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.