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Five ways to lose the argument with atheists

Next time you find yourself sucked into a debate with secularists be careful not to make these five classic mistakes, says Peter D Williams

By on Thursday, 17 May 2012

Don’t stop to think what Pope Benedict might say if he were in your position (Photo: PA)

Don’t stop to think what Pope Benedict might say if he were in your position (Photo: PA)

It is not an uncommon situation. You are reading an interesting article online about some matter of recent religious controversy, but upon reaching the end of the piece you meet the comments area, and try to resist the temptation to scroll further down the page. How many times have you perused such sections before finding yourself infuriated by the base anti-Catholic bigotry you find there?

Still worse, how often have you found your time irretrievably wasted, as you are sucked into futile disputation with secularist trolls who, in the famous words of Churchill, “can’t change their minds, and won’t change the subject”? Like glancing at a car-crash, however, the curiosity can be too great to resist, and you begin to read on…

This experience is hardly atypical for the average Catholic reading online, but it has even become unsurprising to experience similar situations when having a drink in the pub, or while at an otherwise genteel dinner party. Where we are called to defend and expound our Faith in these situations however, we must do so in a constructive way that raises the standard and tone of discussion.
It is regrettable, then, that experience shows us how often Catholics fail to do this effectively. As an illustrative remedy for some of the more common mistakes in this endeavour, here are five brief tips on how not to argue with atheists.

1) Cynically assume the worst in people. Before speaking, or touching that keyboard, imagine your opponent to be an irredeemable ogre, whatever they may have said. Don’t charitably assume they are simply misinformed, or look for the good motivations they may have in arguing as they do. At a false accusation of “homophobia”, don’t try to understand the positive impetus behind this error (genuine concern about abuse and hatred), and refrain from showing how the Church teaches compassion and care for those who experience same-sex attraction – you may help to defuse anger rather than fuel it!

2) Argue as a means of venting emotion. When someone says or writes something shocking or offensive to Catholic piety, our natural reaction is to get angry. Indulge that. Try to forget any Christian goal of defending or expounding the Faith. That will only get in the way of fun. Instead, be determined to show how stupid your opponent is, and punish their ignorance and prejudice with counter-abuse. To be scrupulously gentle and reverent at all times is just far too hard. Of course it could be that, even if someone does not remember your arguments, they may remember what a model of virtue and decency you were in arguing, which might be a good witness that may help them later on – but such considerations should not get in the way of a good bout of rock throwing.

3) Don’t call out bad behaviour, mirror it! If someone is unnecessarily rude or vulgar, feel justified in returning like with like. That “turn the other cheek” stuff is far too high a standard. Simply pointing out your interlocutor’s unkindness (and how it hinders discussion) would be too laborious. And sticking to the substantive arguments that have been produced? What are you,
a robot? Think of our Lord’s response to the liars who accused Him, and the guard who hit Him, in front of the Sanhedrin. What was His answer to calumny and abuse? Well, we all know how that worked out.

It might be that following His example would accentuate the irrational meanness of the person you are engaging with (to themselves and anyone around watching your discourse) and even shame them into changing their behaviour. Don’t worry about all that, though.

4) Adopt the martyr complex. Few things are as convincing as arguing with someone who thinks your ideas will lead inexorably to a new totalitarian regime, or who believe themselves to be “persecuted”. Does this come across as hysterical, and make that person look silly? Of course not. So don’t forget to break out the comparisons with Hitler or Stalin, and be sure to moan about how hard done by Christians are (especially with comparison to Muslims). This is bound to win you lots of sympathy, and isn’t at all clichéd. Not even a bit. No.

5) For heaven’s sake, don’t Pray. Surely an obvious point. Praying before you interact with people, and asking God to give you the words He would have you say, and the sharp but loving mindset He would have you adopt, is just a massive spoiler. So, indeed, is praying for your opponent, that their minds and hearts might be opened, and that your conversation with them might be helpful. Prayer is lethal to good squabbling – so cut it out!

In reality, tailoring our words and our tone to the highest common denominator of human sentiment may not convince the people with whom we are immediately interacting, but may at least begin to win the hearts and minds of any bystanders who are watching. Focusing on how we can best practise the spiritual works of mercy (especially instructing the uninformed, counselling the doubtful, and bearing wrongs patiently) in our arguments with atheists will help us minister to our opponents in the most effective way. In doing so, and in witnessing to the truth of our Faith, humbly, gently and respectfully, we may truly witness to the virtue, as well as the rationality, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Peter D Williams is a Catholic apologist and speaker for Catholic Voices

  • John B.

    Your sarcasm is subtle J.W., maybe you don’t realize your your doing it but it’s there, read your posts carefully. As for answering the God question, why don’t you jump off of a really tall building without a chute and report back with your findings, J.K! But seriously, proving the existence, or non existence of God may be like trying to prove what existed in the universe before the Big Bang, or if intelligent life exists elsewhere in the cosmos. Man’s level of intelligence and technology is to limited at this time to answer these questions, but maybe some day it might be possible. 

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Replying to JonnyB:

    Search this page. I have posting a comment showing how the Richard Dawkins ideology (which of course existed centuries before Dawkins), which is composed of dogmatic materialism and intolerant anti-religious bigotry, caused Marxism, which caused 100,000,000 deaths, torture, censorship, terror, repression, general societal decay and darkness.

    You, presumably due to lack of logical arguments, tries constantly to change the subject and keep talking about the dictionary definition of “atheism”. NEWSFLASH: I am not talking about the dictionary definition of “atheism”. Some atheists are neither materialist nor intolerants. I am speaking of those who follow Richard Dawkins et caterva, that is, believe in strict materialism and anti-religious bigotry. Since you came uninvited to a Catholic blog just to offend us, I am safe to assume that you are one of those Dawkins acolytes.

    And your foolish question “can you name ONE death that occurred solely in the name of atheism?” is simply another diversion of subject, caused by lack of logical arguments. I explained, multiple times, that hard-core materialism and anti-religious intolerant bigotry caused Marxism, even if Stalin didn’t justify all his actions with a direct appeal to atheism.

    So, please stop changing the subject, please stop asking irrelevant questions, and please start thinking.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    See my reply above (I have just posted it, it should be the top comment).

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Oh please, you know better than that. Even you can realize that your post above is misleading.

    It is common knowledge that Christian loyalty has declined sharply in the XX century. Most of today’s “Christians” never go to Mass and never read the Bible or the Catechism. They call themselves “Christians” simply out of habit, and because they are technically baptized and their father (or grandfather) once went to church.

    The beliefs of those would-be Christians are actually in line with those of atheists, and it is no surprise that they act with intolerant bigotry against the political rights of the true Christians, who are a small minority.

    It is no surprise that the majority, who disagrees with the minority’s beliefs, want to curtail the minority’s political rights and treat them as second-class citizens.

    But, even when a majority wants that, the concept of Human Rights is supposed to protect the minority.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     O please. First, your posts can hardly be called “fact-based”.

    Second, calling someone “troll” does not even begin to compare with the level of intolerant bigotry of those who take away people’s jobs because of their political opinion, or those who want to restrict the political rights of people based on their faith.

  • TreenonPoet

    You are correct that the figure I quoted was for self-described Christians (as the report I linked to makes clear), rather than Christians who adhere closely to the teachings of Jesus. That is not to say that none of the latter group are also secularists.

    However, I completely disagree that secularists want to treat those with minority beliefs as second-class citizens. By giving no special privileges to any group, regardless of their religious beliefs, there is no class division.

    I agree that Human Rights are supposed to protect the minority (as much as they protect the majority). That is not always happening in the UK.

  • Jonathan West

    If, as you appear to accept, mankind is not in a position to demonstrate the existence or nonexistence of God at the moment, what gives you such confidence that he does exist?

  • TreenonPoet

     As I understand it, the restriction that Richard Dawkins would like to apply to religion in the public space is that it does not harm anyone. That is to say, human rights are not trumped by any religion. People do not have special rights just because they believe in a religion. If the state bequeaths them special privileges (which it does in the UK), the removal of those privileges does not constitute a curtailing of their human rights, but does make society fairer, and does NOT entail killing anyone.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Many secularists go around waging a campaign of intolerance, labeling
    religious people as “superstitious” and “irrational”, while atheists are
    “Bright”. They advance the idea that political positions based on Faith
    must be disrespected and never enacted into law.

    This atmosphere has affected a majority of legislators, judges and
    journalists. Christians’ freedom of speech has been taken away, with
    people being arrested for “homophobia”. I remember a guy who got a visit
    from the police simply because he displayed Bible verses in a screen in
    his bar, and someone said those verses were “homophobic”. Christian
    couples have been barred from adopting children because they are “too
    religious”, or because they didn’t promise to accept homosexual
    activities in their children.

    How would you feel if you lived in a (say) Muslim-majority country,
    where Muslims campaigned day and night against humanists, labeling
    humanists as “Immoral”, saying that political positions based on
    humanism must be disrespected, forbidding the right of humanist couples
    to adopt children, and forbidding the expression of humanist ideas?

  • TreenonPoet

     My reply to Jorge was to illustrate that the word ‘secularist’ is often misused (since the topic is debating technique).

    Your jumble of sentences does not demonstrate that Christians are treated as second-class. I would need references to check the details of each case, but I think it would be going too far off-topic anyway.

  • John B.

    Let me give you an example, many intelligent people believe that there must be life, and intelligent life elsewhere in the universe due to the sheer number of galaxies, stars and planets capable of supporting life, as put forth in The Drake Equation. Is there scientific evidence of life elsewhere in the universe? No, not at this time, but many people believe it to be so, and I include myself among them. Belief, faith and hope give people comfort and purpose, I see nothing wrong with having faith in something unseen or unproven by science. I believe that science and faith can coexist and not be at war with each other, many people of faith believe this as well, unfortunately at this time many more do    not.

     

  • haoben405
  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     We established days ago that I’ve read the Bible much more thoroughly than you have.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     Unless this post was before my apology, why do you feel it necessary to keep on about it.

    This post was before you apologised. I made several comments to you, all about the same time: then you apologised, and I accepted your apology, and we’re done.

    I hope.

    I do not go to gay sites forcing my beliefs on gay people. And before you start about the Catholic Church forcing it’s beliefs on
    the secular population, that is not a position I personally support.  I
    have not signed the petition by the way.  I was having a conversation on
    a Catholic site and did not know there were any gays present.  When I
    realised there were, I apologised for my comment.

    Yes, and that was genuinely appreciated. I had honestly not expected that. Most religious people who make comments like that don’t actually care if there’s a gay person present to be offended.

    That said, I appreciate that it would have been irritating for you to come back and find the other comments I left directed to you, and I apologise for that – I wouldn’t have made them if I’d realised you were going to respond – and certainly not if I’d known you were going to apologise.

  • Jonathan West

    (Reply to John B.)

    The comparison with of believing that “there must be life, and intelligent life elsewhere in the universe” I think is not appropriate.

    First, I would take issue with your use of “must”. There’s a significant probability that life does exist else where, and we can make (extremely value) estimates of what that probability is.

    Let’s start with what we know for sure – that life is possible under the right circumstances. We know that because we are here. Then we go on to the fact that the universe is awfully big and old, and contains a huge number of galaxies, each of which contains a huge number of stars. So even if the development of life were wildly on any individual planet, there are so many in total that the chance of it happening somewhere is quite high. (This is what is known as the anthropic principle.)

    But that is not to say that there “must” be life elsewhere. Saying that extraterrestrial life is quite probable (though we haven’t yet found any) is a tentative conclusion based on the available but incomplete evidence. In science we deal in degrees of certainty, not in absolutes. It will be a momentous occasion if and when we first discover extraterrestrial life, but it won’t be a huge surprise.

    But let’s compare this with the belief you stated at the start of our exchange, that you will be reunited with those who you have loved and have passed before you. first let me say that you are wholly entitled to hold this belief if you want to, and I have no intention of trying to prevent you. My sole issue is to ask you on what basis you hold the belief.

    There is at least some evidence concerning the possibility of extraterrestial life, and it is a subject on which we can search for more evidence. But what is the evidence for life after death?

  • John B.

     One: because no, I don’t think that anyone could, in a limited
    lifetime, do anything that justified having them tortured for eternity.

    Really, no one? What about Hitler, Himmler, Mengele, Stalin, Idi Amin, and the many more like them? If Hell does exist are you telling me that under no circumstance no one should go there? Sorry, your a little to pacifist and wishy-washy for your own good, ma’am.

  • pianyao
  • Fides_et_Ratio

    The above is commercial spam!
    Please someone delete this.
     

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    What happened in those Catholic schools (I assume, because I cannot load
    the link), on the other hand, was not due to opinion. It was due to
    BEHAVIOR. Do you know the difference?

    A teacher who makes a public declaration that some of his students and the parents of some of his students are in his view inferior, is guilty of rude and bigoted BEHAVIOUR.  Do you understand that?

    Your comparison between a teacher doing illegal drugs or having an incestuous relationship with his mother, and a gay teacher who’s (let’s say) married to his partner of 20 years (and it’s really none of your business whether they “practice sodomy” in the privacy of their marital bed!) is a fair example of the kind of disrespect and unkindness which so many Christians seem to feel is their religious obligation towards LGBT people.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     For example, Fides_et_Ratio here and elsewhere. Nothing would convince me that a person who could write something so hateful anmd angry about gay people had “the good of homosexuals sincerely at heart”. Whether he’s being a jerk for other reasons or just “for the fun of it” I don’t know: but he’s certainly being a jerk.

  • JonnyB

     
    First, you tell me that I am wrong, &
    now you proceed to confirm that I am right:

    “…dogmatic materialism and
    intolerant anti-religious bigotry, caused Marxism,…”

    “…Some atheists are neither
    materialist nor intolerants. ..”

    Therefore, atheism
    itself did not cause Marxism
    & the use of the word in your descriptions of such ideologies is
    coincidental & redundant.

    OT,
    to briefly correct your (over-sensitive) assumption of my reason for
    being here (& ignoring the fact that this is a public site which
    is open to public contribution), I was invited here, some time ago,
    by Catholic friends…

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Therefore, atheismitself did not cause Marxism& the use of the word in your descriptions of such ideologies iscoincidental & redundant.

    That logic does not hold. My point is that Dawkins ideology caused Marxism.
    So, if you were consistent, you would attack Dawkins ideology with the same
    strength as you attack religion.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     Saying that “Christians allege that homosexuals are inferior” is simply straw man. It merely proves the lack of real logical arguments.

    Second, why do you defend “sexual minorities” such as homosexuals and bisexuals but not practicers of incest?

    Every argument I have seen for homosexualism – such as “what consenting adults do in their bed is neither right nor wrong” – applies equally well for practicers of incest.

  • Jonathan West

    It was the desire to suppress all alternative sources of power in society which let to communism’s persecution of the churches. But you can’t persecute churches without claiming that they are mistaken, which is why the communists had to proclaim atheism. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but in essence you have cause and effect the wrong way round.

    And that has nothing to do with Dawkins, one of whose friends is Richard Harris, retired Bishop of Oxford. Anybody less likely to attempt violent suppression of churches can hardly be imagined.

    I suspect you won’t believe me, because that would undermine your nice narrative of the churches being persecuted and under threat from all sides. Just pause before you reply and remember point 4 from the original article.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > “It was the desire to suppress all alternative sources of power in society which let to communism’s persecution of the churches. But you can’t persecute churches without claiming that they are mistaken, which is why the communists had to proclaim atheism. It’s a bit more complicated than that, but in essence you have cause and effect the wrong way round.”

    But as I wrote multiple times, Marxism is caused by the materialistic and intolerant worldview of Dawkins.

    > “And that has nothing to do with Dawkins, one of whose friends is Richard Harris, retired Bishop of Oxford. Anybody less likely to attempt violent suppression of churches can hardly be imagined.”

    Dawkins being friends with a Bishop does not change the fact that he is a huge dick to most religious people,
    claims that atheists are brighter than religious people, and his acolytes campaign to suppress religious people
    political rights.

    > “I suspect you won’t believe me, because that would undermine your nice narrative of the churches being persecuted and under threat from all sides. Just pause before you reply and remember point 4 from the original article.”

    I could understand that if at least atheists were consistent. But atheists claim that Christians have a pessimistic martyr complex at the same time that atheists complain that they are persecuted, that America is on the verge of becoming a theocracy because of the Tea Party, etc.

    So, if you want Christians to stop claiming Dawkins ideology to be a danger to society, then stop claiming that politically-involved Christians are a treat to society.

    Deal?

  • Jonathan West

    That fact that you think he’s a huge dick doesn’t mean that he is wrong not to believe in God. Perhaps you could leave off the personal attacks, and instead try explaining where he’s wrong. Analyse Chapter 4 of The God Delusion “Why there almost certainly is no God” and explain what errors of fact or logic Dawkins makes that render his conclusions unsound.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    Have no time to read that right now.

    But the point about being a dick is that society depends on people
    being able to tolerate reasonable differences. How would you feel
    if the Church launched a campaign to restrict atheists’ political rights
    and claim that atheists are stupid savages?

  • Jonathan West

    Yo’re welcome to claim that atheists are stupid savages if you wish, though I personally wouldn’t much be bothered by the claim. As for the church launching a campaign to restrict atheists’ political rights, well you’re doing that already. Consider abortion for instance. You aren’t just against abortion for Catholics, you’re against abortion for everyone, whether or not they have an ethical objection to it.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > “As for the church launching a campaign to restrict atheists’ political
    rights, well you’re doing that already. Consider abortion for instance.”

    Abortion is not a political right.

    > “You aren’t just against abortion for Catholics, you’re against abortion
    for everyone, whether or not they have an ethical objection to it.”

    Catholics demand abortion to be banned so that lives can be saved.
    In the same ways that environmentalists demand deforestation to be banned, whether or not
    people have an ethical objection to it.

    So, if you think it unjust for abortion to be banned (because some people consider it to be right), than you should campaign for overthrowing all laws, because there is always someone who disagrees with a law.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     Saying that “Christians allege that homosexuals are inferior” is simply straw man

    *raises eyebrow*

    Your own ugly comments about gay people give you the lie on that one.

    Second, why do you defend “sexual minorities” such as homosexuals and bisexuals but not practicers of incest?

    Normal human sexual orientation ranges from heterosexual to homosexual. Only bigotry carves off a section of the normal range and declares it be inferior in some way.

    I am frankly disturbed by how obsessively interested so many homophobic Christians are in bestiality and incest. Makes you wonder – uncharitably – what their own sex lives are like.

    Every argument I have seen for homosexualism – such as “what consenting
    adults do in their bed is neither right nor wrong” – applies equally
    well for practicers of incest.

    So is incest something you personally are interested in?

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

    ? What about Hitler, Himmler, Mengele, Stalin, Idi Amin, and the many more like them?

    Eternity is forever.

    Let’s suppose that Hitler is condemned to suffer the same torment as every person whom he condemned to torment. Every Jew, every gay man, every prostitute, every lesbian, every Czech, every gypsy, every Russian who died in a prison camp, every soldier, German or Russian, who froze on the Eastern Front – man, woman, and child, he must endure for each life a period of time in Hell equivalent to that lifespan. Condemn him to Hell for six million human lifetimes, or ten million, or twenty million.

    Or you can multiply up. How many times? Five times, fifty, seventy times seven lifespans for every life Hitler destroyed.

    High up in the north, there sits a rock one thousand miles wide by one thousand miles high by one thousand miles deep.

    Once, every thousand years, a little bird comes to this rock to sharpen its beak upon.

    When the rock has been thus worn away, then but a single day of eternity will have passed.

    No. No one can in a finite lifetime do anything deserving of torment for eternity.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     If you pause and think for a bit, you will realize that you just abandoned all logic and resorted to cheap shameful ad Hominem and straw man.

  • TreenonPoet

     “as I wrote multiple times, Marxism is caused by the materialistic and intolerant worldview of Dawkins.

    It does not matter how many times you write it, it is not true. I replied to your post that gave your reasoning. You did not reply, so I assumed you accepted my comment. Now you continue to make your assertion as if you had dealt with all objections.

    You claimed tha Richard Dawkins has an ideology whose main tenets are:
    1) That reality can be explained by the laws of Physics, and
    2) That religion is irrational, superstitious and must be erased, but while it exists, it must be contained to the private sphere.

    Tenet 1 is hardly contentious as one way of defining ‘real’ is “has physical existence”. A definition cannot be said to be one cause of Marxism (and ‘reality’ has nothing to do with the materialism that Marx talks about), so I only addressed tenet 2. Let me address it again in a slightly different way.

    First of all, to repeat what I said in an earlier comment, “religious freedom is not a right – the religious have no more rights than anyone else. Freedom of thought and freedom to express one’s thoughts are rights. Deliberate lies are not one’s thoughts“. Dawkins does not deny religious people the freedom to express their thoughts; indeed, he has interviewed a number of them, including Richard Harris, for TV broadcasts (and put full interviews on the Web). Religious people do not have a right to special privileges, nor to harm others (by religious indoctrination, by compelling children to worship, by discriminating against those of other religions or no religion, by harassing people who are not behaving according to certain religious requirements, and so on). Therefore, to object to such privileges and practices is not an attempt to restrict the rights of religious people. It is only intolerance in as much as it is intolerance of unfairness. The only connection this objection has to Marxism that I am aware of relates to education and the need to protect the proletariat from being indoctrinated into subservience. Your argument equating Marxism to tenets 1 and 2 is very weak.

    “[Dawkins]is a huge dick to most religious people“.

    I am sure that no survey has ever been done to establish this, so to claim that this is a fact is a lie.

    I could understand that if at least atheists were consistent. But atheists claim that Christians have a pessimistic martyr complex at the same time that atheists complain that they are persecuted, that America is on the verge of becoming a theocracy because of the Tea Party, etc.

    What is inconsistent about that?

    So, if you want Christians to stop claiming Dawkins ideology to be a danger to society, then stop claiming that politically-involved Christians are a treat to society.

    Oh, I see. So you are not making the allegations because they are true, but out of malicious revenge.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    >”It does not matter how many times you write it, it is not true. I
    replied to your post that gave your reasoning.”

    What post? GIve me a link.

    >”Tenet 1 is hardly contentious as one way of defining ‘real’ is “has
    physical existence”.”

    Absolutely wrong. Many people believe that non-material things (such as a human right, or a prime number) exist. The debate of whether or not non-material things exist goes back to the Greek philosophers and continues to this day. Go check any encyclopedia of philosophy. This is absolutely contentious. So your objection is moot.

    > “First of all, to repeat what I said in an earlier comment, “religious
    freedom is not a right – the religious have no more rights than anyone
    else.”

    According to Dawkins bigoted, distorted ideology. The American Constitution and the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights tell a different story:
    Article 18.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and
    religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or
    belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in
    public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching,
    practice, worship and observance.

    > “nor to harm others (by
    religious indoctrination, by compelling children to worship”

    Oh, so religious people do not have a right to educate children into religion. Unless you also defend that Freemasons and Marxists must be barred from education children into their ideologies, then you are a huge hypocrite (as the acolytes of Dawkins usually are).

    By the way, article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights disagrees with you: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

    > “Therefore, to object to such privileges and
    practices is not an attempt to restrict the rights of religious people.”

    Again, what you call “Privileges and practices” is a universally recognized human right.

    >”I am sure that no survey has ever been done to establish this, so to claim that this is a fact is a lie.”

    Are you even serious here? There needs to be a survey to establish someone is a dick? So if I say Hitler is a dick, you will say “where is the survey?”? I hope you are joking.

    > “What is inconsistent about that?”

    The fact that atheists complain that Christians have a persecution complex, while the atheists themselves scream day and night against the alleged persecution of atheists.

    > “Oh, I see. So you are not making the allegations because they are true, but out of malicious revenge. ”

    Ridiculous. This straw man proves you have no arguments.
    I merely want atheists to stop being such hypocrites
    and follow their own creed. It is shameful for you to complain
    the Christians have a persecution complex, and in the same breath
    complain about how you are a persecuted victim.

  • TreenonPoet

     ”What post? GIve me a link.

    The post I referred to begins ”As I understand it, the restriction…

    Many people believe that non-material things (such as a human right, or a prime number) exist. The debate of whether or not non-material things exist goes back to the Greek philosophers and continues to this day. Go check any encyclopedia of philosophy. This is absolutely contentious. So your objection is moot.

    But that is not the sort of reality that Dawkins is referring to in tenet 1. Dawkins would not claim that prime numbers, for example, can be explained by the laws of physics (other than by the physics behind the biology behind the psychology behind the original definition of ‘prime number’).

    According to Dawkins bigoted, distorted ideology. The American Constitution and the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights tell a different story:
    Article 18.
    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

    and later
    By the way, article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights disagrees with you: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
    and later
    what you call “Privileges and practices” is a universally recognized human right

    Again, we have a problem of definition. I had hoped that the sort of rights I was talking about could be discerned from my comment, but clearly I was wrong not to be more explicit. I was not referring to any particular legal ‘rights’ bestowed by the legislature in any particular country, but to fundamental rights. In article 18, ”Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief” is the same as saying “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought”, which is a fundamental right. The rest of article 18, and article 26, ought to be covered by more generalised statements of rights and responsibilites. Being religious (in whatever way that is defined) does not give anyone extra fundamental rights.

    Oh, so religious people do not have a right to educate children into religion. Unless you also defend that Freemasons and Marxists must be barred from education children into their ideologies, then you are a huge hypocrite (as the acolytes of Dawkins usually are).

    It depends what you mean by ”educate children into religion”. It is wrong to deliberately miseducate children. Telling a child that many people believe that God exists is not miseducation. Telling a child that God definitely exists (or implying it by telling a child to pray to God, for example) is miseducation. Even at home, if parents are aware of the doubts about the existence of God, then strictly speaking it is wrong for them to lie to their children about the certainty (though languages can make it difficult or too long-winded to express levels of certainty precisely). Please note that facts which can be independently confirmed can be conveyed without recourse to indoctrination.

    Are you even serious here? There needs to be a survey to establish someone is a dick? So if I say Hitler is a dick, you will say “where is the survey?”? I hope you are joking.

    I am not joking, but you are deliberately misrepresenting what you wrote. You originally wrote ”to most religious people”, but now you write ”if I say”, and then try to ridicule me for requiring a survey to determine the views of one person. Where is the evidence that most people agree with you? (A handful of anecdotes would not be evidence for ‘most’.)

    “What is inconsistent about that?”
    The fact that atheists complain that Christians have a persecution complex, while the atheists themselves scream day and night against the alleged persecution of atheists.

    But both could be true.

  • John B.

    Well Edinburgh, I must disagree with you on that one point for I truly believe that is exactly what should happen and quite frankly feel comfortable saying so. But the point is moot because we both know that Hell is a fictional place, unless you have ever been to New Jersey ;)

  • Couch Slouch

     yes

  • Couch Slouch

     yes

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    >”The post I referred to begins ”As I understand it, the restriction…””

    What you said in that post I answered above and here.

    > “But that is not the sort of reality that Dawkins is referring to in
    tenet 1.”

    One of the key tenets (“if not _the_ tenet) of materialism is saying that there is nothing special with the human mind. See
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/dualism/
    and then
    richarddawkins.net/articles/490048-the-blue-brain-blues-materialist-ethics-and-simulated-minds
    > “Being religious (in whatever way that is defined) does not give anyone
    extra fundamental rights”

    Let me write again: “and freedom, either alone or in community with
    others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in
    teaching, practice, worship and observance.””

    What Dawkins bigoted acolytes want is to violate a clear, universally recognized human right.

    And that human right applies to both faithful religious people, and to non-religious people with strong convictions. For example, if you have a strong conviction against killing humans, then the government should not force you to fight in a war, or to cooperate with abortion. This applies to both religious people and non-religious people.

    > “Even at home, if parents are aware
    of the doubts about the existence of God, then strictly speaking it is
    wrong for them to lie to their children about the certainty”

    By your logic, parents should be forbidden from teaching their kids that HIV causes AIDS, or that the Apollo program was real, or that the WTC was demolished by Islamist terrorists, or that Marxism is evil, because all those four alegations are doubted by countless millions of people (check the Internet).

    > “you are deliberately misrepresenting what you wrote. You originally wrote ”to most religious people”, but now you write ”if I say””

    No. What I said is that Dawkins mistreats or offends (“is a dick to”) religious people in general. I did not say that Dawkins is _considered_ a dick by religious people in general.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > “The post I referred to begins ”As I understand it, the restriction…’”

    What you wrote in that post, I answered above and here.

    > “But that is not the sort of reality that Dawkins is referring to in
    tenet 1.

    One of the key tenets of materialism (if not _the_ tenet) is saying that there is nothing special about the human mind, and Dawkins supports that. See http://www.iep.utm.edu/dualism/

    > “Being religious (in whatever way that is defined) does not give anyone
    extra fundamental rights.”

    People who repeat that are dishonest bigots, and are deliberately misleading.
    Let me quote again the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “this right includes freedom to change his
    religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with
    others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in
    teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

    This right applies to everyone with strong conviction. For example, if you have a strong conviction against killing humans, then the government must not force you to fight in a war, or to cooperate with abortion. This does not mean that conscientious objectors have more rights than non-conscientious objectors; everyone has the right to have a strong conviction against killing, but some people choose not to exercise that right.

    > “Even at home, if parents are aware
    of the doubts about the existence of God, then strictly speaking it is
    wrong for them to lie to their children about the certainty”

    Oh please. Really? By your logic, parents should be forbidden to teach their kids that HIV causes AIDS, that the WTC was attacked by Islamist terrorists, that 6 million Jews were killed in the Shoah, that the Apollo program took astronauts to the Moon, or that Marxism is evil, because all those five statements are doubted by countless millions of people, even though they are clearly true.

    > “I am not joking, but you are deliberately misrepresenting what you wrote. You originally wrote ”to most religious people”, but now you write ”if I say’”

    Wrong. I said the Dawkins mistreats/offends (“is a dick to”) religious people in general, not that  most religious people _consider_ Dawkins to be a dick.

  • Couch Slouch

    Only a jerk from New York would say that about New Jersey! New York is as close as your gonna get to Hell pal.

  • Jonathan West

    Parliament decided otherwise, and the CH has an article complaining about the possibility that the GMC will strike off doctors who refuse both to perform an abortion or refer a patient to another doctor who will perform an abortion.

    That action in refusing treatment (fully supported by the church) is an attempt to deny a person their legal right to an abortion.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    First, don’t call abortion a “treatment”, because pregnancy is not a disease.

    Second, your rhetoric about “deny a person their legal right to an abortion” is scary and totalitarian.

    In a free society, evil actions that harm another person are forbidden, but, when an action is legal, you are still able to refrain from doing it.

    In a leftists society, if an action is legal you are obliged to do it, lest you be charged with discrimination.

    This means that in such a society there is no freedom; you have no margin of maneuver; the law prescribes your actions. This is not a place where humans want to live.

  • John B.

    Well Jonathan, we both know that there is no hard evidence of life after death, of Heaven and Hell, Nirvana, Jannah, Valhalla or any other mythical place, and no one who has crossed over (died) has come back with evidence of an afterlife. I propose to put forth no evidence of the existence of an afterlife because there is none. But I will tell you this, as one who has a strong belief and trust in science, I would say every bit as much as you, science has no answers to the most profound philosophical questions like why do we feel love and sorrow, are they just biological and chemical impulses? Why are we here and for what purpose, to merely procreate on a basic animal survival level? Does man have a soul, or is he just mass of bio-electrical signals? For a vast majority of the human race science cannot answer those questions or fill the needs of the soul. Would humanity be better off without a belief in God or an afterlife? There have been terrible things done in the name of God and organized religion, to numerous to list here. But organized religion and spirituality are two very different things in my opinion, and having faith is a very comforting feeling and fills a void that science cannot.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    > “There have been terrible things done in the name of God and organized religion, to numerous to list here.”

    100,000,000 people died because of Marxism, which is an expression of atheist materialism.

  • Jonathan West

    If there is no hard evidence of an afterlife, then you have no reason to believe in its existence, and such a belief is therefore irrational (to give its technical name). 

    I have not the slightest objection to you believing in life after death, even without evidence. What you believe is entirely your business. I just ask two things. First, that when you discuss life after death, you acknowledge the lack of evidence as honestly as you just have to me. Second, that you make no attempt to insist that others follow the moral rules that you believe follow from your belief in life after death if they don’t share that belief.

    As for love and sorrow, you offer a false dichotomy when you suggest that science thinks of them as being “just biological and chemical impulses”, with the implication that because religion thinks they are something more, therefore religion is right. The fact is that they are “biological and chemical impulses” (I would leave out the “just”) but that does not mean that they are any less real to us, any less important. Human happiness is no less important for the fact that it probably corresponds  with an increase in certain chemicals in the brain.

    To ask “Why are we here and for what purpose?” is question-begging. It contains an implicit claim that we have a purpose, and that therefore somebody, some intelligent and conscious agent, has a purpose in us being here. But if we have arisen by natural processes, there is no such agent, and therefore the question dissolves into meaninglessness because its unstated premise is false. Scientists don’t attempt to answer meaningless questions.

    However, we are conscious and intelligent agents, so we can define purposes of our own.

    Whether man has a “soul” depends entirely on how you define it. If you mean it in the dualistic sense, a consciousness which is independent of the workings of the body and can survive the body’s death, then I have to say there’s no evidence of it. If you mean the consciousness that is seated within our brains, then obviously we do.

    That faith is comforting is on occasion undeniably true. There are other occasions when the guilt involved in catholicism is the reverse of comforting. Whether on balance it is comforting overall is arguable. I have to say that I am happier now since I decisively abandoned any kind of belief in God.

    But it would be a  mistake to think that a belief is true only because it is comforting. better to decide that things are true or not based on the evidence. I’ve found that my beliefs based on evidence have tended to be right rather more often that my beliefs not based on evidence.

  • John B.

    Do you know what ex-Catholics and ex-smokers have in common Jonathan?
    They take an absolutist stance against their ex. I cannot prove life after death exists anymore than you can absolutely prove that it doesn’t. And as anyone with a little class will tell you calling others irrational gets you nowhere in a discussion. As i said before I base my beliefs on spirituality, not organized religion, which I must say is very unappealing for anyone who thinks independently. I have just as much respect for a Buddhist who believes in Nirvana, a Muslim who believes in Jannah or an Atheist and would never declare their beliefs irrational because they differ from mine. I think that extreme, absolutist views leave one’s mind closed off to possibilities and enlightenment, and most of all happiness.

  • John B.

    Sir, do wish to compile a score card of who’s system has committed the worst atrocities? Marxism, Socialism and even Communism in there truest form seek nothing more than to create a balance of resources and fairness among all people. Materialism is not the sole property of Atheists, there is plenty of materialism among Capitalists, so called religious people. Any system of governance, no matter how well intentioned is corrupted by human greed and vanity. I cannot tally up all the people killed in God’s name by stupid people but I would wager that it far exceeds 100,000,000.  

  • Fides_et_Ratio

    It doesn’t look like you know what materialism, or Marxism, is.

    Please read about Marxism. Specially Karl Marx’s “materialist conception of History”.

    Please inform yourself better before writing.

  • Fides_et_Ratio

     It doesn’t seem you know what Marxism, or materialism, is.

    Go read about Karl Marx’s “materialist conception of history”