As with all such documents, a revision history is included at the bottom.
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.
For many years, I have engaged vigorously in online discussions about religion, atheism, and related topics. I have found, however, that media such as Facebook are not well-suited to ongoing conversations that invite new people to join part-way through. With a WordPress site I can make blog posts for short-term thoughts and updates, but can make longer-term pages that contain my current best response to common topics, like Pascal’s Wager or Intelligent Design. Multi-party discussions can get going in the comments, and in many ways are the main goal of the site. As my thoughts develop through blog posts and comment threads, I will work to coalesce my ideas into coherent, self-contained articles that will be archived and indexed for easy reference. These documents will be my attempts to formulate my “definitive argument” on a particular topic. In order to try to “convert” me from my current position to yours, you’ll need to understand my current position. For example, since I don’t find it plausible that the bible is historically accurate, any arguments you make based only on scripture would have to first address why I should take those references to be reliable. In essence, these documents are my starting point for discussions. You should feel free to comment on them, and the ensuing dialog will hopefully serve both our purposes. If your arguments change my mind, then I will revise the original document to reflect my new understanding. I will always include a revisions history so that any changes in my positions can be documented, and so that commenters can be credited with their influence.
Comments are moderated. But my moderation is very loose. The only things that I currently foresee disallowing from comments would be:
- Illegal material
- Way-off-topic content (e.g., don’t advertise your dating site)
- My name
This last item is probably the only one that needs some explanation, particularly since many of you came here based on my announcement on forums where I am not anonymous. I can’t give specifics here, but in about 3-4 years the need for anonymity here will be gone, and so I will discuss it at that point. Until then, just call me CtA (for Convert the Atheist).
In short, if you avoid the issues above, I will let your comment be posted.
Do not feel restricted in topic to the ones I have already posted about. I need to have some way to know what topics are most in demand for future posts, and bringing up other topics in the comments will help me make that decision. I will start out aiming at one new document or major revision per week… Time will tell if that is a reasonable schedule.
So please, feel free to engage me on any issue you think I’ve made a mistake on. Why? Because something I have learned over my years of internet discussions about religion and atheism is that going into a conversation trying to teach almost never works, and is therefore heading for disappointment, but going into a conversation trying to learn almost always does work.
I want you to try your best arguments on me. I want to be challenged. I want to be forced to defend myself against the best that others can bring to the table. Because if I find my own argument insufficient to the task, then I either need to improve them, or, if they are so broken that they cannot be salvaged, I need to discard them.
As an example, years ago I would vehemently make the argument that biblical literalism could be rigorously disproved by finding contradictions in the bible. After much back-and-forth, I have abandoned entirely that line of thinking because I have seen enough cases where the biblical language itself is vague enough that a claim of direct contradiction seems to be overkill. While pairs of passages that I formerly claimed were contradictory may in fact still seem implausible to be self-consistent, that’s not the same as impossible.
So yes, I am quite interested in having you try to convert me. I will listen to what you have to say, and will try to respond thoughtfully. Who knows… you could actually change my mind!
- June 19, 2014: Revised this document to include some wording that I used in my introductory blog post.