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Austin Cline

Advice for Evangelical Christian Visitors

By March 5, 2007

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Atheists who spend any time debating religion and theism will find that they keep hitting the same claims, attitudes, ideas, etc. from religious theists. Having to rebut the same false claim or to dissect the same faulty logic for the 100th time (or more) can be annoying to say the least. It would help if religious theists seeking to debate atheists would learn a few basic principles and facts first before proceeding.

Martin Wagner created just such a list to help a recent evangelical visitor to the blog for Atheist Experience:

  • Be aware that most atheists have come from religious upbringings.
  • Be aware of logical fallacies so that you do not make them
  • Don't mock guys like Charles Darwin or Richard Dawkins if you've never read a word they've written.
  • Don't make foolish assertions that your religious belief is on the same footing as science.
  • We are aware that to Christians, atheists can often sound brusque, condescending, and downright pissy.
  • Be aware that the minute you fall back on "You just have to have faith," you've lost.

There is a more detailed explanation for each point which you can read if you follow the above link. I've tried to create similar advice, based on my own experiences and emails:

What sorts of problems do you consistently encounter and would like to included in such lists? How do you explain and deal with them when they do occur?

March 6, 2007 at 1:51 am
(1) Michelle says:


AzAtheist here. I am just going to copy/paste a post I wrote on another forum in sheer frustration because most of these issues came up and I wanted to clear the air.

>>Okay, I just have to do it.

Atheists do not “refuse” to believe in a God anymore than a theist (Christian) refuses to believe in purple flying elephants. We simply lack belief in this God.

Belief is not something one turns on and off like a lamp. One either believes or they do not. When people insist that we really do believe they are saying they know better than us what our own individual thoughts and feelings are and that doesn’t make one of us look very smart.

I can no more spontaneously “believe” in your God than you can spontaneously claim a lack of belief. Seriously, if beliefs can be turned on like lamps then they can be turned off just as easily. What would it take for you to honestly, sincerely, believe your God does not exist? Yeah, that’s what you are suggesting we do by simply believing.

It is not a “fact” that your God exists. It is faith. If you had facts you wouldn’t need faith. Unless you can bring your God to my home for dinner tonight for a nice chilled protein shake, it is your belief he exists. If you want to insist that it is a fact that your God exists, please feel free to trot out your proof and explain why you no longer have faith but facts instead. “I FEEL him in my heart,” is not proof – it is an emotion.

Christians and other assorted theists have every bloody right in the world to believe anything they wish. If you want to believe in a God or many Gods that is your right and I would defend your right to believe until my very last breath. Would you defend my right to lack belief in the same way?

We don’t need to hear the Word. I know more atheists that have read the bible cover to cover than Christians. Matter of fact, I can count the number of Christians I know that have read their own good book (cover to cover) on one hand.

I know the bible well, I likely know it better than most Christians. I didn’t *just* go to church on a very regular basis I read the bible and studied the material. Quite frankly, that is what led to my atheism.

Christianity is not new material, it just isn’t. If you research Christianity you will see it was borrowed from myths prior to Christianity. The Hindus, for example. Egyptians. Then we have holidays, Paganism anyone?

Just because I am not a Christian and I will defend my right to lack Christian beliefs, that does not mean I am anti-Christian. That is a cop out and nothing more. We know it, so do you.

Christians are not being persecuted in the US. The only difference between today and 100 years ago is that now Christians are being forced by law to follow the same rules as the rest of us have had to do since the beginning of the Bill of Rights. That is not persecution and if you insist it is then you have to say that the rest of the country has been persecuted since the beginning of the Bill of Rights.

The founding fathers were not all Christian. They were an assorted bunch, everything from pantheist, Pagan, Christian, atheist, and deist.

Yes, Christianity is the majority religion in the US today. However, that is changing. Christianity numbers are dropping by just shy of 1% annually. This has been tracked since at least the ’80s. The two fastest growing groups are Pagans and atheists. It’s true, deal with it.

Considering the fact that Christianity is going down in numbers it has been estimated that by somewhere around 2040 or so, Christianity will no longer be the majority religion in the US. Assuming this is true, are you really sure you want your religion in public schools? If you set the tone today for religion/public schools, do realize that in the near future you may just get your wish. However, your future generations may not be worshiping the Christian God but perhaps Ra, the Sun God while dancing naked around a maypole under a full moon at midnight. Is this what you want? This is what many Christians today are pushing for.

We are not out to convert the world. We don’t care what your religion is, we just don’t want to participate it in and we don’t want to follow the same rules. We happen to disagree with a great many of the beliefs Christians want to (and have) put into law. If we promise not to try and convert you, would you grant us the same favors?

We do not worship a devil. If we lack a belief in the supernatural such as the Christian God, it is quite safe to assume we lack belief in a supernatural devil or demon as well.

We do not eat babies. Amazing, I know but we really don’t. Some of us actually have our own children and we don’t eat them either.

I fully realize this list is not directed to all Christians. You know who you are. Most Christians are honest, decent, kind individuals following their path in this life. They are doing the best they can. Guess what? So are we.

About 10-20 years ago we nonbelievers made up about 14% of the US population. Since we are one of the fastest growing groups today you can rest assured that number is significantly greater now. We are here to stay, we aren’t going anywhere. We aren’t growing in numbers by recruiting, it doesn’t work that way. People are being educated in sciences more today than any other time and people are making these choices on their own.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to work together as a community and not worry about what everyone else believes? We are all in this world together, it only makes sense to be peaceful, respectful, and considerate of others. Keep in mind, it is likely a bunch of atheists and Pagans taking care of you when you are in the hospital. I’ve been in medicine for over 20 years now and I’m here to tell you, you can’t spit in a hospital and fail to hit a nonbeliever somewhere. We are professionals, we are part of your community. Instead of focusing on differences let’s find ways to make life more harmonious.

Whew… okay. I’m done.

February 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm
(2) Jason says:

Who are you, I want to use this, and would like to give the author full credit. It’s epic and mostly true to how a view the whole situation.

March 6, 2007 at 1:08 pm
(3) KC says:

My number one complaint is that liberal theists often enter a discussion with the idea that they are (for lack of a better word) superior. It’s like “ooh, a real live atheist. I must investigate this odd little creature.” That is annoying. I’d rather have an all out flamewar with a die-hard fundamentalist than a “discussion” with a liberal theist who appears to think I’m a bug under their microscope and should be grateful for the experience.

March 13, 2007 at 2:15 pm
(4) BlackBloc says:

Personally, what bugs me about liberal theists (or left-wing theists, for that matter) is that they assume that because they agree with me on politics, I’m somehow obligated in return to respect their ridiculous belief system(s).

“I’m not a fundie, I’m all PC and sh**, so how dare you *still* think that my beliefs in Zombie Jesus is weird? Compromise! Compromise!”

Sorry guys. Not hating on the gays and the abortions was the litmut test for me even giving you the time of day, not a bargaining chip that you could use to Get out of Reason Free.

March 13, 2007 at 3:15 pm
(5) John Hanks says:

If you want to work toward a preconceived end in a conversation, you are probably trying to convert (it rarely works). Why not throw the lists out of the window and just try to be thoroughly informed.

Remember that fundanazis are not above using the smear argument and ordinary nazis use. The insult frames the discussion. This simple technique must be countered with a counter smear or a baseball bat.

March 13, 2007 at 3:15 pm
(6) John Hanks says:

If you want to work toward a preconceived end in a conversation, you are probably trying to convert (it rarely works). Why not throw the lists out of the window and just try to be thoroughly informed.

Remember that fundanazis are not above using the smear argument that ordinary nazis use. The insult frames the discussion. This simple technique must be countered with a counter smear or a baseball bat.

March 17, 2007 at 8:51 pm
(7) Sheldon says:

The statement that make this atheist either want to scream or cry in exassperation is this:
“To be an atheist you must believe that something (i.e. the universe) can came from nothing.”
Yet the believer refuses to acknowledge the obvious paradox, and that they do not consistently apply their criticism. They simply assume that an alleged God resolves the problem. But from where or how did God come into being?

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