off. 

Mark Twain: "Faith is believing that which you know ain't so." 

The mother of all cognitive dissonance.


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