Hemant Mehta May Not Understand the Problem, But Here's A Solution

Earlier I had written a post where I expressed a reservation that atheists are largely talking to themselves about atheistic concerns, rather than trying to convince Christians to abandon their faith. While I didn't single Hemant Mehta out or anything, he kindly responded, explaining Why I Don’t Explicitly Debunk Religious Arguments. He agrees that counter-apologetics are important and should be done. However, in his response he says why this isn't his focus. Here are his six reasons with key explanatory quotes from him:

1) It’s been done in this medium.
There are no arguments Christians have that I can’t find strong rebuttals to via a Google search. People have been writing about things like Pascal’s Wager for a looooong time. So doing that on this site, when those explanations already exist to my satisfaction on other sites, seems unnecessary.
Yes, in a way Christian theism was dealt a death blow by Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), then fatally stabbed by Thomas Paine (1737-1809] and burned to ashes by Robert Ingersoll (1833–1899). The death of God was facilitated by others, including many Christian thinkers themselves, until he was declared dead in the 1960's. This all happened long before the so-called new atheists, who opened this debate up for discussion to the wider public. But if the arguments for Christianity have all been demolished--and I agree they have--why were the new atheists needed? For publicity? If so, I'd say even THAT is a good enough reason to never lose sight of the goal, to try to reach believers with solid counter-arguments they have never heard before. Yes, many Christians have never heard any good counter-argument to their faith, or if they have they didn't take it seriously. So Christians must be made to deal with them at every reasonable opportunity.

There is now a second wave of atheist scholars who are following on the heels of the new atheists, some of whom have written chapters for my anthologies. Why are they needed? Answer that question and you'll see why we must always be diligent in the cause for doubt. The answer is because Christian scholars are extremely resilient. They are experts in obfuscating legalese who can find loopholes for the possibilities of faith no matter how small. And they are being heard by rank and file Christians who don't know any better. They have so fine-tuned their arguments to make it appear their faith is reasonable, despite the arguments of Hume, Paine, Ingersoll, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennett and some others.

I have written a book to be released soon detailing exactly what these Christian apologists are doing to maintain the fires of faith, called How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist. You cannot make a big impact into future Christianity if you don't understand what their scholars have been doing. Most atheists have basically fallen asleep at the wheel while driving toward a secular society. In my opinion most atheists think religion and Christianity have already been debunked such that there is no need to continue to man the fort, no need for watchmen at the gates, and no need to make sure our weapons have been upgraded to resist the next onslaught from the believing barbarians. {Good, eh?} That is our big mistake, and I'm not joking.

Now for the rest of Hemant's reasons, which have common themes to them.

2) More people are curious about how they should think about current events, not age-old philosophical questions.
That’s not to say that one is more important than the other. But the Cosmological argument doesn’t come up at parties; modern politics does. So it’d be more useful for more people to offer them both the news and a perspective on it.
3) Academic arguments don’t appeal to everyone.
If I want to convince you there’s a problem with Christianity and you should reconsider your faith, I could show you a long list of biblical contradictions… or I could show you how Mike Huckabee‘s policies as President would be awful for America. Both are important, but there are a lot of people who just gloss over the Bible stuff. Or they see the list, read the first line, say “Okay, I get it,” and move on. But they’ll pay attention if I can frame those arguments inside a story people are talking about.
4) The material never ends.
Because I focus on current events, I always have something to write about. The well never runs dry. The religious will keep doing ridiculous, outrageous, infuriating things, propelled by their faith.
5) I can do both things at once.
I don’t believe it’s an either/or proposition that I have to focus on rebuttals to religion or (mostly) avoid them. In the process of commenting on why, say, the Creation Museum is a farce, it’s easy to bring up what the Bible says in Genesis and why it’s so obviously wrong. Same thing when a politician rails against marriage equality.
6) I’m not speaking only to atheists.
Based on the responses I see to the posts we make here, on other websites or in the comment threads, it’s clear that the audience isn’t just atheists (or even people interested in religious debate). The articles reach people who have an interest in whatever topic the post is about, whether it’s LGBT rights, politics, math, or anything else.
All of these reasons, 2-6, pit Hemant's perspective on currents events in opposition to presenting counter-arguments to faith-based reasoning. Currents events present an endless amount of new material. They show how idiotic and bad believers think and act. They make blogging interesting. And Hemant says he can do both.

News stories having to do with the idiotic and bad behavior of believers may have an impact, due to the power and effectiveness of ridicule, okay. I find these stories interesting, I'll admit, and laughable. However, the believers you depict won't be persuaded they're being idiots or acting badly. And most other believers will say their behavior does not say anything against true Christianity because, after all, we're all sinners as the gospel say. So while Hemant holds believers up for ridicule, and while it's more interesting than rehashing old tired out already debunked faiths, it isn't striking any serious blows to the faiths of believers. It's mainly of interest to atheists, and that's it. At least this is something. Doing so helps create a community of people who can sit back and laugh, who can feel good about themselves for not being like these believers, and can, more importantly, inspire atheists to get involved to change society for the better.

I read through a hundred of more comments under Hemant's post. As I did it appeared to me none of them were from Christians. So that's some evidence, but not conclusive evidence the Friendly Atheist is mainly speaking to atheists. The comments were interesting too. Almost all of them agreed with what was written, not unusual in itself. They agree that what Hemant writes about is more interesting too, and that the tired arguments of Christianity are boring. Okay, I get it.

There is just one problem, the one I linked to from the Pew Research Center, that people with no religion will make up about 13% of the world’s population in 2050, down from roughly 16% as of 2010. I know all to well that rehearsing Cosmological Arguments can be boring for those of us who reject them. I know this, having dealt with these kinds of arguments online for 10 years now. If anyone is bored with these arguments I am. But we're in a war of ideas. The struggle is between those of us who want to create a world of peace and security through persuasion and argumentation, those of us who advocate for secularism and the separation of church and state, those of us who advocate for reason and science to solve our problems, from believers who want a theocracy at its very worst, and with it a whole lot of bloodshed.

So let me offer a solution to you Hemant, even though you may not recognize the need for one. You could easily intersperse one post per day--or one link without comment--on a particular faith argument. It would be something your current readers might be bored with and ignore, but it wouldn't hurt your ratings. People just ignore what doesn't appeal to them. But Christian readers of yours would be struck every day with something that attacks their faith head on. It would be the price for reading your site and may actually increase your traffic. That one post per day would deal with CURRENT arguments put forth by Christian pseudo-intellectuals, as much as possible, and also help atheists who are interested in debating Christians. What say ye? I could help of course, via email or writing for you. But I do think it's needed since you said you could do both. As a leader in the atheist community we need leaders who focus on the majors who can lead by example. You could set a good example. If more atheists followed your example then more Christians would be forced to confront good arguments against their faith whenever they chanced upon an atheist site.