Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Understand that Aristotle Was a Riot

I’ve been seeing lots of really stupid debates between atheists and religionists lately. But, then, aren’t all debates between atheists and religionists stupid?

That last question is rhetorical: I don’t really expect an answer. Feel free to leave a comment if you have a response, but — and this is addressed particularly to any Christians who happen to stumble over here — do read the rest of this post before spouting any nonsense.

Why are all debates between atheists and religionists stupid?
You’ll have to figure this out for yourself. But here’s some information that might help. There will be a test — the next time you run smack up against a Christian troll. So pay attention.

The three musketeers of argument are Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

According to Aristotle, who knew a little something about rhetoric, those are the different kinds of appeals a person can use when debating.

... is an appeal based on “character,” or what we’d usually recognize today as “authority.” Aristotle thought it was the most important type of argument. In his day, an appeal to Ethos depended on the character, authority, and reputation of the speaker. Aristotle was qualified to make an argument about philosophy based on Ethos because he was Aristotle; Nicky the drunken cook in the Greek deli wasn't qualified to appeal to Ethos; nobody gave a crap what a drunken cook had to say. On the other hand, Nicky might have had more Ethos than Artistotle in a debate about how best to prepare spanakopita.

Nowadays, an appeal to Ethos can involve a transfer of reputation. For example: I know it’s true because Jesus said it in the Bible or I saw it on an episode of Nova, so I’ll believe it until I have good reason not to.

Obviously, both atheists and religionists make arguments using Ethos. However, they do not (usually) accept one another’s authorities as valid. It makes no difference to atheists how many people in the world believe in the supernatural. It makes no difference to creationists how many scientists accept evolution. Why would atheists care about what Paul wrote to the Ephesians? Why would religionists care about what Daniel Dennett said to Charlie Rose? Reputation is irrelevant.

So basing your arguments on Ethos will make for a stupid debate.

... is an appeal to the emotions. It can be a very effective trick for religionists who are trying to sway other religionists, because most of them love hearing whatever makes them feel comfortable, or happy, or wise in the ways of the lord. Pathos is also an extremely effective strategy for atheists to use among themselves, because — admit it! — we love to be pissed off. Man, do we like getting each other up in arms, and we do it very effectively, day after day after day.

If you'd like to see a master at using arguments based on Pathos — although she may get angry at me for giving her this compliment — go check out chappy. (By the way, her partner, deacon, is a damn good practitioner of this technique, as well.) Look at her latest post, although there are others that are similarly constructed. She starts with an example of an abuse by religion, often an anecdote based on something she has experienced firsthand. Then, in a logical sequence, she presents her oh-so-rational points, one by one. I suspect that if you asked her what kind of argument she was using, she'd tell you she was appealing through Logos. But for me, it’s not my intellect that first gets hooked; it’s my gut. Whenever I read about the evils of religion, particularly if there's any focus on the brainwashing of young children, I'm won over by my emotions. If the writer is someone I respect (there's that Ethos cropping up), I'm feeling rage and disgust at religionists long before I get to the syllogisms. Chappy, you had me at "hell."

Another good example of a fantastic appeal by Pathos is this:

Notice, however, that Pathos works best within a group. Atheists stir the emotions of other atheists; religionists stir the emotions of other religionists. The two groups don’t really affect one another much.

So basing your arguments on Pathos will make for a stupid debate.

... is an appeal using logic. How thick-headed does an atheist have to be to see that Logos is entirely ineffective against deluded people? In honor of Lewis Carroll, a rare rational theist whose birthday is tomorrow, here’s a dialogue from Alice in Wonderland. I’ve changed the names of the speakers, but the rest of the text is verbatim:

"But I don't want to go among mad people," the Lifeguard remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said CL. "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said PhillyChief.

"You must be," said iggy, "or you wouldn't have come here."

So basing your arguments on Logos will make for a stupid debate.

Stupid debates
Time after time, I see people I respect falling down the rabbit hole. I’ve been known to plummet down there, myself.

But look. We’re not going to sell evolution to everybody, so let’s stop trying. Those of us who accept evolution don’t need to have it explained to us over and over and over. (So please, for fuck’s sake, stop — unless you have something new to add.) And those who dismiss evolution aren’t going to change their minds no matter how many times, or how loudly, science-lovers try to teach them. That’s an ineffective appeal by Ethos. When two people speak different languages, as scientists and fundamentalists do, repetition and shouting are not effective tools for clarification. If a theist asks a question about science, and if one of us is well-read enough to give a cogent answer — then he or she should do so. (Evo did a very nice, succinct job of this here.) But really? Who gives a rat’s ass whether religionists “believe in” evolution. It’s not some magical phenomenon to be believed in; it's a natural process that needs no sanction from the ignorati — just as the Earth will continue to revolve around the Sun no matter how many idiots don't agree with that explanation. Our only “job” as atheists is to make sure that science isn’t squelched by superstition. But those redneck kids up the block who go to Bible school? They don’t need to know about Darwin.

Likewise, atheists shouldn’t spend so much time appealing by Pathos, trying to prove to religionists that some of us can be moral, or ethical, or charitable, or friendly, or .... Why should we have to justify our freedom from faith to anyone? I don’t want to be known as the “oh, he’s a good atheist” guy. That strategy isn’t what the Bill of Rights is about. Even the nasty guys are entitled to their rights. I don’t want to be held up as an example — good or not — of anyone other than myself.

Anger? No one can ever succeed in getting believers angry at religion. Oh, you can get Christians furious at Muslims, and Muslims furious at Jews, and Jews furious at Christians. You can incite Catholics and Protestants against one another, or Sunnis and Shiites, or pro-Israel Reform Jews and anti-Israel Chasidim. But one thing you can never do is get any religionist angry at religion, itself.

Finally, endless appeals by Logos get so tiresome. Pointing out detailed logical fallacies to a person whose entire worldview is generated by a huge illogical premise is an exercise in futility.

I’ve heard atheists whom I consider quite brilliant say something like:

Well, I’m not trying to change the mind of the person with whom I’m debating; I’m trying to influence the quiet people who are just listening in the audience.
But you know what? When you play with the inmates in an asylum, the spectators may not be able to tell that you’re not just as nuts as the rest of the team. As Alice found out, when you try to have a reasonable conversation at a mad tea party, you wind up sounding mad, too.

My recommendation therefore, is to avoid debating with religionists. If you find yourself drawn in, either because you're aiding a friend, or defending yourself, or you just can't resist, why not try using a fourth type of appeal?

... is an appeal to the funny bone. Yeah, it’s technically another form of Pathos. But it feels good, and it’s a fantastic defense against all other arguments. Many atheists need to learn to lighten up. Perhaps religionists must take themselves seriously in order to take themselves at all. But we atheists have the intellectual freedom to poke fun. So we should avail ourselves far more often than we do of perhaps the most powerful argumentation weapon at our disposal: humor.

As Mark Twain said: Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.


JP said...

Point well taken my friend. I was trying to bridge that gap mostly for the religious folks who feel they must seperate scientific evidence from their faith. Noble attempt, some may bite off on it but then again you have some (CoC) who would rather live in la la land and ignore the reality he resides in. There will always be debates, you are correct that its like speaking to a wall but you have to admit, its pretty fun to stir that pot once in a while. It keeps you on your toes. If only Trinity would partake in that discussion......

helensotiriadis said...

laughos out loud!

brexians said...

can understand why god stays in heaven. think of all those paparazzi

Reason's Whore said...

Actually I think atheists already use the weapon of "laughos" quite often. Many blogs spend a good deal of time ridiculing and laughing at religion and religious beliefs. And I do agree it is effective, especially among the younger generation. It's the Stewart (and to a lesser extent, Colbert) effect.

Anonymous said...

As usual, brilliant.

I find myself shaking my head, I wrote elsewhere about a local doctor, a muslim, who owns salukis, explains quite calmly to people that dogs are unclean to a muslim (I don't personally know if it's so or not) but these are not dogs, they are salukis. He will admit that they are, indeed, very doglike, but are not, in fact, dogs. Dogs are 'unclean', salukis are not, so there.

This is no different than the displayers of bumper stickers which proclaim in effect that the bible says it, they believe it, end of the story.

You can speak to neither of these mind sets.

Unfortunately, on their side, they want to speak to YOU. Their basic language really says it all: SUBMIT to Allah, SURRENDER to Christ.

It isn't, never was, about reaching common ground, the virulent of them want to dominate. Jesus (or Allah) may love everyone, but they are his favorites.

Anonymous said...

Do you know if there's anything that will prevent me feeling the urge to debate with religionists? Sometimes it's like I can't help myself.

PhillyChief said...

One thing I've become more and more aware of when discussing this issue with Ex is a combination of extreme skepticism and a need for personal validation.

First the skepticism. Mr. Ex essentially paraphrases me here:
"Well, I’m not trying to change the mind of the person with whom I’m debating; I’m trying to influence the quiet people who are just listening in the audience."
Now for Ex, if he can't verify the existence of these people then they don't exist. It's hard to fault him that, yet it's an overly simplistic assessment of the situation and ignores things such as testimonies from de-cons who say they spent a great deal of time lurking on blogs and forums where such debates often occur during their time of transition. There are also testimonies from de-cons who went looking for these debates to sharpen their skills at defending their beliefs only to realize that their beliefs weren't worth defending. Then there are stories I've relayed to Ex about my experiences getting emails and private messages from lurkers thanking me for saying such and such since either they never heard such things or thought them but felt they lacked the skills or intestinal fortitude to say them themselves. But of course this last issue goes to Ex's need for personal validation.

If HE doesn't experience these emails or private messages, if HE doesn't get the pat on the back, then it either doesn't happen or it's not worth acknowledging. Now this could just be an extension of extreme skepticism, but I think the latter bears closer scrutiny. Assuming the paraphrased quote above is true, I may never get the satisfaction of knowing. The time invested debating may have effects I never get to enjoy, but I can live with that. I can live with not knowing for sure if my efforts had any great effect on the world or even just one other person, but I don't feel Ex can. Ex needs to know in a debate that his time was well spent, that a particular comment was an exceptional gotcha zinger, and when that doesn't happen he either walks away pontificating about how dumb the whole things is or cooks up a way to have some personal fun at least (which he's recently taken to a fucking extreme with a certain little character who now has her very own blog who he's made sure to remind us more than once exists).

So I'm going to hold that the paraphrased statement above is not absolutely true all the time but has a high enough level of probability for me to continue such efforts and also ask the inevitable question, why do we bother blogging or visiting other blogs or forums? Is it cathartic? Is it narcissism? Is it to make a difference somehow in the world? Is it just stupid fun? For me, I could certainly rant and rave against religion and have fellow atheists pat me on the back for my clever rants or funny pictures and we could all have a fun ol' insular party, but I feel there should be more to it than that. Yes, I started as a cathartic exercise but I think there is something more. I think there is value for believers in what I post and I think there's tremendous value in going to neutral blogs and forums where religious people spew bullshit and call them on it. I will challenge nonsense, I will point out logical fallacies and I will continue to do so even if I never get a thank you from someone or a wonderful de-con story that credits me so I can stick it like a feather in my cap to validate my efforts. Honestly, I don't need thank yous, I don't need everyone blowing smoke up my ass about how clever or creative I might be, I don't need tons of blog hits, but if that's what you're motivation is, knock yourself out, but if so, your so-called advice and assessment of my motivations and efforts ring hollow; furthermore, employing my theory, I've taken the time to debate the charge that my efforts are futile here knowing full well no one may comment publicly agreeing with me, but you never know, and of course you never know who may be just lurking. ;)

Nice use of graphics, btw.

As for the Laughos technique, yeah, it has merit, no doubt, but why bother? Why post in the debate anyway? Are you doing it for the lurkers, the ones' you think don't exist, or are you doing it for the other atheists in the room? Is it to really expose the ridiculousness of one's argument or are you fishing for validation of your cleverness from the other atheists?

The Exterminator said...

Wow, Philly, I guess I got your nose out of joint.

You're definitely right about my extreme skepticism. No dispute on that whatsoever. You may be right about the need for personal validation, but I don't think so.

I think, instead, that you may not understand my motivations for blogging, which are not the same as yours. I blog (1) for fun, (2) to entertain an audience, (3) to add some new ideas, however minor, to the atheistic mix, and (4) to be a gadfly. I guess you got bitten.

It definitely takes a lot of ego to think that I could be successful in numbers (2)-(4), so you can call that "personal validation" if you want to. But there's not a man, woman, or child anywhere in BlogWorld who doesn't get some personal validation out of putting his/her thoughts on the screen and having others react to them.

Here's where you're right:
I can live with not knowing for sure if my efforts had any great effect on the world or even just one other person, but I don't feel Ex can.

I've added the boldface, and that part of the sentence is absolutely correct. I'm not in the intellectual altruism business. I'm not one for throwing my ideas into the air and letting them waft willy-nilly where they will until maybe they're sniffed out by someone who finds their aroma appealing. I also don't have that proselytizing gene. I don't care what or who my neighbor believes in -- as long as his beliefs don't impinge on my freedoms.

But let's look at the other part of the sentence, which I think is bullshit of the highest odor. You said, I can live with not knowing for sure if my efforts had any great effect on the world or even just one other person. That's just so intellectually dishonest as to not even justify a response. But I will respond. What kind of overinflated ego would lead you to believe that your long rants in comment threads will, in the future, ages after we're all dead, make an impact on poor, reason-hungry lurkers, just dying to drink up every word you've typed? Yikes, Philly, lighten the fuck up!

The problem I have with your responses to Christians (not just yours, but mine, too, when I've lost my self-control) is that they feed the general irrationality.

Go back and look at some of your reactions to iggy, for instance. Step outside your ego for a minute and read them as if you'd never seen them before. Look for clarity of thought, dispassionate reason, sense of authority, personal appeal, and originality of ideas.

I don't think you'll find those traits in great abundance in your comments. I think, instead, you'll find an angry atheist using a mask of logic to cover up his rants.

I love your rants. Just rant away. But don't impute any high purpose to them. You're just getting your rocks off. Me, too. You like to do that while wearing your I'm-so-logical outfit. I do it in a clown suit.

Lynet said...

Well, Phillychief, that's a nice use of Laughos right there.

Ext, you throw up your hands too soon. Your assessment is beautifully cynical, but it's not really true. Ethos doesn't amount to a valid argument anyway; it can be a place-holder when you don't have time to examine the facts, but the fact that it's not much good as a decision-maker between competing worldviews is hardly surprising. Pathos does cross the divide. You think no Christian ever sat down to worry about the injustice of hell? And Logos doesn't have the power it ought to have, but I think that's true for all people, not just the religious. It takes time to change your worldview, no matter how instantaneous the apprehension of Logos ought to be.

I wouldn't call debating a public duty -- it's not that effective -- but I don't think it's silly to try to cross the divide every now and again, whether in a debate or otherwise.

trinity said...

hey every body,

this is great!!! its like the bottle of the athiest allstars!!!!! its obvous athiests dont know Jesus because if they did theyd be like Christians and love each other and be very polite and critasize just behind there backs.

i cant wait to tell my preacher the athiests are figting. we pray for that at my chruch!!!!! when the athiests wip each other out their will be no stopping Jesus because then he will have no enemas. just a few muslems and juws and indian guys. (just in case you dont know, i mean guys from the cuntry of Indian, not REAL indians.)

by the way, im not rooting for any body. i woud like to see all athiests loose.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

What's nice about the atheosphere (aided by the First Amendment) is that there is so much variety of, not only opinion on the subject, but style and focus. We all, as individual personalities, go about what is essentially the same thing, in many different ways. Some meet it head on, some obliquely, some with humor, some with solemnity, some with erudition, some with drivel. You can see much of all that here (though certainly not the drivel, except for that Trinity guy that keeps popping in.)

Stephen Jay Gould used to refuse to debate with creationists, because, in his opinion, it elevated Creationism to a level of importance, and on an even plane, with evolution. Creationists simply wanted to be on the same stage, they could care less whether they won the debate (though in their usual delusional way of thinking, they convinced themselves and their followers that they had), they just wanted to be able to say that their argument was the equal of science. Dawkins agreed with him, so you never see him in a debate with religionists. For some reason, Hitchens doesn't agree, and actually seeks out the stupidest Christians to debate.

Me, I agree with both Ex and Philly. (hows that for waffling?) With Ex, I think ridicule, humor, and satire are wonderful tools to be used to disassemble theist arguments. I think the brain actually follows complex arguments when they are explained with humor. Who doesn't get the point when Dave Barry writes about a serious topic, and remember Mike Royko?

On the other hand, when I was surfing the web, before I had firmly committed to atheism, looking for those intellectual and rational arguments that gave voice to what I was thinking, I read all the debates and two sided argument I could get my hands on. I wanted to see the killer rejoinders, and irrefutable logic. Those things did give me confidence in my growing atheism, and I look back gratefully on the people who did take the time to have those debates with the irrational religious.

So if I get the chance, I won't shy away from Ethos, Pathos or Logos, but I'll be sure to use as much Laughos as I possible can.

Anonymous said...

I love this post and agree that getting sucked into an argument with a troll is frustrating. Believe me, splitting hairs with trolls is no fun. I'd much rather just fling mud at them and have done with it.

I admire the way writers like you and Babs use Laughos so effectively. You have no idea how much I envy that ability and wish that I had it too. But I don't. If I attempted to write like either of you, I would only churn out drivel.

Since I'll never be a Laughos master/mistress, I can only write in a manner that suits me. I think my writing usually employs a mix of pathos and logos. Pathos is important because one has to make the reader care about what one has to say. Having gotten that far, one should appeal to logos to demonstrate the merits of one's own views. All four of the argument types you elucidated have their place, although I think ethos should be employed primarily in support of other forms, particularly logos.

Exterminator, maybe you and I can form a partnership whereby, once people have had their fill of crying in the chapel, they can come over to your place for a good dose of laughos.

Unknown said...

Methinks I started blogging thinking more like Ex, but recently I find myself acting more like Philly.

That being said, I'm going to sit on the fence with SI on this. On the one hand, I think these debates can get pointless, particularly if they deteriorate into ranting and raving on one side or the other.

At the same time, I have found that engaging in these debates-- if they remain debates-- can help sharpen your thinking and possibly get someone else thinking. Whether they do or not is there problem, but for me I find it helpful, although I admit that I still have to learn when to throw in the towel when someone's clearly not interested or capable of responding to my point.

If I'm interested in the truth and realy thinking out my positions, then I think I owe it to myself to do more than just write a blog for a largely similarly minded audience.

Again, maybe it all comes down to why you're blogging in the first place.

Unknown said...

Also, I'm enough of a narcissistic ego maniac to want to win an argument. I'm not proud of it, but I know that's why I've gotten sucked into these things recently.

I'll be for forgiveness at the Chapel.

PhillyChief said...

I wasn't criticizing the use of Laughos. Let me make that clear. That's a viable alternative and no doubt the best one at certain times. Not every situation can best be handled by the same approach. Indeed, that's what initially attracted me to this blog and others too that employ Laughos. I always have great appreciation for a masterful use of a technique, especially when it's one I can't do.

I know what I write isn't very new or especially clever but you know what? It still has to be said. There are places where christians are bullying an audience, where no alternative opinions are heard and I think it's important they be heard. Yes, I think something I post somewhere will matter, but not as some narcissistic personal legacy but rather for the idea. Things I write about and defend like equal rights and the separation of church and state are ideas bigger than me. That's what I hope stays, not the memory that I posted it or did it in an especially clever way. If you feel I'm full of shit and my motivation is really some personal legacy, well, I'm sorry to hear that and I'll make more of an effort in the future to strip as many personal elements as I can out of postings where I feel a message has to be made so that no one else comes away thinking the same way as you. I don't want that as a distraction. Speaking of which, Ex above listed my numerous mistakes in my first round of responding to Iggy. Terrible. It happens, and I can just try and learn from that and hope not to make the same mistakes again.

What I had a problem with was the response to the paraphrasing of my words in the initial post. I think it's completely wrong, I think I know why Ex comes to such conclusions, and if expressing that cut too close to the nerve, I honestly don't care.

Unless anyone has any questions for me, I'm done here.

The Exterminator said...


There are places where christians are bullying an audience, where no alternative opinions are heard and I think it's important they be heard.

I couldn't agree more. From what I've seen, when you engage in these "debates," your first one or two comments are often on the money. But at some point not too far into the fray, you start looking like you're trying to score a "win." That's a sports mentality. When that kicks in, you (or I, or Lifey, or chappy, or any other normally reasonable atheist) start sounding as nutzoid as the person you're debating. I think you're not being honest with yourself if you think you persist with an asshole like iggy just because somebody has to set the atheistic record straight.

Anonymous said...

I, for one, am going for the narcissistic personal legacy for my blog. A thousand years from now I want someone to read my snappy, snarky, scintillating posts and go "Wow! A real Lionspeare!" Yowsah!!

But I am realist enough to understand that in a thousand years all computers will be underwater and the saran wrap I put on my hard drives may not do the trick. Nonetheless, one has to have hope. And maybe some thicker saran wrap? Perhaps a glue gun?

Analyzing the situation a little further, it becomes apparent that it is unlikely that there will be any humans around to read and adore my work. And I'll be soulless dust, or possibly mud, depending on the catastrophe. Can there be narcissism without those who adore?

Life is never easy for us atheist narcissists.

[Disclaimer: This post was written in Lionos, and may not be readily understood by the non-cognoscenti. One day there will be explications and manuals, but for now, you're on your own.]

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending me the Lionos decoder ring. It works perfectly.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

(OK. I'll try this agree, while I still have it stored in my one useful brain cell. I published it, but it didn't take the first time around.)

Ex, it sounds like you don't really have a problem with engaging the irrational. It's just that you don't find persistent debate to be useful.

Make your point and move on (the genesis of, by the way) seems to be your motto.

Spanish Inquisitor said...


I really shouldn't be drinking this early on a a Sunday.

The Exterminator said...

Maybe I should be worried about my sanity, but I seem to understand Lionos perfectly. Plus, I sometimes hear roaring in my head.

Thanks for sending me the Lionos decoder ring.
To get that ring, did you need to send box tops from Captain Grumps cereal?

Make your point and move on.
Spoken like a skilled trial attorney. I agree. If only I could stick to that motto in real life.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, these lips are sealed.

I took a top secret, confidential oath to get that ring. The conditions were that I never reveal a) details of the method of acquisition, or b) the text of the oath. Think of it as a sort of confessional privilege.

Unknown said...

I take exception to your categorization of me as "normally" reasonable.

I'm abnormall unreasonable, thank you very much.

SI and Ex:
I agree on the "move on" approach, although I think we'll all likely differ on when one should move on. I also think the "sports mentality" should be avoided.

John Evo said...

Ah, fuck it. Have fun with your blogs and comments, however you have it and try to do it in a style that helps rather than hinders.

I like how everyone is now referring to "laughos" as if it's a real thing!

From a post I wrote about 8 months ago -

So if you read all of this and happen to think that god loves you, listens to your prayers, does miracles and will give you a place to stay after you die, all I can do is this.

So, yes, I guess I use "laughos". It's part of how I have fun and I hope I'm helping, but I wouldn't swear to it! And, I'll keep explaining evolution to people. If what I bring up isn't interesting or new; hit the next blog, dude!

The Exterminator said...

I also think the "sports mentality" should be avoided.
Yay! I win!

I like how everyone is now referring to "laughos" as if it's a real thing!
See that's one of the small things that I try to do here at No More Hornets: plug the gaps in humankind's collective knowledge. Laughos, of course, has always been a real thing, at least since the days of Aristophanes. (Even earlier if you count the hilarious Book of Job.) It's just that no one had discovered its name yet.

John Evo said...

I don't know if you have done anything for humankind's collective knowledge, Ex. But you've enlightened me once or twice if that gives you any pride.

The Exterminator said...


Since I consider you a really enlightened guy, I take more pride in having enlightened you once or twice than in anything I've done to add to humankind's collective knowledge. But I hope you're not just talking about the time I told you your fly was open.

John Evo said...

I'm just going to focus on the part of your comment where you say "I consider you a really enlightened guy". Feel free to add that in to all of your comments to me. Excuse me while I zip up - again.

Unknown said...

Do you think that ALL debates between atheists and christians are stupid? If so, why? And, if not, then what makes some debates worthwhile and others stupid? And what's the point behind those worthwhile debates?

Anonymous said...

Maybe you can give me a real life example of how and when to employ Laughos with a troll. As you know, an annoying troll named CL popped into the chapel last week. He dropped out for a couple of days but he's back now, baiting people, including Phillychief.

He offered some tasteless bait to me but instead of biting, I'm just ignoring him.

If you were in my position, would you just ignore him at this point or hit him with some sort of in-your-face zinger? If you'd zing him, what is the sort of thing you'd say?

The Exterminator said...

Lifey, chappy:

You've hit me with a couple of serious questions, to which I'll give serious answers. Give me a second here to put down my custard pies.

I think conversations between atheists and Christians might be worthwhile. I think dialogues might be worthwhile. It's not a bad idea for people to try to understand the various worldviews of others. But these interchanges should not degenerate into judgments of each other's positions or attempts by either party to proselytize.

I, personally, have a tough time not making judgments when it comes to theists. So I try to avoid even civil conversations with them about religion because it's impolite to laugh at someone who's being sincere. This attitude dates back to my younger days, when I couldn't hear "Kumbaya" without getting the giggles.

As far as actual debates? Never. We're not in the Middle Ages where the fate of a whole town might depend on out-arguing the papal nuncio.

Now, this isn't to say that I haven't sometimes been sucked into debating with a wackjob like iggy; I have. But what's the point?

Man, it's hard to resist that tasty Christian bait.

I don't think there's ever really an in-your-face, conversation-stopping zinger with someone who's doggedly determined to derail a comment thread.

My solution, which I've employed a few times here when trolls threaten to camp out, is to post a comment something like:

Note to all my regular readers:
No More Hornets is a free-speech zone so I don't censor conversations. And I don't delete comments unless they're spam or blatant ads. However, it appears that so-and-so is a troll. I will not be responding to him any longer, and I ask you to refrain from doing so, as well.

Trolls need to be fed. Remove the food -- even, relucantly, the custard pies -- and the troll goes away.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great answer. I may not post that sort of announcement yet, but I'll keep it in mind if I decide it's necessary.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to sound like a prick but...

You said:

"Who gives a rat’s ass whether religionists “believe in” evolution. It’s not some magical phenomenon to be believed in; it's a natural process that needs no sanction from the ignorati — just as the Earth will continue to revolve around the Sun no matter how many idiots don't agree with that explanation. Our only “job” as atheists is to make sure that science isn’t squelched by superstition."

There's a slight paradox here in that if we're not to give a rat's ass, then why do we care that it be taught in schools?

Just sayin'.

Regarding Ethos, Carl Sagan said to avoid appeals to authority.

Oops! I just did it! ;-)

The Exterminator said...


There's a slight paradox here in that if we're not to give a rat's ass, then why do we care that it be taught in schools?

Good question. I'll try to state my answer simply, briefly, and without going off on a diatribe.

I don't give a rat's ass whether religionists "believe" in evolution. Not everybody needs to know about science, and certainly not everyone is qualified to have an opinion about it. But I do give a rat's ass that (1) all students have the opportunity to encounter pure science during their school careers, (2) the value of science and the scientific method is explained, (3) further courses in science be readily available to those students who choose to pursue them, (4) subjects not recognized as science not be taught as if they were science, and (5) such science as is taught not be strained through a religious filter. I could say pretty much the same thing about literature and math and history.

I hope that answers your question. if it doesn't, explain why not and then pose the question again.

And, please, give yourself a name for this conversation.

Babs Gladhand said...

I've given up with arguing about religion. It's more fun to point out how ridiculous it is.

And, thank you, Chappy. The strange thing is, I actually have a Laughos Mistress outfit.

the blogger formerly known as yinyang said...

But I did so well debating in Speech class...

Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in a Lionos secret decoder ring can meet out in back of Starbucks at 1:15 a.m., when all will be explained.

C. L. Hanson said...

Wow, did you see this? Somebody made a cartoon of your idea...

Anonymous said...

CL: I saw that this morning. I guess I'll have to avoid debating theists because clown suits make my hips look far too wide. :)

The Exterminator said...

I actually have a Laughos Mistress outfit.
Is that a clown suit made of leather?

But I did so well debating in Speech class...
Yeah, but did you win any de-converts in Speech class? I'll bet that if you did, your teacher made you give them back.

I was at Starbucks at 1:15. Where were you?

Thanks for linking to that cartoon. I was happy to see that someone else came up with the idea of using a clown suit in religious debates. It just goes to prove that old adage: Great mimes think alike.

clown suits make my hips look far too wide.
Have you checked out our "big and tall" clown suits section? Actually, I think a chaplain's outfit is already kind of a clown suit, so you're probably OK as is.

Anonymous said...

Ex -

Wrong Starbucks. You need the secret decoder ring to find the right Starbucks. (I didn't used to be a low-level government functionary for nothing, you know.)

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