Sunday, September 12, 2010

Atheist Arguments That Pack Too Much Punch

Oftentimes when debating with theists, atheists make arguments that pack too much emotional punch and arouse the theist's emotions so much that he can't see the logic in the argument.  There is a fine line between making the theist see his error and insulting him so that you can't communicate with him anymore.  If you recognize which arguments cross that line, you can re-phrase them so that they are actually communicative.

A classic example is the situation where the theist says that he can't imagine another explanation for the existence of the universe other than god, and the atheist responds with "Sounds like a personal problem to me".  The atheist is essentially saying that the theist is stupid because of his lack of imagination--or, at least, that will be the message received by the theist.

There is a good atheist argument lurking in that retort, however.  The trick is to re-phrase it.

In fact, the theist's ability to imagine another explanation is not relevant to the issue being discussed (thus it is literally a personal problem)--though it certainly helps explain why the discussion is occurring.  I suggest saying:

"Your ability to imagine other answers doesn't mean they don't exist.  A long time ago, people couldn't imagine that the earth was round but that didn't make it flat."

You could follow it up with:

"Before Einstein people couldn't imagine that matter and energy were the same thing but that didn't make him wrong."

(Though, be warned, this will probably cause the theist to make the false claim that Einstein believed in god.  He did not, as a letter discovered a couple of years ago made clear.)

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