Thursday, June 28, 2007

Evangelizing Atheism?

UPDATE: I added a poll to the sidebar

de-Conversion has a new post about preaching Atheism, so rather than make a super-huge comment, I briefly commented there and decided to make a post of my own.

I read an article in Wired a few months ago about Richard Dawkins and evangelical Atheism. I was repulsed to begin with-- I hate it when Christians try to do it to me, why would I want to do it? I rejected Dawkins for a long time because of this.

But since then I've had more time to think about it, and I've changed my mind.
Over at Atheist in a Minivan, Possum Momma has a post from January about an essay her daughter wrote, in which she proclaims herself as an Atheist. Her teacher had this to say:

Her teacher wrote this at the end of her essay:
"Possum#1*, thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I don't think you're an atheist but I respect your empathy for your friends. Please see me after class today. A+"

After class, possum#1 said that her teacher told her she couldn't be an atheist because her "ability to care for others feelings isn't an atheist trait." and that her "attitude was very Christian." WTF?!

Also at Atheist in a Minivan, there's this post, which is a Baptist preacher's reaction to the essay. Also, some choice comments from said preacher follow the post, including many about how Atheists merely feign morality.

ALSO on Atheist in a Minivan (she's getting a lot of love from me today), this post points out how this country music singer (and I suppose all his fans) feel about atheists-- we're incapable of any emotion, bad parents, and druggies.

I also have my own experiences, people in high school assuming that I worship the devil, people I considered friends telling me they couldn't spend time with me anymore... it never ends.

Complete misunderstanding of Atheism is rampant, and we have to do something to stop it. That's why I'm convinced that we have to be evangelical in one way or another. I think evangelical 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’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.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I hope there will be a day when we can all live together in peace regardless of religion (or lack thereof) but it requires an understanding of the other side. An understanding which the majority of people don't have about us.

So I pose the question to you: should we evangelize Atheism?


vjack said...

Impossible to answer with out a clear and agreed upon definition of evangelism. Most of us have a very difficult time stripping that word of its religious meaning and see it as something quite different from simply promoting something. When viewed in its religious context, evangelizing is about indoctrination, spreading falsehoods, and turning off critical thinking. This is the last thing I'd support. I'm all about marketing, promoting, and spreading the atheist meme, but I'll pass on evangelizing anything.

The Anonymous Atheist said...

Marketing, promoting, and spreading... that's kinda what I was getting out earlier.

You're right, there is no clear definition of evangelism, and that's why I spelled out that I would not agree to stooping to the methods used by fundamentalists.

I see evangelism as merly spreading the "gospel." I don't disagree with that. I just disagree with the methods most frequently used.

patrickimo said...

If we're to "evangelize" anything, it's that which we as nonbelievers already understand so well: that anyone can be a good, productive member of society without having to rely on any kind of religious authority, whether real or imaginary. A first step in the right direction would be to "lead by example." Many theists point out tangible examples of where we behave in an uncivil manner every day. Let's not hand them these opportunities; if they're going to accuse us of such things no matter what, let the accusations be baseless.

Riker said...

I have concluded that developing complacency toward religion is one of the worse things we can do right now, for the same reason that the idea of an afterlife gives the faithful reasons to be complacent about making this world a better place.

For every religious good person out there, their faith saps some of their resources; i.e., they're not doing as much good as they could since some of their effort is directed at protecting their own spiritual wellbeing and, in some cases, directed at missioning to others at times when they need real help to survive.

This impedes our ability as a society to improve as many lives as we can as quickly as we possibly can.

I go into this at greater length in a recently-posted essay on my blog. The entry is called 'Satiety'; check it out if you want!