Sorry. I'm new here, but I'm already confused.
Why are people arguing the existence/non-existence of God? Honestly is anyone aware of an online conversion being made? In either direction? Has anyone EVER said, "Oh wow, I guess you're right. So there really is/isn't a God."?
To me it makes more sense debating the existence of Santa Clause - which is supported by a great deal more physical evidence. At least I've SEEN Santa Clause.
It seems that engaging in such arguments actually adds strength to theist perspectives because a logical argument should assume a reasonable basis on both sides. Whoever has the best case or makes the best argument wins.
Are there any sound logical arguments in support of God? I assume not. Why then do we argue with people who are not swayed by certainty?
More broadly, why are we here (at TA).
I have to admit I am very skeptical of charismatic people, too. I also dislike that so many leaders are elected based on how personable they are. You're right that a charismatic personality shouldn't be THE reason a person converts, but it certainly doesn't hurt if the intelligent person making the argument is also amiable.
I would agree that getting Jebus out of people's lives isn't the ultimate goal; inspiring critical thought is. But you really do have to make critical thought appealing. I took a critical thought college course, and part of what was captivating about it was that the authors had a sense of humor; they made what could be an extremely boring and sterile topic fun and engaging.
Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word charismatic because people have an idea of what that looks like. It used to be a positive characteristic, now it's looked upon with a skeptical eye... and rightfully so. My point is that my brother is engaging, funny, and able to frame things in a way that is both thought provoking and intriguing/funny.
In our culture, the unfortunate truth is that you do have to make science attractive and approachable. Science has lost many would-be scientists because the text and professors are so dry and monotone (literally and figuratively). I am actually somewhat interested in the topic of economics, but the textbook I was assigned had me falling asleep. I wanted to read it! I wanted to understand, but the lack of personality made it impossible to be fully attentive.
Just like any characteristic, charisma can be a good and bad thing. Used properly, it can make a critical thinker out of the most superficial entertainment-seeker.
Obviously I'm not usually charismatic! But as a TA of several years in dissection classes, both for invertebrates and vertebrates, which most students abhorred with a passion, I compensated for my lack of charisma with originality and goofyness. I liked to point out reproductive behaviours and comestible parts which brought the dissections into the realm of the concrete and created great laughter and entertainment. Thankfully, none of the universities I worked in were religious.
Once one has spent time in university sciences, the need for charisma disappears. as for youth teaching, my most inspiring teachers were also non charismatic. As a student I thrived on originality. I'm glad your economics teacher was non charismatic, pfew, economics is not science but godless religious dogma in its own right! :)
I did indeed notice that Economics is taught with a certain amount of dogma. I especially disliked the "Invisible Hand" notion. The assumption that whatever will be good for a corporation will ultimately be good for society is ludicrous! It's so presumptuous.
Anyway. I guess we've wandered far off-topic here. Perhaps I should look up the word charismatic because I thought it could include goofiness and humor!
Honestly, I used to watch arguments unfold between atheists and theists when I was a theist, and it was stunningly obvious that the theists had no idea what they were talking about, while the atheists had answers and knowledge (as well as proper reasoning and readable prose). I tried arguing with atheists for a while, and though it wasn't de-conversion from any specific argument, de-conversion came about because good debate with other intelligent people often creates better reasoning skills. Atheists began to strike down my most common or convincing arguments (as a theist it is hard to conceive of a possible argument against things like the "uncaused cause" argument), and I slowly began to open up to more lines of reasoning in the hopes of finding a better argument: scientific reasoning at first seemed to back my position, but then it became apparent from more dialogs (less argumentative by now) that science and reason were the things I really did trust. This eventually led to many realizations that my beliefs were unfounded and that I did not reach them through trustworthy means. I do think internet arguments often end with theists abandoning the argument when they have no response, and sometimes the ones really changed are the people on the sidelines, watching theists look like idiots repeatedly.
Why TA? Because it is a place where I can see reasonable people like me who have abandoned myths, and discuss things without that worldview-handicap. Furthermore, because we look out at the world and see so much of it dominated by the religious idiots who want to judge and attack our lives, and it's nice to know there is an actual community filled with like-minded and reasonable people. I am consistently amazed by the level of discussion I see in atheist communities. We might have vastly different political or social views, but it's not very often that I see people demonized or disregarded in discussions. The level of tolerance and open-minded reasonableness is something I rarely find in other forums.
I think that you are missing the point of these debates. We debate religion not (on the whole) to deconvert theists but to engage the logic and rationality that as atheists we posess in spades. Debating something that you believe strongly in is enjoyable and satisfying, particularly if your argument is strong, as much of the arguments against god are.
People are swayed by internet arguments, discussions and debates, but rarely, if ever, during these events - unless the person has very little emotional investment in the outcome.
While de-conversions from a religion are usually lengthy, conversions to religion, often occur in the space of a few minutes or hours. Rational and emotional changes in beliefs and attitudes are very different processes.