Throughout the months that I've been on here, I've been privy to some very interesting discussions; many of which have been great fun, and others of which have given me much to think about. As for the latter, I was recalling someone's plea for advice on figuring out how to find the truth when confronted with multiple conflicting sources of information.
As atheists, we pride ourselves on our ability to reason and to be rational, but with so many different views in the world, it can be hard to reach a solid (albeit tentative) conclusion on any issue. I'd like us to discuss our ideas here for the methods that we use to figure out what makes sense, and what doesn't.
My best advice would be this~ Familiarize yourself with logical fallacies; those are ways of reasoning that at first glance make sense (sometimes) but upon further inspection are false. Almost every claim for the efficacy of religious beliefs is based on one or more logical fallacies, but also many other ideas and thoughts found in everyday life can be traced back to those as well. The better you are at spotting them, the easier it will make forming an opinion or idea on a topic.
A great place to learn what the logical fallacies are is the Iron Chariots wiki. If you learn them well, it will open up a lot of doors as far as reasoning and understanding.
What advice do you have for our fellow atheists who have trouble figuring out what makes sense and what only sounds like it does?
pic related, mfw (my face when) I'm presented with a LF in discussion
Yes, I agree. I recently had a little verbal tussle with someone that told me I was too judgemental about Christianity and that I should not have any problem with it as long as it is not being "forced" on me. This person does belong to a religion, but not Christianity.
I told her that I understood that many people need Christianity in order to deal with the stresses in their life and that I looked at it as a double edged sword. I told her I tried to be as consciencious and diplomatic as possible when I do make criticizing remarks about Christiantiy.
I told her what I specifically objected to in Christianity is the teachings of eternal burning torment. I told her than in some instances, such teachings being taught to young children bordered on being child abuse and that there are children that do take such teachings seriously and some become emotionally damaged because of this. She was lucky to have not had that experience, unlike me.
No response from her on that.
My way is to read, read, and read some more. This taught me the most about dealing with irrational and emotional arguments from religion.
Here are some of the best ones I've read:
Godless - Barker
The New Atheism - Stenger
Letter to a Christian Nation- Harris
The End of Faith - Harris
Moral Landscape - Harris
Out of God's Closet - Stephen Uhl
The God Delusion - Dawkins
Does God Get Diarrhea -
God is not Great - Hitchens
God - Waugh
Bondage of the Mind - Gold
Each branch of education builds on another so just focusing on logic, without say mathematics will likely be less fruitful. So enhance your education as a whole...
and say goodbye to your free time!
Freethought / Skeptic Resources
I think the scientific method provides the highest quality of information. I'm not referring to isolated studies, but info from multiple studies replicating the same results.
The goal of the scientific method is not to prove a pre-existing idea (i.e. ignore all disputing evidence), but to prove OR disprove the idea (i.e. weighing supporting and disputing evidence). So in theory, science really doesn't have a dog in the race.
Also, the conclusions are not static, but ever changing as more data is collected. So, we come closer and closer to the likely truth, even though we can never say that we have found THE truth.
When I think about the best teachers for science, my immediate gut goes to Richard Dawkins & Neil DeGrasse Tyson. They are two VERY different people with very different methods. Tyson describes himself as an agnostic. Semantics, in my opinion. Dawkins allows for error in his own atheism beliefs, so I guess you could argue there's a little agnostic in him as well. But I don't think Dawkins reaches people who are Christians. If anything, I think he angers these people. That's why I look to people like Tyson who takes a different, more universal approach.
First of all, he's fun. He's not in your face. He gives you facts while cracking jokes, so he's very disarming. I think this is an important trait in a teacher. He lets you think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. I think people like David Silverman are just too aggressive in their approach. It turns people away. Tyson invites you in and welcomes you to share in his knowledge. That is important in the teaching process. We can argue our points all day long. But it's when others come to their own conclusions that change begins.
Second of all, he uses humor. Remember those atheist billboards that went up and caused all kinds of controversy? Well, I wasn't a fan of those billboards. I get what they're trying to do. But they lacked creativity. We needed something more clever. More catchy. Like those "God" billboards that say, "I miss how you used to talk to me when you were a kid-God". Funny. Disarming. But also makes you think. Those billboards were genius. It's all in the approach.
I'm not one to aggressively challenge another's belief system, because 9 times out of 10, they're not going listen to me. However, putting that scientific information out there... just laying it out in a non-aggressive, fun sort of way... well, that can make us teachers. The trick is to make a religious person really THINK. Really ask those hard questions. We have to ask ourselves how we can do that successfully.
I don't think it's possible to "make a religious person think" in the way you mean. Religious beliefs are mental disorders, not about misunderstanding of facts. I know when I was a devout Christian, anyone I may have met telling me facts about evolution, the history of religion, etc., would have been met with a stone wall...the "whole armor of God" helping me to "guard my thoughts". I recovered, though not through any actions or decisions I made. Those came AFTER I recovered. The recovery is spontaneous (a result of changes within the brain beyond anyone's intentions or directions) or it doesn't exist.
Park, this is a great topic for a thread. In fact, for me, it's why I'm here. Let's face it, try as we may or may not be trying, if we're honest with ourselves, we're really not making any progress, or if we are, certainly not enough.
In that excellent website that you linked in your post, they made a really good point (and rather than copying and pasting, the link is below). Arguing with theists is rarely successful. Regardless of the argument made, they will virtually never change their belief.
This definitely confirms my experience. I am constantly amazed by how unwavering they are, but they've usually been brainwashed since birth so that sort of bias won't be overcome easily. Having a website like that one, and many others, is a great resource. I look forward to seeing it greatly expanded and I'm sure it will over time.
For me, I recently got into an online discussion with a theist that led to "Intelligent Design". It's a farcical idea to us, but despite the idiocy of the idea to me, I couldn't think of an argument that I felt he would accept. They, generally, don't call it Creation anymore, because that is ridiculously easy to argue against. In almost all cases though with "ID", they will acknowledge the way things are, but claim a "Designer" did it (often they don't even refer to the designer as "God", I think they think it sounds more scientific that way).
I think in scenarios like that having a website that is sort of a central repository of good arguments that have worked before would be very helpful. Ultimately though, arguing one-off debates with theists, while satisfying, is time consuming and usually futile. So what's the point? It doesn't move us forward.
I don't think this approach is scalable. Question is, if individual arguments rarely work, what is a more effective strategy to get the message out on a broader scale? I think going after more rational moderate members of the public and helping them "come out" is more effective than arguing with individual hardened theists. We need to go after the low hanging fruit first.
I like the idea of signs like the one at the Lincoln Tunnel. It was effective in large part because of the media coverage. That had a gigantic multiplying affect that took the message to those who would not have otherwise have seen it. Unfortunately, it's out of the scope of this website or us as individuals, so along those lines though, what else can we as individuals do?
Small as the idea may be, something as simple as commenting on news stories online, not just "voting", every time a ridiculous religious story is in the news, could be a start. But what else can we do, as a group and as a campaign, to make a multiply affect of our efforts. How can we make measurable progress?