Atheist Experience: "Give us your single best argument for why you believe"

On the Atheist Experience TV show/podcast, they often tell theist callers to give their single best reason for why they believe in God.  I think this may be the wrong tactic and wrote an email to the show explaining why. 


Here is an excerpt from my argument:


"It is often the case that a single reason for a thinking something is true is wholly unconvincing, even if it is the single best argument.  Yet, the culmination of the reasons may be sufficient to get someone to believe.

Take evolution, for instance.  The single best argument for evolution may not convince someone who is open-minded, but knows nothing about evolution.  However, if you explain to them the fossil records, the distribution of fossils in the various strata, the DNA evidence, examples of evolution that have been observed, etc., then they are more likely to be convinced."

This was Matt Dillahunty's reply:


"Can you give an example of any belief where the single best argument is logically FLAWED and yet the belief is still justified? I'm not just talking about someone who believes something for the wrong reasons (i.e. "I believe evolution because it makes me feel special")

You seem to be implying that we need to disprove their belief - that's not the case. We just need to show that their best reason is flawed. Our goal isn't to prove their belief wrong but show that their reasons aren't sufficient justification."
I'm not trying to imply that atheists need to disprove the theists belief.  I know that the burden of proof rests with the person making the claim.  As a theist, even if what you considered your best argument is pointed out to be logically flawed, you still would feel your other arguments are valid and would still feel overall justified in your belief, would you not?  I don't see how showing a flaw in one argument shows that the entire belief is unjustified, unless the belief can't stand without that argument.
What are your thoughts?  Is asking for a single best argument a reasonable tactic?

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I think they ask for the single best argument because of time restraints really, even though in reality belief does not come about this way. One could also argue that relgion is primarily based on faith, and faith is no argument just an assumption to support the narrative. Religions are not arguments but grand anthologies that give you a part to play in the epic scheme of things, making you fell special, superior over others. For example, a ascetic seeking to ditch his ego acquires only a different kind of ego, they think, "I'm better than you because I am on the path freedom form the ego." Christians are told not to judge others, but the bible is all about judging others, and dishing out extreme punishment. The Jews and I are often told they are of special purity because of having a piece of their penis cut off... they twist reality and make you feel pride for your own mutilation because the uncircumcised will have lower status in the kingdom of god.


Mejha... whatever 

I did acknowledge in my email (though I didn't include it here) that I understood they have a very limited amount of time to spend talking to each individual.  To their credit, they tend to spend more time talking to callers than most talk shows do.

I agree with you. It is too simplified.  


A theist has many best reasons and will be absolutely incapable of selecting one as 'their best'.


This 'single best reason' suggestion will only annoy them.


To Mr Dillahunty's request for an example: Every Abrahamic faith. The best reason is, of course, logically flawed, but that reason will always be just as good as the next one for people of faith.


There is very little room for logic in a narrow view of existence.


Cheers guys, (great question btw),





I can see how it will annoy a theist, but I think that's a good thing.  It's annoying because they have to realize right off that they don't really know, an uncomfortable realization that will hopefully get them thinking in a different way than they have before.  I really like the idea of a theist coming up with all kinds of other reasons after the call, imagining Matt's response, losing the the point in their own head, and starting over with another best reason.

Whoops. sec.


The reason Matt and others at the ACA do this is because of something I actually ran into quite often talking to people when I was a Jehovah's Witness. When you challenge someone's reason for believing, instead of addressing your argument, they'll just jump to another subject. I ran into that a lot when I would argue the trinity. I'd show a mainstream Christian a scripture that was obviously pushing a unitarian view, and instead of addressing it, they would go "well what about HerpDerp 5:16?!" Before you know it, you've let them lead you on a endless maze of dead ends, and they walk away claiming victory because they confused you.


There isn't enough time on the show to address every reason a given caller believes in God, so the hosts ask for the best reason because if they didn't, the caller would probably throw out 50 arguments at once, they'd discuss a few of them, and then he'd go back to his church group and say "I said blah blah blah and the Atheists were BAFFLED! They DIDN'T HAVE AN ANSWER!"


Matt and the other hosts recognize that people have more than one reason for believing something, but when they ask for the BEST reason, it cuts out a lot of the crap that they'd normally have to wade through. If they can point out why someone's BEST reason for believing is flawed, it cascades to the others. Because now if they say "well what about ____" the hosts can ask "why didn't you bring that up in the first place?"


If evolution was false, and I accepted it, and someone asked me what my best reason for believing it was, I'd probably tell them "DNA." If they refuted that argument, then I couldn't fall back to the Fossil record, because I already admitted that it wasn't as strong of an argument as DNA.




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