I recently wrote a blog where I pulled an article from the UK Telegraph saying that our movement is nothing more than the "least inspiring movement in recent years".
I am adamant that one of the main reasons for this and other types of negative press out there is because of the billboard campaign by American Atheists. The billboards are inflammatory. They are not thought provoking or lead to thoughtful debate or discussion. They are insulting and I am frustrated that this is how American Atheists think our movement should be perceived and represented. I have wrote to the Chairman of the Board of AA and asked him to reconsider this campaign. Although the idea of the billboard I'm all for, what they say needs to make people say or think "wow, that's great, and it's something I want to check out further". We need to do better!
What are your thoughts on this? Do we need to write to American Atheists via petition?
Not to be offensive, but I believe you are suffering from the delusion that billboards constitute rational discussion. You've established no coherent relationship between your volunteer work, the unspecified nay-sayers you speak of, or how their unspecified misunderstanding relates to this discussion - a discussion that you didn't actually address until you profoundly observed that "media blitzes are how you you get people to pay attention". You haven't, however, indicated how AA has managed to "slip in a rational message". I'm not sure that Robert proposed any method, as you suggested, unless you are referring to his indication that 'engaging' rather than 'enraging' better represents how he wishes, as an atheist, to be portrayed.
Not to be offensive, but I'll believe you when you offer some evidence that you have any way of forming a metric of Robert's imagination. I would rather leave faith based swallowing of unqualified, unsubstantiated rhetoric to the theists.
I've been doing stand up comedy for a while and have some very confrontational religious humor in my act. I've struggled with whether it was worth it to do these bits as they alienate 3/4 of any audience. The reason that I continue to use them on occasion is that there are always a couple of sheepish looking people after a set that come up to me when I'm alone and tell me how they appreciated someone saying out loud the things that they keep quiet about. I get more out of that than making pople laugh about meaningless things.
In regular conversation I'm not a bomb thrower and feel obligated to be rational and persuasive. I'm very open about my atheism and refuse to hide it, but I tend not to wear it like a badge in most circumstances.
We are already the most hated group in America by far. Every poll tells us so and we are being attacked when indoctrination into theism is forced onto our children in schools and laws are being written with only religious justification. To acknowledge your atheism is to join the front lines of the battle. You will be called out for it and there will be consequences. That's just the times we live in.
I understand the desire to appear calm, reasonable and inoffensive. That's who most of us really are. I also understand the the strength and reinforcement that seeing a good swipe at the ridiculousness openly and loudly proclaimed can give to the more timid among us.
I think we need both approaches. It's the same argument the gay community has over whether flambouyance in the gay pride parades helps or hurts the community. I think the general concensus is that the gay community is extremely diverse and all facets should be represented. The same struggle happened in the civil rights movement. I don't think MLK could have pulled it off without Malcom.
I believe that there is validity to your point, but that it is misplaced.
You are right that when engaging people who are very religious, one must spark debate for anything meaningful to change. However, the purpose of the billboard campaign was not to bring the very religious into the fold in one fell swoop.
I remember seeing somebody from AA on fox news talking about the campaign, and he said that the purpose was to get more atheists to 'out' themselves. Their intent was for people who are practically atheists already to stop going along with the dogma for no good reason. This also makes sense given the location of the billboards - mostly in city centers.
Still, in terms of representing atheists as a whole, I think it could be done better.
I see nothing wrong with the signs. They have not been put up in my area though. When I do see them, I feel I am not alone. The billboards are "one liners." They are made to get the point across.
I think you are confusing casual conversation with the "one liner" approach. If I was talking with someone concerning this subject manner I would not be using the "gotcha" approach. People's defenses go up when confronted that way.
This is a very good topic to discuss. I, too, feel like Robert in that I think Christians are more likely to be won over in a gentle way, rather than by having it shoved down their throat. Through the years that I lost my religion, different perspectives and attitudes worked on me at different times, so I think that different people can be reached at different points of their deconversion with differing messages. Comedy, literary discourse, and jibes would all be appropriate to the right person depending upon where they are in their journey.
Additionally, the concept of God is not a single concept, but a multi-faceted one. I found this Deconversion series here on TA videos some time back that helped me to understand it. It postulates that the beleif in God is a Mega-belief, held together by many smaller beliefs and that they must be systematically taken apart until the Mega-belief cannot be held together any longer. It really is an eye-opener. IMHO if we want to make a difference in deconverting the masses we absolutely must work from this premise. You can see it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12rP8ybp13s
Perhaps you could explain how provoking people's anger equates to standing up for reason? When, exactly, did all Atheists become Humanists? Furthermore, how do errors in grammar or spelling undermine what Robert has to say?
Rather than illustrating your evolved intellect, you have conveyed to me nothing more than a tone of intolerant mental fascism. I respectfully submit that your skills of persuasion could use some tuning.