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Atheist Tuesday: Beware of Atheist Evangelists!

| 26 Comments

I was handed an article by a friend over the weekend and was greatly encouraged that so many atheists are taking a renewed interest in the supernatural, especially God! So much so that they had a convention in L. A. a month ago about how to deal with us superstitious types; yet they couldn’t quite agree on how best to combat them. Here’s an excerpt:

The tension was evident at the Biltmore, where about 300 nonbelievers from across the United States and Canada gathered for three days of lively and, at times, gleefully blasphemous debate. (“I have a personal commitment to committing blasphemy every day,” biologist P.Z. Myers said.)

Religion was dismissed as “nonsense” and “superstition”; those who believe were described variously as “ignorant” and “stupid.”

Fellow nonbelievers were not spared, however, as lines were drawn between “new atheists,” who encourage open confrontation with the devout, and “accommodationists,” who prefer a subtler, more tactical approach.

Even “accommodationist” atheists are not known for mincing words, and although there were periodic reminders that those at the gathering shared “99% of our intellectual DNA,” as author Chris Mooney put it, the disagreements were not exactly gentle.

When Mooney, a leading voice for accommodation, said there was nothing to stop a nonreligious person from being spiritual, Myers’ reaction was nearly physical. “Whenever we start talking about spirituality,” he said, “I just want to puke.”

If you are an atheist, which method would you use if I approached you with a Gospel tract and a pleasant (yet gently confrontational) conversation about eternal things?

If you are a believer, how would you deal with a “New Atheist” coming at you with the intention of making you look foolish? Click here for my suggestion on what to do.

Read the L. A. Times article in its entirety by clicking here!

26 Comments

  1. Why not link to the actual article? http://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/10/local/la-me-humanists-20101010 I love single word “quotes”, don’t you?

    To answer your question you would almost certainly get the standard “thanks but no thanks” response I usually give people.

  2. It’s not a renewed interest in the supernatural: it’s interest in dealing with believers in the supernatural.

    I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve had to explain this.

  3. Yes, that’s right. Atheists are only defined by their disbelief in any gods (not just yours). And while there are prominent atheists, there are no actual leaders.

    “If you are an atheist, which method would you use if I approached you with a Gospel tract and a pleasant (yet gently confrontational) conversation about eternal things?”

    Do you think I would behave differently than I do here? I only get down on the evangelism when I think a line has been crossed.

    However, I am concerned about the apparent rise in magical thinking and people preferring ideology over evidence and reason – and that’s not specifically Christian, nor does it include all Christians. I also hate seeing how some are so quick to demonize anyone that doesn’t share their religion, politics, culture, sexual orientation etc. And while that isn’t specifically Christian nor does it include all Christians, the demagoguing from Christian conservatives is alarming.

  4. dang – does this mean I’m an accommodationisnt? Noooooooooo!

  5. “If there were no God, there would not be any atheists.” – G.K. Chesterton

  6. Garrett, Thanks for clarification of your position.

    BathTub, I already provided the link at the end of my post. Thanks.

    perdita, I agree with you that demonizing the opposition isn’t the best way. And yes, I’m afraid you’d be classified as a liberal atheist. 🙁

    Paul, My sentiments exactly, thus, the reason for my post!

  7. If you are an atheist, which method would you use if I approached you with a Gospel tract and a pleasant (yet gently confrontational) conversation about eternal things?

    Well, here’s the problem: it’s been my experience that, in these situations, the evangelist does not want to have a two-way conversation. As you yourself has said, you’re “a herald, not a negotiator”.

    And I’ve put myself in these situations often.

    So, if I honestly thought that the person giving me the tract wasn’t just going to rush off, or try to dominate the conversation without responding to any of my questions (ahem, Steve), then I would be more than happy to have a polite conversation. I would probably still try. But I expect that there will be the whole “ohsorrygottarun… gotstufftodopeopletosee… kthnxbai!” coming from them.

    In other words, what I generally experience here on this blog.

    If I my experiences said that these evangelists liked to get into back-and-forth conversations, I’d feel differently. But my experiences are that the evangelist just wants to talk at me. Your video with the professor at USC is a perfect example of this, in my opinion.

  8. “If there were no God, there would not be any atheists.” – G.K. Chesterton

    Paul, please explain what you mean by this. It makes no sense to me.

    I don’t believe that people have actually been abducted by aliens. Does that mean that alien abductions happen?

    “If there were no alien abductions, there would not be any people who do not believe in alien abductions.”

    That’s what you’re saying, Paul. Do you agree with that?

    “If there are no people who channel 35,000 year old Atlantian/Lemurian Warrior Priests, there would not be any people who do not believe them.”

    That is some absolutely tortured logic there, Paul. I await your explanation (although I’m sadly betting that there won’t be one). I see that you agree with Paul’s “sentiment”, so if you’d like to explain, I’m certainly willing to listen.

    (Oh, and that’s Ramtha, for the record.)

  9. To clarify, the “I see that you agree with Paul’s “sentiment”…” part is directed at Steve.

  10. I still carry the “atheist tract”(the Atheist version of the Christian gospel tract.) I think I have a pic of it on my blog. It was neat when I was witnessing, because the Atheist came up to me while open air preaching and gave me his tract…gives me a reminder to pray for him and all atheists.(Everyone needs prayer. If any of the atheist friends on posting on here are ever in the Knoxville area, let me know and we can go out for some coffee on the college strip at Starbucks.(No evangelism strings attached).

  11. Hi Steve,

    So again, what “sentiment” do you agree with? If someone says, “If there is no A, there cannot be any people who do not believe in A”, how does that make any sense?

    Secondly, you wrote:

    Just reporting the biblical facts, Nohm.

    That’s different.

    Please explain the difference, because you’re still demonizing, regardless of the source. Yet you also say that you agree with perdita that demonizing the opposition isn’t the best way.

    Would you instead phrase it as “I agree with you that demonizing the opposition isn’t the best way, unless it comes from the bible, in which case it’s fine“?

  12. Biblical facts? Hmmm Steve I think biblical beliefs are more accurate. I mean just because its in a book doesn’t make it a fact. I mean the same could be said of reporting the Koran’s facts or the Book of Mormon’s facts, or Goldilocks and the Three Bear’s Facts.

  13. What do you mean by “liberal atheist,” Steve?

  14. Nohm, “If there were no God, there would not be any atheists.” – G.K. Chesterton

    I agree that there could be no atheists if there were no God.

    I agree with you that demonizing the opposition isn’t the best way, unless it comes from the bible, in which case it’s fine.

    Garrett: You’ll have to figure out what I mean by a “liberal atheist” on your own. I think you may not be one.

  15. Well, I’ll assume it has nothing to do with politics.

    If if believe I am not a liberal atheist, then I am either a moderate or conservative atheist. If this is an apolitical context then you have define these qualifiers first.

    If it’s in the context of accommodationism, then you may be let down a bit. I’ve only been an atheist for about a year and a quarter now. I’m still learning quite a bit about the ways thing are and keep a more cautious stance right now. I’m sure you imagine the “New Atheist” as someone that flies into a frothy rage when they encounter a religious person, but that’s not true. They may not hold back their opinion of religious, but the time and place of the encounter is always considering before engaging. Civility is still a priority.

  16. “I agree that there could be no atheists if there were no God.”

    This makes no sense. Atheists exits. Whether or not any gods exit is a separate matter to whether one believes/disbelieves gods exits. My disbelieving in God doesn’t show that God exits anymore than my disbelieving in Bigfoot doesn’t show that Bigfoot exits. Sheesh – it’s not like humans don’t have a history of believing in made-up gods.

    “I agree with you that demonizing the opposition isn’t the best way, unless it comes from the bible, in which case it’s fine.”

    Steve – that’s scary. Is this humor? Do you seriously not see a problem with that? Here, let’s try this: I agree with you that demonizing Jews isn’t the best way, unless it comes from the bible, in which case it’s fine. I know you avoid history and anything not in your narrow field of focus, but you may be surprised to learn that Jews have been demonized for centuries by people who felt it was justified by the bible. You mean those people were wrong? No kidding! Did they know they were wrong? Does that matter to the people they hurt?

    “And yes, I’m afraid you’d be classified as a liberal atheist. ”

    Simple classifications aren’t a problem. It’s what you do with them that’s repugnant. Oh – that’s right, you’re justified.

    “Garrett: You’ll have to figure out what I mean by a “liberal atheist” on your own. I think you may not be one.”

    Well that’s cryptic.

  17. Ugh, it appears I messed up my formatting… please post this one instead, Steve:

    Nohm, “If there were no God, there would not be any atheists.” – G.K. Chesterton

    I agree that there could be no atheists if there were no God.

    So you believe that aliens have abducted people and done operations on them.

    Okay.

    And you believe that Ramtha really is being channeled by JZ Knight.

    Okay.

    Steve, please explain why a God is required for there to be atheists, because it makes absolutely no sense.

    Again, the sentence is in this form:

    “Without the existence of A, there cannot be people who disbelieve in the existence of A.”

    Please explain how this makes any sense at all. Simply saying “yup” is not an explanation. You, of course, can just say, “oh, you know, you’re right… that doesn’t make any sense at all.”

    Look, that sentence has nothing to do with whether or not you’re a Christian or anything. It’s a simple problem with basic logic.

    Again, replace A with anything you that you disbelieve in, and you’ll see that it makes no sense.

  18. And I think it’s been made clear again why I’d try to have a discussion if you gave me a tract and started a conversation about eternal things, but I’d do it with the understanding that my attempt at discussion would be useless, because here’s the problem, Steve:

    You show very little interest in having discussions.

    In fact, when you say “a conversation about eternal things”, I have to believe you mean, “I, Steve, will tell you about eternal things and, if you try to talk to me, I will generally ignore you and keep on with what I’m interested in”, because that’s what I see on this blog.

    I ask you how the “you need God for there to be atheists” thing makes sense, and you simply ignore it and just say, “yup, I agree.”

    I ask what the difference is with the demonizing, and you make no attempt to explain.

    So, I gotta wonder what trying to have a conversation with you in person would be like.

  19. “If there were no God, there would not be any atheists.” – G.K. Chesterton

    Simply put: if God did not exist, nothing and nobody would exist.

  20. Okay, that makes a lot more sense. Of course, I completely disagree with it, but at least it’s now internally consistent.

    I think it’s safe to say that many people who don’t already accept the axiom “God is both The Creator and He Exists” would make the same mistake that we did in missing the point.

  21. Thank you for your explanation, Paul.

  22. The pressure is all mine. 🙂

  23. Thanks! I had no idea that’s what you meant.

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