Sunday, January 26, 2014

Apologists out of the woodwork

Lately, I've found myself up against three ridiculous apologists.

I've dealt with a genuine Bible-thumper, who, when asked to provide evidence that the verses quoted from the Bible are true, cites other versus from the Bible. One explains how that's circular, etc, and he calmly lets you stop talking, and quotes more verses.

Another is a heavily immature individual who LOVES to EMPHASIZE particular POINTS IN ALL CAPS. Though, to be fair, I do love my italics. We're running circles around this one via Euthyphro's Dilemma... though he's dense enough to not be able to follow the train of thought. I'm currently trying to get him to answer how he knows that murder is wrong, if the Bible is the source of that knowledge... if the same book is how he knows how anything is right or wrong. What if Satan wrote it to trick him - how would he know? This particular apologist is like trying to have a debate with a random text generator that never gets what you're saying.

The third is a Muslim trying to convert us to Islam. Unlike the first apologist, he'll actually attempt to address points we've made on the scientific level... or should I say pseudo-scientific level? He insists that evolution is a lie made up to deny God, etc. You know the dribble. English isn't his first language, so there's quite a bit of a language barrier... but like the first AND second apologists, love making assertions with zero evidence to back it up.. and any rebuttals is us atheists just being in denial because we're sinners.

So basically, we're talking run-of-the-mill apologists.

I was trying to get the Muslim and Bible-thumper to debate each other. If it wasn't for the declaration of the Muslim that he's Muslim, I wouldn't be able to tell that he wasn't a typical Christian apologist. I could just imagine how this conversation would go:

Christian: "God is real because the Bible says so."
Muslim: "Wrong. Allah is real because the Qu'ran says so."
Christian "You're just in denial because you want to sin."
Muslim: "Nope, you're just in denial about Allah because you want to sin."
Christian: "Let me quote a bunch of verses that show the wisdom of the Bible!"
Muslim: "Here's some wisdom from the Qu'ran! Take that!"
Christian: "Believe or risk burning in hell!"
Muslim: "Believe or risk burning in the lake of fire!"

Outside of a few side-topics, both spouted these at us. They do not appear to be cognizant of each other. Did I mention they're debating us on the same forum, and two of them on the same page? It's almost as though they're especially uncomfortable with atheists in particular... other believers have the basic right idea of a god, just the wrong religion. We're the threat.

I'm not sure how many times we've asked all three for evidence, and explained the standards of evidence, the methodology, the burden of proof... clarifying how theories are defined, the evidence for the evolution of the eye... the basics of epistemology in general. We've done that a lot.

They don't care.

It's practically a miracle when they actually legitimately address some rebuttal we've made. They either can't grasp what we're saying, or they're ignoring us.

I've often tried to make this clear - if you want to convince us of anything, you must use an epistemological framework we're using - such as science. I couldn't care less what's written in the Bible, or the Qu'ran, so quoting that at me only convinces me that you're a mindless drone (a.k.a. a "God-bot"). This shouldn't be surprising, as us throwing science back at them seems entirely ineffectual.

They don't care.

I can only come up with a few explanations for this:

  • They think they're casting a magical spell on us, when reading these verses.
  • They think a verse will suddenly "capture our hearts", and reel us in, somehow.
  • They're trolls, who are simply there to annoy us.
To a degree, I'm tempted to cut off any communication that doesn't use a standardized epistemological framework... but you know they'll claim victory. I don't see that as very useful either.

Instead, I see them as "target practice"... a practice dummy of sorts. Something to try new arguments on, to familiarize myself with their arguments, and the potential rebuttals to those. I see them as opportunities to "make examples" to others - "See how absurd their position is?" I can show that they're fractally wrong to any reasonable observer. The people lurking and watching don't have as much emotional investment as the one whom you are debating.

At that point, it's not about the apologist in the match. It's about those in the audience. I don't believe that someone cannot be talked out of their faith. Many have. I don't buy that these people are inherently illogical. I think they're so mired in their mysticism and fantasy that it's going to take a lot of effort to dig them out... even if it's little by little, day by day.

I believe the brain is on my side here. As humans, we can't help but be logical, at least to some minor degree. That's frequently overridden by fear - fear of death, fear of being wrong and embarrassed, fear for one's way of life being destroyed by invaders. It's not an either/or proposition.

It's a matter of time and effort. Each argument I provide... each rebuttal I conjure... in the back of their minds, is registered. Believe me, I'd love to have the capacity for selective amnesia. If they hear these arguments, they'll be bouncing around in their heads... and if it starts to make sense, it'll fester.

The key is education - rudimentary education on the basics of rational and critical thought... knowing basic facts about reality, etc. As I explained to the second apologist today, my belief isn't a matter of will. It's a question of being convinced. 

I think they know this. It may be #4, in my explanations list above - they're hoping that Biblical and Qu'ranic scripture will bounce around and stick in our minds. 

The difference is, one of these world views is rooted in objective reality, and doesn't need revivals or weekly meet-ups to reinforce the beliefs against the persistent facts of reality... and is more likely to "stick", because of that.

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