Mailvox: irritated by atheists

DB has a tough time maintaining an even keel when arguing with atheists:

How do you maintain your temper when arguing with atheists. I cannot. I find myself so angry that I cannot take anything they say at face value. God has spoken to me and told me to stop arguing with atheists. I can still witness but under no circumstances may I argue. I am directed to pity them and pray for their salvation.

Do you ever wonder if you are helping them or if you are getting through at all? I feel a visceral anger at them and the damage they have caused our society. I am no longer going to be arguing on the internet or in person. How can they be anything but enemies of all that is good?

Since good is defined by God and since atheists are, by definition, active disbelievers in God, logic dictates that atheists are enemies of God and all that is good. This logic is confirmed by observation; examine any evil and the chances are high that atheists are disproportionately caught up in it, or at the very least are overt advocates.

But that doesn’t mean you should get angry with them when they start arguing dishonestly, attempting to pass off rhetoric as dialectic, moving the goalposts, holding you to standards they don’t hold themselves, offering repeated bait-and-switches, and falling silent rather than admitting defeat. To the contrary, such behaviors indicate that they know they are losing the argument.

The reason I never get even a little upset by the atheist with whom I am debating is because I know they are not my intended audience. I don’t care if they cling stubbornly to their erroneous beliefs nor do I care what they do in order to preserve them. To me they are little more than a stage prop, a straight man, a feeder of lines. The worse my interlocutor’s behavior becomes, the more convincing my arguments are perceived by the audience. In fact, for me the difficulty is not maintaining my equanimity, but rather, avoiding the temptation to intentionally trigger the bad behavior and thereby winning a rhetorical battle rather than a comprehensive dialectical one.

(NB: this is precisely why atheists go out of their way to be so offensive and to upset the Christian. It is an attempt to win the rhetorical battle by making you lose your temper.)

So, if you are a Christian who finds that atheists tend to make your temperature rise, apologetic debate is probably not for you. Serve the Kingdom in another role; pray for them. Pick them up when they fall down. Help them when they need assistance. More souls have been won for Jesus Christ by kindness than by words.

But atheists are prouder, more intelligent, and less emotional than the norm, and are therefore less convinced by deeds than words. So, many of them require their pride in their intelligence to be broken before they can reach a state of mind that permits them to hear the Good News and contemplate it rationally. And this is where people like me can open up their minds, by forcing them to acknowledge the myriad flaws in their arguments and by making them question their previously unquestioned assumptions. I know that I am getting through to at least some of them, because they have let me know that has been the case.

It’s rewarding and inspiring to see atheists transform from bitter enemies of God to fearless servants of Jesus Christ. If you keep in mind that the next arrogant, irritating, and slippery-tongued atheist you meet may be the larval form of a John C. Wright or an Apostle Paul, I suspect you will be able to find some charity in your heart for them.