When it comes to the extreme end of theism, young Earth creationists, they pretty much come out and admit that they start with the conclusion. Check out the Statement of Faith from Answers in Genesis, but be forewarned that the circular reasoning might give you vertigo. Some highlights include the following:
By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.I couldn't write something so obtuse if I tried. Basically, nothing can contradict the Bible no matter what. We have all the answers we need. And you gotta love the idea that scientific evidence is subject to "interpretation by fallible people" (which is true) there is absolutely no way that The Bible could have been changed about as it was written, copied, translated, and interpreted by those same fallible people.
I also love the following:
The final guide to the interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself.Wow. If circular reasoning didn't work, then how come it works? Seriously, if you sit and read this sentence and nod your head like it means something, then there is no hope for you. You are beyond reason in the same way that any cult member is.
I seem to recall a comic strip on the AiG website where it had a fossil and a creationist on one side and an "evolutionist" on the other. The creationist thinks to himself, "Great evidence for creation!" and the actual scientist thinks "Great evidence for evolution!" Essentially the narrative that they're trying to create is that we all have a starting point, and those who look for creation will find it, and those who look for evolution will find it. Of course, this is complete malarky for the simple fact that there IS NO EVIDENCE FOR CREATION. And you may be thinking: "Oh, but Lance! There is!" And to you, I must say: "No, there is not. Stop. Just stop. Seriously, stop." I could elaborate, but I've done this dance too many times only to find out that the other person lacks basic scientific literacy, is using a bit of supposed "evidence" that's been long-since debunked, or is engaging in some sort of "God of the Gaps" fallacy (not to mention pretty much every other logical fallacy that one can imagine). Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for the billionth time, and I'm Don frikken' Quixote.
Anyway, so I don't really talk to these types all that much, mainly because the opportunity rarely presents itself, and secondarily because I could better spend my time smashing my head into a brick wall. No, the theists with whom I converse are a bit more of a slippery species of fish. It's kind of hard to nail them down on exactly what it is they believe in the first place, but they essentially play this same game where they elevate their position to the same status as the atheist by claiming that we're just looking at the universe from different perspectives.
Because see, when your starting point is that you believe in God, then it's easy to see His work in the universe. It's all fine-tuned for life and blah blah blah.
Essentially, they give the very definition of a confirmation bias, and then they try and put me on the same level as though I do the same thing. After all, don't I start with the assumption that there ISN'T a God? And isn't that why I don't see His work? Hmm...maybe.
But let's break that down and replace the word "God" with something else - pick something, whether it be hobgoblins, gremlins, or Cthulhu. Is the reason why I don't see evidence for these things because my starting point is that I don't believe them? Or is it that I don't believe them because I don't see any evidence for them? The second one sounds more likely, doesn't it?
Oh, but we're talking about God! It's different! I have a personal relationship!
No, it's not any different at all. And I always have to remind them that I grew up as a believer, so I know exactly what it's like to see evidence for Him all around me. In other words, my "starting point" was as a believer. But then I started to realize that I accepted reasons for the existence of God which I would not accept for the existence of anything else. In other words, I realized my own confirmation bias. Now I just go where the evidence goes, and it's not going to any kind of theism. That's right, not even Shinto.
Assuming the non-existence of something is not the same as assuming the existence of it. There are a billion things that could get me to change my mind. And what would change the mind of a believer? Go ahead and ask one some day. I have yet to get anything approaching a straight answer to this question. I either get a straight-up evasion along the lines of: "I'd hate to even think of not believing!" or answers to questions that are somewhat similar but not quite the same. I was once accused of asking the theist to prove a negative, but that's not the same thing. I'm not asking: "What would disprove God?" I'm asking: "What would change your mind?" Again, I can give you answers to this for each and every thing which I believe and accept about the world. Go ahead, put me to the test.
Back to the young-Earth creationists, there are a lot of scientists who refuse to debate them for the simple fact that doing so elevates the creationist to a level with the scientist - a level which he has not earned. After all, you don't have geologists debating flat-earthers, do you? To what end? Of course, a lot of creationists interpret that as cowardice on the part of the scientists, but you really can't waste your time with every crackpot idea.
I'm starting to think though that even debating theists in general is akin to this idea. By engaging them in the debate over the existence of God, you've just given their side a legitimacy which it has not earned. The only thing that they have going for them is tradition and majority opinion - neither of which is a foundation for a legitimate belief system. On the other hand though, I'm sure that I'll still engage in conversations with theists - as I find myself doing that more than "debating" lately. Otherwise, how do they even know why we atheists don't believe in the first place? Sure, you might not change their minds, but you definitely won't get anywhere if all they hear is the echo chamber of their particular religious faith.