Statement:

I have seen how patient you regulars are with theists or those confused about other forms of BS. And you give reasoned replies without vituperation no matter how ignorant, stupid, willful, illogical, or irrational the person is. 

Question:

Has any such visitor ever acknowledged having been persuaded that their beliefs were wrong?

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I have had emails or messages from about 7 or 8 members over the last number of years who wrote that they became atheists due to arguments presented on various TA blogs and discussions. It lead them to give proper consideration to their beliefs and come to realise that those beliefs had no real foundations.

I have debated theists for years and know of several who became atheists. I will give more details later.

Yes, but I spent many many years arguing with theists. I am not sure that it made any difference whatsoever.

It is now clear to me that this is counter productive.

As much as I admire Hitchens and Dillahunty and others I am not sure that a combative approach persuades theists. Their  blistering style amuses me and provides a great deal of comfort. Talking to believers can sometimes feel like being in the twilight zone. It is encouraging and refreshing to hear simple, clean reasoning in the face of a blizzard of nonsense.

But haranguing, embarrassing and belittling believers will not help them examine their beliefs critically.

I see the primary agents of change as a social force driven by engagement, persuasion and the repetition of simple but undeniable messages.

The most successful techniques I believe are non-judgmental discourse and education.

Yes - I won't name them, but I also have email exchanges with some of the TA ghosts reflecting this.

Reg and Strega, how about when a person is actively promoting theism and challenging atheism or asking you to debunk some nonsense?

That's usually how it starts, Jake. They come here wielding the one bit of religion they're struggling to let go of, so that's the subject they're most stuck with. They raise it as 'incontrovertible evidence' and the members here react in a variety of ways. Those arguments have proven to be effective in some cases.

Having said that, this is not an aggressive deconversion forum. The TA environment is a safe place for atheists and atheist-curious people.

I have found it ironic, however, that when we get two or more simultaneous Christian apologists, they don't interact with each other at all, as their perspectives seldom align. Sometimes a lousy apologetic, who comes and posts all about how great God is and so on, followed by a crash and exit, is enough to inspire someone else altogether to put down the last traces of the chains that bound them to their sect.

I know Reg and I both mention the TA ghosts (those which join TA but do not post publicly), but there are at least ten (possibly many more) that read, to every one posting. We get the PMs - don't underestimate the effects you may have when you post a thoughtful considered argument.

Yes.

:D

And, many have the seeds of reason planted accidentally, and, those can germinate into blossoming concepts, and so forth.

Sometimes, they swagger in full of fire and brimstone, assured that they should fear no reason in the valley of logic, for the Lord is their Shepard, and will protect them, etc....

And, after realizing that they don't seem to be having the effect that they expected to have, they variously accept that the logic they were taught was correct, was flawed, and slither away, or, cannot actually apply logic, and fail to understand what they said or the replies, or, even, start to THINK about what "went wrong".

:D

The most productive parts of the threads though, are not the posters' evolution in ideology, etc, but of the readers, who may not even be visible, as many don't post, and just read.

The same seeds are planted, passively, as they read the passages.  When one can change one's mind without losing face/an argument..one is more likely to consider the merits of the other side's position; its human nature.

:D

 

I previously posted this approach to debating in general terms. I try to ask them to keep explaining what they mean until it gets narrowed down to a specific point that creates some doubt. I tend to use a Socratic approach.

A quick example you have probably heard from me already.

Me: Do you believe in the Christian God?

Theist: Yes.

Me: Did your God create the Universe?

Theist: Yes.

Me: Do you communicate with your God via prayer?

Theist: Yes.

If I get 3 “Yes” answers I then ask:

How does it feel knowing you can talk with the Creator of the Universe? Personally I find it difficult to believe you can. Could you explain that further please?

Me: Do you really believe you will go to what you call “Heaven” and be giving eternal life because you are certain that you are “saved”?

Theist: Yes!!

Me: So how does it feel to know that you are soon to become an immortal and that you will exist in several billion years’ time?

These 2 final questions often demonstrate to the theist what they actually say they believe but have never phrased it the way I did. It forces them to look again at the end results of what the faith means…i.e. the ability to talk to the Creator of the Universe and they claim of immortality.

At no point have I been dismissive of them or even said I am an atheist. All I am doing is asking them to explain what they believe so I can understand it. Even if the conversation stops at that point I know I have planted a seed of doubt. That is the first step to deconversion.

Not long into becoming familiar with TA discussions, I almost gave up because of the anger and group-think that kept arguing as if there's only one way real atheists should argue. I didn't like the Dawkins/Hitchens approached, and in fact when I asked Hitchens during a radio talk show about his own vituperance toward religionists, he chuckled and said "aha, another 'loving' comment from a Christian", and I wasn't even given a chance to reply that I was an atheist.

Now I appreciate both of them and their humor, even when I know they were/are turning some religionists away from listening to us. It just took more time here at TA for me to realize that my own approach to seeking two-way dialog with religionists has it's own value, in spite of many here steadfastly discounting it.

I understand now most of the anger that comes out of some atheists, especially some of the newer members still needing a place to vent to an in-group, after feeling so marginalized from their native culture. In fact I'm often in awe of atheists who can remain humble in spite of being actively marginalized from their native Islamic culture... when "coming out" not only incurs anger, but fear for one's life and family. USA has it easy, and should be more openly advertising to the world how secularism--or at the very least the humam right to choose one's own religious belief without imposing it on others--is necessary for personal, local and world peace.

In fact politics and religionism are just the first, most viral in-group vs out-group pathologies we need to treat.

When I first came out as atheist to a co-worker, she looked dumbfounded and perplexed, saying "so, what IS an atheist, really?". She had never really considered it! Most importantly TO ME (ymmv), I want "Think Atheist" to prove that atheism is a real alternatve or at least a reasonable push-back against beliefs imposed on us by whatever local culture we happened to grow up into.

I know what you mean.

I noticed VERY early on that theists PERCEIVE mere disagreement or even mere questions about explaining what THEY mean, to be "attacks".

Questions that lead to answers that at least TRY to avoid sounding adversarial are the best opening, yet, it is SO HARD to avoid asking a question about WHAT they believe, w/o them feeling under attack.

The best approximation I can come up with of the phenomenon, is that if the answer is available via rote memory, they are not stressed, analogous to asking them what 2+2 is equal to...they don't have to think about it, or figure it out, as they "know that one".

If you ask a person what 2+2=, they simply state "4".

If you then ask what 14 squared is, or what 14 x 14 =....they typically, pause, look up, etc, and shift mental gears from automatic replies to actually thinking...and start crunching it in their head.

The difference is that unless they just claimed to be experts at doing advanced math in their heads, and, also find that the problem is stymieing them, they do NOT see you as attacking them by asking.

The idea of a question being a challenge to their claim is not limited to religion or math of course.

Basically, if I say, hey, I met Neil Degrass Tyson at lunch at Burger King yesterday in Seattle...

...and someone asks me how that could be, as I was having lunch, with THEM, yesterday, in Boston, at Wendy's, they are basically calling me a liar.

So, take something with as vested a belief in being right as a religion, and, apply that scenario...and simply asking a question that shifts the gears to having to THINK, to them, is you calling them a liar....about one of the most important things in their lives to them....and, that if they are wrong, it means that they are mere mortal idiots like the rest of us, etc...and not super special snowflakes who talk to the creator of the universe about where they left the car keys, etc.

So, add to that the fear of being beheaded, tortured, ostracized, etc...and, yes, abandoning even horrible ideas can seem worse than holding ion to them.

The atheists I know at least run the full spectrum from anger at the lack of reason/unreasonableness of the religious, to complete disinterest, to amused tolerance....etc.

My own vested interest is based PRIMARILY upon the impact on children, and, subsequently, everyone else when they grow up...when fed garbage...its garbage in/garbage out.

If religions DID NOT make claims, and, insist their claims on SCIENCE had to be adhered to, I would be neutral for the most part...as I have no motivation to run about the earth telling people they are wrong about something....simply because they ARE.

But, when a group insists a kid is TAUGHT, with tax dollars, that the earth is 6k years old, and dino's and humans co-existed, and life doesn't evolve, there was a global flood, etc, etc...I feel it would be WRONG to do nothing...so, I ACT.

I FOUND that the sole CAUSE of the purposefully wrong information, were groups who had a vested interest in people being confused about what science really says.

THESE vested interests are ALL religious...and, typically, a fundamentalist version.

THAT does anger me, as it is blatantly EVIL to me, to sacrifice a child's education, and therefore,  the future of mankind, to achieve a goal based upon, basically, a membership drive.

The ONLY thing that prevents this anger from manifesting on a poster here, is that I KNOW they are VICTIMS of those agnotological campaigns, not the organizers.

:D

Yay, I like it when there's something you write that I would reword. (It is rare.)

*THESE vested interests are ALL religious...and, typically, a fundamentalist version.*

Almost... take Trump and climate change. Sure, he hooked onto the USA Conservative Christian bandwagon for a boost in popularity, but not because of any piety he may have. It's (imo) because of his devotion to self-interest. If he doesn't get booted, I wouldn't be surprised if the kind of "ism" that drives and follows him is a version of Putinism.

*The ONLY thing that prevents this anger from manifesting on a poster here, is that I KNOW they are VICTIMS of those agnotological campaigns, not the organizers.*

I even feel that way about a lot of Trump followers... they were duped by a con man in their desperate search for love and security. Well, SOME of them, anyway.

I just heard a google search engineer say that search-engine statistics show that the critical, tipping-point voters he won over in Nov 2016 ran a much higher than average number of searches on racist humor and and holocaust denial propaganda.

LOL - I stated the specific agnotological areas of concern though, so, in context, it was correct.

I agree that OTHER vested interests ALSO have these campaigns, such as those fueled by the fossil fuel industry, etc, the High Fructose Corn Syrup Industry, the Asbestos Industry, the Tobacco Industry, and so forth.

:D

While debates on non-religion topics can blow up sometimes, if a theist comes here with a non-combative non-hostile and non-arrogant attitude, they are for the most part greeted with patience, rational dialogue and more patience and even given resources on how to learn more about religion and other topics, as well as another huge bucket of patience. If they have the opposite attitude...good luck.

Coming down on the anger of people who have been marginalised or who have suffered as though they lack a trait that the quiet dignant have is, in some cases, a type of victim blaming. It's like saying "why are black people matter protesters so angry...wouldn't they achieve more through calm and smiley means" or "why do feminists have to be so hostile, if they were more calm and rational I think more men would listen" or "Why are gay people so angry all the time, if they weren't so agressive and loud, they might be able to achieve more". Except for the fact that no community or group in the history of the world ever achieved equality and rights without making noise and slamming terrible social outrages and attitudes. Woman's rights would never have been achieved with only patience and rational arguments. Both kinds of discourse are necesary and are still necesary considering that equality for women, LGTB, minorities and atheists have hardly been achieved.

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