An Atheist Debate Reference

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This project will aim to serve as a reference for excellent content to help atheists illustrate their points with theists. There is so much good content of this type on the Internet, but it’s easy to forget it when you’re either in, or about to enter, a debate.

The purpose of this page is to have all the best stuff in one place. The content will be a combination of what I already had as a summary, similar summaries from elsewhere online, a number of videos, and references.

Table of Contents

Should you even be trying?

The first part of any atheism discussion should be deciding if you should even be trying to convince the other person. In my experience there are two main reasons to avoid engaging in the discussion at all:

  1. If the person is impervious to being educated
    If for whatever reason someone is not going to listen to anything you have to say, it’s probably best to take the debating the ignorant approach, which I cover here.
  2. If the person’s life would not improve by being convinced
    I also don’t debate people who are holding on to their faith as their last strand of sanity or happiness. If someone is 80 and their only reason for living, it’d be immoral to strip that from them—even if it were possible. So I don’t suggest trying in those circumstances.

Bottom line: don’t be mean. If you’re going into the conversation trying to strip someone of their last strand of meaning in the universe, when they have nothing else, then you’re an asshole, and this reference isn’t for you.

The goal of helping people to shed their faith is to improve their lives, and if you don’t think that will be the (eventual) outcome, then don’t have the conversation. It’s that simple.

Religious Arguments, and Their Responses

One of the most important things to do when discussing religion with a believer is to identify what type of argument they are making. Sam Harris has laid out three types of general religious argument, and identifying them when you see them is often helpful in crafting a sound response.

  1. Their beliefs are true.
  2. Their beliefs are useful or necessary.
  3. Atheism is a religion.
The Bible is the historically accurate Word of God. (1)

First off, the Bible contradicts itself constantly. Both spiritually and historically. It’s also been changed quite a bit over time, by men in positions in power, and in secret. If you doubt this, try reading Bart Ehrman’s books and see if you continue to hold the same opinion.

Also consider that highly preposterous stories and religions exist even today, all over the world, and remember that many millions believe them. Millions still believe in voodoo, magic and astrology in an information age where it’s quite easy to refute this nonsense. Now imagine how easy it would have been to spread false information virally in a time where there was little structured education and very few could even read.

This environment explains, with very little effort, how stories of miracles and such could have spread so easily and been adopted as truth by so many. It also explains how the story of Jesus almost identically matches the stories of Horus and Mithras. They’re simply the same stories, with just as much allure to the uneducated masses, being re-propagated to a different population.

Even if religion weren’t true it’s still good for my family to believe. It makes us feel good. (2)

Imagine that you have a neighbor who goes into his backyard to dig every weekend with his family. He’s been doing it for a while now and has like a 20 foot hole in the ground where the family members take turns shoveling.

One day you ask him one day why he’s digging and he says, “Because there’s a 40 pound diamond down there.” You give him a bunch of numbers detailing why that’s highly unlikely, and point out that he looks silly for believing in something that’s not true. He responds with, “Maybe I don’t care if it’s true because it makes me and my family feel good.”

The general atheist position on this is that just because something makes you feel good, or has something positive associated with it, doesn’t make it a good idea to believe it. It feels good to believe in Santa Claus too, and many other childhood beliefs, but we eventually had to give them up as well.

Why give them up? Because believing in them as adults can cause real problems in the world. Belief leads to action, and belief in the non-real often leads to actions that don’t lend well to increasing happiness and reducing suffering.

It requires just as much faith to not believe as it does to believe. Atheism is just another religion. (3)

No. Most atheists don’t believe with 100% certainty that there is nothing like a God anywhere in the universe. That would require belief. Most of us simply don’t believe in your explanation of reality, which is rooted in some way in the Bible.

Calling that a belief is like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby. Is it a hobby if you don’t fly kites? Are you an anti-Zeusian if you don’t believe in Zeus? No, you just don’t believe in Zeus and you don’t fly kites.

There’s a big difference between someone who believes in Zeus and someone who doesn’t because there’s no evidence for it. They are not equal. The person who doesn’t believe isn’t actively doing anything; they’re just not doing what the Zeus believer is doing.

Imagine describing someone who’s sleeping as, “not throwing rocks”, or “not hiking”. It’s foolish, just as it’s foolish to describe all the different things that a person doesn’t believe in as “non-beliefs”. And that’s what this argument is trying to do with people who don’t believe in any single, specific religion.

Hitler and Stalin were atheists. See how bad atheism is? (2)

First off, Hitler was not an atheist. Secondly, just because Stalin was doesn’t mean his atheism had anything to do with how evil he was. It would be foolish to argue that religion would have kept him from being evil when we have examples like the Crusades (and Hitler) to look at for people who commit evil while maintaining religious belief.

Also keep in mind that atheists are highly underrepresented in prison, and in divorce court.

God is required for good to exist.

Richard Dawkins has an excellent quote in “The God Delusion” that addresses this point:

If you agree that, in the absence of God, you would commit robbery, rape, and murder, you reveal yourself as an immoral person, and we would be well advised to steer a wide course around you. If, on the other hand, you admit that you would continue to be a good person even when not under divine surveillance, you have fatally undermined your claim that God is necessary for us to be good.
The universe was made for us. If anything about it was different we wouldn’t be here.

Yes, but it’s the same for a puddle of water inside a strangely shaped pothole. Imagine it waking up and saying, “Look this pothole was made for me!”.

That would be silly because in fact the puddle is shaped like the pothole, not the other way around. Scientists know this. Regular folks don’t. It’s a lie.

Questions for theists

Evolution

The first topic we’ll tackle is of evolution, since that’s the most tangible. The videos here are devastating to any creationist with even a partially open mind.

All about the eye

This video on the eye is simply brilliant. It obliterates all eye-based anti-evolution arguments in less than three minutes, and it leaves precious little room for debate. The only option left is to say, “those are fake animals!”.

This video below is a stunning look at how life is classified. And yes, after watching it, your Christian friends is almost guaranteed to take the “God could have done that” line of argument.

This is the video to show someone who agrees with microevolution, but claims that “macro” is totally different, and impossible.

What follow below are some excellent rhetorical points for getting someone thinking about their religious beliefs. I don’t suggest you go down this path with anyone who isn’t going to actually think, however, as people who are too set in their ways are more likely to just get angry than to have a true discussion with you.

The goal of this reference is to encourage interesting conversation with the religious, with the goal of convincing them that they may need to re-evaluate their currently held beliefs using a new standard of logic. The goal is not to incite anger for the sake of it.

Why did God create us knowing we’d suffer?

In the very beginning God had total choice. There was nothing. No space, no matter, nothing. When He decided to create a life form he already knew it would suffer. His omniscience guaranteed that.

The argument is that he didn’t guarantee the outcome but gave us a choice. But that makes no sense. If there was nothing beforehand, and he created us knowing exactly what we’d choose (i.e. to plunge ourselves into pain and suffering) then it was He who made the choice, not us.

Remember that none of any of our decisions have ever been a surprise to God. From the moment he created us he knew we would suffer. So why would he still create us? Two options come to mind:

  1. God is evil.
  2. God is a man-made construction and none of this is even real.

God is not evil. The answer is #2.

Given the fact that Jesus said he was not here to replace the Old Testament, do you support the following direct commands from God?

First, support for the claim in the question–that Jesus did not “soften” the Old Testament. Here is Jesus speaking:

“For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:18-19
“It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid.” (Luke 16:17)
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17)
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16)
“Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.” (2 Peter 20-21)
“Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law” (John7:19)
“For the law was given by Moses,…” (John 1:17)

Now, keep in mind, this is Jesus Christ saying this. In the Bible that all Christians own and cherish. Now, with that said, here are some pieces of that law Jesus is very clear about being unchanged by him.

Blasphemy is punishable by death

One who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death. (NRSV) — Leviticus 24:16

Adultery is punishable by death

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. (NIV) — Leviticus 20:10

Dishonoring your mother or father is punishable by death

Anyone who dishonors father or mother must be put to death. Such a person is guilty of a capital offense. (NLT) — Leviticus 20:9

People who work on Sunday should be killed (or is it Saturday?)

You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day must be a Sabbath day of complete rest, a holy day dedicated to the LORD. Anyone who works on that day must be put to death. (NLT) — Exodus 35:2

Non-virgin wives should be killed

“If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,’ … and evidences of virginity are not found for the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones … (NKJV) — Deuteronomy 22:13-14,20-21

There’s nothing wrong with slavery

Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. (NIV) — Leviticus 25:44

Gays should be put to death

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. (NRSV) — Leviticus 20:13

Women should shut the hell up and do as they’re told

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (NIV) — Timothy 2:11-12

Now, keep in mind, these aren’t suggestions. They’re not optional. Remember what Jesus said, “Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…” That does in fact include all the rules given above, which came directly from God.

But don’t listen to an atheist, we’re the last people you should trust. Listen instead to your own Bible. I’ve included the chapters for your convenience. It’s all there.

Luckily there’s an easy solution to your cognitive dissonance. You don’t have to worry–it’s not real.

(thanks to christianitydisproved.com for the list)

Why Is Jesus’s story almost identical to previous stories we know are fictional?

Few Christians know this. Most think the concept of a virgin birth and 12 disciples and performing miracles is all unique to Jesus and Christianity. It isn’t. It was old long before Jesus lived. In fact, one particular Egyptian God, Horus, shares a great many specific things with Jesus.

Both are born of a virgin. Both are the only begotten son of their God. Horus’s mother was Meri, Jesus’s mother was Miriam (a.k.a Mary). Both had a foster father named Joseph who was of royal descent. Births announced by angels and witnessed by shepherds. Herut tried to have Horus murdered; Herod tried to have Jesus murdered. Both baptized at age 30 in a river after disappearing from history since age 12. Both of their baptizers were beheaded.

Both walked on water, healed the sick, made the blind see, etc. Both gave a Sermon on the Mount. Both died by crucifixion accompanied by two thieves. Both were buried in a tombs and were resurrected three days later, the announcement of which came from women. Both served as the savior of humanity, both were part man and part God, and both were commonly depicted being held by their mother.

They also were both called “the lamb of God”, the “good shepherd” and the “son of man”. Both were also associated with Pisces, the fish. Main symbols for both included the fish, the beetle, the vine, and the shepherd’s crook.

Only there’s a problem: the story of Horus came hundreds of years before Jesus did. And there are many other similarities from other fictional characters from before Jesus’s time. Seriously. Research it.

Why is religious belief broken down by location, and why do the vast majority of people have the same religion as their parents?

People in Saudi Arabia are mostly Muslim. People in Mexico are mostly Christian. People in Israel are mostly Jewish. And people have an overwhelming tendency to have the same religion as their parents. Yet most think their religion is absolutely true, and fail to grasp that if they were born somewhere else, or to parents with different beliefs, they’d likely share those beliefs instead.

Why did the Bible not mention the rest of the world?

A couple of options here:

  1. God just didn’t think it was worth mentioning.
  2. The men (not Gods) who wrote the Bible didn’t know about the rest of the world.

Yeah, probably #2.

If atheists are less moral, why do they get divorced less?

Why do fewer atheists get divorced? Why is the divorce rate highest in the bible belt? If marriage is a Godly contract why would atheists be better at it than Christians?

If atheists are less moral, why are they highly underrepresented in prison?

During 10 years in Sing-Sing, those executed for murder were 65% Catholics, 26% Protestants, 6% Hebrew, 2% Pagan, and less than 1/3 of 1% non-religious. — The New Criminology

There’s tons of data on this. Check it out.

Why do the “Red States” have more “moral” problems?

First we have crime statistics, where red areas are far more dangerous. Then there’s teen pregnancy. And as already mentioned, fewer atheists get divorced.

In other words, the most messed up places in this country, from a moral perspective, are in the most republican and most religious.

Children should learn that it’s just right to be good, not that invisible forces will harm you if you aren’t

One of the central tenets of most atheists’ moral structure is the idea that true morality doesn’t come from fear. Many so-called religious people are less moral because they believe the reason to be kind to people hinges directly on an invisible force that reads minds and can send you to hell.

This kind of abstract influence is prone to coming and going based on how connected one feels to the church. It’s often very strong within the church walls but is easy to completely ignore during daily life. It’s also the kind of morality that suffers greatly when one begins to question their faith. We’ve all heard of the Catholic kids who go crazy as soon as they leave the influence of their schools.

This is because this type of morality is taught as an external force rather than an internal one. In other words, bad things aren’t just wrong because they’re wrong, they’re wrong because God said they are wrong. Most atheists promote teaching morality as simply the right way to be, period. Not because someone invisible and powerful says so, but because it’s how the most people on this planet can achieve happiness.

The average religious person needs strong direct evidence that his wife is cheating, but not that
the creator Of the universe wrote the book he’s reading

If you ask the average devout Christian how sure they are that the creator of the Universe wrote the Bible, they’re 100% sure. But if you hand them a different Holy Text and tell them that a different creator of the universe wrote that one you’re likely to be greeted with skepticism.

Or if you tell his highly Christian fellow that his wife is cheating on him he’ll want to see video. He’ll want to hear phone conversations or see pictures. But tell him that Jesus was the son of a God born of a virgin and he’s just fine with that because it’s in the Bible.

This is highly inconsistent behavior. The Bible was handed to him by a man. Men decided what would go into it. And it was written in a time where few people could read, there was little means of doing research to corroborate the stories that were included in it, and there are tons of contradictions within it. In short, if this level of quality was found in any other information being presented to an average Christian, it would be rejected.

Conclusion

This is a working document. I’m actively seeking more of these types of arguments, more support for them, and also evidence that the arguments being presented here are faulty. If you have anything that can help improve the quality of this page I’d greatly appreciate it.

You can contact me here to submit an argument for inclusion, to voice a disagreement, or just to say hello.

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