Many, if not all, of my facebook friends are of the religious variety.  How I despise those "Like if Jesus loves you" posts. 


Does anyone think that atheists have an obligation to "de-convert" the religious?  Assming they are not in the "dangerous" religions, is there any real harm?  I know Harris would say yes, that any religion gives cover for the extremists, but I'm not sure if can extrapolate that into going out of our way to de-convert all of our friends.


This post is not about the arguments, there is an AN group for that, but whether or not we should "seek out" deconversions, and if so, how agressively should we pursue it?


Your feedback is appreciated.

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Mike, I totally agree with what you say here.  I have a child who is smack in the middle with one parent who is religious and one who is atheist.  I have NEVER been about telling someone what to believe, because only you can make up your mind for yourself if you ask yourself HONESTLY what you believe or don't believe.

I have never indicated to my child that I would be disappointed in whatever his beliefs or non beliefs would be.  What I HAVE told my child, is that he should NEVER be afraid to ask questions, and if he is given "answers" that don't make sense to him, he should question "the answers".

He says he gets in trouble whenever he questions these answers from his dad.  THAT is where my problem with religion really comes into play!  To me that is mental abuse plain and simple.  Like binding the feet of female children in China is considered abuse, I think binding of the mind could have worse and more far reaching negative impact not just on the person it's done to, but the people around them.

Although I do not try to deconvert people, I do try to convince them to learn/understand the laws of science and reason. For example. I do try to show people evolution is real. If a person is a creationist, then yes, I am going to take them to task for that. If someone tries to convince me that vaccinations are evil incarnate, then yes, I am going to say something. If someone says "god cured my toe jam", I'm going to have a hard time not laughing.

I might try to chop away at tenants of their belief without going for the kill of total deconversion. My husband and I were talking yesterday about how religion is another addiction just like drugs or alcohol. I know plenty of religious types who would still be addicted to drugs/alcohol/etc if they were not addicted to religion. A lot of christians say "without god I would be a really bad person". What if they are right, they would be really terrible without religion to hold them back? I know people who fit in this category and I believe them. These people I consider dangerous and do nothing to shake their fragile mental state, although, I do try to put a lot of good words and suggestions for secular mental health specialists.

Those who I do not consider to be dangerous, merely deluded, I am a lot more forthright with. However, I do consider religion to be a mental illness and I always feel it wise to be careful when dealing with the seriously mentally ill.
I think Harris's focus on extremism is misguided (though understandable, capitalising on media-created paranoia). Rather than distinguish between 'dangerous' and other religions, I think it's important to recognise the actively harmful elements of religious thought (I've written about these at length before, so will not recap here - think intellectual and psychological limitation, opposition to social progress, and the ceding of responsibility for ourselves and our world to an imagined 'higher force'). Religion should be opposed actively. Obviously, some moderation and common sense is necessary (you'd think we had a head start on the latter, although that's not always the case, as evidenced in countless debates here an elsewhere), but I believe that a deep engagement with the implications of atheism involves some sort of effort to promote it...
I didn't mean entire religions were dangerous - just individuals within religions.
I was referencing the OP, not your contribution...
Thanks Sigmund. Can you reply with the link to your previous writings? I'd like to dig in deep on this question.
Why on Earth would I want to convert anyone to what I believe? I think I am right ... but I have been wrong about so many things, I could be wrong about anything. There wasn't a gene inserted in my DNA that gives me the wisdom or the power to "know it all." When someone speaks to me of their religion, I make a special effort to describe my belief (or no-belief) so that my version gets into the ether. If I remain silent, I imply agreement; why argue with him/her, where does that get me? If I imply agreement I am a fraud. So, the best option for me is to say my piece and let it be. The funny part of this strategy, no one says anything to my face but I get feed back of what they discussed in my absence. I also usually get a well-rehearsed question or statement the next time I see him or her. I especially like the "Pascal's Wager" question. My reply is simply to ask "Why would I want to believe in anything that has a hell-fire and damnation aspect to it, based on myths and fairy tales from before the Bronze Age?"

I find myself wanting to scream it to everybody...I mean how can they not understand if they're just told. It's so simple, right? Except that brainwashing from birth has made god exist for them and made us evil. There was a time when I thought atheists worshiped the devil (because that it what baptist Sunday school taught me) and anything they said would have just been the "devil's words!"

What I TRY to do is make subtle remarks or positive facebook status'/stati ?? Lol, well either way positive things about thinking for oneself, humanism etc... and hopefully plant a seed for a few who may actually want to know more. It's not in their face, and I have found that is the only way to keep them from going straight into the mind closed defense mode.

Thanks Carla, I have a similiar FB approach.  If I get direct questions, however, I "let it all out"!

Anyone smart enough to be a skeptic, will, most likely, eventually become an atheist.  For those not smart enough to be skeptics, atheism would be rather meaningless anyway.

Enlightened thinkers always have and always will be a tiny minority. We can change ourselves, but we will have no luck in changing the species  ;-)

I try to avoid conflict in person, but when I get on the internet it's a different story.

Anonymity + Internet = Asshole


If your friends or family bring up the subject then sure (They started it!), but it depends on how severe their indoctrination is and how irrational they are. For example if you know someone who has an authoritarian personality, then you're only asking for a fight and should avoid the subject like you would politics.


I'm a second generation atheist so I haven't experience a deconversion because I've always been an atheist. Don't most first gen atheists arrive at their non belief on their own terms?




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