10 Tips for Winning a Debate
Hemant Mehta (http://www.friendlyatheist.com, http://www.patreon.com/Hemant)
Herb Silverman, who's done a number of debates against Christians, offered some advice for atheists who may debate Christians, and I wanted to share those ideas with you. These are ideas from his list with my own additions.
1) Know Your Audience. If you're speaking to a mostly conservative Christian crowd, telling anti-religious jokes won't get them on your side. You're trying to get through to them, so you don't want to give them easy reasons to not listen to you.
2) Treat your opponent with respect: They mean well; they're just wrong. Don't resort to insults. Don't laugh out loud while they speak. You end up looking bad. Attack their arguments, not them.
3) Be conversational: Debates can get academic, with long words that are better suited for an advanced philosophy class. Don't be that person. Speak to us like we're having a conversation at a restaurant. Am I saying you should dumb it down for us? YES! The audience probably doesn't think about this stuff on a regular basis, so don't impress us with your knowledge of seven-syllable words. Your goal is to get us to think differently, not bore us to sleep.
4) Smile: Atheists already have a bad reputation, but if you're smiling as you speak, people will just like you more. They'll listen to you more. You can smile and still make very strong points.
5) Don't try to win over your opponent. That's not gonna happen. Just win over the crowd. Destroy the stereotypes they might have. Challenge them.
6) Stay calm. The other side is bound to say something ridiculous like God says homosexuality is a sin or the Bible is literally true or they'll toss out Pascal's Wager as if it's a good idea. Don't get angry. Don't call them names. Just refute them.
7) Don't be afraid to praise the Bible: It helps to say that you think all educated people should read the Bible. For a couple reasons. 1) It's the basis for so much great literature and culture. You'd be missing out on a lot of references if you skipped it. 2) You should know what you're arguing against.
8) Don't be afraid to admit your opponent is right. If she makes a good point, say she made a good point. How many times do we see politicians on TV ever say, "Yeah, the other party had the right idea there?" They think it's a sign of weakness. It's not. It's a sign of strength. By the same token, don't be afraid to say you don't know something. But say you'll figure it out and post an answer somewhere publicly.
9) Don't be afraid to say "i don't know".
10) Leave the audience with something to think about. No one changes everything they believe in the span of an hour. If you're good and lucky, you'll plant some seeds of doubt.
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