How To: Debate with Humor

peekholesI tell this joke a lot. It never really happened, but I tell the joke so much, I think people might get the idea that it really went down the way I tell it.

So I was walking down the street and I see this friend of mine coming the other way. This friend of mine told me a long time ago he’s an atheist. We waved at each other and walked up to each other as if to talk, but when he got close enough, I kicked him in the shin really hard. He lurched away shocked and screamed, “Oh my God! What’d you do that for?” So I pointed my finger at him and said, “Ha! I caught you.”

The point of the joke is that even a self-professed atheist will often use the name “God” or “Jesus” in their everyday speech. And the question begged seems to be: Don’t they see the contradiction?

In reality, I have one friend that I know is a confessed atheist. He really does claim to not believe in God, and it takes all of my will-power to not ask him about the specifics of the god he doesn’t believe in. I’m really trying hard not to entrap him like that, because if your friend the “a-the-ist” starts defining God, or any god, you’ve got your friend in that predicament of listing attributes he should have already denied.

Despite my efforts of curbing my prankster self, there is very little wrong with debating people through your sense of humor. Case in point: my “agnostic” friend.

In the real world, I also have an agnostic friend. She has a more cyclic belief system. She says she believes that no one can know God–“if there is one.” Sometimes you can visibly see her facial expression change as she believes in God and then disbelieves. I don’t think it’s funny at all, or rather, I don’t make fun of her about it, but she laughs it off. Could she take on a debate with humor? Absolutely. And I think that makes a world of difference. If you can discuss a subject with someone, and you can both have fun with it, then you’ll both be winners at the end, even though debates are supposed to end with one winner and one loser.

Keeping with the theistic/atheistic theme here, I like to point out to atheists that the word a-the-ist can be broken down exactly like that. The T-H-E in the middle of that word means god (from Greek the or theos, meaning: god). So it’s kind of ironic, and definitely contradictory, that a person who doesn’t believe in a god of any kind would place a reminder of God right in the middle of their chosen name. Even better, the end of the word, the I-S-T part, means a person who adheres to a belief system. So even though the atheist believes there is no god, the atheist still has a belief system, a creed.

I know quite a few more jokes about atheists, and a few about God-fearing folk as well, but I think I’ll share those some other time. For this barchive, I want to end with a quote from Oscar Wilde:

“The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else…”

I’m not even sure he said that in seriousness or facetiousness, but it does seem like people* these days are cultivating that feeling, aren’t they?


*Especially me.

Published by Kurt Gailey

This is where I'm supposed to brag about how I've written seven novels, twelve screenplays, thousands of short stories, four self-help books, and one children's early-reader, but I'd rather stay humble. You can find out about things I've written or follow my barchive (web archive, aka 'blog) at or follow me on twitter @kurt_gailey. I love sports and music and books, so if you're an athlete or in a band or you're a writer, give me a follow and I'll most likely follow you back. I've even been known to promote other people's projects.

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