I'm active on a few sites and there seems to be a few truths. One is that many atheists were at one time religionists. The ones that were once religionists seem to think that they have a monopoly on escaping religion. Their path out is the only way to escape religion. It's not unlike AA members. You must follow these 12 steps and keeping coming back because it works. Much like AA isn't THE way (or statistically, a way) there are many paths out of religion.

I make arguments against religion in all sorts of ways. One of my most recent ones here was an appeal to science and reason over the magical claims. Some of the responses were effectively, "No, no... Jesus is magic so that argument won't work." Oh, so we shouldn't ever talk about science because God is magic and he wins? Everyone pack up your evolution arguments, goddidit and is just confusing you. We can't debate the flood anymore.  

Bart Erhman has a new book out called Forged. In discussing it, someone said, (para) "This is nothing new. We all know that Matthew wasn't written by the Apostle Matthew. Even my pastor taught us that." So I respond with a textual criticism of John 3:3 that Erhman makes about the usage of a word "Onothan" (phonetic sp.) and how it doesn't translate to Aramaic to show that Erhman goes further than your honest pastor. Another atheist responds that basically errors are the way to lead people out of religion because clearly the book wasn't written by God, and that's what led him out.

Others might make the argument that morality arguments of the Bible are the way to lead people out. Who will stand for slavery, rape, the subjugation of women, dashing the little ones against the stones, etc? The excuses abound and my experience is that while this may work, you don't see the "Ah-Ha!" moments from these arguments. That's not to say that these arguments shouldn't be made.

The reality is that we have all come to atheism from different paths. There are hundreds, or thousands, of arguments that could be made to free someone's mind. I like to think that I approach it from many angles. This largest phallic contest that occurs of "my argument is the only way" that goes on in many places on the web is counter-productive. Maybe the argument that speaks to one atheist won't speak to you. OK. Does that mean that we shouldn't make the argument? Does that mean that it won't speak to one of the millions of other hits here or billions of people on the web? Criticize the material where it needs to be criticized. Don't criticize the argument because it doesn't speak to you. We are effectively broadcasting. Each argument can't be tailored to fit each person's sensibilities of what led them out of religion. Just accept that what spoke to you to lead you out of religion, isn't likely to be the same as what speaks to, or spoke to, the next person. We needn't be monolithic in our approach like your pastor was with religion. 

Views: 27

Comment by Heather Spoonheim on May 26, 2011 at 12:03pm

Another good idea well stated, Gaytor.  My only strong suggestion to those trying to persuade theists to reason is using a large volume of evidence/arguments.  No matter how one goes about it, I think it is always important to remember that the debate will not lead anywhere quickly.  I compare it to trying to nail a pound of pasta to the wall - one need carry a big bag of nails.


I like to stay out of their dogma because it is more pliable than peanut butter - but some people do well at using that to get the theist to circle back and contradict themselves.  I have really found the various debates here, theistic or not, to be very useful in dusting off the old critical thinking skills, fine tuning my ability to recognize logical fallacies, and hemming my opponents into a position.


Perhaps the greatest evidence of the futility of this debate is Kurt Wise.  He actually has a Ph.D. in Geology from Harvard and states, "...if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate."

Comment by Morgan Matthew on May 26, 2011 at 1:38pm

Comment by Derek on May 26, 2011 at 9:32pm

Yes, different arguments work for different people.  


I wonder is there a survey (hard data) indicating the way (as in thoughts) in which people converted to atheism?



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