Strawmen Arguments Against Disbelief
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The day after Talk Back 74: Does Evil Exist? was submitted for publication, I received the following e-mail:
I thought you might like to take a crack at this one -
It's full of fallacies and misunderstandings about what it means to be agnostic, and I figured you all (who I respect very much) would do it with a better sense of humor and more logic than I would. Thanks!
Both are the same type of dialogue in which the proponent of disbelief is supposedly defeated by brilliant logic. There are quite a few floating around similar to the Talk Back submission in which the Christian student defeats the atheistic professor or teacher. These are marginally more sophisticated than "Apes, Lies, and Ms Henn" discussed in Meditation 206 -Ignorance, Lies, and Jack T Chick- Deconstructing Chick's Comics.
The other article from TrueU.org, A Place to Discover the Truth TM, turns the tables around and has the Christian professor defeat the supposed agnosticism of the student.
What is in common with both articles is that they misrepresent and grossly understate the arguments for disbelief. This allows the authors to present weak and shallow arguments for Christian belief, and still claim victory.
"Does Evil Exist?" presents the most incompetent argument against a Christian God ever made, and then uses "slippery" definitions and a weak analogy to supposedly drive the professor out of teaching. "As Though There Were No God" presents a student who is questioning belief to be agnostic, and then uses a restatement of Pascal's wager to defeat him - and without the basic courtesy of crediting Pascal. (Otherwise, the student might actually use the keyword to research arguments against Pascal.)
What is the purpose of these dialogues which any intelligent atheist or agnostic can see through - not to mention intelligent Christians who probably find them embarrassing?
I quote from the Welcome section of TrueU.org (as it was in 2006 - the site has been redesigned and refocussed to "an apologetics training series primarily geared to help prepare high school students" since then):
You've heard it before: Students enter college Christian, but graduate atheist, Buddhist, Jedi, whatever.
TrueU.org is a community for college students who want to know and confidently discuss the Christian worldview. Our hope is that you'll graduate with your faith not only intact, but stronger than it was before.
Clearly, this particular type of argument is not aimed at those who have come to a firm disbelief. It is aimed to keep the waverers in line. The argument may convince those who have doubts, but who have not done the research and thinking to solidify their uncertainty.
As for converting the true non-believer, these dialogues are useless.
- They have trademarked the phrase A Place to Discover the Truth TM. I wonder why they don't let the words stand on their own. Perhaps it is not a place to discover genuine truth.
- This site is part of Focus on the Family, so expect to find a "Christian worldview" that excludes a high proportion of Christians