How To Lose a Debate July 4, 2008

How To Lose a Debate

Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, recently participated in a debate on God’s existence. He does that a lot. He’s well-versed in what he says.

So watch what his Christian opponent does in the following (brief) video.

We don’t actually get to hear the Christian’s arguments in favor of God’s existence; instead, we get cutaway explanations of how God loves us… and we read snarky subtitles at the bottom of the screen during Dan’s portion of the debate.

I would compare it to “The Word” segment on The Colbert Report, but in that case, the writers are funny on purpose.

You want a lesson in how not to debate an atheist?

Then just watch the poor excuses for rebuttals this guy offers:


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  • And of course the reason you linked to this is nothing to do with the first several related videos all being of you… 🙂

  • Shane

    That is a really cowardly tactic. Using the debate after the fact to put up inane commentary when your opponent can’t respond to them at all. My favourite one was the “well, our God is different because he might be the True God(TM) and then Dan is going to be in trouble!!!”

  • Ron in Houston

    Is it just me or does that guy just look plastic?

  • Kyle

    Did anyone else skip through the part where the other guy comes on?

  • LOL! I was a True Believer(tm) from ages 16 to 33. After four years and three cycles of doubting and then returning, I finally broke the cycle and dropped the superstition earlier this year.

    The funny thing about this video is that these two people were quite involved in my final “crisis of faith”. I spent a lot of time listening to podcasts of Todd Friel and Ray Comfort’s radio show, trying to hold on to something that reassured me that my faith was sound. I also listened to podcasts of preachers recommended by Todd Friel, one of whom shattered the illusion for me. He was preaching a multi-part sermon on keeping the sabbath holy. It dawned on me: I have no intention of keeping the sabbath holy. After all, I am a traveling consultant and I was listening to the sermon while driving to the client site on Sunday after not going to church! I missed church and was working — I must be a total reprobate!

    Friel and Comfort’s approach to evangelization also got to me. It made me seriously question whether I was a false convert. After all, I never saw any change in myself over the past 20 years, except for what could be explained by learning through experience, so where was the “new creation” I was supposed to be?

    They told listeners that, if you aren’t obeying god’s word, then you aren’t a true convert. This is because god’s word says that the holy spirit will indwell you and make you want to obey more than anything. This just was not true for me, and I am sure I did everything a follower is supposed to do to become a true convert. So I figured that, if I’m a false convert, there never was a true convert!

    Dan Barker’s radio show and books were the straw that broke the camel’s back. His testimony of being a preacher who actually led people to salvation (something I never managed to do), confirmed that true conversion is all in the mind.

    I can’t believe now that I listened to Friel and the same inane rebuttals on his radio show. I cringed during this entire video. Todd just cherry picks the verses that support his viewpoint, ignoring the horrendous character of god in the old testament.

    Todd intended to preach to the choir on this video. I have hope that at least one person will listen to Dan and a seed will be planted. After all, I once was found but now am lost!

  • Jason

    Holy crap – literally. You’d think when given 5 minutes to take shots at Dan with no counter-arguments the guy could have made at least one decent point.

  • Jodie

    Jesus Christ, I could not watch this video. As soon as the other guy jumps in with the scripted crap things just go down hill. Usually I can sit through and listen to these videos. This guy is a total turn-off. I hope he isn’t a preacher, I would feel sorry for his parishoners.

  • mikespeir

    After all, I never saw any change in myself over the past 20 years, except for what could be explained by learning through experience, so where was the “new creation” I was supposed to be?

    That was a biggie in my deconversion, too, David. Christians can always point to a few examples of lives that were radically changed for the better by their religion. (So can adherents of other religions.) But these are embarrassingly rare.

    In fact, your average church congregation is a continuum of relative successes and failures. There is always a core group that seems to have its Christian act together. But as one drifts toward the fringes one increasing finds those who struggle against ever less beatable personal foes. The back pew, so to speak, is occupied by the “problem children,” the five percent who take up fifty percent of the pastor’s counseling time. (In fact, these are just as likely to sit in the front pew.) They might hang on till the grave, but, with rare exceptions, they will never make a success of this Christianity thing.

    Why is it that, with all that purported spiritual power available, most Christians are “fair-to-middling” at best? The simplest answer, most likely truth, is that that power isn’t there at all.

  • Jason

    Sweet Zombie Jesus, the “commentator” is an idiot. Not because he holds the positions he does, but rather, he can’t even offer a good rebuttal to what really aren’t the strongest arguments for atheism.

  • M

    Todd Friel is one of Ray Comfort’s lackeys.

    A former comedian; a present sophist. Over the years, I’ve found this guy is almost as bad as Presuppositionalists.

  • Feh … the usual tactic: Wallpaper the cracks in your argument with irrelevancies and circular logic. I’ve been having a debate over at Unreasonable Faith that’s been going like that.

    You know, I started looking at this video with the idea of refuting the chirons point-by-point, but I feel the video does us that service when the caption at 0:59 warns that:

    “Millions of people can be wrong.”

    Nailed it.

  • Amy

    Didn’t get much past the ‘Millions of people can be wrong’ caption, I was laughing too much!


  • MercuryBlue

    Yeah, moron with the Bible, if your god is the one true god, atheists are trouble. Do recall, however, that if the one true god is Allah, who is quite emphatic that Christians are polytheists and polytheists are doomed, or if the one true god is somebody who wants to populate heaven only with people who think there’s not always somebody watching and who therefore have the opportunity to do good when they don’t think anybody’s watching, then you’re in trouble.

  • Trevor

    And the annoying guy proves his complete inability to do research and calls Hitler an Atheist.

  • Check out the FFRF’s podcast (with Dan Barker) :

    Does anyone have a link to the full debate?

    Re: Hitler: in Todd’s mind if you do bad things you can’t be a Christian, since by definition (his) a Christian is a person whose been transformed by the Holy Spirit. If you do bad things, it means you haven’t been transformed, so you’re a false convert. Therefore since Hitler did so many bad things, he couldn’t have been a Christian, and since he obviously wasn’t an evil Muslim, he must have been an amoral atheist!

  • Sadly, this video is no longer available.

    And reading the comments, I’m not going to spend a lot of time looking for another copy.

    Thanks for posting this, though, Hemant.

  • Whoops! I spoke too soon. I got that “video is no longer available” when reading the post in Google Reader, but now that I’m on Hemant’s website, it’s working. OK, watching it now.

  • Darryl

    The point illustrated here is that whether you have clever arguments or no arguments at all, Christian apologetics isn’t really a defense of the faith, aimed at unbelievers, it’s a comfort for the fears and doubts of Christians themselves–this is why it doesn’t require logical argumentation, or any kind of evidence, or fair tactics.

    Just remember, the next time you’re deep into the weeds with some clever Christian who seems to be ready for every challenge, you’re not really having a debate or argument; your dancing together.

  • I’m reminded of The Soup, except not funny.

  • BrianM,

    Yeah, I sometimes get that message in the feed window, and sometimes even at a blog, but when I click through to YouTube directly it is actually still available. Probably some glitch in the embedding process.


    Great point. On the other side, arguments supporting an atheistic position don’t provide any comfort for the atheist. But I suppose a Christian would reply that they actually do, since they allow us atheists to keep on enjoying our delicious sin. Mmmmm sin…. (Insert eye-rolling emoticon here)

  • John Morales

    Poe’s Law.

    Sure it’s not a parody?

  • Darryl

    . . . arguments supporting an atheistic position don’t provide any comfort for the atheist.

    Good point. We really have nothing to gain for ourselves. We do have things to lose, like the consequences of the dumb decisions of true-believing leaders like Bush, and bad legislation that hurts people, like anti-gay laws, and Christians who believe that conservatism is Biblical and hence that Global Warming is a conspiracy (because liberals believe it), and evolution is of the devil, etc. But, we don’t lose for ourselves; we all lose.

  • Tom

    A transcript of Dan Barker’s most eminent performance can be read here:

    It is long, but man, is it an enjoyment to read.

  • Yeah, the Christian guy is a dude from Way of the Master. I think he has a show on Way of the Master radio, actually…

  • cipher

    Christian apologetics isn’t really a defense of the faith, aimed at unbelievers, it’s a comfort for the fears and doubts of Christians themselves–this is why it doesn’t require logical argumentation, or any kind of evidence, or fair tactics.


    Absolutely spot-on. I’ve said this here before – one of the early 20th century British authors said something along the lines of, “Proselytizing is the outward manifestation of an insecure faith”. I’ve believed this all of my adult life. If the missionary can convince you he’s right, then, he figures, he must actually be right, and he can stave off for while longer the ever-present doubt that threatens to overtake him.

    Addicts, the lot of them. I should be more compassionate, but I just can’t find it in myself any longer. I’m thoroughly sick of them. I wish the fucking Rapture would happen already, so that they’d all just go away.

  • Watches do not exist. 😉

  • @Trevor and John Morales:
    Wow–Poe’s Law and the Special Pleading Case of Godwin’s Law* in the same post.

    *Sooner or later, in any discussion with an atheist, the Christian will claim that Hitler was an atheist, despite historical evidence to the contrary. Thus the atheist will be associated with Hitler, a clear case of Godwin’s Law.

    This also applies if the Xian employs Stalin or Pol Pot as the stalking-horse.

  • Wishing I could see this debate. Always poetic justice to see these religionists try to prove their point.

    Now watching other Dan Barker debates on YouTube

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