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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

iPhone Apps for Religious Debate

The New York Times reports that there are a growing number of smart phone apps to help Christians debate Atheists and vice versa.
In a dozen new phone applications, whether faith-based or faith-bashing, the prospective debater is given a primer on the basic rules of engagement — how to parry the circular argument, the false dichotomy, the ad hominem attack, the straw man — and then coached on all the likely flashpoints of contention. Why Darwinism is scientifically sound, or not. The differences between intelligent design and creationism, and whether either theory has any merit. The proof that America was, or was not, founded on Christian principles.

I guess it's the inevitable trajectory of our society to reduce such conversations to quips loaded into our phones. But is this really an effective method of debate (or is debate effective at all)? I've debated many atheists, and while most of the time we come away with respect for each other, it has never changed anyone's mind on the topic. I appreciate their perspective because I take the time to listen to their frustration with faith and Christianity.

The problem with these apps is the problem with debate in our society. It has become little more than an exercise in offering pithy sound-bites. The Presidential debates were not, in any classic sense, debates, but rather opportunities for the candidates to restate their rigid point of view. The same is true of these apps, they give everyone the chance to sound smart, but no one has to actually think about what they're saying or why.

What do you think?

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