General Question

Your_Majesty's avatar

Atheist only: Can you help me to challenge a theologist?

Asked by Your_Majesty (8215points) September 21st, 2010
67 responses
“Great Question” (11points)

OK folks the story began when I took my English major this year in a university and I’m required to take the religion class,among other necessary classes. Here we go,today I enter my religion class even though I’m an atheist. I thought that I can learn some history fact and culture in that Christianity religion class despite I’m an atheist. From the beginning till the last of this lesson this Mr theologist keep reproaching atheists people and atheism (especially US people since he took US people as an example of ‘bad apple’),he said that no matter how good atheists in their life they’re actually arrogant people since they don’t want to believe in God,he also tried to manipulate other people about real-life science (he said that heaven exist on earth,and in your heart,we just can’t find it since it’s out of our capability to find such place and all of us must answer that way if he gives us such question in his exam. LOL I clearly seen stupidity there),and other negative perspective about atheist people (believe me,you don’t want to know all he said).

I keep silent during the class since I feel that I need to respect his perspective,especially when this is his first time but he keeps flaming atheism and I think I need to give him a ‘lesson’ by challenging him with lots of science debate and question.
So atheist people,can you help me to kick his sorry ass with your brilliant idea so I can win this debate and make this dishonest theologist speechless? I don’t care if he gives me a bad score,so please suggest me a good question or other facts about religion (I would like to take prehistoric remains and evolution theory as my debate material and I hope he’s bright enough since he said he’s a Phd).

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Scooby's avatar

Just say god made you an atheist for his own Reasons, That should quiet him down a little :-/

Brian1946's avatar

Is it possible to take a more objective religion class; one that teaches instead of preaches about religion?

I would argue that if it’s arrogant for atheists not to believe in his god, then isn’t it arrogant for any theist to believe only in their god and not in any other?

Your_Majesty's avatar

@Brian1946 I’m afraid it’s not possible since I study in Christian University and this is one of their requirements (most university in my country are religion-based university). That is also a good idea anyway.

BarnacleBill's avatar

You cannot win this one, and this is the reason why. There’s a saying “Never argue with an idiot. In order to do so, you must go to their level, and as that’s unfamiliar territory, you will always lose.” The same holds true for religious zealots. You will never win because of the reasons stated in the newspaper article – they will never want to admit that they are, or could be, wrong. If they admit it, they have nothing left of a belief system.

Perhaps that is the argument to present. “You cannot deal with the idea that you are wrong, because to do so is to admit that your belief system up this point is false, and you will have nothing left.” You don’t need to have religion in order to have a moral compass.

Your_Majesty's avatar

@BarnacleBill Hmm… That really makes sense. So,in other words I should keep hearing his ‘facts’ without making any rational debate? (I can’t stand his manipulation) Is that also means that theist people always win the debate when they’re facing atheist people? I’ve seen many atheist people win the fight when they’re faced with theist people who challenge them here,on fluther. I guess maybe I have no chance to prove the reality of this world in my country,or at least in my university,especially when I’m the only atheist in my class.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

He is obviously working from the assumption that there is a God, and it is necessary for people to believe to be good. Personally, I would take the ethical/moral approach in debating him.

Belief in God is an assumption. Arrogance is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, “Making or implying unwarrantable claims to dignity, authority, or knowledge”. To be arrogant therefore, a person must be making an unsupportable claim. Atheists do not make a claim, except that there is no reason to believe in gods. The claim here is that there is a God, which is an unwarrantable claim to knowledge and authority. Therefore by definition, he is arrogant and the atheist is cautiously sceptical.

On moral grounds, there is no reason why any belief would impact a person’s ability to be moral, except in the way those beliefs translate into actions. If the actions of an atheist and a theist are identical, and they are both being consistent and pursuing the same ends for other people, then their morality is inseparable. Intention and action contributes to morality, but the reason for that intention is largely irrelevant. Whether you follow Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative, which in my opinion mirrors “God said so” arguments, or Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism, which seeks to maximise pleasure as the ultimate indicator of good and evil, it is possible to be either moral or immoral. The same is true for theism and atheism – there is neither correlation nor causation between spiritual belief, or lack thereof, and morality unless you get down to specific beliefs.

In the case of the existence of heaven, it is an unfalsifiable claim with no relevance to our daily lives. It cannot be tested, and its existence or non-existence cannot impact our lives, so there is no good reason to believe. The default position should be that it does not exist, because the scientific method teaches us to assume a negative until proven otherwise.

Still, I’m sure you could argue till you are blue in the face and this person would think you were secretly a devil worshipper. Ignorant people who enjoy spouting off with no supporting evidence in my experience rarely change their views, because they simply cannot accept that they may be wrong. I admire your desire to show him up, but don’t expect to get far.

AdamF's avatar

The following article synthesizes the results of numerous studies which counter any notion that atheists contribute negatively to society in general, or are inherently less moral than their religious counterparts. Quite the contrary, many positive attributes are correlated with atheism.

Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions Sociology Compass 3/6 (2009): 949–971

From the conclusion:

“Atheism and secularity have many positive correlates, such as higher
levels of education and verbal ability, lower levels of prejudice, ethnocentrism, racism,
and homophobia, greater support for women’s equality, child-rearing that promotes independent thinking and an absence of corporal punishment, etc. And at the societal level, with the important exception of suicide, states and nations with a higher proportion of secular people fare markedly better than those with a higher proportion of religious people.”

You can download it for free here:

Hope that helps, best of luck

poisonedantidote's avatar

Im with @BarnacleBill on this one, it would be totally pointless to debate him at all. unless, he is willing to debate you in public. you will need, a moderator, a format for who speaks in what order and for what periods of time, and an audience that is allowed to vote at the beginning, half time and at the end. an audience that is ideally comprised of people that are for the motion, against the motion and undecided, in more or less even numbers.

If he is at a point in his mind set where he is making bigoted statements against certain groups of people then he is as good as brain dead. and nothing you can say will ever change his mind. the best you can do is humiliate him in a public debate when the votes come in against him. (as they would because religion cant survive in an open forum, they need to be able to censure and suppress to win) and even if you do show him up in a public debate, he will still think he is right about everything and wont care, the only thing he will care about is losing control of other peoples minds.

People like this are not trained in critical thinking, and simply dont have the capacity to understand that they are wrong. he will straw man, he will back peddle, he will quote mine, ignore facts and even lie to the point that he believes him self.

Take note of what he says, write it all down, formulate arguments against it, and publish it online for others to see. at least like this you can help prevent more people becoming like him in future. if he works at the university his ego has been massaged to such a point that trying to make him accept his errors would be pointless.

However, if you insist on debating him, send me a private message and maybe we can organize a chat or something.

nebule's avatar

@Doctor_D I have written a paper on whether the existence of evil is sufficient reason for denying the existence of a God who is wholly good and wholly powerful. I got a pretty high mark for it and it raises some interesting questions that I think believers need to answer. If you would like to read it I can send it to you if you like…or copy and paste into a comment? It might give you some ammunition.

Just as an aside I always find it interesting considering why on earth ‘God’ told Adam and Eve about the tree that they weren’t supposed to touch, or eat from (or whatever).. It seems like a pretty mean thing to do if you ask me. I certainly wouldn’t tell my son that he can play with any toy in the house apart from the one I put in the middle of the floor and tell him he mustn’t touch… (and not tell him why!) Just plain stupid. Perhaps this is not how good and evil came about at all???!!!

Cruiser's avatar

I wouldn’t attempt to take him on. If you do not have this answer already deep in your heart and soul, he clearly does and will chew you up just to tear you down over your heathen beliefs. Your reasons are not easy ones but his is and he has the Lord on his side and will not stop learning you in the ways of his Lord until you repent. Do not take the bait unless you are prepared to go the distance on this debate. Do as @scooby suggests and leave it at that.

flutherother's avatar

As others have said I don’t think there is any point in getting into an argument with this man. Even if you come up with a series of brilliant arguments that he cannot answer it will not prove you are right and he is wrong. Your teacher was made the way he is and you are made the way you are. If he is uncomfortable with that then it is his problem not yours. As I have said elsewhere on Fluther people who question the beliefs of others are often insecure with their own beliefs.

Ron_C's avatar

Since this person is your professor in a required course, you have no recourse but to answer test question according to his belief system. Otherwise you will fail and have to repeat the course and I can see no upside enduring this torture again. You might point, out to him, that he is supposed to be teaching about religion, not preaching it. Facts are facts so if he says that Christianity believes that we can all go to heaven, it isn’t the same as saying you must be a Christian to go to heaven. The first is a statement about a religion, the latter is a religious pronouncement. It is not education, it is indoctrination, simply ask the professor when the teaching begins and you would prefer to meet after the indoctrination portion of the class.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase

I’m not saying I entirely agree, but it is something to think about.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh a copy of the bible encoded in to the DNA of all living things would be proof, that quote is just a fallacious argument by slogan.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@poisonedantidote That is why I added that I don’t entirely agree. It is obviously overstated for the sake of language aesthetics. There were things that I came across as a Christian that were proof enough for me to become an atheist, and as an atheist I have a mental list of things that would convince me to believe again.

lilikoi's avatar

@Doctor_D I’m kind of shocked this is happening in a class, especially on the university level. I took a world religion course and the professor was not judgmental at all and maintained a very objective position – distant, really. It was an online course, so I suppose it would be easier to do this. To impose personal beliefs is unprofessional and unethical. There is nothing you can say or do to change his mind; debating him would be pointless at best and disastrous to your grade in the worst case. People that become professors do so because they seek to be experts; he may not enjoy being challenged by a grunt student and may even be less tolerant of being proven wrong. I would probably gather some evidence that his lessons are biased and report this to the department chair or administration. Another strategy I might consider is befriending him first and shocking him later with the fact that I’m an atheist that doesn’t fit his preconceived mold.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh yes, not saying you do agree. i just have a problem with quotes like that. i was targeting the quote not you. sorry if i gave the wrong impression.

if you look at the quote, it is an insinuation that atheists have been shown some proof, but that they demand even more. when in reality there has never been a single religion to ever offer up one piece of empirical evidence, much less proof.

kind of like when the qur’an says that atheists will not believe the proof even if its shown to them. its an attempt to use language in a way that totally dismisses the atheists points while celebrating the “virtue” of faith, as if believing things without evidence was a good thing.

like, the quote looks fair, as if it addresses both sides, but its really just a back handed sneaky attempt to be dismissive.

Blackberry's avatar

@Doctor_D I know, it sounds too good to be true, but like others stated: It is pointless in this setting to debate him. Although if he asked you guys some open-ended questions, that would be your chance to get in what you can.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@poisonedantidote While no religion has offered empirical evidence, every theist has their idea of a proof. Whether it is personal conviction, a misinterpretation of science, or seeing an apparition of some holy being, every theist has at least a superficial reason for their beliefs. The problem with the quote is that it implies that belief is separated from proof, since proof does not change people’s minds either way, when belief should be based on proofs and reason.
Don’t get me started on the Qu’ran, I might derail the thread even further, and get modded in the process.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh yes, it would seem there is a problem in religious debates with the word “proof”. i find theists usually tend to say “proof” meaning “im convinced” while atheists use the word in the scientific version, as can “demonstrate to be factual on demand”

EDIT: im not sure it is possible to go off topic on a religious question as long as you stick to religion. religious debates tend to touch on everything.

talljasperman's avatar

Have you tried filing a human rights complaint…? that will shut him up.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t believe in theologists.

I can see only one way to “win” a debate of this kind with a university professor who seems to be so one-sided for a single religion. It would be a completely uphill struggle for you, and you’d have to do it flying a false flag, I think. Worst, you’d have to become better educated about many world religions than he is:

Argue against Christianity (which seems to be his chosen religion) from the viewpoint of “all other” religions.

1. You could point out the antecedent religions of the Middle East and North Africa that gave rise to Christianity.

2. You could argue from the point of view of the Jews, from which Christ himself sprang.

3. You could argue from the point of view of the much older religions of India and the Far East.

4. You could argue from the point of view of non-divinity based religions such as Buddhism.

5. You could even argue that religion is genetic, since most children seem to end up in the religion of their parents. (I think that one might be fun, if you buttressed it with some fake science of your own.)

The false flag would be your seeming interest in choosing a religion for yourself, when it’s clear to us that you have already chosen atheism.

But really, unless you want to adopt this as your life’s work, you have bigger fish to fry: You need to graduate from university, and you need this class to do that. So settle down, take good notes in class, parrot what he says (to him) as well as you can… and burn your notebooks after you pass the class and excoriate him online if you want to. But first you need to pass his stupid class.

LostInParadise's avatar

It would drive me nuts to hear constant criticism of atheists. Tell him that it says in the Bible that one should love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself and that you feel that you are due a bit of respect. Also tell him that you would be glad to hear how he knows not only that there is a God but that Christianity is the one true religion. You might also point out to him that non-believers make up about 10% of the world and that, although Christianity is the most popular religion, it is still believed by less than 50%.

troubleinharlem's avatar

Even though I’m not an atheist, it’s still important to remember that you can’t really argue with someone who believes something so much that he devoted his whole life to it.
You could ask him to try to be more unbiased and try to be more universal, I suppose, but @CyonaticWasp was right about just getting through the course.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Your never going to win that arguement so don’t waste your time. There’s an old saying: Never try to teach a pig to sing. It annoys the pig and wastes your time. Same thing applys here.

crazyivan's avatar

It always helps to remind them that we are all atheists to every religion but one. You simply take it one god further than him.

Everybody is saying not to argue and that’s probably the best advice, but I love to watch them squirm so if it’s just about self satisfaction, I would highly recommend a book called “The Atheist Debaters Handbook”. Basically it’s a compendium of logical fallacies that go into believing in God.

As to the notion that atheists are arrogant and evil, well, humans are arrogant and evil. The whole point of religion (from a psychological level) is to allow a person to place himself above another group of people. The arrogance in that statement should make a learned brain implode but faith is a hell of a blinder.

If he’s educated the argument is actually much easier. Don’t start with an argument. Ask him who wrote the bible and really drill down with him. Ask who decided what would and would not be included, who translated it, which translation most closely approximates the “word of God”. If you do this correctly you can have him stammering like an idiot (not that he didn’t have a head start) long before you have to offer a rebuttal.

Another one I like for those brick-brained enough to deny evolution: I agree that creationists did not evolve from monkeys, though we hope that they will eventually.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

This is tricky, and kind of a waste of your time, unfortunately. The debate of whether god/God/gods exist(s) or not is one that needs to be separated from religion (and the study of religion even more so) simply because it’s an unknowable – one for the philosophers – but religions can be studied and known, debated, etc. Debating about existence of god is just academic masturbation.

Lightlyseared's avatar

There has been a number of papers (i’ve quoted them on Fluter several times but can’t be bothered to look for them at the moment) that looked at the reltionship between the number of different crimes and commited and the number of people who believe in creationism. What is generally found is that the more people believe in creationism (and therefore more religous) as opposed to evolution, the higher the rates of murder, rape, child abuse and, female genital muttilation in children.

By being an atheist you are doing your little bit (statisitcally, at any rate) to making the country a better place for everyone else religous or otherwise.

dkranzberg's avatar

If you are an atheist (as I am) why would you EVER select a Christian college/university to attend?

Trillian's avatar

Since you attend a Christian school, any argument you make will be somewht nullified. I do not recommend getting into a debate because you do not have the arguments that you need in your head. The fact that you have to ask someone else to come up with an argument for you means that if you get into it with him, you are going to be left standing there without a reply at several points. You start out the argument with somthing supplied to you by someone here, he replies back and you have…..nothing, you see?
You need to know what you’re going to say and have counter arguments and you don’t. You will end looking foolish and unprepared.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Tell your instructor that you are actually considering the possibility of a supreme being because there is a giant hemorrhoid on your anus and it’s beginning to speak great prophetic insights to you at regular times 5:42 pm every other Tuesday. It tells you that Heaven is nothing more than a Home Economics class filled with rusty spoons and moldy soup. It gives you permission to use the entire class for your pleasure, but under no circumstances are you to eat the moldy soup. Doing so will get you thrown out of class. The problem is that there is a maggot swimming in the bowl telling you not to pay attention to the instructor. “Eat the soup”, it says, “for surely your eyes will be open to see as the instructor does”.

Ask the teacher how your talking hemorrhoid is any different than a burning bush that tells Moses to birth a violent nation?

JLeslie's avatar

@Doctor_D I skimmed the answers above. Here is my answer. Since you are at a Christian University my advise is answer homework and test questions exactly as taught. Why the he’ll are you at that university? A friend of mine is an ordained Baptist Minister, and when a different friend of mine was trying to help her daughter decide on a school, my minister friend recommended going to a good university with an active Baptist church and on campus group over a Christian college. Have you considered transferring?

GladysMensch's avatar

I’m reading the book 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. The appendix consists of the 36 arguments that religion uses to prove God’s existence, and shows the flaws in each argument. It’s a great read, and the appendix alone will provide you with enough ammunition to thwart any religious “reasoning”.
* On the webpage: click on the “36 Arguments” menu item, and then download the pdf.

Seek's avatar

I didn’t read the above answers, but I feel many of us will share the same tone:

It is against my moral code to enter a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent

If all he has is “It’s arrogant to not believe in god”, try feeding him this glorious Douglas Adams quote:

“It is the supreme arrogance of religious thinking that a carbon-based bag of mostly water on a speck of iron-silicate dust around a boring dwarf star in a minor galaxy in an underpopulated local group of galaxies in an unfashionable suburb of a supercluster would look up at the sky and declare, “it was all made so that I could exist!”

Seek (34785points)“Great Answer” (10points)
CMaz's avatar

Ya know. It is a class. See it as such.

Sort of like you are in a class about the Ford Automobile.
But, you want to talk Chevy.

Take the information, answers the questions on the test. Move on.

Aster's avatar

You won’t win. If he becomes antsy or threatened he’ll say he has an appointment and you’ll have to excuse him. I think it’s called ‘theologian’ and not theologist but I could be mistaken.

iamthemob's avatar

This debate cannot be won, for the main reason that you are working from different perspectives and assuming basic things about the beliefs of the other. I think @JeanPaulSartre‘s comment is really spot on:

This is tricky, and kind of a waste of your time, unfortunately. The debate of whether god/God/gods exist(s) or not is one that needs to be separated from religion (and the study of religion even more so) simply because it’s an unknowable – one for the philosophers – but religions can be studied and known, debated, etc. Debating about existence of god is just academic masturbation.

Exactly. However, discussing the existence of god is not. If this is the debate you want to have, you might be able to win. Try to understand and explain how belief in god has an individual benefit and a benefit to society because of the work done by individuals based on belief, separating belief from religion. Ask about, or present the argument that, it is just as valuable to have people who examine the universe from a fact-based perspective, not concerning themselves with the reasons for the mechanics of it. That the way we live is what they study, and what can be done to better it. You need one side to be concerned with the “why,” and the other side with the “how.” And when one side starts debating the other, the system breaks down because neither has the tools to prove the other wrong.

Then, if your professor claims that atheism has a negative impact, you can reasonably show how he’s no longer working in theologies territory…and if he can’t back it up he has to admit the value of atheism.

If all he can fall back on at that point is “God says so,” then you’ve won.

A couple more comments.

Facts are facts so if he says that Christianity believes that we can all go to heaven, it isn’t the same as saying you must be a Christian to go to heaven. The first is a statement about a religion, the latter is a religious pronouncement.

Very important note. Facts are facts because they seem so clear it feels strange to try to argue against it – perhaps even stupid. The second statement is a religious pronouncement, but more generally a conclusion. Conclusions require evidence, which are facts subjected to interpretation based on the context. Evidence are facts mixed up with arguments. And that’s when it all gets complicated.

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase

This is about true belief, and is pretty spot on. If you have to be convinced of something, if you don’t know it, you believe for now. In many ways, it’s more about faith than belief generally.

Ron_C's avatar

@GladysMensch great suggestion for the download. I think it will be very useful. Thanks, great answer.

Disc2021's avatar

I keep silent during the class since I feel that I need to respect his perspective,especially when this is his first time but he keeps flaming atheism and I think I need to give him a ‘lesson’ by challenging him with lots of science debate and question.”

My response to the bold part – Absolutely not. He isn’t quite respecting your perspective on a spiritual/religious level by consistently bashing what you believe. This idea that professors are the all-knowing, all-mighty beings of power in an academic institution is one that needs to be tossed out. Bottom line, you’re paying for your education (one way or another), it’s your dollar that keeps him employed. If ever you feel that you’re being cheated out of what you’re paying for, which is, an objective education, you need to speak up (win or lose). Professors are to be attentive to students, not the other way around (this isn’t to denote any idea that professors/students should always respect one another).

Judging the information you provided (assuming it is correct), you dont even need factual empirical science to “challenge” this guy. This guy is projecting and imposing his religion onto a class room, which granted it may be for a purpose, that purpose is defeating the overall purpose, which I would assume to be to educate the class objectively about a particular topic.

I could understand him sharing his opinion after stating the objective material about Christianity. In which, such an open discussion should entice the idea of rapport/ an open line where students of various different faiths/viewpoints could agree/disagree and agree to disagree. However, going to the extent of putting his subjective, opinion-based perspectives marked as the correct answers on exams is out of line.

I went through the responses after I was done typing my response and learned that this is actually a Christian based institution – which inherently makes this issue a hell of a lot more harder to deal with. However, it wouldn’t be impossible to challenge his methods and suggest that he’s using the classroom as a Sunday morning sermon and not as a classroom.

gorillapaws's avatar

I would record his lectures and then make an appointment to see the dean of his department armed with these clips. You’re not receiving an education in religion, you’re being preached to, and that’s not what you’re paying for. I realize you attend a religious school, but as others have pointed out, there’s a difference between being taught about a religion and being indoctrinated. The dean should appreciate your efforts, and respect your anonymity so it won’t adversely affect your grade. This professor is clearly not doing his job correctly; you need to make this right.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

You will never convince him of anything but what he already believes. From your description of him he is closed minded. Bigoted against atheist. I think it would be in your best interest, if this class is required, to do it his way. I know that sucks, but you have your grades to think of. Here are some arguments in case you feel you have to do what you have to do.. :)

BBSDTfamily's avatar

Since evolution and prehistoric remains do not contradict the Bible, you’re more likely to leave him laughing, not speechless.

If he is arguing that you cannot be a moral person without Christianity, that is something he personally believes and not something his religion claims.

crazyivan's avatar

Is it just me or do Christians often excuse the actions of the majority of their faith by labeling their actions as “Unchristian”? I mean, if 51% of Christians act a certain way or believe a certain thing, that is the Christian way even if a minority of interpret the bible in a different way.

It’s impossible to make blanket assertions like “That isn’t something his religion claims” because the religion is rooted in a cryptic book full of vague aphorisms. You can’t say that the parts of the buffet you didn’t personally pick out aren’t still there…

laureth's avatar

@crazyivan – Would that I, as an atheist, got to pick and choose who the Real Atheists are. Stalin would be right out. But I don’t get that luxury, and I think the Christians oughtn’t, either.

crazyivan's avatar

@laureth amen. (I would also kick Joe Rogan out of the club but I guess we’re stuck with him)

Ron_C's avatar

@Lightlyseared very good!

BBSDTfamily's avatar

@crazyivan You are referring to people who claim to be Christians by just going through some of the motions. The Bible is far from vague. It is rather very, very direct.

crazyivan's avatar

@BBSDTfamily Yeah… it’s not like the gospels directly contradict themselves at all. I like Matthew’s interpretation where you don’t evangelize.

And no offense, but everybody seems to think their reading of the bible is very direct and they all have different interpretations. The fact that you are yet another person who says the same thing serves as evidence that the bible is vague.

Russell_D_SpacePoet's avatar

@crazyivan Well said. The contradictions in the bible are there for those who look.

Trillian's avatar

“Is it just me or do Christians often excuse the actions of the majority of their faith by labeling their actions as “Unchristian”
“It’s impossible to make blanket assertions like…”
And yet here we have not one but two blanket assertions. So I guess it depends on who is making the assertion that indicates whether or not it is ok.
I know that when I say that someone is not acting like a “Christian”, like that guy who wanted to burn the Koran, I wasn’t “excusing” anyone, by any stretch of the imagination.

Jabe73's avatar

There is no way to “arm” yourself here. You are attending a Christian school, most orthodox Christians believe Jesus is the only way to heaven not good works. The bible is the word of god. You’re not going to win here regardless of any “evidence” you arm yourself with. Atheists/agnostics aren’t the only ones who are subject to this type of behavior by many mainstream Christians. Just mention the word “reincarnation” if you want to really tick him off. Seriously there are no winners here, deal with it or change schools. You are not going to prove him wrong and change his opinions! I was in a similar scenerio myself with people I once worked with.

crazyivan's avatar

So what was the blanket assertion? It is certainly not contained in the quote above…

Your_Majesty's avatar

@All Thank you so much for taking your time helping me with this issue. I’ve decided that I won’t challenge him (not because I’m afraid of him!) since I have something more important in my life to consider about rather than fighting a dishonest priest.

PS: I feel so grateful for those who gave me their amazing articles for this particular issue. I may not use it now but I’m sure it’s a great material that I could use someday if it’s necessary. I really appreciate all of them even though I won’t use them now so I apologize if I made you all go through all this trouble to find me an excellent ammunition for debating this theologian.

mattbrowne's avatar

I would not kick his ass, because then your behavior would be no better than his. All this aggressive talk using terms like ammunition will most likely get you nowhere and just deepen a bitter conflict. Are you planning to go to war?

I think there are better ways. For one you could cite renowned theologians who respect and appreciate atheists.

You can also point to the first amendment of the US constitution granting freedom of religion which includes the right not to believe in God.

You could cite Barack Obama, a Christian, giving his inaugural speech. ”... For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

Your ammunition will not usher a new era of peace. Aggressive atheism does not contribute to building a better future.

AdamF's avatar

“Aggressive atheism does not contribute to building a better future.”

I think that one’s perspective as whether someone else classifies as being “aggressive” is a highly subjective call, and likely varies depending on whether one sympathises with, or wishes to disempower the activist or their cause.

I personally think atheists (awful to place an “s” on that , but it is loosely justifiable in this case) have every right to be “angry”, and I think as a group they generally stand out as a movement which channels this “anger” to speak effectively and with moral clarity about the abuses of the Catholic church, the deadily stupidity of being anti-condom, the bigotry of homophobia, etc.etc..

I also think that “aggression” (or assertion, clarity, if you will) has it’s place as a valued aspect for driving social change.

Nice blog posts here which raise the relevant issue of how labels of aggression can be used merely to disempower those one is opposed to.

Also, a nice article on blasphemy, satire and ridicule, and its use and importance, not just to atheism, but to religion as well.

Watch Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry sway the audience’s opinion in this debate

I have no doubt that some would readily label both of them as “aggressive”, I also have little doubt that the world is a better place because of it.

iamthemob's avatar


that last link was a repeat

AdamF's avatar

Thanks for the heads up!

Here is the correct link for the debate (specifically Stephen Fry’s talk).

AdamF's avatar

Oh and just to clarify

@mattbrowne My rant was really directed at the consistent labelling in the press of many prominent atheists as strident, aggressive, intolerant, fundamentalist, or militant….it is also used as a style over substance fallacy.

So to be fair it was not directed specifically at your point in this post…so perhaps its a side issue. There are of course times and circumstances when aggression can be counter-productive or unwarranted.

crazyivan's avatar

When we speak out against a crooked institution that cuffs adherence to ignorance, should we not be aggressive?

@AdamF Thought you might like this recent one from PZ Myers

AdamF's avatar

Thanks crazyivan!

mattbrowne's avatar

@AdamF – Yes, being angry is totally understandable. As I theist I’m also angry about religious fundamentalism. The question is how to use this energy generated by our anger.

Create frakking cracker posts, bash religion in general and fuel more dissent?

Come up with creative strategies to deal with religious fundamentalism and engage in a dialog?

For the latter we first have to understand how very religious people think. Why they have an issue with evolution for example? One answer I found was that many thought evolution was an atheist theory and they seemed surprise when I tell them that this isn’t so.

iamthemob's avatar


I thought the blog about atheist anger was pretty enlightening, along with the good cop/bad cop bit.

I think there is validity in a two-prong strategy, when you consider strategy as a whole…In much the same way that “moderate” religious people and moderate conservatives can point to things like the WBC and say “See, they’re the real crazies” (which is a negative example of the strategy, as they use it to make repressive agendas a little more reasonable), atheists who prefer a more calm approach to the argument can convince someone who is tentative, or shocked by aggressive tactics, more easily as they seem more reasonable by comparison. In fact, the ability to say, “Yes, I know those with the aggressive tactics. You need to understand that a lot of people are angry because of x, y, z. I went through that, but realized that it wasn’t the way to talk to people” can elicit nothing but respect, and implies that you considered the contrary position and allowed it to affect you – and maybe they should do the same.

Being aggressive because of anger, or because you feel like your position is objectively better, doesn’t give you arguments for an aggressive approach – only excuses.

Ron_C's avatar

@iamthemob frankly, I like to talk to the nice kids that are doing their stint as Mormon missionaries and the poor lady Jehovah Witness that drags here kids around when she canvases the neighborhood for potential converts.

I ask them about their beliefs and why they believe them. I am respectful and never get angry unless one of those unfortunates screams that I’m going to hell. I had a long discussion with a young couple that were ‘Witnesses” and think that I talked them into looking at more rational ways to fulfill their spiritual needs. I’m not sure it worked but I haven’t seen them in the neighborhood lately.

I try not to talk the kids out of their religion because I have come to know and respect Mormons and if their religion helps them be better people and neighbors, that’s fine by me.

Of course they haven’t convinced me about anything but I see no harm in being nice and offering them a cool drink on a hot day.

crazyivan's avatar

I think a good parallel to @iamthemob‘s two pronged approach would be the anti-vaccination movement. This movement, which is based on fradulent science and the ignorant support of a few vapid celebrities is growing and growing and as a result some all but vanquished diseases like mumps and whooping cough are coming back.

To combat this, scientists and medical professionals went about rationally proving the point that vaccination does not cause autism (the claim that spurs the “anti-vaxers”) and did so over and over and over and over with study after study. Hundreds of hours were wasted confirming something that everyone with any specialized education already knew.

Eventually, the virulent anti-anti-vaxers showed up and have put more of a dent in this movement in a few years than polite discourse did in a decade. Now I’m not saying that one would be effective without the other. You needed the calm, reassuring voice of objective science to cement which side was right and which was wrong, but you also needed the anger to kick it into a high enough gear to be heard over the screaming and ranting of the anti-vaxers.

(sorry for the long analogy) I fell this is exactly how the world should tackle fundamentalism. The Mattbrowne’s of the world can be calm and talk on the same level as them, but we still need the unapologetic voices of Dawkins, Myers and Hitchins or all the passion will be on the side of fundamentalism.

iamthemob's avatar


GOOD comparison. I hate to characterize it this way, because I like the one you used relating it to “passion”, but I have come to understand it through looking at it as sometimes you have to stoop to the tactics of the other side.

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