No Magic Bullets!

I don't know how many emails I get each month from newly made atheists and agnostics, asking me for "ammo" to defeat an apologist's claim, to win an argument, or to cause someone to once and for all lose faith in Christianity. Here's how it ends up working; They get from me my views on a position and then naively assume that because I am an ex-minister, my answers will somehow make an atheist out of any theist who hears them. When this person's opponent has a reply for the objection I supplied them with, they are back again for another answer, unwilling to do their own research and somewhat perplexed that any other answers would be required. It is at this point that I explain to them that theists will always have some retort to offer up, as will the ardent believers of every cult or philosophical belief system. Newbies to the search for truth tend to want quick, simple, booming answers and tend to want to test the waters and see how formidable they are in debates. I consider both of these characteristics ridiculously juvenile.

Inquirers like these are looking for a "magic bullet" sort of answer, a "one shot deal", one they think is so indisputable that when confronted with it, a Christian or god believer will just melt and say, "OK, you got me. I will now renounce my faith and am an atheist from this day forward." This just doesn't happen.

Would that all who will be emailing me for answers with this mentality would read this: There are NO magic bullets! There is no one answer that totally destroys a belief system or answers a point that all will see and be receptive to anymore than there is one wrestling maneuver that will counter all kinds of attacks all of the time from all types of opponents. It is foolish to expect so. There will always be points, counterpoints, and counter-counterpoints, ad nausium. Anyone in any belief system can always put their spin on something and make a claim make sense no matter what the issue. If someone looks diligently enough for answers to the hard questions that trouble their belief system, they will find them. The Mormon finds "evidence" of Jesus having come to the Americas and witnessing to Native Americans regarding himself. The literal creationist finds "evidence" that the earth is 6,000 years old. Even the geocentrists and flat-earthers (rare as these may be) manage to come up with clever ways to respond to even the most sensible debaters who represent true science. Tons of information and misinformation is out there in a tremendous sea, waiting to be preferentially cyphened out by an individual. Psychology is involved in adopting the positions we hold and the lifepaths we choose to walk, factors beyond simple deductive and inductive reasoning. Humans have ways of making even the simplest of things complicated. The search for truth is never a simple one unless you are a gorilla...

1. Here are bananas.
2. I like bananas.
~ Therefore, I will eat them!

Nope! We humans just don't get off that easy! Our 3 pound brains bring us lots of heavy considerations, and there's no way to escape them and live.

The only way to get to the bottom of an issue and "prove" a conclusion is by being able to draw a demonstrable conclusion from an assortment of facts, and this usually requires a good level of knowledge. But this still does not guarantee everyone will accept it, and it shouldn't have to. Instead of getting discouraged at the fact that the hallway of truth is so dimly lit, at times making us uncertain of our own conclusions or whether we can really "know" anything, we ought to realize that the discovery of truth is first a deeply personal thing, then a collective thing. People will not automatically change their views, but one at a time, those individuals will change and come to form a new consensus.

So while it may say a lot to convince someone who does not agree with you, by sidestepping their objections and belief barriers, and leading them down the logical path to clarity of thought, this rarely, if ever, happens. Human nature always gets in the way. A paradigm shift is an arduous process. It takes time and reflection to occur if it ever does, and when it happens, no one ends up being able to take home the bragging rights for it's accomplishment. I have learned through the years to rejoice in the fact that the discovery of truth is of such a personal nature. Indeed, this is the biggest benefit of being able to call myself a freethinker: I don't have to agree with anyone! In the search for answers to the meaning of life, I came to find myself and contentment in the conclusions I draw. This means I am not terribly eager to fall on my face to hear what the "big guns" say about this or that subject. I am not aching to believe something just because someone smart or well known in a field believes it. I am only eager to believe something that rings of truth in my mind, as it "clicks" along the way of inquiry. For most of us, the seed of investigation can only be planted, and in time, may grow into the tree of knowledge that becomes our new world view. The search for truth is a journey, and journeys take time. Sensibility dictates that I must neither expect, nor look for magic bullets to complete the journey for anyone. There are no magic bullets!