Monday, May 19, 2014

Debates & Misdemeanors

When I started Deity Shmeity my intension was to use it as a record of my exchanges with theists. Long time readers know that never really happened. My first attempt to publish a debate resulted in so much editing that I concluded my time was better spent taking the topic discussed and simply writing an article informed by the theistic objections. Why so much editing, you might ask? Well, debates, especially those on-line, have a way of branching off into new topics before the previous are resolved. Like the Hydra of mythology and Marvel comics, chopping off one head of a crappy argument just results in two more crappy arguments taking it’s place--all without an acknowledgment that the first head lies resting at my feet. More so, debates get personal. I don’t just mean they get all ad-hominemy, although that certainly happens, but also that elements from both my and the theist’s lives are brought up which I feel are either too intimate to post or too irrelevant to make public. Top that off with having to censor out the peanut gallery or else post pages of nonsense in an effort to be a balanced completionist! No, I quickly learned my lesson. The debates are for me, the posts are for you.

That said, the fact that all my posts are informed by at least one theist’s objections is true to this day. My workflow usually goes like this: I post an idea on Twitter or Google+ and let my surprisingly high number of theistic (usually Christian) followers attempt to take it apart. If they fail outright, I post it addressing some of their objections. If they somewhat succeed, I revise the idea to make it tighter, more objection-proof, and clearer. My argument is then also, I like to think, closer to being true--even if it comes down less on the side of “God is obviously bullshit” than I originally intended.

It’s a valuable process to me and one I encourage fellow atheists to take up. Thinking critically about gods and religions will likely give you all kinds of ideas. Most will have been already thought up by someone else, but coming to them organically speaks volumes of their power. Some will be logically true and serve as ironclad takedowns of indoctrinated superstitions. And others will be flawed, inconsistent or fallacious--in which case entering them into the intellectual area for battle and being open to the possibility of being wrong and losing an argument will make you better. It will make you more right in the future, and that’s all that should really matter.


  1. There are no new ideas under the sun, especially when it comes to religion. It's all been done a million times before so trying for originality really doesn't get you anywhere. Your discussion of theistic debate is exactly why I really don't debate theists anymore, or at least try not to. They just can't be honest. They're not out after the truth, they're debating to reinforce their beliefs and if you prove them wrong, they just change tactics. They will never admit that their beliefs are false no matter what you do, to combat them is pointless because like cockroaches, they'll just run off again, saying the same disproven things.

  2. Good suggestion. I especially loved this line: "My argument is then also, I like to think, closer to being true--even if it comes down less on the side of “God is obviously bullshit” than I originally intended."

    Lots of atheists, when they are careful, will come to realize they overshoot in their generalizations. They get almost religious about their atheism.