How can we make atheism more attractive?

What stops a religious person from becoming an atheist? One problem is PR, but that is just one piece of the puzzle. My suspicion is that one cause, among many others, is that there are few well-developed social structures around atheism as compared with church. Likewise, religion provides an ethic that helps in arranging one’s understanding of the world and in guiding one’s life choices, whereas atheism does not. This isn’t a problem with atheism per se, but nevertheless, I imagine that believers don’t see atheism as a viable alternative because of these differences. Do you agree?

Posted: November 10th 2010

Blaise www

I, for one, completely agree. I think the social aspects of organized religion are its true draw for the religious. I believe that the majority will never fully deconvert, whatever their questions around their faith, until they are secure in the knowledge that they will not lose that feeling of belonging and acceptance.

I’ve tried to move large non-theist groups like the brights to start some sort of a program to help local social non-theist groups to form, but unfortunately, it seems like most “out” atheists are folks who already don’t feel the need for a strong social support structure, so they don’t see the need to supply one for others. Our local group of atheists/agnostics has just barely started to build such a community, but it’s slow going (societyofreason.com). I hope that someday, groups like ours will be in every town, and that the tentatively deconverting will see them as a source of hope in their new lifestyle.

Posted: November 14th 2010

See all questions answered by Blaise

flagellant www

I think the religiosi are attracted to church social structures because the social aspect is particularly appealing to their personalities. Few atheists meet regularly. Their social needs are met in other, more diverse ways.

Abraham Maslow developed his Theory of Motivation in the 1954 publication Motivation and Personality and this theory has been adapted and adopted by the more progressive schools of Psychology. The theory says that people have five different levels of need in their lives, starting with the lowest and most basic: 1.Physiological needs (like air, food, and water), through 2. Safety/Security, 3. Belonging (like friendship), to 4. Esteem (like self-esteem and the respect of others). Finally, there is the very highest need 5. Self-actualization. I find this breakdown very persuasive.

Going to church gives one a sense of belonging and, to some extent, the respect of others. It therefore offers the opportunity to meet the third and fourth needs. The attractive thing about going to church is the social aspect; it makes people feel comfortable.

However, some – perhaps many – atheists have the fifth, and highest attribute: self-actualization in abundance; this attribute seems to be rather lacking among the religiosi. Self-actualization includes creativity, spontaneity, lack of prejudice and, most significantly, acceptance of facts.

Of course, the religiosi would disagree with this analysis; atheists don’t have a monopoly on higher need-attributes. Some years ago, a psychological survey suggested that being in love was remarkably similar to mental illness. Denial of facts – the lack of evidence for god – is not very healthy either, is it?

Atheism doesn’t have much of a social aspect: not believing in something doesn’t give one a great sense of belonging. However, it’s more important for us to be right than comfortable.

Posted: November 12th 2010

See all questions answered by flagellant


I think that because religious beliefs are not gotten through reason, they will not be be left behind easily with reason.

There are many secular support social structures in place that the religious take for granted or ignore or reject. Another aspect of believers cleaving to their superstitions is because they have been coddled for so long, with no critical analysis directed at their beliefs. Therefore, being tough on their beliefs can make them see that they will not get the automatic respect for which many of them cling to religion, thinking that the 'goodness’ reputation of religion will be automatically transferred to their person. If religion is lambasted loudly and consistently, a good number of believers will start to see they are not getting the value they want from their emotional/psychological investment in primitive and useless beliefs.

Non-religious believers are the fastest growing group in America so we should just keep on doing what we are. It is working. The web is also encouraging the formation and identification of secular social groups all over the world. I just joined Facebook, and the networking done on there by secularists is inspirational including focused outreach programs done by The Secular Coalition and the American Humanist Association.

Posted: November 11th 2010

See all questions answered by logicel


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