Because I was curious about how other people view the debate, I went around to a bunch of fantastic blogs that I follow and I asked the same question:
What is your opinion on the use of ridicule in a debate between a theist and an atheist? I know some people that say it's divisive and that it serves no purpose other than to drive a deeper wedge between groups. Can you talk about how you think it might be an effective tool when trying to change someone's mind about their belief?
And boy, did you guys come up with some great answers.
Hateful Atheist just posted the response, and as always the explanation was well worded and thought out.
Bible Belt Atheist had a response so good that other folks reposted his response.
And in a slight detraction from the rest, Underground Skeptic thinks that ridicule is divisive and serves no purpose.
My personal opinion is that it is important to differentiate between an idea and the person having that idea. Certain ideas are incredibly asinine and deserve ridicule. The difficulty lies with the fact that many, if not all, religious people perceive themselves as being indistinguishable from their belief, and so attacking their ideas sounds like a personal affront.
Satire seems like a great way to shock people into thinking harder about their belief, and we know that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a magnificent piece of satire designed to show that intelligent design is really creationism dressed up in flowery pseudoscientific language.
It is also important to know your audience. Are you debating a theist because you really think you will change their mind, or are you doing it to defend your own beliefs, or are you doing it for someone else's benefit? It is a tactical considration that you must make, and it can go horribly wrong if you misjudge your audience.
Their responses have given me a lot of food for thought. Much obliged, gentlemen, for your time.