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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There is a power imbalance at the moment, and as a minority, you can not afford to have that luxury of being intolerant.

Ideologically, yes, it is wrong to continue to be tolerant rather than fed up.  I also feel it is wrong that I have to dumb down half of what I say to people otherwise they get offended at how I word my sentences.  Once I dumb it down, I get far less problems.  But I have to do it, because there is no functional alternative.

But when you criticize a person's beliefs you attack both their possession and their identity.  It is not surprising that you get a harsh reaction.  There are subconscious defenses in play to protect those perceived possessions and identity.  

It is frustrating, especially with the gay and the contraception issue going on now.  Religion does have political consequences.  Terrible ones at times.  Walk on eggshells because you have no viable functional alternative.  Being intolerant may feel like a relief, but you will find yourself less able to socially function freely.  Even if you can cloister yourself with atheists, all atheists can not do this.  Only a few can.  The rest need jobs, have family ect, and have to interact with the religious regularly.

But instead of linking articles that fire at their faith like battleships, just respond with the salient points from the article, but in your own words.  State it as how you "feel", (which in society is an idiom for what opinion we hold) instead of stating it as fact.

It is a fine dance, to try to input information into people's minds without triggering their defenses.  All perceived attacks on identity or possessions have to be kept to a minimum, otherwise the natural defenses arise to ward off the theif/attacker.


"It is a fine dance, to try to input information into people's minds without triggering their defenses.  All perceived attacks on identity or possessions have to be kept to a minimum, otherwise the natural defenses arise to ward off the theif/attacker."

I agree wholeheartedly. Honey versus vinegar.

And this is where I have a major difference with militaristic atheists who consider tact and diplomacy a weakness. If we want to see a conversion on a global scale away from religion then I believe it will be accomplished far more quickly without fiery rhetoric and ridicule. How many people are going to take you seriously if you have a demeaning attitude about their belief system? To sow the necessary seeds of doubt requires being subtle and persuasive. Just pissing in someone's Wheaties will only ensure the battles will continue with no progress toward elimination of intolerance and religion.

On the other hand, if a theist crosses the line and attempts to belittle my position then I will change my tone and demeanor.

I am with you 100%.  Theives can't carry off people's stuff when they are watching unless they use power.  We don't have power.  Since religion is a guarded possession, to be effective at taking it from someone, you need sleight of hand.

also agreed. i always cringe when i see statements that quickly degrade a conversation into nothing but a pissing contest.

respecting someone and being respectful arent necessarily the same thing. just like tolerating and appeasing arent. if civility, tact, diplomacy, and being mindful of others are signs of weakness..then im guilty and i welcome anyone to try and take them from me.

See, I don't think that's necessarily so, and it may well be a case of "horses for courses".

Speaking personally, it took someone to ridicule my beliefs before I really was able to look at them and see how absurd they were. Sometimes that's what it takes. It hurt, but as the saying goes "The truth may hurt, but it is ALWAYS liberating".

We can certainly start by not giving religion the "respect" it's got for so long. I think the time has come. Whilst there are plenty of dogged believers who'll dig their heels in to the bitter end, there are plenty that are on the fence, and only need a bit of a shove.

These are the people who can be shook into reality.

These are the people like myself, who battled for ages to try to integrate the nonsense of religion or "God" into my mind without completely insulting my intelligence.

For some, the gentle approach is the way. For others, a damn good telling about how it is works.

While I think what you wrote has some value, I don't really agree for the most part.  There are a few things to consider:

i) The law is already on the side of secularism, even if it can be an uphill battle to defend.  While that doesn't promote atheism itself in any way, it does give atheists tools to prevent being steamrolled if they are willing to speak up and fight.  There are times to be subtle, but there are times to tell theists to stfu and toe the line.  It can be said civilly, but it should not involve walking on eggshells.

ii)  Theist are as diverse a group as any.  I'm sure there are many who will shut down in the face of aggression (actual or merely perceived), but they aren't all fragile infants to be coddled.  Amongst the religious you will also find doubters, or individuals who have grievances of their own where religion is concerned, and some of these people may appreciate a more direct approach.  I mean, how many people cite Hitchens or Dawkins as instrumental to their deconversion? While I wouldn't really characterize either as intolerant, and I think the term 'militant' is melodramatic, neither of these men are shrinking violets on the subject of religion.

iii) While I don't really give a damn about deconverting anyone myself, if I was going to go about it, I'd look to the demographics where I'm actually likely to succeed.  Religiosity increases with age.  Younger generations are typically more open to new ideas and new approaches to life.  I'd wager in many parts of America, church attendance and active religion are becoming decreasingly relevant. While many may superficially identify under religious labels, apathy towards religion seems to be increasing overall.  I would be staunchly against trying to replace religious indoctrination with anti-theistic indoctrination, but I do think youth can handle a more vociferous atheism in their lives.  Even if it doesn't take with them, it's something for them to consider, and they will acclimatize to atheism being a visible part of their cultural landscape.

I'm not going to say that consideration for other demographics should not be given in any way shape or form, but truth be told, some time and energy investments are pretty much guaranteed to pay shitty dividends.

"anti-theistic indoctrination"?

What, you mean logic and science?

"The law is already on the side of secularism"

I guess you've never read "In God We Trust", or heard "I swear by almighty God that the evidence I will give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"?

No, neither the United Kingdom nor the United States are truly secular countries. "God" is forced down one's throat in both.

"Coming out" as atheist is still like walking into a minefield - certainly in the US. And being one in Britain, you can be damned sure is a bad career move, at the very least, and will never land you in a prominent position of power. It will be a long, long time before we see a British prime minister who admits to being atheist.

What, you mean logic and science?

No, I mean specious rhetoric and browbeating, which would be readily available options when dealing with youth.

I guess you've never read "In God We Trust", or heard "I swear by almighty God that the evidence I will give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"?

"In god we trust" is a slogan not a law.  You aren't required to swear on a bible or to God in many, if not most or all regions, and if there are regions that don't allow secular alternatives, it would be worth contesting.  Whom people vote for is their business, and not an imposition of the law.  It's cultural.  But there are atheist MPs in the UK and wikipedia tells me at least one atheist in the House of Lords.  Thy may represent a small minority, but being an atheist does not appear to be an insurmountable barrier to power.  Sir Richard Branson is an atheist, so maybe a job with Virgin is an option.

Coming out as an atheist in the United States seems to vary regionally.  While many have told me horror stories, others have also testified to it really not being a big deal.  Most of the latter lived in metropolitan areas. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's also true in the UK based on anecdotal evidence from atheists I've known either formerly or presently living there.

I think there is a difference between tolerating someone's beliefs, and tolerating people's harmful practices.  To take your contraception example, I know lots and lots of Christians who are totally fine with using contraceptives of all forms.  So I don't want to blame Christianity as a whole for the ridiculous political stance about withholding them from people.  But I would not tolerate the opinion of someone who does agree with that stance.  Does that make sense?  People have ideologies that are different from mine, and I have to be ok with that- because I expect respect for my ideologies from them, so I have to be willing to give respect/tolerance as well.  But when things cross the line, regardless of their religion, then I speak up, put my foot down, whatever is necessary.

I agree with this.  It's easy to polarize along atheist/ theist lines, but if we actually mapped out the various views and practices of individuals across all groups, the distinctions would get fuzzier.

While it's true that most (if not all) religions have doctrinal elements that can be criticized in their own right, in more practical terms, the adherents of those religions often aren't all that true to many of these doctrines.  For instance, the Bible may say that homosexuality is a sin, but millions of Christians are not homophobic in the slightest.  I could criticize that inconsistency, but if they aren't interfering with the rights and freedoms of others, there's a limit to how much I care about their personal beliefs.

Religion is the stupidest, most hateful, most destructive concept that ever infected the mind of Homo sapiens.  Everyone, of course, knows this about all religions but their own.  Christians know this about Muslims (think 9/11).  And Muslims know this about Christians (think Crusades and Iraq).  And Jews know this about Aryan Christians (think Hitler, a professed Catholic).  And non-Christians know this about Christians (think Inquisition and the mass extermination of native Americans).  Many Americans think we are a Christian nation and consider that fact a source of pride.  Really?  

Jack, I think you are exactly right.  It's time those of us who believe that religion is ignorance and brutality encapsulated in a single, nonsensical, monstrous paradigm should be shouting it to the rooftops.  To not do so is moral and intellectual cowardice.

Some people love to snivel and live in intellectual cowardice, all the while trying to make it sound like those of us who do have balls to battle the filth of religion are intolerant of people's feelings.


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