Monday, April 9, 2012

Why It's Futile to Argue with Religionists

Trying to engage in  or respond to believers, especially fundamentalists,  in a discussion about religious issues can be frustrating.  This is because they are usually so wrong on so many levels that it's almost impossible to know where to begin.  

For example, on an ER episode some years back Jerry, the emergency room desk clerk informed Dr. Weaver who had just come out as a lesbian that because of her sexual orientation she is going to hell.  Weaver was so stunned by this remark, especially by someone who she apparently never realized is a bigot, that she was at a loss for a reply.

And so it is for atheists. How do we reply when religious extremists confront us with a similar prediction about our eternal fate?  Just ignore it?  Respond that non-believers should not be condemned for who they are since most of them are moral people? That hell is a myth? That the attacker is rude for making such a statement in the first place? That it's none of their business that atheists don't believe in a god?

Atheists can, of course, request these fundies prove their assertion. Their typical reply is that it says so in the bible. But if advised that such a passage is an still just an assertion and not proof of anything including the existence of hell (or a supreme being for that matter)  they will likely say something to the effect of  "God said it. I believe it. That settles it."  This of course kills any further exchange.  You can't counter faith with reason.

On this basis, especially in such areas as education, politics, and especially science.I don't see how atheists and religious believers can accommodate each others' perspectives.  And since it's usually the latter who often have no regard for the First Amendment and who demand special legal and social privileges at the expense of others, it's certainly not incumbent upon non-believers to make any effort towards reconciliation..


ReasonBeing said...

Good post Rick. I have found it harder and harder to walk away from such conversations. My tact greatly depends on who I am talking with. If it is a person on the street handing out flyers, I will go right at the source of his/her beliefs and insist that he/she defend them. They can't, but you are correct, I generally get nowhere. As you pointed out, reason rarely works in this case.

If I am talking with a friend, family member, or what otherwise appears to be a rational person, I take a similar approach but am less strident (at least at the start--and usually through the whole conversation). Again, I usually do not get anywhere. It seems that when the questions become too tough for the theist, they pull the whole, "well I guess we will just have to agree to disagree" card. I usually let that stand, as the person I am talking with is friend or family and I have little illusions that one conversation will change their mind. My hope is that our conversation has planted some seeds of disbelief.

Secular Guy said...

Thanks for your support, Reasonbeing. You're right; it's important to nuance the discussion in terms of the other(s) involved in the discussion.

I wouldn't mind coming across as a dick to "in your face" fundamentalist strangers whereas I hope that I would tread more lightly among while still holding my ground among those with whom I have a positive relationship.

Grundy said...

I argue with apologists publically so that the more "on-the-fence" people will see/hear the argument. I know I won't convince the truly committed, but maybe I'll convince someone.

Secular Guy said...

Thanks for your contribution.

I know what you mean. In fact at an atheist convention that I attended over the week-end, the point was raised that in order to de-program people from religion, the only thing that's necessary is to just plant a seed of doubt into their beliefs. Then just stand back and let the uncertainty do the rest.

But as I stated in my post, it's often difficult to know just where to start in response to believers' often ridiculous statements.