Matt Dillahunty was a southern Baptist for 25 years and on his way to becoming a pastor, when he decided to take a different path.
Now, Dillahunty is the host of The Atheist Experience and travels to participate in religious debates, siding with atheists.
During SashaCon, a conference hosted by MU SASHA (Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists and Agnostics) on Saturday and Sunday (March 14-15), he told a story of one formal debate that lasted an entire weekend in San Antonio with the Church of Christ.
Dillahunty said when he came across a problem or argument he didn’t have an answer to, he simply replied, “I don’t know.” He said this was a scary concept to many of the people there.
“They hear ‘I don’t know,’ and they say ‘I do know,’” Dillahunty said.
One pastor later asked Dillahunty if he was comfortable going to his grave saying, “I don’t know.”
Dillahunty answered, “No,” and that is why he continues to explore.
Another point often made by others during the debates he participates in is that science is always changing, and is therefore unreliable. He said that science “doesn’t make a proclamation about truth,” and that if you think it’s wrong, then simply prove it wrong.
By the end of the weekend of the Church of Christ debate, the church said there was no winner or loser to this debate. But Dillahunty said he began receiving emails with more and more questions.
At SASHA Con, he emphasized that when debating with people, it is better to disagree with the other side’s beliefs – not to tell people they are stupid. His IQ didn’t go up just because he left the Southern Baptist faith, he said.
Dillahunty pointed out that formal debates are not for everyone, and that they require a special set of skills. But, he said, there are still things people can do. He offered these tips to his audience:
- Do debates
- Be out and open about your thoughts (if you can)
- Participate in national and local groups
- Ask questions
- Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” – then, find out and get back to them
- Be firm
- Address claims, not people
- Don’t buy into the idea that it’s useless to have debates
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