1. Do we as atheists need to be more considerate of treating others with kindness when they are aiming to become free thinkers? (see atheist forums)

2. Do we as atheists have reason to promote rational thinking in all circles? (see Harris; Dawkins; Hitchens)

3. Do we as atheists have a need to be more aggressive in our promotion of rational thinking with those of faith? (see Greta Christina; Dawkins)



4. What are our moral responsibilities when speaking to people of faith? (see Harris; Dawkins)


I've added a couple of links there to support the basis for my questions.

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Replies to This Discussion

Greg - I like them...

1. Yes, of course. From personal experience when I was pressured by a friend to convert to Christianity, I received a rather bipolar treatment. First I was always told that I would go to heaven and that God/Jesus loves me and all that jazz. But they would say if I didn't convert that I would go to Hell. That's nice. I am open-hearted and Open-minded and I have never/will never ostracize or pressure a Christian who prefers their own faith.

2. Yes.

3. Of course, because I've had times when in sermons the pastors scare me and I'm probably not the only one. Take note of what the opposing side does and do the opposite. If acting like Hitler in a church works for Christians, act like a saint in atheism. Most atheists left Christianity for a reason.

4. Respect. Always respect. I will defend my lack of faith, but I will never bully or pressure someone into something they don't want to do. Present the facts, but don't smash their faces in the mud.

It's heartening to hear that many of us share the same views - perhaps it was in the way that I asked the questions.



I think your questions should be considered in context with whom the atheist is in conversation with?  Experiences with some discourse can serve as an understandable catalyst for general rudeness and even unattractive logical fallacies by atheists in subsequent conversation with believers in whatever frame of mind be the believer, or even in disputes with other atheists. 


Who among us has ever had an exchange of ideas with evangelical Christians in blog comments or net forums?  They ask questions and, or  raise assertions of dubious validity.  Often an atheist will respond objectively with an astute, well-considered, factually accurate refutation.  More often than not, the refutation or response is met with a rude and negative counter-response that exposes a tenacious circularity to their arguments; or they "gaslight" the refutation, dishonestly claiming they do not understand the construction of facts and arguments in the response with an obtuse contrivance. 


Trying to converse and inform in that kind of completely undesirable circumstance leads to compelling frustrations, and the angered evidential rationalist becomes dismissive and surly towards all believers.  Being able to distinguish the subtleties of motive and temperament among believers in these settings requires a fine-tuned sense of sizing up personalities in question.               


Sam - I think that the US is in a unique position in this - where you have some how managed to get into a position where there are many Christians who are also aggressive, rude and have no manners - they must base their Christianity in the old testament - or else cherry pick the Bible for evil - I don't know - and I agree that we need to call out their responses as abusive, rude and lacking in morality - do we need to match them in aggressiveness or abuse?  Or can we act as leaders in the moral landscape?

I've got a rational moral meme here for discussion:

'It is reasonable to take an individual on their word'

This was in response to a conversation I had with a Muslim friend - when I brought her attention to the 'bad' bits of the Koran - she replied that her religion had only ever taught her peace and love - I know her family well and they are good people with good values - and I have no reason to doubt that she is being honest when she tells me that she has only been taught peace and love from her faith.

So I would argue that a moral value that we might hold regarding speaking to those of faith, is that we take them individually on their word in our discussion with them.

I realise this may be controversial - so I'm keen to hear your comments and views.

Greg - this is the attitude I started with - but I found that it didn't work for my socially with my old school friends.  1. they are no intellectuals.  2. they aren't into questioning their faith - they really just see their faith as a way of life - they are peaceful people and are living their lives normally.  3. If I were to push intellectual questioning of their faith, they would just avoid me - it's not going to change them - I think that their knowing that I am an atheist and seeing my postings of links to you tubes and reports regarding science etc is enough - if they wish to pursue it they can - but I don't need to shove it down their throats.  I will make science available to them, but I'm not comfortable to shove it down their throats - or force them to discuss it with me, but being aggressive with them in my questioning of their faith.  I had a go at it - and it wasn't comfortable - especially when they are peaceful, kind people - who aren't doing any harm to others because of their faith - in fact it may well be the opposite - they may practise kindness due to their faith - as they have claimed.  

I realise that this isn't always the case - and so every situations has a different appropriate response.

It's easier to maintain a narrative based in the truth than one born in lies. The motivation to lie exists because the truth will hurt. The ethical individual will take the lumps and acknowledge the truth; the unethical will create what ever lies are needed to keep the lumps off their heads.
Lying is hard work.

Jim - have you read Sam Harris' new book 'Lying'?


I haven't because I don't like books I need to read online - but I am really interested to hear what it is about.

1. I hold to the view that there's a difference in making an argument point and being an ass hole, but sometimes in order to spur someone into action, you have to affect them enough, sometimes piss them off, to get them to research it for themselves. If you've done your homework correctly, eventually they'll have to agree with you or fall to the irrelevant minority of nay-sayers.

2. If the dominant aspect of our culture, one which defines our laws, is one of blindness or decrease of human rights, then yes, I think it's a responsibility of ours to fight against it. I'm not after the people, they have the right and ability to believe whatever they want and I respect that, but as long as those beliefs spill into the real world and negatively affect my laws and life, I'll go against it and promote opposition.

3. Aggressive? I think so. Not with anger, but with determination.

4. I think our responsibilities should echo our positions. If you intend to make a statement representing atheism, you should be responsible for that group and not make incorrect statements. If you don't know or understand something, I think you are responsible for either educating yourself on the topic or not making a claim on it outside of personal perspective.

I'm impressed with the level of thoughtfulness gone into answer the questions by everyone who has participated.  I think as a group we have a lot to offer.

In fact, when comparing our considered responses to the attitudes of some young Christians I've seen quoted from facebook etc - they lost the moral high ground a long time ago....  their christian faith seems to do nothing for their compassion and awareness of others.

Thanks! I honestly love discussion. I can be a wordy bastard sometimes. That's why I aggregate news and provide lengthy commentary, like this one you might be interested in:


The Pope has apparently warned US Roman Catholics that secularism is a threat to their faith, which makes the Pope the biggest threat to our rights.




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