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.

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New here, so I apologize if I've missed something previously. Why help them? What does it really matter to you? I'm fine with my godlessness. I don't feel a need to defend it or explain myself or convince others they need to wake up. I guess, in part, because of the way those xtian denominations that insist on converting others do the same to us. I don't want anyone forcing their theology down my throat, and frankly, who are they hurting? My oldest child is Christian. He finds comfort in the rituals and the belief in a 'higher power'. I think there are worse things he could be. He thought this would be a disappointment to me. He's helping people through church-based outreaches, he has a sense of community that he didn't have before, and ritual, for him, is a good thing. Some people find great comfort in their theological belief system. I don't have a problem with that. I don't want them deciding what I need, what my children need, what my community needs.

Some latter day saints came knocking on my door. They were nice people. I smiled and nodded, discussed the weather and whatnot. Then they started with their belief in a brighter tomorrow stuff. I was polite. They were, so why not? Then they started about God and asked what I believe God is. I said, trying to keep things as simple as possible, that god to me was the same as Thor or Harry Potter or any fictional, magical, mythical creature we could dream up. I also said, I know that's not what you believe and you'd like me to believe differently, but I do not and I will not. I also told them I hoped they enjoyed their day in our lovely little town as they left. Of course they left a pamphlet and I promptly placed it in the gray box (paper recycling bin.)

I'd rather not argue with them. It's time consuming and most often more fruitless than teaching a rock to count. It upsets me. It upsets them. Life's too short trying to bring people over from the dark side. Enjoy your time here. I always try to leave people with their dignity. If it works for them and they're not hurting anyone...what's it really matter? It's not like we're going to save their eternal souls from damnation. ;)
The points in your last paragraph have been picking away at me of late. Getting there. Not quite there yet.
What's the harm in letting people be influenced by religious belief systems?

Well...that tacitly promotes a world view that is at odds with reality, for one, no matter how good it makes them feel. But tolerating or encouraging uncritical thinking can lead to other things.

But this isn't about saving just their souls, to borrow your tongue in cheek statement. This is about fighting for a reality based society. Because a society steeped in superstition or psuedoscience is not a society that I want to live in or I want my children living in.

So, while one need not spend their time arguing and provoking every religious or pseudoscientific person they come across, we would all do well to keep in mind that the purveyors of woo and superstition are not sitting back with a live and let live attitude. If you don't care where your society is headed or where it will end up, then by all means, sit back and enjoy the ride. But if you do care, then you should make an effort to help steer.
Fabulous post, Reggie.
Nicely put, Reggie.

Or in a much shorter (and less fabulously link-rich) phrase: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

I fight against irrational worldviews and religious dogma because while I may be willing to live and let live, they aren't. The constant assaults on science, education, and anyone who doesn't believe as they do are standing examples of this.
Simply put, Rachel, this is why I choose to debate, and attempt to bring to reason, the religious masses:

Good point. Though I don't think the idiocy has such a strong hold on the entire world now as it did then.

But what really holds me back from an honest discussion is the impossibility of an honest discussion. Those steeped in generations of dogma truly believe their rhetoric. There is no logic to it: "it is because I believe it is" is not a proof, but it's adequate for them -- unwavering proof in their minds. I think I planted a few seeds with my mother (who is 72) by treading softly and carrying an obvious stick. Just mentioning how every denomination takes the same words and molds them to their purpose. And what is their purpose? To grow. And how do they grow? Money. Members = money. So about a year ago I was shocked to my toes to learn that my mother was no longer attending services anywhere 'because they're all so fake' as she put it. Then a brief conversation with her about Palin's belief that Jesus roamed the earth with dinosaurs and historical accuracy, the possibility of the bible as literature... and I stepped back in time with her. She tells me that the bible is historically accurate. I point out that it's not possible that Adam and Eve were the first humans, as we've found remains tens of thousands of years older than Adam and Eve were. "No we haven't" she says. "Those are man's measurements." And those measurements have proven accurate time and again. "I don't believe in those measurements." You can't argue with the close-minded. Well you can. But you'd have better luck teaching a pig to sing.

It's the futility of the argument that bothers me.
I understand this completely Rachel. My family is very fundamentalist in their religious views and it was out of respect for their beliefs that I held back for several years. When I finally did come forth with my atheism and told them how long I had felt that way, my slick brother-in-law fell all over the fact that I never wanted to discuss or debate my views as "proof" that I was not confident in the atheist position and that I was really just being rebellious.

Now I have a serious religious discussion with members of my family about once or twice a month. I do not think that anyone believes that I do not have confidence in my position any longer and my brother-in-law absolutely refuses to discuss religion with me at all. I have not converted anyone to full blown atheism (that I know of) but what I have found is that many of my younger family members (under 40 seems to be the cut off) are more deists than theists. Also, most of them do not buy any of the biblical stories as historically true. Through conversation I have helped a few of them see the strength in Evolution Theory and learn what a scientific Theory (what I call a capital "T" theory) means. This feels like a staggering success to me.

The point is that surely 90% of the time taking on such an issue will lead only to a little frustration. But some of the time, someone comes around or you learn that they are not as far gone as you thought. People respond to messages that have one or two elements: that are repeated often and forcefully, and that are true and logical. Religion excels at repeating a message often and forcefully and we atheists have the advantage of using facts and solid logic. If we take a page out of their book and make our voices heard, we will one day find ourselves in the majority.
To ride on this thought, sir, if I may...
I've planted the seeds of doubt in my little brother's minds for some years now, and just recently, one of my little brothers called me and we had a real 'heart-to-heart' on religion. He is now a confirmed Atheist, and even more recently, I heard that one of my other brothers called HIM for this same 'heart-to-heart'... If you don't think you can change people, well, I've personally got at least three confirmed conversions under my belt now...
You mean to say, "three confirmed de-conversions", right? ;-) Nice work!
That is really excellent to hear Chris. It turns out that I may be credited with one de-conversion. Not an hour after I wrote my above reply, my niece (currently in college) told me that I was her inspiration to letting go of her faith. I didn't even know that she had "let go of her faith."

Warm fuzzy all over.
It really is a great feeling, isn't it?


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