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Skeptics Should Argue with Theists

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/9/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 908 times Debate No: 56299
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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Should the skeptical society continue to debate with theists and creationists on the existence of God and the issues within theology? Right now I am Pro but am open to be either side, so if anyone wants to be Pro, I can gladly switch to Con.
Religious people don't often listen to what skeptics have to say. Should the atheist community continue to educate these people, or are we just wasting time? Is it pointless? Should we be concerned about other, more important issues rather than who believes what? Is it a waste of everyone's time?


There is a fundamental difference between arguing with Theists and persuading come Theists to convert to atheism.

Arguing with Theists pleases an audience outside of the Theist community, the Theists themselves get pleased when other Theists argue back at the atheists and put them 'in their place' so to speak. Arguing achieves very little other than to please a bloodthirsty audience and to make the opposing side feel stupid and humiliated. It is not the same as appealing to Theists in order to persuade them of the truth of atheism, this is not arguing at all. Arguing is tearing at the Theist's logic in a manner that directly offends, or humiliates the one making those arguments and, at its worst, results in the terrorism that Theists have become infamous for resorting to (I am referring to people like Guy Fawkes who directly fought for religious purposes as opposed to organized terrorism for political reasons that coincidentally are done by people of a certain religious outlook).

The fact is that arguing has no positive outcome unless you're trying to appear smart and bully your opponent into submission, as both Pro and I could be doing in this debate.

Debating is the hub of both persuasion and arguing and the difference between the two is most significantly highlighted in debating. I could begin tearing apart Pro's logic in the next round, and I probably will because I do not fear a violent backlash from Pro as opposed to what I'd expect form Theists if I continually offended and humiliated their most revered intellectuals very openly and without any shame. I am both persuading Pro and arguing with them in this debate.

I do not hope to achieve anything constructive, in my relations with Pro, by the arguing, only by the persuading do I hope to achieve this.

Let me give an example to highlight the difference between persuading and arguing:

(1) "Theism is fundamentally flawed because there is no need for a God's existence. Therefore, believing in God is irrational and you should become atheist because the tri-omni God cannot both allow evil to exist and expect to be considered worthy of worship."
(2) "God is a great source of morality and religion has done many great things in the past but through compassion and empathy, God may not be so strongly needed for you to lead happy and fulfilling lives as citizens of a moral society."

Can you work out which is a strong argument for atheism and which is a strong persuasion towards it?

The correct answer is that No. 1 is the argument and No. 2 is the persuasive tactic.

No. 1 is guaranteed to get an uproar of applause form an atheistic audience and an uproar of rage and offence from a Theistic one. There is not use of doing it other than to keep those who are already atheist from remaining to be so. It is more likely to cause an aggressive backlash from Theists, resulting in them holding their views even stronger than before the argument. On this, it is more likely that Theists will now have the motivation to spread their 'lies' (as atheists call them) and therefore, if anything, would result in Theism spreading faster and more persistently than prior to this argument being presented.

No. 2 is different to an argument in that it infiltrates from within the belief system of Theists. It shows reverence and respect to their ancestry and the role of God in the past that they are so proud of and hold dear to their hearts, it then gently suggests that because times have moved on, this magnificent God may not be needed for a morally beautiful society to proceed. Of course this wouldn't persuade extreme Theists, who worship their God regardless of its effect or the results of that belief but it would definitely have an effect on consequential Theists who find comfort in the idea of God out of anxiety for what society would become without religion. In the past there have indeed been societies saved by religion but due to progress of science and the ability to objectively analyze the suffering actions cause and to create sophisticated laws that take motives into account, it's possible for a secular society to be as morally rich as a Theistic one. The realization of this may indeed convert many Theists to atheism.

The fundamental difference between argumentation and persuasion is that argumentation seeks to tear apart the history and reasoning of Theists in order to convert them immediately in the hopes that the future will be an entirely atheistic one whereas persuasion respect the history and reasoning of Theists and expects a lengthy, difficult transition for converts that the persuader will be with the Theist every step of the way to help move on.

In essence it comes down to timing.


Attacks the past, tries to cause immediate conversion in the present and has over-expectations of the future.


Respects the past, uses the present to set converts off on the long journey to atheism and has reasonable expectations of the future.

I am also yet to meet a single Theist-to-atheist convert who converted due to the arguments presented by atheists as opposed to emotional struggles leading them away from God. Arguing doesn't convert any Theists. It might convert agnostics or deists but it's never likely to convert Theists because they are the victims in any argument that atheists make.

In conclusion, arguing with Theists achieves nothing constructive in the long run, only destructive outcomes will commence. Arguing Theism itself may be constructive, if done in a community where either no Theists are present to be offended or only Theists capable of being objective on such sensitive matters are present.
Debate Round No. 1


Interesting. I think your distinction between arguing and persuading is false, since one can argue and must argue in order to persuade, but it's all in just how we define these terms. For the most part, it's just your opinion.

I would like to say that I am a theist-to-atheist convert who was persuaded first by scripture. Nothing refutes scripture better than scripture. However, had it not been for the skeptical claims of scripture I observed when I was highly theistic, I would have not doubted the holy text at all and reconciled all contradictions like theists do.

Most theists are not as open minded as I was, or willing to be swayed at all, because they don't read scripture or use evidence to justify their beliefs, but rather just believe it because of an emotional appeal. They can say, "Will it contradicts itself because God wants it to," and they'll happily believe that.

What I'm asking I guess is that even if you will convert some theists in the long run, is it worth it? You also made the remark that it's fun for both sides to debate this topic, which I think is true. We could be debating about factory farming or whether or not abortion should be illegal, but instead we're debating about the existence of an ancient man in the sky whom the majority of the world's population believes in.

Often these believes get in the way of our politics and slip into the more practical issues, with people saying, "Abortion is wrong because God says so," or, "Gays shouldn't have rights to marry because God says so." If ridiculing and arguing these theistic ideas gets rid of this poison in our logic, then it would be beneficial to debate theists and try and convince them of the nonexistence of God.


According to [][]
verb (used without object), ar·gued, ar·gu·ing.
1. to present reasons for or against a thing: He argued in favor of capital punishment.
2. to contend in oral disagreement; dispute: The senator argued with the president about the new tax bill.
verb (used with object), ar·gued, ar·gu·ing.
3. to state the reasons for or against: The lawyers argued the case.
4. to maintain in reasoning: to argue that the news report must be wrong.
5. to persuade, drive, etc., by reasoning: to argue someone out of a plan.
6. to show; prove; imply; indicate: His clothes argue poverty.

verb (used with object), per·suad·ed, per·suad·ing.
1. to prevail on (a person) to do something, as by advising or urging: We could not persuade him to wait.
2. to induce to believe by appealing to reason or understanding; convince: to persuade the judge of the prisoner's innocence.

As can be seen, only one of the 6 definitions of 'argue' involves persuasion. This is because they are linked but not synonymous. Arguing is actively tearing an opponent's case apart for the sake of furthering one's own in an aggressive manner. Persuasion, on the other hand, has the objective of advising and urging one to follow one's own viewpoint without necessarily tearing their own apart. It is about inducing one to believe in your own case as opposed to destroying their case to entertain an audience.

My opponent gives anecdotal evidence of being persuaded by the 'arguments' of skeptics. They claimed to already be open minded to change their viewpoint and thus they were never Theistic to begin with. Theists truly believe in God and uphold God as flawless and omnipotent. There is nothing that can fight an omnipotent being, and nothing can come in its way. No matter how illogical their view, attacking the logic does heir views, as even my opponent concedes to this. The only thing it can ever achieve is to make atheists more atheistic and Theists more hostile towards atheists.

My opponent thinks that converting Theists can be done by argument but it only offends their personal beliefs. Their core values and faith is being taunted and ridiculed, it would be like thinking that a mother who sees children taunting her son for being ugly is going to suddenly convert to the group of people that think her son is ugly. This will never happen. Whether or not her son is ugly cannot ever be known outside of one's individual per, the same as God. Arguing to the mother how her son is objectively less attractive than most children will only further her hostility towards the notion. It doesn't do anything to attack an emotionally valuable entity in the mind of an individual if you wish to convert them to that outlook.

In regards to politics, abortion has actually been legalized in many nations where there are more Theists than atheists, as has gay marriage. This was only made possible by the atheists not arguing with Theists but instead by persuading them that these laws should be acceptable to them is they wish their own view to be untouched. The main reason that a lot of Theists are okay with these laws is because they realize that the mutual respect of not arguing is superior to the one where they argue their viewpoint and others argue their own.
Debate Round No. 2


I don't see how the definitions given show a clear distinction between 'arguing,' and 'persuading,' as you described. I know we don't share the same terminology but I expect to be interpreted to some degree when I use two similar words synonymous, but what these words mean is not what the debate is about.

Does arguing, persuading, debating, correcting, critiquing; any of those, have any good result with religious people that outweigh the time and energy wasted? I will put forth another ball in this pin: it may not sway the fundamental theists, but it may convince, or begin to convince, people who are on the fence about the topic. People who are watching, listening to the arguments and find the skeptic's arguments more convincing; or, maybe a theist who is having doubts?

What this would do when helping an individual who is struggling with their theistic beliefs and leading them to a line of thought they never considered before, finding reassurance in that if they accept the alternative, everything will be alright, because they no they're not alone. When I became an atheist, a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I didn't know why; I thought I was perfectly content with serving God; I was so brainwashed that once I deconverted, a burden was lifted that I wasn't even aware existed (of course, not everyone would have this same experience).

If anything there are these people who are onlookers; bystanders, not necessarily ones involved on either side on the debate but watching who are the reason the skeptic debates in the first place.


Let me put it like this: Arguing is a plant and Persuading is a tree. Persuading is a specific form of what arguing is but, in itself, has variety of its own (like an oak tree and willow) it has aggressive forms of it and more passive ones. The main difference between the two is that persuading is specifically geared towards urging one to take your view point or advising them against their own. As persuader would let the person think God is real but begin to make them question why their religion's God is the true, as opposed to other religions', a general "argument" would attack the concept of God altogether and show them flaws in their most cherished belief without mercy and would only incite rancor in the Theists on the receiving end.

There is nothing productive or constructive from arguing with Theists; it only hardens the solidity of their belief in God and furthermore turns them hostile towards atheists and, thus, the concept of atheism. This point has gone uncontested the entire debate only being touched on by an irrelevant anecdote of Pro's personal experience that, for all we know, could very well be a lie or misconception of how devout a Theist he/she was to begin with.

Pro raises a new point in Round 3 (which is usually seen as poor conduct) but I shall nonetheless address it. He/she states that while it would fail to convince the fundamental Theists, whom are bound to get aggressive and perhaps physically violent, it may sway those sitting on the fence. The issue with this argument is that anyone sitting on the fence is not a Theist to begin with. They are agnostic deists at best. Consequently, if one is able to convince someone sitting on the fence, this doesn't qualify as a Theist convert and is, after all, a rare occurrence as most people sitting on the fence are on 'the fence' by choice, rather than hoping to be swayed to one side. Oftentimes, someone who is currently on the fence was once on a side of it and realized,f or themselves, the fallacy of both sides to an equal degree.

On another note, a Theist who is struggling with their beliefs, if confronted by aggressive argumentation tearing their beliefs to shreds will feel hurt by the atheist community and be repulsed by the attitude that atheists have. Thus, the viewpoint's validity will be irrelevant to them since they utterly detest everything atheists are and do not want to affiliate themselves with the cause due to the types of people propagating it. In fact, the best way to make someone struggling with Theism return strongly to their former Theistic beliefs would be to show them how merciless and amoral atheists are.

The final point that Pro raises has actually been my main contention this entire debate. Pro failed to realize that this actually negates the resolution. He/she highlights the fact that argumentation is only there to entertain a bloodthirsty audience, as opposed to making either side feel convinced, or swayed. If the only objective of arguing with Theists is to sadistically tear them to shreds for the sake of convincing a few bloodthirsty agnostics and deists then I severely worry about the moral implications of such an act not that atheists should feel the need to have any morals in the first place. Additionally, even if we throw moral implications of hurting Theists for the sake of converting some fence-sitters, the fact of the matter is that arguing is going to have more drawbacks than benefits. As I explained in Round 2, Theists who argue with atheists over abortion laws and gay marriage legalization are the ones who end up being Pariahs of the Theistic community and mascots for atheism who make an example of them. In the same way that people such as Christopher Hitchens get shown to Theists to make them disgusted by atheism. Any militant, or extremist, who feels the need to actively seek out and demolish another person's belief system is not going to reap nearly as many benefits as repercussions from this endeavour.

In conclusion, arguing not only fails to do the very thing it's designed to do, convincing an opposing side that they are wrong, but it also has far more backlashes than successful outcomes as a result of doing so. Therefore, the resolution 'atheists should argue with Theists' has failed to be upheld by Pro, whom the BoP was on.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Geogeer 7 years ago
The question is: are you actually educating? It isn't like these questions haven't been asked by theists.
Posted by Burncastle 7 years ago
"I will never admit to wasting my time trying to propagate the truth"

-Richard Dawkins
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