So in what has to be one of the most surreal moments of my godlessness I was asked by a close friend of mine to speak to her Sunday school class about atheism. The kids are between 15-17 and "non-denominational." My friend has sworn that this isn't some sort of malicious attempt to convert me, and I trust her on that.
I said I would give the lecture.
So people of ThinkAtheist here's my question for you:
If you could tell young Christians (in the south no less) about your atheism what would you tell them?
Theism/atheism deal with a belief claim.
gnosticism/agnosticism deal with a knowledge claim. so it is perfectly fine to be an agnostic atheist when you dont believe a god exists but dont know for a fact he doesnt. Infact the great majority of atheists are agnostic atheists
I agree about morality. We can do what is right without fear of supernatural punishment. Just be good.
I disagree with the first part of your reply. As an atheist, I am sure there is no god. I am just as sure that there are no ghosts, demons, goblins, fairies, etc.
These aren't kids you are talking to, these are people who are soon to be adults. I think the best thing you can do is be up front and honest with them. Here are some things I'd try to touch on:
- What is an atheist?
- Debunking atheist stereotypes/ inform them of stigma that many atheists face.
- Reasons that people are atheists.
- Let the teens ask questions and address them honestly.
- Avoid trying to convince them to be atheist, simply give them the information let them ask questions and if you feel comfortable give them a way to contact you on case they want to further discuss this topic with you.
Agree with this approach. Simple. Straight to the point. If you need to get into details about other topics, you will be prompted to do so with questions.
I like this approach. I think answering their questions will be really helpful.
I was typing something similar till I read your response.
This sounds good to me too. You _might_ also bring up the "we atheists just disbelieve in one more god" line, or try to point out to them that other religions believe what they believe just as fervently as they do (as a way of pointing out deep inner convictions are not an argument), and that it's striking that religions cluster by geographical area. I'd keep that stuff in my back pocket and bring it out if you think you can do so without raising the ire of your hosts.
I would not aggressively try to deconvert them under any circumstances, but get them to see we don't breath fire, kill babies, etc.
"get them to see we don't breath fire, kill babies, etc."
This, this, a hundred times this. The approach Steveln is commenting on is definitely superb, but the above quoted comment he made on it, is a must--I know way too many fellow believers who, besides believing in one god, also believe atheists are godless heathens. I try to remind them that "How many holy wars have been directly started by atheism?" and "How many horridly inhumane acts have atheists committed in the names of their gods?" But to no affect; they just counter with "Atheists don't have a reason to kill someone, true...They also don't have any set of moral guidelines, though, that tell them *not* to kill somebody for their ice cream cone."
What a freaking load of bunk, that is; atheism stands by logic. And logic dictates there are many reasons to do what most people think is the "right" thing, morally. Just because atheists lack a set of rules given by any sort of god, that doesn't mean you lot lack any set of rules. Just means you decide upon your own, and you have the freedom to pick and choose which ideas from which religions and other things that you want to incorporate in your personal rulebooks.
I swear, people are so damnably dense about this sort of thing; just because someone can be dangerous, that doesn't mean they're anywhere near guaranteed to be.
Edit: Take me, for example. I walk into my psychology classroom cleaning out the teeth of a saw, with the blade of a knife. I play with fire and electricity (often using electricity to start the fire), screw around with knife and swordplay, practice martial arts, etc. etc. etc...Yet most people who know me understand my rulebook well enough to know I wouldn't maim/kill anyone, even in self defense (in self defense, I'd merely incapacitate them temporarily; apply first aid to any damage I do).
I'd suggest too that you anticipate someone in the class taking an adversarial Xian position, so be prepared. Don't let them derail the discussion, but point out their fallacies & correct their false assumptions.
Great plan of action. I would add only one thing. Since your talk will be about why you don't believe in the supernatural, you could mention the awe inspiring aspects of reality. That the universe is between 12 and 14 billion years old, and that earth is 4.5 billion years old. That humans, just as we are today,have walked on this earth for 250 thousand years. Truly magnificent and divine when you reflect upon it.
Be very delicate about how you approach this. You know what your friend will approve of and not. I would stay AWAY from telling them how BAD god is. Or about the wars that were waged in his name. Though this may be okay to talk about with your friends approval the kids still have parents that may not think the same. Talk about good things about atheism and notable misconceptions.
Science is a good, lack of burden is a healthy, knowing that doing good without god is very rewarding feeling. Some misconceptions are that we are devil worshipers, or are free to do bad things. That we lie about everything, that we are unhappy. They may even be surprised to know that a majority of atheist use to be religious and that they share common views but but different beliefs.
Well I hope this gives something to consider. Good luck, I give you props for doing it.