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Atheists love to quote some, but only some, of the snippets they have discovered in one of those convenient lists of quotations from authors like Thomas Paine (some, because others often contradict the point they are trying to make).  The following pearl from Paine is both used and abused (though “abusus non tollit usum” – it can be used without being abused) : “TO ARGUE WITH A MAN WHO HAS RENOUNCED (the use and authority of) REASON (and whose philosophy consists in holding authority in contempt), IS LIKE ADMINISTERING MEDICINE TO THE DEAD (or endeavoring to convert an atheist by Scripture).”  (from “The American Crisis”).

The quotation is usually trimmed down by excluding the phrases I have put in brackets, which not only clutter it up but generally weaken its effect.

We atheists, however, sometimes forget that while we use the quotation, with a certain measure of self-satisfaction, to shatter our pig-headed irrational opponents, it could just as well be used against us.  Though we claim to have reason on our side, we are just as immune to non-atheists’ arguments as they are to ours.  Both of us are as receptive to counter-arguments as the dead are to medicine.  Attempts at “dialogue” between us are a waste of time and doomed to failure.  Some Democrats have been known to become Republicans and, I suppose, vice-versa.  But converting either convinced atheists or convinced non-atheists is a rare exploit.  We should all accept it as such, on both sides.  Doubt is the necessary pre-condition for changing one’s mind.  Don’t waste my time and I won’t waste yours.  The day either of us has doubts we will have something to talk about.  Meantime, if any of your co-religionists is starting to wonder about his faith, let me know.

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