Dialogue on the Prospect of Constructive Atheist-Christian Discussion

Dialogue on the Prospect of Constructive Atheist-Christian Discussion September 17, 2015


Image by “geralt” [Pixabay / public domain]

This occurred in the combox of my post, Clarifications re: Atheist “Reductio” Paper, in August 2015. Ben McGrew’s words will be in blue. He conducted himself admirably as a “gentleman and a scholar” the entire time.

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I would still say that the atheists who objected so much should have realized that it was a humorous / sarcastic-themed version of a reductio [ad absurdum], and interpreted accordingly. Yet we got many statements saying that “atheists don’t worship atoms as gods!” etc.: which showed a complete lack of grasp of the fundamentally humorous nature of my piece.

I tend to chock that up to Poe’s Law and a short fuse.

The types of arguments that people are hit with, especially minorities of any kind, become extremely grating. 9 times out of 10, if someone says something absurd, they probably actually mean it and it’s simply more to the point to address it than it is to second guess.

Walking into a bank and waving a realistic squirt gun is going to get the police called on you even if it was just a joke.

Yep. I understand the reaction. I know that I was being extremely provocative.

I guess I would say that sometimes it is helpful to be shocking or confrontational to get a point across. It was a rocky start but now in this thread we seem to have people who can talk about the actual issue I was driving at calmly and insightfully, minus insults.

Unfortunately, the people you’re reaching are only those who already share something in common with you.

Everyone who really needs the message has already been driven away.

That’s how all effective communication works.

Unless there are significant common premises, no constructive discussion is possible. If either atheists or Christians start with the assumption that the other party is always wicked and stupid simply by being in that category, discussion is impossible.

Many in the other thread believed that about Christians (and by extension, myself as a Catholic Christian). I do not believe that about atheists. So discussion would not have happened with them in any event, even if I had been as syrupy-sweet, angelic, and literal as possible.

This happens within the Christian community, too. I talked about this in my “Discussion Policy” paper: linked to the top. I can’t talk to anti-Catholic Protestants because they deny that I am a Christian. Their premise is so absurd and indefensible that it precludes any possible normal conversation. And so it has always been with them. I ceased debating them in 2007.

The same is true of an extreme fringe group within Catholicism, that I call “radical Catholic reactionaries” (think, far right).

When false premises about the other guy are accepted, adult talk can’t occur.

It’s true that ‘trimming the fat’ is necessary to some extent, but where that line is cut should be a part of the discussion.
The marbling is what makes a steak good, not the leanness.

I think the best compromise is where you have about 20% of your audience being pains in the ass, 70% agreeable, and 10% willing to jump in on other conversations and help moderate.

Usually, the 20% and 70% are reversed. LOL

The follow up question simply is, are you willing to do the work necessary to have the greatest impact, or are you simply trying to express yourself to something other than a mirror?

I try my best. This whole post is my way of making more impact. I apologized; admitted my fault in the thing (others were at fault, too).

The Christian wants his message to seem appealing. The reductio is not of that nature, though. It’s more of a “polemical” / frontal attack on what is regarded as serious error. So that will never be received happily, on the whole. That’s just how it is. I don’t think it follows that it should never be done because people get angry about it.

Sometimes things need to be said that make folks angry. When Christianity was first presented to the cultured, philosophical Greeks, and cultures deriving from them in Asia Minor (Turkey), the result was often attempted stoning of the apostle Paul, or derision.

I have had plenty of impact as an apologist, including many atheists who have become Catholics partially as a result of my work. If I make some people angry; that is to be expected. It’s always been that way. It was with Jesus and Paul and the twelve disciples: all but one of whom were martyred. Christians today should expect no less.

But with those who are willing to talk (like you), everything is fine. You don’t think I am an idiot, and you’re not trying to kill me because I threaten the status quo.

My only point here is to say that the more direct an attack is, the more precisely it needs to be executed. When the opponents can internally deflect the attack by dismissing it as overly generalized, then they simply avoid considering the issue.

Still, it’s better to try and perfect the technique along the way than it is to try to be perfect from the start and never actually take the first step, so good on you for being in the thick of things.

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