When it comes to debating, there are many things that people need to learn. Some of those things are what you can use and when you can use them. It’s a common mistake that very much needs to be fixed, because a person can have the right point, but the lack of prudence on how to present it can completely defeat him. In fact, if it isn’t presented properly, then he won’t even have a chance to go far.
I recently watched a debate in which some of the people did exactly what they shouldn’t have done. They set themselves up for an easy counterattack and people cheered when the counter happened. Sometimes they talked too much and other times they used something that cannot be used in an argument.
This one should be obvious. One can rarely, if ever, use religion for the basis of an argument. There are too many diverse religions to have it as a common basis. The only time that religion should be brought in is to correct a misconception about what it thinks. You should never use it to simply back up a statement. It’s almost suicide in a debate to say, “I believe this, because my religion says so.”
If religion did influence your position, what you need to do is look for relatable evidence to show why it believes that. However, you cannot refer to the bible, torah, quran or whatever else people use. The more proper way is to find reasoning outside of those sources. The best way is logic and observations. Use natural philosophy for matters that are not theological or spiritual. It could be as simple as, “It’s snowing. When it snows, it’s cold. Therefore dress warmly.” Yes, that is not a perfect argument in terms of the study of Logic, but I believe you understand what I mean.
An even bigger taboo in argument is emotion. You cannot make an argument based off, “because I feel that is right.” No, emotions are too flexible and subject to inconsistent change. One action can bring about any emotion. If I kissed my wife, she could become happy, pleased, sad, or angry.
What you can use in a debate, however, is philosophy. Not the kind that is basically considered religion, but the scientific kind. Now the reason why I don’t say science is because science is actually a branch of philosophy if you define philosophy an “attempt to account for the order or cause of things in reality.”
The branches of science take different aspects but don’t account for all. For all I know, people think of science as I defined philosophy just now, but it is important that you know which one I am referring to as which. I consider philosophy to be the broader and include topics such as natural philosophy (which is basically the common sciences now that I think about it), sociology, mathematics, history, logic, or even theology and metaphysics. Those latter two topics do have their place in some debates and so cannot be taken out completely.
The tricky part then is to understand which aspect of philosophy you can use in a debate. That then depends on the topic and what is being addressed. If it concerns the existence of a god, then history probably doesn’t have a place, unless you are referring to what someone said in the past. There will be some overlap of subjects, but you need to learn how much you can use from them.
Now if the topic was a social issue, people have a tendency to use religion. That is stupid as I mentioned before. However, there is a place for it and it is in the preparation stage. At this point, you use religion like a homework problem for Math. Every now and then, they give you the task of proving a theorem. It’s basically telling you that there is a way, but you need to think it out yourself. If a religion, or someone else, holds a position, you should be able to use the other branches of philosophy to come up with a chain of logic. Realize that there is a chance that it was wrong, but then you get to see it for yourself and prepare instead of being a fool in front of everyone. Just remember, do not use sources like the Bible, Quran, or whatever else that is religious based unless they specifically ask for it.