Atheist Arguments You Shouldn't Use

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Adurumus
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Atheist Arguments You Shouldn't Use

Post #1

Post by Adurumus »

I was shown an excellent webpage, showing a list of arguments Creationists should not use. I love this page, really, and it should be considered one of the first stops on the way to becoming a debater in favor of creationism. Looking at many youtube comments shows, however, that Atheists need such a page too. Weak arguments and rationale hurt not only that individual battle, but the entire war. If atheism becomes associated with weak arguments, it becomes associated with being weak as a whole, and not a credible belief (or lack thereof).

I'm an amateur debater, and I haven't really sparred with anyone other than local people. That being said, even I know the following are terrible things to bring up, if only for people not heavily experienced with the topic:
  • ~If there is a God, why does he allow suffering in the world?
I've seen some strong debaters tackle the idea, but rarely successfully. The bible does state, at multiple points, that evil improves good. You cannot have light without dark, it argues. While I disagree, I can't put my disagreement in to strong and convincing words, and odds are most people can't either.
  • ~Religion is only a tool for political gain and warfare!
When you want to hit a nail, you will find a hammer. Religion is a very big hammer, and a little bit too obvious. I'm not going to pull the "if the suspect is too obvious, he's not the criminal" thing here, and while I'm sure a religion could be created as a tool, that does not mean it always is.
  • ~It's so obvious, why can't you see reason/logic/you're an idiot!
Defamatory marks are poor manners, poor technique, and just poor taste. This is listed in the Debating for Beginners topic, but it goes double for "high horse" atheists. Yes, it makes sense to us. Logic is a domain anyone can approach, while theism is limited to a certain fan club. But your job is to make it obvious, not just state that it is. Show, don't tell.
  • ~God doesn't answer prayers, so he can't.
You can tackle this issue in this topic. Give it a whirl, but note the common response: God works in mysterious ways. Most theists will say that if you pray for something, not getting it means you're being "too literal" about it, and that prayer doesn't work that way. Argue all you want, saying that "there are no visible results", and you will get one of three common responses. One: You were praying for the wrong thing, and it's too "self satisfactory" instead of right. Two: You were wicked, and thus don't deserve it. Three: He did answer, you didn't see it. There is no way to argue this (that I know of), and asking about prayer will always bring one of these points up in a Maginot Line fashion.

I'm sure my more experienced peers can add to this... or even say that "No, you can argue that point". Please, feel free to- even if this isn't the subforum for debating, I really wouldn't mind being told where I'm wrong as long as it adds to my list of arguments.
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Molly
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Re: Atheist Arguments You Shouldn't Use

Post #21

Post by Molly »

"I'd love for this bullet point to be taken down, replaced with a
good argument against it. In lower level debates, though, I usually hear these
common retorts;
  • There can only be good with evil
    It's a test of your character to be confronted with evil
    It's all part of God's plan
    He only causes suffering for people he doesn't like (Hurricanes to punish taxes,
    AIDs to kill gays, etc.)
I can't think of arguments off hand to disprove these statements, and I assume
(though I'd be glad to be wrong!) that many others can't, either. Even saying
"The weather is predictable in this way" gets greeted with "Because God made it
so".
There are a few ways to deal with those points, but they tend to get quite involved. Explanations for the problem of evil are called theodicies; I recommend using that word as a starting point for your research. The deeper you go, the more fascinating it all gets. :D

This is a good site for an overview.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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ThatGirlAgain
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Re: Atheist Arguments You Shouldn't Use

Post #22

Post by ThatGirlAgain »

Molly wrote:
"I'd love for this bullet point to be taken down, replaced with a
good argument against it. In lower level debates, though, I usually hear these
common retorts;
  • There can only be good with evil
    It's a test of your character to be confronted with evil
    It's all part of God's plan
    He only causes suffering for people he doesn't like (Hurricanes to punish taxes,
    AIDs to kill gays, etc.)
I can't think of arguments off hand to disprove these statements, and I assume
(though I'd be glad to be wrong!) that many others can't, either. Even saying
"The weather is predictable in this way" gets greeted with "Because God made it
so".
There are a few ways to deal with those points, but they tend to get quite involved. Explanations for the problem of evil are called theodicies; I recommend using that word as a starting point for your research. The deeper you go, the more fascinating it all gets. :D

This is a good site for an overview.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
A knowledgable newbie! Welcome! :D

Bart Ehrman's book God's Problem deals with the problem of evil as it is addressed in the Bible. Of special interest is his treatment of apocalypticism (an awkward word IMO), which is an important element in how Christianity came to be.
Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.
- Bertrand Russell

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Molly
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Re: Atheist Arguments You Shouldn't Use

Post #23

Post by Molly »

Thanks!

I haven't had a chance to read that book yet, but it sounds great. I'll add it to my list. :D

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Re: Atheist Arguments You Shouldn't Use

Post #24

Post by wiploc »

Adurumus wrote:
  • ~If there is a God, why does he allow suffering in the world?
Used right, and in the right circumstances, this argument is a slam dunk.


... The bible does state, at multiple points, that evil improves good. You cannot have light without dark, it argues.
Who made that rule? Certainly not a benevolent god.


  • ~It's so obvious, why can't you see reason/logic/you're an idiot!
Agreed. That just alienates people. Always remember that you are arguing for the benefit of the audience. Your opponent will never be persuaded in realtime (though it is possible that she'll come around in twenty years).

Assume that some reader has honest questions. Your goal then is to seem like a nice person, sincere, with defensible moral beliefs. You are a living illustration of the fact that an atheist doesn't have horns and a tail.

If you seem angry/bitter/defensive, you'll do no good for our atheist-hating culture.

Besides seeming nice and reasonable, you have one other job: The emotional appeal. Logic didn't make them theists, so logic alone can't rescue them. They need a glimpse of what theism looks like to others. For instance:

- Why is it so cool to have a dangerously powerful eccentric forgive you? Wouldn't it be better not to be condemned in the first place?

- Hell is bad, isn't it? Wouldn't the world be, on average, a better place without it? If Christianity means that people are being tortured forever, how can any decent person hope that Christianity is true? With the invention of Hellfire, haven't Christians invented the worst of all possible worlds?




  • ~God doesn't answer prayers, so he can't.
That may not be the way to phrase it, but it's perfectly reasonable to point out that god's response to prayers seems calculated to make us believe he isn't there. Why shouldn't we take him at his word if that's what he wants us to believe?



I'll add my own stay-off-my-side quality argument:
  • A whale is not a fish.
Whales used to be fish. After Linnaeus, we redefined the word to exclude whales. God's omniscience is not undermined by his using language that was proper at the time.



Adurumus wrote:
  • ~You aren't acting very Christian/Buddhist/Daoist/Pastafarian
Yes, that move is perverse. Don't spread the meme that theists behave better than atheists.

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Re: Atheist Arguments You Shouldn't Use

Post #25

Post by Cephus »

Question Everything wrote: My answer to your problem is that even if you are unable to get the person you are debating with to see the light, keep doing it because there are rational thinkers out there who will. I am one of them.
Which is a potentially fine argument but I don't buy it anymore. Anyone who is rational, anyone who is concerned whether or not their beliefs are factually true, has all the information at their fingertips to completely blow religion out of the water in an afternoon. If they still believe this nonsense, they don't care enough to use Google. It's not like back in the olden days, when there was no Internet and to find out the truth, you had to sift through musty university libraries, printing volumes of microfiche out and highlighting thousands of pages of information. I had to do that. It wasn't fun. Today, all the work has already been done, it's online, only a few clicks away. Debating a clueless theist is rarely going to make a difference, virtually everyone goes into a debate holding a belief and leaves holding the same belief.

This is especially true when you look at the professional apologists who couldn't care less if they're wrong. Just ask Ken Ham.
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Post #26

Post by Cephus »

spoirier wrote: - The label "atheism" makes bad impression (as the fight against religion is won when someone deconverts to become Deist for example, so, without anything to be specifically called "atheism").
"Atheism" only has a bad connotation because theists have insisted it be that way. They don't like the competition. The word is becoming more and more sanitized every day, and if someone is going to refuse to deconvert because they don't like the label, I don't have much respect for them anyhow. Oh, and a deist is still a theist. You cannot be an atheist deist.
- Misunderstandings need to be resolved about science and rationality: the confusion between science and the school system (a better image of science needs to be developed); and between rationalism and naturalism, as naturalism is not the only rationalist alternative to religion (I do find coherence between rationalism, the love of science, and remaining convinced of the existence of afterlife and the supernatural nature of some paranormal phenomena, especially as explained by quantum physics).
But these are people who are not interested in resolving problems. They cling to their beliefs, no matter how ridiculously wrong their beliefs demonstrably are, and anything that disagrees is entirely wrong. You seem to be concerned about image, I'm concerned about fact. School exists to teach facts, not fantasy. Science is the best tool we have currently to discover fact. Religion has no means whatsoever for reaching fact.
- Arguments against the existence of afterlife and the supernatural in general, can be very counter-productive arguments on some people (and, I think, just plain wrong).
Not at all. There is no evidence for either an afterlife or the supernatural, hence these are irrational beliefs, not becoming an intelligent person. If rational arguments are counter-productive for some people, those people are fools.
- Much better arguments would be of the form : IF God could make miracles THEN the types of miracles that could be realistically expected from a decent God would be very different from those reported in the Bible (probably all imaginary as they only followed the imagination of the people of that time), and also those by saints and many other people (some more probably real but not from God) as God should be much wiser and much more imaginative how to make an efficient use of His powers for the general welfare.
No, those are foolish arguments. Theists can't produce a shred of evidence that any of their supposed gods exist at all. Playing their game is foolish. Until they can give us any reason whatsoever to suspect that their beliefs may be true, they should be rejected entirely.
- The argument from NDE showing that the way to heaven does not depend on piety and religious orientation, can have a lot of weight on some people.
There's no evidence of heaven or hell and trying to pat these people on the head and tell them it's okay, their nonsensical beliefs are still nonsense.

All of this accomodationist nonsense is just that, nonsense. The only thing that matters is whether or not an idea is factually correct. Trying to treat the religiously gullible like they're special little flowers and trying to ease them into living in the real world doesn't really help anyone. Religion is dying. Young people, even those born into highly religious families, are abandoning religion in droves. I think that religion will be largely gone in first world countries within 20-25 years as the old guard dies off and the young realize how ridiculous the whole thing is.
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There is nothing demonstrably true that religion can provide the world that cannot be achieved more rationally through entirely secular means.

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