Is there any point to even engaging religious views with facts?

There are a lot of threads here, endless almost, that have someone making a religious or mystical claim and being refuted by facts. Is there even a point to this?

If someone says HIV was created by god to punish sinners, I don’t think they care about the true origin of the virus. Fighting ignorance is one thing but fighting willful ignorance is well I guess everyone needs a hobby.

I know in my own life is someone makes a clearly non-factual claim, I file it as their viewpoint and move on. Only if someone is spreading nonsense or honestly unknowing would I spend time on it.


First, it weakens the believer’s arguments when they are forced to retreat to the “it’s faith” defense, essentially admitting that they are making it all up. Second, they often are making claims of fact that can be shown to be wrong, not just carefully-unfalsifiable “goddidit” claims.

And perhaps most importantly on a forum or in real-life public, there’s people watching the argument who may not be as deeply invested in willful ignorance. If no one says anything to counter the false claims of the believer, then those falsehoods are likely to be taken at face value.

I don’t bother arguing peoples’ religious views, particularly when they are openly admitted to be religious views, because frankly there is nothing more boring or pointless than just going back and forth between “there’s a God” and “no there isn’t”.

I only get involved when there are lies. When people start making factually incorrect statements to support their point of view, particularly when those lies are about science, I’ll step in. Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t actually care if someone wants to be a creationist. Couldn’t care less. However, if that person starts making ridiculous counterfactual claims, or even just using really crappy logic, then I usually don’t feel that I can let that pass.

“The evidence clearly shows that evolution happened, but I choose to believe that God is, in some way, ultimately responsible for the universe” - won’t hear a peep out of me.

“Not only did God create the universe exactly as outlined in Genesis, but the actual scientific evidence PROVES that he did; it’s just that scientists won’t admit it because they are too scared to fight the massive lie and conspiracy of evolution” - that, I can’t let pass.

My approach is exactly the same as Smeghead. There’s no point in debating matters of faith. They are by definition unfalsifiable, and as long as you’re not bothering me, who cares how many angels can dance on a pin?

But if you start using faith to justify easily-debunked bullshit, then that is worth arguing about.

Your courage in posting such a thread on the SDMB is an inspiration to us all.


Remember that anti abortion politician that declared if a women is raped her body can ‘shut that down’, in someway whereby she wouldn’t require abortion? I’m pretty sure that guy sincerely believed that. How is that possible in the 21st century? I’d wager he’s said it before, and NOT been challenged on it, by people who want to believe it’s true.

As soon as he said that, outside of the echo chamber he clearly usually inhabits, he totally deserved the heaps of flack he took for voicing such vile nonsense.

We all, to some extent, hang with like minded folks, and few people care to have their fundamental beliefs challenged, Lord knows. But if you bring your beliefs to an internet bulletin board, I’m going to go ahead and believe you’re willing to be challenged, and aware that the annonimity of the medium lets challenger’s be frank to the point of harshness.

So, everyone involved is informed adults, no harm, no foul. Pointless perhaps? Since few people acknowledge a discussion that has shifted their position until much later, I’m not sure that’s the case at all.

I would have assumed that no, there was no point (though I never let that stop me from trying – I get to be irrational too, dammit!), since they haven’t reasoned their way INTO their religion, so no reason to believe they are swayed by facts much.
But not long ago, my airplane seatmate was a chatty proselytizing Christian, and maybe I was wrong, because by the end of our flight…

I succeeded at convincing him there is no Hell.

Now where’s the smug smiley? It was a proud moment, to be sure.

You’re sure about that? Because that sounds like hell to me.

Religion is defined as a “belief system”, not a fact system. There is a wide variation in how willing people are to apply facts to what they believe.

Concur. IMHO, arguing facts with someone to confront their beliefs is like playing baseball with a football. The game won’t get very far because the fundamental elements aren’t compatible.

My flight was only three hours, but hell is eternal. The absurdity of never-ending punishment was one of my most convincing points.

I can easily remember times when I vigorously debated a point and remained unswayed by the other’s argument at the time, only to come around after time (sometimes years later).

As a religious person myself, this is my attitude. It drives me crazy when I hear religious people spout non-factual or anti-scientific bullshit to buttress some fundamentalist idea or belief.

God gave us an intellect and expects us to use it. If your belief conflicts with well established facts, it’s your belief that needs re-examining. God’s probably trying to tell you something.


Or as St. Augustine put it, “God does not need my lie.”


Smart religious people already know the facts. They either don’t accept that they are true or they don’t think their truth contradicts their faith. So they aren’t persuadable.

Dumb religious people don’t know the facts, but it doesn’t matter. Their brains are ossified and completely resistent to absorbing new information. Their fragile psyches don’t allow for questioning of authority.

Both most people fall in the broad middle. They are neither “smart” or “dumb”, and they also aren’t real religious. These people are definitely reachable.

Do you really have to play that game?

Huh? Is that a “yes”?

Tell you what- I like to think I’m one of the “Smart” religious people (I admit, that could just be my ego talking). And I’m willing to give you a minute or two.

So, what specific “facts” would you like to convince me of? Just bear in mind that most of us “smart” people haven’t lived sheltered lives. We’ve been to college. Some of us HAVE read Lucretius, Hume, Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Sartre, and assorted other atheist thinkers.

So, before you try to win me over, you have to ask yourself a question: “Do I feel smarter and more persuasive than those guys?”