On my campus we often have religious zealots that come to spew hate on the plaza as well as other religious sects that stop you while you're on your way to class to try and recruit you. When people are spewing hate I never know whether or not it would be better to confront them. I don't want to turn a blind eye to their ignorance because words have power and I want people from minority groups that are often on the recieving end of this hate, to feel welcomed on campus; but at the same time I don't want to acknowledge them because it just feeds into their rant and continues the perpetuation of hate.
The groups that try to recruit students into their churches always start off with the same question "Can I get your opinion on something?" and follow that question with one about what you believe in as far as religion goes. I always tell them that I don't have the time anymore because I'm tired of being verbally berated and because I'm afraid that having this debate at all conflates their view--in that by debating them they start to feel as if their beliefs are on the same level as facts.
My Uncle Doc told me once "Don't ever play somebody else's game." I won't debate anyone about anything where they make the rules and they determine the forum. They've stacked it against you, and that's a bad spot to start from. I do like honest existential discussions in a friendly environment with people who are open to ideas. But this is territory where zealots rarely visit.
Not unless I’m provoked into it.
I also take liberties with the Jehova’s witnesses. They stand in strategic spots here in Edinburgh and, because THEY’RE the ones putting themselves in a position where they’re open to a debate by trying to shove their bible at our faces, I usually rise up to the challenge.
No, because I believe it's a waste of time. I'll only debate on any subject, when I believe it may make a difference. When someone is delusional they are impaired, and heavily influenced by illogical and/or personal justifications (subjective). Due to this impairment they are less inclined to digest and embrace factual or objective information. The only exception I make is when people try to indoctrinate children they are not the parents of. Though I don't support any form of religious indoctrination
I also never waste my time on the hate-spewers. Obviously, they somehow are getting off on the "persecution" we give them when we shout back... I think if they were completely ignored by everyone they would probably do it less(?). As to the "surveyors" who turn out to be recruiters, I'd also just brush them off quickly as they are obviously neck-deep into their religion to be doing such a thing. The only people I do debate/discuss with are friends/coworkers/colleagues/family... IF they bring it up. If this happens, I just try to focus on what beliefs we do have in common and how we can both be moral despite our differences. I think it's most important for them to see that we non-believers are human and moral; they've had a lifetime of propaganda from the pulpit telling them otherwise, so going in friendly and gentle is one of the few ways I've found that I'm heard.
They have an agenda (these people you're talking about) so they are not really interested in your opinion, or in a debate. I do not seek out religious people to debate and I'm not on a mission to deconvert anyone (but I'd be happy if they all just "saw the light" and stopped believing tomorrow). However, if someone engages me, I'm happy to offer my opinion, which is rather strong. =]
Rarely do I spend any time debating with the religious. However, on those rare occasions, it is a sight to behold. Even more rare than the debates is obtaining any form of positive result -- which is one of the major reasons for rarely engaging. Hate spinning my wheels.
It depends: on the conditions, on my mood, on the person in front of me. If they’re someone who “thinks they know the bible,” well, I can’t help but engage. I’ve been studying that book for most of my life, so I know a thing or two about it, and I don’t mind correcting misinformation. If it’s an obnoxious person, then I’m more inclined to engage just because... well... obnoxious is MY thing.
But I know this: they don’t respond to reason, and I don’t try using reason. If they’re quoting the bible, I quote it back. When it comes to their beliefs, I gently mock them, or poke fun. I’m no Jon Stewart, but his is the best approach I’ve seen. After all, if this were a “reasonable” debate, we wouldn’t be having it.
Not many nutters around here, or at the very least I don't run into them much. If they wanna go down that rabbit hole of debate then I'll try my best to maintain my cool and discuss with them so long as they aren't flat out stupid. Most of the time it isn't much worth it if you're in it to convince them, I just do my best to correct them on any factual errors and give as many logical reasons why I never drank the kool-ade.
I will only engage in those types of conversations if its amaong people I know and in a particular setting. We're far more apt to listen to our friends and family than we are a complete stranger when it comes to such topics. Ultimately the debate ends up being pointless so instead I've taken on the philosphy of explaining the process of figuring it out for themselves. Encouraging them to ask important questions about life and showing them ways they can research for themselves. When they ask me what I believe I simply shift the conversation, "More important than what I believe is whether or not you've asked yourself the right questions." It usually catches them off guard and they'll want you to elaborate. At which point I just peacefully start pointing out simple questions like have they ever stopped to consider what life would be like if they didn't exist. Stuff like that. If the conversation goes nowhere than I just politely excuse myself from the situation.
I often engage with theists about the lack of merit for their faith (belief without evidence) based belief system. In so doing, after weeks of debates, I have brought a few (small percentage) theists to their knees, (literally, one assumed the fetal position and another bend down and cowered like a dog when he saw me) I also brought tears to they eyes of a priest who realized his work was not truthful and was departmental to civilization. I also managed to De-converted a few bystanders in the process.