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    • #1033
      Argumentative Atheist
      Points: 100,918

      One of the biggest mistakes that atheists make when arguing with theists is that they ignore the “internal logic” of the theist’s position. So what do I mean by “internal logic”? Any viewpoint, ideology or worldview always has a largely consistent internal logic. While there may be inconsistencies they are usually easily glossed over and ignored. This is true of anyone who doesn’t have a psychological condition that precludes it.

      So while atheists rail against the “illogical” positions of religious people, if you look at their worldview it will have logical rules and be largely consistent. Any inconsistencies will have explanations that fit the logical rules of their worldview. I’m sure many atheists will vehemently disagree with what I’m saying here, so let’s go through an example I often use.

      Noah’s Ark. Atheists love to use Noah’s Ark as an example of religious illogical beliefs. And they will use arguments such as “There’s no way Noah could have had enough food for all the animals on the Ark”. Or, “There’s no way all the animals could fit on the Ark”. Or even, “If it rained hard enough to cover the world in water the Ark would have dissolved like spun sugar”. And many more similar arguments, all of which completely ignore the internal logic of the theist’s position. Because in the theist’s worldview God is omnipotent, literally all powerful, and can make anything happen that it wants to happen. So saying “It’s impossible for all the animals to fit on the Ark” is nonsensical. God wanted it to happen, so it happened. Continuing to argue this point simply shows that you don’t understand what God is capable of. “It is impossible for Noah to have enough feed” is easily and simply ignored through the internal (and consistent) logic of “With God all things are possible”.

      By ignoring the internal logic of a theist’s worldview many atheists make their arguments completely nonsensical from a theist’s point of view. The argument devolves to Atheist: “This is impossible” Theist: “No it isn’t”. With no possibility for change in either argument, because neither debater can understand the point of view of the other. This is why so many atheists completely fail to overawe theists with their logic and reasoning, because from the theist’s point of view it isn’t logical or reasonable at all.

      So how do we address this issue? Well it means we need to use more care when formulating our arguments. If you want to make a point that a theist will genuinely listen to then you need to make sure it follows the internal consistency and logic of their worldview. So here’s an example: the theist believes that God is omniscient, and is capable of anything. However theists always place limits on the extent of God’s power without realizing it. This is necessary to maintain internal logical consistency. Because if God is capable of literally anything, then it would be possible for God to come up with a better way of dealing with the sin in Noah’s world than killing 99.99r% of all life on the surface of the earth. So a better argument is “Is God capable of dealing with all the sin in the world around Noah, but without killing most of the life on the surface of the planet, and yet retaining all the benefits of his giant flood?” And of course the answer is Yes, God is capable, so the argument may then continue to “Why didn’t he”. The theist will invariably offer many excuses, but you can simply remind them of the first question, one which must always have the same answer, but will also lead them to the inescapable conclusion that God’s methods were not optimal or necessary.

      While they may not admit it in the conversation with you this has a good chance of sticking in their heads as an unresolvable inconsistency in their worldview. Something that will inevitably lead to them either changing their worldview, or becoming more open to reason. Using arguments of this nature, ones that fit the internal logic of their worldview, it is possible to make a theist confront the inconsistencies in their point of view, while without following the internal logic of their worldview it is impossible to do so.

      So essentially you have to understand the theist’s point of view before you can reasonably argue against it. Something many atheists fail to even attempt.

    • #1034
      John Moriarty

      I cannot say this is the best approach, but I incline to flat out accuse the Bible god of being a totally invented propagandistic fraud and especially devoid of morality.  You can’t order the genocide of whole tribes and theft of lands and virgin-stock, and have the slightest credible claim to morality, especially while claiming to own the universe.  There’s been extensive debate on these lines on my own page where I’ve had some wild accusations levelled against me.  I’m leaving them up, as they hang themselves.  BTW I am actually friendly with many believers as I share their views on abortion, albeit for secular reasons rather than their contradictory reasons.

      • #4073
        Points: 14

        I think it’s awesome you have taken such a careful approach to these arguments. It is clear you seek common ground rather than bragging rights, and I respect that.

        As a theist, I would like to propose another possibility.  I’m still researching this bit so please bear with me as I might make some mistakes in fact. The overarching concept should be easy to grasp and isn’t super fact based at this level of development.

        When the Bible was written in Hebrew, God had several names including Jehovah and Adonai. The English translations just turned a lot of those separate names into God. What if, everyone referred to as God, in the current Bible, is not the same entity, and therefore, some of them were created after others. So, now we have a hierarchy issue, as well as some possible imposters.  As a believer I was always troubled by the story in the garden. Once Adam and Eve eat the fruit, they cover themselves. When they hear “God” walking in the garden, they hide. He cannot find them, he has no knowledge of what they have done and, this is the big one for me, what he said would happen (they would die on the day they ate the fruit) does NOT come to pass.

        Even more interesting, is what actually does happen. There eyes are opened and they become like “God” knowing the difference between good and evil, exactly what the snake said would happen.

        Now, how my fellow Christians manage to ignore this obvious inconsistency, is beyond me, but I am very intrigued with the theories I am exploring, that delve into this.

        Have you ever heard of any of this?  There is so much to discuss that neither side ever touches, which is absolutely fascinating to me. Lilith is rarely brought up, if God is perfect, why did it take two tries to make the right mate for Adam? The jealousy about other Gods, like, if you the big man in charge, how can you even feel jealous? And how did the angels even manage to make a stupid decision to go against God, knowing how much of a bad idea it was???

        Interested to hear your thoughts, as most Christians I have access to are ABSOLUTELY not interested in going down this path with me. Cheers!

    • #4009
      Points: 15

      I agree with the thrust of your message. A little more humility within the ashiest community would go a long way. However, I might even suggest going a step further.  Can we even have a logical conversation with a theist without understanding why the person feels the need to defend his or her religious beliefs? Why is it important for the person that his or her beliefs are true? I would bet that if we ask the right questions and the individual is willing to do a little self-reflection, we would find the person is using the belief system to address an emotional need. Perhaps they are grief stricken from the loss of a loved one. Perhaps they have experienced some sort of trauma. Perhaps they’re simply afraid of something like death. Maybe the person is depressed and the thought of heaven brings hope.  Can we expect people to think logically as long as the emotional need remains unaddressed? I suspect, sooner or later, the person would experience what Daniel Goleman calls the amygdala hijack, and at that point, logic and reason go out the window. Furthermore, is it even morally appropriate for us to take the person’s religious beliefs away without providing a more suitable treatment for the underlying emotional need? We don’t know what’s going on in their lives. What if the person is sober only because of religion? What if the person is depressed and the only thing standing between them and suicide is this little fantasy? Obviously we don’t want people pushing their believes down our throats, but how will taking them away affect others? I think we (the atheist community) could afford to be a bit more empathetic as well.

      • #4010
        Argumentative Atheist
        Points: 100,918

        Absolutely, although to be fair I think this is true for nearly any group that you care to name.


      • #4074
        Argumentative Atheist
        Points: 100,918

        Yes, I’ve discussed most of these inconsistencies before and they are fairly common discussion topics for people who are likely to find this website. Part of the difficulty with discussion on these subjects is that many of them are not consistent in church doctrine. An easy example is Lillith, many churches don’t accept that Lillith ever existed. One of the most important parts of any discussion like this is often finding out which beliefs are “correct” for the other person in the conversation.

        I’m happy to talk to you about any of these subjects from an Atheist’s perspective if you like :).

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