Even though I was a Christian before my "deconversion", I am stumped as to how I am to relate to believers. I am not delusional enough to think that religion will ever become extinct, so we will have to get along with them. What would be a good strategy to win the minds of believers? I do not wish to "deconvert" anyone, as that is a foolhardy goal, and I do like a diversity of opinions. I do realize that some will always think of us as "agents of the Devil", essentially stonewalling any kind of successful discussion that leads to mutual understanding, but what about the rest?
My thoughts so far have included ideas on how to erase the "us vs. them" mentality that seems rife in human cultures (and many non human animal cultures as well). The problem I run into often is the "you atheists don't get your morality from anything higher than yourself, so the only thing holding you back from heinous acts are the consequences". How do we get around these accusations? Since I am a biologist (well, in three more semesters anyway), I try to respond by explaining biological substrates that we all share when it comes to "morality". The problem here is that, more often than not, I end up losing the person I am talking to when trying to explain the link between empathy and oxytocin. For whatever reason, distilling such human emotions to hormones and neuropeptides is seen as unacceptable and dehumanizing. Any suggestions? What has been successful for you?
Thank you, Nelson, for the long, thoughtful, response. It makes me wish I had been more detailed in my original post. I haven't been an atheist for too long, so I tend to stick with what I know fairly well, which is biology. However, I cannot use evolution as an argument because the folks I tend to argue with (family) do not accept biological evolution, common descent, etc, as the best explanation for biodiversity. Equally implausible to them is the idea that our psychology is a product of evolution. Believe me, there would be no problem here if I could use such illuminating arguments.
As for your three pronged strategy, I shall strengthen the my use of it. I have tried similar strategies in the past, but it is obvious that I need practice. The argument was over the origin of morality. No one in the discussion thought that it was possible that our values, and thus morality by extension, could have a proximal origin in culture. Any way, I shall work toward showing them that even their brand of morality is not absolute or objective, and maybe steer away from biochemistry, even though I think it is a perfectly valid and sound argument.