A new atheist? Some things you should realize.

1. You focus too much on one aspect (Evangelicism) of one religion (Christianity)

2. There is no need to point out hypocrisy or inconsistencies in the Bible. We all know them, the only people who don't are people who aren't going to listen to you. Take for example, Genesis. Easy target, right? I mean, the whole God created the world in 6 days thing, and the talking snake tempting Eve, blah blah. Well, in case you forgot, this is from the Torah, it didn't originate in the Christian Bible, and how many creationist Jews do you see running around? Sure, there are a small handful, but I've never met one. Do you know why? It's because when Genesis is read in it's original language, it is immediately obvious that it is 100% allegory. Metaphor. So go ahead and tell a Jew that he is silly for believing that crazy story, and he will just shrug you off, because he doesn't. Not literally. When you just pound away on these sorts of issues, you're really, again, just focusing on one subset of one religion (see first point). If you truly wish to attack religion, you have to do some more reading and come up with something better than that.

3. Theology is an enormously vast subject, with a myriad of possible interpretations, forms and belief systems. Any objection you can come up with to belief in general has already been completely explored by serious students of it and thrown out and/or encompassed into a concept. Try reading the Talmud, there is a great example of that kind of work.

4. You really cannot invalidate someone's personal experience, and you will never know the nature of it. This goes for anything, but particularly for matters of the heart, of which religion/spirituality is a member. You look silly trying.

5. Don't become what you loathe and start preaching the Positivist version of philosophy. Hey, it might even be "correct", but isn't the thing that really turned you off from religion in the first place is the way that so many of them want to shove it down your throat? Grandstanding and self-righteousness are not solely the domain of religion.

Now, all that being said, I think the one area that Atheists have a real bone to pick is in the ignorance about it from religious minded people (again, specifically American Evangelicals). Try to focus on that, and remember, self-righteousness is butt ugly no matter what angle you are coming from.

EDIT #1: A caveat: I misspoke when I said that all of Genesis is taken as 100% allegory, what I meant was the Creation story specifically. There are certainly lots of viewpoints on this among Jews, however, the vast majority of them see no conflict with the story and modern science, because the vast majority do not interpret it literally.

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Those are some pretty broad brushes you are painting with, Method.

1) While some atheists certainly focus on this aspect, as it is what we're most familiar with and it is what is most threatening to our particular area of the world, it is certainly not true of all atheists. Take yonny zohar who has been posting about ultra-orthadox Jews, Dave Mann, who recently was posting about Hindu religious traditions, Jake Collyer talking about Islam, or FactvsReason who has been dealing with Scientology.

2) Why? When you have someone who insists that there are no (zero, none) contradictions in the Bible, why should we just say 'Whatever you say.' and let it go? The same holds true for claims of infallibility in the Koran, or other 'perfect' texts. What you seem to be saying is 'Don't point out errors in the Bible to people who aren't claiming that the errors do not exist' which seems rather...obvious.

3) The Courtier's Reply. "You haven't studied the esoteric and learned discourses of the highest realms of theology, so you're not allowed to talk about theology at all." This is a false assumption. I do not need to have spent 20 years studying theology to address basic questions like "Where's the evidence?" or to point out that, for example, Pascal's Wager is seriously flawed. And yes, I know that among serious theologians Pascal's Wager is seen as flawed, but the ordinary worshipers, the ones who also have not spent 20 years studying theology, still try to use it, and there's nothing wrong with pointing out its flaws.

4) Nope, we can't invalidate it. We can, however, point out that a personal experience is only and can be only applied to the person who had the experience, and it cannot be used as evidence. If they insist that it can, then we can ask if someone's personal experience of a different god in a different religion also counts.

5) I don't think I've ever met a Positivist, mainly because most reasonable people I know realize that our senses are capable of lying to us. Philosophical materialists, I've met. And no, shoving religion down my throat was not what turned me away from religion, so that's another broad brushstroke that has missed its mark. With me, it was more the blatant ignorance and hypocrisy being promoted by various religious people. Before the overt attempts to shoehorn their beliefs into schools, etc, I was pretty live-and-let-live.
Yup. I think you pretty much summed it up. :D


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