Last night Joshua McGraw, author of Why I Reject the Faith of My Father invited me last night to join Al Stefanelli of Freethought Blogs, Mande Hubbard, Justin Flannery, and Brandon Jones for a discussion about the nature and value of religion, how and whether atheists should find ways to serve people’s needs and desires traditionally met through religion, and how atheists can avoid obnoxiousness and debate religious believers persuasively. There is also a lot of discussion about coping with the reality of death, which I did not participate in.
The discussion is long, so you may not have time for all of it, but I recommend watching as much as you can as I think there is a lot of value in it. I don’t start talking until the 20:30 mark. If you only have time or interest to skim for my remarks, I’ve noted what they are and briefly summarized their general topics below. If you watch the discussion and find other parts from other discussants you think should get special attention, note the timestamps of those portions of the discussion in the comments section.
From 20:30-25:53 I explain why I am interested in challenging the religious beliefs even of people who accept the separation of church and state and are moral people who don’t impose their religions on others but simply take comfort in it. I make the case for challenging religious beliefs for truth’s sake. I also talk about what I think characterizes religion itself, the possibilities for atheistic religions, and, most importantly, the dangers of religion itself.
From 31:00-37:13 I talk about how to debate with religious believers without being imposing upon people the way Christian evangelicals notoriously do. I engage in a back and forth with Brandon Jones about the appropriateness of lashing out at believers and using insults with them.
From 46:08-47:50 and 51:04-54:23 I participate in an a larger, interesting back and forth about constructive ways to be a confrontational atheist without putting off believers by coming off as an enemy.
From 1:05:53-1:07:56, I talk about why I am so averse to placating religious believers. I find it presumptuous, arrogant, and condescending to try to tell them what I think they can handle rather than what I really think.
But if you have time, again, the whole discussion is worth hearing develop.
I want to thank Josh for inviting me to participate in this lively and thoughtful discussion. It was a really pleasant last minute surprise last night.
Finally, at the beginning of the video Brandon Jones describes his court challenge against sectarian prayers at Hamilton County Government’s Commission Meetings. Here is more about that challenge. Brandon and his friend Tommy are a couple of college students fighting this on their own, without backing from a major organization like the ACLU, and so they need financial help. They are doing a fundraiser and trying to meet a goal of $5,000 by midnight central time tonight. See if you can help them out!
We, Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones are suing the Hamilton County Government to cease sectarian prayer activities that violate the constitution at its Commission Meetings. This is a landmark case that will change an important legal precedent and make it easier to enforce separation of church and state with regard to legislative prayer in future cases. Our attorney recently informed us that we’re going to need to raise about $5,000 just to get us started on upcoming filing fees and assorted court costs. We’re going to need this money regardless of whether we win or lose this case in this federal court circuit because both sides are geared to appeal this thing all of the way up to the supreme court if necessary. We are not very wealthy, in fact both of us are poor college students and we need help funding this endeavor for this reason. We can promise you that any money you donate will be well spent. We will be keeping all funds collected in an escrow account managed by our attorney that is only used for this case. This is an important issue to people of all faiths, including Christianity, because the religion being used isn’t the important factor, it’s the endorsement of religion by our government that is key. Please stand up for the constitution and support us as we continue to fight for a Moment of Silence at our Commission Meetings!
You can keep up with all of the latest news about our lawsuit and press appearances at our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HC4SOCAS