A lot of atheists think that debating scripture is a frivolous exercise since it can't be demonstrated to be true in the first place and are therefore quick to dismiss it. However, I believe the bible can be common ground to at least open up discussion (if not objective debate) with more fundamentalist Christians who refuse to start a debate on the grounds of empirical evidence.
I feel that I can debate Creationists all day on the fine points of evolution, history, astronomy, and physics, but when it comes to scripture and biblical rhetoric I feel my knowledge and abilities fall short. I find it hard to navigate through the mental gymnastics and logical fallacies theists persistently use in their scriptural counter-arguments. It seems easy to specifically demonstrate points of atrocity in Leviticus and throughout the bible, but the theists strange counterarguments often leave me lost for words. When debating theists, It's also hard to mediate a separation of dogma and evangelism (when they push it) from a discussion about the logical consistencies within the bible and relating to the world at large (the latter being what I'm interested in). In many ways I feel debating biblical logic is tantamount to debating logical inconsistencies within The Lord of The Rings, except 80% of Americans base their world view on "Lord of The Rings." I also try to keep an open mind so any argument is potentially valid until I can refute it and I try not using the same fallacies I accuse creationists of using.
I've been scouring the internet in an attempt to do more research on counter-apologetics. (Iron Chariots was disappointingly limited IMO). I stumbled upon a website that had a comprehensive list of hard rhetorical questions to ask Christians and halfway through I found a reply from a theist using the type of twisted rationalization I alluded to earlier. Some of his arguments are transparently fallacious while I simply don’t know the best angle to tackle the others (I have ideas, but I'd love to compare them to yours). It's possible some of these arguments may even be sound IF the bible where demonstrated to be a source of reliable information. I thought it would be a fun exercise for you guys to maybe address some of these counter arguments. The website is:
The point is that I don't want to use my get out of jail free card right of the bat and simply say "prove it" because for my purposes that would put any kind of discussion to a halt. I lost two of my best friends from childhood to fundamentalist Christianity who will no longer have anything to do with me because of their faith. If I bring up the topic of evidence right out of the gate, they will no doubt tune me out.
I want to be able to demonstrate without a reasonable doubt using scripture that the bible is not the inerrant and non-contradictory book they have been fed to believe. The problem is that when I point out these contradictions and moral transgressions the theists are quick to retort using biblical rhetoric. As someone fairly new to the topic of theology I don't feel I can hold my ground on a comprehensive debate of scripture, but do I really have to read the whole bible to defend what are such seemingly obvious absurdities. It seems that In order to reconcile these controversial verses with their own morality they resort to this type of twisted rationalization that is so outside the realm of logic that I simply don't know how to best deal with it. Like I said, it's even possible some of these excuses/explanations may be sound IF the bible where demonstrated to be true. However, I notice that many atheists aren't shy to engage theists in debates of scripture. These debates might cause the theists to at least begin to think more critically about their faith and do some secular research.
Some interesting points guys, thanks. I've been researching the evolution-creationism controversy for a couple years now and have formed some pretty strong opinions regarding the existence of a God. I joined this board in the hopes of refining my views and listening to what other people have to say on the matters. I have good friends from all kinds of religions and denominations of Christianity and most of them aren't shy from at least discussing the existence of God on a critical level. My original posting was referring to the type of Christians that think "the bible says it, it's good enough for me. Case closed." This type of closed minded, dark-age thinking can't possibly be good for society on any level. I also notice that many of these Christians don't actually know what much of the bible says ( not that I do either, but I know more than many of them). I was hoping that if I can demonstrate that some of the views they have about the bible aren't supported by the book itself then maybe they can take the first step to thinking more critically.
Debating scripture is sort of uncharted territory for me and I'm just not prepared to debate biblical rhetoric. I know much about the history surrounding the creation of the bible and the evolution (no pun intended) of Christianity, but I am rather unfamiliar with specific passages and how they support or contradict one another. In the past when my debates about evolution-creationism turned too preachy and evangelical I always pulled out the trump card and said "prove it" or asked "how do you know that's true?," which brought the debate into familiar territory, but the aforementioned fundamentalists will not discuss the bible on any grounds other than scripture. They aren't even familiar with the argument for intelligent design.
Another question to atheists: When do you think it's appropriate to debate scripture? I know many that have said "Never, it's not your responsibility to be an expert of their holy book," but I've seen others have colorful debates on the topics of slavery, genocide and absolute morality based on their knowledge of scripture.