I got an email from a Christian author wanting to debate me (my friend Brian Fields had forwarded him to me, and I offered so he’d leave Brian alone). Here’s his first email and my initial response. Here’s his newest email.
Thanks J. T., I can certainly understand where you are coming from, as I am surrounded by biblically illiterate “Christians” as well. I am interested in debating in person more so than online. I didn’t realize you and fellow atheists were inundated so, although I should have stopped to think about it. Had I done so I would have realize just how surrounded you folks are. I am a writer and am very familiar with the logic, reason, science, and religion so I am quite capable of engaging in a proper, intellectually honest, and open debate, but I must tell you you will loose I’m am currently attempting to take a much needed break from my peace and justice activism and I am focusing (or trying to!) on what I enjoy most, which is philosophy, theology, science, and religion, which are my first loves. I would enjoy the debate, whether online or in person, and I always do my best to keep an open mind and remain teachable, and it seems you are the same and that we could make good representatives of our respective beliefs. I’m no theocrat and have no desire, had I the power, to commit unbelievers such as yourself to the stake, and would most likely find myself burning next to you should the biblically illiterate theocrats ever gain such power, sad to say. I believe the ongoing debate regarding theism and non-theism is a continuing conversation which has gone on for many centuries now and will continue for many more to come. The good thing about this conversation is that both sides learn and, like iron sharpens iron, our society makes forward progress by doing so. Had it not been for atheism I myself would not have been challenged to examine my own beliefs and you probably feel the same, whenever you do happen to come across an actual Christian who knows the issues and isn’t simply a BIble thumping moron, which we have far too many of now.
Here’s my response.
Thank you for having the modesty to realize you didn’t properly put yourself in our shoes. That is both admirable and appreciated, even if the following sentences destroyed any pretense to humility you may have set up in the beginning of your email.
As for debating in-person, I maintain a pretty solid speaking schedule and have certain requirements for appearing in-person, not the least of which are travel costs and lodging. If you can find a date and a venue that would be willing to meet all of my requirements, then I’ll certainly be willing to weigh that potential appearance against all other requests.
I am a writer and am very familiar with the logic, reason, science, and religion so I am quite capable of engaging in a proper, intellectually honest, and open debate…
However, it seems clear that you’re incapable of distinguishing between someone who is not interested and someone who is afraid. Brian forwarded me your first email to him, which read:
I challenge any one of you to represent and defend your atheistic position in an open and public debate.
I await your response (and his) and I will consider any refusal on your part to be a public admission (because I will publicize it) that your position regarding God is intellectually indefensible.
This is tantamount to a kindergartner dancing about another student minding their own business while chanting “Fight me! Fight me! Or I’ll tell everyone you’re a wuss!” It never occurred to you (or to our hypothetical kindergartner), that they may not be afraid or impressed, and may not be looking for a fight (or may rate indulging you behind other obligations like homework, their job, hanging with people they know beyond an email out of the blue, or repeatedly headbutting the brick siding on their house). The attempt to goad Brian into a debate rather than leaving the option up to him and his own assessment of how to spend his time was what actually struck me as pathetic. You are either too stupid to tell the difference between fear and disinterest, or not honest enough to admit it. Either way, that severely impacts my optimism that you are capable of both honest and intellectual debate, despite your protestations to the contrary.
…but I must tell you you will loose
See the bit about humility earlier. Also, “loose” is a term generally applied by sexually repressed people attempting to shame other human beings who have reached the elementary conclusion that sex is enjoyable and safe if done responsibly. A “loose” debate in this sense could be fun, though I must warn you that I am engaged, so it probably won’t happen (and I will also not accept anything loose in the debate in lieu of my standard honorarium).
I would enjoy the debate, whether online or in person, and I always do my best to keep an open mind and remain teachable, and it seems you are the same and that we could make good representatives of our respective beliefs.
I’m happy to hear that. Ordinarily, if someone wrote me the following, I’d immediately begin to form negative opinions of their ability as a writer as well as their desire to be viewed as a “good representative” for their beliefs.
“no organizational advantage”? You mean you will get your ass kicked in public and look like the fools you are? ROFLMAO If I were to say such a thing, having refused your challenge to a public debate, you would NEVER stop clucking about it!
STOP clucking like a chicken and put up for a debate. Man up dude, because you are looking REALLY BAD right now.
The youtube video of the clucking chicken was an especially nice touch. Also, “man up”? Does it take a man to feel insecure enough to feel they have to accept every invitation to a debate, regardless of how little respect they hold for the other party? As a man, I’m offended.
It occurs to me that you have some very bizarre ideas of what makes a person look bad. If this is your standard for what constitutes a “good representative” then I must deny your assessment of me.
I believe the ongoing debate regarding theism and non-theism is a continuing conversation which has gone on for many centuries now and will continue for many more to come. The good thing about this conversation is that both sides learn and, like iron sharpens iron, our society makes forward progress by doing so.
I am certainly learning a lot within the two emails we have exchanged. I am learning, for instance, how a person can laud their humility (ability to be taught, to listen to others, etc.) while simultaneously asserting their invincibility as a debater and failing to listen to the other half (“you will loose” and not listening to Brian when he said he wasn’t scared of you, but was instead unimpressed with you), while being utterly oblivious to the contradiction. It’s like a new window has been opened in my mind and all manner of cynicism about theists is pouring into my brain.
However, the debate over god’s existence is hardly a conversation at this point. While the arguments for how the universe truly works that depend on actual knowledge have grown and evolved during the last thousand years as humanity has made new discoveries, the arguments for god’s existence have experienced only minor, negligible changes. I have done multiple debates and, frankly, the odds of me hearing something new (and hence, learning) in this case is very slim. But who knows? Maybe you’re just the guy to break the streak. You are, after all, supremely confident. And, admittedly, I have been blind-sided by new arguments in the past. I once did a debate with a guy who argued that because tacos are tasty, god must exist. That was certainly an argument I had never heard before and, boy, was he proud of it (he also dashed back to his flock to boast of his victory).
Anyway, if you cannot meet my requirements to appear in person, then we’ll have to settle for a written debate. Given your confidence in your own debate skills, and acknowledging that high confidence hardly ever correlates with inexperience or inability, I trust that you’re aware that in formal debates the positive claim (in this case “God exists”) always goes first. I also suggest the three round, 2,000 word format, with all responses being posted to our respective blogs.