Apologetics is an art. It’s a blend of preaching, dissembling, reaching, and obfuscation. But no matter how deep the apologist, if you go back far enough to the beginnings of their argument you’ll find it’s based in pure supposition.
In their favor, I suppose apologists are attempting to be rational, but there’s a flaw in their ointment.
Dinesh D’Sousa likes to quote mine science without actually understanding or accepting it. When he searches for his god in the non-existent singularity at the supposed beginning of the universe he shows an almost willful ignorance of science while he commits that common sin of looking back through the years until he finds an argument that he can use. Unlike religion, science moves on, while the religious pretenders are comfortable using non-facts as facts.
The Rev. Al Sharpton gets away with horrendous logical fallacies, assuming his conclusions and doesn’t get called on it because the fallacies are lost in the miasma of his rhetoric. The anthropic argument has been done to death, Rev.
What can I say about Bill Donahue? One can only imagine him foaming at the mouth as he rants on whatever he perceives to be a threat to Catholicism. He’s such an unpleasant person that I consider him an asset to atheism – he’ll drive more away than he’ll convince, particularly since he really doesn’t have any useful arguments. It amazes me that his red-faced, apoplectic rants haven’t yet stopped his ticker.
William Dembski likes to define his playing field and holds his debate opponents to it. He tells Hitchens that he’s off-topic when Hitch makes a good point and receives audience approbation.
And what to say about the recent Hitchens/Blair debate? When I see Tony Blair I have to unapologetically fight off the phrase, ‘thick as a brick.’ As Hitch repeatedly shows that Blair is wrong, Blair continues on as if he’s alone on the stage, simply expounding on what he’s already said as if it hadn’t been refuted. His basic message is, ‘religion gives us morals, and even though people who aren’t religious can be moral, religion gives us morals.’
Blair is a very weak debater.
So let’s recap:
Apologists use rhetorical devices to frame their views. Here are some techniques:
- Never be swayed by facts. They only confuse the issue so ignore them.
- Any proposition, no matter how ridiculous, can be explained away if you work hard enough at it. (The essence of apologetics.)
- Talk quickly and one can make any number of unsupported statements and their audience won’t have time to realize that they’ve been spouting nonsense. People believe fast talkers.
- As a person of merit, you will be looked upon as someone with special qualities and given credibility whether you deserve it or not. Feel free to use this to your advantage.
- Move those goal posts! If an apologist’s opponent answers a question that they thought unanswerable, then all that must be done is to expand the question beyond the original parameters.
- Choose the battleground. Religious colleges often supply an audience of ready-made compadres. Put the non-believer into the lion’s den.
- Make a story and stick with it. If you do badly at a debate because your arguments stink, keep using them because you’re bound to have a cadre of followers who will leave if they see you changing your story in mid-stream.
I’m sure I’ll come up with more on this in the future. I find watching the debates to be a fascinating pastime. There seems to be a threshold where people actually start using rationality in their lives and from that point can no longer be fooled by the irrationality of the apologists.