I have extensively read both atheist and Christian literature, their blogs, journals and books, along with listening to their videos and podcasts.
I'm glad. I keep hoping that something will finally click.
What I have discovered is that most people are preaching to the choir. They do not step inside each others shoes to understand where they are coming from. They do not meet on common ground, assume common assumptions, and common understandings. They are talking past one another like ships that proverbially pass each other in the night. Instead, they are speaking to people on their own side more than anything else, who seek to confirm what they have already come to accept. There is a time and a place for this, I admit. But I see it almost everywhere I look. More often than not each side speaks from a position without trying to really understand the position of the people they are trying to reach. I’ve thought a lot about this, so in the interest of starting up this conversation let me offer ten ways how to resist preaching to the choir, with specific reference to how skeptics/atheists can do this.
I agree, but the faceplant is that Loftus himself and many of the frequent commenters and contributors to Debunking Christianity do the exact same things.
1) Understand science, theology, and philosophy better than believers do. This is a tough one if you do not have the requisite knowledge. The more knowledgeable you are then the better your efforts will be, and that’s all I can say about it. You must want to learn about these subjects. You must read the requisite literature, lots of it. If you’re not willing to put the time and effort into this then I understand, but the more you do the more effective you will be.
The problem here is that I don't see how Loftus' or any of the other people on Debunking Christianity are better equipped than the Apologists, Theologians, Scientists, and Scholars who disagree with them. William Lane Craig, JP Moreland, Mary Jo Sharp, James White, RC Sproul, David Heddle, and many many others are very capable (not even counting the multitude of people who's work we still have access to although they are dead.
2) Grant as much as you possibility can allow for the sake of argument. Don’t major on the minors or engage every little objection you can think of if the objections are not to the heart of the issue. Say something like, "Okay, I’ll grant for the sake of argument that there was a historical figure behind the Jesus cult and that the early disciples believed he had bodily raised from the dead” if you can. It doesn’t hurt to allow this, for even then there are still plenty of reasons for not believing Jesus was bodily raised up from the dead. Do what I have done:
Did Paul Conceive of a Resurrected body?
The Jesus in the Gospels Never Existed.
Does he mean loose every moderated public debate he's been in? There is not plenty of reason to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and one should not grant that Jesus existed and his followers believed he was raised from the dead for the sake of argument because these are historical facts. Why grant something that is not true? Interesting Loftus would say this because people like Dr Robert Price would not even admit this much. Oh and check out his links, laughter is good for the soul.
3) Adopt the principle of charity when dealing with a believer’s argument. Assume the argument in it’s best form even if stated badly. No strawman caricatures.
If only Loftus would practice that.
If you are unclear what the argument is, then ask the believer to clarify it. Use the Socratic dialogue where you ask the believer something like this: “Are you saying that because science has not discovered the answer to this question that therefore you can insert the god of your choice?” Then if the answer is yes, you can go on to ask, “What justifies you inserting your god at this point when there are so many conceptions of god to insert?”
I don't think a Bible believing Christian would have to answer "Yes" because I would want to know why would science being able to answer how something takes place would erase the need for God? Science can't tell you the purpose or meaning. Dawkins instinctively realizes this but hides and instead asserted once that "WHY?" was a silly question. Inserting anything that isn't true makes no sense. Theory and hypothesis is fine, but somethings you should want to be certain about.
4) Use the Bible against the believer. For most Christians the Bible forms the basis, or part of the basis, for what they believe. Therefore inform them of what it says. It debunks itself if properly understood.
I still have yet to see this done on Debunking Christianity. I've seen great straw man and butchering of the text however.
In doing this you should properly understand what it says.
The better you understand the Christian responses to their own Bible passages then the better you can press home your points. You just cannot quote the Bible when believers have been thinking about the Bible for nearly two millennia. We don't accept quote mining from Christians. So why should educated Christians accept quote mining from us?
I find great Biblical illiteracy on Debunking Christianity in general and from John Loftus in particular. When you correct them in what they are saying about the Bible, instead of disagreeing with you about what it says, they say, "You can't prove the Bible with the Bible." They should realize that you can't disprove the Bible with the Bible, especially if you are going to misquote and misrepresent it.
5) Use other Christianities against each other, something I do quite frequently. That way it's not an atheist argument, so-called, at all. The arguments are coming from other believers. See this here:
When Christians Criticize Each Other They Are All Right.
How To Debunk Christianity.
Another point that I've never seen John Loftus consistently model. Besides on essentials, born-again Christians don't disagree and on those other things, they aren't worth Christians fighting over and hating one another.. No one is going to go to hell over them. Anyone disagrees, name an essential doctrine that Christians fight over that really matter about what it means to be a Christian?
6) Don’t claim more than what an argument leads us to conclude. The problem of evil, for instance, does not lead a believer to atheism.
I agree, but this means that some current atheists and agnostics must disagree because they claimed that they were true Christians but "the problem of evil" caused them to reason that their faith was in vain. Nice to see that wasn't John Loftus' case. However the statement supports the theist's position more than it does Loftus' view. It refutes people like Dr Bart Ehrman. Great Job, Mr Loftus.
If successful it only shows that one or more of the attributes normally thought to apply to western monotheistic gods is false.
I have never seen it successfully used and certainly not be John Loftus.
Such a god may exist who is less than good, less than omniscient, or less than all-powerful.
Then that god is not the God of the Bible. John Loftus keeps asserting this but never manages to give good evidence for it beyond his flawed premises and presuppositions.
7) Whenever possible admit when you hadn’t considered something before.
I wonder if Loftus ever has done that?
If you learn from believers something you hadn’t considered before then be a human being towards them and admit it. Be nice. It has a way of softening tensions. It allows believers to see us as real flesh and blood people. It makes them a bit at ease to discuss things with us. None of us know it all. So admit it if possible. It will go a long way toward reaching out to them.
I think that should go both ways. However, I really would like to see how Loftus has ever done that.
8) Treat the views of believers with a modicum of respect. Why not? I realize this is very hard to do.
Must be why I've never seen Loftus do that.
I also recognize we cannot always do this, nor is it always the best policy, nor have I always done it myself.
But when you are engaged in an argument with a believer if you wish to try, really try, to meet him or her on common ground then you must do this if your goal is to help change their minds.
Then I guess its not really Loftus' goal and he enjoys "preaching to the choir".
9) Treat believers as persons with a modicum of dignity. After all, they are people, just as you are. I like to treat people I meet on the net as if we were having a discussion over coffee or a beer. That’s the goal.
Again, I've never seen Loftus model that. Sure would like to, however.
I know none of us do that all the time. Sometimes people have a history of dealings with each other where this is probably impossible. But it’s still something to aim at.
Because none of us ever manages to do it completely, although the Bible tells us we should do so (and stipulation is made regarding the subject matter) we are all sinners in need of a savior because we are unable to live lives free of sin. When we don't esteem others higher than ourselves, we sin. That doesn't mean we don't point out error or never disagree or not stand up for what is right, but it does mean to treat others with dignity. I think some people think that saying someone's argument is a failure, or wrong, or is a "faceplant" or induces a "facepalm" is disrespectful but I don't think so. I think it is disrespectful to insult another person's intelligence, misrepresent them (refusing correction), or using profanity. If it's truly John Loftus' goal to be respectful and kind he truly misses the mark. Recall that in Hebrew, the word for "sin" literally means "missing the mark".
10) Go to where believers are found. I don’t personally do this much myself.
I think it's because Loftus knows his arguments really don't carry any weight. It's okay to be honest.
Sometimes they come to me here at DC.
And it really is filled with people who really don't want a dialogue but instead want to just rail and rant about what the only think Christianity is and not what it truly is.
But if you want to reach out to believers then you need to meet them on their ground.
Which means we have to agree about what the Bible says and then we can get to whether it was true or not. But I have yet to interact with anyone from Debunking Christianity who is willing to do that. It's a waste of time commenting there.
If you’re preaching to the choir inside your own conclave then you’re in the wrong place if you want to reach out to them.
There you have it. John Loftus says he wants to reach out to evangelical Christians and convince them that Christianity is wrong, yet he safely preaches to the Choir and does not practice what he says are the ways to avoid just preaching to the Choir.
Debunking Christianity: Ten Ways How To Resist Preaching to the Choir