In the last few years, since I fully shifted to the dark side, I have found myself less and less tolerant of the process of "debating" a believer. It's interesting how quickly and powerfully things change when you finally let go of a belief. So many aspects of that belief that you didn't even know were in your brain are suddenly highlighted and dismissed. The most profound example I have noticed is that I just refuse to include the bible in any of my discussions.

It seems fruitless for me to argue some fine point of what I now believe is a work of fiction. The problem arises when someone makes a point like: "well if you intend to convert anyone, change anyone's mind about the existence of god, you must meet them where they are". I don't know. It seems to me the best way to cut through the crap and get to the real issues, is to refuse to feed their deception. As soon as I let the bible into the debate, I have conceded the validity of it.

I notice that Brother Richard often will spend time in his posts discussing the interpretation of this or that passage in the bible. I don't have trouble with that when the discussion is in this type of forum where the presumption is that the text discussed is fictional. I'm willing to debate the question of a god's existence, the historical Jesus, or just about any religious issue, but only outside the context of an inspired, revealed word of that god.

Any thoughts?

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Replies to This Discussion

Very interesting discussion, Nathan.

I'm not opposed to using biblical references because it's a great method for pointing out the numerous contradictions and inconsistencies within the so-called inspired text. That has helped many a believer to demolish the house of cards that is religious faith. To simply argue the contents of a piece of literature in no way legitimizes it as anything more than that- a compilation of words.
It's an interesting question and I'm not even sure of my thoughts on it. After I stopped believing, I refused to open my Bible at all for a long time. I shoved it away in a bookcase out of sight and only recently dug it out to look up some stuff. I think my feelings are a bit the same--why debate a work of fiction? It would seem to validate it. But on the other hand, people are right to say that you have to meet people where they are. I guess the way I would approach it is if someone else first brings up something from the Bible, I would then use the book against itself. It's a bit like martial arts, I guess: you're not supposed to use it to initially provoke a fight, but if someone brings the fight to you, you use their strength against them. Or something like that.
I agree, I want to debate history, not the validity of a single book the whereabouts are relatively unknown.

It is entertaining at first, but when a guy tried to argue that atoms have no proof of existence in order to defend the existence of Jesus, I had enough.

I also find that each individual religious person I speak with only knows about their own religion and is oblivious or unwilling to learn the history of the world's religions.
You've hit on an interesting parallel there. And if it weren't for the centuries of despicable activity done in the name of the central characters of that book, it would be as comical as any nerdy discussion of "canon" and such.

(The book to which I refer is of course the Bible. LOTR is despicable in so many other ways. ;-) )
I have been an atheist for about 20 yrs and I stopped discussing the Bible a long time ago. I have read the Bible several times, and when I first began to question my religion I spent a lot of time with it and different apologetics books trying to salvage what faith I had left. Then I dropped it all and never looked back.

I am not interested in having an argument on any religious subject at all. Last Oct I was at a birthday party and my friend's brother tried to goad me into discussing "where do you get your morals??" "How can you be so arrogant to think YOU know whether there is a god or not??" I don't even get angry anymore. I just said, "Warren, you wouldn't give me $10 if I asked you for it, yet you pretend to be concerned about my soul. If my atheism makes you angry or anxious, that says more about you than me," and I walked away. I don't like confrontation to begin with, so I don't talk about this with people who disagree with me. They think I'm evil; I think they're nuts, and we leave it at that.
I'm with you on this one. When a christian wants to debate based on the authority of the bible, its a complete waste of time, and the ultimate circular argument. I can see the validity of highlighting the inconsistencies of the bible as a means of questioning its legitimacy - but unless a person is truly open and questioning, the emotional strength of their indoctrination tends to overcome any rational thought about the mumbo-jumbo of this "spiritual book".
You make a great point as usual, Mr. Phelps. I am not sure what makes this particular book (or any "holy book") more true than another. I never was sure of its veracity, come to think of it.

Growing up as a Catholic, the book was presented in small pieces every Sunday depending on where you were in the liturgical year. A piece of the old testament, part of an epistle, then a section of one of the gospels. Just enough to get a point across, not nearly enough to see what a clusterf**k that book is.

It seems to be almost a talisman for some, this book. Of course, without it to fall back on, the fundamentalists have nothing with which to argue save for anecdotal evidence ("this happened, then this happened, it was a miracle from Jesus") or some other subjective claim that carries no argumentative weight.
Several good points John. One of the most difficult obstacles for all religions is the fact that there are so many competing religions making substantially the same claims of being THE chosen ones. The unstudied reply (used by the vast, vast majority of mainstream followers) is that all the other religions are just wrong. Well, a few days...heck, a few hours of contemplating and researching that defense puts the lie to it.

Then you have the same unwashed masses who have basically developed their own special theology by sitting for 30 minutes on Sunday taking in about 30 seconds of specially prepared BS from their pastor. This is one of the charges that my family lays regularly, that I have to agree with. So very few people have even attempted to read even a small portion of the bible. Even fewer have looked at it critically. It's the classic case of self-delusional, "don't bother me with the facts".

I loved your "clusterf**k" accurate.

I agree that it is a waste to argue about the bible. Most Christians fall into the 'special pleading' logical fallacy when discussing their 'holy book'. When I have tried to point out the blatant errors in the text they tend to place fingers firmly in ear and start repeating 'Lalalalalalala' ;-)
Beautiful, it's taken me some time to arrive at the same conclusion. To debate theisms validity, gives it some kind of relevance which is ultimately part of the problem. The only real relevant debate about theism is how well it has contributed to world history.

When is comes to food, clothing, shelter, peaceful coexistence, compassion for all beings, mental physical and emotional health, neutrality in politics and promoting freedom for all beings. Theism is sorely lacking and those who were untouched by it are generally better off then those caught in it's grip.

I came to the conclusion a couple years ago it was pointless to debate religious people about god, and that effort is best spent keeping them out of our science classes and keeping their religious monuments off public property and trying our best to keep them out of public office.

I also agree that's it's pointless to debate the finer points of the bible, I mean really what does it matter. To me the bible is a loose collection of writings that people project their own personal beliefs and sometimes politics on to. You can have pretty much any belief system and open your bible and find a couple lines that validate it. To me the bible is bullshit and I don't feel the need to go beyond that.


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