16 October 2008

How to Argue Against Emotion?

I need some advice. In the Alpha Course I’m currently attending, I have been bringing up many logical and factual problems with Christianity during the group discussions. Talking about these questions in the groups has been interesting and somewhat fruitful, but, quickly, any answers given from the religious group members (which are almost all of them) reduce to appeals to emotion, and feeling, and knowing God’s love, and all that crap. I can’t just steamroller over their beliefs and feelings since that’s a surefire way for them to disrespect anything I say. Hell, I can’t even respectfully disagree and give alternative rational viewpoints for anything they believe in based on feelings. I’ve tried with my wife; she interprets any response other than, “your feelings have won me over; of course Christianity must be true” as a personal attack. There is even one girl in our group who just starts crying from time to time due to the emotion of thinking about Jesus.

So my question is: how do you argue effectively with people whose viewpoints are entirely based on feelings? Right now, whenever the Alpha discussions descend into emotional territory I’ve just had to drop whatever I’ve been arguing for and move on to another topic because it’s a dead end.

Any suggestions?

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At October 16, 2008 9:37 p.m., Blogger Yodood said...

This is my answer when confronted by the same problem.

At October 17, 2008 5:15 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your wife interprets my lack of interest in oriental girls as a personal attack.


At October 17, 2008 11:20 p.m., Blogger Antonio said...

give a situation where emotions don't justify action (being super-randy doesn't justify cheating on your wife)

At October 18, 2008 1:37 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Yadood, that answer, while scarily accurate, is hardly encouraging. =P

Thanks, Antonio, that's a good one when 'emotions' come up in an obvious enough situation, ie, if someone says "I believe xxx because I feel it." In that case I'll certainly us it.

There is another case though. I don't want to force the issue if emotions aren't part of the main topic of discussion, as it will probably just piss people off. I still need another strategy for sidestepping their arguments from emotion rather than merely squashing their emotion.

At October 20, 2008 3:47 p.m., Blogger GDad said...

Check out Angry Professor's blog. She teaches at a big school, and her favorite class to teach is one she sometimes calls "Bigfoot and UFOs". It's a class in why people believe stupid stuff.

At November 22, 2008 8:41 a.m., Anonymous Lirone said...

Interesting - I've been curious about the alpha course but could never bear to put myself through all the twaddle!

On your question, I've never put this into practice, but I have thought that a good strategy might be to compare these feelings to a time when we were in love - I think that most people have had the experience of being emotionally committed to views of that person that subsequently transpired to be wrong.

There's also a clip in Derren Brown's Messiah (on youtube) which shows how this kind of feeling can be produced by trickery.


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