My Debate With Dinesh

I thought this was an insightful comment card handed out to the people who attended my debate with Dinesh last night. The video will be available soon and when it is I'll link to it, along with any results from this card. I've already posted my opening statement. Some people say I lost the debate. Let me respond.
You'll be able to judge for yourselves of course, but keep in mind some things if you will. I gear my arguments to the Christian university student. If you do not fall into this target audience of mine you will probably not feel the force of my arguments. I do not direct my arguments to the skeptic. I do not preach to the choir. I know the mind of the believer and I gear my arguments to them on the level of the university student. That's why I'm interested in the results of the comment cards from Christian students in that audience, which were the overwhelming majority in attendance. I suspect I sowed plenty of doubt among these students.

Another thing. The moderator. A nice guy of course, but apparently it was the first time he had done something like this. While he did a good job keeping us on time he did not do a good job keeping us focused. He just let us talk back and forth during our one on one time. During the Q & A he was supposed to give us each a chance to respond to a particular question regardless of who was asked to respond. Dinesh was asked several questions and I was not given a chance to respond. I asked myself if it would be better to jump in and be rude or not respond, and I chose not to be rude. One must realize that there is no way to answer every argument that your opponent throws up.


Reverend Phillip Brown said...

Hi John,

I cannot wait to see the video. However I find your comments contra-dictionary. Reading your blog you often say Christianity is debunked, the atheist arguments are better and that is the end of the matter. Yet you seem to fail to back up your words with actions. Why is this. You make excuses about loosing this debate, yet your so confident that your arguments are correct? If they are so good, why didn't you totally nail this debate?

Regards, Phil.

bob said...

I have to wonder - in the mind of the believer, is the winner of a debate the one who makes the best argument, or the one who makes their argument best? I think the latter. I have listened to a few debates and I have generally been very impressed with the reasoning of the atheist, and the technique of the Christian.

Breckmin said...

I think we do tire of "The Christian God is impossible" and these types of unsupported assertions. It is the failure to identify all of the amphibology and equivocation going on with imperfect statements made by theologians and apologists in an imperfect medium of communication.

So often I am accused of "moving the goal posts" when explaining this..
The problem is that so many Christians (including myself) have improperly placed the goalposts..

that doesn't mean that somehow God is impossible. If we being little children who are still learning can explain most of much more will it be explained after death?

John needs to address contemporary apologetics in the trenches which deals with the imperfection of developed languages and imperfect statements and nomenclature.

Until he addresses the imperfection of terms like "all powerful" and "all loving" he will continue to miss the actuality of the Creator's Existence.

And how we know this Creator is the God of Abraham.

John said...

The Christian god doesn't make any sense to me. Any god that requires a blood sacrifice before he can forgive is just crazy. My God doesn't do things like that. When I pray I just ask God to forgive me for my wrongdoing. I see no need for blood in order to be forgiven. My God is the standard of Good and it's by this standard that I judge the biblical God to be immoral. Any God that bashes babies brains out against rocks is immoral. I reject the false god of the bible.

Richard said...

What do you feel was the strongest argument you made during the debate?

Richard said...


Which Christian God are you defending?

I'll concede that there are things out there we don't understand.

But, what other properties can we be certain of, and how do we know that they belong to a particular, single entity?

Chuck said...

What I find funny is that Christians like Phil and Breck are so smug about their faith as if the evidence is self-evident. It isn't and I think deep down they know it. If we put both these yahoos in Jordan the good Muslims there would match the smugness they exhibit to no consequence with as little observable evidence. The faith of Christians is in their head. I for one pray (pun intended) that it just stays there.

David Wood said...

I'm looking forward to watching the debate. After reading some of the comments, I still have no clue how things went as far as arguments are concerned. Some have declared D'Souza the winner. But as has been pointed out, there are two main considerations in a debate--arguments and presentation. D'Souza is an excellent presenter, and he's got quite a bit of debate experience. I imagine he'd do well against most opponents. But the evidence is what really matters. I'm hoping his arguments are strong as well, but I'll have to wait and see. (Flowing debates helps take personality points out of the equation.)

Former Believer said...

Reverand Phillip Brown,

Are you a real Reverand? If so, have you ever preached a sermon that you felt you could have done a better job with? Have you ever counseled someone and thought in retrospect, "I wish I would have said _______" or I wish I wouldn't have said _______"? Or do you always perform up to your highest standard on every occasion? Do you equate each performance an individual offers with that person's competency? If so, you probably think Peyton Manning isnn't a very good quarterback.

I haven't seen the debate yet. Maybe John had an off night. I read on one blog he had a cold; if true, maybe that was a factor. Maybe he won the substantive portion of the debate and lost the theatrical portion. Maybe he outclassed D'Souza. Nonetheless, I find the premise of your post to be faulty.

But seriously, the Christian God? A God who allegedly wants to know us, redeem us, and have a relationship with us yet remains invisible, unverifiable, and uncommunicative? A God who says that chopping the head off a bird and dipping a living bird in its blood and having a person shave off their eyebrows is part of a reasonable way to cleanse one of leprosy? Donkeys who talk and understand language? People who live to 900 years old?. A God who tolerates and regulates slavery? A God whose plan to spread the "Good News" was to commission a small group of men in a tiny area of the Middle East with no form of modern communications and limited knowledge of the world's geography? Etc, etc, etc. Unless one is totally incapciated by the blinders of belief, it is impossible to embrace the seemingly limitless absurdities inherent in Christian theology and the Bible. In the 21st Century, it is sad that we are even debating the existence of the Christian God. Thanks to John for his continued efforts to bring light to the darkness.

Bud said...

I noticed that you weren't always given a chance to respond during the questions from the audience. When Dinesh started going on about how you don't believe in unicorns I was hoping you'd say something. I can't believe anyone still uses that argument.

jwhendy said...

"I have to wonder - in the mind of the believer, is the winner of a debate the one who makes the best argument, or the one who makes their argument best? I think the latter."

I couldn't agree more. My opinions:

- being currently into John's book, 'Why I am an atheist', I am somewhat familiar with his language in writing, the thoroughness of his research (check the citations+notes at the end of each chapter), and various arguments he uses. I don't think he even begun to tap his wide array of arguments last night.

- Dinesh used his typical insulting style and bravado to perhaps win the debate. From my perception, even if he didn't win in argumentative content, he won in persona. Try as we may to be focused on the actual content, we are all swayed one way or another by presentation, exuded confidence, etc. I believe Dinesh had a lot more in this realm going for him, unfortunately.

- lastly, given that the debate was about whether or not the Christian God is the true God, I think both sides (as alluded to by John himself in this post) could have done a better job sticking to the arguments pertinent to that question. For example:
--- cosmological arguments don't need to be considered much, as this only proves the idea of a cosmic force or power may exist.
--- the problem of evil: I think this points out objections one might have with the concept of the Christian God in light of the experience of our existence
--- the conundrum of how an omnipotent, omniscient creator can intervene, how he could create a world where individuals will go to hell, or how prayers get their answers decided upon
--- why there is any problem with expecting that Jesus can and would do miracles for all of us if he existed. Jesus specifically said that if we did not believe him, we should believe his works in order to know who sent Him. Why would this be different today? I see no reason why he cannot be expected or politely requested to convince us with the same evidence with which previous non-believers were convinced in the first century.
--- lastly, how if God is responsible for all morality, how we see evidence of near universal core moral truths (or at least practices) and almost no universal core religious beliefs. Christians cite God as the only reason we have morality in the first place. If he can 'infuse' morality into my heart, why am I scouring the earth for good reasons to believe what I used to hold as true? He can obviously implant anything he wants inside of my mind and heart -- why not also the notion that He truly is the one true God?

In finality, John -- if you read this, know that these are present questions I wrestle with and find as supporting a skeptical/non-believing attitude toward my former faith. Around Christmas, the idea to google the historicity of Jesus and authenticity of the Bible popped into my head so I did. I found an extreme lack of evidence or I would have stopped right there. Instead, for whatever reason, for the first time in my life I was able to ask, 'What if it's not true?' I decided to look at how I would convince myself of it's truth if I were not a believer to begin with. That was a month and a half ago and I am still trying.

If I had been in the audience, I would have been most swayed by arguments taking the approach of questioning how the Christian God could be true vs. asserting atheistic viewpoints and scientific view about what I consider currently unknowable as true. Your task as the doubter is simply to illustrate the vast array of reasons there are to doubt. You don't have to prove anything. I think this would be good to keep in mind in the future.

I value your writing and blog very much and believe it to be one of the best sources of open minded thinking and skepticism I have found in my searching. Your book is excellent thus far. I look forward to a re-do of the debate with discernible audio!

Best regards,

Joshua Jung said...

"If they are so good, why didn't you totally nail this debate?"

This is one of the sillier questions I've ever seen.

Debate results say nothing about the force or validity of the arguments employed, especially when your opponent ignores everything you say with a stupid joke about horns and the bull in between.

Ben said...

I was glad to see that you were able to connect with some of the audience, John. The first question in the Q and A seemed to show as much.

Anyway, I was curious. In the "sex, money, power" paradigm of explaining human bias, would the interest in Christian metaphysics fall into the empowerment category? Since they are supposed to renounce wealth and look forward to a sexless heaven and all that?