People with true faith in God should refrain from attempting to prove their faith. Yes, some people may believe that what they believe is powerful, that others may find greater joy in by accepting the reality of God, or that there is great peril in not believing in God. The truth is conversion can be forced through violence, as has occurred throughout history, but true faith is an act of free will. Each individual has to make the choice. What follows is longer statement on why you may want to avoid having debates with atheists regarding God or religion.
People who are atheist have made their choice. They can change their mind as anyone can. Given the information that is available about God they have to come to an acceptance of God on their own. If they are to choose, it must be done willingly.
In all humility, a person who believes in God must be prepared to say that what they believe is a personal, subjective experience, that they cannot prove. When faced with the occasion to debate the merits of religion/belief in God versus secularism/atheism, it is best to concede to those who embrace a rational, critical way of viewing the world that no objective argument can be issued to emphasize faith.
Face to face, in real life, I’ve had more exposure to learned theologians with divinity and philosophy degrees than I have atheists. In the online world, just the opposite. Online, I see more arguments expressed by atheists. Part of that has to do with the reality that some parts of the internet are predisposed to rational discussions. The written word, as opposed to spoken, is far more subject to evaluation and review. Written words must make sense and the ideas expressed must correspond closely to the discussion at hand. That favors a rationalist discourse.
I came to this view through two experiences. First, was my own. I was invited by an atheist to discuss my criticism of secularism. It seemed innocent enough, but quickly devolved into a parsing of words. I put a stop to it by acknowledging that the discussion may have no clear outcome or productive result. Second, I read a promising defense of faith by a person with a masters in theology only to see them end up, through a torturous process of back and forth discussion, with their premise for “the meaning of words” obliterated.
Divinity studies can inform a person a great deal about the vast body of knowledge that comprise the discussion of God, in favor of God. When converted into sermons, books, and public statements of positions on faith, the audience often is receptive to the information provided. Persons frequently on the receiving end of such statements are understandably one-sided in their evolved perspective. You cannot fathom the depths to which someone can hold contrary views to what you believe because that is not your focus. Concerning atheists, you have a group who have studied your views, beliefs, history in detail and have made a considerable investment in understanding flaws, perceived or real, in what and how you believe. For most people, discussing faith with such persons will generally be an uneven conversation.
What drives atheism? I cannot say with the exact certainty of a researcher. Based on my informal observation of nearly a hundred web postings by atheists, my intuition is that many atheistic transitions begins with anger. Often, the anger is hidden. Somewhere in a person’s childhood, a religious figure or someone they trust who was closely affiliated with a religion either wronged them in some way or enabled a situation that caused them great distress or violation. The result was a developed response to oppose religion and project that original pain onto others who hold religious beliefs.
In that case, debating an atheist is like going into what you think is a casual conversation, but the person on the other side is fervently opposed to what you believe. To be fair, the opposite can be true of those of faith who may use their belief to suppress the free expression of others. Other atheistic transitions are genuine. People do exist who simply cannot accept the reality of God.
Now, look at it from another point of view. You are a person of faith, and someone approaches you to try to convince you that your belief in God is a state of delusion. If you speak to some atheists, you will get the impression that speaking about God authentically and genuinely also has the appearance that something’s not quite right with you mentally. In other words, if you are a true believer, you may appear nuts to some people. Disregard that impression. Nevertheless, if you are fully aware, you can get that impression. It doesn’t matter unless your goal is to achieve high rank in this world. Otherwise, be yourself.
I deal with computer technology. I am studied in rational thinking and pure logic. When working with technology, I am fully capable of taking all emotion out of my activities. One atheist wrote an article last year where he described a friend of his who is a physicist. This friend is totally capable of doing science with complete rationality, scientific process, and meet empirical standards in their work. This physicist believes in God and can totally separate their rational mindset in their physics work from their belief in God. I am the same way.
In my view, there is a rational basis for the existence of God, but it is not a commonly observable reality for all people at the same time. Indeed, it is not an aspect of objective reality that can be described by the standards of observational science. Rather, it is a rationalization. I’ve expressed this rationalization by way of innuendo in past articles on this website, but I am not presently disposed to describing it in a singular, overt way in a posting. I do not plan to do so this year.
In the meantime, I do not think it advised at all to debate belief with those who do not believe. The emphasis on the word, debate. Great advice I received long ago was never to debate scripture with scripture. The world looks for the strong versus the weak and judges you if you relent, turn the other cheek (however in-artfully done), or concede politely. Conflict doesn’t change hearts. Conflict doesn’t always bring people closer together (yes, there are exceptions to most things I say here). Winning an argument (if winning is even possible) doesn’t accomplish anything but resentment. Perhaps success in one encounter breeds a future upset by a person determined to undermine your gains. That doesn’t bode well for acceptance of people regardless of their views. Living a dying by the sword can apply to words as much as to physical weapons.
Last thing is the need to be right. Debates may appear to be an opportunity to clarify matters but they can have a dark side. You can get drawn in to express your pride. Ego can grow a little bit, then a lot. Before you know it, you are debating to avoid humiliation or to appear knowledgeable when you don’t really know. When discussing God, your pride can undo any words you might express in favor of what you believe. Again, a person who has issues with God or your belief on a basis that has nothing to do with what you actually say, but because of deeper issues will not be convinced by anything you propose. The discussion will just go on and on. At best, one of you will get tired, at worse, you’ll become the opposite of what you profess. When it comes to debates on the matter of God, in most circumstances, you should refrain from the activity.