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The art of debate in religious forums

Updated on January 31, 2015

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.


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    • emrldphx profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      I was thinking an outside community would probably be better, I don't envision something like that happening here.

      It's one of the projects I want to do at some point in the future.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      6 years ago from Ottawa


      Thank you. I have minimal formal training myself but have spent years honing my skills. For me, it is a way to learn.

      I'm sure we could set up something like a formal debate club with proper monitoring. I've wondered about how to do it here on Hubpages. Perhaps someone should talk to the organizers. It would take some dedicated people to set it up properly and maintain it. ;)

    • emrldphx profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Excellent hub! I've never been taught formally in the art of debate, it's only what I have gathered in my own self-education.

      I would love a community where real debate, free from insults, was not only encouraged, but enforced. Like you said, some things turn into real gems :)

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      6 years ago from Ottawa


      Well that's what led me to follow you, your ability to be logical and very reasonable in our discussions on the forums.

      I look forward to reading your hubs.

    • JGoul profile image


      6 years ago

      Great hub. I have tremendous respect for your ability to look beyond your personal views on the subject and provide thoughtful analysis of how those on the other side can better prepare themselves.

      It's nice to find someone who shares my reverence for the proper use of logic, regardless of the position espoused.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      6 years ago from Ottawa

      Thanks for coming to read it, Kiwi. ;) I think learning is the most fun anyone can have by themselves. ;)

    • Eaglekiwi profile image


      6 years ago from -Oceania

      I didn't mean to read this hub,lol,but I am glad I did!

      What a sensible read filled with heaps of common sense laced with humour.

      I also chuckled quite a lot remembering as a newbie my baptism of fire, by none other than Atheist superslayer Mark Knowles (Evolution Guy)...crap I didn't know what had hit me-hahaha...

      But like a good Kiwi country girl I persisted ,though I told myself I was there to write (yea right).

      Life is for learning and I dont ever want to stop.

      To Your Best Life ~

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      I can only wish that my comments are wise. I am getting a few white hairs so, maybe they do hold a little bit of wisdom. Thank you for your kind words. I am indeed of the opinion that knowledge and intelligence can be learned/studied but wisdom only comes with experience.

      I would like to thank you for promoting reason and logic. You are doing a great service to those who need its lessons. They may not even know it.

      In regard to your statement that: "Would all wars could be fought that way, with mind alone", I have to say that in the way you perceived it, it is harmless and good. As a sorcerer though, I would say that mind attacks are more dangerous than physical attacks thus, I do not have this wish. It can go both ways, yours (which is not that harmful) or mine (which can be very deadly).

      I am thankful for you being who you are. May Wakan Tanka always walk with you. Cheers!

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      6 years ago from Ottawa

      Hi. Glad you came to check out this hub. ;) I find the moderate Christian like your self good company. Like you I enjoy talking to people from the other camp. I have many Christian friends and relatives, of course.

      We just agree not to talk religion and everyone is happy. lol..

      But the forums are place where very few moderate Christians hang out and the fundamentalists are even harder on the ones that do join in than the atheists generally are. It's rather frightening. lol...

      Really for me it is a fight against fanaticism in all forms and planting seeds of reason in the masses. It is also the way I have learned best over the years.

      But again, I love a good rational fight. The better my opponent is the better I like it. I wish they were not so few and far between.

      I fully agree with you. Ignorance is the fuel for, I think, all fires. ;)

    • emichael profile image


      6 years ago from New Orleans

      I've only been involved in one real forum debate. And it was actually completely unintentional. I made some remark on the value of human life, and I was instantly attacked on a personal level. But, like you suggest here, I didn't take any of it personally and tried to have an intelligent conversation with the guy. Unfortunately, he seemed to be mortally offended by my very existence so it proved futile. But I actually had a good bit of fun with it. Knowing that I was probably not going to change this guys mind, I was sort of just practicing my critical thinking.

      To me it seems like most individuals involved in religious forum debates are only interested in one thing. Convincing others. And as a Christian it pains me to say this, but Christians seem to be the worst at that. Or at least the worst informed and the most impatient. Drives me crazy.

      I much prefer to have a conversation with someone of the opposite belief where both try to understand what the other believes and why they believe it. Because if I don't, I drift further into ignorance. And ignorance is the fuel for many deadly fires.

    • Slarty O'Brian profile imageAUTHOR

      Ron Hooft 

      6 years ago from Ottawa

      Thank you for your wise comments. ;)

      I do not think the bible is completely without merit. There are many lessons to be learned from it as you say. It is a look in to the minds of the people of that era and that region. For that alone it is an invaluable and highly educational document.

      For me it was the document that set me free of the idea of the Christian god exactly because I began to see it in terms of the minds of man at a particular time in our evolution, not the words of a god. That became so obvious that the last of my faith just dropped away without any farther effort on my part, and a weight was lifted.

      So in essence as so many Christians say, it can set you free. But in my case it set me free of itself.

      I have heard other atheists express the same idea.

      I also agree with you about the lack of logic and rationality exhibited by people on both sides of the issue. But that is what is so great about these forums. People are actually being exposed to rationality and logic.

      To me this is the crux of the matter. Without these forums people would often have a much harder time getting aquatinted with logic and rationality. There are enough of us out there promoting it. It is slowly rubbing off.

      But these things take time. To me the forums are breading grounds for evolution, and the introduction of the logical mind to a mass audience. It is little wonder they are still a mess. It is a long process.

      So I don't mind the forums being exactly the way they are. I think they are healthy and that it is a war zone that is even healthier because it never escalates to real physical harm or violence. Would all wars could be fought that way, with mind alone.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "Those who are easily insulted should not enter ... Some people get very offended and take it all very personally." - Yes, indeed the world is full of people who take things personally. Actually, this is not only the case with religion. I find it is the case in general. Many people just want to be "right" - it's like they feel a need for being right. It has to do with a lack of self-esteem, in my opinion.

      "Religious debate forums are a war zone." - I certainly like this description.

      "Reading the bible is partly what made them turn away from religion." - I do not agree here. I think the Bible is great. I just don't like institutionalized religions and I have yet to find a decent priest. I think the Bible is a great philosophical book. I do think it has many wise lessons in it. Many of the people who preach it, do it a disfavor though.

      I have no time for these forums. I have been on an endless amount of forums in my life and I know how they are. I read this blog knowing what you would say. Your account of how things are on forums is correct, in my opinion. It is a war zone and there are often no rules.

      What I dislike about forums is that it all starts good usually, until somehow in the heat of the moment some people give-up on reason and logic. Then, it all comes crumbling down.

      I suppose that is my biggest concern with forums: the lack of logic in discussion. People will cling on to their beliefs and arguments even when logic dictates otherwise. And some people treat their beliefs like a life-saver, when in reality they can swim on their own ...

      Great blog Mr. O'Brian. Cheers!


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