Should an atheist proselytize?
When I started the series, Why do Christians de-convert?, I said I was analysing de-conversion stories with an eye towards answering a rather simple question about tactics. How can we support or even promote de-conversion?
These stories have shown that there are a number of ways of supporting Christians who make steps towards de-conversion, but in almost every single case it appears that the doubt that led to de-conversion came from within the individual.
Here’s the only story I found among the one hundred and seventeen I examined that credited de-conversion to the specific intervention of an atheist:
I ran into a very good friend and told him the story of my conversion. He was not critical, but kept asking questions about why I took to this religion and specifically required that I put things in my own words instead of mouthing what I had been told. He made me think! and that’s all it took.
We can tell people that there are alternatives to Christianity, and for many people who chafe at the stupidity of religion yet are unable to properly express it, this is liberating. We can raise questions about the dogma, hypocrisy, or the illogical beliefs of religion, but most people who cited these as factors, raised the questions themselves.
In addition, we must defend science and rationalism from attacks, especially in education. As we saw from earlier examples, fundamentalist Christians have to wage war on science. They have correctly identified that their beliefs either need to accommodate a rational understanding of reality, or they have to destroy or discredit rational identity in the eyes of their followers.
However, as atheists, we delude ourselves if we think that we have some kind of role in “shaking up” peoples faith even though we can provide the resources to support people trapped in the religious paradigm. Ultimately a person has to liberate themselves from religion, it is not for us to assume the role of atheist proselytes.
- Originally published by Kieran Bennett, reprinted with permission.