“Arguing God to An Atheist” or How to Persuade the Other Side
I once had a class with an impassioned professor, who vented her frustration at the seeming moral blindness of people who doggedly defended a political side. She bewailed that even though she tried to argue logic over those supporters, they merely branded her as belonging to the opposite side because of her opposition.
Such ad hominem attacks are prevalent in our society today. If you criticize the position or one social or political position, you were branded as a stooge of the other side. If you chose one side of the Immigration issue, whatever your positions on the other side, you were branded as Left or Right. If you criticized the government, they branded you as belonging to the Left, or to the political opposition. Often the words “fake news” are bandied around. First originating from the Liberals’ accusations that fake news helped elect Donald Trump as the American President, “fake news” has since been used by governments around the world to label the criticism by the media against them or their bureaucracies.
But how do you argue with a side that argues an issue by attacking your character? How can you convince someone to argue based on the merits of an issue rather than the emotional effects or the character arguing it?
I understand the frustration of my professor, who probably argued the issue over the merits more than the other side. And I understand the side of the Liberals who cannot seem to understand why the Arab Spring, far from leading to democratic governments and societies, became even more conservative. I also understand why it might be hard for Liberals to understand the position of the Conservative Right based on religious arguments or for the Right to understand the position of the Left based on progressive arguments.
The point is, the two sides are arguing in different languages. It is like “arguing God to an Atheist”: if you try to argue a position based on religious grounds, when your opponents are secular, then they will simply dismiss you because you are deriving your argument on your core beliefs rather than theirs. One must realize that maybe your logic is not their logic. Maybe you see them as foolish or simpletons for not adhering to a philosophy that to you is profound, but then they could probably see you as foolish and a simpleton for not adhering to their philosophy.
The point is: argue your case based on their language. If you are trying to argue against abortion, but your opponents oppose religious institutions, then you persuade your case with logical, secular arguments. If you support Immigration, but your opponents believe that whites should be given more priority (I’m not saying racist), then you concede some of their points but argue based on the weak merits of their position.
Remember that Truth is absolute, but belief is relative. You may believe that Truth is on your side, but so does the other side. So you cannot directly oppose their arguments, as they will only doggedly stick to them. You must concede that they have good points, but argue your position based on how they argue.
The other political side may seem foolish, and resort to petty attacks on character, but try to argue based on their set of beliefs. “Yes, I agree that this is true, but…” “Yes, you are right that this is true, but…” “If you base it on this, then that is possible, but then this also says…” Not everybody speaks the same logical train of thought. Sometimes they resort to illogical emotional reasoning.
I remembered the fighting style of aikido: the major theme is to use the opponent’s weight against them. Because it is useless to directly confront them, as it will result in an impasse, then you use their arguments against them.
And if he simply will not budge in his position, then you can at least make him compromise on some aspects of it. If you cannot argue God to an Atheist, then don’t. Don’t outright oppose him for everything he stands for. Persuade him somehow else.
Make him change somehow else.