How can I promote more emphasis on logical thinking and evidence in an area completely devoid of it?

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Discussion by: pointzero
I live where the Mormon church believes Adam and Eve lived after being ostracized from the Garden of Eden in Genesis. They believe 100% that this is where humanity spawned from, and everything comes back to here. This is a very small rural farming community now (~2,000 people) and I happen to be the one atheist in a 30 mile radius. In fact, I’ve had to keep this secret from everyone for fear of persecution. I want to put a larger emphasis on science, truth, and understanding in this area, mostly because I don’t want similarly minded secularists (if they’re out there) to feel oppressed for holding their views and for a general acceptance of opposing beliefs. I am asking you brilliant people how I should approach this..? Would starting clubs, groups or other activity-like things be effective? Maybe have a speaker visit? (Would be amazing if Mr. Dawkins himself thought it’d be worth a visit) Any ideas would be appreciated. I hope this fits the forum, as I’m new and not quite sure how to approach this. Thanks again!

32 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t wish to sound pessimistic, but you seem to be between a rock and a hard place. You have to do what you think is best, you’ve made it this far with your mind, so you should be able to go further with it.

  2. I agree with the previous poster. You can’t change their minds. I wouldn’t try.
    You don’t say where this community is. You may find there are others who think like you and who also think they are alone.
    I kept my atheism a secret for many years but recently found that three of my best friends are also atheists. Small things came up in conversations and soon snowballed
    Good luck finding new friends.

    • I should give you a measured reply.

      You say you are an atheist , do you openly describe yourself as an atheist in your community? Do the locals know your an atheist? Are you married , do you have kids? Do you need support from your community?

      Can you tell us a bit more?

      In reply to #4 by Pauly01:

      Honestly , Why bother.

  3. If the main link for a community is a shared religious belief then I think you’ll find it hard to create a change. Depending on your ties to this place, you could try to be honest about your thoughts, and if this is not accepted then breaking free could encourage others to do so, or at least think about alternative views. Although like most things that’s easier said then done…

  4. Those people actually believe that where THEY live is the original birthplace of the first human beings, as depicted by a creation myth in an ancient book, who went on to propagate and give rise to the rest of civilization despite having absolutely no supporting evidence and in the face of mountains of contradicting evidence? My advice? You are dealing with some of the most egocentric stupidity that I have ever heard of. Don’t even bother with them. Anyone who could believe that is too far gone. Just do yourself a favor and move.

  5. I was in a similar position in 1970. Everyone believed being gay was very wicked, sufficient excuse for murder. Even gays people did not think they had a right to exist. For most of my life, I thought I was the only gay person in Canada.

    My first project was a 50 page pamphlet A Guide For the Naive Homosexual aimed at gay people. I wanted to convince them they had been lied to and that there was nothing wrong with them and that they should should socialise with fellow gays. That led to a second project, GATE a gay lib group where we did demonstrations and speaking engagements. To my astonishment, we had the first gay rights legislation within 3 years.

    I suggest you do something similar. Set up a website and get weekly gatherings at your home. Let it be known that you will send out speakers. Then do some small demonstrations. You will be a novelty, and hence get disproportionate publicity at first.

    I got about 350 abusive calls and 3 death threats each day. I never sustained any injury, so don’t freak when yours come.

    • Roedy,

      Gay rights is a Social Justice and Human Rights issue. With respect , your not comparing like with like.

      In reply to #8 by Roedy:

      I was in a similar position in 1970. Everyone believed being gay was very wicked, sufficient excuse for murder. Even gays people did not think they had a right to exist. For most of my life, I thought I was the only gay person in Canada.

      My first project was a 50 page pamphlet A Guide For the Nai…

      • In reply to #12 by Pauly01:

        Roedy,

        Gay rights is a Social Justice and Human Rights issue. With respect , your not comparing like with like.

        In reply to #8 by Roedy:

        I was in a similar position in 1970. Everyone believed being gay was very wicked, sufficient excuse for murder. Even gays people did not think they had a right…

        Pauly01, They are personal issues in which both are “underdogs” of society – both are in the minority – both are generally ostracized- both are wanting some sort of acceptance or at least tolerance – both want society to open their minds to understanding their reality. If your looking at the situations in terms of the literal issue, you will not see a connection. If you look at the situation from a personal/emotional well-being aspect, there are definite parallels.

  6. I have religious “nutters” knocking on my door 2 or 3 times a month…. yet I’m still an Atheist… I send them packing before they finish their first sentence, I’m not interested!! You are not the first Atheist to think you need to convert the world to your way of thinking. You can only preach to the converted, Dawkins (who I consider to be too fanatical) sells the majority of his books to Atheists or to people who just aren’t sure. If you are happy being an Atheist why does this need to effect anyone else, why do you need to tell everyone… or in fact anyone? You are obviously aware you live in a “sensitive” community, why cause trouble for yourself and your family who many not feel the same way as you?
    Do you tell everyone about how much money is in your bank account, or what is in your medical records, or what sexually “pushes your buttons”?? No you don’t.
    No one would know I’m an Atheist, I celebrate Xmas (I consider it family time), I get and give Easter eggs at Easter… I say “Oh my god”, when something surprises me… and I’ve been to numerous church weddings and christenings, none of these things makes me a Christian, in fact none of those things makes anyone a Christian…. it’s what you believe that count
    If you want to talk Atheism come to sites like this… it’s full of Atheists… who are all too please to waste their time and yours discussing the un-provable

  7. I think it’s a great idea to start a group or club of like minded people. In your case it sounds like there might not be enough like minded individuals to form a group. I suppose if you’re truly committed, you could put up some flyers and send out e-mails etc… outlining your idea. Leave your e-mail address and phone number, then see what happens. Hopefully you’ll get at least a few hits, and maybe someone will volunteer to help you organize your meetings.

    Of course the phone may never ring, or when it does you get an ear full from some religious nut screaming at you in hatred or trying to convince you that Joseph Smith really did talk to angels.

    Sounds like some of the others here think you should give up on a hopeless situation, and they’re probably right.

    It seems to me that Joseph Smith himself once started a little group, and look how that took off.

    Spread the word piontzero. Spread the word.

  8. If you want to connect with people, don’t try to tackle the religious aspects of it – people are really emotionally invested in that.

    You can talk about something interesting that’s going on in the scientific world, something non-threatening. Or talk about an issue you can agree on, but discuss it in a critical way. I’m trying to think of an example, perhaps something along the lines of “Why belief in alien abductions is silly”, but thinking back to my own past, I know a lot of people who believed that alien experiences were really experiences with demons, so I don’t know.

  9. Hmmm… how about a book club? You could spin it as a science-y book club, maybe, and see who signs up, and then gradually introduce certain forthright books by certain well-known atheist types.

  10. I sympathise with your situation, pointzero. I sometimes feel like the only one in the mall who can see the sailboat in the “magic eye” poster. It’s frustrating.

    It seems, though, that our fellow posters have hit on something important: there are two problems at work in your circumstances. One being that you feel ostracised from the community that raised you; and the second being that you are frustrated, because that situation arises only out of the dogmatic superstitions of a community not willing to see the truth, or tolerate an honest person speaking it.

    When I first “came out” as an atheist, I was very angry at the way I had been manipulated throughout my life by the catholic church. I felt the need to speak out against the institution, and call attention to its injustices and lies. To this day, I’m sure there’s venom in my speech when I talk about my christian upbringing. Unfortunately, as others have attested to: no one listened. Even when I filled their religious “boat” with holes, theists would cling to it as it sank.

    I may be wrong, but I feel that my error was in my methodology. Presenting a counter-argument to a religious person is precisely what the religious are trained to counter-act. There’s a reason they call contrarians “the devil’s advocate.”

    My new method in my attempts to spread reason is still a work in progress, but I’m inclined to share it with you. I hope it will help.

    I volunteer for everything for which I can make time. Everything. Breast cancer awareness, food drives, community cleanup, scholarship fund raisers, animal rescue . . . everything. I try to be a shining example of human decency. I feel really good doing the work for those whom I can help, but specifically, these actions put me side-by-side with the social leaders of religious society.

    Here’s the important bit: I don’t preach reason in those situations. I just work hard, and wait for the inevitable “God bless you,” or “You’re doing the Lord’s work.” Then, I politely respond with a kindly dismissal: I don’t believe in that stuff. That’s it. That has been all it takes to spurn legitimate discussions about faith and science.

    I think that it’s too easy for the devout to dismiss your words. They immediately shield themselves from your influence. However, if you work with someone all day on a common good, they’re unable to discard you into their “heresy bin.” Your actions have spoken too loudly to ignore. In addition, they have to come to terms with the fact that you’re not working for a “get out of hell free” card. You are acting selflessly, not in the interest of securing your piece of “sky cake.” Explaining that I can experience all of the fulfilment of “religious” kindness and service, without the shame and guilt imposed onto it by religion, leads people to see the freedom I have earned in my choice to seek truth. As long as you are non-confrontational and respectful, you should see results.

    There will be organisations that will ask you to leave. Don’t fight it, but don’t forget it either. Share that fact with other people. Let public opinion do the rest.

    As I said, this may not appeal to, or work for everyone. It has helped me direct my anger toward religion into a positive vector. I feel like my actions are helping people in the work I do, as well as helping to take away the perceived exclusivity that religion has on charity. I also feel as though I’m helping to teach the religious that atheism is a noble standpoint from which to live. Even if they never discard their superstition, they have proof that not all atheists are chat room trolls, coming to steal their faith. Unfortunately, I’m also certain that there’s some hypocrisy in my method, as some charities seem to do more harm than good. The selection process is daunting. It’s a work in progress. Suggestions appreciated.

    I hope I’ve helped. I wish you success.

  11. To see how it goes, don’t say you are an atheist. Say you’ve lost faith. Believers do that all the time (I wonder why…). And when they come to talk you back into faith, deconvert them! I’m with SaganTheCat on this one: make them read the Bible. It’s unbelievable. Ask smart questions from the God Delusion or other books. Who created the creator? Can an explanation of complexity be satisfying if it postulates more complexity than it explains? Can all religions simultaneously be true? Why did they choose their religion? How do they know things are true? If they believe in paradise, why aren’t they happy to learn they have cancer? (Congratulation, by the way. Say hello to grand-dad). What kind of testable predictions can religion make? Why are kids who can’t yet decide if they are republican or democrat told to be Christian or Buddhist? Ask them to reconvert you. Have fun.

    Good thing is that, if it goes wrong, you can always pretend to find faith again, and have another faith crisis a few months later, if needed.

    • I was raised a catholic before becoming a non believer. So I have an idea what approach will be taken

      Who created the creator?

      God always is, was and ever will be. God is basically infinite. Look to the bible you will see many quotes.

      Can an explanation of complexity be satisfying if it postulates more complexity than it explains?

      They will probably point to an infinite regress in scientific language as well. In which case you could argue that a universe came from nothing. Note, they’ll probably laugh at you.

      Can all religions simultaneously be true?

      No , they probably will justify it internaly that this is their means to God.

      Why did they choose their religion?

      Because my parents were of this faith.

      How do they know things are true?

      I see and feel god’s presence in my life.

      If they believe in paradise, why aren’t they happy to learn they have cancer?

      I want to live.

      What kind of testable predictions can religion make?

      What business is it of yours. F*ck off

      Why are kids who can’t yet decide if they are republican or democrat told to be Christian or Buddhist?

      Because there my kids.

      In reply to #19 by Ornicar:

      To see how it goes, don’t say you are an atheist. Say you’ve lost faith. Believers do that all the time (I wonder why…). And when they come to talk you back into faith, deconvert them! I’m with SaganTheCat on this one: make them read the Bible. It’s unbelievable. Ask smart questions from the God D…

  12. I don’t often reply twice to a post….

    Your own words: “I’ve had to keep this secret from everyone for fear of persecution.”

    Who will be effected by you “raising awareness” ( poking these people in the eye with a sharp stick).

    You will be viewed as a cancer in your own community.

  13. I disagree with those who seem to be simply advising inaction, not least because that does not appear to be what you want to do and, frankly, the logic of inaction is not very strong. For example, it is false to claim that RD et al are only preaching to the converted – RD himself had a faith and the vast majority of people here seem to have come from faith ie very few were raised atheist.

    Indeed, the position that people’s views cannot be changed seems to play totally into the line of most religions – that of children being born Catholics / Jews / Muslims etc and so ‘naturally’ holding those beliefs. If atheism is only for those who were ‘born atheist’ then RDF etc should give up now on its main aims. If it really is is a waste of time trying to ‘preach to the unconverted’ – to try to change believer’s minds on religion – then essentially the whole RDF project and these forums are simply a closed and essentially self indulgent closed circle of like minded people, supporting each other in our views, while we are besieged by the unstoppable forces of religion. But in fact, this site alone is replete with accounts from those who have escaped faith by various routes, some through books, or the internet, also through personal experiences within their communities. So potentially you could be one of those local people helping to help others out of the fog. Obviously, action would not have to mean publicly preaching atheism, or button holing people and bending their ears back on Darwin etc. As others suggest, voluntary work, informal groups, the net, are all entirely legitimate routes.

    But I admit I come from the urban UK, which I guess is far more open and tolerant than your community – and that further isolation, even hostility and rejection may result. Would you be ready for that, or would, for now at least, anonymous actions such as posting here be a more logical next step? But it sounds like you will make some steps, and I wish you the very best.

    Steve

    • In reply to #22 by steve_hopker:

      I disagree with those who seem to be simply advising inaction, not least because that does not appear to be what you want to do and, frankly, the logic of inaction is not very strong. For example, it is false to claim that RD et al are only preaching to the converted – RD himself had a faith and the…

      I personally agree that inaction is not a viable solution. True, there are a lot of obstacles and problems with campaigning and spreading information for the purpose of counteracting misconceptions and prejudices, but there are even more of each in doing nothing about it. The spiral of silence is just the most obvious.

  14. There may well be some like minded people within the community who feel similarly to you! You’ll never know if you don’t try. I reckon those so firmly set in their ways will probably not like it and get defensive, but if they do then ask them to debate properly with you. If they have enough belief in their religion then an opportunity to discuss it shouldn’t be seen as a threat, say that to them if they don’t react well. Guess I don’t know the best way to really go about it… just try informal discussions with people you know, if you find like minded people then maybe you can tackle it together? Good luck :-)

  15. Watch this brilliant video:
    Street Epistemology / Dr Peter Boghossian / A Manual For Creating Atheists

    Dr Boghossian has it down to an art form. You need to be very careful when confronting religious beliefs. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, i.e. how we claim to know what we know. Epistemology is the ground you want to fight on. You don’t want to fight directly people’s beliefs, but how they arrive at those beliefs. Epistemology is your target area. Also, each individual is at different stages of readiness for change and you need to meet them where they are, and nudge them one step along the process of change, rather than trying to radically change them in one step.

  16. Perhaps buy a few copies of ‘The God Delusion’ and ‘God is not Great’ (Hitchens), and scatter them about town.

    Edit: Flippant as the remark might sound, I plan to put a crate of said books with a sign “Free Books” somewhere soon.

  17. According to this youtube http://youtu.be/EP3GJeYIN3s production the Mormon church is struggling with its members exhibiting some logical thinking. The church has set up apologist websites (F.A.I.R)to deal with the problems of members asking questions about the science, history and social issues with the church doctrine. You may find that you have some alliances in the town/city you live in if you are a bit visible about your beliefs or look at ex mormon sites.

  18. God is a Scientist and Atheist.
    Why?
    Because the God can create and govern the Universe
    only using physical laws, formulas, equations.
    Here is the scheme of His plan.
    =.
    God : Ten Scientific Commandments.
    1. Vacuum: T=0K, E= , p= 0, t= .
    2. Particles:
    C/D=pi=3,14, R/N=k, E/M=c^2, h=0, c=0, i^2=-1, e^i(pi)= -1.
    3. Photon: h=1, c=1, h=E/t, h=kb.
    … 4. Electron: h=h/2pi, E=hf , e^2=ach* .
    5. Gravity, Star formation: h*f = kTlogW : He II — > He I — > H — > . . .
    6. Proton: (p).
    7. The evolution of interaction between Photon/Electron and Proton:
    a) electromagnetic,
    b) nuclear,
    c) biological.
    8. The Physical Laws:
    a) Law of Conservation and Transformation Energy / Mass,
    b) Pauli Exclusion Law,
    c) Heisenberg Uncertainty Law.
    9. Brain: Dualism of Consciousness.
    10. Practice: Parapsychology. Meditation.
    ===.
    Best wishes.
    Israel Sadovnik Socratus
    ===..
    #
    I want to know how God created this world
    I am not interested in this or that phenomenon,
    in the spectrum of this or that element
    I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details
    / Einstein /
    ==========.

  19. God is a Scientist and Atheist.
    Why?
    Because the God can create and govern the Universe
    only using physical laws, formulas, equations.
    Here is the scheme of His plan.
    =.
    God : Ten Scientific Commandments.
    1. Vacuum: T=0K, E= , p= 0, t= .
    2. Particles:
    C/D=pi=3,14, R/N=k, E/M=c^2, h=0, c=0, i^2=-1, e^i(pi)= -1.
    3. Photon: h=1, c=1, h=E/t, h=kb.
    … 4. Electron: h=h/2pi, E=hf , e^2=ach* .
    5. Gravity, Star formation: h*f = kTlogW : He II — > He I — > H — > . . .
    6. Proton: (p).
    7. The evolution of interaction between Photon/Electron and Proton:
    a) electromagnetic,
    b) nuclear,
    c) biological.
    8. The Physical Laws:
    a) Law of Conservation and Transformation Energy / Mass,
    b) Pauli Exclusion Law,
    c) Heisenberg Uncertainty Law.
    9. Brain: Dualism of Consciousness.
    10. Practice: Parapsychology. Meditation.
    ===.
    Best wishes.
    Israel Sadovnik Socratus
    ===..
    #
    I want to know how God created this world
    I am not interested in this or that phenomenon,
    in the spectrum of this or that element
    I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details
    / Einstein /
    ==========.

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