In all of these past 18 years of my arguing with theists of every stripe and brand imaginable, the one thing I have learned is that arguing or debating with theists can be very frustrating.This is particularly frustrating with Christians. The reason it is so bad is that no two Christians that I have ever debated online hold the same beliefs. No two theists are in complete agreement with the teachings of their own denominations.
The second reason is that according to an article on statistics about Christianity on about.com based on another article from the World Christian Encyclopedia there are literally 38,000 denominations worldwide! You can read some very interesting statistical information about Christianity right here. The site also provides links to other relevant data as well. I've always said on my blog that the sheer number of Christian denominations is a true testament to the many doctrinal disagreements amongst them and to the fact that Christianity is not divinely inspired. When you consider that each denomination is just another group of believers that disagreed with the many others already out there you can grasp what I am saying.
Instead of seeing them as denominations, think of them as just another believer of a former denomination who thought that the church he was a member of was just not teaching the scriptures correctly and thought that he could do a better job! It all comes down to interpretation, and everyone who claims to be a believer has their very own. These facts make it almost impossible to debate a theist without first determining what "brand" of Christian they are and then digging even further to learn about their own personal odd interpretations that are not those shared with his/her church.
The fundamentalist are the worst of the lot because they go mostly on so called spiritual revelations and personal subjective experiences. The deeper their conviction that they are walking and talking with God, the harder it is to get through to them. No amount of logic or proper use of reason could even put a dent in their armor till they themselves have somehow been led to doubt their beliefs. I know this from my own personal experience and from that long and drawn out deconversion process I had to endure.
Another issue is that they like to use in theology and apologetics some of the basic uses of philosophical argumentation and twist it to seemingly work in their favor. It all becomes a game of semantics and circular reasoning. In short; one big waste of time! Their definition of the words reason and logic are entirely different than what is found in a philosophical dictionary. In fact this also applies to any standard dictionary that defines these two words correctly. They mix up their meaningless religious jargon with philosophical principals and make a mockery out of reason.
I have gotten to the point sometimes where I just throw my hands up in frustration and immediately break contact with the individual if I see that this person can't be reached. Every atheist has his/her own story to tell. I viewed my passage from Christianity as a growing up process and I think that that is the reason that I love the passage in 1 Corinthians 13:11 'When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I
thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.' Now I know what my Christian friends are saying:" you are taking that text out of context!" I am fully aware of what this text means.
The above cited text holds this different meaning to me now because it speaks to me about our transition from mystical thinking and believing which I do think is childish, to reasonable and logical thinking. Some atheist refer to religious beliefs in God as nothing more than Santa Clause for adults, in other words it's childish thinking.The very thought that there is some imaginary guy in the sky who knows your every hearts intention, the very thoughts you think, and gives a shit about you and your personal welfare is utterly ridiculous. But don't tell a theist that unless you are ready to start the merry go round of faulty reasoning.
As the old adage says:'You can't teach an old dog new tricks', you cant expect a dedicated and indoctrinated theist to hear reason. His idea of reason is a whole lot different than yours. In fact, the bible makes several distinctions between the wisdom of men and the wisdom of God and the things of the Spirit. Some of us are lucky in that we were able to escape the bondage of our minds by insane and mystical thoughts and beliefs, but unfortunately there are those who will just simply wither and die in their delusions.