How can we as atheists present our view as worthy and valuable in public debates and forums?

I've been watching a few You Tubes of debates between Christopher Hitchens and others of mainly religious persuasion.

Hitchens comes across as being negative.

I totally agree with Hitchens but I'm trying to work out what it is that causes him to seem this way.

I totally understand his disinterest, boredom and frustration at debating with these people - but clearly he believes that doing so is useful.

The religious people come across as confident, self assured and definite in their arguments and statements.

I think that it's because Hitchens is taking a position against their arguments - to counter their arguments. I suppose this is a natural position when self-identifying as an atheist and put into a debate with a theist. But it would be nice to up our profile a bit - come across as strong in ourselves with the same confident, self assured and definite approach that they have with their world views.

I think we need a "culture" to promote - a culture of reason, science and pragmatism. A way of approaching life and life's challenges and dilemmas - one that can be talked about in a positive way - it doesn't need to include personal opinions, but it can include the way that we reach those private opinions - such as in a reasonable way that is based in scientific method for good moral values.

I notice also that they keep getting into a preaching sort of track where they start going on about Jesus or such like and really it would be the equivalent as Hitchens using fairy stories to illustrate his point. Perhaps he should. Perhaps people might relate better to him if he did use fairy stories to illustrate his points. Then he might come across as confident as they do.

I think that another important point is that religion has changed according to society. Things have changed as time has passed. But I suppose on things like human rights are lacking - such as gay marriage - and these are the points that we need to keep arguing with our "culture" of reason, rational and science based, morally good values.

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It's a powerful and compelling speech and real eye opener to what we need to fight for in the future...

Would comparing Xianity's pessimism with atheism's optimism help?

Xianity teaches that humankind fell from a higher condition--the Garden of Eden myth.

Atheism can teach that humankind arose from a lower condition--pond scum. Or lower still, from a few chemicals in a watery, methane-enriched environment.


I went to a great talk between Dawkins and Brian Eno 2 years ago. Eno (he describes himself as an 'evangelical atheist' ) talked about how in his creative work he works from the bottom up. I.e he sets up a number of variables in a condition within which he can't completely control the outcome. So the results may be (as with his recent programmed installation-'A Hundred Million Paintings' - think that's right ) constantly recombining to produce variations that would take many decades to start replicating the same way. That was clunkily written.

They talked about the model of creation for most people is that god created everything, as if from the top down, and many people believe that artists work that way. Some do. That they have an idea and try hard to create the idea as exactly as they visualise it. But life on earth was/is, bottom up. Starting with water, sunlight, mud and bacteria and expanding like an upside down tree into the multitudes of variations on a theme we have now.

Many artists work the same way. Sometimes because they mean to.... 



That's a difficult task.  I'd love to hear any ideas you have.  The premise that Athiest are coming from is that they are anti-thiest.  So by the name alone its negative. If I was Afairyist or an AHarryPotterist, my stance would also be negative, just because I'm against a belief no matter how silly it may be.  I have couple of thoughts though--Humor.  How about George Carlin and Bill Mayer?  If they make you laugh, they have to be positive.  Personally, the true positiveness and confidence comes with the wonder of the sciences:  evolution, genetics, geology, biology, paleontology, archeology etc.    You make a great point.  It doesn't matter how right a person is, if people walk away from an arguement with the impression that (s)he's just an angry athiest, it doesn't help us.    Hey, if I have 2 weeks in Australia.  Where should I spend it?

well it's an issue of PR isn't it...


Depends what you like - 


for eco tourism - Kangaroo Island

for cultural tourism - melbourne or sydney - Adelaide has the festival, fringe and woman around march time.

for Indigenous tourism - Northern Territory - I haven't been - but you'd get a mixture of staged and authentic and some perhaps that you didn't expect...

Queensland is the barrier reef

Western Australia is nice - most isolated city in world Perth

I've not been - but have seen some amazing rock formations in pictures in northern WA.

I live in Melbourne - look us up when you're over.. although I'll be away until late September in the UK.


depends on your budget and what sort of holiday you're after - TAssie is really nice for wilderness, walking etc - cooler - top end is hot and humid and tropical...  WA and SA are dry and mainly hot


the desert is meant to be really nice now - after the Queensland floods - all the wildlife has gone wild up there - wild flowers rarely seen and birds fish etc....  quite spectacular I hear.

This isnt helping!  So much to choose from.  I would enjoy it all.  Thanks for the suggestions though.

The subject of negativity is an interesting one.

Yes I can see why you would make this point about Hitchens and his style of delivery.

Maybe another question to ask,...... is why you think it is negative? and possibly it has something to do with the following. When we have a concept, this concept becomes part of our identity, and if the concept is represented in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable, then we would naturally interpret that as being negative. Why? Well in a way we feel that our values have been misrepresented. It is not just important what the subject matter/concept is, but the language and tone of how this is conveyed to others, as this is also a reflection of an individual and how they interact within society.

Why would this make us feel uncomfortable? As primates we now understand how the 'group think' mechanism has developed and the need to fit into our own 'tribe' within the bigger social group. Our own personality to some degree is a reflection and projection of ideas within this 'tribe', therefore a reaffirming process of who we are entails and is then linked to the group and constantly reinforced as a whole. It is important not to let any tribal group consume any individualism, which ironically is what happens with religions.

Personally I am not comfortable with being called an atheist, secularist, humanist, non-theist etc. as these are all labels as well. For me each human being is unique and this should be enough without the need for labels. Unfortunately our evolution through necessity has created this 'friend or foe' mechanism, which immediately separates peoples into group structure....'this if you don't agree with me then you are against and therefore not in my tribe'. We are programmed to constantly look for differences, including within our own tribe. This is why tribes invariably splinter into sub-groups and so on, and can actually end up becoming opposed to each other.

The temptation for the belief in irrational thoughts or wants is strong and paradoxically many atheists will have a mirror issue to religious people, in having to reaffirm to themselves their non-faith. The need in life to push against something or create an identity can help provide a construct and daresay purpose. As children we have only basic needs, one of which is just simply to experience fun. Yet as we develop into adults we seem to arbitrarily attach badges and labels to create what we consider is a more appealing identify.

How we create our individual personality is interesting, apparently there is evidence to show that up to 50% of our personality is hereditary (attributable to two genomes just recently discovered- see the book ‘Personality- what makes you the way you are’ by Daniel Nettle).





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