Are you frustrated that most believers stare back at you with that blank caught-in-the-headlights look as you ask them to think about their faith? Is it maddening to you? Are you scratching your hair out and looking balder by the day? Then here's a solution for you. It's not for everyone. Atheists who are not so frustrated and encouraged that they're making a difference should keep on doing what they're doing. But others might consider taking the following advice. Treat believers as if they are six years old. Al Blazo, a friend of mine, suggested doing something brilliant with this in an email. It's also hilarious:
I was having a candid conversation with me wife today about the frustration that I often feel when engaging in almost any conversation w/ a couple of people that I am either forced or feel obligated to interact with on a regular basis. This conversation commenced about an hour or so before I was scheduled to interact with one of them.
My wife's recommendation was to simply remain silent and ignore everything they proffered. "Don't ask them anything. Don't ask them to explain or elaborate on anything that they voluntarily offer. Don't critique anything that they say. Just remain silent, say 'ah ha,' 'oh, yea, I see,' 'yea, isn't that interesting' etc. and shake your head in silent agreement." she said. In other words, just STFU! To which I replied, "Yea, but what you're really asking me to do is to interact with them as if they were a six year-old." To which she replied, "Precisely!" And then she went on to ask if I would seriously ask a six year-old to offer a clearer explanation of exactly where Santa and his elves live and work. (She then said something about using the George Castanza approach, referencing, of course, to the time George wrote down the sex moves guaranteed to drive women wild on his palm and then reviewed each step of the move as he performed the action. But I digress).
I did admit that heeding her advice was indeed something that I should spend a little more time and effort on cultivating but that it was very hard for me to do, primarily because the people that I'm referring to were adults in every meaningful sense of the term, not children. "Yea," she said, "they look like adults but looks in these particular cases are very deceiving." It's impossible to resist this logic.
So, how might I do a little more "cultivating," I wondered. What can I possibly do to remind myself that I must - at all costs - resist interacting with people on a thoroughly adult, rational and logical level - one that demands a degree of critical thinking uncommon for a six year-old - and instead just smile, shake my head as if I were in agreement with them while muttering soothing sounds of acceptance and approval?
That's when I came up with this brilliant idea: each and every time the person in front of me offered something headbangingly stupid that normally would have driven me over the edge, I simply looked down, listened, opened my hand and stared directly into my palm.
You know what? It worked! Instead of feeling frustrated and aggravated when they offered something too stupid to comprehend (which is most of the time) I was silently laughing the entire afternoon!