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).
Well Mike, If believers simply believed in a god and left it at that, your point would be valid however, we all know that in the real world we live in, they are active on many fronts - take the "intelligent design" argument for example and their desire to introduce it as a "valid" scientific alternative to the theory of evolution, or the extensive lobbying against stem cell research, or even the outrageous fleecing of millions of dollars by television evangelists. It would be easy to simply ignore them if they weren't so hellbent (sorry....!!) on forcing very real and dangerous misconceptions on the world. To sit on the fence and say nothing is, by virtue of our silence, an acceptance/acknowledgement of the validity of their arguments, and we then become complicit in their irrationality.
Unfortunately your belief that "whoever has the best case or makes the best argument wins" doesn't hold any sway when debating religious believers. Having seen many debates by Christopher Hitchens / Sam Harris / Richard Dawkins etc, it is obvious that rational, logical arguments backed by vast amounts of scientific evidence means nothing to someone who has arrived at a belief system through emotional, non-rational means.
By the way, you have no evidence of Santa Claus. Simply because you have seen men dressed as "Santa Claus" doesn't mean you therefore have evidence he exists. If that was the case any bearded bloke dressed in a sheet claiming to be Jesus, by your definition, would be evidence that Jesus exists. (See how easy it is to fall into illogical rationalizations)?.
I can't answer for anyone else here as to why we are here at TA but for myself, I could't look my kids in the eye if I didn't at least attempt to stem the rising tide of utter bullshit and blatant snake oil pedalling that is religion.
Good points, David. I would add that religion has been working diligently for centuries to make sure that the "marketplace of ideas" doesn't function properly--to prevent the best ideas from winning. We need to counter that.
I used to be a theist, before I was exposed to all sides of the argument. I found vast amount of information, arguments and debates on the internet that helped deconvert me gradually. Don't underestimate the power of logic and reason vs. fairy tale arguments over people who are trying to find answers and think for themselves.
As human societies, we internally seek homogeneity, as opposed to diversity. Historically, every culture has had its own value systems. Within each of these societies, there was a large degree of homogeneity. It's the only way for society to function. All modern countries work fine as long as everyone is on the same footing and has access to generally the same resources. Take France for example. It used to be among world leaders on the happiness scale before their immigration problems. Is it the immigrants fault? not really, it's the government's fault for letting the situation get out of hand. Canada had extremely low crime rates until Asians rendered Vancouver uber violent and Carribean expats increased violence in Toronto. Cultural diversity as a value system is unworkable, but it is placed up front of social values because it makes us SEEM altruistic and generous about our acceptance of other cultures. In the USA's first centuries, other than slaves, most other immigrants had equal opportunity, and equal backgrounds, they were all "immigrants". But this century, the sense that there is a contradiction between the "established" culture and newcomers desires has grown ever stronger. This is natural. The only way for a society to function peacefully is to agree on a large common ground. Masses of immigrants living in squalor and in ghettos is in direct conflict with orderly social functioning.
So it is entirely natural for theists to work at effecting and/or maintaining homogeneity. Just as if atheists were to colonise a lesser-battling culture and overtake them, we'd most certainly organise our social structure around godlessness, just as Humanists would organise around human priorities and Buddhists organise on Buddhist principals.
What's interesting is that it's not about atheists being right or wrong, it's not important. The point is atheists in general are similarly interested in growing our ranks, because it favours our world view.
First, it entertains me.
Second, it enlightens me.
Third, it can contribute to enlightening others, including the person I am having the discussion with, and onlookers. I don't know about any deconversions, but progress is made quite frequently.
Apologies if this answer has been posed, but I didn't read the nine pages of responses.
It's been my feeling that for every participant in such arguments, there may be an additional ten lurkers or on-lookers who never participate. I think it's often those lurkers that may be the most influenced by rational explanations and criticisms and logical arguments. They're the ones who are doubting and searching for answers.