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?
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!
Hahah yeah that loss hurt pretty badly. We all got knocked off hour high-horse. Just as well losing our two coaches was an much worse blow but still not a good day to be at OSU
If you have time, you might want to check out these sites:
And for questions about atheism and society:
Atheism is not a belief, it's just a state. You want people to become atheists, not to believe in atheism. 'Belief' only applies to faith.
That being said, the approach I usually use when talking with extremelly religious folks is to focus on Freethought. Try to keep the word "Atheist" out of it. Even the word God out of it. Freethought is defined as a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of evidence, science, logic, and reason; and should not be influenced by tradition, popular culture, mythology, authority, or other ancient dogmas.
Once you define Freethought, you set the crowd for accepting it rather quickly, at least unconsciously. I mean, after all, not many people would consciously say "I'm against evidence, science, logic and reason". Then, you drive your speech towards suggesting using this principle for everything in their lives (at this point you still haven't said anything about religion, or rejecting God).
In my experience, this allows a seed to be planted on people's brain, without the apathy that words like "Atheist" or "God does not exist" tend to generate.
Read Wikipedia's article on Freethought, and it'll give you a few simple ideas on how to convey your message.
That's awesome help, Luis. Thanks so much.
I've narrowed down the topic of my discussion quite a lot. I have decided, because of lack of time, I am changing my speech to The Importance of Science Literacy. I discuss why science is absolute and mind blowing, and why it should be held in higher esteem in American culture. I have a short rant about atheism and theistic clashes in regards to science, but mostly it's statistics now about the universe. I am trying to make my audience feel small. I have the rough draft written and the power point mostly finished. I will have it polished very soon and I'll upload it here.