For all their love of contention, a good number of fundamentalists rank as some of the most inept arguers in the world. This debating deficiency stems mainly from their inability to either care what their opponent really believes or actually address it with integrity. Why bother listening to someone who is certainly wrong? Just wait for them to take a breath and blast them with “the truth.”
In order for an honest dialog to take place, each side must be willing to at the very least admit that his understanding of his opponent’s position may have been mistaken. Here are the common stages in the Arguing with Fundies process…
Yes, the facts gathered third-hand via scrawled notes taken from an evangelist’s sermon illustration back in 1987 may be slightly less than accurate. Never fear, if you repeat something long enough and loud enough then it starts to sound true. Full speed ahead and into the fray! Just. Keep. Repeating. Yourself.
Keep talking and don’t ever stop talking as you just allow a stream of words to flow out of your mouth in such a never ending cacophany of sound that the person listening finally gives up and decides that anything else — up to and including watching daytime television — would be a better use of their time than listening to one more sentence, one more word, one more syllable of this never-ending tirade on whatever long-since forgotten and probably less than useful point is being made. If I’ve got more words than you it means I’m winning, right? Right?
If mere strong assertions are not enough to win the argument, the fall back position is inevitably to question the motives of your opponent. Does that non-fundamentalist dare imply that the fundy’s music standards are not really based on Scripture? THAT’S ONLY BECAUSE HE WANTS TO DANCE TO THAT GODLESS ROCK MUSIC! The key here is to assume certain facts are true about any non-fundamentalist without bothering to ask.
Some fundamentalists may just end the conversation with a blast of accusation and then march away. But for the older and more experienced fundy there is one more approach: tell them “we only hate you because we love you.” Indeed, the fundy only fights with others because he cares. He prays for them. He sheds big slobbery tears for them. He’d like to give them a big old hug — if they would just repent and admit that fundamentalists are right, that is. Fundamentalists only love the sinner for what he could become, never what he is.
I would add that I’ve had a few rare thoughtful discussions with fundamentalists who were not obviously spending the entire time I was talking thinking of their next retort instead of actually listening. It’s an exceptional thing.