Proselytizing atheists give atheists a bad name

Most people know that I am a Christian. I don’t hide because it is my belief that Christians all too often forget that we are supposed to spread the good news….that we are saved.

I personally can’t stand proselytizing and evangelistic Christians, I think they give Christians a bad name.

But there is another equally annoying group of proselytizing and evangelistic morons out there who are trying desperately…for some reason or another to convince people like me that we are mad, crazy, stupid or all of the above for daring to believe in something.

The thing is they also believe in something, and somewhat more fervently than most of us who believe in what we believe.

One atheist is somewhat annoyed with what he calls “In-Your-Face Atheism”.

The president of American Atheists, David Silverman, defines firebrand atheism as simply telling the truth about religion, with the emphasis on the telling. He says we should make clear that it’s religious beliefs we’re attacking, not the person. He says, “I’m not attacking humans; I’m attacking those humans’ silly beliefs.”

That word “silly” is the problem, as is Silverman’s whole take-no-prisoners assault on religion.

Think about what religion is—a total worldview that lets each believer feel like she’s found meaning and purpose in a bewildering universe. So, it’s not much of a stretch to argue that people are reluctant to give up their religious beliefs when they are intimately tied to their sense of self-worth.

It’s one thing to give up a belief about a political or scientific fact that doesn’t directly affect your life—like whether or not global warming is caused by humans. But it’s another thing to give up a belief that you think determines whether you’ll be strumming a harp with angels or stuck on the business end of the Devil’s pitchfork after you die.

So, if we’re going to change someone’s beliefs, but we’re going to have to resist the temptation to roast them while we’re doing it. But listen to what Silverman has said in his talks promoting firebrand atheism: “Religion is a lie—all of it—that’s the truth.”

“Respect is earned, and religion hasn’t earned any.”

Even if he’s right, the tone of these comments is just going to raise the emotional hackles of your average believer.

You bet it will and does.

Like any sales campaign, movement atheism is selling a worldview, and so, we should not only point out the deficiencies of the competition, but we should also highlight the positive attributes of our “product.” And the old adage that people don’t buy from people they don’t like certainly applies to atheism as well. How we go about attacking what’s bad and wrong about religion as well as promoting what’s good and right about atheism matters.

Like any good marketer, Silverman says he has sales figures proving his approach is working. In a talk he gave about firebrand atheism, he claimed that his data, based on an analysis of Google searches for the word “atheist” performed over the past several years, shows that his in-your-face approach is working. He claims there have been “942,000 new self-described atheists and 1,250,000 agnostics” in the past several years.

However, those numbers are suspect; Silverman told me over Twitter that those new atheists and agnostics represent so-called “closeted atheists,” not those who have de-converted because of firebrand atheism.

Gee he sounds like he trying to convert people…you know like a religion.

In 2005, research was published by Tiziana Casciaro of Harvard Business School and Miguel Sousa Lobo of Duke University that studied 10,000 work relationships across five organizations. They ended up classifying work partners into categories that ranged from the “incompetent jerk” to “competent jerk” to “lovable fool.” What they found was that most people preferred to work with the lovable fool rather than the competent jerk.

As the authors wrote in the study: “Because they are liked by a disproportionate number of people, lovable fools can bridge gaps between diverse groups that might not otherwise interact.” That likeability factor is exactly what is needed in order to improve atheism’s image—and shift the Overton Window. The authors also say that since people are more likely to listen to likeable colleagues, we should “have widely liked individuals serve as evangelists for important change initiatives.”

I don’t think that only lovable fools should be the ones working for change, just that they should be the majority—they should be the voices that get the most media coverage. I realize that this is going to be a challenge, especially with the Bill O’Reillys of the world, but I think the case made here is reason enough to cut back on an approach that relies on ridicule and contempt for others’ sense of belief and identity. It undermines the kind of self-affirmation that is needed for sincere believers to be open to changing their beliefs—or at least be more accepting of atheism.

In other words, don’t be a jerk, competent or otherwise. Also realize that you don’t have to be a lovable fool—just focus on the lovable part.

Proselytizing atheists are jerks, that’s why no one really listens to them, just like no one really listens to bible banging preachers either.

The very thing they despise is what they have become. They have brought religiosity to atheism…they are now believers in their very own religion and are every bit as nauseating as the same types in Islam, or Christianity, or indeed any other religion.


– The Daily Beast

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.