Over the years, I have debated many supporters of different religions. I’ve done it online, in university lecture theatres, in churches and pubs and it doesn’t seem to matter what faith, sect or denomination they are, from my point of view, theists are all the same: they suffer from wishfulthinkianity!
In these encounters, I present evidence. I give information based on repeatable shareable observations and, wherever possible, actual empirical or statistical numerical quantities. Where I can’t do that I state that this is a hypothesis or that I’m expressing an opinion.
For example, in a pre-lockdown debate with Muslim proponent Imran Hussein at Manchester University, I described how absurdly insignificant mankind is, whether you compare our brief existence to the age of the universe or compare our green and blue planet to the vast number of planets in all of the galaxies. (Link to the video is at the bottom of the page)
So what did he do?
He told us about how he had depression and needed to feel that his life meant something. He showed us a ballpoint pen and asked, “Which has more value, a human being or this writing implement?” Then he told us how the religion of the Qur’an sorted out his problems by giving him a sense of purpose.
Now, I’m very sorry to hear that he had mental troubles and I’m very glad that he has recovered, but none of that is evidence for the existence of a creator deity who makes life less than absurd. It’s just personal anecdotal material and wishful thinking.
A few years ago, I debated an Evangelical pastor in his own church. He produced a stone and said something along the lines of, “How can you think we came from this?”
Well, I don’t! That’s just your straw man fallacy. That stone is mostly silicon dioxide and we are mostly made of carbon… (there’s another link below)
At another university, my opponent filled up his time with endless quotes from ‘authorities’ whom he admired. I made a list of them and waved it at the audience, asking, “Is this evidence?” “No!” I said, “It’s opinions!”
Here’s another example: in a facebook group, a believer asked the following, “If there is no God, where did everything come from? Without God, there is no explanation”
I grant you there are still lots of mysteries, but the way forward is to investigate them, not to make up your favourite answer and claim that it’s true! I know that is a quicker and easier get out clause, but it’s not a solution.
The short, honest and honorable response to “Where did everything come from?” is “We don’t know.” A longer answer is that we can trace back a very long way where the current contents of the cosmos ‘came from’ and how they got to be like they are, but we still have two questions that we can’t answer: how life began and how the universe began (if, indeed, it did). We have some hypotheses, but we are still investigating for evidence which may give us the most likely correct explanation…
Watch this space. And have some patience!
https://youtu.be/Z6-2IYlbTj8 Muslim debate
https://vimeo.com/97977683 Evangelist debate (my part only)