Let me start with a story. Once upon a time, Thor was out fighting the Jotun, or giants, as was he want in the defense of Asgard. While he was gone, there game to Asgard a dwarf, by the name of Allwise. And he charmed the Gods and Goddesses with his knowledge of everything, and drew the eyes of Thor’s daughter.
So the daughter of Thor married Allwise and left Asgard with him to journey home. But on the way, they met Thor. Now Thor was angry, and did not like the idea of his daughter forever living in the lightless realm of the dwarves, but he could not change her mind. Nor could he outwit Allwise, who knew all things, for Thor was naught but a brute with a hammer.
Or so the dwarf thought.
But they sat down together, and Thor sought to test the knowledge of Allwise, who answered every question. There was no question Allwise could not answer, for his knowledge was so great! But there was one thing that Allwise did forget, as brutish Thor asked his questions.
The sun did rise, and turned Allwise to stone! And Thor, brute he was thought to be, knew this of dwarves. For Thor was not dumb, but middle-wise, and like the common man he is closest to, he has common sense. He knew that Dwarves turned to stone in sunlight, and so he defeated Allwise, and returned to Asgard with his daughter.
No mention of how his daughter felt about this.
So, why did I just tell that story? Because of winterbright’s comment on my On Atheism and Religion post. It got me thinking.
We Pagans and Heathens often have to deal with people being against us and our paths. Most often this is Christians, and for the most part we are well trained to deal with Christian arguments. We have about a thousand years of philosophy to use to show the weaknesses of Christians, and we have their own deeds. Occasionally, some of us run into Islam, though that is more often in places like Africa or Europe, than in the US, so most haven’t battled it. But there is one group who we sometimes run into, but often have no defenses and counter arguments against.
The Scientific Atheists.
It is easy to fight Faith with Faith. All you have to is believe harder, and have a more reasonable argument. But it is harder to fight “Science” with Faith, because the Scientist not only doesn’t believe in Faith, they don’t even recognize belief as valid. Rather they demand “scientific proof.”
This is where a lot us run into problems. We can’t scientifically prove the things we believe. Every tried to take a picture of a fairy? Even if you’re gifted enough to see one, they probably won’t let you take a picture, and if they do I’m sure a scientist would find a way to claim the picture was “edited.” I can believe, I can Know, that Thor is in the thunderstorm, but I can’t produce “evidence” of it.
And when it comes to discussions, scientists will use logic, reason, and science to disprove the existence of the spiritual and of our beliefs. And I will be honest, faith and belief aren’t the best tools against reason and science. Which makes sense, because science originally came about fighting Christianity, so it adapted itself to fight said religion.
One thing many Pagans like to do is fight religion in the schools, because they worry that Christianity will try to taint the young. What they often fail to consider though, is that Science is also doing the same thing, but you rarely see anyone fighting its supremacy in the textbooks. Yet I think in someways, unless we develop a way to guide future generations in standing against science’s supremacy, we will lose this dream of bringing back Pagan ways.
So where to start? The story of Allwise and Thor, in fact. It offers the best way.
Now I’m not saying we start asking scientific atheists questions till the sun comes up and turn to stone. Alas, such a thing will not work! And we are likely to find our beliefs sorely tested, because we have been raised from birth to embrace logic and reason. And those who haven’t, well, they aren’t going to be our best resource.
So, what is the best way? I believe that the best weapon to use against someone, be it in a fight, or an argument, is the weapon they bring and use themselves. This is for a very simple reason. It is built on their psychology. It will be shaped to attack what they think is a weakness, and to defend their weaknesses.
Let me give an example from my own experience, a comment I made while discussing the fact that dogmatism is wrong, in relation to science driving creationism from schools. I argued this was dogmatism, and was given the defintion of dogmatism to show that evolution and the forcing out of other opinions was not dogmatic. Here is my response:
Ah, this is most fun. Permit me to respond.
As to your definition, let us break it down, and I shall show you your dogmatism.
1. Arrogant, stubborn assertion of opinion or belief
Let’s see, the insistence that yours is the only viable and rational system on the planet and refusal to even consider the validity of another opinion or belief, Check
“If your conclusion in this statement is that the masses “will no doubt chose (sic)” the viable option if given the choice, I would like to see the premise on which that conclusion is based, considering the extremely weak assumption that the masses are people of reason. In the anti-intellectual United States of Lowbrowlandia the masses are clearly NOT people of reason.”
So by your reasoning, they must be forced to wisdom, because they are too stupid to come to it on their own, and your wisdom is the only one. My my, that sounds an lot like religions like Christianity and Islam.
Hmm, that is certainly arrogant. Double Check.
2. A statement of a point of view as if it were an established fact.
Ah, now if you truly followed the Path of Science and its teachings you would realize that science provides only Theories, but never facts. Ask any scientist and they will tell you that Evolution, Gravity, etc, are only Theories that science has to explain the world we live in. Despite all the evidence in the world, it remains a Theory for the simple fact that Science has been proven wrong before and will be proven wrong again, as more data and technology comes about.
Therefore, by scientific reason, Evolution is nothing more than a Theory based on Current Evidence, and Subject To Change. And if Science is allowed to put forth its Theory (Not its Proven Fact) then by rights it must respect the right of others to put forth their own Theories.
You, however, act as if your science was an Established Fact, rather than recognized theory.
3. The use of a system of ideas based upon insufficiently examined premises
This one is interesting. For instance, you would claim that Science, which has only been around in its present, recognized, “scientific” form for a couple centuries has sufficiently examined its premises, but that other ways of looking at the world, which have been around for thousands of years have not.
Remember that arrogance thing you mentioned?
Give a man long enough, and he will give you the rope to hang himself. As Allwise arrogantly believed that because he “knew” more than Thor, he had nothing to fear. So too, does the Scientific Atheist leave himself open because he believes he knows more than us anti-intellectual Heathens!
A few tactics to use.
1) Get them ranting. When most people are emotional, they aren’t thinking. So ranting, lecturing, being all smug, that’s where you want them.
2) Realize that you probably aren’t going to beat them outright, but if you’re discussing in front of an audience, it is the audience that is your target.
3) Listen to them, wait for anything you can use. If they give you definitions, take them, then show them how their argument meets that definition.
4) Never, I repeat, Never attack the person. Attack the argument, attack the logic, attack everything, but do not attack the person. The instant you sink to attacking the person rather than the argument, you’ve lost in a rational argument. Lose that, you lose the audience.
5) Make them attack you as a person. Doing the above right means that you’re going to get them up, arrogant, ranting, and then you’re stinging them by breaking down their logic. They will get mad, and when they get mad they stop thinking clearly, and when they can’t capture your argument, or defend their own against your attacks, they will attack you. That’s when you have them. But do not attack them personally when this happens. You can still lose. Keep attacking the argument and let the audience build sympathy for you.
6) Learn. Philosophy, Logic, and especially Quantum Physics and Mechanics. If there are any two branches of science that help prove the existence of magic and spirit, it is these two. You may need to pick up a little alchemy to translate it into Pagan.
7) If you’re in a lecture, take notes. It will make you look studious and it will help you spot things you can use. If you’re in a debate, try it, but remember to focus on the debate.
8) Don’t get mad. You have to stay calm. If you are calm and they are furious, you look better to the audience. You look more rational. Speak calmly and with authority.
9) Believe. Believe in yourself and the things you believe in. If you don’t believe, no one else will. You must believe with Will, but do not let it cloud you. Remember, nothing they say can make your experiences any less real. They can try, they can use logic to say that X is Y, but you experienced X. Hold it. Call upon the spirits and gods for strength if you need to. Invoke the Tricksters, the Wise ones. Odin, Loki, Athena, etc. If you have magics that can influence and make you more like able, use them. This is a battle, there are no rules. You stand not just for yourself, but for all Pagans. Play dirty.
Remember, there are truths that can be proven, and truths that can’t be proven but are no less true. They can’t take away your beilef. You can only give it up. Find the holes in their logic, punch through them, make them dance to your tune, and you’ve won. Take that win, and let it make your belief all the much stronger, because Science is just another Path in this world, and is not more or less true than any of the others.