What Is The Point Of Discussing Religion At All?

What Is The Point Of Discussing Religion At All? May 28, 2019

Twitter, as we know, is a ripe and fruitful ground for nothing but brilliance, education and high conversational standards. The words flame and butthurt and troll are scarce and lost amongst the intellectually elite. Our Twitterial back-and-forths end wars, settle disputes and reduce crime rates. Twitter is what the United Nations only wishes it could be.

LOL. If only.

No, Twitter is instead a bubbling froth of mental sewage on a good day. It should, indeed, be called “Troller” rather than Twitter, as it appears the sole purpose of about 90% of Twitter users is to get under someone else’s skin. This leads to low-brow conversation, childish retorts and a whole lot of butthurt.

In true Twitter tradition, no user is immune to a troll or two, and I am no different. I get piles upon piles of empty, useless questions that appear to have been typed by a monkey. Yesterday, in particular, someone asked me this:

Why bother debating? Can’t you just each have your respective beliefs?

While I briefly answered the asker’s question on Twitter, I saved my actual response for my readers. Why? I like you better than Twitter trolls. Simple as that.

So, why do I bother debating at all? There are several reasons:

1. It’s a challenge. While many people in today’s world feel they shouldn’t have to defend their opinions, I find the ability to do so immensely attractive. Especially if you can do it using reason, calm and kindness. I am drawn to people who can stand up for the ideas they hold dear, even if I disagree with those ideas because it’s rare that someone can make a clear, coherent case for a sincerely held opinion without getting emotional. True debate challenges people to defend things they may have never had to defend before, and working through the logic of defending your own position in your own head, makes the holes in your ideas every apparent, very quickly. It brings you to truth rapidly.

2. I always learn something from the other person. I am not the type who’s content to sit around my whole life watching the Kardashians count their loonies. I mean, the Kardashians are here but I’d rather know how they got here. How did we get here? How did life get here? You may be content today with what you know, but my hunger for knowledge is absolutely insatiable. Most people learn the vast majority of what they know from peers and real-life experience. I engage in debate because I always walk away with expanded knowledge on the topic.

3. It’s a quick way to get to know another person. As a socially-awkward nerd, I’ve never really mastered the art of flirting the way everyone else does it. For me, flirtation always came in the form of healthy debate on a challenging topic. I’ve fallen in love with more than one person because they kicked my ass in a debate. Today, I am spoken for but I still like getting to know people and debate is the absolute best way to do so. It’s where their nastiest bits have a tendency to come out and if by the end of it, you can still stand each other, well then you’ve got a lifelong friend. Of course, finding other people willing to take on hot topics in a friendly setting is next to impossible. So, thanks to Twitter for that at least.

4. Theism affects policy in today’s world. I debate with theists in particular not because I give a dang what they believe, but because the major belief systems of today are working their way into our policy and eliminating freedoms and hurting people and progress. If I can shake their faith a little bit, then I’m doing my part to create doubt and the more doubt there is in religious ideas, the less their beliefs will affect the lives of people who do not share them. If you want people to respect what you believe and not try to shake it, then keep it to yourself and amongst other believers. Don’t impose your beliefs on us. Don’t knock on my door and try to convert me. Don’t take away my right to birth control. Don’t dictate what I can and cannot do with my body, or how I dress or what my kids learn in school. Don’t force me to swear to a deity that does not exist to prove I am telling the truth. Don’t force me to sing a national anthem that addresses a big, ol’, white d-bag in the sky. If you kindly keep your lies out of my life, I’d be more than happy to respect the fact that you believe them and not insist on debating you.

5. It’s against the law in over forty countries to be an atheist. This is absolutely unacceptable and while I am not a citizen of any of these countries, if I can make enough people question their faith, and all my readers do as well, and all the atheists on Twitter and Reddit and Facebook do, too, then these nations will have to amend these laws. If you debate a theist enough, you will make them see the holes in what they believe, you may shake what they believe just enough to make it less important to them that others believe.

6. Atheism is punishable by death in 13 different countries. The more I debate with theists, the fewer certain theists there will be. I’m not saying this because I’m all full of myself and think I’m great at debating. I say this because even the simplest of questions will poke holes in theism, because theism is, by its very nature, holy. I will not pardon that pun. There is nothing in any of the major religions that holds up to scrutiny and debating a theist will expose that fact. it may not do so for the debate opponent but it could poke a hole in someone’s certainty who is in the audience watching. If the certainty bleeds away, fewer and fewer people will be okay with taking a life over these ideas.

7. It’s enjoyable. When my mind is challenged in the way only a debate over important issues can challenge it, I get an absolute rush. It’s like brain exercise and like a good 2km swim in the pool, I come out feeling invigorated and ready to kick ass.

8. It allows me to break down stereotypes about atheists. While it’s true that many atheists are rude and obnoxious when they discuss religion with believers, I make a point of not being. My goal is to have people hear me and truly assess the things that I am saying. My goal is not to look like I am intellectually superior. I know that many believers think of atheists as smug, unethical jerks with superiority complexes and so when I get a chance to talk to a theist about our differences, I see it as an opportunity to destroy that image. I do that by being kind, by being intellectually generous and by truly trying to understand where they are coming from just as much as I want them to do the same with me. If they’re being rude, it’s just another perfect opportunity to prove to the other person and anyone who might be watching that the atheist can indeed be the better person.

There are definitely days when I avoid Twitter altogether because I simply do not have the energy or care to engage in discussions about god and the origins of our universe, but for the most part, I love talking about religion and I’m happy and grateful whenever I come across someone willing to share that with me.

What do you think? Is debating a waste of time or do you have reasons why you enjoy it, too? Let me know in the comments!

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  • valleycat1

    Also, it is good for people to be reminded of the potential for a different outlook on life, or religious beliefs, than what you just happened to be born into. And that you are not the only person holding different beliefs or questioning them/trying to make sense of them.

  • wonderer

    I enjoy debating with intelligent Christians for all the same reasons. I’ve been hanging out at William Lane Craig’s ‘Reasonable Faith’ forum for ten years now. There are fair number of very intelligent and knowledgeable Christians there, so it definitely can be a learning experience that sharpens one’s thinking.

  • If I were ranking your reasons, #4 would need to be #1 right now in the US.
    I have been an atheist jew for a very long time, but with the ever creeping American Sharia happening before our eyes, I’m finding myself more an anti-theist and I’ve become much more vocal about it. These are indeed scary times right now.

  • Anri

    As soon as theists stop asking their sky daddy to go beat me up, I’ll stop objecting to them doing so.

  • Larry Rhodes

    All good points, but further, over 90% of all atheists in the world today are former believers. That alone proves that discussion with religious people works.

  • Jim Jones

    Go for it if it turns your crank but most people are morons. Very few can follow a logical argument – they go through life relying on ‘feels’.

    “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”
    ― H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy

    “The average man never really thinks from end to end of his life. The mental activity of such people is only a mouthing of cliches. What they mistake for thought is simply a repetition of what they have heard. My guess is that well over 80 percent of the human race goes through life without having a single original thought.”
    ― H. L. Mencken

  • Lady Alexandra

    I am a theist, but not a Christian. My religion doesn’t try to convert people. If someone asks me what I am, I tell them in a very few words and leave it at that.” Usually I prefer they walk away, because I’m usually really not into discussing my religious beliefs and how particularly I go about it any more than I’m interested in discussing the intimate details of why I may need pelvic floor surgery with someone in the produce aisle at the grocery store.

    But I tend to keep common cause with the non-theists, because our beliefs align far more than my beliefs align with the majority of the theists in the US. And because the theists will hang me next to the atheists if they get their way.