Debating and Deconversion
Sisyphus: This is a guest post written by one of my good friends and a regular commenter, Schevus.
One of the biggest problems that arises when a non-theist and a theist (Christian for the purposes of this post) debate religion is the different position that each side is coming from. For an example, let’s take the common situation of a non-theist presenting biblical contradictions and fallacies as an argument against Christianity.
The non-theist believes the Bible is an aggregated collection of works written by men with no divine influence. The theist usually believes the Bible is the divine work of god, or at least that the authors were divinely inspired. The non-theist will probably point out the negative aspects of the Bible – slavery, murder, homophobia, sexism, etc, as arguments that Christianity is not a religion of love, and that it can be manipulated to perpetuate evil works or does so directly. The problem with this is that since the theist believes the Bible to be the work of god, attacking the Bible is attacking god himself and the theist will become defensive. Theists do not have the objective view of the Bible that non-theists have. They are, generally, very close to and emotional about it, and are thus unable to debate parts of it on their merits alone.
Sometimes I think non-theists, especially vocal strong atheists, allow their arrogance to get the better of them, which results in them trying to deconvert religious people simply to feel accomplished in doing so. I see no gain for society from someone who is a good person that happens to be religious becoming not religious. If they are not hurting anyone, it is not your duty to “enlighten” them and free them from their “stupidity”.
The reasonable argument against religion is to prevent it from being used as a rationale or guise for evil, immoral, or intolerant acts. I personally feel that debating the merits of religion itself is a poor avenue for this achievement. I think it is much more effective to work through our supposedly secular government to limit or prohibit things such as intolerance, religiously motivated violence, etc. If we cannot make the necessary changes through government, changing it so that we can should be the focus.
It’s very unlikely that fundamentalist or strong theists are going to be swayed away from their religion by logic, and thus there is little justification for trying to do so, other than self-aggrandizement as I mentioned. Theists who are less firm in their beliefs are most likely to be swayed away from religion by societal acceptance, so as more people are open about their non-theism more weak theists will be drawn away with little commotion.
Note: Sisyphus has been bugging me for some time to guest post for him, and I’ve finally relented. More from me may be coming.