Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Don't Play By Christians' Rules - Or, Why Chess Players Move First

Ever play chess? White moves first. And guess what - that matters. Based on the skill levels of the players, white wins 5-10% more often than black. If you move second, you might spend the whole game responding to their moves instead of executing your own.

This is why it's so puzzling why atheists often rhetorically choose black, by starting with assumptions well into Christians' territory in debates and writing. For instance: "Is the Bible the word of God?" "Is it possible to be moral without the Bible?"

If you're trying to reach people on the fence who are already questioning, then "How do we know what the truth is?" and "How can we be more moral people?" are better places to start.

If on the other hand, you're trying to reach people deeper in Christianity, you would need to start much further into Christian territory, by phrasing things in non-threatening ways that appeal to their existing values. This is harder. For example, "Morality and the Bible" doesn't contain anything that will set their alarms off. But you also have to ask why you're spending time on Christians when there are still many, many non-religious people who don't know there's already a community out there of people with similar values. On top of that, trying to improve your arguments is not the way to reach this people, to the extent they're reachable. Social exposure to secular people who lead moral lives - is far more likely to soften theists' attitudes. Debates and writing can strengthen pre-existing values, but they usually don't change them, and almost never change them in the near-term.

Spending a lot of energy telling Christians they're wrong might make you feel better, if what you're really doing is just enjoying giving a piece of your mind to The Man. That's certainly your right, but let's not pretend it's growing the secular community. Which is what we need.

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