Arguing with Atheists
#1
I was listening to a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dr. David Berlinksi on the resolution that "atheism poisons everything it touches," with Hitchens, obviously, being against the idea, and Berlinski for it (video below).

It brought to mind a trap that I think Christians should avoid when dealing with atheists, and that is trying to defend "religion" rather than Christianity. Defending the religious impulse as a part of man's nature makes sense, and defending "religion" qua religion -- in its definitional aspect -- makes sense, but being put in the position of having to defend everything from Islam to Hinduism makes no sense at all, and that is the position Berlinski found himself in. 

To use eating and food as an analogy, don't defend "foods"; defend food qua food, and eating to satisfy natural hunger, otherwise you'll be put in the position of having to defend junk food and rat poison.

Making clear to an atheist that you're defending Christianity and the religious impulse, not "religions," might be a way to get around that unfair trap. Berlinski couldn't get out of that snare because he isn't religious, isn't Christian, and was defending "religion" against materialism. So Hitchens had the upper hand in being able to bring up all sorts of atrocities done in the name of all sorts of false religions rather than having to deal with Christianity alone (as it was, Hitchens had all sorts of B.S. to say about Christianity, as you can imagine. Loads of lies or errors, and some leaps in logic -- e.g., the idea that Nazi SS men's belt buckles bore the words "Gott mit uns" (God with us) indicates that Christianity led to Nazism -- you know the drill). 


Any other ideas regarding dealing with atheists?
 
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#2
(05-29-2018, 07:21 PM)VoxClamantis Wrote: Any other ideas regarding dealing with atheists?

First thing that must always happen is to see if we're even on a playing field. It doesn't need to be a level one, but if we're not even in the same universe, any discussion is pointless.

Check that the atheist accepts the fundamental principles of logic and reasons, such as the Principle of Non-Contradiction. Check that they believe we really can know reality and the nature of things (and it's not all just appearances). Check that they accept that there are at least some absolute and objective Truths and we can know these. Check that they accept there is at least some absolute and objective morality.

If these are not in place, don't waste your time, or at least be prepared to demonstrate the fatal flaw of such an opinion : punch your interlocutor in the face, and take his wallet, deny that you did so (since he cannot know for sure that you really did), say that "that is just your opinion", tell him that even if he were correct who is he to impose his morality on you.

Too often people waste their time trying to argue with people when the fundamental principles are so far off that it is the equivalent of trying to demolish a brick wall by pelting it with cotton balls, and one's time would be better spent praying for that person and trying to convert others who are more apt to actually convert.
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#3
(05-29-2018, 07:47 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: First thing that must always happen is to see if we're even on a playing field. It doesn't need to be a level one, but if we're not even in the same universe, any discussion is pointless.

Check that the atheist accepts the fundamental principles of logic and reasons, such as the Principle of Non-Contradiction. Check that they believe we really can know reality and the nature of things (and it's not all just appearances). Check that they accept that there are at least some absolute and objective Truths and we can know these. Check that they accept there is at least some absolute and objective morality.

(snip)

Heck yeah. This street preacher guy makes good use of this principle. He starts off well -- but then goes wonky. The first half hour or so shows him blowing the "gee, there's no such thing as objective reality" types out of the water, though:

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#4
(05-29-2018, 11:37 PM)VoxClamantis Wrote:
(05-29-2018, 07:47 PM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: First thing that must always happen is to see if we're even on a playing field. It doesn't need to be a level one, but if we're not even in the same universe, any discussion is pointless.

Check that the atheist accepts the fundamental principles of logic and reasons, such as the Principle of Non-Contradiction. Check that they believe we really can know reality and the nature of things (and it's not all just appearances). Check that they accept that there are at least some absolute and objective Truths and we can know these. Check that they accept there is at least some absolute and objective morality.

(snip)

Heck yeah. This street preacher guy makes good use of this principle. He starts off well -- but then goes wonky. The first half hour or so shows him blowing the "gee, there's no such thing as objective reality" types out of the water, though:


He at least starts in the right realm, making the issue about epistemology, but his principle is twisted.

One doesn't "start with God", but one starts by accepting that there are certain undeniable realities external to self, about which at least some truth can be known.

If this is denied that there is no point in any science or consensus, because even consensus presupposes that there is a reality which can be known with some degree of certainty for us to make a consensus about.

In fact what one is doing is proving that we can know universals, not just particulars. But the universal is immaterial, because it is not "real" in the sense that it is always expressed in particulars. The very fact that we can have a consensus means we have to have at least some universal knowledge.

Where this guy wants to start is with "God knows everything" and then "shares that universal knowledge with you" so the only way you can know universals is by knowing God, and that is false.

God is actually at the end of the chain of reasoning, but is an undeniable conclusion.

Once we can prove we can know abstract things and universals, we can show that we are a spiritual being, and then can show that there must be a greater being that us who created the universe, which is by necessity a spiritual being, because matter (as we can see in universal vs particular) is limiting. So that creator is omniscient, omnipotent, spiritual, personal, etc.

Then it remains to show the reasonableness of Catholic truth and lead the person to the threshold of Faith.

But, one does not "start with God."
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#5
Did you watch toward the end when he realllllly went off the rails? Whew! But it was fun watching him silence the arrogant college students :P

As a total aside, here are some bits on the ontological argument:


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