I can't help but feel at a disadvantage here. It seems every time religion comes up in my discussions with others, it always melts into me constantly defending my atheism, while every point I bring up is brushed off for another shot at my 'godlessness.' I try to help these people, but how can I when I can't get any information to them at all.
Defending your disbelief isn't necessarily a bad thing. I try explaining atheism to them in terms that they can relate to; a Christian does for example not believe in Zeus, Odin, Xenu, Allah and all the other thousands of gods that have been believed in. By that logic, all religious people are atheists when it comes to other religions. An "atheist" just takes it a step further by disbelieving in one more god than the religious people do.
After that, they usually don't question my atheism, at least not in the extent that they did before me explaining.
It "melts into" you because you have a conscience and are troubled by the fact that people believe and repeat lies.
The intellectual task for a skeptic is to find the truth. We know from experience that the only way to really know what the truth is is to examine the evidence. For a theist, the task is not to find the truth, but to protect their basic beliefs that define their world view from being undermined. Questioning and ceasing to accept their core beliefs has real-world consequences for them. Besides the fear of hell aspect of it, it means that aspects of their lives that they now take for granted will no longer be available. It would mean alienating their families and circles of friends, unless they lie and then they would have to live with the lie. It would mean going from "normal" to an out-group. One should never underestimate the power of the desire to conform.
To avoid considering your arguments, they have developed a series of standard responses that they can employ to thwart them without thinking. The belief to them is more important than the reality and they would rather believe that they believe than admit that they have doubts.
Anyway, as a former believer, that was my experience.
This is no easy thing Christopher. As atheists we deal with several different stripes of the religious- from well-read theologians (which I call Shmulies) to your average ignorant Bible beaters (Bennies). I have found that in some ways, Shmulies are easier to handle as they tend to be more focused and at least somewhat open to logic. For these guys, focus on refuting their arguments with Dawkins and Hitchens, just like they outline in The God Delusion and God is not Great. For the dumber and crazier Bennies, the difficulty is in avoiding confusing them with dizzying displays of logic. Remember KISS=keep it simple and stupid (not Gene's painted band). I like to lead with human sacrifice because this is a good way to figure out the depth of their lunacy. If they decide that human sacrifice is okay as long as it's "for god" I will suggest that they sacrifice themselves or someone close to them (a parent or child). After all, so long as it is for god, it can only be a good thing right?
"I will suggest that they sacrifice themselves or someone close to them (a parent or child). After all, so long as it is for god, it can only be a good thing right?"
I wish you wouldn't say things like that to "true believers", I have plenty of relatives who would be more than happy to sacrifice me and believe it was a good thing to boot.
My bad Doug, I will try to focus on getting them to sacrifice themselves. Never considered the fact that the first people that a religious person would sacrifice would be the nearest atheists. I suppose I could point out that we don't make very good sacrifices since the best offerings are virgins...
I'm 58 years old and I learned long ago that you can't reason with a drunk or someone on crack cocaine. Since religion is such a drug, they have to want to get themselves clean before you can communicate with them. Otherwise the addict will try to get you to give them money for some more drugs or they try to get you to become a druggie yourself so you will share your dope with them. That's the way it is and so it goes.
Wow, tried out a new tactic the other day, and it seems to work pretty well. Whenever a theist mentions my atheism, I refuse to discuss it unless we agree upon rules beforehand (such as do not interrupt, one question at a time, etc.). Wanting to 'save' me, they usually agree. After this, I proceed to tear their religion to shreds, and if they try to talk over me, I politely remind them of the rules we set at the beginning of the discussion. It usually doesn't take them long to realize that they don't stand a chance in a fair, question-for-question debate against someone like me (who knows their religion better than they do). After I watch them squirm for a bit, I can usually get them to agree not to confront strangers about their choice of beliefs again. I no longer care whether they come to reason or not, but getting them to shut the hell up and stop their damned crusading just brings a smile to my face.