Preaching Atheism

June 28, 2007 at 1:26 pm 53 comments

I feel this topic (which has been sitting on my computer for some time now) is a suitable one in light of recent rebranding.preaching To preach or not to preach?

Ever since I left my Christian faith behind me and became an agnostic atheist, I have had a huge moral dilemma in my life – should I try to ‘convert’ theists to a more freethinking way of life? The problem is this – having left Christianity, I now feel I have achieved some kind of enlightenment. I’ve realised that I now believe what I want and life is pretty much how I want it to be. Now I have discovered this, I feel I want to help others achieve the same freedom of thought and help them gain freedom them from the semi-brainwashing that some religions seem to employ.

However, I’m also a great believer in leaving people to think what they wish and being accepting of people from other belief and faiths. I am privileged to know people of many different faiths, and I realise my friendship with them would get nowhere if I were constantly attacking the religious wall of blind faith around them. However, am I morally obliged to help them towards what I see as true freedom of thought? The agnostic atheism wager says that we must all try to make the world a better place. Well, wouldn’t it be a better place if everyone was free to think for themselves without being dictated their morals and rules by religious leaders?

So the question is, do we live in harmony with our religious neighbours, knowing that many of them are constrained by their religion? Or do we do our best to ‘help’, perhaps in a Dawkins-esque preacher type approach, or even (as an extreme example) by employing a strategy not dissimilar to evangelists to get our point across? I’m sure many people here would agree that evangelising is one of the most annoying aspects of religion that affects our everyday lives. However, if we genuinely believe that it is the way to make the world a better place, is it our duty to preach to others in a way that we ourselves dislike to be preached to?

I remember when I was a Christian I would simply try not to think about the contradictions and obvious fallacies in the Bible because I firmly believed that it was doubting God and as a result, an evil thought. Now I wish the same freedom I now have for others. I myself am split on this issue and so giving my friends gentle nudges in the direction of atheism is all I allow myself. However, I can’t help questioning whether this really will make the world a better place.

- Mary

Entry filed under: Marymk. Tags: , , , , , .

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53 Comments Add your own

  • 1. brad  |  June 28, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    There seems to be two underlying questions going on here:
    1) Are people “better” without religion?
    2) Can people come to know the “truth” by “evangelizing”?

    1) Dawkins actually wrestles with this question when he presents the Montreal riots in “The God Delusion.” I’ve been thinking about this recently as well. The question, unfortunately, can be skewed in so many ways, but I tend to look at the lowest common denominator: there are stupid people. The problem is that we don’t know if they were stupid before religion or they believe in religion because they are stupid (I know that was crude, but I am trying to speak like Dawkins). I am sure there are cases either way, but I know some people that would break down without their belief in God. This, of course, leads to the second question:

    2) Could aA “convert” someone to atheism? Could Dawkins? They certainly could help. However, the path to atheism or agnosticism is completely different from that to religiousity – especially for de-converts. Atheists and Agnosticism should not just sit back and take a beating, but neither should they cram their beliefs down others throats – remember, as fundamentalists we honestly believed that our truth was the right and it was critically important to tell people how they could avoid hell.

    What’s my point? My point is that mature humanism has to come before simple atheism. Rob someone of their belief in God and their psychological conditioning will break them – a recent ex-Christian is never pretty. However, recent ex-Christians are born out of self-realization – not facts, proofs, evidence, and theological debates. Engaging in the polemics of evangelicalism is self-defeating due to the indoctrination process. Had I read this blog 8 years ago I would put up my defences and read your comments only in a way so that I could quickly argue my doctrine.

    I think it is time that secular humanists learn from history. Christianity breaks down whenever it focuses on itself. It builds up when it has a common enemy. This is true on both macro and micro levels: societies and individuals.

    So my advice is just to continue having utmost empathy. Try your best to remember your own de-conversion experience. Remember what you believed, what affected you, and how you felt. How would you react to someone “preaching” atheism to you?

  • 2. Intergalactic Hussy  |  June 28, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    “Preaching” atheism can’t be a good thing. Nor really trying to “convert”. I just wait until the conversation comes up (and it can once someone says “Thank God” without realizing it… or something else along those lines.)

    My theory is: once in a conversation, you can speak diplomatically like Dawkins and “help” others to see outside their norm. If they want to enter a debate, then its fair game.

    I try to live in harmony with my theist friends/family members. We don’t all agree on everything and it is what it is.

    But I don’t purposely go around trying to discuss religion. Some people don’t want to be saved.

  • 3. HeIsSailing  |  June 28, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    brad sez:
    “What’s my point? My point is that mature humanism has to come before simple atheism.”

    Very interesting statement, and I think I agree with you. I think I am not an atheist for that very reason. Maybe. Food for thought.

    I do not try to de-convert Christians. I don’t tell people what to believe in, because then I feel I am no better than any relgious zealot who makes the demand to ‘convert’. I can do without hearing that ever again. What does get me though is when Christians, who think they believe because of the Bible actually do not. Christians who inadvertantly allow the church to interpret the bible for them to fit a church creed. For example, I have written several replies lately regarding the origin of Original Sin, which Christians claim is Biblical, but is based on post-biblical ideas and re-interpreted into the Bible. Most christians have never heard of Augustine though. They don’t need to in Church.

    The best I can do is share my views with Christians who may have never heard church history, science, or the Bible interpreted anywhere outside their church.

  • 4. cragar  |  June 28, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I rarely bring up religion in the “real” world, as it could cause problems. I don’t hide what I believe if asked, but I won’t proselytize either.

    I think it’s hard to convert a devout Christian, it seems they will always be blinded until some event hits them that causes some doubt. I am married to a devout theist and I can’t even get her to consider to look at anything contradictory. I would bet most of the contributors here weren’t converted to their beliefs because a non-believer recruited them. More likely they studied the Bible and/or history more and then didn’t believe.

    I always wonder about the borderline people though. They go to church 3-4 times a year. Why won’t they commit to God if they somewhat believe, or become an atheist or agnostic since they don’t seem to care? These are the individuals that puzzle me.

  • 5. Heather  |  June 28, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Depending on what standards we’re going by, I’m Christian in a vague sense (I hold to God and Jesus as a path to God, but not really with any of the Christian creeds).

    I wouldn’t say I go out of my way to convert. By that, I mean that I don’t go looking for people to discuss this with, or go find blogs of devout Christians … well, I do comment on one blog of a devout Christian, but I wouldn’t say I’m trying to de-convert her. I do friendly-critique her viewpoint, but she does the same to me. And she makes some valid points, which I enjoy reading.

    However, if someone comes to a blog like this, or posts on mine, then I am going to respond, and I’m going to be direct about it, because they are coming into ‘my’ terrirtory, or at least ‘not their’ territory. I will bring up facts I’ve learned, or different ways of interpreting verses. In a way, this is to shake the mentality of a belief that they have a 100% grasp on the Truth. Dealing with that view is a little frustrating, because how can you reach a common ground?

  • 6. karen  |  June 28, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    My interest is not to preach or deconvert, because as long as peoples’ religious beliefs aren’t fundamentalist or extreme I don’t find them to be a threat. I think the world would be a better place without religion, but I also think that’ll never happen in my lifetime and it’s rather silly to make that a goal.

    My hope is to bring about some understanding on both sides. Having been a Christian for so many years and now being on the other side as a nontheist, I feel I can play some positive role in trying to bridge the gap between the two sides.

    There is a lot of misunderstanding on both parts (theist and nontheist) though I think the theists have the most misconceptions as many/most nontheists were raised as theists or have had a lot of influence from theists.

    In my case, it was reading posts and essays and books by people who deconverted – like Dan Barker – that helped guide me along the journey away from religion. So I think it’s great that the information is out there and available. And if people are asking questions, I think there’s nothing wrong with answering them honestly and even debating if that’s what is called for. It’s not always, but many people find debate enjoyable and even enlightening. Whether it strengthen their belief in god or weakens it seems to depend on how open the person is to reconsidering their bottomline beliefs.

  • 7. Steelman  |  June 28, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Should anyone proselytize for atheism? I don’t think so, not as an end in itself; atheism is really only a single issue, negative philosophical position. The good uses of science, critical thinking, humanism, and pluralism in society are positive things I’m all for promoting.

    I think Dawkins’ approach (The God Delusion) is useful in the overall picture of getting people to think about what they believe about the supernatural, and whether or not they ought to go on believing it. I’m not Dawkins, of course. I’m just the average person who finds it tiresome when other average people uninvitedly go on about politics, religion, or any other debatable issue, every time we happen to meet. Those one track folks bore me.

    Since I think I’m right to be an agnostic, humanist, atheist, metaphysical naturalist person, I’ll talk about those beliefs in real life if those subjects happen to come up. I agree with Intergalactic Hussy’s approach. I will, however, almost always promote critical thinking in conversation, no matter what the other person’s beliefs (I tend to keep my mouth shut when 95 year old grandma talks about seeing grandpa again when she gets to heaven).

    Cragar said: “I always wonder about the borderline people though. They go to church 3-4 times a year. Why won’t they commit to God if they somewhat believe, or become an atheist or agnostic since they don’t seem to care? These are the individuals that puzzle me.”

    Reasons to be a “holiday Christian”: family commitments, sentimental attachment to tradition, cultural influence (i.e., belief in belief: a vague notion that believing in God is just something “decent people” do, like tipping a food server in a restaurant a certain percentage of the total check – is it 10% or 15%, before or after tax?)

    I think those who go to church on holidays may be closet agnostics/atheists, or would be if they thought about it; there are a lot of distractions in developed nations that can keep people from thinking very deeply about anything, especially something like where they stand on metaphysical issues and why.

  • 8. samanthamj  |  June 28, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    I don’t try to convince people there isn’t a god. What if I manage to convince them, and then, I’m wrong… and they go to hell because of me??? I can be pretty convincing sometimes, and like I need THAT guilt when I’m burning along beside them!

    LOL ;)
    Just kidding….
    Kinda….

    In all seriousness, I don’t try to talk them away from their faith – only because I don’t like it when people try to make me believe something I don’t want to believe.

    Sometimes, I do get into deep discussions on this with my Christian friends… but, only because they bring it up and start asking me why I don’t believe this or that. I find that they don’t usually like my answers… and we will gradually wind up heading towards a heated argument… and since these are good friends of mine… I usually suggest we agree to disagree because I don’t think it’s worth the aggrivation or our friendship.

    ~smj

  • 9. Justin  |  June 28, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    “should I try to ‘convert’ theists to a more freethinking way of life?”

    “freedom of thought, free them from the semi-brainwashing that some religions seem to employ.”

    “wouldn’t it be a better place if everyone was free to think for themselves without being dictated their morals and rules by religious leaders?”

    “knowing that many of them are constrained by their religion?”

    “about the contradictions and obvious fallacies in the Bible”

    Hi Mary,

    I quoted some passages from your post with you that I happen to agree with (well, sorta). You see, as a Christian, I see that the strict literalism of 20th century fundamentalism has produced these concerns that you write about. I too want to want to break the chains of religion from these people. As I have said, Jesus didn’t come to establish religion, but to rid the world of it; He is irreligion.

    To answer your question from a Theist standpoint – I would say ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Fundamentalism is more damaging to religion and society than beneficial, so I would say that ‘yes’, I want you to break them free from the chains.

    However, (and I’m sure you saw this coming), it is through breaking those chains of religion through realizing the spiritual truth of, say, God’s word, that we truly become free and an enlightenment to this world.

    Good first post. God Bless.

    Justin

  • 10. agnosticatheist  |  June 28, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Justin,

    Mary made a couple posts early in the blog. Here’s a list of her posts to date:

    http://de-conversion.com/tag/marymk/

    aA

  • 11. The Anonymous Atheist  |  June 28, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    I used to think that evangelizing Atheism was very, very wrong, and it was one reason that I rejected Dawkins for so long. I’ve had a long time to think about it, and I think I’ve changed my mind a bit.

    I think evangelist Atheism is almost a survival mechanism at this point. We should never “stoop” to the methods used by Christian evangelism (among others), but it’s essential that we get the word out about atheism/agnosticism/non-theism. I’ve seen many, many examples of atheists obviously being misunderstood, and you can’t make me believe that’s the exception to the rule.

    When I was growing up atheist, people really equated atheism with devil worshiping. People will immediately swear you off as someone to never spend time with. We are without morals, and we’re unfeeling.

    This needs to stop. The only way we can stop it is with a certain amount of evangelism. I’m not saying we shove it down people’s throats, but we need to open people’s eyes to the alternative to religion. Whether they wish to choose this path is up to them. I would never suggest trying to force Atheism on the faithful.

    OK, I have a new topic for a blog post now. :)

  • 12. The Anonymous Atheist  |  June 28, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    In case you’re all interested, my reply:

    http://anonymousatheist.blogspot.com/2007/06/evangelizing-atheism.html

  • 13. agnosticatheist  |  June 28, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    Great post! There are many whacky stereotypes of atheists. I posted a blog a while back entitled “I’m a better Christian now that I’m an atheist.” However the reality is what we consider “Christian” traits are really human traits and ironically missing from many Christians.

    aA

  • 14. agnosticatheist  |  June 28, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    BTW, if the answer is YES, we should preach atheism, I wrote an altar call for it a while back:

    http://de-conversion.com/2007/03/23/the-atheist-conversion-altar-call/
    :)

    aA

  • 15. Ken Perrott  |  June 28, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    I guess most people are dead against preaching.
    I think it is a matter of “live and let live” – but to be respectful about it one has to live by ones own beliefs. So I don’t think atheists should hide their beliefs. They should assert them as legitimate beliefs deserving of respect from others. And perhaps we should try to do what Dawkins suggest about consciousness raising.
    Many Christians seem to be shocked to learn that there are atheists in their community who hold similar attitudes, values and morals; don’t have horns, etc., and deserve respect That is a good thing for them to learn.
    I think, in the end, it is this realisation that can lead to them changing their beliefs – much more so than being preached at.

  • 16. Kaell  |  June 28, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Should we “live and let live” the mentally ill? The answer is “not if it causes harm to them or others”. Thus the real question is, “do god beliefs cause harm to people?” I think in most cases in the western world it does not. However in a very large number it does, and those it does not harm directly, make it more difficult to help those who it does harm directly, and thus causes indirect harm.

    This is what makes it such a difficult question. Should we try to “de-convert” the mentally ill when it only indirectly causes harm to others? This is a question that typically does not come up in the mentally ill, as they typically do not form support groups for their hallucinations to defend their hallucinations and insist they are real.

    I believe the answer is yes, we should try to de-convert the mentally ill when it only causes indirect harm to others, and we should clearly try to de-convert the mentally ill when it directly causes harm to themselves or others. Unfortunately, when it only causes indirect harm, it can be much harder to de-convert, as it becomes much more difficult to demonstrate how their delusion harms others, and thus they may use this during “therapy” do contest the need for them to give up their delusion.

    Additionally, it can be impossible to know which groups will suffer or inflict harm due to their mental illness, and which will not. Do we refuse to help the clinically depressed until they actually try to kill themselves? Or do we try to help them all before they try to kill themselves? I think the latter is the better choice, and thus it follows we should try to help all of those with unjustifiable magic beliefs anytime they are certain of their delusion. As they might cause harm to themselves, they might cause harm to others, and they implicitly harm others by making their treatment more difficult.

    The only reason I give pause at answering yes, is what if a mentally ill person is happier, or helps others, BECAUSE of their mental illness? Do we still try to treat them? If not, is this still the case when it still causes indirect harm to others? I suppose a sort of utilitarian calculus needs be applied to the question, but before that can happen, studies need be conducted to be able to assign weights to the values. Unfortunately, this mental illness is so predominant throughout the world, that such studies become infeasible, which I think is reason enough itself to combat the illness.

    -Kaell

  • 17. Ken Perrott  |  June 28, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    You’ve been tagged. Visit http://openparachute.wordpress.com/ for the rules.

  • 18. superhappyjen  |  June 29, 2007 at 12:13 am

    Atheists don’t preach, we discuss. For me, having no belief gives me more of an open mind. I’m more interested in hearing other people’s views on the universe, than trying to convince anybody that mine is the only way to believe.

  • 19. Stephen P  |  June 29, 2007 at 3:43 am

    It is a good idea to distinguish three different situations:

    1. involuntary audience / unprovoked
    2. involuntary audience / provoked
    3. voluntary audience

    Situation 1 is the one that will make you very unpopular. You are, for example, sitting with colleagues and out of the blue start talking about how silly religion is. Or you go door-to-door, like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Don’t do it.

    If however it is someone else who starts spouting off about, say, how immoral atheists are, then you are in situation 2. By all means respond. Try to discuss rather than preach, and you might be able to make your points and come out looking good.

    Situation 3 is the situation you are in when you write books, write Internet articles, broadcast on radio or organise talks and invite people to come. Your audience can choose to listen or not and have no reason to feel imposed upon. If you feel up to it: go for it.

  • 20. Kaell  |  June 29, 2007 at 4:02 am

    “Situation 1 is the one that will make you very unpopular.” -Stephen P

    Who cares if you’re popular? This isn’t high school. What I care about is what is RIGHT, not what will make people want to sign my yearbook.

    If you think it is RIGHT to not say anything when unprovoked, then defend that position. But I really think this being soft just to be popular is silly. This is however a common argument, “live and let live so you don’t ruffle any feathers”. But it is not a good one, if you just look at cases of mental illness, drug addiction, etc. Or even if you simply look at law enforcement. If you tackle and place under arrest people who just murdered your neighbor, I can be pretty certain you wont be very popular with him, but this certainly doesn’t mean you should just “live and let live” in this case. You should try to stop him, or arrest him if it’s too late to stop him.

  • 21. Stephen P  |  June 29, 2007 at 5:11 am

    Kaell: you seem a little confused. One moment you are talking about “when unprovoked” and the next about someone being murdered. If you don’t consider murder a provocation … In any case, I thought it obvious that my comment was made in a particular context; why invoke situations that are irrelevant to the point under discussion?

    Being right is necessary, but not sufficient. Being right achieves nothing if no-one is listening. And if everyone who knows you considers you an irritating twerp, they aren’t exactly likely to listen.

  • 22. sonia  |  June 29, 2007 at 6:42 am

    Brad makes some good points I think about self-realization. As someone who recently came to terms with ‘defying’ tradition and the religion I was brought upto, I think it was important for me to realize there were other people out there who were asking the same questions, who had ‘let go’ if you will etc. I found that really helpful, and i think, there isn’t much point me trying to say to others now you all must do the same, because frankly, people have to come to that realization, themselves. Openness, and encouraging debate, is really what religions or dogmatic beliefs are afraid of, because they don’t want people to think for themselves, they want people to just listen.

  • 23. sonia  |  June 29, 2007 at 6:51 am

    And also personally for me the breaking point was that religion is used to justify mankind’s behaviour on the basis of some injunction from ‘Above’ from God. I don’t theoretically have any issue with pondering whether there is a god or not, i don’t mind having the same discussion about ghosts or fairies. they may well exist who knows. but if someone said well i believe in fairies and that’s that, thats one thing. if someone says i believe in fairies and the fairies said i am your leader bow down before me and you over there give me your land because I am authorized by THE FAIRY then there is a big problem. its the premise that this human leadership, and whatever ‘rules’ go with it, are justified by divine order – that the Fairy becomes problematic. We should consider the merit of any course of human action – on its perceived merit or demerit, rather than in conjunction to the Mythical Fairy – that’s obvious.

    It’s trying to get to a state where people don’t bring in beliefs in the metaphysical to justify choices in this world. Naturally we all have views on how we should all try and live together – so that’s what we have to debate, without bringing in the “Well God so that’s why..”

    so for me, i think i will be pushing for this, let’s leave divine beings out of our debate about whats ethical and what’s not.

    now some people will say (and have done so already) ah that’s you pushing your newfound atheism on me, ‘preaching’ but personally i don’t see it as that.

  • 24. sonia  |  June 29, 2007 at 6:57 am

    Interesting comments. I do think often there is the interesting position where evangelists – be they atheist or believer in God – can have much in common. Being convinced that one is in Possession of the One Truth that applies to All, is eerily religious to me. Of course, there is no reason why Atheism should not become a Religion in the way belief in a Fairy has become a Religion, and both are used as an excuse for social control.

    So for me – it is really immaterial if someone believes NO FAIRY or YES FAIRY if they both use this to justify their control and intervention in other people’s lives in a damaging way. In itself, fairy or not makes no difference. It is surely how WE choose to live together as humans – that matters. Do we dictate to others or not. The fairy stuff – that’s a distraction.

  • 25. HeIsSailing  |  June 29, 2007 at 6:59 am

    “Situation 1 is the one that will make you very unpopular.” -Stephen P

    Kaell:
    “Who cares if you’re popular? This isn’t high school. What I care about is what is RIGHT, not what will make people want to sign my yearbook.”

    I think a better way to think of this is not popularity, but damaging your cause. When you approach somebody who is not interested, and is unprovoked with the “Gospel of Atheism”, you are going to do more harm than good. They may think you are an obnoxious jerk, and ignore your message. It is the same thing with Christian evangelism. I used to approach people in bus depots all the time to tell them about Jesus, until I realized that I have to approach them on their terms, when they are ready.

  • 26. sonia  |  June 29, 2007 at 7:08 am

    HelsSailing makes a brilliant point. It is about making it more likely that people believe what their church/mosque people say about oh those atheists are just out to get you, its a personal thing, there really isn’t any substance to what they’re saying.

  • 27. sonia  |  June 29, 2007 at 7:09 am

    approaching people at bus depots – see they would just think you’re weird if you did that! :-)

  • 28. sonia  |  June 29, 2007 at 7:10 am

    I’m not comfortable with evangelism either way – i found it a bit creepy when religious people were waiting to pounce and say! aha i have got you now. that was a big part of what drove me away from religion. Perhaps i’m too much of a libertarian who knows

  • 29. Stephen P  |  June 29, 2007 at 7:22 am

    Fair point, HeIsSailing. I was trying a little too hard to be brief. Rather than “will make you very unpopular” it would have been better to say something like “will make you into someone whom people are not interested in listening to”.

  • 30. Jacqueline  |  June 29, 2007 at 11:10 am

    First, I must offer a bit of my own background: I am an ordained minister in the UCC, a woman, former Baptist, critical thinker, ex-Christian, Jesus Follower, and logic lover. (Say that three times fast!) To me the central issue at stake is not to convert any religious person to another pattern of thought, i.e. go from being a Catholic to and Atheist, but instead to convert people to critical thinking about everything. We need to proselytize curiosity. I believe plurality is a natural by-product of curiosity. We need to advocate and exemplify demonizing anyone else as “other” leads to hate crimes, murder and war, so when we do this in the name of greed or God or whatever, we insure our demise and the world’s as a whole. We need to “preach” an end to fear of science as a competing “revelation” to any kind of Holy Text, and poke holes where we see duplicity of thought, i.e. “I will go to the doctor and get any kind of treatment for my cancer, but evolution is bunk.”

    We also must be patient and kind. We must understand change as both constant and stagnant within the humans we share this planet with. I am only thirty-six, but I have been on this trajectory of my thinking and spirituality for almost all of that time. The same girl standing up to her fourth grade Sunday School teacher, in the name of what she believes, still stands up today, but what I stand up for has grown and changed with time. Just as a kindergartener cannot grasp nuances in the same way as someone getting a PhD in Philosophy might, we must remember our audience. I always use the language of faith to speak to persons of faith who insist on abhorrent viewpoints in the name of God. I believe this is called “fighting fire with fire.” (smiling) Whenever I get, “Trust God to help you.” I fight back with “If God intervened in the laws of physics, why would God help now and not when I was being molested? This is not as bad as that was!” [My Mother usually quiets down at that point, and then we call it a truce!]

    My point is this: Getting someone to “convert” to Atheism supposes that one path can be lifted out (like old RAM or something) and replaced with an updated “belief module” and work well for every person. Bull….! Advocate for spiritual flexibility, curiosity, critical thinking and plurality because they contain the necessary elements needed to empower people and create a real change in my book. There is no homogeneous “person of faith,” but there are dogmas and theologies in every tradition that preach “gospels of hate and suspicion.” However, make a person defend these “gospels” and they will often go to the death for them. We must lean into the cracks we find, and hope for an in-breaking. We must remember Robert Frost’s words in Mending Wall: “He moves in darkness as it seems to me~Not of woods only and the shade of trees. He will not go behind his father’s saying…” We are resistant to change and must be compelled by what we already hold dear in order to come from behind our harmful thinking. By starting with conversation and genuine interest in another we might just spur some to think anew and be transformed, which has a much better chance of creating meaningful change in our world.

  • 31. I Love This Woman « A Veritable Plethora  |  June 29, 2007 at 11:34 am

    [...] Love This Woman Last night I am reading my comments as well as the comments on Mary’s post about preaching atheism on de-Conversion (not used to the name yet).  Without me noticing her [...]

  • 32. karen  |  June 29, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    Terrific perspective, Jacqueline! I love your guidelines and the way you present them. Thanks. :-)

  • 33. karen  |  June 29, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Great points, Jacqueline. I like what you have to say as well as how you say it.

  • 34. Heather  |  June 29, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    I also like what Jacqueline has to say. It’s finding the common ground among all.

    **By starting with conversation and genuine interest in another we might just spur some to think anew and be transformed, which has a much better chance of creating meaningful change in our world.** To me, though, there’s a catch. Fundamentalists of any sort don’t seem to start with a geniune interest in the other. Rather, they have preconceived notions of what the others are, and so act based on those notions, and respond according to those notions, not by what the ‘other’ actually says. So on my end, it’s hard to listen to that viewpoint when there’s no opening for common ground.

  • 35. Kaell  |  June 29, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    If the argument now goes to one of efficacy, that is a valid point. I’m not certain data says it is ineffective however. For parallels I would look to psychology and how delusions are treated there, as I think it fair to assume that they base their treatment models on what is scientifically shown to be effective.

    I’m not well versed in psychology, so if anyone is and is reading this, perhaps you could give input on the most effective methods of treating harmful delusions. If they never bring it up, but their choices are clearly based on the fact they think they’re Napolean, do you bring up the topic, or do you ignore it unless they specifically mention it first?

    If they never bring it up, and you refuse to bring it up unless they do, how are you ever going to treat them? They will simply continue wasting all their money because their army has all their treasure back on their (Napolean’s) ship, and doing other things which harm themselves or others.

    I suppose you could simply ask why they are spending all their money and not saving enough to survive off of, and try to trick them into bringing it up to challenge it. But what if they simply give cryptic answers such as “it is my faith, you cannot question it”, as many theists are apt to do?

    Of course non-confrontational treatment may be more effective when it is an option. And if this turns out to be the case (supported by evidence, not simply put forward as a hypothesis), then it should be the preferable method should the option present itself. However should the option not present itself, surely non-treatment is less effective than aggressive treatment, no?

    Hoping for psychologist input on efficacy of treatment (or non-treatment) methods, Kaell

  • 36. Jacqueline  |  June 30, 2007 at 11:15 am

    I do not think being a theist is a psychological delusion. The problem is not in being a theist, the problem is in what God you believe in and how you think that God wants you to act in the world. So why believe in a God who intervenes in the laws of physics to suit some and not others? If this is in fact the way this God works, you need to find the right way to win that God’s favour, whether by grace or action or both.

    The real issue, which effects all of us human beings, including Atheists, is that we want certainty. We do not do well with ambiguity, change and unknowable information. Learning to live with these requires a great deal of emotional and spiritual muscle, and most of us are not willing to put in the work. (Not too dissimilar from trying to be physically fit but just never actually doing the workouts it takes.)

    I did not want to suggest in my earlier comment that I thought we should find “common ground.” I think we need to use critical thinking to find the flaws, but not in such a way as to just put someone on the defensive but in a way that invites conversation. Of course, I propose converting people to critical thinking not any other spiritual path. Let them choose for themselves–with a critical mindset–what is the right path.

    And for the record…I am a theist. I also allow for a great deal of room that this is not the right path for everyone, it has been an historically murderous path, it continues on that trajectory, and may in fact not be the way things are. However, my imagination of who God might be prevails.

  • 37. laura  |  June 30, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    It’s good you struggle with this question. By definition, atheism is anti-theism (a-theism). Atheism cannot exist at all without some belief in theism – even if it is an anti-belief. If theism is the wrong conclusion, then is atheism the right conclusion? There is a huge movement of fundamentalist atheism alive today and growing. People don’t realize that they are simply creating the flip side of what it is they hate. I think there are other alternatives besides the typical “either/or” of our monotheistic mindsets (which we all have whether we believe in God or not).

  • 38. Samanthamj  |  June 30, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    What a great thread. Lots of good points.

    Ken – you wrote:
    ======
    “Many Christians seem to be shocked to learn that there are atheists in their community who hold similar attitudes, values and morals; don’t have horns, etc., and deserve respect That is a good thing for them to learn.

    I think, in the end, it is this realization that can lead to them changing their beliefs – much more so than being preached at.”
    ======

    I agree wholeheartedly. I think, this is why so many of my friends, and their friends, like to bring up topics of faith and god with me. They know I am agnostic – and they can’t fathom how I can be a “good mom… good friend… good person” without getting my morals from god or the bible. They even go so far as to tell me that I must really believe in god, and just don’t know it or admit it. ?? I think, they think this because they want to. They don’t want to believe their friend is going to hell.. so, they make up another fantasy to make themselves feel better.

    Not really a new idea (setting an example). Many Christians are told to show others how happy and loving they are, so that others will want to be like them. I remember singing in church, “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love… by our love”. Unfortunately, I saw that song’s advice go out the window usually. Probably because many Christians are also told to spread the word as much as possible and try to “save” every one they can – which often makes them judgmental and obnoxious.

    I feel that I (or we), as an agnostic-atheist, can set a better example because I don’t feel like I need to “save” anyone. No need for the judgmental and obnoxious life or death threats. It has to be more effective even when not trying to “convert” anyone. Ironically, I’ve found that the more I try NOT to get others to think the same way I do, but at the same time defend my beliefs (or disbelief) when questioned, the more it makes them wonder if I might be right after all.

    ~smj

  • 39. David_Graham  |  June 30, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    6. karen | June 28th, 2007 at 4:19 pm
    Having been a Christian for so many years and now being on the other side as a nontheist, I feel I can play some positive role in trying to bridge the gap between the two sides.

    Karen,
    You say you were a Christian & as such must have at some point asked Christ to come into your life & for your sins to be forgiven. This as you must already know is the ONLY way to be saved.

    Some Christians do backslide & it says as much in the Bible but God will never move away from us it is only us that can move away from Him.

    I pray that the users & creators of this blog will realise that they will never find contentment without the Lord our God.

    What has been created here is really a playground for satan.

    I found this verse tonight & it seems to be talking about this blog

    Joshua 22:16
    Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD?

    David

  • 40. Kaell  |  June 30, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Jacqueline:

    “I do not think being a theist is a psychological delusion.”

    In what ways does it differ from a delusion? None.

    “The problem is not in being a theist, the problem is in what God you believe in and how you think that God wants you to act in the world.”

    Sure, some religions may not be harmful, but as they’re all without reasonable basis, the only way to contest the ones that are, is to point out that they are not reasonably based.

    “I think we need to use critical thinking to find the flaws, but not in such a way as to just put someone on the defensive but in a way that invites conversation. Of course, I propose converting people to critical thinking not any other spiritual path.”

    That’s great, critical thinking is a great start, which inevitably leads to weak agnosticism, which combined with critical thinking again, directly leads to atheism. Putting forth critical thinking DOES put many on the defensive, as it directly contradicts their beliefs.

    laura:

    “It’s good you struggle with this question. By definition, atheism is anti-theism (a-theism).”

    No, only loosely, but this is borderline equivocation. Anti-theism currently implies active opposition to theism, atheism mandates no such thing.

    “Atheism cannot exist at all without some belief in theism – even if it is an anti-belief.”

    Again, no. Without some belief in theism, everyone is an atheist.

    “If theism is the wrong conclusion, then is atheism the right conclusion?”

    Clearly, yes, by the law of non-contradiction. If A is false, not-A is true.

    “There is a huge movement of fundamentalist atheism alive today and growing. People don’t realize that they are simply creating the flip side of what it is they hate.”

    No, what anti-theists typically ‘hate’ is irrational dogmatism. Beliefs in things which there are no reasons to believe, with an unwillingness to discuss them reasonably and an unwillingness to change ones mind should the evidence and arguments lead you to do so. This is the opposite of their/our position. Should you provide good evidence for a god, I’m completely willing to change my mind. Should you provide good evidence and an argument for why religion should not be challenged, I’ll immediately stop doing so. I am open to truth, reason, and evidence. I am opposed to blind insistence that someone is right regardless of (or often, in direct contradiction to) evidence, even if that person is me. If you provide good evidence that gremlins exist and make cars break, I will believe that. To date, no such evidence has been presented for any of those things.

  • 41. stellar1  |  June 30, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Here’s a funny story. My sis-in-law – a staunch christian – told me this week that she found out one of my children might be an atheist. She was so shocked when I told her that her brother and I have raised our kids to believe what they want. If they believe in a god, so be it. If not, then that is fine too.

    She nearly burst over the phone. :)

  • [...] us into a compromising circumstances, which, in a passive way, takes us back to Mary’s “Preaching Atheism” [...]

  • 43. Jacqueline  |  July 1, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    “I think we need to use critical thinking to find the flaws, but not in such a way as to just put someone on the defensive but in a way that invites conversation. Of course, I propose converting people to critical thinking not any other spiritual path.”

    That’s great, critical thinking is a great start, which inevitably leads to weak agnosticism, which combined with critical thinking again, directly leads to atheism. Putting forth critical thinking DOES put many on the defensive, as it directly contradicts their beliefs.

    So, to clarify, I consider myself a critical thinker, lover of science, logic maven and theist. My own critical thinking has not led me to atheism, it has led me to another place. I believe knowledge of the true nature of God or the existence of said God to be unknowable. On my own blog under the tag “Don’t Be a Christian,” you will find some of my arguments, but I am still working this premise through…be kind.

    I also am very leery of “them/their” language. I also think there is a justice issue when it comes to speaking about anyone else. Who are these people we must convert to Atheism/Agnosticism–or in my view–critical thinking? Many who believe in the God-view we find so suspect also do not have access to education, clean water, meaningful work, shelter, healthcare, etc. Whom else do they have? They do not have “us” if we continue to see them as other than ourselves. Flawed. Imperfect. Struggling. Trying. Getting it wrong. Getting it right.

  • 44. Noogatiger  |  July 2, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Dear David_Graham,
    You said: “What has been created here is really a playground for Satan.”

    I have to tell you David, that made me laugh. I am still smiling.
    I know where you are coming from man, I was a born again, saved by grace, fundamentalist Christian for 39 years of my 49 years on this earth. I did just what you said; I asked Jesus to come into my heart, but real life, in the real world has a way of bringing you out of self induced comas like this.

    David, I have to tell you, those little doubts which you, yes even you, have in your head didn’t come from Satan. It is your rational thinking mind wanting to be free David. Every Christian knows about them, those troubling verses which just can’t be reconciled with the God of love you believe in. Every Christian is told that to have doubts is from the devil and it will lead you to hell. Your in a cult David. That is what cults do. All of us Christians were in a cult. We practically drank the purple Koolaid of Christianity.

    God did not move away from me David, and I did not move away from him. I just discovered that God had nothing to do with the Bible. It was so easy to see David, but very hard to get to this point. It is hard to come out of years of mind washing and indoctrination, and fear of hell. That is why people like you simply can’t do it.

    I would only ask Christians to do one thing. Do a Bible Study, but not a directed Bible Study. I am talking about doing a study of the Bible itself, where it came from, how it came to be organized into one book, who wrote it, the scientific claims, the universe cosmology it presents, the views it really presents about women, war, genocide and even check to see if it is consistent in its message or even in the stories it tells.

    I don’t want to evangelize, but how can we all stand by while hundreds of thousands, even millions of people are brainwashed every day into believing in morally repugnant fairy tales and then killing or hating other people for different beliefs. It is bad for them and bad for humanity as a whole.

  • 45. Heather  |  July 2, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Does anyone else find it interesting that apparently the only way one can have God in one’s life is to use a free will and ask in a certain way? And yet Satan can run rampant in us without us actually asking?

    And if this is Satan’s playground, then I demand a swing set.

  • 46. karen  |  July 2, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    And if this is Satan’s playground, then I demand a swing set.

    I call dibs on the slide! Oops – a slide in the devil’s playground probably goes way, way down … ;-)

  • 47. psycheddd  |  July 3, 2007 at 5:22 am

    To be overly consumed by broad religious ideals open to debate and various interpretations is indeed ridiculous. It can be classified as plain extremism and fanatiscism. However, to claim that there is no “god” or divine super-natural being, is absurd. As a philosopher puts it, an infinite regress of causes is clearly impossible and illogical. If you believe the first premise which explicitly states its meaning, then there has to be an ultimate source for everything that you see and for everything unexplored in this mysterious place. every effect is caused by something… and if that cause is an effect then it was in fact caused by something prior to it. If this goes on to infinity, it would be pointless and absurd… therefore there has to be one ultimate source. a first cause… followed by a domino-effected sort of events.

  • 48. sonia  |  July 3, 2007 at 9:35 am

    That’s a very good point Heather, I hadn’t thought of that.
    Also i suppose the way Satan and God have always been posited is as a sort of ‘opposites’ so Satan reflects our ‘base’ nature and God is supposed to be reflecting the effort to get away from that – our nature. funny idea if God is supposed to have created us! of course it’s all supposed to be a a ‘test’ – according to the Muslim crew. So homosexuality is a ‘test’ to trick us – see if we ‘give in’ to our base nature, our use our ‘religion’ to successfully hold ‘satan’ at bay and then if we succeed we will get a reward in Paradise.

    carrot and stick?

  • 49. Sue Ann Edwards  |  July 3, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    The diffeence between preaching and teaching is Tolerance, Acceptance, Allowance and Understanding. :o)

  • 50. bry0000000  |  July 3, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    “Hi Mary,

    I quoted some passages from your post with you that I happen to agree with (well, sorta). You see, as a Christian, I see that the strict literalism of 20th century fundamentalism has produced these concerns that you write about. I too want to want to break the chains of religion from these people. As I have said, Jesus didn’t come to establish religion, but to rid the world of it; He is irreligion.

    To answer your question from a Theist standpoint – I would say ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Fundamentalism is more damaging to religion and society than beneficial, so I would say that ‘yes’, I want you to break them free from the chains.

    However, (and I’m sure you saw this coming), it is through breaking those chains of religion through realizing the spiritual truth of, say, God’s word, that we truly become free and an enlightenment to this world.

    Good first post. God Bless.

    Justin”

    Hi Justin,

    “Jesus didn’t come to establish religion, but to rid the world of it; He is irreligion.” Bit of doublespeak here, don’t you think? Christ came to save us by mandating we exalt him (admitting he is God and our only saviour… isn’t this the premise of religion?) then rejects religion in favor of… religion under guise of “spirituality.”

    Also, this “spiritual truth” is in fact binding. We must accept a system of power that limits us as human beings. Sorry guy, but the religious teachings of Christ sound pretty restricting to me.

  • 51. bibibgoikixx  |  June 5, 2008 at 11:23 am

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  • 52. rhoison  |  March 28, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    you were never a christian! if you were saved you would stay saved so you saying that you left your christian walk tells me you were never saved which is understandable considering god chooses who go’s to heaven and who doesn’t.

  • 53. tree removal tracy  |  September 9, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    tree removal tracy

    Preaching Atheism | de-conversion

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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