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January 7, 2012

2

5 Real Pitfalls of the Foolish Apologist

by juju2112

Apologetics315.com recently posted an article titled “10 Pitfalls of the Foolish Apologist”. It essentially says, “As long as Apologists are loving and nice, everything will be okay.”

Parts of the list I like (summarized by me):

  • #1: Don’t talk ad nauseum (shut up and listen to your opponent).
  • #4: Don’t fall for red herrings.
  • #10: Practice arguing.

Parts I didn’t like:

  • #3: Facts don’t matter, emotions do.
  • #7 & #8: Worship God, pray, love, etc.
  • #2, #5 & #6: Be humble.
  • #9: Surround yourself with fellow believers, so you can be in a bubble of self-reinforced delusion.

 

The commenters echoed wild praise:

Awesome stuff! You hit the nail on the head with this.

Excellent! We all need reminding from time to time. God bless!

Great stuff! We have to remember that the goal is not just to win arguments but to win souls.

Great post, Brian. Very challenging!

Are you kidding? This trite nonsense has nothing to do with making sure you’re right and everything to do with reinforcing what you already believe. Even Matt Slick had a better list than this. You know what? Let me help you guys out.

5 Real Pitfalls of the Foolish Apologist

1. Not getting to know atheists.

The demonization of atheists has to stop. We are as good as anyone else. The only reason for thinking otherwise is because theists have never taken the time to get to know one.

The apologist also typically assumes that the atheist doesn’t possess the knowledge or personal experiences he does. If the believer actually ever took the time to talk and get to know any atheists ever, he’d realize that many of them were strong believers in the past and know the bible better than most people do.

Talk to people you don’t agree with. Get to know them. Challenge yourself.

2. Not understanding cognitive biases.

There are a number of pitfalls your brain can fall victim to. If you go through life basing your decisions on common sense and what sounds right, you are seriously deluding yourself. Cognitive biases can make something seem true when it’s actually false. Take the time to learn about confirmation bias, experimenter’s bias, the backfire effect, pareidolia, and the Dunning-Kruger effect. Learn about the rest of them, too. If you’re not familiar with them, you’ve probably already fallen victim to one.

Incidentally, the scientific method is the best way we know to avoid these traps.

3. Not learning the arguments against their positions.

Most of the time, when an atheist argues against a theist, the atheist knows everything the believer is going to say before the conversation even starts. When the atheist presents a counter argument, it’s usually the first time the theist has heard it. This happens constantly, and is the primary reason atheists struggle with not being arrogant.

In my opinion, this problem is directly correlated to theists surrounding themselves with other believers and shunning people who ask questions. When you are in an environment that only reinforces your own beliefs, you are not challenging yourself.

4. Not understanding logical fallacies.

Christian theology is riddled with logical fallacies, so apologists would do well to actually learn them and get good at spotting them. Better yet, try applying them to your own beliefs instead of just accusing others of them. Like cognitive biases, if you aren’t familiar with logical fallacies, you are probably committing them yourself all the time.

Close your bible and learn a thing or two about logic.

5. Not caring whether beliefs are true.

Apologists are often so caught up in powerful emotions that religion feeds them that they never stop and question whether it’s actually true. They assume it’s true and work to try to prove it. Never do they try to actively disprove their own beliefs.

If you talk to atheists who were formerly strong believers, they frequently state that the decline of their faith started with a decision to want to believe things that are true more than just things that made them happy. You can see this problem rampant in the Apologetics315 list: they focus on emotion and character and eschew facts and logic.

Being a smooth talker that everyone likes may grow your church following, but it won’t help you get closer to the truth. Study. Learn. Challenge yourself. Start thinking.

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 7 2012

    Appreciated your post. I think it was very well thought out and addresses very common pitfalls. I do hope that you do not dismiss the idea that theists, too, can be good apologists too and still affirm their conclusions and convictions. All 5 of your points can be applied to both the theist and atheist. Like in point 3, I agree with you that there have been plenty of religious people who only surround themselves with like minded individuals and many do not know counter arguments, but there are plenty of irreligious who are just as unknowledgeable and only surround themselves with like-minded people as well.
    In point 4, when you start off by saying Christian theology is riddled with logical fallacies, then you have not targeted the apologist but what the apologist believes. Any argument worth having must be between 2 positions that bring valid points to the table setting the individual who brings it aside. I encourage you to reconsider that all the terrible logical fallacies you have heard in the past may not be the fault of the theology itself but the theologian who tried to present it to you. I hope by not including Bible quotes in this comment, I have adhered to the idea of closing my Bible :)
    In point 5, I agree that emotion clouds judgement and reason often but a person is susceptible to emotion whether he is religious or irreligious.
    Lastly, I agree with you wholeheartedly that thoughtful discussions are a result of hard work, patience, a willingness to listen, and ultimately, good, solid thinking.
    If I may, I would love to recommend you a book that several of my atheist friends have enjoyed greatly! The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism By Timothy Keller. I think you would greatly appreciate how he “comes to the table.” It was a New York Times Bestseller and the first half of the book has no Bible verses in it (and very little in the 2nd half).

    Reply
    • juju2112
      Jan 7 2012

      Thanks for your thoughts.

      Sadly, it’s true. Some atheists are not skeptics and/or have not thought everything through
      properly. I try to take them to task whenever I see it, because it makes my side look bad to have uninformed representatives. And I try to question myself as well.

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