People leave the Christian faith because they found some deficiency in Christianity that could not be reconciled. Nobody had any good answers to their questions and this led them to conclude that there were no good answers. The Sunday School lessons are shallow, and the only method of providing any defense of the precepts of the church that they have ever encountered is to be told to “have faith.” So, they become atheists. As atheists, they assume that Christianity is pervasively as shallow as they have experienced. Nobody has any answers, and everybody is going around merely telling them to “have faith.” But atheists may be taken aback when they encounter Christian apologists, who are products of the long-standing intellectual history of the church. I would like to help by explaining how to win a debate with the Christian apologist nextdoor.
I will be constructing my advice based on popular atheist answers to questions, including memes and quotes that have committed themselves to the atheist blogosphere and are often represented in dialogue with non-believers. If you want to provide as robust of a critique of Christian apologetics, ensure that you follow in the footsteps of your fellow atheists by taking my advice.
Mock Them And Ridicule Them
Unfortunately, Christian apologists tend to think that they deserve equal respect. They think that both parties should engage in dialogue in a civil and respectful manner. If a Roman Catholic approaches you and tells you that they believe in transubstantiation, wherein the elements of the Mass transform into the body and blood of Jesus, they will think that they can state their belief without enduring mockery. Similarly, if a Calvinist tells you that God has foreordained all things to pass, they somehow expect that you will assess their views in a respectful manner. Do not fall for the convention that we are all too polite to talk about it. Mock them and ridicule them in public.
What does this accomplish? Well, as you enter into this conversation, the apologist will quickly realize that you have the upper-hand. You have ascended to a height of staggering intellect that they could never even fathom. If they were as wise you, they would be an atheist. They will come to realize this as you shower insults on them as the conversation is beginning, and quite frankly, throughout the course of the conversation. Tell them how deluded they are, how they have been suckered, and how they will believe anything that they are told. After all, how could you accept the arguments of somebody as deluded as they are?
Do Not Bother Engaging With Scholarship
Sometimes Christian apologists will summarize arguments and tell you that there are various nuances to this argument that should not be overlooked. They will suggest that you engage with the most rigorous scholarship available and respond to that. Do not listen to them. They are just trying to win a debate with prestigious jargon. If they mount an argument, just say the first thing that comes to mind. If they tell you that you are overlooking a careful and important nuance, then they are clearly not wise enough to understand your response. When they recommend that you read a robust treatment of an argument, dismiss it out of hand.
Let them know that their so-called scholar is truly a hack, has no insight or anything at all to contribute, and he is just as deluded as you are. This is one possibility. Another that you could point out to them is that this scholar is probably just trying to sell books. He is pulling the wool over the apologist’s eyes, trying to fool them into believing an argument so that they will accept the Christian faith, give them money for their books and help them to rise to fame. These responses should be sufficient and allow you to circumvent the challenge to read a robust treatment of an argument.
Summarize Their Argument In An Uncharitable Way
If the apologist sends you a 2000 word blogpost that carefully outlines a theodicy (an explanation of why there is evil and suffering in the world), do not let yourself be taken in by big words and philosophical constructions. Just summarize their argument for them, and then attack your summary of the argument. Tell them, “Ah, so you are just saying that God is mysterious. Nothing new here.” Similarly, if they tell you that “God created the universe,” say, “Oh, so magic created the universe? You believe in magic, you idiot?” If they tell you that Jesus died for your sins to satisfy the wrath of God, tell them, “I see. So God died to save you from himself?”
Almost any proposition can be summarized in a way that is far more defeasible than the original proposition. You could even take that very proposition (the first sentence of this paragraph) and summarize it by saying, “Ah, so no statement has any meaning?” It is very easy to do. When you apply this tactic in discourse with Christian apologists, they will quickly realize how foolish their statement was. If you let them summarize their position in their own words, then they will think that they could be capable of having an intelligent conversation, which is unthinkable. They are religious, after all.
The Power of The Original Thesis
Sometimes Christian apologists will offer responses to the things that you say. But just as you should not let them summarize their own position, you should also not give them the courtesy of allowing them to provide a rebuttal of your argument. When you present your original thesis, the apologist needs to know that it is so formidable that all rebuttals are wrong by default. You do not even need to engage with the rebuttal, really. After they present their rebuttal, all you really need to do is to restate your original thesis in different words. If they suggest that they already rebutted your original thesis, say something to the effect of, “Ah, so you have no response?” The conversation should go something like this:
You: Original thesis
Dumb Apologist: Rebuttal
You: Restatement of original thesis in different words
Dumb Apologist: Points out that they responded to that.
You: Ask if they have no answers.
Dumb Apologist: Points out that they already provided one
You: Claim victory
Claiming victory after a conversation with an apologist is an integral feature of the interaction. After all, how else will they know that they have been soundly defeated in a debate with an atheist? After you have showered them with insults, summarized their position for them, restated your original thesis several times, it is probable that the apologist would back down out of fear of your intellectual fortitude. When they tell you that they are no longer interested in interacting with you, the only thing for you to do now is to claim victory. Tell them that you won the debate, that they could not provide any evidence and had no answers for your questions. Then tell your friends.
After you are finished announcing your victory, use that victory to fuel your pride for further interactions with apologists. As you defeat more and more Christians in these debates, you will come to realize that you are among the intelligensia. This boost in confidence will serve you very well in future interactions. As time progresses, you will become more insulting and care less about their insight or anything at all that they have to contribute.
Remember That They Always Have The Burden of Proof
Since becoming an atheist, you have learned some of the common parlance, such as burden of proof, which is to say that the person who is making a claim always has the burden of proof. Remember, though, as an atheist, you never have it. The Christian apologist has it by default, no matter what you say or how the conversation is proceeding. For example, if you say, “There is no God,” or “God is a myth,” or “The Bible is a book of lies,” it is the burden of the apologist to disprove those statements.
Of course, in response, the shifty apologist may suggest that all of these are claims that need to be substantiated. Ignore them. They do not know anything about the burden of proof. They are religious, remember? You are an atheist, and you understand far better than they do how these things work. After all, they probably make claims sometimes, right? They surely claim “God exists” sometimes. Demand that they carry that burden.
God of The Gaps
Sometimes the apologist will try to bear the burden of proof by presenting what they believe is evidence for the existence of God. However, remember that every time an apologist presents evidence, they are always, without failure, using God to explain a gap in their understanding of some scientific phenomenon. They are like the people who say that lightning proves the existence of God, because, what else could explain it? They will suggest that the existence of the universe and all of nature is evidence for God. But do not let them fool you. Eventually, we will find a natural explanation for all of nature. Ensure you tell them that.
I want you to be prepared for the deceptive responses that you will receive. The apologist may tell you that these arguments are syllogisms leading to the conclusion that God exists. They are based on what we do know, not on what we do not know. This is where you would employ the tactic of restating the original thesis in different words. They clearly do not understand the God of the Gaps objection. Explain it to them again, using illustrations and insults if you must. Talk to them like they are a fourth grader.
Demand To Know Who Created God
The “who created God?” objection has a variety of different uses. It could be employed as an independent argument or a counter-argument to various lines of evidence that the apologist presents. If they ask “Could something arise from absolutely nothing?” do not answer the question. Similarly, if they ask, “What is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe?” ignore the question. Instead, pose the counter-argument, “If God created everything, who created God? What is God’s explanation?” They will try to provide answers to this question, but if you raise your voice loudly enough, you will not even be able to hear those answers.
However, after raising your voice several times, it may be the case that you do not have the strength to continue doing it, so you may have to endure their answer. They may tell you something like, “If God created time (as this argument proposes), then God is the cause of time. Accordingly, he is timeless.” At this point, it would be appropriate to point out that the apologist needs to provide scientific evidence that God is timeless. Apologists hate being asked for evidence.
Just Use Philosophical Terms
Doubtless, the apologist is trying to fool you. He knows that he is trying to fool you. He just wants you to believe in God, and will go to any means necessary. Do not let him get away with it. Look up some logical fallacies and just start accusing him of them. If you think that the fallacy is appropriately applied, that is even better. But that is not necessary. Say something like, “You are engaging in a false dichotomy.” You will likely see the apologist’s mouth slightly drop and see a stale, unknowing look on his face. He does not know what a false dichotomy is. He is religious, remember?
This tactic can be quite effective in asserting your intellectual superiority and making the apologist think that there is more to these arguments than they originally thought. They will think twice before sharing their propaganda. Further, the best part of this tactic is that it does not actually require you to refute the argument. However, you are not being deceptive, because Christian apologetics are so flimsy that you can probably just assume that they are guilty of every single logical fallacy, and you may as well accuse them of any or all of them. Perhaps you could just list all of the logical fallacies that there are and say that the apologist is guilty of all of them.
How To Win A Debate With The Christian Apologist Nextdoor
It is really not very complicated. There are far more tactics for you to consider, and perhaps in the future I will post some more of them. But these should be sufficient for now and should help you to overcome the majority of the apologetic arguments that you encounter. Remember: be insulting so that they know what they are, restate your original thesis, ask “who created God?” and claim victory.