Debating on debating

In an earlier post, I mentioned how someone calling himself “Servant of God” challenged me to come to Michigan and debate one of his friends over whether the Bible is reliable. In that post, I said that I didn’t think it was really going to happen. Because the challenger was determined to say that he couldn’t find any atheists willing to debate. So when I accepted his challenge, it took three weeks for him to answer me. Somehow he still wants to pretend that atheists are afraid of facing REAL Christians. I also posted our conversation about what a “real” Christian is.

Even though this Servant of God talks like he’s gonna cover my expenses and all that, I still don’t think this is ever really going to happen. Too often these things are all a matter of posturing, puffing up and bluffing–as if that could ever possibly work. The reason it can’t is because the skeptical position isn’t afraid of truth. Ours is not a faith-based belief-system that has to be defended no matter what. Rather the instant it seems that whatever we happen to believe might not be true, we will challenge our own positions even if our opponent can’t do it for us. That means testing it and discarding it if it doesn’t hold up–whereas believers will just find a way to keep believing anyway.

If someone were to point out where and how I was wrong, I would thank them for it and appreciate them for doing it. It might be embarrassing for me, and I know this from personal experience. It happens sometimes. But I’d still rather that than to forever be wrong and never know it. I don’t want to believe anything that isn’t defensibly and evidently accurate, because it doesn’t matter to me what the truth is, or which truth it is, as long as you can show that it is the truth. Because I want to understand things as they really are, and not be fooled into believing something that isn’t really true in whole or in part.

Believers have the opposite perspective. They’re called believers because they want to make-believe something that they already know is logically indefensible. Sometimes their behavior reveals that they know it can’t really be true, but as many have already said to me, they’re gonna believe it anyway. Wilful-believers have a covenant such that they must never admit when they’re wrong. Thus they have considerable fear of their delusion being exposed without excuse. That’s why they typically run away from my challenges to prove any point to their satisfaction. On the rare occasion that a believer will face-off against me, they either put up a smokescreen of philosophical sophistry, of they talk with false bravado, sticking their chests out, trying to intimidate me.

Dude, if you have the goods, bring it. I’ll be happy to look at any evidence you think you have–if you actually have any. Otherwise, give it up. There’s no way you could ever bluff me even if you were right, which we both already know you aren’t. So knock off all the posturing and obfuscation already.

Anyway, this particular Servant of God initially said he would only pay for my hotel room in the town of Corunna on the Friday night before the event in his church the next morning. That meant that I was to fly out again that Saturday after the debate. So I told him not to book my return flight until Sunday. Because I’d have to fly out of Detroit anyway, and I’d like to book my own room there to meet up with their atheist group. It’s a Saturday night. May as well make the most of it, and fly out the next day. Once God’s servant heard that, he changed the schedule so that I couldn’t do that anymore. Not only was he now saying he would book my room in Corunna for both Friday and Saturday, he also said the debate would be stretched over two days, and that he would keep me in his church all day long.

Still obviously posturing, he said:

“I totally expect your faith in Atheistism to be wondering If Christianity is truly the way.  of course that is a assuming you still have an open mind and an honest heart.
…What I want seems we are sponsoring this debate, is a platform that is honest, deep and able to give the hearers a reason to pause and think concerning what they believe concerning the bible.   So my suggestion is  Opening Arguments  45 mins apiece on Friday.  Saturday starting at 9 AM, Both of you get a Hour to present your case.  one affirms their preposition and the other shows why it is wrong.  Then The other in the next set affirms a set preposition and the other shows why it is wrong.  Then a cross examination for up to an hour per debater and then an hour and an half for taking questions from audience.  then it is over.  That is seven hours on Saturday.”

To which I replied:

Of course I have an honest heart. That’s why I’m atheist.
I don’t have faith in atheism. To pretend that I do is one of the many lies told by believers trying to establish the tu quoque fallacy, the fallacy of projection, and the fallacy of false equivalence. I’m an apistevist, one who rejects faith as the most dishonest position it is possible to have. Faith is an assertion of unreasonable conviction which is not based on reason and is defended against all reason. Any belief that requires faith should be rejected for that reason. So while I have an open mind, (and you don’t) I don’t need faith; the data is in showing that Christianity is NOT “the way”.
No one would participate in or watch the type of debate you suggest. There are good reasons why it’s never been done that way and never will be. But I guess I’ll work that out with your champion. If he’s ever debated before, then he’ll know better than what you suggested.
If we each give a twenty minute argument, followed by a half-hour of cross examination, plus an hour of audience Q&A, it’d be less than three hours tops. Don’t expect to me to hang out in your church listening to the bewildering inanity of religious insanity for another seven hours after that. If I hang around an hour or two after that, it will only be to try and reason with deceived believers in your audience. It may seem futile, but if I can open even one mind in your congregation, it will be worth it.

Stunned that anyone would expect a debate to occupy me for three hours on Friday and ten hours on Saturday, I showed his proposal to a few other people. They said it looks like he wants to create such a tedious and bothersome confrontation that I’d have to back out. I already suspected that was the case. So I shared it with a friend who does these sorts of debates so often that it’s almost all he does. He had an awful lot to say against this, but I’ll share this one little snippet for brevity:

This is beyond ridiculous in every single way. No one is going to watch a debate this long. No debate needs to be this long….the sheer length of it would show that their position isn’t reasonable. This is a train wreck of confusion. It’s set up to make it look like there’s soooooo much evidence for the Bible that they really need a lot of time to present it – when this simply isn’t the case. It’s going to come down to arguments about interpretations, which you can’t win…because anything that isn’t factually accurate can simply be written off as metaphoric or allegory. Frankly, this all seems to be set up to unfairly shift the burden of proof. This church has no grip on reality or debates. A 3 hour debate, on a narrowly defined topic is more than enough.

That’s basically what I told them too, although I’d happily spend a whole other hour in audience Q&A. That’d be fun. That’s also where I think I’d do the most good.

I’m not talking to the servant of God anymore. Now I’m waiting to hear from the guy he wants me to debate. At this point, I still don’t know if my opponent yet knows that he’s even been volunteered to take me on or not. It’s happened before that someone got nominated like that and then had to disappoint their supporters by refusing to debate me after it was already set up, because he didn’t know about it until then. That’s what happens when the minions have too much confidence in their hero. If this new guy is OK with this arrangement, and he is still up to it, I doubt very much whether he would accept the terms that God’s boy suggested. But they both already know I’m not going to accept those terms. So let’s see what they say about that, assuming I ever hear from them again.

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