I wrote this in a comment directed to someone who had tried to dispute Christianity, but who stated it in a form that no one believes it. Here I’ll put it forth as a general principle. Please hold me accountable to it, as I will also do with you. This is the debater’s freedom and the debater’s discipline: the debater’s duty, in other words
When it comes to contesting another’s position, you are both free and not free.
You are free to understand and to describe your opponent’s position any way you wish. You are free to distort it. You are also free to understand and represent it as they believe it, though it might take some effort on your part. If you want to dispute it in the form that your opponent believes it, though, you have no choice: you must understand and describe it the way your opponent it would.
Otherwise you can only debate a distortion, which is not to dispute your opponent’s position at all.
If your description of your opponent’s position sounds like something no one could believe, it’s probably safe to conclude that no one believes it—especially your opponent.
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