The art of debate in religious forums
While this is mainly about the art of debate in religious vs atheist forums, it is also about debate in general.
What passes for debate on religious vs atheist forms is not very productive by and large for getting anything solved. But these forums do have real benefits to the person honing their debating skills as well as their critical thinking skills.
But these forums are not for everyone. Those who are easily insulted should not enter. Both sides sling insults at each other on a constant basis. Some people get very offended and take it all very personally.
The number one rule for first timers is: Grow a very thick skin. Showing others you are offended by what they say will make the other side smell blood and you will be guaranteed more of the same. But if you let insults run off your back, because frankly there is no reason to take anything said personally, then you will be happier, more in control, and more focused on the issues.
In formal debate people are allotted time to make their point. Then there is usually at least one rebuttal round and then at the end a summation of the argument.
This is not how debate forums work. Religious debate forums are a war zone. Debate is not so much debate as it is trying to ridicule the other person’s beliefs and arguments. But there are conversations which turn out to be gems. From those we can often learn a lot.
A good debater is hard to find in a forum. People have their pet attack techniques. Some Christians post nothing but scripture and refuse to talk in any other way. Some people are abrasive right away. There are many ways to engage in discussion. The trick is not to fall to any one approach. You have to consider your approach by the person you are talking to.
If they come at you in an abrasive manner you can hone your skills on them. You can learn to counter their arguments and eventually throw their arguments back at them. If someone wants a calm rational conversation then you should be able to give them one. The idea is to learn and master these different approaches so you can engage anyone on any level.
Learning the art of debate is a slow process. You have to learn your stuff. After all, that’s the crux of the matter. If you don’t know your topic then you have already lost any argument you think you have. If you are an atheist and you want to argue religion then you have to read the bible. Know it better than your opponent. Most atheists who want to debate religion have done this anyway. Reading the bible is partly what made them turn away from religion. There is nothing worse in a debate than an atheist or Christian who doesn’t know their stuff.
A lot of Christians who come to debate forums don’t know their bible either. They have no idea of its history or how it was compiled. Both sides should have all the facts and be able to debate those facts rationally.
Therefore, Christians should also read more science and particularly on the topics of physics and evolution. Just as it is a horror show to watch an atheist be clobbered over the head with a point about the bible they can’t answer, it is just as horrific to find oneself in a conversation about science with a person who is obviously not only not interested in science but clueless about it and proud of it, telling you why evolution is impossible.
If you are going to talk about evolution, know what it is and how it works. Evolution may make you angry, but anger doesn’t cut it. You will look like a fool arguing with emotion about something you know nothing about.
Atheists are often accused of thinking that Christians are delusional because they believe in something they have no proof for. This is true. But what is also true is that Christians think atheists are either delusional, in league with satan, or just plain dumb for risking hell.
So both sides think the other is nuts. Accept it, be honest about it and get over it.
The big crime on these forums it seems is: baiting. What does that mean? To the Christians who employ that term it seems to mean we are asking a question which we already think we have an answer to and we are just asking it to make Christians look bad.
This is a rather strange concept to me. Everyone has an opinion. When an atheist asks a question it is to get the Christians opinion and pit it against their own. In fact that is what any debate is about. Anyone who thinks they are just sharing is fooling themselves or they are naïve. These forums are not set up for just sharing. They are there to pit one opinion against another.
These forums are the last place we really have that where we can speak openly and freely. In the real world most of us do not discuss religion. Most of us let others believe what they like and it does not affect our day to day interactions with them. What do I care what the store owner believes? I want my bread and can of cat food. Not to be eaten together, of course. I’m not that destitute yet.
So things do get heated in these forums. We can’t hit each other or deny each other a service on the basis of our beliefs or lack of, so we can actually talk openly.
Now usually these forums are for the fundamentalists fighting the more militant atheists. Moderate atheists and Christians could care less about what the other side thinks. Of course this is because the Fundamentalists and militant atheists have political agendas that are being hashed out both here and in the real world. When moderates from wither side enter these forums it is often a new and frightening world in which they get hurt. They are collateral damage.
Of course there are people who come to see it all just for fun. And for me it is fun. It can be educational, it can be fun, you can meet people of your own mind set and values, and you can even makes friends with people of the opposite camp. Again, it is not a war for everyone. Forums are what we make them.
But they are no one thing and for people to come to them and complain that we insult each other is rather absurd. There is a dynamic in these forums that always outs. It is like going to the garbage dump and expecting it not to smell or thinking you can clean it all up.
What I mean by: it is what we make it, is that it is what we make it for ourselves.
Some people like me learn from conflict just as much a\if not more than from a nice conversation. Why? Because a situation that is in conflict can bring the best out of you. It makes you try harder. In a nice conversation you give way, you make allowances for. Others do the same for you. If your debate is a conflict then you are struggling to make cutting points that will convince the other side or the audience that your side is right.
Oh yes, there is a lot of playing to the audience. But that’s even better because it is a trial of fire for your ideas and concepts. Each time you go out there with our honest opinion you lay yourself naked to be ridiculed or validated. Know that and act accordingly.
Though in a debate you must try to convert your opponent with your reason, few if any get converted. But the information is out there and people remember good points even if they are desperate to find a counter for them.
So be warned. These forums are not for everyone. I have been on many forums over the years discussing religion and they are all basically the same. If you don’t your faith or lack of faith tested don’t bother. If you are easily insulted or hurt, don’t bother.
But if you want to better your own debate skills, hone your opinions and strategies, learn from the enemy, and hear it like it is as far as what the two sides think of each other and of each other’s beliefs and ideas, the forums are the place to be.
To both sides: Good luck and happy hunting.