SDMB Historical outcome of Theism vs Atheism threads/war?

I am interested in how much of what we are doing is utterly futile?
How possible is it really for one to be converted into the other?
What is a typical outcome of a Battle-thread (A battle thread is any thread that is either overtly or covertly an Atheist versus Theist thread)?

Why do you, personally, contribute to the threads? What do you hope to acheive?

Atheist here. I certainly have never seen anyone admit to being converted to the other side, nor do I expect to convert anyone. But I love arguing about that stuff, so I always participate. So the short anwer: I do it because it’s fun.

The arguers don’t, or shouldn’t hope to convince the people they are arguing with. Rather they should hope to convince lurkers, people who don’t have a strong stake in the argument but who might be convinced by particularly cogent arguments.

The other potential goal is not so much to convince the other party that your position is correct, but that it isn’t irrational, or mean-spirited, or chosen out of spite, but instead for reasons that make sense, even if the other party has come to different conclusions.

Another potential goal is to convince the other party not to attempt to make ill founded arguments in the future, if only to avoid looking like an idiot.

We’ve deconverted hundreds of lurkers. How do I know? Faith. :smiley:

I don’t particularly expect to “win” anything, when I do participate, which isn’t very often. Generally I’m trying to fight some ignorance, clear up misconceptions, etc.

I agree with this. I generally avoid such threads, but when I do chime in, it’s usually to mention A) not every religious person believes in the same god or gods, or the benevolence or omnipotence thereof, so making arguments against Christianity is generally useless if what you’re trying to address is Religion Itself and B) not every neopagan person is batshit insane.

I don’t know if I’ve been successful in either of those goals, but that’s my personal intent.

My own entertainment, mostly. So, for me, it’s not futile. I don’t expect to “convert” anyone. I’m not a good propagandist, and I regard the religious as generally beyond persuasion anyway; you can’t be argued out of a position you weren’t argued into. Especially If you don’t care about facts or evidence or rationality.

I find that both sides of the argument are generally hopelessly ignorant of the subject that it’s pretty pointless. Almost no atheist here understands Christianity. I’ve met Atheists who do, just not here. Very few Christians understand Christianity. When you expand it past the traditional western dialectic and start getting into theological debates where other religions are allowed you have to address the theologies of those other religions, which are often contradictory. I’ve read some interesting arguments about whether or not Christians and Muslims even worship the same God. That debate is far more interesting than the atheist vs deist debate, which can be summed up in its totality as ‘God exists.’ ‘God does not exist.’ ‘Yes’ ‘No’ ‘Yes’ ‘No’.

Add to that a general ignorance of the history of philosophy and you don’t get a very deep debate.

If more people understood even the basics of a competing theology the arguments would be far more interesting. If I saw some discussions of the Creative Destruction of Christianity as it rolled over and subsumed tribal Gods in favor of a Universal deity, the discussions would be much more interesting.

As it is, they are usually people who are stuck in habit repeating tropes ad nauseum.

This is very true, yet it was messageboard participation that enabled me to understand that the problems I had with Christianity were the same problems other people had, that I wasn’t reinventing the wheel in any sense. And that enabled me to feel like I wasn’t just striking out on my own into some stupid wilderness.

I seem to recall over the years quite a few threads in which people have posted that their views on faith (among other things) have substantially changed based in large measure on discussions on this message, so I would say that many of the religious discussions are not futile at all.

Edited to add: . . . . like the poster just above me.

The SDMB is a huge, huge, huge reason I became an atheist. Following the religious debates demonstrated several things for me:

  1. Atheists exist (seems dumb now, but as far as I knew when I was 17, they didn’t).
  2. Atheists who exist do not worship the devil. In fact, they’re fairly good people.
  3. I’m not alone in my questions/concerns.
  4. It was okay to ask difficult questions and it was okay to get scary and unexpected answers.

The SDMB set me on the right path.

“We are the people your parents warned you against.”

It is always nice to practice my arguments in these kinds of debates. People can point out flaws in my reasoning and I can point out flaws in theirs. Occasionally, people switch sides, but debate mostly just refines our viewpoints. Also, side arguments can be won; for instance, I may not be able to talk a theist out of God, but I may convince them that atheists have morals.

I seriously doubt that my weak rhetoric will ever convert anyone. I enjoy the debate because it challenges my position; strengthening at some points and knocking the walls out at others. I have posted before that my faith is rooted in personal experience (or my perception of personal experience) rather than influence so I don’t think I will be deconverted. It is nice to hear various and often opposing viewpoints on the finer details of the arguments. It is also nice to hear from other thiests who are not the usual brand of close minded thumpers that are plentyful in real world debates.

Well, the only casualty I’m aware of is Valteron.

I doubt you would call them conversions, but I do know that some have taken a second look at theistic themes. They write me letters. I participate in order to give information. There is a lot of misunderstanding and false beliefs on either side.

I was converted from theism to atheism from reading threads in this forum. For me the atheist had better, reasoned points. The theist argument boiled down to “because”.

Sometimes I wish I could believe in god/religion. But there’s no way that I can recapture that cognitive dissonance that it took to believe in the Bible. I suppose I could always look to other religions to find that earlier peace and security that Christianity used to provide, but as the other atheists on this board have pointed out religions don’t withstand Occam’s razor (sp?).

I’m the sort who can enjoy Disney World. I know DisneyWorld is just a facade where those who go are playing “let’s pretend”. I occasionally can play “let’s pretend” with god —sort of recapture the nostalgia of my religious days. However, I am always aware of the fact that I don’t believe and that my pretenses are just that.

I always say there is nothing more wonderful than living a deluded life. The problem is you never know when the bubble will pop. I’m sure there are those happy few who live their entire life deluded within the un-popped bubble.

The conversion hasn’t been entirely bad. Yes I’ve lost a false sense of security. Yes I’ve lost the childish understanding of the world. I’ve lost immortality too. But I’ve also lost the need for immortality —(no, that’s a lie; it sucks that we’re all gonna eventually die). Suffice to say that freedom from God, has been worth the conversion.

I’ve used many of the arguments against theism IRL. I don’t go looking to pick a fight, but I’m not going to listen to crap anymore. I do struggle with a moral dilemma when talking with loved-ones who are religious. For instance, my mother who is 77 is one of those lucky individuals who have managed to live within the un-popped bubble. For her sake, when I’m around her I pretend to be Christian. I doubt I could reason her out of her cognitive dissonance anyway. The best outcome would be that she would think her son was going to hell. Why place that unnecessary burden on an elderly lady? —Alright, Alright she votes atrociously, but I feel there are so many other political targets in backwoods Alabama.

Do those letters state that your ideas are intriguing and inquire as to the existence of a news letter to which they might subscribe?

I don’t think it’s true that people don’t convert each othr. Obviously people convert to Christianity every day and many of them say they used to be atheists. In my experience it’s also true that the majority of atheists I’ve talked to were raised in some kind of religious tradition and used to be theists at some point. More than a few were once hardcore fundies (and I actually think those are the ones who become the most antipathetic atheists. They go from one extreme to the other).

Most people are not going to say “OK, you convinced me,” but cumulatively, debate conversation, new information and changing personal circumstances can all have an effect.

I’ve gotten emails from a couple of Dopers who told me they had their minds changed by conversations on the board. It happens, but it’s usually not instantaneous. People have to think about it for a while. It’s not like there’s any one point, or thread or person who causes the shift. It’s all just straws on the camel.

What?!! He got smoted?!! Details, man, details!

It wasn’t Cthulu, was it? Please, please, tell me it wasn’t Cthulu!!