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Is trying to change people's minds about God a good use of our time?

Instead of spending so much time and energy convincing people that faith is akin to a disease and trying to change their minds about God, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to instead focus on maintaining scientific integrity and further the growth of humanity? As Richard Dawkins said:

[the debate] wastes the time of scientists that would otherwise get on with their work. The creationists have already won their goal when a real scientist agrees to have a debate with them, and that carries the propaganda victory that they crave

Posted: July 12th 2007

George Locke

The quote seems to be directed at the creationist/flying spaghetti monster debate. Arguing about creationism in a scholarly setting is indeed counter-productive. Arguing about creationism to people you know isn’t likely to change minds, although I wouldn’t say it’s totally useless.

As regards this site, though, I don’t think the main purpose is to 'convert’ theists. It’s more about learning about atheism, ideally breaking down some misconceptions.

On the other hand, I’m sure no one in the panel here spends more energy trying to propagate atheism than they do on their other goals. For me personally, writing on this site isn’t a waste of time since I get to explore my own beliefs by articulating them.

P.S. It would be kind of silly for Dawkins to say that it’s a waste of time trying to teach people about the evils of religion. I doubt that’s what he meant.

Posted: July 15th 2007

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logicel

Presenting the atheist argument opposing religion is not the same as trying to de-convert someone. Encouraging debates is important for society in order to embrace change and improve it for the better. The increasing availability of the Net will encourage debate concerning atheism/theism. Each person needs to decide for him/herself how much time they do want to spend researching this topic and debating it, including taking much needed breaks from such a concentrated focus.

As for actively trying to de-convert someone, I would guess that such attempts would be as obnoxious to a theist as it would be if a theist was trying to convert an atheist.

However, I do regard that if a highly publicized and discussed opinion or approach is reasonable and advantageous to society, such as a secular one based on rationality and factual knowledge, then it will spread and become embraced by others on its own merits as long as such viewpoints are not unjustly stifled as they are in certain theocracies and dictatorships at present. And even in those cases, the global interconnectedness of our present world, will play an illuminating role in reaching into those dark, fusty, closeted corners.

Posted: July 15th 2007

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jonecc www

Although we are opposed to religious belief per se, our vehemency derives less from the belief itself than from its real world consequences. I blog against religion in general, because I’m against it in all its forms, but my main targets are homophobia, sexism, creationism and Intelligent Design, the indoctrination of children, the destructive notion of hellfire, and so on.

On issues such as global warming, I’m quite happy to make common cause with religious people who share my worries. I also don’t think that when religion causes human suffering, that suffering is inherently worse than the everyday kind.

For instance, I strongly oppose the Islamic doctrine that husbands are allowed to beat their wives if they don’t obey them (Koran 4:34), but I don’t think the suffering of those women is any worse than that of women whose husbands beat them for reasons which have nothing to do with religion.

Having said that, we wouldn’t normally let people who publicly supported wife beating take over schools, and I don’t see why Islamic faith schools like the ones we now have in the UK should be an exception. For that matter, there’s plenty of material in the Bible which would justify a long hard look at the involvement of the churches.

If you’re American you don’t have this problem, although you do face others. As a matter of political principle, we would try to get faith schools abolished in the UK, and oppose their introduction in the US.

With regard to science, we would seek to defend it against religious attack, where that attack takes place. Richard Dawkins, for instance, has compared the experience of being an evolutionary biologist defending his science against creationism to that of a lecturer in Ancient Roman history being attacked by a religion that belives the world started in the nineteenth century. He has shared an anti-creationist platform with the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, and I would applaud him for this.

Posted: July 15th 2007

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