I have a question.. As we live in a liberal society where everybody has the "right" to voice there opinion on the supernatural without foundation or evidence, and any rejection of said beliefs is deemed militant or arrogant. How do we best dismiss theism in public discourse. Any examples of situations in which you have had to defend yourself publicly would be interesting to hear.
well, i actually agree that everyone has the right to voice their opinion on anything, provided it doesn't endanger the public (fire in a crowded theater being the traditional example), even if they don't have evidence for their assertion. people are entitled to their beliefs no matter how weird they are. but you're surely right that nearly any rejection of or contrary statement to someone's religious belief is automatically deemed militant or arrogant. how to change that... i don't really know honestly. i think it'll gradually change as people come to expect to be challenged about their beliefs, even the emotionally held beliefs that are tied up in a person's sense of their own identity- Christians often say, "i don't believe in the Christian religion, i AM a Christian!" until that time we just remain respectful and do our best to stay away from ad hom attacks that tarnish the entire atheist/agnostic community. i'm not sure what more there is we can do but i would love to hear some ideas!
Every time I've had a discussion that threatens to turn heated or nasty, I've found the best way to derail the negative emotions is through humor.
"Well, I'm sure the polar bears will survive global warming just fine. They are hearty enough to live 40 days and 40 nights on an un-airconditioned boat and then be dropped off on top of a desert mountain."
Timing and tone are very necessary else you'll just sound sarcastic and demeaning (which you are, but humans read body language and facial expression way more than the words themselves. ) If you seem open and joking about it, they'll laugh and maybe even realize how absurd some of these "facts" really are.
yeah, people really enjoy saying that that's the wrong way to go about it but, really, The Four Horseman, or at least The Unholy Trinity (because Dennett really doesn't ridicule), have used ridicule to great effect and they've been a huge factor in the rising numbers of those who claim no religion. does the ridicule method turn off some people? sure. but so does it open many people's eyes too when you tear down the pedestal of respect religion is held up all too often.
I think their secret is giving an honest evaluation without coming off as hateful. It's one thing to say "Fuck Jesus, Fuck God and Fuck You!" It's quite another to put religion on the witness stand. The difference between the approaches (besides effectiveness) is the use of reason.
But unfortunately, you're right. Some people seem to think any ridicule is the same thing as blatant hatred. What they end up doing is mislabeling people as bigots as a way to shut them up, since it's easier than arguing with what they're actually saying.