The Instigator
Jake2daBone
Pro (for)
Losing
9 Points
The Contender
dirkson
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

Atheists who read this must pray to stop being atheists

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 7 votes the winner is...
dirkson
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/3/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,068 times Debate No: 24042
Debate Rounds (1)
Comments (3)
Votes (7)

 

Jake2daBone

Pro

The topic is not the FULL resolution; I'm not arguing that ALL atheists who read this are required to pray to stop being atheists. Keep reading.

Consider walking into a dark room. The natural impulse, and indeed the rational thing to do, would be to shout, "Is anyone there?" Are there any reasons why someone would NOT do this?

There are a few. First, the possibility of someone else being in the room might simply not occur to him, for whatever reason. Second, the person might think that he has good reason to believe that there is absolutely and definitely no person in the room -- for instance, he saw the room a moment ago when the light was on, and believed that he saw that it was empty. Third, he might have some reason to think that he'll get a response to his shout even if nobody is there -- for instance, the walls in the room are prone to echoing a distorted version of the person's voice.

But aside from these, there is no sensible reason not to shout "Is anyone there?" It doesn't cost anything just to shout (as opposed to a thorough and organized search of the room). It's what anyone would do.

Similarly, I argue that an atheist reading this who meets the following criteria is rationally required to pray that God stop him from being an atheist:

1) He believes that the issue of whether or not God exists has some importance.

2) He does not believe that the probability of God's existence is negligible.

3) He does not have a good reason to believe that such prayer might lead to a "false positive."

Only atheists reading this debate who meet these criteria are required to pray. However that probably constitutes most if not all of the atheists who read this forum. :-)

Objections:

1) Wouldn't divine hiddenness prevent us from receiving an answer even if God did exist?

Divine hiddenness does require some manner of epistemic distance; therefore praying to God and not receiving an answer, while not conclusive, would provide some evidence for the atheist to continue to believe that God does not exist -- especially if he does it sincerely and over a long period. However, this does not excuse you from not making the effort in the first place.

2) Do you usually shout for supernatural beings to reveal themselves?

The issue of whether supernatural beings other than God exist is not of any real importance to me; nor, I suspect, to any atheist here. The probability of such beings existing is, in my mind, negligible; again, I think any atheist here would say the same. This reinforces the need for the criteria above, but it does not excuse the atheist who meets those criteria from praying.

3) Couldn't belief through prayer be caused by social pressure or psychosis?

Assuming for the moment that that's true, I believe that any atheist who reads this and who falls under the above criteria are not very suggestible; they would be able to take such factors into consideration if they pray, especially for an extended period of time, in deciding whether the prayer has been answered. Such atheists are therefore not excused from the requirement to pray.

4) Which God should I pray to? There are many.

Pray to "whoever's there." If you pray with the intention that your prayer be heard, and if any sort of god exists, then that god will hear your prayer.

Source: TJ Mawson (2010) "Praying to Stop Being An Atheist," International Journal of Philosophy of Religion.
dirkson

Con

This will be more sombre than my usual happy-go-lucky debates.

Qualifictions

"1) He believes that the issue of whether or not God exists has some importance."

If a god did exist, I believe I would rank it as the most important fact in the universe. Thus, I consider it of utmost importance that one exists or does not exist.

"2) He does not believe that the probability of God's existence is negligible."

This one is debatable for me, and hinges entirely on the definition of "negligible". I don't place a high probability on the idea, but I also do not consider it impossible. I cede that the universe has room for a god, I simply do not see one.

"3) He does not have a good reason to believe that such prayer might lead to a "false positive.""

I presume this question this question is related to mental health. I nor my family have any history of seeing or hearing things that aren't there. That said, ANY sensory input may be a false positive, and evidence of this magnitude would have to be repeatable both my myself and others to prove that it's not merely some problem in my head. This is equally true of all claims of any real importance I could present evidence for.


Prayer

Although this may draw flak from my fellow atheists, I actually do this on a rather regular basis. Prayer being nothing more than directed thought, I can remember at least 3 occasions in the past year alone where I thought, "God, if I'm wrong, show me how ; Prove me wrong.", and many, MANY more occasions during my conversion from theism where I prayed the same thing.

In fact, I've actually taken this mentality one step deeper than even directed thought or prayer, and internalized the idea of "If I'm wrong, I want to stop being wrong". I actively enjoy being proven wrong in debates and casual conversation - It means that I've successfully destroyed an incorrect belief that I used to have. It's among the strongest core values I have, if not THE strongest core value.


Conversion

My opponent's stated goal in getting me to pray was to convert me from my atheism. I can say without contradiction that I very strongly desire this:
    • Being wrong about a deity would be among the biggest corrections of an incorrect belief I can easily imagine, and would be a wonderful learning experience;
    • A deity usually carries with it a chance at eternal life, and who wants to die?
    • A deity would be a fascinating new avenue to study, and to learn. It might even have a predictive power, allowing me to make educated guesses about the nature of the universe.
    • A personal deity might open up the pathway to the most fulfilling relationship imaginable.

Despite my good faith efforts at prayer and sincere desire for it, my conversion has yet to happen.

I doubt that my story is unique for the very reasons listed above - Most atheists converted to atheism because they didn't want to be wrong about something so important, and because of that I can't imagine the numbers of trial prayers to be statistically insignificant.


Conclusion

I prayed, and nothing happened. Whether you believe in a deity or not, this refutes my opponent's point.

Vote Con. But vote Con with a touch of sorrow.


-Dirk
Debate Round No. 1
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by dirkson 5 years ago
dirkson
@Roy - Re-reading the debate, you may be right about Pro's limited claims. If I use your definition, however, the debate suddenly becomes more or less unwinnable, as I have to start arguing that atheists shouldn't test things. This is, of course, an argument from consequences, so I may have lost the debate after all!

Still, as one of the voters put it, I did make a pretty decent case for a situation in which /continued/ prayer is pretty silly, although I made this case accidentally. The situation is ambiguous, and the voting reflects that, so I'm pretty happy ^.^

I also like the guy who contested my definition of prayer. Apparently I was doing it wrong for the 20 years I wasn't an atheist! :D

Cheers,
-Dirk
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
Con agreed with the resolution, so clearly Pro wins.

Whether God exists or not may be of some importance while at the same time pondering the question at length may not be worthwhile -- that's the Buddhist position. The probability of a God that answers prayers is negligible; that's been tested empirically. However, the self-reflection accompanying prayer may nonetheless be valuable.
Posted by WriterDave 5 years ago
WriterDave
It is possible for an atheist to read this debate, meet those criteria (which I don't), and be unaware of the fact that conversion to Christianity invariably, or almost invariably, follows from immersion in Christian culture. Praying to stop being an atheist, especially over an extended period such as Pro suggests, would be a form of immersion. At the very least, it would have the same effect as such an immersion: "training" the mind to be less skeptical of theism and of what might constitute evidence for God's existence. Being unaware of this, he might not have a reason to believe that a false positive might result from his praying, but it might result nonetheless.

If such an atheist doesn't pray, then we might think it strange, as we would think a man walking into a dark room and not calling out to someone who might be there is strange. But looking back at it, we must have to say that such an atheist had absolutely no obligation to pray.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by AlwaysMoreThanYou 5 years ago
AlwaysMoreThanYou
Jake2daBonedirksonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro said atheists reading this should pray. Pro never claimed the prayers would be answered, just that it would be a more rational decision. Con seemed to agree with the concept.
Vote Placed by Mrparkers 5 years ago
Mrparkers
Jake2daBonedirksonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Counter nyyfan; please only vote on information present in the debate. If prayer was not defined by Pro, then Con's definition must be used by default.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
Jake2daBonedirksonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro resolved that atheists having certain beliefs ought to pray. Con agreed. Therefore Pro wins the debate. No claim was made by Pro that prayers would be answered.
Vote Placed by nyyfan 5 years ago
nyyfan
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Reasons for voting decision: I am voting pro only because con does not understand the concept of prayer so he misrepresented information in his argument.
Vote Placed by frozen_eclipse 5 years ago
frozen_eclipse
Jake2daBonedirksonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: pro hasnt proved this resolution whatsoever
Vote Placed by Maikuru 5 years ago
Maikuru
Jake2daBonedirksonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con demonstrated a scenario in which prayer for an atheist is no longer a worthwhile activity. Given that this is a one round debate, Pro is left with no rebuttal to Con's seemingly accurate portrayal of a perfect counter-example. I vote Con with a hint of malaise.
Vote Placed by TheOrator 5 years ago
TheOrator
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Reasons for voting decision: The Con proved he fit the criteria and that he didn't have to pray. That's really the only argument that arose :/