Is the god debate worth it?

Every time I’ve ever talked to a devout Christian about their faith, I get a strange sensation that I’m just talking to myself. I give some argument, they quote the Bible, and at some point I often just want to shake them and say “But don’t you see that doesn’t make any sense!?”
I can’t help but wonder if the debate on the existence of god is purely futile. I mean, for most religious people, when asked, they will tell you very proudly that there is nothing that you could tell them to make them change their minds.
In its most basic form, these beliefs just are not the end result of logical analysis. It’s revelation. How do you refute revelation? Not sure… more revelation? Honestly, what logical argument could be presented to a person who doesn’t presume to use logic as the basis for their beliefs and overall understanding of the world around them.
But then I realized something very simple and close to home. I used to believe in god unquestioningly. I used to be the person who would proudly declare that there was nothing I could be told that would change my mind, and look at me now. So what happened?
It should first be pointed out that you don’t change anyone’s mind in real time. If you do, you just witnessed a miracle, or the person really was on the fence and was tipping your direction at that. So don’t expect to change anyone’s mind during the conversation. What you can do though is plant tiny seeds of doubt with those you have contact. Let them make up their own mind, but give them some facts to work with. Because for as adamant as someone may be about having nothing that will change their minds about their faith, we are creatures who thrive in part on logic. It’s an element of how we learn things. If I present an argument that makes enough sense, it will lodge itself in your brain until such a time as it’s refuted, provided it’s a topic you find of interest. It’s those seeds of doubt, but more accurately, those seeds of knowledge, that do the real work. It just takes time for them to grow.
Religion, and Christianity specifically, has a well-oiled defense mechanism against logical proof of its invalidity. Because of this, even the most astounding evidence presented that would raise serious doubts about the claims of Christianity will be completely disregarded by many Christians. And it’s very simple: it’s the devil. Doubt is from the devil. Anything that appears contrary to the praise of god is the work of the devil. This, naturally, is ridiculous, but I can only say that because I no longer have belief that it is true. For those who believe in god, and who consequentially also believe in the devil, this makes perfect sense. The trouble is that this argument is completely unfalsifiable, which has for a long time been acknowledged to be the sign of a weak argument, not a strong one. But since the only retort to this argument is “No, it’s not the devil,” there’s nothing a skeptic can tell a believer to move beyond it. The conversation, for all intents and purposes, has ended.
Given such a road block (which is why I often feel like I’m just talking to myself in these conversations), how do you overcome it. I would simply posit that you don’t. Anyone who feels content in accepting the devil as the logical source of doubt in their life is not seeking greater knowledge and understanding of the world. They are mentally incurious, but more importantly, they do not want to gain any other knowledge of the world for fear that it might contradict what they already “know.” There’s no known cure to mental incuriosity, but fear is volatile. It’s shaky. This emotion could wane enough to allow ones mind enough time to entertain some thoughts contrary to their beliefs. If fear is the primary reason for using this argument, then the seeds of doubt planted via logical argument stand a chance at growing. Christians will openly profess a fear of god, so let’s hope that there are more of the devout motivated by fear than by the other option, which is something that I would call a mental deficiency.
Of course, this still doesn’t explain why a skeptic should go through all this trouble to change someone’s mind about something, but that will be a topic for another piece.

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One Response to “Is the god debate worth it?”

  1. John Says:

    Hi, I happened by your post and it made me think. I too have vocable issues with the zealots you speak of, and would love to proffer a perspective from my own personal analysis, though it be long-winded.
    Your title is perfect. How DOES one change the mind of a religious devotee? I, like you, find the feat daunting. Like trying to walk but without the legs to do it. I like your idea of mental doubt seeds.
    Before I share my ideas, I wonder how many times you enter the situation of discussing (can I say) spiritual beliefs with other people? I ask because I have these discussions in my own head many times more than with actual any other person. More on this later…
    Here are some of my ideas for doubt-seeds:
    1. Reveal to the devotee the human psychological dependence on authoritative entities. Let them know that it’s okay from them to be weak-willed (’cause you know they are strong-minded).
    2. In simple terms, connect their own metaphor of “God” to the very real and provable “universe”. How God is not what is described in their scripture, but what science has actually discovered.
    3. If they’re particularly open-minded about discussing the topic, see how far they’ll talk about the shortcomings of their belief system. Such as: “do you feel your soul is as fulfilled on a deeper level than, say, someone doing hallucinogens?”
    I could go on, but I gravitate towards showing less and less respect for the fanatical-types that my ideas become sillier and sillier.
    As I was saying, though the debate is daunting, I’ve enjoyed having the argument with those random zealots. I try to be as respectful as possible because these people often mean well. But with those doubt-seeds, it is hard not to push a person further into irrationality or into some other defensive position. It seems the more rational you get, the crazier they sound.
    In closure, I’d like to mention an alternative to the doubt-seed. The doubt-seed model is passive, therefore the other option is to be active. To actively change one’s mind they must repeat a thought pattern more times than another thought pattern. Brainwashing- it works. But you’re not the military, nor the head of a global network of religious sects, and you’re not an advertiser or a mass-hypnotist. (I dunno, maybe you are those things). So it seems the alternative is much more daunting.
    Ok, well, thanks for inspiring me to write. I’m gonna check out the rest of your blog.

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