I would probably have to call myself a newbie atheist, despite honestly having felt like one the majority of my life. I was that kid who struggled to find new ways to delay my family from getting to church on time in the hopes of getting left behind for punctuality's sake. Once in church, I would promptly crawl under the pews to build fortifications out of the hymn-books and bibles.

I realize now how completely unaware I was of what was happening to me as a kid. I lived in my own fantasy world up until the end of high school. Through college I actively neglected religion, but still clung to a rudimentary belief in God. Now that I'm in my late-20s I'm beginning to recollect my Sunday school lessons where I was always singled out by the teacher because he had some sort of grudge against my father (who is an atheist) and believed that the path to converting him was through me. I'm recalling times where I would get punished by my mom for not attending church, even if I was legitimately sick. It churns my stomach to remember these things, despite never really experiencing a moment of perversion or physical abuse like you read about nowadays.

I'm in that phase where I've now discovered the beauty of nature and the powerful allure of unbelief and the logical underpinnings built into this way of thinking. My problem, however, is that I find myself more critical of other atheists than of religious people. The religious "believers" out there have heaps of faulty logic, make no mistake, but I fear the biggest hurdle free-thinkers face is that the religious still have the power to set the terms of the debate.

I recently had a discussion with a Muslim co-worker about religious belief. The conversation started around work, dabbled into pesonal lives/movies/music/etc., then slowly evolved into a philosophical conversation and then an all-out religious debate. The first question he asked, of course, was "Why don't you believe in God?" I answered that there was simply a lack of evidence to support the existence of such a being as defined by religious scripture. That humans in the form of homo-sapiens had been around for at least 200,000 years that.... he interrupted me with "I don't believe that is true. Scripture says humans are only 6-7000 years old and this is what I believe." My jaw dropped. The rest of our discussion centered on debating terms within religion as defined by the Bible and Qur'an. I mean, really!

I'm of the belief that the biggest gap between religious people and non-believers is our foundation principles and assumptions about the nature of the universe. Putting the emergence of religion within the context of human history, where humans really only invented organized religion within the last 10,000 years and primarily as a result of the agricultural revolution, allows us to deduce that such belief structures serve a purpose in early civilization building, but that as time goes on and technology progresses their purpose becomes muddled at best. But in that discussion I was having, I had no way of convincing him of even the most basic of scientific proofs that he could believe. It was like he had a blindfold on to any and all logic.

On that same note, it actually disheartens me to bear witness to heavy weight evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins getting sucked into debates (with people like Bill O'Reilly), where the religionist sets the conditions of the debate and then Dawkins has to maneuver his giant intellect within these narrowly defined topics where it's usually constructed to give more credence to the religionist perspective. Enough!

Why can't we change the debate? Perhaps I'm hasty with this question. I acknowledge that our biggest problem is in educating people about scientific thought and methodology first, and then teaching them to apply it in their everyday lives afterwards. But I'm aching for that day when we can simply talk of evolution and science without a religionist jumping in and saying, "Oh, I don't believe that non-sense, give me some Jesus any day and that's all I need."

For now, I try to observe these conversations more and more, looking for that "in" where I can potentially change the debate in our favor. Since that rarely happens, I find myself simply watching, listening, and thinking (freely).


I started my own blog a few years back but kept erasing and rewriting the articles to the point where it currently only has a handful of them.... and I'm not even sure I'll keep those. Perhaps I'll just shift my writing to this site, but for those interested, here's the link to my other one: Average Atheist Blog

Views: 37

Comment by Galen on December 28, 2009 at 5:08pm
The religious will always try to control the debate and found it in THEIR principles. We *should* immediately laugh at them and say "No, no, that's silly, I'm not even having a discussion with you if you can't be grown-up about it." We can't get to that point, however, because they'd use it as "proof" that we're "scared to debate them."

For the time being, we're left refuting their dumb claims, but it IS getting better :)
Comment by Jacqueline Sarah Homan on December 28, 2009 at 6:27pm
I can sympathize because I'm not one of the "Smart Guy" cleverer-than-thou crowd who always seems to know how to be a professional argument-winner. I never had a logic class in either high school or college. So I don't feel very confident at arguing with people. What I AM confident in, what I am good at, is writing and speaking passionately about my position. But that probably doesn't matter or count for much.
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on December 28, 2009 at 6:47pm
I'm sorta at a point in my life where I can't be bothered. The best a 'believer' can hope for from me is a glance of sheer irritation. If pressed, I might give some sarcastic response about the logical reasoning abilities of a person that believes all the world's animals could fit on one non-climate controlled boat.
Comment by Jacqueline Sarah Homan on December 28, 2009 at 6:52pm
Well Matthew, I really appreciate your encouragement. But I *do* feel very lost and out of my league when it comes to debating. CaraColleen did a better job than I knew how to do on Deserai's discussion a few minutes ago, and Rich Hammett (the other guy) still claimed she didn't answer his question about what constitutes "indoctrination" and whatnot.
Comment by Jacqueline Sarah Homan on December 28, 2009 at 7:02pm
@ Misty:

I remember as a child when my grandmother was teaching me Torah and she got to that part (long after my BDU picked up on the Genesis shell game) about Noah's ark and I thought to myself "where, I mean seriously WHERE, did all that animal and human poop go?"
Comment by Jacqueline Sarah Homan on December 28, 2009 at 7:10pm
@ G. Randall:

If you really want to piss your Muslim co-worker off, tell him that Allah is a black rock and Mohammed was a pedophile :>
Comment by girlatheist on December 28, 2009 at 8:54pm
I used to try anything and everything to get out of going to church. My favorite tactic was to sneak into mom's room and turn off her alarm. She would sleep through church time. I tried this almost every week and got away with it about twice.

As science progresses, we need less and less 'god' to fill in the gaps of knowledge.
Comment by G. Randall on December 29, 2009 at 12:29am

I'm thankful for the argument I had with my Muslim friend because it was the first time I actually tried to express myself about any religion to anyone other than my wife. It taught me something very valuable. I had assumed I could control the debate with ease and simply point out religiosity's flawed logic. I know better now. That's why I've stepped back a bit and started to listen more to find the patterns in most people's view of religion.


Brilliant! Wish I would've thought of that one. Not sure if it would have worked. My mom was a light sleeper.

Thanks for the feedback everyone!
Comment by Jacqueline Sarah Homan on December 29, 2009 at 8:15am
G. Randall: "he interrupted me with "I don't believe that is true. Scripture says humans are only 6-7000 years old and this is what I believe." "

Here's a good one for future reference: We know that the historical Trojan War, the subject of Homer's epic classic, The Illiad, really happened. We know from archeological excavations that the Troy and Sparta of Homer's tale really existed. We know from historical documentation and geneological accounts that the ruling houses of Iron Age Rome and Europe descended from the members of Trojan and Dardanian nobility that fled the burning city in 1184 BC.

There is much historical accuracy about the Trojan War in Homer's Illiad. Yet, why do we not believe that there really were Supreme Deities (Zeus, Apollo, Hera, Athena, Nyx, Hades, etc.) who injected themselves into this war — or caused it in the first place, re: Eris tossing the golden apple "to the fairest" by which Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena competed for mortal shepard's choice (Paris).

Believing something just because "the Scriptures say so" is tantamount to believing in the Delphi Oracle.
Comment by Dave G on December 29, 2009 at 3:51pm
In addition to what others have said, there is a fundamental difference between a debate and trying to determine the facts. A debate is focused more on sounding good than it is on establishing what the truth is.

This is one reason that theists tend to like the debate format. Preachers tend to be better at rhetoric and speechmaking, as it is a part of their basic skill set. While there certainly are scientists who have similar skills, it is not a requirement of the profession.


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