Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back to Basics: Debating the uninformed

Sometimes I'm just stuck for what to blog about.  Many arguments against religion, alt medicine, anti-vaccination are so basic and have been used for so long that I wonder what it is going to take to get people to start thinking.

The recent Pew study that showed that atheists and agnostics have a greater knowledge about religion than the religious is pretty telling of what I should be blogging about - the basic arguments.  It is often clear in my daily discussions that many "believers" haven't even thought about some of the main concepts and doctrines of their own religion so when they are faced with a rebuttal to a new-age-ish philosophical argument their faith is unchanged.  I think the same can be said for alt-med acceptance and other odd beliefs.

Maybe it is truly time to get back to the basics.  Maybe a simple understanding or explanation of the elementary aspects is what we really need to be doing.  Maybe I've missed out on opportunities to get someone to think simply by making an argument that is far more complicated than anything they think they'll ever spend the time/energy to comprehend (nothing against that, there are times when I wish I didn't feel the need to understand the justification for things - ask my wife, sometimes she'll lose me for hours as I try to find out WHY it is that something might be true or WHY it is that something works).

The Pew Study is a great place to start - and to expand on some of the questions.  Here are some simple arguments (or ideas) that I think we often skip right past and they're ones that might just be ones people haven't thought about. (This list is obviously not exhaustive.)

When discussing evolution with a Catholic who doesn't accept evolution, maybe a simple reminder (it turns out that maybe it isn't a reminder) that the Catholic church accepts evolution.  They also accept that the earth is billions of years old.  (That leads to Adam & Eve not existing - what does that mean for original sin? The creation of the earth in 7 days? World-wide flood?)

For people who suggest that the universe needed a creator and that creator was "god", ask them what created god?  If god, himself, didn't need a creator, then why must the universe have needed one?  You are forced with the ultimate regression (what created god? what created that? what created that?) - at some point something would have had to come to being without a creator.  To postulate a god is to complicate things unnecessarily.

Questions relating to god's ability to do anything and the idea that prayer works:  Why doesn't god heal amputees?  If other species are able to do it (as George Hrab said - You can cut off a starfish's limb and not only will it grow back but that fucker will never mouth off to you again.) why couldn't humans?

Many are not aware that the stories about Christ were not written by eyewitnesses - it wasn't even written by people who were alive at the time that the events supposedly happened.

Speaking of the Christian bible, I often am discussing it with people who don't even realize that it wasn't compiled until hundreds of years later.  Depending on your faith, the bible contains a varying number of books too - if it is the word of god, do you think he's pissed that people are leaving out some of his books (or including books that aren't his word)?

The bible doesn't state that Adam ate an apple.  It doesn't even specify the fruit - many Christians are surprised to learn that (especially after claiming that they've read the bible many times).

There is no supporting evidence outside of the bible of Jesus' existence.  There wasn't a census around the time of Jesus' birth and, even if there was, it'd be no reason for Joseph to have headed "home" - Jesus wasn't from Joseph's bloodline (immaculate conception) and, if he was, the logic fails as to why you would be counted where your ancestors (many generations removed) lived.

Jesus wasn't born on December 25 (if he even ever existed, that is) - Christmas was moved to that date to coincide (take over?) the pagan holidays of the time.  The bible clearly (ha!) states when Jesus was born and it wasn't December 25!

Simple bits of information can be provided to dismantle other beliefs as well:

Have a belief in homeopathy?  Do you know that many homeopathic "medicines" are so dilute that they can't simply contain a single molecule of the supposed active ingredient? 

Ionic Foot Cleanse?  When you go for your foot cleanse, don't put your feet in and the water will change colour just as it does if you put your feet in.

Ear Candling?  Burn the candle without putting it in an ear - the same "debris" and "wax" will result.

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