Calm Down, Angry Atheists
“Calm down? CALM DOWN? The whole planet’s being bombed back to the stone age, and there’s no stop to anti-science campaigning, and the women are being oppressed, and the people are dying, and money’s being wasted and..”
There, I got that out of your system for you. Now huddle up and listen..
This is an angry blog by an angry atheist. Most, if not all, posts here include detailed explanations of how religion’s messing up the world. But that’s not all I do. I publish a maximum of two or three blog posts a month, and then go hang out with my Muslim friends either in person or online. I haven’t had a God debate with them in ages, even though we often disagree on things because of our markedly different perspectives.
The New-Convert Syndrome
When you first convert either to or out of religion, you tend to view the world in black and white for about a year. You’re excited about the new change in your life, and wish to express it as much as possible. If the world around you is particularly intolerant of your views (like in Pakistan), you naturally feel tormented, and the neo-convert phase is significantly prolonged. Eventually, varying shades of grey begin to emerge before you, and your tone changes – harshening at some places, but softening at most.
I have evolved. I view religion with the same contempt that I used to, but as a veteran atheist, I’ve now assumed a more nuanced approach. I no longer see myself as LoneLiberal, the Atheist. I’m many things: doctor, brother, writer, PC gamer, food-lover. I don’t reduce my identity down to my disbelief in God.
The faster you escape the angry, neo-convert phase, the happier you’ll be. You’ll also be able to sift out the hopeless haters from the simple dissenters, and learn to use arguments custom-crafted for each.
Don’t be a dick
Sarcasm is good, as it forces people to face the flaws in their logic. But outright insulting statements simply drive away the fence-sitters. It’s completely counterproductive, and weakens the movement….just like PTI trolls are weakening the support for PTI instead of bolstering it.
This is because of one simple fact – you cannot insult or shame a person into agreement. You can only impress them with your patience and argumentative skills. Theists will make you angry. If they succeed, you lose.
I understand that the threshold for what counts as “insulting” is relatively lower when it comes to discussing religion, and that’s annoying. But in any case, avoid ad hominem attacks and spiteful statements like “your beliefs are crazy”. Your opponent will simply become more defensive.
You CAN convince a religious person
It’s common for despondent atheists to throw their arms in the air and declare that theists are simply non-responsive to logical argumentation.
Rid yourself of the expectation that right in the middle of a heated debate, a theist is going to shout out, “You win! I recognize that your arguments are superior. Just tell me the kalma for atheism and I’ll say it!”. Ego simply does not allow that.
You express your viewpoint, and argue in its favor. Your opponent will do the same for his views. Each of you will leave the forum with the same set of ideas you walked in with. But the ideas that you plant in your opponent’s head will stay there for a long time. He’ll continue to meditate on them, and if you’ve argued well, will eventually realize that you were right. He may not convert, but he’s likely to become more tolerant of your perspectives. That’s progress..relish it.
You’ll frequently come across religious people with beliefs that are simply too dangerous to ignore. These are the fanatics you cannot hope to get along with. But that’s not always the case.
Nearly all theists believe in a variety of things that you understand are detrimental to social stability and scientific progress. You don’t have to like a certain theist’s homophobic attitude, but realize that this is not the sum total of his identity. Every human in the world bears an idea that you fear is potentially harmful, but try to uncouple the idea from the follower and deal with each separately. The follower may be a believer of a lot of things, many of which are truly beneficial. Hate the sin, but love the sinner…and pardon the excruciating irony here.