A little bit ago, Justin Vacula got into a public debate with Reverend Michael Brewster (here) and we had him on The Bitchspot Report afterwards to talk about it. We didn’t have a lot of time and I had a lot to say, not just on that debate but on debates in general, so I thought I’d go off rambling here.
As I watched the debate, the first time Brewster opened his mouth, I started scribbling furiously, trying to catch all of his fallacies and failures and I eventually gave up, there were just too many of them. However, Brewster is no worse than most Christian apologists, he falls into the same kind of fallacious thinking that most of them do. He starts off by making a bunch of claims about the Christian God. How does he know any of those things? Some of them, certainly, come from the Bible and we’d have to examine the Bible in detail to see if it’s worthy of belief (hint: it’s not), but a lot of them just come out of the clear blue sky. He states that God is eternal, loving, intelligent, rational, etc. Says who? Where do they get this supposed information? These are just characteristics they want their God to have but they can’t demonstrate that their God actually has any of them, mostly because they can’t demonstrate that their God actually exists. You could substitute leprechauns for God in any of his arguments and point out that you believe in leprechauns because it says so, right here in this book if Irish myths! That has every bit the validity of what Brewster tried in this debate. Of course, Brewster wouldn’t acknowledge that, he stated quite clearly that he was operating under the presupposition that the Bible was true but that’s a very poor debate tactic. So is using faith, which Brewster did continuously. Faith doesn’t mean anything to those who don’t have faith. Apologists don’t think faith is all that valuable, after all, they reject the faith of other religions. If they don’t take the faith of other religions seriously, why should they expect that non-believers are going to take theirs seriously?
The only real argument he made during the entire debate was “the Christian God is real because I believe the Christian God is real.” He never justified his beliefs, he just tried to rationalize them and none of it too well.
Unfortunately, virtually everything he, and most other Christian debaters, said comes from a fallacious position. I’ll coin a new logical fallacy here, they continuously engage in the fallacy from “I want that to be true”. They really, really want these things to be true so they act like they have to be. Like it or not though, faith is not a bandage that you can use to cover over the weaknesses in your argument.
It was worse in the Q&A section when Brewster started refusing to answer hard questions from the audience, under the guise of them falling slightly outside the debate topic. If I were Justin, I would have openly welcomed any and all questions from the audience, to show that atheists aren’t afraid to discuss anything, whether it’s on some approved list or not.
Please don’t think I’m picking on Reverend Brewster, he acknowledges that he’s not a skilled debater and I think he did quite well for his lack of experience. However, he did demonstrate that he, like virtually all apologists, is not a very skilled theist. In one of the few questions he did answer at the end, about why he came to believe, I called it before he ever opened his mouth, I knew he was going to say he grew up in the church, was indoctrinated and had some kind of vague spiritual experience. He said that almost word for word.
However, I wanted to segue from this particular debate into religious debates in general. I’ve seen tons of them and you want to know what they all share in common? They’re far, far, far too long. A religious debate ought to last about 30 seconds. It should start with “do you have any actual evidence for the existence of your god” and end when the theist admits they don’t. The same can be said for most of these stupid debates. Aliens? Got evidence? No? Move on. Ghosts? Evidence? No? Come back when you have some. None of these debates are actually about the existence of a god, they’re about rationalizing around the utter lack of evidence for the existence of a god. The Ontological Argument, the Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument, these aren’t evidence, they’re excuses to hide the fact that they have no evidence. They’re attempts to shoehorn an undemonstrated deity into the claim. They’re a distraction from the only question that actually matters, can you show that your god is real? Nobody would take a Teleological Argument for Bigfoot seriously, why does God get a pass? Put up or shut up.
We need to stop playing by the theist rules. Either their god is real or it is not. Faith is no defense. End-runs around the truth are no defense. Only facts matter and they have none.
I think they can come back when they find some and not until.