Atheists Should Be Evangelistic?

I ran across this question at Daylight Atheism, and the answer given is "yes we should."

Should Atheists Evangelize?. There we read:

I have been oscillating between two sides, considering all the arguments each has to offer, and it is now time for me to take a firm stand and declare my position. I believe that atheists should evangelize, but not in the sense of bothering strangers on the street or going house-to-house and ringing doorbells. Instead, we should write letters to the editor and contribute guest editorials in newspapers and magazines. We should participate in public debates and maintain pro-atheism websites explaining ourselves to the world. We should, wherever possible, appear on TV and radio shows. We should regularly write to our elected representatives. And we should publicly take on theists practicing the more annoying forms of evangelism. By their actions, they have made themselves fair game for rebuttal; and many people no doubt would be glad to see a knowledgeable atheist confront an obnoxious streetcorner preacher. All these actions serve to spread our message and inform people of our existence without intruding directly into their lives, which is what I believe we should aim for.

Then later we read these words from Shattering Sterotypes:

The first thing I strongly recommend is that all atheists who have not already done so step forward and announce their nonbelief to friends, family and acquaintances, if their situation at all permits it. While I would not ask any atheist to speak out if there was good reason to believe that real harm would follow from doing so, atheists who remain in the closet about their nonbelief are indirectly harming not just themselves but all atheists.

Why Not?

9 comments:

Daniel said...

Yeah, I brought up this same subject once before, but I didn't have much interaction on it. We quickly got off-topic as David Poehelin tried to evangelize us and tell us to move on.

Aaron M. Rossetti said...

I say, 'Why not?' and 'What for?'

I just have a couple of lessons I've taken with me from my days as a Christian.

1. People who won't or aren't ready to hear anything won't or can't hear it anyway.

2. As people, we have an influence on those around us, whether we try to or not.

And a couple of thoughts...
Isn't that what we're doing here? We, however, are not 'selling' something, but are showing that the 'Christian Guarantee' being pushed in the Neverending Godfomercial cannot be trusted. They tell you about the drug, but neglect to tell you of the side effects. This should be illegal. :-) (you just wait... someone's gonna file a lawsuit against a Christian group for this... if they haven't already)

Christians have a 'quality' that seems to be repugnant to most today. It's the 'my way or the hellway' syndrom. Their battle for supremicy (either here or the world to come) creates an exclusion that many can't stand and this distance that has been propigated seems to be what's killing the message.

Christians were called to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth, a city on a hill. How they doin?

Sure, individuals scattered throughout (larger groups in other countries... many 2nd or 3rd world countries) have been changed, but have they really impacted the 'moral' climate of planet earth. I'd have to say, uhhh, well... like... I won't even insult anyone's intelligence. You know.

Anyway... this is just off the top 'o my head so take it for what it's worth or what it's not.

Ebonmuse said...

Regarding the "What for?" question, I believe that atheists should be speaking out not necessarily to win converts, but to make our voices heard and to make people know we're out there. As long as we are an invisible minority, prejudice against us will flourish (as that recent University of Minnesota study shows), since religious fundamentalists can spread degrading stereotypes in freedom with no one to refute them. But if we can get involved and become visible - even just to the extent of getting people to say, "Hey, I know some atheists and they don't seem like such bad people" - then I believe we really can make a difference in society's attitudes.

Sharon Mooney said...

atheists who remain in the closet about their nonbelief are indirectly harming not just themselves but all atheists.

I believe there's a balance that needs to be kept in any "belief" system, atheists can and sometimes do become as evangelical (in the hateful sense) with their non-belief, as Christians do with their belief... and personally speaking, from my experience and understanding of atheism atheists should know better.

From an email that was sent to us (myself, Deist and Ed, an Agnostic... worlds apart on belief... but tolerance and stepping outside of one's own world view, to see things from another p.o.v., wonderful) you know learning to accept people for who they are;
[begin anonymous snippet]
"My site contains some of the best arguments against Christianity on the Internet. Unfortunately, atheist websites, which make up the bulk of rationalist websites, will not link to mine because I do not automatically dismiss the possibility that intelligent life might have evolved for some mysterious cosmic purpose."

[...]

"Christians and hard atheists rule the internet. Agnostics have got to join forces, after all, our position is the strongest, but at the moment, we have almost zero web presence."
[end anonymous snippet]

I transferred an article written by Woolsey Teller, an atheist on Militant Atheism.

"As a courtesy to believers -- as good manners", says Mr. X, rationalists should so interpret God as not to offend "believers".
"Courtesy"! "Good manners"! When did Christian bigots ever know the meaning of these words?
Does Mr. X know nothing of Christian literature: its scurrilities and lies about freethinkers; its deathbed "recantations"; its Billy Sundy gutterisms? Did he never hear of its maliciousness against Paine, Ingersoll and Voltaire? Has he never seen the splenetic and dyspeptic tracts issued by Christian "Truth" societies? "Good manners"! "Courtesy"! I smile. And I smile again when I am asked to be tender to the religious feelings of others. Not being a Christian, I do not turn the other cheeks. I am out -- and out openly -- to smack Christianity.
I must remind Mr. X that it was he, not I, who introduced the character Mr. B, the religious blackguard who thinks that all atheists are cutthroats and will steal his silverware.
Fuzzy language never helped to clear anyone's mind.
"I credit my liberties largely to Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno, Newton, Halley, Darwin, Huxley, and Haeckel", says Mr. X, but "not one of these called himself an atheist."
A man may eat beef all his life, without writing: "I am a beef eater." So with many of those who, by their life work, have rejected or undermined theism without calling themselves "atheists". These men, one and all, upset the apple-cart of faith. Because they did so, theism became, more and more, a discredited idea.
Newton's friend, Edmund Halley, never wrote anything on religion, but he was refused the Savalian professorship at Oxford, says McCabe, "on the express ground of his rationalist opinions". He talked too much, it seems, and incurred the wrath of the gentle Mr. B. "That he was an infidel in religious matters," says Chalmers' Biographical Dictionary, "seems as generally allowed as it appears unaccountable."

--- Woolsey Teller's article does not appear to suggest stooping to the level of bigotry and religious intolerance, that Christians have in the past, but rather telling atheists to simply speak without fear of offense... even if it does offend.
I am in agreement with Woolsey Teller, to express beliefs openly, but not making the error Christians have in the past, to attempt robbing others of the right to their personal belief. We have all the examples we need, what bigotry achieves by Christian example --nothing. People tend to believe what they want to believe... despite. Sadly, some atheists by their actions and words, have shown intent to do just that.

John W. Loftus said...

That's why I invited you on this Blog--because I'm not intolerant as an atheist. We share so many of the same ideas, you and I. Besides, I like to hear from an intelligent woman like you, on the issues we deal with here.

As ebonmuse said, I believe that atheists should be speaking out not necessarily to win converts, but to make our voices heard and to make people know we're out there..

As far as telling people who know me that I'm an atheist, that's a work in progress. My wife has never had a problem telling people that she's an atheist, especially when they want to talk to her about religion, and I'm learning from her.

However, when I'm engaged in a debate/discussion with a theist who says I'm wrong, then I argue to win the discussion, if I can. And since religion in the hands of some people is dangerous, I'll try to change their thinking, if I can.

Sharon Mooney said...

Loftus: My wife has never had a problem telling people that she's an atheist, especially when they want to talk to her about religion, and I'm learning from her.

Sharon: Overall, I think most people (at least in my experience) including many Christians, are becoming more tolerant of diverse belief systems.. even curious about them, -- it may take a few more centuries before society gets to an ideal standard of tolerance, but I feel progress has and is being made. Especially now, with the internet, ideas and spiritual concepts are being voiced and exchanged like never before in history... in itself helps to reshape ideas, we all do influence and affect one another. It's a grand thing, people have the opportunity for exposure to belief systems from the horse' mouth, rather than hearsay. Once it was, that "atheist" was only some strange and foreign concept you'd only hear briefly mentioned in church (I remember myself, hearing a preacher quoting from the Bible about end times, "The day will come when men will deny the existence of God!" I was amazed -- unknown to me, they were already doing it in the 1970's... for centuries in fact, men had grown to deny God -- but it just wasn't commonly discussed, --an atheist?! That was Madalyn Murray O'Hare "shaking her fist at heaven"... and I set there asking myself "HOW can anyone not believe in God?"). Seemed unbelievable then -- but now, with help of the internet and friends I've made in the deconvert community, (aside of my personal experiences) I fully understand.

Josh said...

Sharon . . . what personal experience?
You NEVER knew God, and that's the real issue.

On the Day of Judgement, Jesus will say to you, "Depart from me you worker of iniquity, I NEVER KNEW YOU!"

If you knew God then you couldnt be an athiest or agnostic today. Even the adversary knows of God's existence and character, only he is just an outright rebel.
You have placed yourself in the worst lying position possible!

Sharon Mooney said...

Josh: Sharon . . . what personal experience?
You NEVER knew God, and that's the real issue. On the Day of Judgement, Jesus will say to you, "Depart from me you worker of iniquity, I NEVER KNEW YOU!"


And you are psychic. How can you possibly know what gives between any person and God? Please tell me how you became such a gifted clairvoyant and knowing the mind of the gods. (When you cannot even read the minds of the people you're condemning). Do the gods sit and chat with you over coffee? Seriously, they personally told you so? How did you become such a learned expert on God?

If you knew God then you couldnt be an athiest or agnostic today.

And if you knew how to read, you'd know I've repetitively stated I am neither an atheist or agnostic. This goes to show how well you pay attention.

Even the adversary knows of God's existence and character, only he is just an outright rebel.

So you are a gifted clairvoyant, knowing the minds of the evil gods as well? May be so, but you have ample demonstrated you understand nothing about MY mind.

Sharon Mooney said...

Is this for real?
Battlecry _ Planet of the Apes

"Some of the youths said it was OK that Bush’s lies have killed thousands--because God put Bush in power."

Photos of BattleCry Philadelphia:
page 1 and page 2 (In the above image, a Navy SEAL addresses the crowd. Nothing says ‘God’s love’ like an elite killing machine.)