I will be speaking this Sunday, April 29 to the St. Louis Ethical Society, 9001 Clayton Rd. St. Louis . Hope to see some of the Atheist Nexus members there.
I was discussing the issue of Atheist behavior toward theists with a colleague recently and thought I would put up my answer to one of his questions:
In my talks, I often try and discuss the four principles of communication with a theist (p. 182 of The God Virus). Unfortunately, I find that there is a good deal of resistance to that idea in some people. Two weeks ago in one of my presentations, one person took strong issue with the idea. He felt that "They have violated my rights for so many years, I have a right to be angry and confrontational." I responded that he has a perfect right to be as angry and confrontational as he wishes, however, he might ask himself, "Is that getting him more of what he wants? Does the other person respond rationally to his behavior? Do they absorb his message or do they become more entrenched?" He didn't seem to understand what I was saying, but most of the audience did. I think he, and a few others, were infected with the idea that "I have a right to attack those who I feel are attacking me." Such an idea is itself parasitic in that the very basis for discussion is based on defensiveness - aggressive defensiveness. It at once makes us feel better and more superior, just as a religious virus might. It also has the effect of protecting us from open and civil discussion. Finally, it isolates him from the religious person he wants to influence, much as religious virus isolates a person from the non-religious.
Examining ideation and assumptions underlying a given communication style, will often reveal the function of that style. In this case, the function is to isolate the atheist from the theist while giving the satisfied feeling that "I gave him the message and he was too dumb to hear it!" Religious ideas serve specific functions like keeping people infected and protecting them from other religions and secularism BUT non-religious ideas can serve the same function. My hope is that we atheists will learn to be more sophisticated in our communication style, identify our parasitic ideas and eliminate them from our thinking patterns. We will have far more influence when we learn to use an influence style rather than engaging in the same tactics as the religious - self righteousness, intimidation, fear and superiority.
Michael Shermer's did an interview with Georgia Purdom of the Creation Museum. I was quite impressed with his approach to her. He remained respectful at all times and challenged her ideas without insulting or attacking her. This interview is a great example of the very thing I am talking about in "The Four Principles." Read the principles and then watch the video to see how well he follows them. I would give him a high grade. see this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_CLIGJW6Ic
The presentation starts at 2:00 Sunday, March 29. Here is the link: