How To Shut Down A Conversation With A Religious Person

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I made a list for shutting down conversation with an atheist, so it’s only fair to attempt one for shutting down conversations with a theist.

Of course, I’ll have to remember back to when I believed in God, but I’ll give it my best shot. If you’re a theist, feel free to add to my list in the comment section.

Here goes!

Compare God to Santa

I get why atheists do this, but it’s usually not productive. It just comes off as being condescending. If you want to have a thoughtful conversation with a theist, don’t start it off by comparing their belief in god to Santa.

I know it’s tempting at times, but it’s a conversation destroyer.

Pretend atheism makes you smarter than a theist

There are smart and not so smart atheists and theists. Being one or the other doesn’t mean you’re automatically smarter than the other. Let’s not pretend they do. Trying to put yourself on a pedestal isn’t going to lead to a good conversation.

Fairy in the sky

It sounds a bit like a rock song, but I see atheists using this line quite a bit. I’m not sure who made it popular, but I personally don’t find it very productive. It’s sort of like the Santa analogy – it sounds condescending and insulting.

Ignore when theists make a good point

When I answer posts I tend to answer point by point. I do this because I don’t want the other person to feel as if I didn’t read or consider their point of view. I also like to acknowledge when a theist makes a good point.

Assume what a theist believes

This knife cuts both ways. Both atheists and theists often make assumptions about what the other believes. It’s much better to just ask the other person to clarify what they believe than to assume. Plus, you run into less misunderstandings this way.

Win. Win. Right?

Work together?

This is a weird one but in my line of work, I run into it sometimes. It’s when someone doesn’t want to work with the other group because they either believe in god or don’t. Sometimes I have to work with religious organizations because we have a common goal; whether that means working with a shelter or soup kitchen. Sometimes the ends justify the means and we can work together to accomplish that goal.

Be able to defend quotes or links

I brought this up in my other article, but atheists can sometimes fall into the same trap. If you’re going to use a quote, make sure you can back it up or defend your position. Dropping a quote doesn’t automatically mean you’re right.

So there’s my list. Feel free to disagree with me, agree or add your own thoughts to the list in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

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23 Comments

  1. Good list. Add don’t tell us we only believe because of indoctrination or trauma or because we are suffering from some form of mental illness. Also that if we just got educated we would understand our error.

    • Agreed. We generally grow up believing what our parents believe, the same way we learn to like the foods they serve, or starve. I seriously object to trigger words like “indoctrinate”, “force’ or “abuse”.

      Keep your temper, or leave, if it’s a civil convo. (yes, yes, I know. We all get a bit warm now and then) and don’t talk down to the other guy, no matter what his belief system is.

      • Sadly, indoctrination is very much part and parcel of the fundamentalist religious environment for a child and many, many parents do not shy away from telling their children they are born sinners, that failure to believe in Jesus and repent will result in them going to Hell to be tortured for eternity.
        Whether you like t or not, this is child abuse and is disgusting.
        Little can be done about it in the sphere of the child/parent relationship but people like Wally should not have any freedom whatsoever to preach this diatribe to children at Sunday school.

  2. Very well stated. I myself am agnostic. It usually confuses the hell out of both theists and atheists so I have found myself in some VERY interesting conversations. Talk about being in the fringe minority. Anyways, what I find myself often saying is this, “I respect your views even though I might not entirely agree with them. Can we just agree to disagree?” A person would have to be a total a$$ to not go along with that. If they insist on trying to cram their ideological beliefs down my throat after that, it’s usually the point that I shrug my shoulders, shake my head, and walk away.

  3. Pingback: How to End a conversation with a Believer | My Omer of Manna

  4. May I add… Don’t accuse them of being a ‘fundamentalist’. Because, nothing will make them dig their heels in more than such an assertion. That’s polarising the discussion emotionally by comparing people who hold to their beliefs with terrorists.

  5. I do think there’s something to be said for the public acceptance of religion,

    In that case, I vote we ”resurrect” the Aztec religion and their god, Quetzalcoatl. I wonder how that would go down?
    Maybe if I start a tele-evangelical ministry I could collect enough shekels to build me a nice big stepped pyramid and a set of super sharp knives with bone handles and Mother of Pearl inlay?

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