Had an Argument With an Atheist last week...

So last weekend I was out with my friends at a fire we were having, and I don’t know how it happened but he brought something up about Religion and I challenged him. Before I knew it it devolved into him dropping all kinds of ridiculous claims about the Church.

Now, non of it was anything that I haven’t heard before. One of my dad’s atheist friends had challenged me a couple years prior and the end result was the same “you don’t agree with me therefore you must be brainwashed/indoctrinated.”

I want to bring up some of the claims in this thread, although I have an inkling as to how to respond to them I want to get them out and get some comments on them here.

Here they are in no particular order:

There is no god, big bang caused by chemicals (fails to understand the argument from contingency)
Science has the answer to everything/will prove everything it doesn’t answer eventually
The bible is full of contradictions
The bible says women have to marry rapists
Catholic Church supported the Nazi’s
Catholic Church did nothing to help the Jews during the holocaust
Catholic Church is responsible for Canada’s residential schools
Catholic schools in general have been responsible for indoctrinating children (fails to understand they supported the sciences)
Catholics made use of torture/forced conversion in the crusader
Priest sex abuse scandal and how the Catholic Church protected/supports pedophile priests (this always comes up, even years after it happend)
Communist china/USSR and so on were bad because of corruption and only corruption
Religion is the enemy of civilization (even though every civilization up till now has been religious)
Church made use of torture in the inquisitions
Religion has caused the most wars/conflicts in history
Religion is discriminatory towards Gay’s/intolerant
Church oppresses women…
Church supports aids by not promoting condoms
All evidence that points to abstinence programs being more successful than condoms is bad science and/or indoctrination.

Another interesting thing is that when I asked him about all the modern academics and scholars who were Catholic such as Scott Hahn, Peter Kreeft, Alister Mcintyre and others, his response was actually to tell me that they somehow can’t be trusted because their religious beliefs somehow prevent them from being objective. (his exact words were more like “their religion makes them crazy”)

And the list goes on, I can’t remember it all. He was listing it all so fast and wouldn’t listen to anything in return. Eventually he just stopped listening and sarcastically agreed with everything I said, providing no reasoned argument or refutation.

As far as reading goes I know a good book that confronts a lot of these issues is Why Catholics Are Right by Michael Coren.

I’m hoping to get an overall discussion going about this though, it just boggles my mind that these people can have such a revisionist view of history and be so closed minded. I even suspect he may have blocked me on certain social networks we used to use. Even though I’ve never bothered him about his atheist beliefs, now that he knows I’m a Catholic he somehow can’t be friends with me anymore. It’s all just so typical of all these Dawkins/Hitchens atheists these days…

Ultimately in cases like this it is fruitless to go point-for-point with the person making the argument. For one, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim, that’s just common sense. Can he demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that his claims are true? Unless he can, he’s just taking a shotgun approach. For another, arguing point by point is a bit like fighting the Hydra–for every head you lop off, three more grow back in its place. For every question you answer, he will likely have a comeback or five or else a whole new set of questions, just to get the focus off of the answer you gave. You can try to keep arguing down the same line of questioning, but ultimately there is a far better approach.

The best way to engage the people who think like this (and this goes for Biblical fundamentalists too) is not so much to hit the talking points, but to find the intellectual system which allows those points to seemingly flourish. If you can hit the more fundamental arguments–engaging the entire way that your interlocutor sees and interacts with the world, all the presuppositions that go along with that–you will be more successful. It sounds like a daunting task, but it’s basically looking at a broad-spectrum worldview instead of particular talking points or axes to grind. The comment you make about the person not being aware of the argument from contingency is sort of what I’m getting here–if the person is trying to say chemicals created the world (whatever that means), don’t ask what chemicals or how they did it–instead look at the more fundamental presupposition, that there is not or could not, in his mind, be a God who created all things, or that there would have to be a first cause to the chemicals, that infinite regression is impossible.


Honestly, you’re best bet is to write him off. People like that refuse to listen to anything but what they want to hear, they are blind to reason and logic and will do nothing more but drag you towards the sin of wrath. If they were actually willing to engage in logical debate and were willing to learn rather than just assault, then I’d say keep working on them. Since they are not, you should just pray for them, because that’ll do more good than all the logical and rational discourse on the planet.

Only God can heal someone like that.

Arguing with people like that always makes my blood boil over. If you’re the same way, try offering up your anger to God as a prayer for the person your arguing with. Whatever you do, don’t explode at them, because to them, it’ll just be an acknowledgment that they are “right.”

Tell him that you want him to ask those same questions/make those accusations to another person…Who? he will ask. Tell him: to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament inside the Church. If he refuses to go into the Church…pray for him…but get away from him. as a friend. If he goes in and does repeat his beliefs/accusations…watch him closely…something will happen…something always happens to a person of hardened intellect…heart…soul when he comes into Jesus’ Presence. Then write you phone number on a piece of paper and give it to him…and tell him when he needs a sponsor…to call you…would like to be his sponsor.

Pax Christi

Hmm. Reason can explain everything, but he is not interested in listening to reason. His statements are what I call bumper-sticker philosophies, so if your counter argument doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker, I doubt you will get anywhere. However, you might try asking him how the universe got into a reduced state of entropy. :stuck_out_tongue:

This is the problem I have found when trying to educate an atheist. They already have their minds made up, they will not listen to reason and all you’re going to do is get aggravated because you’ll feel as if you’re talking to a brick wall. Pray for him instead. Ask our Lord to touch his heart. That’s pretty much all you can do. Leave it to God - He can handle it far better than any of us can. :wink:

It does seem like he hit you with the shotgun approach. When this happens to me, I simply refuse to discuss more than one issue at a time. I would recommend this approach with him.

Next time he throws out a long list of complaints, tell him to pick one and, if he’s truly the rational one here, to present his position to you clearly and logically and wait for your rebuttal. If he doesn’t, then I personally (with a friend with whom this sort of thing is normal) would get sarcastic with him and start praising his awesome reasoning skills, then emulating him by throwing out a long list of bogus reasons why men must never have made it to the moon, and (sarcastically) act like you just proved to him how ridiculous such a claim is.

It is also true that a point by point may not be likely to immediately change his mind, but it may be possible, by presenting informed and intelligent argument, to convince him that we’re not as crazy as he thinks we are. If this happens often enough, it may be possible to erode the crazy assumption enough until he actually thinks about what we think - that is really only ever my goal. I’ve never convinced anyone to convert, but I have convinced a couple atheists that theism in general and Catholicism in particular isn’t completely ridiculous, and a couple protestants that Catholics are more than Mary worshiping brainwashed idolaters.

A few answers -

  1. Whether or not there is a physical explanation for the big bang is irrelevant to the first cause/contingency arguments. These arguments were around before the idea of the big bang existed (also note that it was a Catholic priest who came up with that theory).

  2. Simply false, and any scientist worth the name will tell you this. For example, science (by which I mean empirical observations and conclusions drawn from them) will not answer the question “is there meaning to anything?” ever. Furthermore, such empirical science doesn’t actually prove anything at all, since giving even 10000s of examples of a statement holding does not prove that it always holds. (Which is not to say that science isn’t good, only that it has limits.)

Bible stuff - his interpretation is not our interpretation, and if he thinks it says things we don’t, then he’s arguing against a religion which does not exist.

Nazi stuff - common but false misconception. Many, many Jews were hidden in monasteries and seminaries. It could be argued (perhaps correctly) that the Church should have done more to oppose the Nazis, I suppose, but to do so would require presenting what it was they should have done and did not do. But the idea that the Church supported the Nazis is simply wrong.

Catholic Schools do indoctrination - presumes that Catholicism is false and that the teachers know this.

Catholicism is anti-science - just wrong. As mentioned, a Catholic priest came up with the Big Bang, a Catholic Monk (abbot eventually) started genetics, and… well the list goes on. The Church is and has been pro-science in general. Galileo, before he asks, was more a political/insulting your ruler matter, and was very much an exception.

Civilization issues - every time an atheist civilization has been tried that I am aware of, even going back to the French Revolution, the result has been mass murder, and torturing and imprisonment of people who disagree. Religious based nations have messed up - people will always mess up - but to claim that religion is the cause is silly, since no non-religious civilization has ever done better.

Oppresses women/antigay/etc - presumes the Church is wrong from the beginning. It is not wrong to refuse to attempt to ordain women if it is not possible, it is not wrong to say that homosexual acts are wrong if they are. It is not wrong to say that condoms should not be used to accomplish goals if the use of condoms is morally wrong.

“All evidence that points to abstinence programs being more successful than condoms is bad science and/or indoctrination.” - Prove it. If he can’t, he’s the indoctrinated one if he believes this. There is also the question - successful at what? Personally, I think preventing premarital sex should be the prime goal, and clearly he’d be wrong there.

Replace the words “an atheist” with the words “a Catholic” and this is almost word for word what an atheist friend said to me recently.

You’re not going to convert and atheist nor are you going to change the beliefs of a Catholic by using reason. Getting caught up in such arguments really is a total waste of time.

I’d ask him what is the REAL reason he hates religion and the thought of God. Because all these comments are just the justifications he has surrounded that hate with.

Honestly, he doesn’t sound like a rational person. I’m not saying he isn’t in general, but on the subject of religion and God I would say he is simply not rational.

If you want to talk further with him, remember two very important words: PROVE IT. He doesn’t just get to squirt charges at you like a box of fireworks going off all at once.

The other thing to do is to focus laser-like on one objection at a time, and refuse to let him change the subject until that one objection has been dealt with.

With mad passion, I love it. :bowdown:

I used to debate atheists on youtube and spent hours researching answers to give them; it does not come to anything because they either then ignore it or do not believe it. Some atheists are angry or uninterested in religion and some are interested in having a pleasant dialogue about religion

No, Catholic beliefs are supported by reason. You won’t convince a sufficiently educated Catholic because Catholicism makes sense.

Talk to a Catholic and you might get any number of different topics of conversation depending on what kind of philosophy or theology they are familiar with.

Atheism is really based on only a few real philosophers, and I would not consider people like Hitches to be anywhere close to the greats because he/they rely on emotion in a lot of cases to prove his points. For example, they will say “evolution is a fact, and if you don’t believe in it then you are out of touch with reality.” They completely ignore the fact that micro-evolution is the only 100% factual and provable part of evolution, things like genetic drift are observable phenomena.

Practically no serious scientist believes in Darwinian evolution anymore, there is a far stronger case for a punctuated equilibrium theory. Mainly because there is so little evidence supporting the existence of crossover species. But notice how it took me a whole paragraph to explain this? It’s just another example of a bumper sticker philosophy as another poster brought up. Instead, Hitchens will say things like “the Church is the enemy of civilization because they deny evolution, they are my enemy and I will fight them,” as I have heard him say in debates numerous times.

Even most modern philosophers that are taught in secular Universities believed in some sort of a god, with a few exceptions of course. I think that both Atheism and Catholicism require faith to believe in, but they are in no way comparable philosophies.

Baloney! I grew up in a Catholic home. Endured 12 years of Catholic education. Go to mass every Sunday. Believe in God and much of what the Church teaches. But not an iota of it is supported by reason. It’s all based on faith. I’m OK with that.

Reason based off faith for the most part - but then everything is, even if it’s only faith in the idea that if you get the same result after trying something 20,000 times in a row that you’ll probably also get that result on 20,001st time.

What you say is simply not true. The Church teaches doctrinally that one can know of the existence of God through natural reason alone. And certainly even non-Christians have acknowledged throughout history that the natural law (which is God’s law) can be known through natural reason alone.

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