Unfriendly atheism: "Religion is evil and stupid, and it's got to go!" (Scowl)
Friendly atheism: "Religion is evil and stupid, and it's got to go!" (Smile)
(But, but... we atheists don't scowl!!)
The fixed "debates" of atheism are getting on my nerves (thanks, Ricky Gervais!)--maybe it's because they're enjoying a media comeback. Of course, in the weird reality zone in which cyber-atheists reside, the debate never ends. (What is "the debate," you ask? The debate between science and religion, of course. So why don't we all just stay home and let the two duke it out, you ask? Damn good question. I guess it's because science and religion are constructs, not walking and talking beings.)
Anyway, in the standard cyber-atheist narrative, Dawkins and Harris have people of faith cornered up a tree, desperately clinging to our God of the Gaps, trying in vain to defend ourselves against the unbeatable forces of logic, reason, science, and Maher's turd-in-the-pool analogy. So our job is to convince our betters that we're not deluded, not hostile toward reason, and so on. Our job is to prove we're not wrong.
Is that how debate works? Of course not. People walk into a debate as equals or not at all. A format in which the cyber-atheist is right by default is the most incredible kind of cheating--incredible, because the cheaters will swear they're not cheating. Because of the entitled side's utter inability to see that they're asking people of faith to play the loser in a fixed contest.
(What do you mean, 'play' the loser? You people are already losers!!!) Exactly.
And what's with this popular misconception about claims? Namely, that claims come in one variety only, with each and every claim made by anyone at any time subject to being "scientifically" borne out as factually true? (As if science were the only field dealing in testable truth. How about, oh, history?) So, if I say, "God is real," I have to prove it? How? With photographs? A throat culture? Dental records?
And is "God is real" the equivalent of, "I can prove, using real-world evidence, that God exists"? No. It's a statement of belief. For instance, let's say my favorite color is red. So I say, "Red is the neatest color of them all." Which is a claim, any way you slice it. Hearing this claim, does the skeptic say, "Prove it!!"? Only if he or she is an idiot, because my "claim" is a statement of preference and noting more. In other words, it's an opinion. It's subjective. What is there to prove?
The difference between a belief claim and a testable claim is easy to show. Situation #1: A person claims that ghosts are real--"There are ghosts," he says. Situation #2: A person claims that he has ghosts in his attic, and they're knocking things around, and you can see the darn things. Plus, they talk. "Come on over and see and hear for yourself!" I'd go, wouldn't you?
"Show me" is a perfectly reasonable response to the second situation, whereas "show me" makes no sense as a response to the first. It's the difference between "I believe in Nessie" and "Hey, Nessie's in my back yard, and she's posing for pictures. $5 more if you want to be in the shot." I'd be right over, to see what the heck is happening. And I'd find an empty yard, and, next thing I knew, I'd be on the ground, wallet gone.