I closely follow quite a few of the more prominent members of the evolutionary atheist community and am always impressed by how well-meaning and yet deceived they are. However, often holding discourse with them is a fruitless endeavor. In part, this is because atheists and Christians view things from two different perspectives. We start with two different foundations which results in the vast majority of our misunderstandings. However, often what is frustrating when attempting to dialogue with a self-professed atheist is the nearly constant dropping of logical fallacies. Creationists are not immune either. I’ve seen both sides use the same logical fallacy in responding to each other. Further, there are plenty of ignorant individuals on both sides who make false or out of date claims that undermine the credibility of each. This often leads to frustration on both ends as one side has to address a popular false claim, again, while the other wishes the ignorant party would be quiet before making them look more foolish. This article will attempt to educate anyone interested in entering the fray on making solid arguments.
- Be educated.
I cannot emphasize this point enough to anyone wanting to take a stand for the faith. Know what you are talking about. Notice that I do not generally go into a great deal of depth in geology. My specialty is the life sciences, which is why most of my articles focus strongly on those issues. If you are going to discourse with an atheist, know your stuff. Use resources like those on this site, Answers in Genesis, Creation Ministries International, and Institute for Creation Research websites to educate yourselves. Once you find a topic that interests you, read everything you can get on the topic. Once you have a firm grasp of the creation perspective on a given issue, get into the evolutionary journals and see what they say. Often these can be accessed free using google scholar, and can be quite illuminative. Since they are not meant for public consumption, evolutionary scholars are often more honest in the journals than they are to the general public.
2. Learn Logic
If you want to dialogue in the origins debate, learn how to argue effectively. Learn what logical fallacies are, and be able to recognize and avoid them. Further, be willing to call them out when they are used in arguments. The two most common fallacies used by atheists are strawmen and ad hominems. A strawman is claiming a position is used by an opponent, and then proceeding to argue against the strawman, rather than the true position. Often the strawman is an absolutely ridiculous position. It is common because it allows atheists to not engage with creationist positions and still argue against them. The second most common fallacy is the ad hominem fallacy. Ad hominem comes from Latin and means roughly “to the man”. This means to argue against the person, rather than arguing against their argument. This often takes the form of an insult but sometimes takes the form of simply questioning the arguer’s motivation for making an argument.
3. Argue Graciously
Make sure when you have a discussion, particularly in the relative anonymity of the internet, that you argue graciously. Christians should never be guilty of being deliberately insulting. There is no harm in a little sarcasm, but it needs to be kept to a minimum, especially since we are attempting to present Christ. That does not mean we cannot argue with passion and vigor. Rather, it means we need to argue kindly. If the atheist descends to ad hominems, and, if you have valid arguments, they probably will be sure you don’t follow them. If you don’t know the answer to the question, tell them you aren’t sure and look it up. Note, this will only work in person, the internet is much less forgiving. Above all, ensure that you always end the conversation respectfully, and, if they are correct on a given point, acknowledge it as such. Agreeing with them when possible builds rapport and helps ease potential tensions.
Hopefully, this brief primer on logic and discourse will help anyone wanting to enter the discussion, particularly on the internet where most battles seem to rage anymore. Make sure that you address each arguer courteously, and attempt to argue clearly, using facts and sound logic rather than fallacies and outdated information.