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Debating Atheism: Why Nobody "Wins"

Updated on January 5, 2014

The Endless Debate

The debate over the existence of God is one that has been going on for centuries. Philosophers of old have pondered the question, many, many books have been written on the subject, and other "religions" have spawned because of this debate.

Often times, parties come away from these debates claiming a win. If you Google "Debating Atheism" you will find numerous articles instructing Christians how to debate an atheist and win. But, is it a win? What it often boils down to is a misunderstanding of what winning a debate really means. Refusing to concede even though you have not proven your argument, causing the opposition to throw up their hands in frustration is not a win. Another problem I have seen within the debate over the existence of God is when the debate veers from the actual issue. More often than not, "God Exists vs. God Does Not Exist" becomes a debate over "Creation vs. Evolution". Creation vs. Evolution is a valid topic for debate on it's own. It can also be a subtopic/argument within the "God's existence" debate, but being able to offer more scientific evidence for evolution does not resolve the main argument of God's existence.

If just one debate in the past several centuries had been won by offering undeniable evidence for either side, the question of God's existence would no longer be an argument. Because this has never happened, the question is still debated today.

The Endless Debate
The Endless Debate | Source

The Players

The debate occurs between theists and atheists. The theist believes in the existence of a higher power. Reasonably, the individual making the claim "I believe God exists because..." has the burden of proving their side within the debate. They must then provide some type of proof of their claim. The theist must offer the reasons they believe God exists and the atheist may refute by offering a reasonable opposition or alternative narrative. The atheist, having made no positive claim, does not have a burden of proof since their claim is "proof does not exist". The atheist merely doubts the positive claim of the theist.


Common Arguments

While researching many of the debates and articles written about the argument, I have found that certain points are used more often than others.

1. God exists because something cannot come from nothing. - This argument is often countered by turning that same reasoning around and asking, "If God exists, where did HE come from?"

2. God exists because love, compassion, and kindness exist. Without God there would be no moral compass. - This argument assumes that morality comes only from the standards set by an outside source. This would mean that whatever God says is moral should always be just that (since he is unchanging?) So if God commands genocide, genocide is then considered moral? A baby doesn't know that biting is not acceptable behavior. The baby learns that biting hurts when another child bites back. It's our experiences that decide our moral standards. Love, compassion, and kindness come from being able to empathize.

3. The Bible says God exists, therefore the Bible is proof that God exists. - This is a logical fallacy known as circular reasoning. This argument assumes that one subject is true and thus the second is true. "God inspired the Bible so the Bible is true. The Bible says God exists, therefore the existence of God is true." Neither are actually proven to be true in this argument.

4. God exists because you cannot prove he doesn't exist. - This is another fallacy known as the Argument from Ignorance. This argument, again, offers no evidence and is just an attempt to shift the burden of proof to the opposition.

5. God exists because billions of people all over the world believe he exists due to their own personal experiences. - This is known as Argumentum Ad Populum or an Appeal to Numbers. This makes the assumption that something must be true simply because of the number of people who believe it is true. Again, this offers no real evidence and it can be argued that enormous numbers of people have and do believe in other deities and religions as well OR believe in no deities at all.

There are times that atheists will offer dialogue to these arguments that extend beyond the claim that evidence does not exist. This is usually an appeal to the theist's sense of logic and reason; perhaps to try to plant a seed of doubt.

1. If God exists, why does he allow the suffering of the innocent? - I have heard many different responses to this question stemming from "God allows suffering to teach his people to have compassion" to "It is just all a part of his plan and we are not to know why." Although the question is philosophically a valid question, it offers no solid evidence against the existence of God.

2. God does not exist because religions based on a belief in God have been harmful. An all loving God would not expect his followers to harm others. - Again, this is an appeal to the oppositions sensibility. Often it is countered by the denial that the religion THEY participate in is harmful and that religions that are harmful are not following God. Though this argument may cause some theists to reflect on the issue of how religion may affect others, this argument is not evidence against the existence of God.

And The Winner is...

The winner is nobody. No matter how each of these arguments are presented, no matter how well thought out the debater believes his arguments are, it all boils down to the fact that neither side can offer solid, undeniable evidence to support their argument.

And so the debate continues....

By: Traci Ruffner

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    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 4 years ago from Prescott Valley

      :) You did a great job supporting this theory!

    • Traci Ruffner profile image

      Traci Ruffner 4 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      Thank you =) This seems to be something many people have a hard time understanding. The "why" there can be no winner.

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 4 years ago from Prescott Valley

      What an incredible article! It's so true. You can battle this one until you are both blue, but what constitutes an argument for you, is the same argument that they will use to support their side.

      There's no way for anyone to win this argument. Trying only forces the other person further in their own direction, which is counter-intuitive to both sides. lol We simply need to show some tolerance and respect for what others believe. Only then can we expect the same from them.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Marvlous Article. You make us proud.

      It is easy to be all mellow sitting in my chair with soft gentle music playing. And outright aggression must be done with extreme care or be disastrous.

      In the battlefield it is the calm that normally comes out with less scarring.

      Blessings to you.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 4 years ago

      I think you hit a very good point in the first section of this hub when you say it isn't a win just because the other person gets frustrated and gives up. Unfortunately, that's how I see most debates on this topic end. If it can be considered a debate in the first place. Once the yelling and name-calling starts the whole thing has moved from a simple debate to an outright hate-fest and no one comes even close to winning. I enjoy a good discussion as much as the next person and love the way you laid out your points and counterpoints.