How much better to get wisdom than gold,Facts are critical to developing a right understanding of the world around us, but they don't always have much to do with our beliefs. That is especially true with complex systems of belief such as religious faith.
to get insight rather than silver! NIV Proverbs 16:16
Of course, that makes it rather difficult to have a meaningful, fact-based debate!
Beliefs serve various purposes, as well as truly creating a world view, even if that world view is false!.
Beliefs may comfort in moments of distress, provide a fundamental aspect of identity, provide direction and hope for the future, etc.
The world view constructed by beliefs may see the world as something rightfully under the dominion of man, conjure up images of invisible forces at work behind the scenes, paint any opposing voice as an instrument of Satan, etc.
So when you are in a debate, you should be sensitive to clues in your opponent's language which give away how their beliefs may be meeting deep-seated needs that they have, and how their world view is preventing them from seeing the world as it really is. This is their foundation.
If you happen to detect aspects of their foundation, it is probably best to discontinue the debate on whatever you were talking about, and instead probe those beliefs more deeply. Change is most probable when those foundational beliefs are affected. On the other hand, correcting some other errant ancillary belief is not likely to alter their perspective much at all.
For example, though not engaged in a real debate, a recent commenter on the My Angle post by the name "BB" made this comment (edited for clarity):
"Atheists believe that life is simply random, and completely up to chance... If this is their truth, I pose the question; what's the meaning and purpose in life?"
If you see a comment like this, where there is a fundamental misunderstanding of life, either of the theist or atheist perspective, stop the debate about whatever topic and center on this misunderstanding. In this case, BB misunderstood what actually provides meaning and purpose in life, which is a pretty big gaff!
Gently, but firmly, enlighten your opponent on a different perspective; you know, like the perspective that actually matches reality! ;-) The better they can understand the viewpoints of other people, the more likely you are going to be successful in changing their minds in the long run. So it is worth ditching everything else in the debate just to show them that their foundational thinking is build on sand. :-)