The 4 Personality Types of Believers in Debates
Guest Author: The Thinking Atheist (reposted with permission from his website)
In my quest to test the merits of Christianity over these past years, I’ve seen a pattern. I ask tough but legitimate questions to people of faith, and the answers that come back usually place the sender into one of four categories. The more people I speak with, the more repetition I see. The categories are:
The Feeler often has a bible in tow and easily interjects God and Jesus into everyday conversation.
The Feeler takes great comfort in his Savior, and any inconsistencies or chaos in the world can be quickly brushed away with the knowledge that “God Is In Control.”
The Feeler has a heart as big as Dallas but is easily flustered. Scientific, philosophical and moral challenges to his faith frustrate him, like an irritating noise that must be blocked out.
Thinking with the heart makes him easy fodder in any real debate on spiritual issues.
Ask him about the logistics of the Creation argument. Attempt to discuss guided evolution, or the fossil record, or physical evidence of a divine hand. Ask him why he believes in Jehovah opposed to any other god. Ask him any question that includes the words “how” or “why,” and you’ll rarely get an answer that goes deeper than “I just know it in my heart.”
He doesn’t know how or why. And according to him, he’s not SUPPOSED to know. No proof is required before purchase. God is beyond all of us, and we simply must trust and have faith. The Feeler speaks earnestly, but with no real answers.
I can’t imagine any other arena where ignorance is brandished like a badge of honor. For The Feeler, it’s perfectly fine to accept his role as a drone in the ant farm. Don’t bother him with sticky, complicated scenarios. In fact, he’ll freely admit that he’d rather be wrong, embrace a fantasy and be happy.
Some of the most elaborate responses have come from educated bible scholars.
Each discussion usually begins with a quick resume (where he presents his degrees like movie credits), and then he delves into a thick, eloquent tirade designed to impress and overwhelm.
The Theologian likes to respond to questions about the authenticity of the scriptures by quoting…the scriptures! (Isn’t that like quoting the Qur’an to prove the Qur’an?)
Instead of addressing why God would instruct man with a book (written by man) in primitive Palestine 2,000 years ago, or why some books were canonized while others were ignored, or why God doesn’t give us real-time communication, The Theologian attempts to win the intellectual tug-of-war with wordy diatribes, convoluted scripture analysis and thick rebukes of the unwashed, unsaved masses.
The Theologian instructs us to learn biblical Truth with helpful bible-reading pointers:
• Go back to the original Greek.
• See the passage in the proper context, taking into account the time period and local customs.
• Cross-reference the passage with another passage.
• (my favorite) Remember that you can’t take the entire bible LITERALLY.
That last point is great for getting other Theologians to argue amongst themselves over whether the bible is literal or not. Or which translation is the most accurate. Or how wrong some interpretations are. Or whether all of the scriptures apply to today.
Put a dozen of these guys in a room and see how much consensus you get on any subject. (Not much.)
Nobody stops to ask the most basic question: Isn’t this subjective, archaic, hand-me-down method of communicating scriptural Truth rather INEFFECTIVE for such a smart and timeless God?
Instead of addressing these issues, the Theologian loves to redirect the conversation back to his comfort zones, responding to questions you didn’t actually ask.
Toss out a zinger about why God doesn’t intervene to prevent tragedies in today’s headlines, and you might get 3 paragraphs about why Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden.
If you take that bait and ask about the provability of the “Adam and Eve” Creation argument, The Theologian might skip past the “belief” part and start telling you why he “disbelieves” that we came from monkeys (which isn’t proof of Creation). He usually tosses out Darwin’s name at least twice, often followed by words like “idiot” and “stupid.”
If you take THAT bait and ask him to reconcile the vast discrepancies between Creationists and the scientific record, The Theologian might jump into a soap box about the book of Revelation and the End Times. It’s all very jarring.
Almost always, The Theologian finishes with a few lofty words from his high perch, giving assurances that he has studied the bible, traveled to biblical places, immersed himself in history and applied his formidable intellect to the study of God’s Word. There can be no question. “Alas, ye lesser minds, ye must lean to my wisdom. I am no fool. But if you reject this faith, you certainly are.”
The Theologian’s platform is thick and condescending. Fortunately, our next category provides some levity:
The Folklorist has just enough information to make him dangerous. His antennae are always up, listening for another piece of “proof” that God exists, and then he re-transmits that information without bothering to fact-check it.
He’ll hear a headline about a boat-shaped geological discovery in Turkey, and he’ll email 50 people that Noah’s Ark has been found without checking to realize that the site is actually a natural formation of the earth’s crust.
He’ll send you photos of the final moments of the World Trade Center in 2001, where an image of the devil’s face can be discerned amidst the ball of flame. 9/11 was attack by Satan, and here is the proof! (Apparently, The Folklorist has never heard of Photoshop, because he’s always sending you doctored images.)
Remember back in the 80s and 90s, when Christians boycotted Proctor & Gamble products because the P&G trademark was a sign of Satan? The “man and moon” symbol was demonic, and The Folklorist did his Christian duty by spreading the protest. (The symbol was actually created by a crate maker in the 1800s to help organize dock shipments. P&G grew so tired of the controversy that they eventually changed their emblem.)
The Folklorist probably grew up playing his records backwards to find Satanic messages, looking for God-shaped cloud formations, bending everything in the book of Revelation to match the evening news, and ascribing divine meaning to everyday coincidences. (“I ran into Suzie today at Wal-Mart after 20 years. God must have brought her into my life for a REASON.”)
The Folklorist is usually knocked out in the first round, because his claims are so easily refuted. One or two sentences are usually all it takes to send him packing, albeit usually in an embarrassed and somewhat wounded state.
The Folklorist never actually allows any of these exchanges to change his mind, however. He simply removes the debunked myth from his list and carries on to the next one. (But he STILL refuses to buy Proctor & Gamble…just in case.)
My final category is a somewhat defensive, angry fellow:
THE FOOT SOLDIER
Usually a strong personality, The Foot Soldier attempts to defend God by flipping the discussion 180 degrees.
Not as well-versed as the Theologian, he champions Christianity from the front lines instead of the war room.
Legitimate questions are bounced back with righteous indignation.
ISSUE: Why did God allow the horror of Germany’s Holocaust?
ANSWER: Miracles happened during the Holocaust! Talk to the survivors! And evil was defeated! America won! Who are you to question God?
ISSUE: Why doesn’t God help to provide for the tens of thousands of starving people in the world?
ANSWER: God uses man. God wants man to be a missionary to the world. God WANTS to save them, but he WANTS to use man. Who are you to question God?
ISSUE: Why does God create a physical, tangible creature desperate for answers, and then insist on providing no physical, contemporary proof of Himself?
ANSWER: God has proven Himself! He’s real! He’s in my heart! Who are you to question God?
See a pattern? The Foot Soldier’s tactic is to use force to keep the questioner on the defensive. From his perspective, anyone who dares to put Christianity to the fire MUST be delusional, misled or seeks to be God himself.
The Foot Soldier loves a good fight, argues with passion and often tramples over weaker opponents with sheer verve. But simply because his debate vessel is loud and fast does not mean it was soundly constructed.
Ultimately, The Feeler, The Theologian, The Folklorist and The Foot Soldier all have one thing in common: they’re all convinced. Their varied paths have all led them to a destination of subjective certainty. They can’t prove it, but somehow the un-provability of God makes His existence even truer.
It has become apparent to me that arguing against the existence of God might well be counter-productive, and a complete waste of time. Why should Christians embrace a complicated reality when a simple faith will do?