Hello and a Question
Posted: 10 November 2011 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello everyone!

I am a literature professor and almost life-long atheist (they sold me on the scam for a while). I have been teaching for over thirty years.

I have been asked by some students at my college to sponsor a humanist/freethinkers/atheist student group, and I gladly agreed. We are just getting started next term, after classes begin in January. I teach at a two-year college that not only has a military-school history, but which is situated in one of the most bible-thumping areas of the Bible Belt. So…my little group is made up of courageous, free-thinking students who are brave enough to follow this through.

My question: We have already been challenged by an on-campus Christian organization to a public debate. While I can guide my students through the preparation for this debate, I was wondering if anyone here could provide some additional guidance, having been in a similar situation. What arguments do Christians most offer in defense? What are the take-down moves for specific assertions. I can do this at a cocktail party, but for some reason the notion of an open debate seems to offer other challenges.

Thank you.

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Posted: 10 November 2011 03:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Gsaye:

First welcome to the forum.  The task you have set youself rugged, hang tough.

My question: We have already been challenged by an on-campus Christian organization to a public debate. While I can guide my students through the preparation for this debate, I was wondering if anyone here could provide some additional guidance, having been in a similar situation. What arguments do Christians most offer in defense? What are the take-down moves for specific assertions. I can do this at a cocktail party, but for some reason the notion of an open debate seems to offer other challenges.

My favorite response in this type of debate is All gods and all religions are created by humans to meet human needs and accomplish human ends.  (It is also my signature statement.) 

In the the type of debate you are entering it is fairly easy to point out the many different religious traditions from around the world to make the first point.  (And you can ask why your opponents particular version is better than anyone elses.)  The second point can be established with many historical illustrations but most importantly moves the responsibilty for the actions taken in the name of any particular religion, to the responsibility of the individual or sub-group that is initiating of supportimg the action.

Also I often use the following when talking with non-intellectuals.  “There ain’t no big daddy in the sky to bail you out when you screw up.”

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Posted: 10 November 2011 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It sounds like great fun.  There are quite a few good websites that that you can google which should give you many resources.  I have a few files that should give you some points they’ll raise and some answers along with some that you can put to them.  I’ll dig them up and e-mail them to you in a few minutes.

Occam

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Posted: 10 November 2011 06:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Welcome Gsaye.  Glad to have you here.  I’ve not attempted any face to face debates with Xians, so I really don’t have an answer to your question, but still glad to have you here.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 10 November 2011 06:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Here’s a very high-level debate between Dr. William Craig and Prof. Shelly Kagen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_l69QN7ixmM

When I debate religion, I prefer not to debate the qualities of God, but rather try to attack the rationale behind believers’ beliefs. They seem circular (the bible is truth because the bible says so), which you can expose as fallacious. You can offer science as a more reliable method for gaining knowledge about the world. They may counter by saying that science requires some basic assumptions, just like religious beliefs. They may bring up the problem of induction. Here are some answers to it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction#Interpretations_and_proposed_explanations

As for the concept of faith-as-virtue, you can give counter-examples of cases where faith-based thinking lead to serious injury or death. There are many in the “Religion and Secularism” forum.

You may also explain how Biblical literalism leads to AGW denial (the bible says humanity cannot destroy the Earth). You may also attack Biblical liberalism as being intellectually incoherent.

Richard Dawkins makes good points about the science and evidence supporting evolution. Sam Harris makes arguments for the existence of secular/scientific morality (in case your opponents choose to attack that angle). And Christopher Hitchens often points out good examples of the harm religion can do. Watching their debates may help

[ Edited: 10 November 2011 06:51 PM by domokato ]
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Posted: 11 November 2011 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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gsaye506 - 10 November 2011 02:53 PM

My question: We have already been challenged by an on-campus Christian organization to a public debate.

Is there a topic chosen yet?

FYI, I’ve seen several of the debates that have been recorded and put online (mostly youtube) and while the most successful atheist publishers do well (Sam Harris, Dawkins, Hitch, etc.) I think that the guy who most consistently comes up with the best debate materail (as in most destructive to their opponent’s arguments on different levels) is Matt Dillahunty. He mostly does the call-in show “The Atheist Experience,” so the format is a bit different than an academic debate, although I’m certain that he has done those, too.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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gsaye506 - 10 November 2011 02:53 PM

I was wondering if anyone here could provide some additional guidance, having been in a similar situation.

To win a debate you need to master the skills of debating. Facts are irrelevant. A good place to practice is this forum.  grin

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Posted: 11 November 2011 03:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Facts are irrelevant.

  WELL!!!!!.  MY facts are always relevant.  Hmmmmph.  LOL

Occam

edited to correct quote symbol positioning.

[ Edited: 11 November 2011 05:45 PM by Occam. ]
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Posted: 12 November 2011 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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George - 11 November 2011 01:09 PM
gsaye506 - 10 November 2011 02:53 PM

I was wondering if anyone here could provide some additional guidance, having been in a similar situation.

To win a debate you need to master the skills of debating. Facts are irrelevant. A good place to practice is this forum.  grin

Good point, ask any politician and/or lobbyist.  ohh

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Gary the Human

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