How NOT to Talk to Atheists
So, there I was this morning going through my Twitter timeline (@persecuted23 for those interested) when I caught part of a conversation between an Atheist and a Christian. (I follow many Atheists, Pagans, non-Christians.) I find the conversations between Christians and Atheists particularly interesting. I can really see why the Atheists get so damned frustrated. Actually, I remember the same conversations I have had as I was an Atheist most of my life.
The conversations tend to go something like this:
“Oh so you’re an Atheist, are you?”
“Yes, I am an Atheist.”
“But don’t you know what God says? That if you don’t believe in Jesus you are going to Hell.”
“Well, for starters, I do not believe in God, neither do I believe in Hell.”
“But God’s word, the Bible, says….”
What the Christians neglect that the frame of reference that they most often use in these conversations has been rejected prior to the conversation. They keep going back to it in a never ending spiral of the logical fallacy of petitio principii. These people can’t seem to understand that the argument that they are trying to make will never be made because the premise is rejected. For Atheists God, and therefore the Bible, have no authority because for them God is non-existent. So, to keep referring to God, to keep repeating the Psychologist’s fallacy becomes nonsensical within the conversation. I have never witnessed a conversation between an Atheist and a Christian where the Atheist hasn’t tried until she was blue in the face to get that point across. Yet, Christians keep pressing the petitio principii and the psychologist’s fallacy. You may well desire that your position, your frame of reference to be universally accepted and think it objective, but it just simply isn’t either.
Not only am I offended by the ridiculousness of the continued repetition of these fallacious arguments I am equally offended by the confrontational and combative nature of them. Instead of approaching people with an attitude of “I’m right, you’re wrong”, why not try to understand where they are coming from. Maybe, just maybe it was conversations like these that pushed someone from agnosticism to atheism. Maybe take a lesson from Paul when he visited Athens. He first explored the city, went to their temples and shrines and learned what they believe. Then used the truths that they possessed as a starting point. He found points of agreement before he engaged in conversation with non-believers. Paul did not look for points of disagreement. Jesus never looked for points of disagreement when He approached people, whoever they were. Jesus and Paul honored people and their opinions, did not approach them with, “You’re wrong.”
Listen to the Atheists, the Pagans, the Muslims, the Buddhists, to everybody and find where we intersect, where we have common belief, common experience. Then, and only then, can you even begin to even communicate.