Okay, so I frequent an online chat room moderated by youtube apologist/egomaniac Shockofgod. I have to say about him and the experiences I've had with other atheists and christians there, but there's just one small point that strikes me as odd.
It seems to me that, at least in that forum, the longer a religious discussion goes on, the more likely it is that it will tend to become a Physics discussion... in other words, not a religious discussion. I think this is odd because physics is a field of study that the average person knows little to nothing about. I'm going to be taking Physics in college next semester, and I personally wouldn't have been eligible to sign up for it if I didn't have adequate grades in Calculus (and I suspect that the courses I took in Chemistry will come in handy too). Consequently, I'm amazed that your average joe christian who lacks formal education (and might even be adverse to "evil" colleges) feels that, after reading a couple articles on *enter website here,* they are an expert on the subject qualified enough to ram their "knowledge" down other people's throats and ignore all opposition. So, if you ever want to live through the surreal experience of being lectured on the intricate details of a field of study as complicated as fucking PHYSICS by a thirteen year old christian apologist who owes his confidence to a couple articles found on Answers In Genesis, then by all means, go visit Shockofgod's online chat room.
So why Physics? I'll tell you why; it's a copout. It's a cover for an otherwise general lack of evidence of the existence of any god. For instance, you'll hear numerous modern christians opining that their god is "beyond mankind's capacity of understanding" or that he "exists somewhere outside the universe." Well here's something to consider: NOBODY knows what exists outside the universe. Isn't awfully revealing that apologists cherry-pick some intellectual grey-area and plant their god there, all the while professing absolute confidence in their being correct? Why not plant a god in a place that humans have significantly more knowledge of? The answer is this: It's been done before. Once you understand that religious types once said that gods lived on mountains (before we explored them), and then they said that they lived in the sea (before we explored it), and then they said they lived somewhere in the sky, or space (before telescopes or before we understood exactly what clouds, the sun, and the moon are), and NOW some of them say that god exists somewhere "outside" the universe, then you've discovered what I call the "retreating god" dilemma. Every time we learn something new, the discussion changes. And now it's physics. Well, whatever.
My first exposure to Physics was in my junior year of high school. I never thought it'd be relevant to my career in the future, so I skimmed by with B's and C's. I wasn't the only one; in general, the entire class seemed indifferent to Physics. If only I or my instructor knew that the key to getting adolescents interested in Physics is religion, then maybe I would have invested more interest in the subject.
Anyway, in the interest of making this a discussion instead of a rant, have any of you had this experience before? Better yet, have any of you ever felt that a christian could convert you with a Physics related subject like the Big Bang? I ask because I've met christians who claim to have been atheist who became christians once they "learned" about physics.
Norway (where people actually live) is usually -25 to +35. But worse than the cold winters is the mere 4-5 hours of sunlight around Christmas, though the 20 hours around mid summer is an experience everyone should enjoy.
I once saw the sun twice between early October and mid March. Makes me very SAD. :)
The idea that an assumption is correct because it correlates to the beliefs of a large majority of a group is nothing more than an argument ad populum. Not to mention the atrocious appeal to authority, as such it holds no water in an actual debate. What if it was flipped around? What if 93% of the NAS scientists were Christians? Would that affect your worldview? The NAS isn't split where 93% of their members are atheists searching to prove their ideas through science and the 7% of religious people are religious apologists. That 7% still has some of the most profound scientific minds to date. The problem here is that a majority of people, all people not just religious folks, misunderstand at a fundamental level even the most basic scientific theories and principles.
I agree with your final sentiment about having adequate knowledge of the other side but the other side of religion is not necessarily science. What about philosophy, critical thinking applied to theological claims? Even If it is then we're all screwed. There are perhaps a handful of scientists on this board, and by that I mean people who spent 4 years pursuing a Bachelor's degree in science, 2 years obtaining a Master's degree and then between 5 and 7 years completing a Doctorate of Philosophy degree, all within the sciences of course. Your whole argument falls in with the many fallacious arguments applied to this subject on both sides of the discussion.
I do, however, think there is a key difference between science and religion. Science is falsifiable; therefore if something new is discovered it can enhance the map of common knowledge. Religion, however, has some particular presumptive conclusions that they by definition cannot yield. Therefore, you see some religious types assuming that if god could be somewhere, then it must.
Again I want to stress that I, like you, have seen atheists make some notable blunders.
I think the key to an honest discussion is the willingness of everyone involved to acknowledge that they may not have the authority to make broad statements. Also, I think people in general should be prepared to admit, when appropriate, that they just don't know much about where a conversation is heading. Sometimes it's just more appropriate to drop a discussion and do some research then just to throw blind punches with little or no knowledge of a subject.