What are some arguments to avoid if you want a good dialogue? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Recently, I wrote about how not all atheists on the internet are alike. Some atheists are what are known as internet atheists or fundamentalist atheists. So what are some arguments that they use? I am going to give a few of them and keep in mind, it’s not just the arguments but how they’re asked. If someone asks about these and I think they genuinely want an answer, that’s one thing. If they assert them constantly and don’t dialogue on them, then I don’t take them seriously.
Let’s start with one of the biggest ones. Jesus never even existed. If you say this, it is thoroughly difficult to take you seriously. Most Christians I know don’t even bother interacting with this nonsense any more. Most of these arguments are hugely question-begging and done from people who know nothing about how to do history. Along with this goes the pagan copycat argument.
Following this route, if you cite Richard Carrier as if he’s the best thing ever to happen to New Testament scholarship, then you will not be taken seriously. By the way, when I say Richard Carrier, I mean the unemployed polyamorous prominent internet blogger who’s banned from SkeptiCon. Carrier also doesn’t teach at any accredited university or seminary. There’s a reason for that. It’s not because of credentials, but because of his positions.
If you present faith as believing without evidence, I don’t have reason to take that seriously either. This is a constant mantra that the new atheists had. This is again a question that can be asked still in an inquisitive way that I would be happy to correct since so many Christians get this wrong sadly. Faith is really seen more as trust in that which has been shown to be reliable. It’s not blind belief.
And following that pathway, if you cite the new atheists regularly, that will be a red flag. No. The God Delusion is not a devastating book to theism. Even some atheists wrote about that book being an embarrassment. Michael Ruse endorsed the book the McGraths wrote in reply saying that Dawkins’s book left him embarrassed to be an atheist.
If you outright refuse to read whatever disagrees with you, then you won’t be taken seriously. The number one I use is Andrew Loke’s book nowadays. This book is absolutely free to read on a Kindle device. I have seen some people make so many excuses to not read it. Look. If you have time to go on Facebook and just argue against me relentlessly, you can put aside some time to read what disagrees with you. I could understand if I was asking you to buy the print version that costs over $100. I am asking you to read something free.
If you also refer to my book as the BuyBull, I will not take you seriously. Any time I hear someone say this, I walk away thinking they’re practically someone in high school who doesn’t know better. I am up for a good insult just as much, but this is not one. It gets into this idea that everything in the Bible is completely stupid and false. For some people, you would think they would rather commit ritual suicide than admit there is something in the Bible that can be true.
This will not shut down debate, but as a rule, in academic debate, I do not read Wikipedia. Wikis are just fine for pop culture items. I will go to wikis for TV shows and movies and video games as I trust the fans on the internet to be able to know about these topics. When it comes to more serious issues, I don’t know who edited that Wiki article last.
“But if you check the notes on the article, you get fine sources!”
“Then give me those sources directly.”
Memes are another kind of defeater. About the only exception is if you have a meme that is a quote of something someone has said. It’s just put in a pithy illustration. If you think a meme is a great presenter of an argument, I don’t take it seriously. A meme is meant to be either an illustration of a point already made, or a quip meant to be purely humorous, and I have plenty of those that I use constantly. It’s not meant to be the argument itself.
If you are someone also who emphasizes science above everything and especially says everything must be explained scientifically, then I don’t take that seriously. This is not because I am anti-science, but I am anti making everything science. It’s not. There are plenty of things that we know that we don’t know scientifically. I don’t have to wake up everyday and do scientific tests to see if my parents love me. History and Math are not necessarily known through science. Science can contribute in some ways, such as archaeology, but not mostly. Philosophy is another such area.
I am also cautious about those who present the Middle Ages as a Dark Ages where science was shut down entirely and the Christians were killing anyone who dared challenge them. Thankfully, this myth is starting to be undone in the world around us. One leading voice doing this is atheist Tim O’Neill.
Also, if I am in a Facebook debate and most every comment I give gets the laugh emoticon from you, I will know you are a waste of time. The laugh emoticon should really be saved for jokes. When it’s used in a debate like that, it just comes across as petty.
Keep in mind also that all of this is said in light of knowing how something is said is just as important. If an atheist comes to me and says, “But I have heard that scholars say Jesus never existed and is based on pagan myths,” and I can tell he’s just stating that as if to say that’s what he’s read, but is open to knowing otherwise, then no problem. The same for every other item on this list.
Many of us in apologetics hope to someday find better debates, but too many atheists are really dumbing down their side. Yes. I also know many Christians are doing this. We often are cleaning our own house out. I too rarely see leading atheists doing the same.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)