Hi everyone,

 

I am finishing up my last semester in high school and as part of my AP English class I have been given the assignment to write a research paper based on any TED talk of my choosing. I can also present the paper for extra credit, and I can use images in that part.  I've decided to take this opportunity to do some atheist activism and have chosen Richard Dawkins' "On Militant Atheism". I won't be arguing militant atheism as Dawkins does because my audience is definitely not the audience he has at TED. Instead, my argument will mostly be centered around the benefits of atheism and its role in our society. I will cover some of the cons of religion, but base them mostly off of their contrast to the pros of atheism. By the end of my talk, I'd like to convince some people that atheism is a viable option.

 

My audience is intelligent and I think mostly deist. I want to concede some of the appeal of religion because I don't want to alienate my audience by calling them foolish, but I still want to come out strong for atheism. It's a delicate balance...

 

I would really like some recommendations for resources, and any hints you have for talking to people about making the transition to athiesm. So far, I've read Dawkins' The God Delusion and have looked through some of the articles in The Friendly Atheist. I'd love to use something George Hrab's podcast, but I'm very new to it and don't know of any specific episodes that would be helpful.

 

Thanks so much!

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I'd recommend anything by A.C Grayling. He's a great commander of language and makes very compelling arguments for humanism and atheism. It may be useful to tie atheism in with secular humanism, as the former is simply a stance on one issue, whereas the other is a philosophical perspective with many benefits and a compelling set of values.

I would also recommend you listen to this short clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q715ty5hLt4&feature=related) by Stephen Fry on a world without God. He's a wonderful, poetic speaker.

If you want some background on the history of atheism, I'd recommend Jonothan Miller's "Atheism:  A Rough History of Disbelief".  Here is the documentary, divided into three parts:

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSTj-qh0KRc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vx1Vnp1IZE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFvHZFHbFJk

 

 

I'd also recommend "The Christian Delusion:  Why Faith Fails", which is a collection of articles by authors and scholars, such as John Loftus, Richard Carrier, Robert M. Price, and Hector Avalos.  It is written in a similar vein as Dawkin's "The God Delusion", but is specifically directed towards Christianity and the arguments Christians make.

 

Specifically, I'd recommend chapter 13, written by David Eller, which is entitled "Christianity Is Not the Basis for Morality".  Eller discusses what morality is and talks about morality without Christianity, morality without religion, and even morality without humanity. 

Hey, pretty decent videos. I'm only 30 minutes in to the first one so far, but it's really not bad. Thanks for putting this up here.
Of all of the four horsemen I always found Sam Harris to be what I would think the most accessible and reasonable to a theist audience and the least objectionable. He doesn't even use the word "atheist" i "End of Faith". He simply makes arguable point after point arguing that faith is a bad way of believing things about the world, god or anything.

"Letter to a Christian Nation" is quite short and to the point. And it is ostensibly written directly to Christians. Tho I doubt many at all read it, it is aimed at explaining secularism to them.

Michael Onfray: "Atheist Manifesto"

Anything by Bertrand Russell but especially "Why I Am Not a Christian."

Daniel Dennett: "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon"

Have you checked out the Freedom From Religion Foundation webpage?  They have a number of excellent books that might be helpful to you.  Since you are about to graduate (and believe me maybe never set eyes on some of these people again), you might want to go ahead and take the risk.  It's not like you're going to be around these folks much longer.
Yeah very true. The only one's you'll see or care to see again are your close friends, so take a chance! Who cares what the morons think?

I would recommend The God Virus by Darrel Ray. The book is a fascinating look at how and why religion is able to propagate itself across many different cultures. This covered in chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 4 covers the use of guilt in religion and chapter 6 talks about morality. I think these chapters would be the most useful for what you describe that you're trying to do in your assignment.

It may not be as helpful on the "pro Atheism" side as some of Dawkins or Hitchens works, but will be helpful for the contrasts to the "pro religion" arguments.

I don't think there are 'benefits' from atheism - unless you count the absence of religious cons ^^

 

As for sources I have a lot of them if you really need more... my guess is that you have too much material to work with already.

I like Dawkins but have found his approach too abrasive for the uber sensititve religionists in the community. I have had much more sucess with the Neil Degrasse Tyson approach. I am in college too, I am doing my final paper for the semester on Freethought. I would have never dreamed of being able to do a paper on Freethought when I was in highskool, (class of 1985) most of the time an atheist was an anomaly back then. I am back in skool and cant believe how much progress we have made, there is even an Atheist club on campus, I am floored. I started fighting against the theists in the 70's and look how many peeps are joining the cause. Way cool. My daughter did a paper on converting from theism and she used an online poll tool called pollmonkey.com (?) I think thats the name, she was able to design her own poll questions in the fashion or style she wanted to, essay, multiple choice, true false etc..She then zapped it out on FB, and used the results for her report. Hope you do well.

Another great vid on Ted.com is the one Bobby McFerrin did. Not on topic but it is a great example of how the brain works.

 

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