Things atheists should consider when debating Christians

by Matt Slick

Over the past few years, I've frequently debated with atheists in chat rooms, the CARM discussion forums, and the radio show.1 I don't know what it is with them, but I find that most of them simply don't want to do their homework when it comes to understanding what Christianity actually teaches.  They attack Christianity, often misrepresent it, and fail to learn when corrected.  I mean, it is truly amazing.  It is as though they don't care about accuracy as long as they can deny God.  In light of this, I've developed the list below of suggestions for atheists in the hopes that they might improve their approach.

Now, many atheists will scoff at this list, mock it, say I'm guilty of the same thing, etc.  I expect that because for the most part have to argue and dispute everything.  Because of their constant badgering and contrary attitude that seems to dominate everything they say, I've grown more and more reluctant to dialogue with them because it seems they simply do not want to study what they criticize; and they don't want to present their arguments in a cogent, nonvolatile manner.  They very often use pejorative terms, demeaning phrases, and refuse to learn.  Anyway, I digress.  Following is the list of suggestions I have for the atheists.

  1. Understanding what you attack - This is a huge one for atheists. They attack Christianity and, in my opinion, frequently fail to understand what they are criticizing.
  2. Learn biblical theology - A lot of answers to objections can be found in basic Christian theology.  For example, the Trinity is not three gods.  Jesus has two natures:  divine and human.  Justification is a legal act, and sin is a legal problem.
  3. Learn from correction - When a faulty understanding of Christianity is corrected, they very often deny the correction and defend their error.
  4. Don't be stupid - a tough one for them.  But you can do it if you strain yourselves.
  5. Don't use incendiary statements - like the one I used in point 4 above. It was an example of what not to do since it raises emotional blocks that prevent rational discourse.  (I have to admit I struggle with this one when dealing with atheists. I guess you can say that I'm jaded after all my dialogues with them - something I have to work on.)
  6. Don't use emotionally laden terminology - This only detracts from the argument.  For example, atheists will use terms like magic, magic sky god, Christian fantasy, Christian mythology, etc., when attacking Christianity. Such terms only close the doors of communication.
  7. Be respectful to what we believe - You don't have to agree with Christianity. But you need to realize that if you, for example, insult Jesus our Savior, all you do is make yourself look bad, get people defensive, and make atheists, as a whole, look like obstreperous twits.2
  8. Use logic and evidence - when attempting to refute Christianity.
  9. Read biblical passages in context - It seems that atheists refuse to do this and just jump on a standard "contradictions" without researching the context
  10. Don't cut and paste from anti-Christian websites - Too often atheists want others to do their thinking and research for them so they cut and paste really bad, poorly researched stuff from other sites.

I'm sure I'll be modifying this list as time goes on, and I'm sure that atheists will attack me for it, say I'm a hypocrite, insensitive, etc.  Like I said, they just argue about everything.

  • 1. In the public formal debates I've had with Eddie Tabash, Edward Kagin, and Dan Barker, I've found them to be far more polite and studied than typical 'internet atheists,' but they too need to study more thoroughly what they criticize.
  • 2. obstreperous means to be resisting self-control, to be unruly, noisy, and difficult

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.