Edited by MrsB, Maluniu, EvilFlame, Ash Furrow and 78 others
Many zealots are very defensive concerning the nonexistence of god. Often times, an atheist will be verbally challenged simply because of their lack of religious belief. It is at these times when one could raise these questions. However, it should be noted that while proving nonexistence is a logical impossibility, proving existence on the basis of fideism (by faith) is harder still.
Creationism is often the root of the opposing party’s faith structure. With the wealth of reasonable evidence at your disposal concerning its infeasibility, you might include arguments concerning evolution, radiocarbon dating–as ridiculous as it may sound, many believe that the earth is 5,000-6,000 years old–and asking for an admission where creationism is given some theoretical weight, besides the Bible or other religious texts.
Challenge the belief there is any “science” in religion, except for the fact that there are a few scientific theories that explain that the paranormal isn’t impossible (written by actual scientists, not zealots) and that scientists only understand about 4% of the universe. The difference between science and religion is that the former is always willing to reconsider any of its theories, laws and rules. The catch is that the longer a theory is supported by evidence, the stronger the evidence must be to disprove it. Ask any religious person if they would accept any evidence disproving the existence of his/her god(s) and the answer will always be “No.” That is why religion can never be classified as “science” regardless of what name you give to it.
Point out that some religious beliefs may require you to “dumb down” your mind in order to have faith. The mortal enemy of faith is knowledge, a scientific fact that has been demonstrated by researchers at the University of British Columbia. The basis of any religion is that you must believe something someone else tells you is true, even though your mind tells you it is a lie and it makes no sense. There is name for that: fideism. Without fideism, the concept of religion would not exist.
Show them morality does not require any religious belief. Many people believe that without religion, the planet would descend into immoral chaos. The reality is that the majority of heinous crimes committed against people on this planet across all of recorded history had their roots on religious beliefs, but the ability to distinguish right from wrong does not require any religious beliefs. In addition, animals who are incapable of understanding our human concept of religion show clear evidence of understanding moral behavior and distinguishing between right and wrong.
]]Challenge their religion’s roots. Examples of this might include (if challenged by a Christian) that the “devil” was not present in religious texts until the nomadic monotheists ran into polytheists and borrowed the idea.
Point out that religion, throughout history, has been used to control the masses, rather than enlighten them. An example of this includes the Christian crusades, and the present day suicide bombings of Muslims. Are (insert any faith here) really that different?
Target the religious texts. In the case of the Bible, often entire verses, stories, and anecdotes were falsified for the sake of making a point. Even the concept of the “holy trinity” is a fabrication created not by any god, but for political reasons by a zealot namedTheophilus of of Antioch in 412 AD. Exploit the plot holes, inconsistencies and illogical and impossible things.
Relate to your debating opponent. Ask them for a reason as to why they believe so strongly in their faith besides being raised in the dogma’s environment. Be aware of the Hundreds of Proofs of God’s existence they may try to use.
Demonstrate that people believe whatever they’re told to believe. Ask your debating opponent if he believes in a specific belief of another religion–for example, if he’s Jewish you can ask him if he believes Jesus was the son of God. Assuming he would answer negatively, then ask him whether he thinks he would believe that if he were raised Christian.
Religion has often been used to explain the unexplainable. The Greeks used Poseidon to explain how earthquakes happen, which we now know is due to the movement of tectonic plates to relieve pressure. What happens when we can prove, and you can’t deny, the Big Bang theory and Evolution, which both have such large amounts of logic behind them that it’s hard to deny that they are true. This is called “The God of the gaps” factor.
What happens after death? Many Christians try to use this argument to trick you into thinking you have to go to heaven. However, try relating this to something that has already happened. What happened before you were born? Nothing in the Bible says anything about this. Ask them to explain near-death or death experiences that many people have related, and why they never speak of seeing any “heaven,” “god,” “angels” or anything of the sort.
Use simple logic.
- Christians believe their God is omniscient and knows everything, including everything that has happened and will happen, as well as every thought your mind creates before you think it. If that’s the case, there is no “free will.”
- They also believe their God is omnipotent, and can do anything. Problem is, if their God can do anything but doesn’t lift a finger to stop all the disasters, massacres and wars that have happened, are happening now and will happen in the future, their God is also a psychopath who enjoys watching our misery.
- However, if the Christian God is not omniscient or omnipotent… well, in that case their God is not a “god” and doesn’t exist.
- While you already have the benefit of thinking with reason rather than blind faith, you canuse your rationality to defuse many arguments. However don’t assume your opponent operates on blind faith – there are some very experienced debaters out there with well developed arguments which seem very rational at first glance, but come apart using a simple “divide and conquer” strategy.
- While it is rather simple to point out shortcomings in other belief systems, asking the opposing party to “challenge YOUR beliefs with facts; no quotes or Bible passages admitted” can often lead to the party giving up entirely.
- In the end, rather than making a concise point, your opponent will often default to “I’m sorry you’re going to hell”. At this point, they have exhausted their personal knowledge of their dogma and attempt to be seen as “the better man”. A good way to respond might be to say, “At least I’ll be with friends”. While it may cause a shock, you’ll at least get a good laugh out of their reaction. If they’re acting like jerks, try responding with “At least you’re coming with me.”
- Read and employ arguments from God is not Great in which Christopher Hitchens contends that religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, is an excellent source of rational arguments against the existence of a religious deity.
- Many theists ask “If the big bang made the universe, what caused the big bang then?” you can retort “What made God?” if they say “God was always there and always will be” then they have answered their own question.
- Remember that as an atheist yours is a not a specific belief, but a lack of belief. You have nothing to prove, other than their god does not exist. On the other hand, theists claim to know what happens when you die, so the much higher burden of proof rests upon them.
- Point out the similarity between Christianity and a Dictatorship / the National Socialist party. Remember the phrase “Listen to me or I hurt you.”
- An idea is to point them to facts that make the only logical conclusion that a supreme ruler in the universe is simply impossible, like “If God can not handle that I sin, God is not omnipotent” or “If God truly cared about us there would be no wars.”
- If the other party in the debate brings up George Muller, remind them that Muller claimed the Bible alone was his standard of judgment, and point out some of the more egregious examples of immoral behavior the Bible claims is appropriate, such as incest.
- Use Science as your main stance if you have the knowledge. Remember that almost everything in science can be proven including, for example, the existence of protons, electrons and neutrons.
- Be respectful. Everybody has the right to believe in whatever they wish, unless that “belief” includes suicide-bombing, or burning lonely old women at the stake, or torturing others until they believe what you believe, etc. This includes nearly every religion.
- Many of the steps and tips on this page are complicated issues. Stating them as fact without being familiar with the issues might invite your opponent to question them, and question your belief in them. Don’t just argue a point because you read it on a wiki–learn about it, form an opinion on it, and then debate it.
- You do not necessarily have to argue that God does not exist to any believer you encounter; good friends do not need to agree with one another on points to be good friends. If you are always trying to stir up an argument with friends or “convert” them, be prepared to have fewer friends.
- Unlike other belief systems, if you announce your atheism, many will see it as a challenge, and act accordingly.
- Some people choose religion to get over a bad experience in their life such as addiction, or a tragic death. While religion can have positive impacts on people’s lives and can help them in times of need, that does not mean that the ideas behind the religion are true. If you encounter someone who claims to have been helped like this, exercise caution, as you don’t want to offend them, but you do not have to avoid them or pretend to think like them.
- Make sure they know that you don’t need to follow God in order to have good morals. Make sure they know that you wouldn’t steal or murder because it’s wrong, and not just because a book tells you not to. Read Godless Morality by Reverend Richard Holloway.