More debate listening

I just finished listening to a debate on religion/atheism with respect to public morality between Alan Keys and Alan Dershowitz. It was, without a doubt, the most spirited, rhetorically fascinating debate I have listened to! Unlike most debates I have listened to lately, which have been much more in the academic style or, preferably, in the television panel-discussion style, this one was squarely in the style of political debates, though crossed with the style of legal pleadings before juries.

It was not scholarly. It was not intricate. It was not even civil. The tactics used made me sick to my stomach at times. But it was filled with fascinating, well-delivered, soaring rhetoric on both sides, and listening to it was a truly thrilling experience!

New document (Belief vs. Faith), and site status

I am again a bit ahead of schedule with my new document post. Tuesday’s offering, here posted three days early, is, as promised, a discussion of belief and faith. In it I argue that when faith is understood as a particular manner of holding a belief, in which evidence is not part of the reason for holding it, then faith itself is both uncorrectable if wrong and dangerous to society. A conclusion that arises from this argument is my first real explanation for my atheism: if it is only valid to believe those things for which there are evidence, and if the evidence for the existence of god(s) is unconvincing, then atheism is the natural stance to adopt.

I had said in my preview of this document that I would include a discussion of how it is possible to live a life that doesn’t include faith at all, and I still intend to write a document on that subject. However, this document is already extremely long, and it would probably be best to break things up a bit. I will therefore address that topic in a future essay. (Update: I have now written that essay.)

The only other significant changes to the site involve updates to the about page to reflect the descriptions I used in my opening blog post.

Latest debate listening

I just finished listening to a 2010 debate between Richard Carrier and Michael Licona on the historical evidence for and against the resurrection. Both are historians, and the debate format, which allowed a larger amount of true discussion than normal, was spectacular. I recommend this debate to anyone interested in the question of the resurrection.

Getting dialog going: Preview of next document concerning belief and faith

Update: The new document described below is now online.

So far on this blog, there has been minimal dialog or debate. This is not surprising, for several reasons. First, of course, the blog is new, and readership is not particularly huge (although stats have shown 275 views, which is pretty good!). Second, I have not advertised the site widely, relying primarily on word-of-mouth, and many of the folks that have initially taken a look at the site are also on the atheist side of things. Third, and possibly most importantly, the two main documents I have posted so far consist of (a) a technical discussion of an obscure issue and (b) simple definitions of atheism and agnosticism. In short, I have not yet provided an argument for atheism. My next document is going to take a large step in that direction. I am offering a preview here in order to solicit arguments and counterarguments that I can ensure that I address in that post. Continue reading

New document (Atheism vs. Agnosticism), and site status

Last week’s document offering, Reductionism and Emergent Phenomena, was rather dense and highly specific. This is probably not surprising given that I was deliberately trying to start the blog off with a topic where I felt I had something meaningful to add to ongoing discussions about atheism. I have updated that document in a couple of ways to try to make it more accessible:

  • At the prompting of the reader Tweedledum, I generated a 100-word summary of the argument, and then added that to the top of the document as a “short version.” You can think of it like an abstract or an executive summary.
  • I realized that the various arguments, reductionism, the argument from design, and emergent phenomena, would be clearer if I put together some cartoons illustrating them. I have done so and have added them to the document. I’m quite pleased with the cartoons!


This week’s offering, Atheism vs. Agnosticism, should be much more accessible. It is quite important to make sure that when discussing complex issues, everyone understands what the others mean by the words they are using, and since this blog is about atheism, it’s probably a good idea for me to make clear early what exactly I mean when I use the term. Continue reading

Listening to debates

As I mentioned, I have recently been listening to a variety of religion/atheism debates. There is a phenomenally-extensive collection of them available here. Having recently gotten a spectacular pair of noise-cancelling earbuds, I’ve been listening to them most often while doing yardwork. Unfortunately, that means I can’t take notes. I have been finding myself wanting to respond to many of the points that have been coming up, because I don’t feel that the debaters always take the right approaches. I wish I had the leisure to be able to listen to these while not doing something else, and then blogging about my experiences. Oh well, maybe when I retire. Continue reading

Upcoming topics

Update: I will be updating this post as I go, indicating which documents are done and adding new ideas as they occur to me or are suggested.

It occurred to me that it might be useful to list off the topics that I am planning to address in future posts. This list is obviously subject to revision, is incomplete, may have topics that are too big to cover in a single document, and is in no particular order.

Continue reading

Up and running!

Welcome to Convert the Atheist, my blog. I am an atheist, and, as the title of the blog suggests, I want you to try to convert me. This is not a rhetorical trick, it is a genuine request. You see, I am deeply interested in improving myself and my positions. The only way I can improve my positions is by finding the holes in my reasoning. And who could possibly be better at finding the holes in my reasoning than the people that disagree with me? So yes, I sincerely want you to try to convert me to your beliefs. If, during this process, we identify holes in my reasoning, then I have two choices… I can modify my arguments to eliminate the holes, or I can abandon them in favor of alternate arguments that work better. I will be very public about this process. Continue reading