Hi Everyone! I've noticed that there have been a lot of interesting debates going on in our forum. Unfortunately, I've also noticed that some people here don't really know how to hold an intelligent conversation. This applies to both Christians and atheists. I would like to make a list of things to do in order to avoid a flame war with atheists. After all, Christ did tell us to be"wise as serpents, and harmless as doves". I believe that this is a principle we should apply to our debates and conversations with atheists. Remember, we are supposed to be guides, not trolls.
Anyway, I've written a list of things we should remember to do when we participate in online debates with other people. I this article, I will also cover points about how to share your beliefs and opinions with others.
1) Do your research. If someone posts something that is irrational, or is just downright stupid, that doesn't mean you can do the same to him. That may sound ridiculously simple, but I see it all the time here and in the atheist group. Face it people, if you don't do your research, you'll start a flame war.
2) Respect your opponent. Nice and easy. This means that you don't badmouth him on the forums, you don't go trolling on his user page, and you don't intentionally insult him. Don't respond in such a way that your opponent will look stupid. After all, the duty of every Christian is to be a guide, not a troll. And yes, I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record.
3) Support your argument using facts and sources. If you don't have proof or evidence that you can show for, people will think you're an idiot. Some time ago, I was in a debate with certain individual. (For courtesy's sake, I will not mention his name.) This certain individual is probably a wonderful person, but he did not have a clue about how to hold an intelligent conversation. He kept on spouting off information that he had no way to support, and he had virtually no proof to his claims whatsoever. This is an excellent example of what NOT to do. If you're in a theological debate, use Bible passages to support you argument. If you're in a philosophical debate, use articles and books to support you argument. If you're in a history debate, use facts and figures to support you argument. By all means, cite your sources.
4) Realize that your opponent is probably just as convinced that his theory is right as you are about yours. No matter how whacky or crazy his opinions might be, you should assume that he is fully convinced his theory is correct. This means that insulting him is NOT going to change his mind about his beliefs. In order to change his opinions, you're going to have to use two things he can't resist: logic and humility.
5) Know your opponent. Believe it or not, most atheists I have met are not bloodthirsty people who promote human sacrifice. Many of them are atheists simply because they've had a bad encounter with a hypocritical Christian, such as in my grandfather's case. If atheists think all Christians teach that anyone who isn't perfect is a sinner, then of course they'll dislike Christianity! However,we should not be condemning them for their beliefs, instead, we should find ways for them to question their own beliefs. If you want to convert someone, all you have to do is raise questions that will require time to think about.
Below is a sample conversation:
ATHEIST: ....and as I was saying, no rational person could possibly believe in an afterlife. The very idea contradicts the laws of science.
CHRISTIAN: Really? Don't you think that would make life rather meaningless? Do you really think that everyone we know is just meant to live for a while and then die?
At this point, the Christian should either change the subject, or remember that he's supposed to head back home for dinner. Then, the atheist will either ponder about what the Christian said, or he'll try to forget about the encounter. Either way, the conversation will be left at something called a blank point.
Let me give you an example of a blank point. Lets say that you and your nine year-old child don't have a very good relationship, and you really want to do something about it. Unfortunately, your child has absolutely no interest in you whatsoever, he's just to busy trying be cool at school to care about the parent-child relationship you're want to create. Forcing him to stay home with you will only increase his desire to get you out of his hair. So, you decide to come up with a far more subtle tactic. Every night, you invite your child to read the latest edition of Republic Commando with you. Naturally, your child will accept the irresistible offer. Everyday, you stop reading at the most exciting part....at what will the main character do, or what will happen to him? This creates a "vacuum" in the child's mind. The uncertainty of the novel will keep him coming back, in order to "fill in the gaps". Over time, you and your child will both begin to enjoy your times together (assuming you are both Star Wars fans). Thus, you will have created a relationship between you and your child, without forcing him to stay home.
Now, you may be wondering what in the world does this have to do with a theology debate. Well, putting forth questions that require time to think about is very similar to what I just told you about. The sudden changing of the subject will instantly create a vacuum in the listeners mind. He/She will probably be determined to find an answer to their question.
Remember, in all of your conversations with others, use logic and humility. Those are two virtues which are running dangerously low in this world, and anyone who uses them is bound to attract some attention. As I have said a number of times, it is every Christian's solemn duty to be a guide, not a troll.