In a discussion held by the New Covenant Group, participant Steve Shives was invited by way of introduction to give an example of his experience and attitude toward religion, from the point of view of an atheist.  What he came up with was a distillation of his research and analysis of the apologist texts he has read and dismantled in his "An Atheist Reads" series on YouTube.  That distillation was in the form of six tricks, six bullet points which he has found in common in each book he has investigated to date.

These points are interesting in that they are more prevalent in religious argument and apologetics (if not unique to them), unlike ad hominem or ad populum or other fallacious argumentative techniques which may be found as much outside of religious debate as within it.  To me, they also reflect the inherent dishonesty of apologetics, because they ARE tricks, they are manipulations rather than sound arguments which have their basis in fact and/or evidence.

That said, here they are:

  • Argue in a circle (assume the bible is reliable).
    "The bible is true because the bible says so or someone IN the bible says so."
  • Shift the burden of proof off of the apologist and onto the skeptic.
    “You can’t prove that god doesn’t exist!”
  • Accuse skeptics of anti-supernatural bias. 
    Funny thing - "anti-supernatural bias" is what we would call: "Naturalism!"  Miracles are anything BUT natural ... and "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
  • Claim the believable as evidence for the unbelievable. 
    Jericho existed, therefore Joshua brought it down.  If that's the case, then New York City exists, therefore Spiderman exists?!?
  • Preserve biblical infallibility by referring to the original autographs.
    WHAT "original autographs?!?"  Anyone found 'em yet?
  • When all else fails, make something up. 
    C. S. Lewis: the concept of sequential time as viewed by humans vs. simultaneous time as seen by god.  This concept is not found in the bible; it was made up by Lewis.

The above said, I would like to open the floor to discussion.  Are these the ONLY tricks apologists use, outside of those I mentioned earlier?  Are there any less used, but just as pernicious?  Is there any means they might employ that would finally give them a leg to stand on?

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Good summary!  But I'm not Christian, and I wonder how Jews justify the dazzlingly supernatural events and barbaric punishments of the Old Testament, esp. the Torah they revere.  One way Jewish apologists lie is to give something extra credibility by saying that it is in the Torah, when it is not - it occurs in the Talmud or later commentaries.   

The more I read about this subject, the more I believe it's not the quality of the argument: it's what your brain tells you to believe, on the basis of its predilections and programming.  Justifications come later.  It doesn't matter if they make no sense to the skeptic.

Interesting point, Alan.  I haven't read or heard of any Jewish apologetics, nor am I aware that any exist.  If they do, they may constitute a completely separate discussion, which might be very interesting in its own way.

Maybe it takes a completely different form, since Judaism isn't that big on faith and doubt. This much I know: You can believe the Bible literally, metaphorically, quasi-historically, or anywhere in between.  No church hierarchy or dogma!   To extinguish doubt, read the right rabbinical authorities - they have all the answers.

Accuse your atheist discussion partner of being unable to understand the xtian way of thinking because of atheist agression against poor xtians.

Deliberately misunderstand the difference between atheist and the antichrist (whatever that may be), so you can depict xtians as victims.

That's a common one - if you can't dazzle 'em with footwork, baffle 'em with bullshit.  Yeah ... been there, done that ... and they don't like it when you point what they're doing out to them, either!

Thanks, Chris.

Yes, another tool of repression -- through the reverse psychology of victimhood.  "War on Christmas" makes me gag.




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