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?
Heck, I'm trying to figure out how I'd talk to my kiddo about it when he gets around to asking. He'll be 2 in April, so I have time. LOL For some reason I feel it'll be like having "the talk" with him. LOL
It depends on what your goals are for the lecture.
If you want to prompt them to question their beliefs in theism then I would talk about the burden of proof. Explain– and here I'm relying on Richard Carrier's great elucidation of the point in his Why I Am Not A Christian – that if someone says they own a car then you have little reason to doubt that they do since we're all aware of instances where people own cars but that if someone says they own a nuclear weapon then, even while it is the case that we know that nuclear weapons exist and that people have owned and currently own them (well. state governments. but you get the point.), you would still demand some pretty hard evidence for thinking that the person was telling you the truth. Point out then that, on this understanding, you would of course require still much more evidence even than you would for the nuclear weapon if someone said to you that they owned an intergalactic spacecraft; that this would be true despite the fact that if an intergalactic spacecraft existed it would be an object made from natural materials that obeyed the laws of physics and that was financed and built by people. Then go in for the conclusion by asking them how much evidence would be required to justify an acceptance of the claim that there exists a timeless, spaceless, all powerful all knowing disembodied mind that created the universe and everything in it just for us, reads all of our minds all at once all the time, inserts his will into human affairs in order that his plan for us is realized, and has a list of things he wants and does not want us to do, including what we can and can't do with our sex organs and with whom we can and can't do those things. Furthermore, ask them to consider why they don't accept the truth claims of Islam or any other religion. Ask them to consider the sociological quirk that the vast majority of people believe in the religion of their parents and of their culture; that are they really suggesting that they just happened to win the lottery to be born into the True Religion® whereas everyone else had the extreme misfortune of being born into the false one. Ask them to examine the claims of their faith the way a Hindu would. Or, better, ask them to consider the claims of their faith the way someone that's never even heard of religion before would, as an unweighted neutral agnostic.
If you want to raise their consciousness about non-believers as a group I would talk about how all the research shows that the least religious countries in the world are all the healthiest according to several indicators of societal health. I would talk about the numbers of "nones" in the US. I would juxtapose those numbers with figures for the numbers of other groups like Catholics and Jews. Ask them to consider how people would react if someone in a position of power in the country said of Catholics or Jews, or black people or Hispanics for that matter, that they couldn't be patriots or citizens or be good contributing members in society. Ask them to consider the double standard of there of what is considered bigotry and what is not. Point out that if they were to read something that was written in Victorian England it would likely talk as if it was a given that black people were an inferior race that could never be equals with white people, and that just because most people believed it then doesn't make it any less disgusting a view when you read it today. Contrast this with the way most people feel about atheists and how this doesn't make that attitude any less acceptable just because most people believe it. Suggest that they should hope, as good people, that people will sooner rather than later read a book and be disgusted at the way non religious people were treated at the beginning of the 21st century and wonder why it took so long for things to change.
I would do this because studies have shown that the more that people are aware of us, the more accepting of us they tend to be. Once people come to understand that there are lots of people who have no religion around them, even if they aren't aware of just who those people are on a case by case basis, then people tend to be more accepting. The only obstacle to this is the question of whether we can moral without religion– and well that question is answered by the figures on non religious societies.
I'd start out with what you agree upon: that the other thousands of gods out there are not real. Tell them, briefly, of some of the gods that have once been believed in and some that are still believed in, and that you all agree that it's hogwash. Better yet, ask them to name the gods. Ask them how likely they are to become followers of Zeus, Odin, Hinduism, Kokopelli, or the FSM. Then ask why not. What are their reasons for not believing? Then you can throw out the usual arguments from Christians, (but don't say that this is what Christians say as that might be seen as an attack): There are sacred texts saying that these gods are the true gods, can they prove these gods don't exist, what if they are wrong about their disbelief, followers of these religions claim to have had personal experiences with these gods, and on and on.
I think you will get nowhere if you approach this as why you don't believe in Jesus. They are probably expecting an attacking atheist, and if you go in there showing that you mostly agree, you'll get farther with them.
Let us know how it goes. What a great opportunity!
I like this approach in general. The common ground is always a good starting point. Take some time to think about what you share and focus on this. You don't believe in god, but you all live in the same world with the same pressures.
As long as you don't go in dressed as a monster ready to eat children, I think you're good :).
I agree. Great approach.
Have to go with masses and say I like this one as well <3 FSM!
Please point out to them that being an Atheist is not the same as religion. Atheism is just a lack of a belief in god, not a belief that there is no god. Being an atheist doesn't mean you are 100% sure there is no god. This seems to be a point that confuses a lot of believers.
Also tell them that morality doesn't have to come from religion, I think just the opposite is true. Religion gets morality from people, not the other way around. And morality can evolve as well, it did with woman's rights and minority rights. We think differently now than the people who wrote the holy books ~2000 years ago.
I disagree with you, Nick. Being an atheist does mean that you are 100% sure there is no god. It's agnostics who aren't sure. Obviously it isn't just believers who are confused.
Atheism deals with belief and agnosticism deals with knowledge.
- A gnostic theist claims to know for certain that a god exists. Gnostic theists are the most common sort of theists.
- An agnostic theist believes in god but does not claim to know for certain that god exists.
- A gnostic atheist claims to know for certain that a god does not exist.
- An agnostic atheist does not believe in go but does not claim to know for certain that a god does not exist (this is actually the most common type of atheist.)
Then we have all sorts of other words and isms regarding this subject:
- An ignostic essentially thinks that the question of whether or not a god exists is meaningless.
- Apatheism - one acts with apathy toward belief in a deity.
- Antitheism - one who is opposed to theism.
I suggest that you at least explore the Wikipedia articles on irreligion before claiming that atheism always means that one is 100% sure that there is no god. I am not 100% sure that there is no god, I am a 6.9 like Dawkins is on his spectrum of theistic probability.
If you are not 100% sure that there is no god, then you cannot call yourself an atheist. You are either an atheist or an agnostic--there is no middle ground. "Agnostic atheist" is an oxymoron.
Could you at least take a look at what Becca is saying before plain disagreeing?, it makes you look like a theist.
I have been an atheist for 40 years. I do not believe in gods (any of them), and I know for certain that none of them exist.
What Becca calls "agnostic atheist" is actually "agnostic." The terms are not interchangeable.