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What do you think about debating with theists? In your discussions and debates with theists, do you try to convince them their god does not exist? Do you ever try to help people leave religion/faith behind? What do you think about atheists who (for lack of a better word) “evangelize” others?

Should atheists try to convince others to stop believing in a god/following a religion?

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24 thoughts on “Poll: Should Atheists “Evangelize?””

Monkfishy · April 8, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I’m all for sharing my personal reasons for not believing, including the facts of religious history and what’s actually in the bible. On the other hand, I don’t think bashing someone else’s beliefs has ever changed their mind. I think it works much better to ask them questions about what they believe, and what they know about their religion. You have to get them thinking. “Evangelizing” only makes them defensive and shut-off to all critical thought.

Andrew Hall · April 8, 2011 at 6:34 pm

Atheists can’t rely on the Supreme Court as an arena where we can win all the important battles. Only by making more atheists will this country break free of the Religious Right as a serious political force.

greateighthsin · April 8, 2011 at 6:40 pm

My philosophy, if they aren’t out to push their social agendas onto others, or are pushy with proselytizing, I say have at it. I will debate them still since the only way that we’re ever going to prove/disprove a God’s existence is by testing theories and questioning. Patting each other on the back and saying, “you’re right” followed by, “you’re right, too” never gets anyone anywhere. Just inflates egos and instills the wrong ideas.

Anna N. · April 8, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Yes but with caveats.
a) I won’t run around to tell people they should all be Atheists (and I won’t knock on doors. “Hey, I am here to talk to you about godlessness”)
b) if someone else starts to talk about religion, I am not holding my opinion back.
c) everyone can believe whatever they want. I don’t care. unless see b)
But yes, I am happy to share why I think there is no god. and no, we don’t have to hide. or be particular considerate because they call it god instead of mental disorder.;)

ZachsMind · April 8, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Evangelizing insinuates a gospel is at hand. Atheism isn’t a gospel. There are ppl who want to turn it into a religion but it’s not. It’s a response to belief, but it’s not a belief in and of itself. It’s not something that has any dogma that can be evangelized. So maybe the question here is not should atheists evangelize but should they try to change ppl’s minds? Should atheists persuade Believers to look at the world as it is and not as others have told them it should be?

I don’t try and convert Believers. However, I do point out quite blatantly the futility & absurdity of faith in unproven claims. I do this partly because I enjoy the debate itself, partly to challenge my own current opinions on the matter, and also because it’s fun watching different reactions and ..well it’s just fun. I do it when it’s fun. I stop doing it whenever it stops being fun. However, so far I haven’t noticed myself seriously trying to change people. If someone wants to continue being ignorant when presented with facts, not much I can do about that. When it stops being funny and starts feeling like I’m kicking a dead horse, I move on.

I used to be a Believer so I know what it’s like to believe. It wasn’t anyone shouting at me that changed my mind. I came to it gradually and abruptly and it was due to my own observations about how life & the universe works, not on any debate with an atheist. I wasn’t convinced by mere words from some stranger. I don’t expect anyone else to react that way.

I’m not for actively evangelizing atheism. I question whether that’s even possible, technically. However, I am all for all atheists and well anybody really standing up for what they think or feel is right. It is when opinions and ideas are challenged that we find out how reliable and, for the lack of a better word, “true” they are.

Chris McLaughlin · April 8, 2011 at 7:28 pm

When theists evangelize they are lying (or just not telling the truth, if you prefer). When atheists “evangelize” they are just telling the truth. There’s nothing wrong with trying to convince people of the truth.

Eukaryote · April 8, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Here in Ireland, it’s census week and my normal habit of rarely bothering has taken a bit of a turn, as I hassle people to tick the ‘no religion’ box rather than the habitual choice of ‘catholic’ or ‘jedi’ (the latter is in the ‘other, please specify’ category, obviously).

Thing is, most people to whom I’ve said this were already aware of the implications of this question, and were already intending to be part of the ‘no religion’ contingent.

I’m optimistic that this’ll be real headline stuff once the results are released.

Niveker14 · April 8, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I don’t think atheists should actively try to “evangelize” and deconvert people, but even more so I don’t think atheists should hide their opinions and beliefs. If religion isn’t brought up I won’t even mention it, but if it is brought up, or if someone asks me, I will tell them exactly what I think.

Like ZachsMind I wasn’t deconverted from my belief by having someone confront me, it was a process that spanned a few years and involved a lot of introspection on why I believe the things I believe and looking at the facts of the world. It also involved hearing other peoples opinions and realizing that 1) atheists even existed, and 2) they were generally good, rational people with some sound ideas on the universe.

So in my opinion, you shouldn’t evangelize in the sense that the religious evangelize, but just be open and honest about your beliefs, ask lots of questions and be prepared to be asked lots of questions, and just generally lead by example. By doing this, if your reason behind your beliefs is sound, people will be deconverted in the long run.

(But that’s just my 2 cents. I could be completely wrong)

Michael LaRocca · April 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I did when I was young, but it never works, so I quit. Anyone who reads any of my novels will, I hope, come away aware that I’m very much an atheist, and why, but that’s about it.

Ron · April 8, 2011 at 9:59 pm

No, others must find there own way as I have done. Jonathan Swift said that you cannot reason someone out of something that he has not been reasoned into. I’m inclined to agree. Most people do not possess the strength to accept their own insignificance and depend upon the opiate that religion provides.

Jenny · April 8, 2011 at 10:50 pm

If I’m asked about my beliefs, I am more than happy to explain them. I’ll even mention the fact that I’m an atheist in order to frame the context of some of my arguments. But I don’t actively try to get theists to see the error in their beliefs. I figure the best I can do is be a good example of how atheists are (that is, not amoral) and answer questions of those who are truly interested in my beliefs.

In other words, I’ll engage in information seeking and providing, but I won’t engage in debate. There’s no point.

Riz S · April 9, 2011 at 12:57 am

I believe in atheist “evangelism”.

It took me a long few years to finally come away from religion entirely.. but it wouldn’t have happened without my godless friends who helped me make the final step. They helped me make it, and I help other people make it. Whether it’s the first step, some step in between, or the last one, I’d be happy to be a part of any of it.

But what is paramount for me even above that? Is just not condoning bullshit. I wouldn’t do it in any other facet of life, and I damn well won’t do it with regard to religion just because some people think we need to prance around it daintily.

Fuck no. You tell me you believe in god, I’ll tell you there is no god.

We’ll take it from there. šŸ˜‰

someguy · April 9, 2011 at 1:20 am

With freedom of speech comes the chance to preach.

And if you don’t preach right back, you’ll be living under the preachers’ laws.

That’s what sucks about democracy: people have to participate in their government and society whether they like to or not, cause if you don’t someone else will.

Mox · April 9, 2011 at 8:28 am

I’m an old school Atheist, being that I don’t actively participate in that facet of human society. I’ve “opted out” of religion. Today’s “Atheists” seem to be closer to the traditional idea of Antitheism, or the strict opposition of deity worship.

It comes down to your beliefs. If you BELIEVE there is no supreme being, then you might want to preach about that. But not all Atheists are anti-god. Some of us just want to grow past caring either way.

So I voted No. Because I personally feel nobody needs to scream at each other about something neither side can prove.

Ash Bowie · April 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm

What I truly think more people should evangelize is the mindset behind rational atheism: critical thinking, skepticism, appreciation for the natural world, an understanding of science, and basic humanist ethics. In many cases that will inevitably lead a person to atheism (as it did me), but even if it doesn’t, who cares at that point?

Tom · April 10, 2011 at 4:18 am

I’m not sure why one would want to. Aside from the issue of it being (usually) counterproductive, there is a wider existential issue. Fundamentally, why is it important that people believe the same things as us? I can understand why for religious believers it would be important. If there is a God, source of all being etc who appears to want people to believe in him, fine. There is a logical rationale for evangelism. As believers in the absence of God, we do not have that. Consequently, why does it matter if other people share our views or not? Surely we should be trying to live and let live, not copying the behaviour of believers whilst being diametrically opposed to the foundation stone of their faith…

Christian Poppycock · April 10, 2011 at 10:09 am

Until the major religious organizations come out with policy statements blasting bias against women, gays, nonbelievers, etc… I will confront them every chance I get.

Until they speak out against religious involvement in politics… I will confront them every chance I get.

Until their main mission becomes about easing the suffering in the world instead of growing the ranks of believers… I will confront them every chance I get.

P. Jorge · April 11, 2011 at 5:03 am

Yes we should, simply because religions are not harmless.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Unreligionizer/140307836037980

Green · April 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I used to think debates were a good idea but they often turn into a sideshow and the fact that you’re debating at all makes it look like you’re giving equal weight to the religious argument.

I believe that proper education is the evangelism of the atheist. Of course when one is pushed, like in the realm of separation of church and state, one must push back.

There’s also nothing wrong with atheists standing up, saying to the world we’re here, there’s a lot more of us than you think and explaining what we believe in attempt to clear up stereotypes of baby-eating. Nor is their anything wrong with confronting those with beliefs, such as the anti-gay hysteria, that are so obviously wrong.

brandon · April 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I’m guessing that most of the people visiting this website are atheists, such as myself. I think it is highly unlikely that the numbers in this poll represent the population at large.

Matt Oxley · April 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I wrote about this same thing not long ago – I personally feel like there is a moral obligation for the informed, intelligent, people of the world to do what they can to bring that information to light. Let’s face it, religion has more negative effects on society than positive, so as our numbers increase those effects should slowly wind down – Gay Marriage, abortion rights, and the TEA party are directly impacted by religious fundamentalists irrational philosophies.

Jason Kincade · May 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I am an atheist but the only time I declare it in a social situation is when I am asked point blank about my ‘beliefs.’ I don’t push atheism on anyone and I don’t like it when anyone attempts to ‘pitch’ theism to me (an all to common occurrence!).

Tom O. · May 8, 2011 at 2:23 am

I will talk to others about it, but not if they don’t want to discuss it.

Alex · March 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Love that picky argument choice :p

So, onto the meat of it. Living in an area with a lot of reasonable theists (Yay Canada! :p ) it is not necessary for me to disprove anyone’s myth, because their belief has very little ‘real’ impact on their lives. They’re not praying instead of taking medicine, they’re not aggressively proselytizing to others, they’re not pushing their views on others, and quite frankly, politics in Canada is boring and few people vote. So there is very little religious pressure (that I can detect, I may be wrong)

I do understand the necessity in the States, as in some cases it may be a life or death situation, and/or a person’s dearly held belief are causing actual harm to the individual or to society.

All in all, it’s not my place to teach people what to think. I much prefer to understand why they think, and how, telling them the same about me, and getting them thinking. If they are comfortable in their faith who am I to go and try to destroy that? If they are not, making them feel insulted and insecure in their faith is not a good way to make them reason. Simply make them think for themselves, and see what happens.

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