1 of 7: Using the Socratic Method with Christian Proselytizers (overview) - Hulu Magazine

1 of 7: Using the Socratic Method with Christian Proselytizers (overview)

This series is an overview of the approach I outline in my book, “Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer” (a dialogue between a Christian proselytizer and a Socratic skeptic).


Link to eBook:

Link to free PDF excerpt:

An overview of whole series:

1 of 7: a brief overview of videos 2 through 7.

2 of 7: a description of the Socratic Method.

3 of 7: the ground premises that the skeptic needs to establish with the Christian in order to focus on the issue at hand, which is “Are there convincing reasons for me to believe that the Judeo-Christian Bible is the Word of God?”

4 of 7: the skeptic and the Christian read through scriptures and stories from non-Christian religions. Both agree that the following three characteristics are strong clues that a religion was not created by an Infallible Wisdom, but just made up by quite fallible humans: (1) when a religion a cluelessness about the layout of the universe (its stories describe stars as tiny, the moon as a light, the earth as flat, the sun as orbiting our planet, etc.) (2) it contains laws that are barbaric and reflect senseless prejudices (3) history reveals that the religion was pieced together from ideas and stories from pre-existing religions

5 of 7: the skeptic and the Christian read through the Judeo-Christian Bible, and examine it by the same critical light just held up to non-Christian religions.

5.1 through 5.5: Further details on the origins of the Judeo-Christian bible–how many of its ideas & stories can be found in religions that pre-date the bible by centuries.

5.1 explains why many of the baffling details within the tale of Noah & the Ark make sense once the story is read as a monotheistic version (in which God is said to be Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Benevolent) of a story that was originally polytheistic (in which the gods were none of the above).

5.2 discusses the pre-Christian religious stories from the Greeks, Romans, and Zoroastrians about unions between gods & mortals, miraculous virgin births, and offspring that were both human and god. It also covers the “Satanic pre-plagiarization” explanations from early Church Fathers Justin Martyr and Tertullian on how the pagans knew about these phenomena centuries before the time of Jesus.

5.3: Richard Dawkins refers to the Christian premises behind the belief that Jesus/God sacrificed Himself to appease Himself as “barking mad.” This video looks at each of those premises–Divine Anger, the need for sacrifice, the use of a scapegoat–from the perspective of comparative mythology. The subtitle for this video is “Richard Dawkins meets Joseph Campbell.”

5.4: the evolution of the afterlife. Stage One – the 37 out of 39 Old Testament books that either don’t mention, or even deny, an afterlife. Stage Two – the 2 Old Testament books that say there IS an afterlife. Stage Three – The New Testament, in which the afterlife, complete with Judgment Day & Heaven & Hell, becomes one of Christianity’s main selling points.

5.5: A discussion of the evidence that Christianity’s “Satan” comes more from pagan religions than Judaism.

6 of 7: a review of some of the common counterarguments from Christian apologists

7 of 7: why I find the Christian apologist’s answers unconvincing.

Related videos:
“An abbreviated version of using the Socratic Method with Christian Proselytizers”:

“Three advantages to questioning ‘the Creator’s Word’ but not ‘a Creator’ (when speaking w/ theists)”:

“When science contradicts Scripture: how theists cope”:

* * * * * * * * * *
My three YouTube channels:

– – my musician channel

– – where I discuss the ideas in “Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer”

– – where I discuss the ideas in my book “Hunting, Gathering, & Videogames” (such as “Why do we have to work?” and “Why do we have to use money?” and “How should we define ‘success’?”)



  1. Fuckingoogle

    September 26, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    "sitting up and down for all eternity"

  2. Todd Gates

    September 26, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    That's hell for you — an eternity of violent butt sex!

  3. Todd Gates

    September 26, 2010 at 6:05 PM

    > Ouch, you made your series private?
    This 2010 update is public (I only made the previous / outdated version private.)

  4. kalsolarUK

    September 26, 2010 at 11:58 PM

    Thinking about it you're quite right, if the christian is a true christian then you can't blame them from trying to save you from their fictional hell (or very real hell as they see it). Oddly though, it somehow doesn't stop me from wanting to smack them around the head with a very large wet haddock.

  5. Todd Gates

    September 27, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    > in the old days, people could get intimidated out of "paganism" and into Christianity … Now they leave Christianity and go to "paganism" …

    My thought is that this is b/c Christianity and the threat of hell had a lot more clout (politically & psychologically) in the good old days.

    > …eternal hell, pointing to the old city dump called "Gehenna" in the ancient days.

    I have a video series on the subject called "The Evolution of the Afterlife."

  6. Todd Gates

    September 27, 2010 at 1:18 AM

    > it somehow doesn't stop me from wanting to smack them around the head with a very large wet haddock

    Ha-ha … the sentence is all the funnier picturing you saying it!

  7. gigantibyte

    September 27, 2010 at 2:37 AM

    If a scripture had knowledge of the universe beyond what was known in ancient times, it would not convince me there was a god, but it might convince me the writer had contact with someone who processed advanced knowledge. Let's not rule out aliens, time travelers, and lost advanced civilizations. Of course such writings do not exist irrefutably, so I'm just being hypothetical.

  8. Todd Gates

    September 27, 2010 at 10:10 AM

    > … it would not convince me there was a god, but it might convince me the writer had contact with someone who processed advanced knowledge.

    True enough, but at least it would be a start! Advanced scientific knowledge wouldn't prove Divinity authored it, but crude Bronze Age misunderstandings are something of a giveaway that Divinity didn't (unless we take the slippery approaches of 'god wrote so primitives could understand it' or 'He's testing us' etc.)

  9. borrofburi

    September 27, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    My guess… in reality your hypothetical christian proselytizer wouldn't let you speak long enough to make coherent points.

  10. Todd Gates

    September 27, 2010 at 11:43 PM

    > in reality your hypothetical christian proselytizer wouldn't let you speak long enough
    True, *most* don't … but I actually did meet with one door-to-door proselytizer for about 2 hours for 3 successive Sundays … needless to say, I didn't find his arguments convincing — but he did help me come up with a lot of the dialogue for my book's Christian character.

  11. Todd Gates

    September 28, 2010 at 9:50 PM

    > Thanks for the video series man!
    You're most welcome!

    > We had a preacher on campus yesterday and arguing in an unorganized way can be detrimental to making your points
    Yes, it can be very frustrating. I used to feel like someone who lost debates to those insisting that there was no health risks with smoking — the feeling that "these guys are WRONG but they win the argument!"

  12. Todd Gates

    September 29, 2010 at 7:15 AM

    > Thanks to this video series I have some structure.
    Thank *you*!
    > I'll be looking into the book as soon as I get some extra cash
    I'll send you a PM about a special discount rate I have this month (which was the subject of a video I had up for a few hours last week).

  13. AuntieDiluvian

    September 29, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Hi Todd. I bought your book last year, but I still turn into a raving banshee when I meet a fundy – maybe because I was brought up as a Christiian? Do you have any special thoughts for the virulent anti-christian who has 'issues' with religion from childhood? I find it so hard to be civil. Going to watch all these again.

  14. Todd Gates

    September 30, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    > I find it so hard to be civil.

    For me what works is keeping their intentions in mind … which I feel for *most* apologists is the sincere belief that us non-believers really are going to suffer if we don't take heed. Like someone who is concerned that an asteroid *really* is going to strike your town and you *got* to move! That way instead of just telling them that they're fucking nuts, I can concentrate on asking their reasons for why they think this will happen.

  15. Todd Gates

    October 3, 2010 at 2:53 AM

    > Who was your christian in the book?
    A mix of people I interviewed & read up on: street proselytizers, Christian co-workers and neighbors, and Christian apologists & philosophers.

  16. Todd Gates

    March 30, 2011 at 7:57 AM

    > Nice dude

    > Contrary to Christian thought, admittance to ignorance is the true salvation!
    Well said!

  17. Todd Gates

    November 21, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    > I love your video
    Thank you!

    > Hope to find more uploads from you.
    I'm more active on my other channel right now (my musician channel–ToddGates as opposed to ToddAllenGates–where I upload piano & blues harmonica videos), and I'm not sure when I'll get around to making more videos on this channel. But if you like these religion videos, I have over 100 on this channel. And if you look at my homepage, you'll see that they're organized via Playlists.

  18. Todd Gates

    January 29, 2012 at 1:30 AM

    > "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." How do we understand that we know nothing?
    My understanding of that quote is that it's not meant to be taken too literally … but more along the lines of (1) "Relative to all there is to know, I know very little"; or maybe (2) "Unlike the Sophists around us who think they know everything, at least I understand that my knowledge is quite limited."

  19. Todd Gates

    February 24, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    > no matter how much he believed something to be true, Socrates was always willing to change his opinion.
    I confess that I haven't read any of the dialogues for some time, but my memory is that he seemed hesitant to say he knew anything was "true" — the emphasis always seemed to be questioning others on the grounds for which they professed knowledge of "Truth."

  20. Todd Gates

    March 25, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    @ Baltasar2000
    1 of 3:
    > What would be the ONE most basic quality difference between plant and animal?
    I'm not a biologist, so I can't say with any authority what's the "one" most important difference. I can only guess that one of the "top 10" is that plants contain chlorophyll and can make their own food, whereas we animals can't make our own food. (Our rather 'unbenign design" is that we animals can survive only by killing plants or other animals.)

  21. Todd Gates

    March 25, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    2 of 3:
    > Is there ONE quality difference between ape and every other animal?
    Again, I'm no authority. According to a brief google search, I would say apes have a large brain-to-body size ratio than most other animals.

  22. Todd Gates

    March 25, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    3 of 3:
    > Is there ONE quality difference between ape and human?
    Not sure why it's important to limit the issue to "one" . . . anyway, my google search tells me that because of the different evolutionary direction we "human apes" took, the main differences are that our brains are more developed (we have more complex thoughts, and extensive tool use), we have less muscle, and our pelvis and knees are more evolved for vertical posture.

  23. Todd Gates

    March 27, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    > the Taoist proselytizer answered: Animals can move FREELY by muscles

    I was thinking of that one too, but decided against because of exceptions like animals that don't move–such as barnacles and boneworms–and plants that *do* move, such as the Venus FlyTrap.

    The fact that animals survive only by killing other life forms (be it plant or animal) has more interesting theological implications: that if this represents "design," it doesn't speak of a Kindly Creator.

  24. Todd Gates

    March 29, 2012 at 7:55 AM

    > I think 2 is a clear NO-answer, but I’m still waiting one or more – quality difference on number 3 😉
    I'm not sure what this has to do with the point of this video series. If you're just looking for information on what separates humans from other apes, well, you might as well be asking me about cosmology–these are not subjects I've studied in any sort of detail.

  25. Todd Gates

    March 31, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    Haha, no problem . . . I actually did think there was something a bit allegorical about the notion of a “Taoist proselytizer”—never met one, or even heard of one, in real life.

  26. Davidius Doremouseius

    July 19, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Sorry I don't quite understand what you're driving at ? Something about ''when ppl break off the Socratic method'' or ''the limits of reason'' or ''the limits of reason's usefulness when used as a tool in these kinda debates'' ? This is not a criticism of you, I just don't see what you're getting at :/ Why do I feel there's something here I need to learn ?

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