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Tips for being a good atheist

Updated on October 29, 2013

When it comes to religious debates, it's often tough to stay level headed and civil about things. Knowing who to argue what with will go along ways to keep the name calling and yelling out of the conversation.

Know your target

You know that 50 year old guy who's gone to church 5 times a week since he was 4? He's probably not a good person to debate with. You have pretty close to no chance of changing his mind, just as he has no chance of changing yours. There is very little chance of that staying civil. The whole point of a debate is to, even if just a little, sway the other person into your thinking.

So who should you debate with? You want someone who is more curious than argumentative, someone who maybe asks you how or why you are an atheist. Whether they admit it or not, chances are if they are asking, the probably have at least a little doubt. They may just be wondering, but there is also a much higher chance of that conversation staying civil.

Know your topic

From my experience, 9 times out of 10 just stay away from the creationism versus evolution topic. When their argument is to open a jar of peanut butter and show you there is nothing living in it, there is pretty much zero chance of having a logical conversation with them. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, stay away. When someones argument is something along the lines of "I know the bibles true cause it says so in the bible," just get big eyes and say "your right, I see there light there is a god" and walk away. All any religious versus atheist debate boils down to is logic versus faith. When they take away your best weapon by completely ignoring all logic, there is nowhere for that conversation to go but downhill.

Good debates come when the other party is being at least a little logical. As an example, whether you believe in it or not, the argument that humans are complex so must have been made by a higher power is a pretty good argument. Things that we can't explain but religion has an answer for are topics you want to aim for. They will keep it a polite talk, instead of a bar fight with words.

I know you are but what am I

It's human nature for atheists, whether they admit it or not even to themselves, that most of all religions are filled with ridiculous ideas and you have to be stupid to believe it. Whether you feel that way or not, it doesn't need to be said. An example I like to use is there is a group called the flat earth society, look it up if you could use a laugh. Looking through their site, it's almost impossible to not think they are all idiots. Just because you're thinking it doesn't mean it needs to be said. Even the most civil conversations will turn bad quickly when you start calling names. Also, stay away from calling their beliefs stupid, even though you don't say, or perhaps even mean, it doesn't mean it won't be taken as you calling them stupid.

Finally....

I spent many years ashamed, for lack of a better term, of being an atheist. Don't be. Be proud of who you are and what you believe, just be proud in a respectful way. Religious debates can be extremely fun, as long as it's with the right person, on the right topic, and done in the right way. Don't give the rest of us a bad name. Finally, know the bible. Won't go into too much detail on that, but keep Matthew 5:17(NIV) handy. Happy debating.

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  • profile image

    Mklow1 3 years ago

    "You have pretty close to no chance of changing his mind, just as he has no chance of changing yours. There is very little chance of that staying civil. The whole point of a debate is to, even if just a little, sway the other person into your thinking."

    That statement really doesn't make any sense because you are admitting you will not change your mind about what you believe. You say the 50 year old man is not worth debating with because he will not change his mind. So in essence, aren't you admitting up front that a debate is not possible with you either, therefore you should not and cannot debate?

    But the ironic thing is that when a religious person tries to change an atheists mind, it is called evangelizing, which is something most atheists I know abhor. So why would an atheist want to change a believers mind? Wouldn't that be a bit hypocritical? Or do you consider it human nature to try to sway others to our own way of thinking to maybe justify our own beliefs because we are insecure?

    Just throwing that out there.

  • Sapper profile image
    Author

    Sapper 4 years ago from Box Elder, SD

    I have met some very intelligent people, some a lot smarter than me, that were extremely religious. It always blows my mind to see someone that smart not only believe in god, but to take the bible at face value. It's something I will probably never understand.

    Thanks for the vote up.

  • Paladin_ profile image

    Paladin_ 4 years ago from Michigan, USA

    A good hub, Sapper, and voted up.

    I'm glad you mentioned the natural tendency of atheists to assume that people who believe ridiculous and outlandish things must be "stupid." From what I've seen, this is the most common -- and the most egregious -- mistake atheists make in discussions with believers.

    I often make a point of clarifying that religious belief has little to do with intelligence, and cite my favorite example of Isaac Newton, arguably the most brilliant human who ever lived -- who also believed in God. From this example and so many others, I've learned that human beings have an AMAZING ability to mentally compartmentalize -- to apply reason, logic and skepticism to some topics while completely shutting them down with regard to others.

    This is most obvious in the evolution/creation debates you mention. I've seen creationists tenaciously cling to the tiniest irregularity or inconsistency in evolutionary theory in the belief that it demolishes the entire concept, while ignoring gargantuan logical holes in their own religious belief.

    I also agree wholeheartedly with your notion of "planting seeds." This is a common theme in my approach. I know those seeds may not immediately take root, and they may never do so. But hopefully, they'll remain where I've left them until the time is ripe for some sort of rational growth.

  • Sapper profile image
    Author

    Sapper 4 years ago from Box Elder, SD

    I agree to a point, most of them go nowhere, but there have been a few occasions where you see that click in their eyes, and know that something you said stuck. When i argue with someone about religion, I'm not looking to change their mind right then and there. All it takes is to plant a seed of doubt. If you can do that, eventually, somewhere down the road, they'll realize that if this one part isn't true, then this other can't be. It'll take a little time, but in the long run they'll get to the realization that none of it can be true. It doesn't happen a lot, but it does happen.

  • Jewels profile image

    Jewels 4 years ago from Australia

    What's the saying, don't discuss politics or religion. I think there was a third but can't remember. The circular debate will always be circular, gets you nowhere. I don't think beliefs make the person, it's deeds. Regardless if those who stand by their righteous beliefs could produce the deeds to equal their opinions, we'd be in a much better place. And that applies to both sides of the camp.

  • Sapper profile image
    Author

    Sapper 4 years ago from Box Elder, SD

    It is really hard to not do that, but I'm still hoping that sometime in my lifetime it will no longer be considered socially acceptable to believe in a religion, Every time a debate ends with name calling and insults, it sets that back a little further. I have had plenty of conversations end with me trying my hardest to not punch them to try and knock some sense in them though, it can get very frustrating at times.

  • Mark Knowles profile image

    Mark Knowles 4 years ago

    I used to try and have a reasonable conversation. But when you have just spent a long time explaining something only to be told that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that over-rides anything you might have said and really a "day" in Genesis is 16 million years (depending) it is hard not to just resort to making fun of them. lol

  • Sapper profile image
    Author

    Sapper 4 years ago from Box Elder, SD

    Of course a vast majority of it isn't logical, I just meant to stick to topics that aren't quite so out there. Most arguments will be the equivalent of trying to convince someone staring at the ground that the sky is blue, not green. I have had a few good debates, but you're right, most of them make me want to pull what little hair I have left out.

  • Mark Knowles profile image

    Mark Knowles 4 years ago

    This is weird. You say "All any religious versus atheist debate boils down to is logic versus faith. " Which I agree with.

    It is not possible to apply "logic" to religion. Therefore it is not possible to have a "logical" conversation with a religious person.

    Therefore you should not converse with them? lol

    I disagree that the argument that humans are complex therefore they must have been made by a higher power is a good argument. As usual it is an argument from ignorance.

    Good luck finding a logical religious person to argue with. :D

  • Sapper profile image
    Author

    Sapper 4 years ago from Box Elder, SD

    I agree. I see too many times in forums and else where on the web atheists starting off with name calling and other nasty stuff. It gives all of us a bad name.

  • Sharkye11 profile image

    Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

    Wonderful advice. Religion is like politics, no matter how good the debates, you are never going to convert the other side. The best you can do is to explain yourself in the most eloquent, factual manner while at the same time respecting their opinion. Voting up.

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