Unpleasant conversations between atheists and theists


(Luca) #1

So sometimes when i share with people that i am a Christian theist i get very unpleasant remarks and sometimes when we discuss about something we hear arguments wich are quite old and not really usefull anymore. But when you point out why and say what the current problems could be the person starts scoffing and saying they “destroyed your religion”. This happens both in real life and online.
How does someone cope with that? And why are the recent atheists so very agressive in their discussions?

PS: On this site and on WLC’s reasonable faith and some other christian forums it is not bad at all.
Younger atheists do this in my expirience.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #2

I think if you were an atheist you’d probably say the same thing about many young Christians, sadly. It seems that new, and especially young and new, converts to any religious school of thought (or any school of thought, really!) are always the most zealous and abrasive.


(Luca) #3

Im very sure it’s also like this for younger Christians. I just never really come in contact with any younger Christians at all.


(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #4

Whew… I think you need to realize that there is atheism, there is Christianity, and then there is psychology. I think a lot of what I say are just voicing my views on the matter, thinking out loud, if you will. I will probably not convince anyone to change their thinking, just as you likely won’t convince anyone else to change their. This is just an exchange of ideas.

Btw, I used to be a very fervent Christian, but I used to argue with fellow Christians about theological matters. Later, the fervency remained, but the subject changed.

Arguments with my sister (who is a Christian) really set me off sometimes, but I realize its not her, it’s ME, something in ME sets me off when arguing with her. And she could argue Christianity or politics. Didn’t matter.

I propose that you consider this…what is it in you, that reacts to atheist scoffing with negativity? AND, I would venture to guess this comes out in other areas of your life, even areas not having anything to do with atheism.


(Luca) #5

I don’t really feel anger when that happens. Just disappointment. I have no problem with the way you voice your views as you say it. Because to me it’s still a discussion with respect. But in these cases the person you are discussing with will throw mean remarks, will ignore what you are saying and claim victory in the end. And thats very disappointing to me. Im just wondering how fellow Christians deal with this?


(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #6

Why does this disappoint you? Do you know that person or are they just some random stranger on the internet?


(Luca) #7

It’s hard to explain why it disappoints me. As if they don’t take me serious i guess?


(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #8

I like one website, called whywesuffer.com. It’s not religious but not anti-religious either. I find it works for me.

http://www.whywesuffer.com/basic-principle/

When we’re unhappy, we’re usually making unconscious inner choices that produce our unhappiness. We have to understand the bittersweet appeal of negative emotions. Without realizing what we’re doing, we actually make inner choices to feel deprived or refused—or helpless, criticized, rejected, betrayed, or abandoned.


#9

One real big problem is that many atheists are so strongly convinced that the very idea that there could be a God is so much nonsense that it is not even worth listening to the possible arguments, because no matter how “good” they are, if the conclusion is wrong, there is certainly something wrong with the argument. The funny thing is that even Richard Dawkins has already admited that the possibility of the existence of a deistic God is not nonsense, though he doesn’t believe it himself, but many of his layman fans are 100% sure that even this is complete nonsense.

In fact, I was talking with an atheist friend the other day about the cosmological arguments for the existence of God (fine tuning, the idea that universe started in a singularity, that time might be an emergent property, etc) and he stated “what nonsense! Whoever came up with these ideas must have been smoking pot while writing that!”. The funny thing is that I had not even began to lay down the theological arguments, I was just introducing the general ideas from physics first. I think it is pretty much like I was saying, the problem for him was not that the arguments were bad or that I was actually talking nonsense, since up to that point I was talking about things that are actually discussed in physics, it is probably just that he thought “No matter what he says, if the conclusion is that there is a God, it certainly is complete nonsese!”. I think that is the main difference between these unpleasant atheists and the ones we usually find here in the forums, the first ones just assume they have won the argument before actually listening your arguments because they think you are defending some absolute nonsense.


(David Murphy) #10

Well I’m an atheist and a long standing member of the “sceptical community” as it’s sometimes referred to. I think through the years I’ve heard pretty much every argument that can be made on either side of the fence. I came here because this website was recommended to creationists by an atheist as a way to show that most Christians accept evolution by natural selection. This is something I absolutely applaud you for and if atheists can’t manage to be civil in their correspondence with you then that’s legitimate criticism.

I’d be quietly confident that I could have a conversation without being unpleasant, trollish or the like so unless you are offended purely by my being an atheist then please feel free to challenge me. Why on earth would it make sense to believe in your particular religion when you don’t believe in all the others either?

And yes, there are intrinsic problems I see with religion, what about omnipotence? What is god? Never mind evidence, is it coherent as an idea? Please don’t mistake that as an insult directed at you.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #11

Well, then that would make you extra welcome here … so “welcome!” from a non-official other frequent poster. Really, this site isn’t here for Christians to be constantly defending themselves to atheists (or to always be trying to convert each other), but that doesn’t stop those kinds of conversations from happening as you’ll see in a lot of threads (like the current topic in the “Can you be a Christian without believing in the resurrection” thread). If it gets extra tiresome or trollish then mods may shut it down, but apart from that I think there is a mostly productive exchange of good ideas here from a pretty diverse group. It keeps us from being an echo chamber and that is apparently a rare and precious thing on the net theses days! So again, welcome!

-Merv


(David Murphy) #12

Hey Merv, the non-official frequent poster! Thanks so much for welcoming me, it’s very kind of you - you’re already a legend in my books so, ha!

Sounds entirely fair enough, I’m perfectly happy to play ball with that and let me know if I ever stray. I think I’m over exposed to the extremes of religion and atheism so it may do me a world of good to engage moderates who aren’t trying to undermine established science. I am genuinely embarrassed that the OP had to post this… and I don’t doubt that it was based on real experiences. I’ll be hopeful and blame teenage exuberance but I can’t apologise as it wasn’t me.

Now I feel on the spot, do I have good ideas… I don’t want to discuss politics…

The thing is, a rational discourse, is where you actively want to give ground, that’s the aim. Where you are looking to shed false beliefs (me included, doubtless I have many, I just don’t know yet which they are) so you look to the other to constructively engage as independent equals. Normally, when somebody cedes ground this is seen as a defeat - but the reality is it’s a victory. This person has just dispensed with something heartfelt which was wrong. That’s what I want to do. What about you?


#13

Just for the sake of curiosity, what is your opinion on more general or deistic concepts of God?


(David Murphy) #14

Firstly, tangent: I love your username. Boltzmann I feel made the greatest contribution to all science by any person in history. The Boltzmann Brain is an interesting and valid concept but his law of thermodynamics is the linchpin of all human knowledge, grounded as it is in fundamental uncertainty, and the discovery of that short equation killed him. Many scriptures profess to profound truth but S = k log W is simply awesome to the point of terrifying and it’s only a few letters long. It says why today happens before tomorrow, decides the fate of the universe and tells us why coffee cools and steam engines run. It uncovered the quantum universe. Fitting that he wrote it on his gravestone.

Listen, there have been limitless gods through the ages, most of whom lie forgotten or abandoned, a fate awaiting us as much as our deities. You can’t make a general statement about them any more that you can about art. They tend to follow what came before but practically everything imaginable has been tried and contradicting opposites exist.

The question is, not what it takes you believe in deities but, if we are to be consistent, what standards we should take for belief in general. How high should we set the bar for evidence?Is evidence a legitimate means for deciding truth at all? Because likely everything that makes you believe in your God is claimed by someone with an entirely different belief that stands in contradiction, not confirmation.

“It’s true because I want it to be” is a valid, if worthless, epistemological argument. Our senses deceive, we don’t know for sure.

So what is the process when accepting a claim?

If you grew up around people who claimed brass isn’t magnetic and they always hated people who claimed it was. How would you deal with that? Would you side with those near you? Is that how you would decide?


#15

Well, the main distinction that it is usually made between these countless gods and a deistic god, or even some monotheistic gods such as the christian one is the fact that the first were really almost always “gods of the gaps”, people didn’t understand natural phenomena and thus ascribed agency to them (I.E. lightining is caused by an angry god casting down bolts from the heavens), while the latter are more of first causes or explanations for the contingency of the universe and our everyday experiences. Sure, you could claim that they are still filling the gaps for those particular problems, but they are certainly not scientific gaps, since science can only study the universe as a given, that is why it has to rely on axioms and the like. Atheists can still claim that other features of christianity (or other religions consistent with that kind of god) like the virgin birth, resurrection, etc. are still not solved by these propositions, that is why I usually like to debate (at least at first) about the existence of a deistic god, since it takes these troubles out of the way and let us focus on a more narrow set of questions.


(David Murphy) #16

Happy to roll with most of what you said. I think there has been a movement from guesswork - say astrology for example - to the more basic human “need” for purpose, afterlife and moral compass.

But there’s a major issue. What is God?

Is God omnipotent? Is God omnibenevolent? Is God physical?

Are these concepts logically coherent?

But, more to the point. How do you know these answers when I don’t?


#17

Well, putting it simple, we can say that God is the first cause which created and sustains the universe and has agency. The latter one is the one which differentiates the theistic or deistic worldview from the atheistic one, without the “agency”, this God would basically be indistinguishable from the laws of nature (even if these laws are on a level which we can’t explore with science). Lots of deists don’t believe God is personal (in the sense that he cares about us), but they do believe that the universe has purpose, and purpose requires agency (from the creator in this case), Paul Davies is an example of that, he doesn’t believe God is personal, and says that it is “ugly” to imagine a God which meddles with the laws of physics from time to time, but nonetheless, he declares that he becomes increasingly convinced that the universe has purpose with time.

EDIT: I don’t think I ever saw any theist which claimed God was physical…a physical God would be within creation, which would be very weird (maybe the process theology guys?).

Is not like I “know” them and you don’t. It is just an hypothesis which I find very likely to be true. We can make an analogy with string theory: It explains lots of things and many physicists are convinced it is true, however, we can’t test it (at least for now) and there are many other physicists which are not really convinced/skeptic about it.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #18

And what does it means for us to “know” something? I suspect we tend to have different answers and responses on that which will shape everything else following.

[added edit … BTW if you ever want to add to or change an already posted post like I am doing here, just click the ‘pencil’ icon underneath your post in need of editing. Also, the easiest way to have clear discourse before you even click ‘reply’ on somebody else’s post, just highlight the particular sentence you want to respond to, and then click the gray “quote” box that pops up. That opens the new post for you and includes their quote at the top, and also signals them that they have a reply waiting. There is no limit to how many quotes you can put in one post. But using them helps people know specifically what you are responding to. ]


#19

There is pantheism. For some, the idea that there is something independent outside of God (like a universe) may feel strange.

I suppose Process Theology might be considered pantheistic in some respects but I don’t know enough to comment in detail.


(David Murphy) #20

Ah, thank you dude. I made changes but only with irrelevant typos. I’ll put “EDIT:” at the end for any changes of substance from transparency and follow your advice.

You both hit the nail on the head. This is going to come down to evaluation of the evidence not the evidence itself.

As an aside, it always annoyed me that it carries the title string theory. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very worthwhile but that’s the use of the word “theory” in the mathematical sense - ie, less than a proof (“proof” meaning something which is intrinsically true regardless of the state of the universe) - not in the scientific meaning of “theory”; the highest form of knowledge about nature.

In the scientific it is merely a hypothesis, albeit one that was not snapped at randomly, it does arise from existing science, but still, it’s not a “theory” in the sense of germ theory, evolution the Oxygen Theory of Combustion. But it’s science not maths so I object for what it’s worth.

Regardless of the terminology, the only rational position to hold on string theory it to withhold judgement pending evidence.

But that’s because it’s coherent. An idea which isn’t can be dismissed instantly.