Reason Rally: Tips for Dialogue

Can some help be given for the debates at Reason Rally? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’d like today’s post to be about helping with the dialogue what will go on at Reason Rally. However, in the interest of fairness, I think the Christians that I know that are able to go are very well equipped and I want to make sure the other side has some information to even things out on how they can have better dialogues.

First, please keep in mind that many of us read books and we prefer books that don’t have the word “Illustrated” on the cover. This also means that you will need to know about the books that we read. It also means that you will need to have more than a google search. In this area, never ever refer to Wikipedia. We know you treat it seriously, but we don’t.

Second, keep in mind that saying dead people coming back to life is absurd doesn’t faze us. That’s something from your worldview, and if there is no God, then we agree that it is absurd. You need to remember that we do not share that worldview and it does no good to say our worldview is wrong because it has things in it that are absurd to your worldview.

Third, avoid using the word faith to refer to believing something without evidence. We know that you believe that this is the definition of faith even though you have no evidence that any biblical writer intended the word faith to mean that. When you use faith and treat is as if we believe things without evidence, it leads us to further be certain of our position that you’re clueless.

Fourth, keep in mind that the scientific method is great for science, but not for everything else, and that verificationism has been a dead movement for a number of decades now. We know you are behind on the times on this, but that is what happens when there is no study done in philosophical matters due to science becoming the way, the truth, and the life.

Fifth, we are well-read with various opinions on matters that are secondary. Do not assume that we all believe in a 6000 year-old Earth or that we all interpret every biblical passage literally or that we all live and die on the words of William Lane Craig. Yes. We know that you treat Pope Dawkins that way, but we do not treat Craig that way. You might be surprised to know that at times, some of us actually disagree with him. We don’t blindly accept someone because they’re a theist, which is different from what we see from the atheist side of blindly accepting someone because they’re an atheist.

Sixth, when it comes to Craig, for those of us who do believe in some of his arguments, just saying “Craig has been refuted” or “Craig is a proven liar” or something like that. That means no more to us than if we come to you and just say “Dawkins has been refuted” without an argument.

Seventh, don’t assume that just because you believe you have proven evolution in a dialogue that every argument for God’s existence becomes irrelevant. Believe it or not, some of us actually have no problem with evolutionary theory and some of us realize that God’s existence is not based on filling a function alone.

Eighth, never say that Jesus never existed. When you do that, we automatically know that you are not worth taking seriously. Believe it or not, many atheists can accept that Jesus existed as a historical person and go on to lead lives that they find entirely consistent with atheism. Ask your doctor if it will work for you.

Ninth, when referring to books, be sure that you have read some of ours. This might sound strange to you, but we actually like to read books by atheists. It would be appreciative if you would read books by Christians. Note we mean intellectual Christians. “Your Best Life Now” doesn’t count.

Tenth, don’t assume that Ray Comfort and Josh McDowell are the peak of Christian apologetics. Some of us actually prefer the older arguments. We want to know if you can deal with Augustinian or Thomistic thought. Sure, we read moderns. But they’re just standing on the shoulders of giants.

Eleventh, as soon as you mention fairies, unicorns, Santa Claus, or anything similar, we already know to discount you. Believe it or not, using words like this are not synonymous with actually having an argument. You need to show that any such analogy would work and do so without assuming your worldview.

Twelfth, learn to critically examine your own authorities. Believe it or not, Dawkins can be wrong about some things and he actually is not an authority in philosophy, theology, or biblical studies. Personally, you should seek to move away from Dawkins if you want to have respect as an atheist. Sadly enough, your showing up at the Reason Rally is probably going to be an indication that you’re already too far gone in fundamentalist thinking.

This is a lot, but I do realize that you really need help in these dialogues and I seek to be fair. Following steps like this could lead to you coming to the dialogue with an informed opinion instead of just rants, and we would all appreciate that much more.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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17 Responses to “Reason Rally: Tips for Dialogue”

  1. J. P. Holding Says:

    You can also add:

    13th — don’t pester us with questions about whether we were raised as Christians, or in one of the monotheistic/Abrahamic faiths, as a way of avoiding engaging our arguments. It doesn’t make a lick of difference to our arguments how we were raised, and it isn’t a cheap shortcut to dismissing what we have to say.

  2. Philosotroll (@thephilosotroll) Says:

    It is laughable that something so thick with condescension claims to be an attempt at opening a door for dialogue. Moreover, that a post so thick with defenses of the ways in which apologists get strawman’d presents so many blatant strawmen of atheists.

    In spite of my agreement with a handful of your points (it is unfair to toss all apologists in with Comfort and Craig) the failure to engage in self-criticism, to recognize hypocrisy, is staggering.

  3. apologianick Says:

    If you’re someone who is capable of real dialogue and not like a fundy atheist, then this post is not directed at you and is a list of things you can agree with.

    As for self-criticism, that has been done on other blogs.

    And as for hypocrisy, do give an example of how it was done here.

    • Philosotroll (@thephilosotroll) Says:

      Attempting to combat stereotypes about theists while invoking stereotypes about atheists is fundamentally hypocritical. See (1), (5), (9) and (12) are all claims that attempt to undermine a stereotype about Christians (academic illiteracy, Biblical literalism, philosophical/scientific illiteracy and adherence to authority, respectively) and simultaneously present stereotypes of atheists (excessive use of wikipedia, deification of Dawkins, theological/apologetical illiteracy, adherence to authority).

      Take Matthew 7:1-6 under advisement in such circumstances. Even if your claim is that you are constructing some archetype of atheist and, as many do not comply with that archetype, it should not be viewed as unilaterally offensive, you have failed to note the foundational problem of the project of constructing an archetype in the first place: it commits the same broad-strokes generalization that you find so frustrating about dealing with atheists.

      If you do not like being lumped in with Christians who conform to the “fundamentalist” stereotype, perhaps the appropriate move is to acknowledge that the construction of archetypes like “fundamentalist,” generally, is fundamentally destructive to the dialogue.

  4. Simplexion Says:

    Wow… you don’t treat Wikipedia seriously. Amazing. “I ignore a huge source of information because it goes against my beliefs!”

  5. apologianick Says:

    @Philosotroll.

    It might help if you had read the post. I was speaking specifically about my Christian brothers who I know are going to the Reason Rally. They are in fact equipped. Had I been talking about all Christians, I would have agreed with your assessment. I wasn’t. I also was not talking about all atheists but the kind I have reason to believe will be at the Reason Rally.

    If you had read other posts I’ve written, you’d know I have gone after the church for allowing ignorance in its ranks and written about atheists that I do happen to respect since they can dialogue.

    • Philosotroll (@thephilosotroll) Says:

      That totally ignores the substance of my comment. The issue is whether it is polemically, or intellectually, justifiable to assert that atheists (whether it is “some group of atheists” or “atheists as a whole”) ignore stereotypes of “fundamentalist” Christians at the request of a Christian writer, while that writer invokes stereotypes of “fundamentalist” atheists.

      It comes off as disingenuous; regardless of whether you’re capable of nuance in other contexts.

  6. apologianick Says:

    @Simpleton.

    No. I avoid Wikipedia because it’s unreliable. The article could have been written by someone with a PH.D. in the subject, or it could have been written by a 15 year-old in High School. You don’t know by looking. WIkipedia has been notorious for getting things wrong and thus, I prefer going to things called books where I can know who the author is, what their credentials are, and that once published in one edition, that particular edition won’t be “edited.”

    It’s lazy types who look to Wikipedia on serious subjects for scholarly information.

  7. apologianick Says:

    Actually it does make a difference. Many of us have spent years answering the same old arguments and assumptions from those that are fitting with the Reason Rally crowd and take someone like Dawkins seriously.

    Also, these are not stereotypes. This is how fundamentalist atheists think just like the way fundamentalist Christians think. I have huge problems with both groups. I do know the Christians I know attending are not fundamentalist. I have no reason to think the atheists in attendance are not.

    • Philosotroll (@thephilosotroll) Says:

      “Also, these are not stereotypes. This is how fundamentalist atheists think just like the way fundamentalist Christians think.”

      Seriously? You’re constructing what you believe to be a homogeneous typical grouping and then extending it to the entirety of a group. Using the qualifier “fundamentalist” doesn’t make it, all of a sudden, not a stereotype. Again, you fail to adequately address the substantive objection: that you’re using stereotypes. In fact, you confirm it by asserting that there is some monolithic “way that fundamentalist atheists” think.

      Moreover, the end of your argument is really odd:

      “I do know the Christians I know attending are not fundamentalist. I have no reason to think the atheists in attendance are not.”

      Well, there are three groups: (a) Christians you know who are attending, (b) Christians you do not know who are attending, and (c) atheists who are attending.

      Your argument is that (a) does not adhere to the conventional stereotype of “fundamentalist” Christian.

      The issue is whether or not (b) and (c) will trespass against the stereotypical conventions you are drawing up. You say that you have “No reason to think the atheists in attendance are not [fundamentalists]” but the same holds for (b). So why the insistence on drawing the atheist “fundamentalist” stereotypes while asserting that the Christians will not adhere to Christian “fundamentalist” stereotypes? If it is the case that Christians will confirm “fundamentalist” stereotypes just as the “fundamentalist” atheists do, then how are you at all justified in attempting to disabuse atheists of “fundamentalist” Christian stereotypes while portraying fundamentalist atheist stereotypes?

  8. apologianick Says:

    Philo: Seriously? You’re constructing what you believe to be a homogeneous typical grouping and then extending it to the entirety of a group. Using the qualifier “fundamentalist” doesn’t make it, all of a sudden, not a stereotype.

    Reply: Actually it does. I in no way have all atheists in mind as I have a number of friends on here who are atheists and we have very congenial exchanges where they interact with the issues. Fundamentalist refers to a type of atheist and not to all atheists.

    Philo: Again, you fail to adequately address the substantive objection: that you’re using stereotypes. In fact, you confirm it by asserting that there is some monolithic “way that fundamentalist atheists” think.

    Reply: Yes there is and I have no problem with saying that fundamentalist atheists think this way. The difference is fundamentalist atheists think all Christians think the same way when we do not.

    Philo: Well, there are three groups: (a) Christians you know who are attending, (b) Christians you do not know who are attending, and (c) atheists who are attending.

    Your argument is that (a) does not adhere to the conventional stereotype of “fundamentalist” Christian.

    The issue is whether or not (b) and (c) will trespass against the stereotypical conventions you are drawing up. You say that you have “No reason to think the atheists in attendance are not [fundamentalists]” but the same holds for (b). So why the insistence on drawing the atheist “fundamentalist” stereotypes while asserting that the Christians will not adhere to Christian “fundamentalist” stereotypes? If it is the case that Christians will confirm “fundamentalist” stereotypes just as the “fundamentalist” atheists do, then how are you at all justified in attempting to disabuse atheists of “fundamentalist” Christian stereotypes while portraying fundamentalist atheist stereotypes?

    Reply: Because the Christians I know of attending place a strong emphasis on reason and do not hold to fundamentalist stereotypes. The huge majority would not believe the Earth is young for instance and they also have studied what they believe and in fact what the other side believes.

    Meanwhile, what I see on the other side is what I find at sites like Dawkins’s and Meyers’s and from the responses I receive here and years of debating atheists online who take the “arguments” of the new atheists seriously.

    If you went to your average church, most likely most Christians would be fundamentalist Christians in their thinking and I have spoken out against that before. I have a problem with ignorance wherever it shows up.

    • Philosotroll (@thephilosotroll) Says:

      As I said, I’m sympathetic to your opposition to ignorance on either side, and I’m not going to argue with whether or not you have addressed it on both sides; I’ll take your word that you have.

      The question is your justification for addressing this commentary unilaterally to “fundamentalist” atheists, while presuming the presence of a non-“fundamentalist” Christian contingent; if your information is incomplete, and it is, the qualification is important.

  9. Matt Says:

    “Believe it or not, many atheists can accept that Jesus existed as a historical person and go on to lead lives that they find entirely consistent with atheism. Ask your doctor if it will work for you.”

    Ha!

    You bring up a bunch of great points. I *would* be concerned that you’re “tipping your hand” too much here…but then again, the kind of atheists who are likely to use the arguments you mentioned probably didn’t have the patience or open-mindedness to get past your first few sentences.

    And concerning the back-and-forth over Wikipedia: it’s a great source for gaining a cursory, 3-sentence understanding of a topic. But to use it as an authoritative source for gaining a deep understanding of religion? No way. I might use it to learn what a “podocyte” is, for example…but I definitely wouldn’t go to Wikipedia as a source of knowledge if I were about to go have a conversation with a nephrologist.

  10. Derek Says:

    “Wow… you don’t treat Wikipedia seriously. Amazing. “I ignore a huge source of information because it goes against my beliefs!””

    As if wiki was run by and for atheists. Sheesh, you do not think before you comment.

    Wow… you treat Wikipedia seriously?! Amazing. “I utilize a huge source of questionable information because it agrees with my beliefs!”

  11. apologianick Says:

    Well Philo, can you demonstrate that my information is incomplete?

  12. apologianick Says:

    I have no reason to believe any from those groups will be there. If there are fundy Christians, my complaints against them will be similar. What I expect is that since I’ve seen much of the atheist movement since the new atheists came about, that I can see several of the tired canards so I wrote a post to go on and dispense with them.

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