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).
This is from the short clip of Dawkins full video on "The Greatest Show on Earth." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhmsDGanyes
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explains that he no longer debates creationists because his presence only validates their status. He compares the situation to a reproductive scientist agreeing to debate an advocate of the "stork theory."
I'm a new member also. TA has help. There are very few atheists in my friends and family. Heck, my best friend in the whole world was an atheist and now a full blown Muslim.
I'm also more inclined to tell someone I am an atheist now. Let them see I am an honest happy person without a god.
And maybe sometimes I do want to persuade others. Not that I do this. 911 and other acts of violence may be about oil, power, politics, etc. But pretty much the only way to persuade a human being to crash into a building, is through religion. If you are an atheist, you clearly see things like this. If you are a christian, well, you just gave your religion another high five!
I think deciding when, or with whom, to argue should depend on the circumstances/person. I've decided it is absolutely futile to argue with my mother about this stuff. She refuses to even consider the idea there is no god. My brother and I have both made the best arguments, and have even stumped her, but then she pulls out, "Well, I just don't understand the mind of God" or some other BS, cop-out answer.
I de-converted from Christianity to atheism mostly on my own, with a little assistance from my father. The questions he posed to me weren't convincing to me, but I was already honestly seeking truth. In my experience, I don't think I ever encountered any atheists who had really honed their debate skills while I was a Believer. What happened was that I was researching the history of Christianity and Judaism, and it all crumbled like a house of cards. It did take a while for me to finally conclude there was no god at all, even though I dumped Christianity pretty quickly.
My brother de-converted around the same time, but we had separate experiences (which was very cool). He's been a lot more outspoken about his lack of belief to his friends, and to our family. He has had quite a lot of success actually de-converting staunch Christians. He's charismatic anyway, and I don't think that I would have the same sway over people. Or there's just a part of me that wants to avoid this particular conflict in the public sphere. I won't enter a debate unless I know there's ample time to hash things out, and that rarely happens anymore.
Anyway, I see the value in debating these things. People are de-converting in droves lately, and I think it's because of these online conversations. You just can't argue with everyone. There are some that it really is futile to engage.
Charisma is a personality trait, and I do realize many religious preachers/teachers utilize that talent to their advantage. It can be dangerous, but it can also be beneficial. People tend to follow leaders, and charisma is the hallmark of a leader. You're cynical enough to understand that people are sheep and they seek a leader. It's innate. Why not at least present them with a leader who's actually trying to educate them? Dawkins, Harris, and even Hitchens, all have charisma. Sagan had it. Some would call it "swag". There's just something about some people that draws others in; makes them want to listen. Sure, they can use that natural draw to manipulate, but charisma isn't the only personality trait people can use to manipulate. Whether or not you like "charisma" is irrelevant. Some people just have it, just like any other personality trait.
Even still... I think you're taking my example to the extreme. People listen to my brother is my only real point, because he has a personality that people are drawn to. He may not be aware of that. He's certainly not purposefully utilizing it. He's just talking and debating, and people listen.
And I've seen you use the "mushy atheist" term pretty frequently. How many of these have you met? I think a couple have stumbled onto this site, but they left pretty quick.
Were you ever a Christian, or religious? I'm just going to assume that you've pretty much always been atheist, and let you in on something. If you're a Believer, it's no small thing to denounce God and Jesus. It's monumental and life-altering. I understand the point you're making... if people are so easily swayed one way, it wouldn't take much to turn them back... but in this instance, I think you don't realize the gravity of de-conversion for Christians. It took me two years to let go and admit I didn't believe there was a god. Well, I think that puts me outside the realm of "mushy atheist", but... it was terrifying each step of the way. There are (according the the Bible) serious consequences to "turning your back on God", so if anyone were not truly convinced there was no god, I doubt they'd be so flippant and say they were atheist just to get in on a cute trend.
I don't think atheism is a trend. I think people are finally being exposed to the arguments against religion and the idea of a deity. It is catching on, but I know very few atheists that would ever turn back to religion. Ever. It does happen, but rarely. Taking the final step and admitting there is no god is SERIOUS business to people indoctrinated their whole life.
I doubt I've convinced you though; I've gotten the impression you generally don't like people anyway, and don't think they're worth the effort in any case... including saving if they're dying (the world is overpopulated, after all). But I haven't given up on humanity, and so I'll continue debating them in the off-chance they have a light-bulb moment. Which is exactly what happened to me, and I can promise you I would never turn back to religion.
Besides, debates plant seeds. Maybe they don't de-convert immediately, but something said makes them start thinking and researching. You can't assume it's ever an instant thing.
And you can't discount where the argument is made, either. Just because they happen to be conducted on the internet doesn't mean the arguments aren't credible or convincing. The arguments against religion are numerous... and logically sound. So who cares if those excellent arguments are presented by stick figures on YouTube or in 140 characters or less on Twitter? A good argument is a good argument, and people are utilizing their resources to reach millions of people... and effectively. GOOD FOR THEM.
Cara, I don't dislike people, but I do dislike the present state of humanity, as a third generation atheist, yes, I'm a bit accustomed to finding the rest of humanity annoying. You make several good points before that comment though. I don't mean to say that all converts are mushy. But if one converts for mushy reasons... you obviously have not converted for mushy reasons.
-Charisma is the reason our political system is so out of wack. Dumb humans value charisma over intelligence.
Charismatic atheists simply shift dumb people's religion from gods to neo-liberalism or Humanism or some other dogma.
To me getting gawd out of one's life is not the ultimate goal, the ultimate goal is undoing the stupidity and naivete created by the gawd connection. Only once people dump all religious/dogmatic thinking and start thinking for themselves instead of following others will we truly achieve rational humans.