An alternative to debating with people about God/religion...
Hi, I'm sure most of you have argued with a theist about God/religion and I'm sure most of you failed to get the theist to concede any of your arguments - I certainly have.
I have an alternative method. I think it's most effective not to offer arguments as to why religion is silly. Instead, I just treat it as a silly idea - the same way I would treat any other silly idea (regardless of how many people believe it).
I just smirk a bit and say "What are you on about? That's just silly!"
This has a few advantages over trying to show the idea to be silly:
It doesn't allow them to instead attack your arguments, and ignore the idea in question (Is their religion true or false?) - which is what usually happens.
It forces them into a position where they have to show why it is not a silly idea - which almost never happens.
The conversation almost has to go something like:
They pretty much have to provide proof or evidence (I don't think there is any), or just insist that they're right. If they provide proof or evidence (I don't think they will) then I'll stop being an atheist. If they just insist on being right, I'll maintain my original premise.
This method assumes that observers (and the person you're arguing with if you're lucky) realise that it's up to the claimer to prove the idea, not the denier to dis-prove it. I think most people know this much... unless they're all dyed-in-the-wool-faith-heads, in which case it's probably pointless to try.
I have actually been successful with this method (albeit I've only tried once): Whilst having dinner with 3 others (all fairly easy going Muslims), I induced the least faithful of them to remark, half-jokingly, "Stop it Matt! You'll turn me into an atheist!". A few months later, she was actively chastising the other two about their faith. I don't expect it was entirely down to me, but I like to think I may have been a factor.
And all this without 'strident' arguing. I'm not saying that arguing is of no value, but consider giving them a chance to tie the noose for themselves first.
Any views? (I'll be happy to argue my point!)