Nathan says he’s been one of those Christians who comments on atheist blogs in order to present an alternative perspective to readers — but now, he’s “on the verge of giving up.”
And there are 8 reasons why. He goes into more detail on his website, but my responses to the main claims are below.
1. If you argue with atheists online, especially on their turf, you will almost always be outnumbered.
I agree. And Nathan explains it perfectly: We don’t have a church, so many of us congregate on the Internet instead. We also have each other’s backs if we see a commenter going after one of us.
2. Being outnumbered makes actually engaging with arguments hard.
Being outnumbered shouldn’t be a problem if there were good arguments to make. Christians don’t have them when it comes to most of our issues, plain and simple. It’s not an issue of the token Christian only being able to address a couple of points among the many presented — it’s that even when they address specific points, they often do it poorly and dig themselves into a deeper hole.
3. If you’re going to talk about science, logic or morality you need to be careful to frame your terminology accurately.
Damn right. Christians need to realize they’re talking to people who have studied these topics extensively. As a result, they make rookie mistakes. Hell, I do it sometimes, too. But I also know my limits and I try to avoid talking about scientific research and philosophy because I know those aren’t my areas of expertise. Some of the online Christian commenters think their pastor taught them all they need to know about science and logic and morality.
4. Atheists have no interest in nuance. They don’t pay any regard to context.
Nathan calls us out for “quote-mining” the Bible, among other things. That’s just ridiculous. We quote Bible passages — in context and out of it — as much as pastors do. If you want to call us out for taking a passage out of context, I want to see you calling out pastors for doing the same thing because they do it all the time.
You have a problem with us taking something literally? Tell that to the approximately 100,000,000 Christians who believe the same thing. Are they good Christians or foolish ones? What do you say to them?
The Bible’s full of good ideas and bad ideas (mostly bad ideas), true statements and untrue statements (mostly untrue statements). Don’t whine just because we happen to be the people who aren’t afraid to point them out.
5. “Christians” are your own worst enemies in these contexts. A week’s worth of reasoned and fruitful discussion can be very easily undone by one comment made without being mindful of presenting the “truth with love.”
Yes, there are a lot of annoying Christians out there. They make the same mistakes. They quote the Bible (in and out of whatever “context” Nathan thinks applies). They CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING as if their thoughts are more important than anyone else’s. They make comments that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.
What makes someone a “good Christian commenter”? Well, I have a number of them on this site and I think I can explain why I appreciate their input. Their end goal is not conversion of everyone else. They know better than to do that. Their goal is to offer a different perspective and they’re not afraid to defend themselves. If they rebut a point that has been made, they’re respectful when they do it. They acknowledge when Christians make mistakes and aren’t afraid to criticize their own people.
6. Most “atheists” are antitheists, most hold atheism at the core of their identity — but this is not true for all of them.
Frankly, I don’t know what this has to do with anything. There are different types of atheists just as there are different types of Christians. Even if I don’t agree with what other atheists say/believe, I don’t deny their atheism. I know they don’t believe in any gods.
Nathan claims “there are, in fact, external issues to take into account when deciding if a Christian is a Christian.” I’m sure there are… but every church/sect/denomination has their own set of rules. It’s usually, “We’re Christians and everybody else is not.”
7. You’ll almost never change anybody’s mind online.
Not if you make bad points, you won’t. And most Christian commenters make absurd claims that won’t win anyone over to their side.
However, people who have something intelligent to say, with the ability to back it up, can really make a big dent in someone’s preconceived notions.
I don’t know what the number is of people who have become atheists — or who have become more active about their atheism or who have come out of the closet for the first time — because they read atheist blogs online.
My guess, though, is that the number is not trivial.
8. Your best bet in these situations is just to bring everything back to a question of the historicity of Jesus and his resurrection, this, after all, is the lynchpin of our belief.
Many Christians have tried and failed. Books have been written and debunked. If that’s all you have to offer, then you have nothing.
All of this isn’t to say Christians shouldn’t bother commenting online or remarking on atheists’ blogs.
But if their purpose in doing that is to evangelize, they’re not going to accomplish anything worthwhile. They’ll just make it that much harder for Christians who want to participate in a real debate on the issues — something that is increasingly difficult to do at Christian blogs and in churches.