The substance of most of the debate – between Religion believers and Atheists – is far too simplistic. Picture the abbreviated argument: The Atheist claims that there is no god; says that the proof is the lack of definitive proof that god has ever existed. The Believer rationally counters that the Atheist’s belief’ is not proof enough. Boom. You’re done.
That’s what a zero sum argument looks like. It’s like debating the description of a color or describing a fleeting glimpse. Nobody wins. Everyone goes away angry.
A better approach – sez I – is to engage Believers on a more rational level; attack points of proof rather than the basis of proof.
Case in point: Christians who lamely use science to prove that the universe is younger than what the data shows (e.g., 15+ billion year). I particularly enjoy so-called Christians who will go so far as to commit heresy by claiming that the bible ‘proves’ that the Earth is about 6,000 years old. I had one Christian (a pastor at a church) tell me that all those fossils and other evidence we use to estimate Earth’s real age was just placed there to fool us.
“Do tell?” I responded. “And what about the star light that’s over 15 billion years old from the furthest reaches of Hubble’s vision, is “he” fooling us about that too?”
“Yes, HE is!”
After a moment, I said, “So… from what you’re saying, your god is a liar? A cheater? A pretender? I mean, in all the vastness of this universe, your god has nothing better to do than to fuck with the evidence just to fool little ol’me into thinking something that isn’t?”
Before Mr Believer could answer, I asked: “Riddle me this, Pastor. What came first, the chicken or the egg?”
He gave it some thought. “The chicken came first because “god” created Adam as fully adult – thus every living creature was created and planted on an uncorrupted and unspoiled Earth.”
“Great answer. How do you know?” Says I.
“Because that’s what the bible says.” Says he.
“I believe the egg came first, because I also believe that from corruption comes life, because that’s how nature works now and how it has worked all over the universe for billions of years.”
I paused. “Do you know how do I know? We can I can see it with my own eyes.”
Sure… okay… it doesn’t bring down the house, but the point is made. An atheist’s “belief” is based on observable fact – a clear distinction is made. When we argue this way, we also strengthen the perception that Atheism is not merely a belief but a choice not to believe in tall tales from an ancient book written by men.
Lesson: use rational comparisons and explanations to grapple with irrational (emotional) circular logic. I guarantee you’ll feel much better with the result.
Going forward, this debate proves one of the major precepts of the founding fathers: the separation of Church and State. They weren’t atheists. They were not agnostic about god either. But they respected my right NOT to believe.