Atheists! We're going about it all WRONG!

As much as I respect Dawkins, Hitchens, and other intelligent, loud and proud atheists, this is NOT what will get Christians to drop their religion.

When I first came here a few weeks ago, I was flamed up about Atheism. I wanted to smash every Christian in debate and roar over their crushed egos when they realize that their god is false (dramatized of course =P)

However, the more I tried to debate and argue Christians, the more people just played me off as "just some jackass." I know we have all had this problem. So finally, after the last Christian refused intelligent debate and basically spat in my face that he has the right to believe anything he wants to, I took some time to reflect on how wrong this approach was.

I thought: What if I was stupid? What if I rejected reason because it made me feel bad? What would make me want to listen to an atheist?

Talking to my mom, who is a very intelligent spiritual person (I suspect she is slightly agnostic, although she says that she loves god and goes to many different kinds of spiritual leaders within many religions to make sure she isn't brainwashed by just one), she kind of bridged the gap for me as someone who is both an intellectual and very emotional person.

So, my mom and I had a debate and I realized how differently I approached the issue when I was talking to someone I loved. I started by respectfully asking a question about why she believed what she did and after she found some comfort telling me what she believed in, I made arguments like: "well, what about this...?" rather than "Well, that doesn't make sense because..."

The snobby intellectual response is exactly what theists hate about atheists. It is contributing to the reason why Christians and theists hate us. You all hated that snobby little jerk in high school who always was being a kissass to the teacher because he/she wanted to flaunt how smart he/she was. This is how theists view up.

There are two important goals that we must achieve in order to spread atheism effectively. The first one we are already doing quite well. Our smartest speak out against, debate, and prove that we are better than the smartest Christian leaders. However: this is not how we get the average, puzzled, questioning theist. This is only effective in rallying atheists to stand up for themselves.

The second thing we are not doing so well. When these Christians do not have neither the will nor the intelligence to defend their faith, they only stick by it because it gives them comfort. I can see how atheists are scary! We are smart and we have all the logical means of destroying everything they stand for. What we MUST do is show theists that we are compassionate and accepting as well as intelligent people.

Think about it like a war (indeed, the WAR on atheism) we are the superpower. We are smarter and have better tools for debate. If we were a country, the approach we would be using right now would be similar to a strong country crushing a weaker one (germany into france) and occupying it. The Christians are very scared of this happening to them just like a conquored nation would be, they are extremely bitter towards us for trying to crush them (as they see us).

We need to show that Atheism isn't about crushing people's opinions. It is about peace. It is about stability. Religion is dangerous and we only spread because we want a world full of love and reason rather than a world of discrimination. In order for them to want to be like us, they first and foremost have to like who we are. Christians who think we are an angry bunch with no compassion would OF COURSE try to block us out in order to keep their loving atmosphere.

Now you might say: Yes, but how do we spread our own atheism then? We are all about reason and they won't listen to it.

The answer, of course is they must come to us. We must be every bit as humanitarian as theists and they might start to think: "Wow. For godless people these people do very good things." We need news coverage, inviting debates, and a message that radiates peace. This is the only way that we can convert someone who values how they feel over how they reason.

The question, then is how do we debate without forcing debate?

Here are a few ways I came up with:

1) Post atheist-supporting quotes on your facebook status. They must not be offensive, but reflective, such as Epicurus. Just put on a thought every week or so. If someone comes attacking you, calmly say: "I have a right to my opinion and you came here as the agressor. If you would not like to debate please leave me in peace. I would, however love to clear anything up for you."
Posting the status will force people to at least see (whether or not they reflect on) an interesting thought and it will bring some to debate you. (it does work btw. I've been doing it for a few weeks)

2) If you have ever been on a college campus, you have seen the crazy evangelists calling people whores, being cheuvanist, and making people very angry. If you are in college, you have a golden oppurtunity! Go and sit 20 paces from one of these people and put up a sign that says: "Atheists promote peace. Come and see what we are all about." Sit down; don't stand up. Engage with them like equals and make them feel comfortable talking to you.

3) Go to volunteer at soup kitchens or homeless shelters and then try to talk with the many Christians there about why you feel a bond of brotherhood without needing god that makes you want to help others.

It is the theists who need to overpower, belittle, and dominate. We must show that we are better people, not just prove it with logic. If you are more Christlike then a Christian, trust me. They will notice.
The only way to debate a theist is to get them to care about what you have to say. The only way to do that is to have them come to you; not seek them out. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and herd in the sheep!

If anyone has other ways of peacefully promoting atheism, comment and let me know.

Questions? Criticisms? Go. Critique it.

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Comment by Johnny on October 27, 2009 at 10:15pm
LOL the thing I like most about you is you ALWAYS have the right comic for the situation. Where do you get all of these?
Comment by Johnny on October 27, 2009 at 10:14am
Punish? No... however there is some serious discrimination here by radical conservatives.
Comment by Johnny on October 26, 2009 at 12:21pm
Well, appealing to the young is, of course, the best way to convert anyone. Theists loooooove to exploit and brainwash little kids.

The problem is: how do you contact kids to talk to them? Christian parents sure as hell (that kills me =D funny little expressions) won't let their kid go to "atheist/agnostic camp."
College students seem to be the youngest group that it is appropriate to target and because college is such a gateway into adulthood, what better way to teach college kis how to think an adult?
Comment by Taylor James on October 26, 2009 at 9:32am
I do agree with your replies. What a great place to discuss our opinions. I'm so not used to the open mindedness. I'ts so appreciated. Thanks,
Comment by Aaron S. (USA) on October 25, 2009 at 5:20pm
I really agree with your post, but I still hate it, lol. I'm really, really, not good at playing the good cop :P
Comment by Johnny on October 25, 2009 at 4:36pm
yes, I'd like to see them too. I'd also like to see outlaw's FAQ. That would be really helpful to me.
Comment by Gold Guy on October 25, 2009 at 4:33pm
Hey Walter, maybe you could post a list of the things you put on cards. We're starting a skeptics/atheist group here in Chico CA and maybe we could add them to the fliers we plan to use to announce our meetings.
Comment by Rusty Gunn. on October 25, 2009 at 4:13pm
I've posted hereabouts that I make up small cards (on business card stock) with pro-atheist points of view on them and spread them all over this little community (Oakdale, CA). The purpose is two fold: 1.) spark intelligent debate about belief systems, and 2.) to plant a little seed of doubt in the minds of those who are willing to at least think about what the card says. This is a pretty passive approach, it lets the reader decide for herself/himself how to respond. Thus far I've been the recipient of one very hostile comment but that's really not all that bad given that this is a very conservative town. Avoiding open confrontation is a part of my scheme and like John I believe it will lead to people coming around and asking legitimate questions. From there good things can happen. I'll let people believe what they want to believe but will also encourage them to think critically and analytically about those beliefs.
Comment by Johnny on October 25, 2009 at 3:20pm
i think that's a good way to put it. However, I think we need more good cops than bad cops and even the bad cops should be polite and not condescending when people come and question them. I did say that confrontational is important for rallying people who are actually interested in atheism. This includes theists who wonder too. Playing bad cop will never get people content with "live and let live" or "just ignore them" approaches.

And yes, I did the flashy title to get people here. Not all atheists are doing it wrong obviously. It's just the main movement that I have seen.

And yes, the censoring of atheists is a point were we MUST be strident. That is fighting for our rights though, not converting theists. It is a different topic.

People here reading this are not likely Dawkins or another influential, famous atheist. It is their job to be a figurehead and stand up for us who have a lesser impact. For those of us who won't reach mass audiences and likely ever debate intelligent theists (the only ones out there are probably already debating Dawkins), we must do our own part as an atheist community. We may be individuals, but if we stand on streetcorners and bitch at people who walk by, our message won't go anywhere. Pride is the uniting factor of any organization, however, it also limits how effectively it spreads when it is used to be condescending.
Comment by Gold Guy on October 25, 2009 at 3:01pm
I get your point, and of course it is rhetorical hyperbole when you say atheists are doing it "all wrong." Some atheists are overly arrogant in denouncing the ignorance of theism. Maybe the best tactic is a "good cop/bad cop" approach. Some atheist being strident and confrontational, while others offer a compassionate and understanding presentation of the facts.

At any rate, I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that part of the process of changing minds is having people recognize that your beliefs are legitimate. That there is an issue to debate. Given that theists have irrational "faith," they do not acknowledge the legitimacy of our perspective. At this point most theists do not believe we have a right to voice our perspective, so the first battle must be to demand that right. That requires speaking up and being noticed. The process of demanding attention is often wrongly perceived as hostility. Especially when it slaughters their sacred cows.



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