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Atheism and debate June 22, 2008

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

“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.

Why even bother? September 26, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in anecdotes, friends, issues, rants.
Tags: , ,

Somehow, the conversation between myself and Tyler* turned to religion, even though it was a topic I really wanted to avoid when talking with him.

“Why are you still an atheist?” he asked in a chiding, somewhat condescending tone, as though he were asking something like, Why haven’t you given up drugs yet?

It took me a while to finally say something. The obvious answer, i.e. there is no evidence that a god exists, popped in my mind immediately, but I realized: You [an atheist] cannot explain logic to a religious person and expect them to understand it, the same way that you probably wouldn’t understand a religious person trying to explain faith to you. The best that you can do is tolerate and try to understand (or in my case…pretend?).

I gave Tyler a half-hearted reply and immediately changed the subject.

*not his real name

The extent of my truthiness (TM Stephen Colbert) September 23, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in friends, issues.
Tags: , , , ,

As I’d previously mentioned, three of my friends know that I’m an atheist. One, whom I shall call Fred*, is somebody I might consider a little batshit crazy. I’m not sure if he’s an atheist like me, because he flip-flops a lot, but I knew he wouldn’t care in the least whether or not I was, so I told him. Another friend, Tyler*, is the friend I consult with all my hyper-dramatic teen angst problems (read: family problems). He’s one of the most sensible, honest people I know, which is why he is my go-to guy. One catch: he’s religious — some form of Christianity that I don’t know how to translate into English, let’s just call it Protestantism until I can find a better-fitting label (er, Jehovah’s Witness? Man, I stray further and further from “politically correct” with every word I type). The third friend, Camille*, is a friend residing overseas whom I exchange wacky anecdotes with on a daily basis. She lives in California, which is generally a more open-minded place than my Predominantly Christian Country, so I felt comfortable in telling her. She didn’t mind it; she told me that a lot of her friends in California are atheists, too.

Obviously, I’ll be talking about Tyler today.

Remember the text-message altercation I had with my younger brother, Pete? At the end of it I was at home, reduced to tears, and not just the silent tears that I normally cry. I’m talking serious caterwauling and crumbling to the floor here. In dire need of some reassurance (because up until that point I had seen Pete as my best friend), I crawled to the phone and dialed Tyler’s number.

After babbling endlessly about how Pete trampled all over my ego, I finally admitted to Tyler the root of the problem: my atheism had forged a divide between myself and my pseudo-religious brother.

“You’re not a bad person,” Tyler assured me, and I believed him. But then he asked, “Are you absolutely sure you’re an atheist? For good?”

Knowing Tyler’s God-centric nature, I lied. “No. I’m always open to believing again.”

“See? You’re a good person. Your brother is just upset because he looks up to you, so it’s a disappointment for him to find that you don’t believe in God.”

Look, independent of his religion and his bias against atheists, Tyler is a wise and kind person, and an indispensable friend to me. I have a feeling that if I’d told him the whole truth (that I’m probably going to stay this way for the rest of my life), he might have been convinced himself that I was as “evil” as Pete said I was, so for the moment, I’m going to have to keep up this half-truth. Until I can find another wise, advice-giving friend who is more tolerant of atheists, the ball’s in Tyler’s court.

*not their real names