My name is Emily and I am new to Atheist Nexus. I joined recently because I am working on a project for school which I describe in this post and I think will strike many people's interest. I'm looking for resources and interesting discussion about my topic, as well as other students who might have been in a similar position. I also love answering questions, especially when they allow me to explore.
Thanks, and I look forward to engaging discussion!
Well I definitely think you've got an interesting topic for sure. I don't have much in the way of resources for you, sorry to say, but I would mention some points you may want to keep in mind. My experience has been that religious people want a softer approach, one that allows them to transition more easily than one that tells them that everything they have ever known until this point is wrong. With that in mind, a softer approach might focus on some of the following.
1. People generally get their supernatural beliefs from their family. If this was a class in Saudi Arabia, you would be speaking to all Muslims. If the class was in India, they might be all Hindus. What happens when you think about the supernatural when you keep this in mind?
2. Morality did not suddenly come into existence when religion did. However, religion was probably the first method used to codify morality. People in large groups would possibly behave better with the threats of an all-seeing, all-knowing deity watching over your every move and punishing you for your misdeeds even if you thought you would otherwise get away with it.
3. On the topic of spirit, this seems (to me anyway) to be especially relevant to both a believer's beliefs and to morality and values. People have this vague idea of morality being associated with some "essence" of their character, something which speaks to them through their conscience. But while they see this as something supernatural, we obviously think that it is something natural, and something we likely have evolved to have. Animals display moral behavior as well. But getting more to my point, this thing called "spirit" or, worse, "soul", may be a manifestation of some deep set of motivations which may very well be interpreted as a "life-force" or an energy which drives us to live well. I think this is just a natural outcome of living things needing to be highly motivated and needing to feel powerfully motivated by life, and to feel it as deeply as if it were some amazing power which permeates "all of existence", simply as a matter of survival and natural selection.
There are some, maybe many people even here on this site who might dismiss all this as woo. I hope you're not one of them. My point is this. Play some rock music, get everyone going, and then express why we atheists can feel this powerful motivation coarsing through our veins just as well as (if not better than) any religious or spiritual person. Tell them that this desire to be, to live and live well, and to be strong and to be a member of a strong group may just provide the foundations for morality and for all values. Tell them being good may be just what is good for life here on this planet, and that we need not appeal to the supernatural any longer to feel value and to feel motivated to be good people, for ourselves and the people we care about. Tell them that this drive may help explain why we feel we should be good even to people or animals or all living things, even if we don't know them or expect any reward other than personal satisfaction of fulfilling that deep psycho-biological drive to foster life and creativity. Tell them that happiness is a terrific motivator, and that sorrow dampens the motivation for life, and that we all desire to spead happiness and alleviate sorrow. Tell them all this, and they may see that we have a lot more in common with each other than they thought, that we are not "of the devil" or any such absurdities, and that they are welcome to join you in this life for this life, and maybe you've got a chance at really convincing a few people. But don't expect any miracles. ;-) Okay, that's my rant! If you want (or anyone else wants) to get into this more with me, by all means, feel free to contact me. I'm always up for some good philosophy.
I'm very glad that you see my point, and that you have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with your classmates. Definitely keep us all informed!