Hi, I'm new here but hardly new to atheism, But unlike some whose posts I've read here so far, I never had religion jammed down my throat. other than watching it play out so negatively in front of me with religious factions fighting for supremacy from Ireland to Iran.
But for a short period of my life, in my 20s, when I did seek to argue with all the Jesus freaks running around Southern California who accosted me unsolicited, and for that matter, the converted Muslims pushing Peanut Butter Pies, and the Hare Krishnas at the airports, I just tried to live the Golden Rule and treat them with respect despite being certain they had no better answer for life than those answers I was discovering on my own. Naturally, I gravitated towards a social circle that didn't have any really strong spitirual beliefs - most would self-describe, as I did myself, to being agnostic in the belief that it was kind of a middle ground that didn't require you specifically oppose the kind of nonsense most religious people have been brainwashed into accepting.
But as time has gone by I've realized how truly poisonous and hypocritical almost all religions are at their core. And in a sense, I have Islam to thank for that realization - the absolute insanity of a belief system that seeks martyrdom by killing members of its own religion is about as insane as it gets.
With that realization behind me I had to start thinking about how this insanity could be slowed and eventually stopped. I started reading the atheist literature abounding on the internet now and ran across Pat Condell's excellent monologues on YouTube, read many of Richard Dawkins' articles and posts, bought Christopher Hitchens' book "God is Not Great," all in the hope that I might find a magic tome that I could use either as a reference for a dialogue with theists or possibly give to a theist who might be open to reconsidering some of their base assumptions about gods.
I liked Christoper Hitchens' book - I had to get out a dictionary more than one to look up a word he used and I used to pride myself on my vocabulary. And then it struck me - almost everything I have seen published on Atheism was preaching to the choir. We all have been down the road of reason and perhaps to a fault pride ourselves on having reached what, finally, turns out to be an obvious conclusion. It really doesn't take much intellectually to reject, to borrow from Pat Condell, the god of the desert. Were it not for the heavy indoctrination starting in early childhood that religion relies on, most people would have dropped such beliefs in their teens - about the time you figure out the Santa Claus racket.
And that leads me to wondering where we, collectively, should be putting our efforts in trying to break down the stranglehold religion has on people. Should be writing pithy tomes demonstrating our intellect - or writing in comic book and manga forms to engage a younger audience and using a simpler vocabulary to show that the path of reason can lead to a better life? Our "enemy" has the upper hand in the way it is allowed, even sometime publicly funded, to brainwash our children. So is it time to quit preaching to the choir?
I have a college-age daughter who, since she was of single-digit age, has been enthralled by the Japanese manga style of literature and like many other teens into the world of graphic novels. Are there authors and illustrators amongst us we can enlist to consider themes in such media that can help break the brainwashing?
I don't know exactly how we collectively can break the stranglehold of religion on politics and education but if we don't plant some seeds now in the younger generations a lot more people are going to suffer and die needlessly and futilely clinging to ideologies designed from the ouset to deprive them of their wealth and to keep them dependent as though on drugs.
So who wants to chime in and tell me who may already be working on tactics and strategy for winning this war?

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I'd actually argue against the thought that critical thinking is all that children need to break free of religion.  One of the beauties of religion is the way it gets you to stop thinking critically about it.  A really good, close friend of mine about a week ago when we were talking about religion (it's a long and boring story about how we got to that point) told me that she had stopped believing at points in her life but had finally come back.  When I tried to get her to think critically about any point, the discussion just dissolved into an argument that was getting us no where and was making me uncomfortable because I was worried about pushing her away.  She's not stupid, she's very smart.  It's just that the indoctrination of the church is very good and they've had many years to perfect it.  We need to have books, articles, and websites that we can point friends and loved ones to that can help explain to them our way of thinking in a way that resonates with them.
I agree with that - that all the reason and erudition in providing an alternative to blind faith just tends to make it inaccessible to the people who need the help most.

I agree - the real issue to me is that all the literate arguments we come up just make atheism look inaccessible and intellectual, that the real people we need to help along if we are ever to overcome the stranglehold of religion, are not going to read polysyllabic treatises with compelling logical positions.

In the main, I believe, what we need to focus on are the stories of real people and how they overcame the adversity of religion.  The recent emphasis on "reality" shows, besides lowering production costs for the networks, also seems to have whetted a latent appetite in societies worldwide for real-world examples of how people cope with real problems.  From checkout stand magazines to made-for-TV movies there is a market for how-to-overcome stories. 

Debating Bishops on public TV isn't going to convert anyone to freethinking.  But a real story of a nun who rejects catholicism, or a child that experiences abuse by a priest, or by a teen who is ostracized in a small town because he/she's figured out the lie of religion - those are the stories that need to be told - the dark side of religion and how many people it cripples.  But not in the carefully couched phraseology of a paper submitted for peer review, but rather in the real speak of real people who lived through the ordeal of transition from the safe world of canned answers to the somewhat more difficult path of reason and lifelong learning.

As you say - religion is powerful - through its control of social circles that give people a sense of belonging and which actually do occasionally perform useful social works, it is a very powerful and difficult adversary to overcome.  And as we talk about the fallacies in the belief system we need to separate that from the social side - the people in a church are not the evil - it's the system of beliefs that stifle creativity and the blatant economic side where you are being asked to buy your way into heaven, that are the things we need to work on eventually changing.

I wish I had a deeply personal story to tell about my transition away from religion - but I wasn't raised in a religious household.  But I know many out there did go through some trials to get where they are today.  And it's those peoples' stories, about the negative things that happened to them along the way out of religion and how they overcame those trials that I think we need to put forth in greater number.  That kind of story sells newspapers and magazines and reaches more people than Bertrand Russell's "Why I am Not a Christian."

It's all good.  I apologized to her for not being sensitive and she actually just apologized the other day (and this was a conversation we had about a week and a half ago) for being to defensive.  Not sure if what I said had any impact on her, but it didn't hurt our friendship any.


And I agree that what we need are real stories of people overcoming religion.  Maybe we should try and pitch it to a TV network as a reality TV series, lol.


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