Well, that was educational. I’ve spent a good part of the last month engaging in conversations with a number of atheist bloggers on a number of atheist bloggy sites and, frankly, I can see why the “faithful” and the “faithless” aren’t seeing eye to eye. We simply see the world through completely different lenses. Or screens. Or filters. Or something.
At times the difference in assumptions and worldview made me feel as though I was trying to explain a poem to a pocket calculator.
“You see, the poet has painted a metaphor for the beauty of relationships.”
“No, no… not ‘equals seven’. It represents the transcendent experience we all long for beneath the mundanity of everyday life.”
“Well, yes, technically that’s true. But it isn’t really what I’m trying to explain to you…”
“You don’t have to get angry…”
“Maybe we should stop talking now.”
My biggest frustration, perhaps, is that arguing with “theists” seems to have become a sport for many online atheists – something you go out for like football or chess club. Something you could make a career out of – publish books, become a “star,” garner a following. And even more concerning, some “theists” appear to be responding in kind, suiting up and jumping into the fray with guns blazing. It’s shocking how quickly such interactions devolve into insults and name calling – like trash talk on a schoolyard.
“Your mama’s so stupid she committed a ‘straw man fallacy’!”
“Oh yeah?? You’re mama’s so stupid she ‘begged the question’ and started a debate with an unjustified a priori assumption!!”
Whoa. Them’s fightin’ words.
The other day I was told I had committed the “Texas Sharpshooter fallacy.” I was told to look it up if I didn’t know what it was. It’s one thing to be told your argument is weak. It’s another thing to be told your argument is so predictably weak that there’s a name for it.
It’s kind of amazing to discover a whole world of people – atheists and theists alike – who live for the thrill of pointing out each other’s fancifully named fallacies. Sort of like the first time you watch Toddlers in Tiaras. (“Wait – these are real people?? This is how they spend their free time?!?”)
Not that I’m saying logic and debate don’t serve valuable functions. I’m quite certain they do. It’s just weird, though, to find an entire subculture devoted to the use of logic and debate not necessarily to gain insight, but more to “win battles” and “defeat opponents” as sport. (And again, it isn’t just atheists playing the game. As in most sports, it takes two to tango.)
My friend Skye warned me when I said I was engaging with some online atheists. “Are you SURE you want to go there?!?” I believe is what he said. Not that he felt I would lose my faith or anything. But, having spent a few college years debating with atheists, he already knew that those who engage in this peculiar sport are typically more interested in victory than truth. Which, means, above all else, yield no ground. Show no weakness. No possible signs of uncertainty regarding one’s premises. No openness to altering one’s position.
And as unappealing as this attitude might be in an atheist, it is infinitely MORE unappealing in a follower of Christ.
I’ll probably write more about my adventure in Atheist-Land in the coming weeks. I don’t think I changed anyone’s mind about anything, but I think I may have made a couple of friends. And at the end of the day, the offer of friendship may be the most valuable contribution to the debate any of us can make.