My name is Keath, I'm new to this website and I'm so happy to have found it.
I've been an atheist for a long time, and everyone who knows me knows my views.
Everyone except for a my very religious professor and a class full of students I have to give a 5-7 minute speech in front of. To give a perception of how religious my prof is, her email is LiveGodLoudly@example.com (I can't give her real email) either way, she talks about her church and her religion all the time during lectures. I also go to Oklahoma State University, and of course in Oklahoma, it's uncomfortably religious here.
I am so proud of my atheism and I want to try to persuade more people to choose reason over faith so I need to speak out. The title of my speech is going to be Atheism: My Out Campaign; and I want to try to persuade people in my class because it's a persuasive argument.
What would you guys discuss most in order to persuade a religious person to believe in Atheism?
TL;DR What would you say to persuade a religious person to believe in Atheism?
Rule number one, do not insult your classmates or the professor by using the phrase "invisible man in the sky" or anything related. You win hearts and minds by reasoning not insulting when debating. As some people have said watch the great speeches and the great debaters. Get some ammo and examples from them and make sure you have a clear way to frame your speech and have a clear goal in mind. When I debate people I do not tell them why they're religion is wrong, or false, or unprovable because those arguments are not my focus. I tell them why I personally have chosen not to be religious or why I am against religion. Why I chose humanism. You're not trying to persuade people in 5-7 minutes to become atheists, but you are trying to explain why you are one. The two famous atheists styles I model are Hitchens and Harris. Both intellectual heavyweights to be sure. Hitchens' style is very direct, in your face no holds barred. Harris is more subtle, calmer and yet incredibly effective. He always stays calm when debating. I tend to adopt both styles and although I could never hope to be even close to the brain power of those two, they have given me many ways of framing a point. I wish you "good statistics and probability" and if you can, post your speech as a follow up!
This is one of my favorite arguments by Harris. Watch how he delivers it. http://youtu.be/HthQ6a7FZeA
I totally agree with you Robert. You don't want to go into this calling them all morons because they will be put on the defense even more so then they already will be. At that point its no longer the defense of just their faith but of their intelligence. I've known a lot of very smart people who were believers that did have the ability to be open to things. Like Robert says you aren't going to convince these people in just a few minutes to drop what they have been taught their entire lives. Your goal is to leave them with a more positive view on Atheist and therefore Atheism. Showing them that you aren't an annoying know it all and you aren't some devil worshiper sacrificing virgins can go a long way to plant some seeds of intrigue. If you come across as a normal person with a story on how and why you are an Atheist chances are there will be some people who will be able to identify with your story or be interested to learn more about why someone isn't a believer. I've known people who started out learning more about faith so they could respond to Atheists in debate and ended up deciding after learning what they did that they too were Atheists.
I don't know that I'd be out to persuade anyone on the first go. Since atheism so so often misunderstood, if given the chance, I would educate. Sometimes, changing perceptions on atheism is about the best you can hope for among the devoutly religious.
And be mindful of the words you use. "Believing in atheism" is not a phrase I would ever use because it is inaccurate.
Hi Keath! Coming from a Moslem dominated country, I can relate to how you feel about this :)
I'm not sure though, that persuading them is what you want to do now. 5-7 minutes time is just way too quick; even if you speak for hours, trying to deconvert people from their religion is not an easy task. Attacking them would only make them get into defensive position and hate you :p (I assume you don't want that?)
The safest thing that I think you could do for now is trying to justify your atheism, make them to see atheism the way you see it. I don't know how the situation is there, but in my country atheism has such a bad stigma. General population see atheist as immoral, Stalin-esque people. It's such a unfortunate misconception, and I'd love to see this kind of misconception to disappear, so that more people could see atheism as a viable option.
Hope it helps, and goodluck with your presentation :)
All of you have helped me out so much with these comments. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to give me some constructive ideas. Because of you all I definitely have more direction with what I need to discuss.
I will definitely focus more on disproving that atheists are devil spawn and those common misconceptions and simply explain why I don't believe. I hope seeing I'm a normal, level-headed person will open their eyes to the true atheism. I'll post my final copy of my speech here so you guys can read. Of course I'll also let you all know how I do on my delivery. I speak on the 30th of this month, btw.
In 5-7 minutes, I’d avoid detailed scientific arguments, such as evolution. You won’t be able to adequately address such subjects. Besides, even if evolution were proved false, that doesn’t prove the existence of a god.
I’d try to persuade them that atheists are the same as believers in every aspect but one… belief in a god. Since they have demonized us and have a general misconception as to what an atheist really is and how we are able to be functioning members of society, I would be more inclined to take the chance to educate them while meeting the criteria of your assignment. You could tie this into a “good w/o god” argument. Just a thought.
Also, I’d try to re-word your argument. One doesn’t “believe” in atheism. One is simply atheist due to a lack of belief.
I love that form of argument, Sean. We are all atheists in regards to all gods that have ever been created, I just go one god further.
I've been successful in conversion because I come across as passionate and understanding. It makes people look at you as a good guy with a different opinion instead of the enemy from hell! lol
There's plenty of good advice here, and I'm glad you're taking it to heart. My two cents: try the "I just don't buy it" angle. A religious friend of mine once described our different positions as "I have my beliefs, and you have yours, and it's cool," to which I responded, "Actually, I'd say that you have your beliefs, and I don't buy them." Because isn't that a big part of what atheism is? The recognition that religious explanations are bad explanations? It's not (or it shouldn't be) about persuading people to be atheists, it's about persuading them that their worldview is not an especially logical one if they consider it carefully. Atheism's not a competing worldview or even a philosophy of its own, it's just a rejection of the "God hypothesis" as an explanation. Let them know that you've considered all aspects of the matter carefully, and you just can't come to the conclusion that it's plausible. If you have to answer questions afterward, you may have to be more forceful in order to counter the typical attacks that might come, but try to stay respectful and directly answer the questions themselves.
That's a good start with a hostile audience, in my experience. Try not to get sucked into whether religion is good or bad for society, because that's an unrelated topic to the question of whether religion is true, and it's a mighty quagmire that can lead to hurt feelings quickly. To quote Daniel Dennett, people "believe in belief", and it's often stronger than their belief in God (which is why you'll hear a lot about how atheists are immoral or otherwise evil, or just that they're the enemy -- you don't want to be thought of as an enemy in a classroom of your peers). So don't attack churchgoing or people's conservative political beliefs.
Hey, I just thought of the perfect video for you to watch in preparation! This is an atheist who was invited to speak to a Sunday school class as part of a series on other faiths, and filmed it, and he does a really good job of it overall. http://vimeo.com/18695829 Obviously you won't have an entire class period, but I think his tone of respectfulness and honesty are worthwhile.
Congrats on OSU's football season, btw. Maybe if things shake out the right way you'll meet my Ducks in a BCS bowl. That would be the most entertaining matchup I can think of.
Yikes! Big loss for OSU! Maybe we will see you guys in a bowl, after all!