You may have heard the cliché "Hell is where the heart is," or some variation thereof. So many different religions believe that everlasting fiery torment awaits nonbelievers, that one could almost say: Life is like a Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors. If you happen to pick exactly the right religious flavor then congratulations, you don't go to Hell. But maybe Hell awaits no matter what? You thought vanilla was safe. Everybody likes vanilla. Imagine it. There you are, King James Bible clutched to your bosom. The psalms come tripping off your tongue like water from the tap. Your life has been one long song and dance of religious fervor, and to say that you "believe" is the greatest understatement ever known since ... "So you say there's Carolina Reaper in this chili I'm eating?"
And in spite of all that believing, praying, Gospelizing, charity, good deeds, self-flagellation, wearing hair shirts, poverty, rubbing ashes on your face...look surely by now you get the picture! With all that what if you die and still wake up in Hell? You picked the wrong religious flavor and now Eternity in Hell is your reward!
I wonder if anyone's done a study. Out of X number of religions the number that believe nonbelievers go to Hell is Y which can be mathematically graphed as such:
I think it's the ubiquitous belief in a punishment for not belonging, and a reward for belonging, a belief in Hell for the nonbelievers and Heaven for the believers that has poisoned the well and caused the world to be broken into these two camps. Those who look at the "Big Bang" and say, "Yes but what caused the Big Bang," and those who say: "Well of course! Obviously there was a big bang, an explosion that created our universe. What more do you need to know. One camp says: "First there was no life on Earth and then there was life. How did that happen?" and the other camp who says: "One popular theory is that life started on the backs of crystals." Or the even more popular: "I don't know how it started and I don't care, but the one thing I do know is that it wasn't some magic man in the sky, who punishes the bad little boys and rewards the good little boys. I know that much."
Okay, since you don't know how, but you do know how not, could life have been started by a blob of yogurt falling to Earth from a parallel dimension? Since you know it wasn't a magic man in the sky—never mind how you know, you just know somehow—could life have been started by a clod of lifeless dirt suddenly standing up and orating with such potency that it induced another lifeless clod of dirt into becoming a life partner in this their shared delusion of existence? It wasn't a magic man in the sky it was ... Shazam! Yeah! That's the ticket! It was this mystical comic book character who's magic is so powerful that within the very mists of fate themselves, a moment in spacetime happened when the very idea of Shazam became an actual idea though of course far separated from matter time or space itself. This idea of Shazam thought of by timespace itself was so powerful that it set in motion a chain of events that guaranteed the creation of Shazam's eventual creators. It's like bowling a perfect 300 score game before your parents were even born! That's how much of a badass Shazam is!
Here's what happens when you start talking Intelligent Design. The atheist argues thusly: "So if it wasn't random chance that created life, it must have been a magic man in the sky who created Eve with a rib and sentenced every human on Earth to burn for Eternity if they happen to not believe that there actually is a magic man in the sky." Then when you try to talk rationally, about possibles and impossibles, they can't help it. Off they go into some absolutely uninterruptible rant about Zeus Thor magic men in the sky ribs and some evil guy who lurks below waiting for nonbelievers. They don't just rant about how silly it all is, they literally go off into long soliloquys where they pretend to be God and then become the Devil. The atheist has a pretend argument with himself until you start to wonder, am I having an origin of life debate with Smeagol?
So Heaven and Hell. Those are the big show stoppers. The only way to debate an Atheist rationally is to somehow get him to shut up about those two. This is impossible of course, unless you possess prodigious MMA skills or alternatively sneakily slip a roofie into the unshutupable's wheatgrass smoothie.