Welcome to the first part of what will be a series of blogs from me regarding the hows and whys of engaging in Theism Vs Atheism/Agnosticism debates with believers of all sorts. In this series I hope to help those of you that would like to get out there and "fight the good fight" so to speak. Religion didn't spread the way it did all on it's own and ridding the world of it won't happen all by itself either. Well it probably will eventually but it'll take a damn long time. The best way to combat religious dogma is to tackle head on. Get out there and do your part. There was a recent blog on here about someone who managed to convert 2 acquaintances to non-belief. That blogger also mentioned a 3rd person who, after entering the discussion late, simply shrugged it off by saying something along the lines of "I think scientists are stupid." The blogger left it at that and let the girl walk away. Perhaps they felt the person was just too thickheaded to reach or perhaps they weren't equipped to rebut such a comment.
My overall goal with this series of blogs will be to equip all of those ready and willing with the knowledge and ammunition you will need to debate religion with even the most thoroughly brainwashed people. My first goal is to smash and destroy 2 common problems on OUR side of the battle. Those going about it the wrong way and those who say it's not worth the effort. The first issue in my crosshairs is the "why bother?" atheists who don't feel it's worth the time to debate religion with those that have been indoctrinated with it for years or even decades.
Allow me to open with a story. This is the story of Andrew. Andrew is a coworker of mine, he's 56 years old, he WAS a stern Christian, buying into all the beliefs and dogma that came with it. He was born into a deeply religious family and he's attended church every Sunday without exception since the day he was born. Andrew could always be found during his lunch break reading the Bible, every day. He was a firm creationist who believed the word of the bible literally. One day I decided to go up to Andrew and inquire about his reading, he read it every day for half an hour for the year and a half since he began working there and I can only assume read it on his off time as well. When I asked how many times he's read the Bible he was unsure but estimated that he'd been through the pages front to back close to, if not more than, 100 times. I shared with him my non-belief and thus our debates began.
Every day we would meet up in the break room and discuss religion, he would present the reasons for his stern belief in the Christian teachings and I would refute them with my own reasons for non-belief. It was not a heated or hostile debate and indeed we both grew to look forward to our daily debates musing over the positives and negatives of religious belief. Sometimes we would even draw a crowd who would listen to our back and forth banter. Sometimes we'd debate a single subject for days at a time, momentarily pausing our debate at the end of our lunch break only to pick up where we left off the next day. Every day my logic and pointings to science would chip away at decades of armor built up through the church. He was open and receptive to everything I said, this went on for several weeks. One day something amazing happened.
I walked into the break room ready to pick up our ongoing debate once more. But Andrew wasn't reading the Bible this time. He'd picked up a new book instead, something he'd certainly never dream of even looking at a few weeks earlier. I was astonished to see Andrew sitting there reading Charles Robert Darwin's "On The Origin Of Species." I walked over and sat at the table across from Andrew and simply said "So...." Andrew looked up, laughed, and said "I guess this means mission accomplished, huh?" He went on to tell me that he was a little tired as he'd been up all night reading the book but found it utterly fascinating and could barely put it down even joking that he went so far as to consider calling off work so he could continue his reading. It was almost magical, you could see it in his eyes - he had the giddy look of a 5 year old who had just peered through a telescope for the first time and seen the wonders of the universe. It was as though his whole mind had been wiped clean and he was ready, and downright anxious, to relearn the ways of the world. There was no debate that day, I just sat back and smiled as he rattled off all the amazing things he'd read about in the book and how incredible life is and how he couldn't believe he'd put blinders on to all this incredible information for his whole life. When he finally stopped to take a breath I told him as incredible as Darwin's work was - it was from 1859. If he wanted to see some TRULY amazing things and really marvel over the wonders of our universe he should look online at some of the images sent back from the Hubble Telescope.
At the end of our conversation that day Andrew took a moment to thank me. For convincing him to take his eyes off of the Bible long enough to look up and stand in awe of the world around him. He said he wasn't sure he'd lost all belief in a higher power but he'd certainly spent his last day supporting the Christian church or any organized religion for that matter. To him it wasn't even so much about the more palpable crimes of murder and torture committed by organized religion but, in his own words, "the unspeakable evil of deflecting the human mind away from these incredible things." As we walked out of the break room he said that he hoped one day he could soak up enough knowledge to do for someone else what I'd done for him. I told him that I hope he does as well so that he could feel the incredible joy of witnessing a man or woman stand up and take notice of the world around them for the first time in 56 years instead of wasting their life worrying about what comes after it.
I hope the same for anyone that reads this series of blogs as it is truly a marvelous thing. What I just described happened yesterday and it left me feeling on top of the world for the rest of the day. The high you get from seeing a 56 year old man who had dedicated his entire life to religious study born again as a child of science rather than a child of god can't be duplicated by any drug. You can't convert them all and I've certainly learned that in my lifetime but even succeeding with one is an incredible feeling. I will remember those debates with Andrew and the childish glee on his face as he rediscovered the world around him with fondness for the rest of my life.
NEXT: More on WHY you should look to confront religion everywhere you can as well as why you should tread carefully. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Stay tuned.