My Advice About Debating With Christians
by Edward T. Babinski
Hi, I had a mini-debate with a man named Jason Gastrich. As soon as it became obvious I was doing well in a debate he booted me from his list and on a public newsgroup made remarks accusing me of making slanderous remarks. He also claimed to know you and said he was a good friend of yours. I told him I knew Ed and that post was the one that was booted from off his "forum." As soon as he starts losing he starts accusing you of using foul language. Jason also deleted a URL I made claiming it wasn't allowed, but let Charity post two of his. I just wanted to know if you knew of this man?
Hello David, (you can also pass this along to Jason and his group, or anyone else for that matter),
Jason Gastrich rings a bell from a while back, we exchanged some emails and nothing was decided between us. *smile* I strive to remain polite in most cases with everyone I meet. Hey, making enemies is easy, especially when discussing "hot" topics. Keeping the pot from boiling over is the difficult part.
I have not been on Jason's list, but of course, if you join an Evangelical Christian group you should expect the Referee's judgment calls to be at least a little slanted in favors of the Ref's favorite team. I have noticed that most Evangelical websites I've visited, notably the young-earth creationist ones, and the hard line conservative apologetics ones, do not provide links to "heretical" sites of fellow Christians (like old earth creationists! or moderate historical Bible scholars), let alone links to freethought sites that question the Bible's history, science, etc. While the freethought sites do tend to provide links to conservative Christian sites. *smile*
When worse comes to worse in an email conversation there are a few things you can do:
1) Take a long walk or shoot some hoops, take a deep breath, stretch, and only dive back in after you're calm, relaxed and refreshed -- keeping in mind that taking whatever you do 'too seriously' is also one of the signs of an imminent nervous breakdown. *smile*
2) Remind yourself that you're just one person, you can't change the world, and that people are addicted to their beliefs, they identify their beliefs with their own egos and defend them like their own children, and that the mind of man is wonderfully versatile at inventing the most imaginative excuses rather than admit things it doesn't want to admit.
3) Keep in mind that people avoid change until the pain of remaining the same is greater than the pain of changing.
4) Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance.
5) The only books or ideas that usually influence us are those which have gone just a little bit further down our particular path than we have gone ourselves.
The wisdom of Line 5) may explain why most people, Christians included, do not usually seek to debate those with views near their own, they usually prefer people with views further from their own. There is less chance of such views connecting with their own and altering them. (Kind of like the way an immune cell needs SOMETHING to latch onto on the surface of an invading bacterium before it can interact with it and destroy it.) If young-earth creationist Biblical inerrantists debated mostly old-earth creationist Biblical inerrantists their interactions would have the most chance of being the most friendly and productive. But neither side really wants that. They want to destory the "infidels" who live far off in the distant land of evolutionary biology. *smile* It's more fun to hack your way through a thick jungle of views you differ with much more, cutting and slashing the thick vines in your way with your machette.
Oddly enough, Evangelical inerrantist Christians agree they have an inerrant perfect book along with the Holy Spirit "leading them into all truth," but even with those two BONUSES, they can't get fellow Evangelical inerrantists to agree on the meaning of a host of verses in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
It seems that they should tackle their fellow brethren, those who agree with inerrancy and the Holy Spirit's truth leading ability, i.e., before trying to convert others who don't share those two HUGE supernatural bonuses. I mean, theoretically it should be a piece of cake getting brethren to agree on lesser matters of Biblical interpretation if they first agreed that they had a perfect book, and they both prayed beforehand for the same Holy Spirit to guide them both into ALL truth. Yet in practice, conservative inerrantist Christians have a habit of not even being able to get along with fellow members of their own denominations. It's been that way since Calvin and Luther didn't get along (Luther thought Calvin's view of the Eucharist was "damnable" and threatened people with hell who agreed with it). See the first website below.
Dialogue: John Calvin's Letter to Philip Melanchthon Concerning Protestant Divisions: Its Nature, Intent, and Larger Implications
Martin Luther the "Super-Pope" and de facto Infallibility With Extensive Documentation From Luther's Own Words
The Protestant Inquisition ("Reformation" Intolerance and Persecution)
John Calvin (what a guy)
Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor (an entire BOOK on the web)
I would also add that Europe was set ablaze by hosts of armed Christians who agreed with both the Trinity and Young Earth Creationism, but still wacked at each other for thirty years of perhaps the bloodiest battles Europe has ever seen, Catholic nation against Protestant nation. Oh well.
EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE THIRTY YEARS WAR (THE THIRTY YEARS WAR? WHAT'S THAT?)
By the division of Christianity at the Reformation, religious authority itself became the cause of conflict. The Protestant states thereafter rejected the right of the Universal Church to judge their actions, while the Catholic states took that rejection as grounds to make war against them in clear conscience. The outcome was the Thirty Years War, the worst thus far in European history, which may have killed a third of the German-speaking peoples and left Central Europe devastated for much of the seventeenth century.
- John Keegan, War and Our World (the Reith Lectures, 1998, broadcast on the BBC, recorded at the Royal Institution, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, King's College, London)
Herbert Langer in The Thirty Years' War, says that more than one quarter of Europe's population died as a result of those thirty years of slaughter, famine and disease. Ironically, the majority of Europeans who killed each other shared such orthodox Christian beliefs as Jesus' deity, the Trinity, and even "creationism." So you cannot blame the horrific spectacle of the Thirty Years' War on modern day scapegoats like atheism, humanism or the theory of evolution. Such a war demonstrates that getting nations to agree on major articles of faith does not ensure peace, far from it. Some of the most intense rivalries exist between groups whose beliefs broadly resemble one another but differ in subtle respects.
The Thirty Years' War was the last great religious war in Europe. Starting as a civil war between Protestants and Catholics in Germany, it burst into flame in 1618 when Protestants in Prague stormed the royal palace and threw the [Catholic] governors out the window (they landed on a pile of manure and survived). Shocked, Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II sent troops into Prague to force all Protestants into exile, leading the Protestant king of Denmark, Christian IV, to attack Ferdinand in Saxony. The battle then raged through France, Germany, and Sweden with nations and religious groups fighting a long series of battles over both territory and theology. - Jerry MacGregor & Marie Prys, 1001 Surprising Things You Should Know About Christianity
The underlying causes of this devastating, general European war were conflicts of religion: Protestant verses Roman Catholic reform, pluralistic tolerance versus arbitrary imposition of faith, Lutheranism and Calvinism and the Protestant Union versus the Catholic League. - George Childs Kohn, "Thirty Years' War" (1618-48), Dictionary of Wars, rev. ed.
There was a time [during the Reformation] when religion played an all-powerful role in European politics with Protestants and Catholics organizing themselves into political factions and squandering the wealth of Europe on sectarian wars. English liberalism emerged in direct reaction to the religious fanaticism of the English Civil War. Contrary to those who at the time believed that religion was a necessary and permanent feature of the political landscape, liberalism vanquished religion in Europe. After a centuries-long confrontation with liberalism, religion was taught to be tolerant.
In the sixteenth century, it would have seemed strange to most Europeans not to use political power to enforce belief in their particular sectarian faith. Today, the idea that the practice of religion other than one's own should injure one's own faith seems bizarre, even to the most pious churchmen. Religion has been relegated to the sphere of private life -- exiled, it would seem, more or less permanently from European political life except on certain narrow issues like abortion.
Religion per se did not create free societies; Christianity in a certain sense had to abolish itself through a secularization of its goals before liberalism could emerge.
Political liberalism in England ended the religious wars between Protestant and Catholic that had nearly destroyed that country during the seventeenth century: with its advent, religion was defanged by being made tolerant.
- Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man