I had an argument with a Facebook friend the other week that led to others joining in with her against my expressing my views about her beliefs, and the politics attached to them.

She is Catholic, and was expressing support for the bishops who are suing the US government to stop them "being forced to supply contraceptives".

I linked some article about the absurdity of people - particularly women - who allow their lives (and in particular reproductive lives) to be dictated to be a bunch of celibate men. She deleted my post, and a row ensued, whereby I said that the Catholic church was "founded on a lie which has been allowed to fester for the past 2000 years".

It subsequently lost me more Facebook friends who, I imagine, see me as some kind of "monster" for criticizing this woman's "beliefs". I think I'm just making the woman think.

Am I alone in thinking there are more ways than one of putting an atheist message across? And that although gentle discussion has its place, the occasional blast of "This is how it is" is necessary?


Personally, I'm tired of treading on eggshells around religion. I think it's time to let the Emperor know in no uncertain terms that his new clothes don't exist, and that he's making a fool of himself - even if it means losing friends doing so.

I'm of the opinion that religion isn't just some benign nonsense, but that it has political consequences, and it's an absurdity that causes a lot more problems than it fixes. And that it's about time we made more noise about it.

Opinions, please.

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Personally, I'm tired of treading on eggshells around religion. I think it's time to let the Emperor know in no uncertain terms that his new clothes don't exist, and that he's making a fool of himself - even if it means losing friends doing so.

I'm of the opinion that religion isn't just some benign nonsense, but that it has political consequences, and it's an absurdity that causes a lot more problems than it fixes. And that it's about time we made more noise about it

I'm with you. However you cannot argue with a person with a belief system, because a logical argument requires a few things:

  1. Logic / mental acumen
  2. The ability to LISTEN
  3. Lack of a psychiatric condition that enables you to understand what is being said to you.

Of course, if the person with a belief system had any of those things, they wouldn't have a belief system in the first place.

What we need to do is get to all the children of the world and educate them to think (you may have to confiscate all ipads and iphones LOL) before the world turns into the film "Idiotocracy".

But the point is that people DO change. There are plenty of people who believe, then come to their senses. I'm one of them. I know plenty of others who realize what a load of bollocks they've been believing, and become atheist.

What makes some change and others not?

I'm inclined to think they exist on a spectrum. Some are way at the believing end, and others have just a tentative hold on their faith.

Even then, though, I think any of them can shift. Sometimes I think it's the ones that spout off the most are the ones who believe it the least.

I do believe (yes, believe...) that there will be some kind of "critical mass" (not a Catholic one!) that will cause a major shift in belief, though. And it will be in atheist's favor.

It will only take a large swing towards rational thinking, which will include some prominent theists such as ex-clergy and ex Muslims (particularly famous ones) that will cause larger and larger numbers of people to drop religion entirely.

At least, that's what one can only hope for...

People do change. However, it was not ridicule that caused me to change. It was contemplation. The ridicule was largely based on ignorant points based on misconceptions about what Christianity taught, or what the Bible said. It really kept me from realizing that atheism had some serious arguments, because there was so much nonsense and there were so many smug ignorance-based comments.

I believe you are right about the shift. I think it will be brought about by the free access to information through the internet. I don't even think we need to try any harder than to just be have the most airtight and strongest positions and watch the people come in.

You and I converted under different means. Atheists are still an enormous minority as well. We can not definitively say that being a militant atheist would be a better way to speed up conversion rates. That is unskeptical. And when in doubt, it is not wise to take the "be a jerk to people route"

I think the most reasonable one is the middle ground. You don't need to tiptoe over their faith. It is fine to point out the specific parts that you really have the most problems with. It is also fine to grind any of their attacks into dust.

It is better to err on the side of caution. Using a method that will be interepreted as being a terrible person on account that it "may" lead to greater successes without blowback, reminds me of the many foreign policy blunders of the USA, or even the recent fiasco http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/atheist-slavery-billboard-... where an attempt to show why the bible is bad ended up coming across as racist.

The passage used in the billboard did not condone slavery as an institution, it condoned martyrdom, in the same way that the turn the other cheek passage condones martyrdom.

I don't believe we should be trying to de-convert people, I think we just need to get religious people to clean up their game.  They're only human, they get confused and led astray.  Their underlying concepts are sound, and in fact, rooted in reality.  We need to appeal to their own, best, traditions of humanity and discipline. 

I think trying to de-convert people is a bit weird.  We hate it when religious people evangelize, so why is it OK for us to do it?  Why not leave people alone to their own beliefs?  We all want the same thing.  It's not like they're nazis and criminals. 

Well, I disagree. It's not a case of "de-converting" people. It's a case of educating them.

I'd like a world full of people who are rational. That might be asking a lot, but the more people who are turned off religion, the more likely they'll turn others off it and we'll finally be shed of it like we were shed of flat Earth theory and a geocentric universe.

It's Ok for us to do it because we're enlightening people. The religiods are only ever misguiding people or pulling the wool over their eyes.

"It's not like they're nazis and criminals"...well, some would disagree. The Catholic Church, for example, is one very big business which has its fingers in a lot of pies. Religion has a stranglehold over a lot of politicians. The religious ideologies are intertwined with just about every country's political system in some way.

And let's not even start with Islam...

But when you say "educate", surely you mean "de-convert".  

You seem to equate "rational" with "correct".  Rational, in an atheist sense, just means scientific, intellectual, materialist.  But there's more to life than that.  

Have you heard of Godels's Incompleteness Theorem?  He proved that within the system of arithmetic, there are some statements that cannot be proven by using only the rules and axioms of that system.  Or something similar.  I believe that the same applies to "rationality".  You can't answer every question by staying within the boundaries of strict, narrow rationality.  If we try and do that, we end up going round in little circles.  Rationality has to have something to work on besides just itself.  All it is is a system of making sense of and describing the world.  Nothing more.  I think we spend too much time trying to fit the world into our nice neat little set of theories, and tend to forget about the world itself.  

So it's not really very rational at all to stick with a strict narrow definition of rationality.  

Rationality is great, we all love it, it's necessary.  But there are other things which are just as important.  Such as the quality of who people are, how they behave in everyday life, how they treat people, bring up their kids, do business.  These are all things we can pull people up on and have public discussions about.

"These are all things we can pull people up on and have public discussions about."


Indeed. But none are remotely connected to the existence of a "god" or religion.

Face it, religion and "god" are founded on the "science" of the day. They're what made sense a couple of thousand years ago, just as Flat Earth Theory did.

Now, they're redundant.

I mean, would you be happy with someone teaching your kids Flat Earth Theory, a geocentric universe, or "creationism".

We still have schools which teach the latter.

Nope. I mean "educate".

>  "These are all things we can pull people up on and have public discussions about."

>  Indeed. But none are remotely connected to the existence of a "god" or religion.

But they are connected with religion.  This grass-roots stuff is every bit as important as the big famous issues like birth control or creationism.  It probably has more effect on people.

Religion can cause great damage within people's lives when it is done in the wrong way.  Conversely, it also saves many lives and souls.  If that means that people spend their lives engaged in what seems to us to be goofy rituals, then that's up to them, it doesn't cause any harm, and it's all part of the package.

It can cause harm through:  Repression.  Guilt.  Judgementalism.  Phoney selfish reasons for being hard on someone.  False legitimacy assumed just because a person is religious.  Denying someone's natural healthy humanity.  Etc.  Plain bullying, arrogance and selfishness.  It doesn't have to be like that, and it's not supposed to be like that.  It's all because people can't handle themselves, in my opinion, and can't handle not being seen to know everything.

As for teaching creationism, withholding birth control and other public policies: these are all separate issues, separate from each other, to be taken on a case-by-case basis - like all of these things are, although some are more or less linked.

For example, I don't know, but perhaps instead of fighting with Christian groups over teaching creationism, which is something that is very difficult to win, with both sides being very deeply entrenched: why not push for teaching Evolution to be given equal prominence.  

For birth control, that's a completely different battle, and it looks like a very slow difficult one.  

The only way we can influence anyone is to appeal to them as human beings, and speak to them in their own language.  Religious people are not satanists.  They claim to want the best for the world, and very often, they really do.  Their traditions are heavily based on "love and peace" and we can mobilise those traditions with the aim of stopping "suck".  

"Educate" seems like a good idea. 

"...it's an absurdity that causes a lot more problems than it fixes." 
THAT, right there, is why I can't keep my mouth shut about religion. It slows progress and stumps knowledge. It's not just intolerance of other people, its the rejection of science, the apathy that prayer creates, and holier-than-thou arrogance that's slowly making me more militant. 

"That's why I can't keep my mouth shut about religion".

Just about sums it up for me, too.

I think Karl Popper summed up perfectly what to me is the defining statement on this:

"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

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