If you’ve been paying attention to this comments thread, you’ll have noticed that we’ve been paid a visit by an evangelical Christian blogger named Dan Marvin. Dan isn’t trolling, but is a sincere guy who doesn’t want us all to go to hell. I’m happy to have Dan visiting us, but there are a few helpful ground rules that Christians ought to be aware of before coming to atheist sites to save our souls. This will help make the experience less unpleasant for them and less of a nuisance for us.
- Be aware that most atheists have come from religious upbringings. This means that your arguments and appeals have most likely been heard by us before.
- Be aware of logical fallacies so that you do not make them. Atheist bloggers tend to be reasonably well educated folks, with backgrounds — either professionally, academically, or as involved laypeople — in religion, science, philosophy, and forensic debate. Nothing marks a person as a bad arguer quite like the clueless delivery of logical fallacies. From Dan we’ve already had appeals to belief and popularity (millions of people believe Christianity so it must be true), and these amateurish debating mistakes can be easily corrected simply by studying what they are. Just Google “logical fallacies” and you’ll be okay.
- Don’t mock guys like Charles Darwin or Richard Dawkins if you’ve never read a word they’ve written. Ignorance alone is annoying; ignorance coupled with undeserved cockiness is just offensive and arrogant. And before you remind me that this kind of thing swings both ways, be aware that most of us here have, in fact, read the Bible.
- Don’t make foolish assertions that your religious belief is on the same footing as science. We’ve already had this silliness from Dan, and nothing catches a believer with his rhetorical pants down more embarrassingly. Faith-based belief in an ancient holy book full of angels, devils, and talking donkeys is not even close to being in the same intellectual ballpark as the scientific method, which entails drawing conclusions about the natural world through experimentation and observation. Science is a rigorous exercise, ruthlessly vetted through a process of peer review to weed out and correct mistakes. There is no analogue in religious practice. To say, as Dan did, that to disbelieve the Bible one must also disbelieve every work of science ever written, well, that’s the kind of thing that’ll get you sent to the corner with a dunce cap on your head.
- We are aware that to Christians, atheists can often sound brusque, condescending, and downright pissy. Chalk this up to frustration. Our position, by and large, is this. We’re just normal folks, trying to live our lives and get by as peaceably and decently as we can. And because we don’t share the belief in sky gods held by others, we are condemned as the worst kinds of people in society. We are told we are deserving of eternal torture for not sharing your beliefs, and we are fed the same bogus arguments — most of which are emotional appeals and exercises in loopy illogic — in your attempts to make us see the error of our ways. Mainly, we just want to be left alone. But in a religion-addicted world, this is impossible. So the next time you wonder, “Why are atheists so angry?” think about how religionists routinely behave towards us. I certainly will do my best to be polite and cordial to guys like Dan as long as they are polite and cordial and not trolling.
- Be aware that the minute you fall back on “You just have to have faith,” you’ve lost. If atheists differ from believers in one area more than any other, it’s that believers think that “faith” — belief in the supernatural claims of the Bible without evidence — is an acceptible means of cognition. We know it isn’t. There is no religious belief — not yours, not anybody’s — so innately special that it gets to bypass the same criteria that human beings use for any other decision-making they do in life. If I wouldn’t do faith-based used-car shopping, or allow someone to perform faith-based surgery upon me, I see no reason to accept a faith-based belief about questions regarding the nature of the universe and my own fate. If you’re going to tell me flat out that I’m eternally doomed for not believing as you believe, then you’d better make with the most incontrovertible evidence anyone has ever produced for anything. Otherwise, you’re just insulting and threatening me, and that not only reflects poorly upon your arguing skills but upon your personal morality.
There. That should help our evangelical visitors understand the boxing ring they have chosen to step into. We’re all for being nice folks and carrying the torch of positive atheism. But if you make bad or hackneyed arguments that we’ve heard before, we’ll call you on them. Atheists, contrary to preconceptions, can usually be counted on for honesty.