I participate in a Google+ hangout for discussion of atheism and religion sometimes, where I routinely come across really bad arguments from both sides. Just last night, for example, there was a Christian in the room telling all the atheists that God will punish them if they don’t believe.
“Wow,” I said. “I’ve never heard that before. I better immediately change my mind, fall on my knees and worship God!” Seriously, does that argument ever actually work? Do they think that we haven’t heard that claim made on a daily basis for our entire lives? Do they think that their brilliant version of the “God’s gonna get you” argument is going to be magically different from the 14 million previous times you’ve heard it? That was accompanied by some of the other classics, including “you’re doing the work of Satan!” How terribly compelling.
But then some of the atheists in the group offer bad arguments too. One that came up in that discussion: “All babies are born atheists.” No. Just stop. Babies are atheists in the same sense that a tree or a car is an atheist. I just don’t understand what someone making that arguments thinks they’re going to accomplish with it. It isn’t going to convince anyone of anything and it’s just going to make you look silly. Just stop.
While we’re on the subject, I keep seeing this sign on Facebook that attributes that famous quote from the Treaty of Tripoli — “As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” — to John Adams. Please stop. That was not said by John Adams, it was part of a treaty that was negotiated under George Washington, signed by Adams and ratified by the Senate — unanimously, by the way.