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Atheism and debate June 22, 2008

Posted by Teen Atheist in issues, rants.
Tags: , , , , , ,
27 comments

“The more you stomp in poop, the more it stinks.”

Who thought I’d ever be quoting Billy Ray Cyrus, eh? It’s true, though, and it’s the best way to describe how I feel about responding to the anti-atheist comments I get here. Sometimes they’ll go all-out on their rage (“You’re going to hell!”) or be deceptively nice (“May you see the light someday”), but I treat them all the same way: I delete them.

It’s not as easy when you’re confronted with that kind of spammage in real life, though. If there’s one thing I learned after almost a whole year of being a “heathen” atheist, it’s that you have to walk around carrying an arsenal of proper responses to arguments that will be thrown at you from any angle. Atheism and debate walk hand-in-hand, or at least, debate is constantly humping atheism’s leg.

Here are the different debate tactics I’ve encountered so far:

1. The sanctimonious approach
Case in point: Tyler

“Your atheism is just a phase. You’re a good person, TA, I know you’ll come back to the light eventually.”

Insisting that you’re not in a dark place of any sort will only lead to the two of you running around in circles, so I just respond to this with a noncommittal nod and smile, followed by…

2. The change-of-topic
Case in point: Me

Tyler: “Why are you still an atheist?”
TA: “Oh, um…hey, the espresso brownie at Starbucks is really good, have you tried it? Come on, let’s go get one.”

If debate were a PlayStation (sorry guys, I’m loyal to Sony — wider game selection), this tactic would be the “reset” button. Yeah, I know, shame on me for taking the easy way out and wearing out that button like a motherfucker, but you’ve got to learn to pick your battles. Time is of the essence, and I’d rather waste it on other things than explaining why yes, I’m an atheist and no, I’m not Satan’s daughter.

3. The banishment
Case in point: CDT

CDT: “You were being condescending, blah blah blah.”
Me: “Are you kidding me? Here’s why your comments were completely condescending, and I just responded because I don’t tolerate that kind of asshattery around here.”
CDT: “…Satan has got a hold on you!”

Still the dumbest argument I’ve ever had (next to the ones with my mother), and the funny thing is that I’m pretty sure CDT still thinks he won.

4. The personal attack (closely related to #3)
Case in point: Fred

Fred: “I can’t believe you posted our whole debate on your blog and made me look like an idiot!”
TA: “I just quoted you verbatim, dude. I didn’t make you look like an idiot, you made yourself look like an idiot.”
Fred: “Oh yeah? Well, all of my friends think you’re an elitist bitch!”
TA: “…And? What does that have to do with anything?”
Fred: “You’re not offended?”
TA: “No. Should I be?”
Fred: “You’re not compelled to change your personality and be a better person? Wow. That’s kind of horrible.”

I couldn’t help laughing because Fred, who happens to be a bigger elitist and a far more abrasive and unlikable personality than I am, was OMG Morally Outraged (TM) that I wasn’t affected by that “revelation.” And the moment he lost his temper over that while I maintained my cool, I knew that I had won.

See, Fred’s a very predictable type of debater: if he knows he’s been backed into a corner, he’ll go right for the jugular and throw everything but the kitchen sink at you, even if it’s completely unrelated to the topic at hand. These debates are very easy to win. All you have to do is keep a straight face and remain calm and unaffected. They’ll go batty.

5. The non-sequitur
Case in point: Mother Dearest

“How can there not be a God, when I managed to get through all of these difficult times in my life? How can there not be a God, when this world is so beautifully complex? You can’t possibly believe that it came out of nowhere!”

It’s tough arguing with idiots. You can’t win, even when you win. Not to say that my mother is an idiot entirely, but you all know how she is when it comes to my atheism.

So, there you have it. TA’s Top 5 Encountered Debate Tactics. Now, it’s up to you whether you want to respond to the argument, or be a lazy bum like me and just press the “reset” button.

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Free magic show after the service! October 20, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, backstory, family, friends.
Tags: , , , , ,
8 comments

Remember when I mentioned how I went with a friend to their Protestant worship service and enjoyed it? And how, afterwards, my parents had banned me from ever visiting a Protestant mass again, in fear of my possible conversion? That happened about five years ago, and I’d always been secretly resentful of their narrow-mindedness with regards to that issue.

“I don’t care if you had a good time!” Dad had asserted. “The Holy Mass is not supposed to be a party!” (Yeah, because God forbid we actually enjoy praising Jesus. Singing and clapping is far too sinful, and don’t even think about air-conditioning. Air-conditioners are a work of the devil.)

Fast-forward three years, when I was still a believer, but increasingly unhappy with being a Roman Catholic. I’d finally mustered up the determination to have another whack at Protestantism, although I wasn’t ballsy enough to tell my parents. Instead, I went on a movie outing with some friends one Saturday, and then secretly accompanied one Protestant friend to their worship service.

Once again, I had a much better time there than I did in Catholic mass, and I even got a little teary-eyed while singing (damn you, Christian rock!), because I was going through this whole angsty “God loves me more than my parents do” phase. After all, when you’re starved for affection, your imaginary friend will never let you down.

That wasn’t the interesting part, however. The good stuff happened after the service, when the pastor/facilitator/whatchamacall’em asked the “newcomers” to stand up. I did, along with five or so other people who were within my age range, and we were all herded into a white room in the back where we were served refreshments. (Insert appropriate “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid!” joke here.)

We gathered in a circle as the pastor prayed to welcome the new sheep to the flock, or something like that. After the prayer, he notices a girl sitting sadly in the corner. He draws attention to her, all “Hello, and you are?” with a big ol’ smile, and asks her what’s wrong. She tells us about a condition that had rendered her legs useless since childhood.

Now here’s the good part: a couple of men prop the paralyzed girl up and hold her by the arms while the pastor lays a hand on her forehead and mumbles some unintelligible hocus-pocus. The girl starts sobbing and praying too, and then the pastor takes both her hands and oh my God she’s jumping up and down with him! Just like they do on television!

I didn’t know what to think, but I was scared shitless. Even though at that point, I was still pretty sure that there was a God (or hoping there was one, anyway), I already had my doubts about the genuineness of the “miracle” I’d just witnessed. The whole thing gave off a huge “Lookie what we can do! Aren’t we awesome and powerful?” vibe to me, and I remember thinking, “Good Lord, do they orchestrate this shit every time new people show up?”

Hell, even my fundie brother Pete, who is the kind of guy who would remind me endlessly about “Don’t use God’s name in vain” whenever I went “OMGZ,” didn’t buy it. Back then, we used to be best friends (yeah, rejection still hurts, y’all), so I told him about my Finding Jesus adventure and the girl who could walk again, and he was all, “They’re probably faking it to impress the new people.”

If I ever consider trying Protestantism again, I’m going to show up in a wheelchair.