Possible upcoming debate, part II.

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.

AJ,

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.

You say:

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.

Best,

JT

  • Makoto

    Have I mentioned recently how much I love your writing? That response may not have been exactly poetic, but it certainly moved me. While I doubt this guy will rise to the challenge, a tiny part of me really hopes it happens because it would be amazing from the rational side of things.

  • Loqi

    Wow. Reading his emails to Brian, I can’t help but think he’s representing Christianity exactly as Christianity looks from the outside: pompous, self-important, odious, ridiculous, and intellectually bankrupt.

  • IslandBrewer

    If I get a bad taco, does that mean god ceases to exist, or merely that god hates me (which would be a given)?

    • Anonymous

      I got hung up on the taco therefore god too. It’s moments like those when you wonder why you’re even talking to that person in the first place.

      I’m glad you noticed the ‘loose’. OTOH was looking forward to seeing how losing a debate relates.

  • eric

    There is something amusing about a self-professed writer “very familiar with the logic, reason, science, and religion” who does not want to get into a written debate, only a spoken one.

  • Jaime Wise

    Wait…”because tacos are tasty, god must exist”…?
    Please tell me you have a transcript of that. Also, who’s up for tacos?

    • Loqi

      I’m so up for tacos. Making a late night grocery store run as soon as I’m done at work to pick up some tortillas :)

  • Jasper

    “… I once did a debate with a guy who argued that because tacos are tasty, god must exist. …”

    *Poof!*

    Crap, I’m now a theist.

    • Loqi

      Happened to me when I heard the Kalam Cosmological argument for the 4,000th time. He brought up the three points and I was like THERE ARE ABSOLUTELY NO FLAWED PREMISES OR SPECIOUS REASONING HERE, I AM CONVINCED.
      They’ve got some good arguments, these Christians.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Strange, I would have thought that if Brian has Truth on his side, he would be all for a written debate with both sides able to marshal their arguments and carefully construct rebuttals and counter-arguments, because, you know, the side with the most truth normally does best in that situation.

    It’s almost as though he only thinks he can win if he gets to talk hard and fast and win by grandstanding, appeals to emotion, and rhetorical point-scoring rather than by actually being right.

    • http://www.geekexile.com Brian Fields

      Did you mean AJ? :)

      • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        My kingdom for an “edit” button!

  • Jasper

    As a suggestion, a 2000 word limit may not be as useful as a 1 or 2 argument limit, because one could still jam pack that 2000 words full of 20 claims and then only give you 2000 words to refute them.

    • Jasper

      That’s why I don’t like most formal debates. The results frequently have little to do with who is correct, but rather who can explain loopholes and be a nefariously conniving as possible.

  • Ken

    “… I once did a debate with a guy who argued that because tacos are tasty, god must exist. …”

    That’s just stupid. Now if you’re talking about how tasty kosher food is, that’s a completely different story. I’ve used the kosher food argument myself for the proof of Yahweh, and I’m an atheist!

    Anyone up for a big bowl of matzo ball soup and a corned beef sandwich on rye (with kosher dills on the side)?

    • Drakk

      Refutation: A god who creates a universe in which it is possible to produce bacon and then forbids it from his followers is not a good god.

  • Rob

    His preference to an in person debate screams “The only strategy I have is the Gish Gallop” to me.

  • http://faehnri.ch/ eric

    I am a writer and am very familiar with the logic

    He’s familiar with the logics, because he looked on the Internets. Does he know that a cliche to look inept is to put an inappropiate “the” infront of things? I don’t know who he is or what he does, but I’m married to a writer, and I have the feeling that writers obsess so much about the smallest details that an email like this would never be sent.

    The part with, “You mean you will get your ass kicked in public and look like the fools you are?” What is that from? Am I just not seeing that you’re referring to a previous email or post?

    To paraphrase others and to capture what you’re saying about this guy; debating him would look good on his CV, not so much yours. But please rip him a new one for my entertainment. However, you do know that regardless of the outcome he’ll just go back saying how he totally won.

    • IslandBrewer

      Oh, he is very familiar with the logics. He has seen them hisself! He almost bought one of them at RadioShack, but it was too expensive, so he’s going to check the Craigslist for a used one. The one he wants to get has all the features and accessories. He’s read up all about it. He is very familiar with it.

      • IslandBrewer

        Sorry, “the RadioShack”.

  • pjmaertz

    This is gong to be brutal. I will still read it, because JT is cool, but just reading the challenger’s initial email made me feel bad for the guy. I’m thinking the toddler asking to go 12 rds was the perfect metaphor.

  • Madouc

    “That’s just stupid. Now if you’re talking about how tasty kosher food is, that’s a completely different story. I’ve used the kosher food argument myself for the proof of Yahweh, and I’m an atheist!”

    Bacon, cheeseburgers and seared scallops – and *poof* Yahweh is done.

  • http://www.geekexile.com Brian Fields

    Fairness dictates that I let everyone know that after AJ’s interchange with JT, AJ emailed me an apology. I’ve accepted his apology, but do not intend at this time to engage in a debate with him (Frankly, I simply don’t have the time).

    I would enjoy watching JT debate him, and I hope that gets worked out.

    Brian Fields
    President
    PA Nonbelievers
    http://www.panonbelievers.org

  • iknklast

    I don’t think I’d be too afraid of someone who writes a sentence like this:

    “I must tell you you will loose I’m am currently attempting”

    and then goes on about how good he is at writing. Ouch, ouch, and ouch. Not just loose, either. I’m am? My grandmother, an English teacher for 40 years, is turning over in her grave.

  • Pingback: Possible upcoming debate, part III.

  • http://fengardice.wordpress.com Fabio García

    JT, I wish I could treat believers (or any ideological opponent) the way you do. Your writing and speaking remind me of the humility and compassion I so often tend to lose. Thank you.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X