Why I Hope Religious People Read This Site

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses why I hope religious people read this site (and follow me on Twitter):

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Rationalist1

    I too would like believers to post here. The few times they do, they do tend to get pounced on, but it’s mostly civil and that’s good. One of the best responses I ever got from a post I made on a religious site was a compliment, albeit backhanded, when the religious person concluded a discussion saying that (s)he was surprised that for an atheist I was reasonable and civil. It’s a start.

  • Jo Child

    I identify as an atheist but do acknowledge I have some spiritual leanings. One thing I have noticed with US atheists is they seem to be (how do I say this….) almost theistic in grouping together. Which seems odd to me. I understand I do not live in a country where theism is overly apparent (at least, not to me). Though, I do recognise the ‘evil’ done by a few in Australia, ie marriage equality. I also can appreciate that theists (particularly Christians) have a very vocal voice in the US, creationist museum???! That’s ludicrous.
    I also haven’t had any theist doorknockers for a long time and the ones I have had knock on my door are not pushy, so polite that I’m polite in return and they don’t stop for longer than a few minutes.
    All-in-all, theists don’t bother me and I don’t bother them but I also won’t be silent if a controversial subject arises. “Yes, you believe and have faith but that’s your choice and don’t be pushing your belief on others.”

  • $324578

    Jo, I sometimes think American atheists and agnostics behave in the manner you call theistic as a defense mechanism. I think we do it because we need people to know that we’re here. We also want other non-believers to know that there are more people like them and that it’s okay to be skeptical. It may also be a response to incessant attacks from right-wing pundits like Limbaugh, Coulter, and Fox News.

    I’m not sure if this is the best response, but like everyone, non-believers are learning. In my own experience, I’ve had to remind myself that not all Christians accept the same fundamentalism that I was taught in church. We’re getting there, but I do think it’s a blanket stereotype, inaccurate, and a touch lazy to say all atheists are religiously anti-religion.

    (I hope you will forgive me: I say “lazy,” but the word carries a connotation of rudeness that I truly don’t intend. My meaning is that I hope by accepting the widely used argument that atheism has become a religion of its own, you won’t absolve yourself from continuing to examine the topic.)

  • The Starship Maxima

    On another website, I pointed out the irony that as a Christian who opposes homosexuality, supports traditional male-female roles, believes in sex over gender, and holds a host of other conservative views….I find more comraderie with gay activists, leftists, and atheists than I find when I’m in a Church.

    Perhaps this is a new era in which we realize the boxes we tick on a simplistic ideological checklist don’t make us allies. The common goals we pursue and the shared desire for justice make us allies.

  • juanalaboca

    Many theists don’t bother me either, in fact some of my best friends are theists! But in the US we have a long history of religious fundamentalism and revivalism, and along with that go attempts to create a Biblical theocracy. That’s why we’re the birthplace of Intelligent Design; religious science. We are in the middle of one of those periods now, and that tends to push atheists and humanists together, for mutual protection.

  • Rain

    I identify as an atheist but do acknowledge I have some spiritual leanings. One thing I have noticed with US atheists is they seem to be (how do I say this….) almost theistic in grouping together.

    I don’t know why it would be almost theistic. If theists group together then they get to claim “grouping” as their own word for some reason. They can have “religion” because, well, it’s theirs anyway, but they can’t have every word in the dictionary. Theists, we want our dictionary back.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I think a site like this probably attracts two kinds of religious people: the zealots who will never accept reason, but have a missionary complex to defend their views (especially as they are on the decline), and the seekers- religious people who already have doubts, and are just looking for the motivation to give it up.

  • Malcolm McLean

    I post occasionally. But the standard of discussion tends to be quite low. Hemant’s posts themselves are often promising. But atheists need to get beyond recycling the same little factoids, which often turn out to be false, or attacking weak targets like creationists. Here I have some sympathy, because creationism is not a “strawman”, it’s genuinely held by some Christians. But it’s very US-centric, in the UK it’s almost an irrelevance.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Just one more box to uncheck Starship :-)

    (j/k, leave it checked, the world would be boring if we all had the same set of checks)

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    I don’t mean to get all empirical on your ass, but the theists who so far have commented on this here thread–all of them–don’t fit into either of those two categories, unless one also assumes that they are either stunningly unaware or lying about their own motivations and orientations in being here.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    this thread, yes. And I’d hesitate with the “looking for motivation to give it up” label. But the zealots? Josephus Polanconium?

  • The Starship Maxima

    Dayum! Lol.

  • The Starship Maxima

    With a name like Josephus Polanconium who could be surprised?

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    All data samples have limitations. I was reacting specifically against the characterization of the religious readers here belonging only to those two categories when there are ample counterexamples that don’t fit in either category. That is certainly not to say there aren’t zealots or doubters in abundance–there certainly are–but they do not represent anything even remotely like a complete typology of the set, since “sites like this” clearly attract at least a third type, if not more.

  • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

    I imagine the reason you see the same bits said over and over again is because those are the usual rebuttals to the common points that are brought up by those who believe in a certain dogma. After a while it becomes a rehearsed format between groups, even if the individuals at play aren’t the same people in the discussion.

    Most of what I see from atheists are counters to apologetics and creationist dogma. However when it comes to Christianity and now increasingly Muslim religions, we’re seeing people use the same tricks and tips that have been used by theologians, priests, Imams, and so on for centuries – find the contradiction within the text and use it against your opponent. When it comes to the atheist added to the mix, you get to the classic Greek stance when it comes to religious views. Either prove your point within the realm of reality or admit to being incorrect. If there is no evidence to support a claim, then that claim can be disregarded out of hand.

  • xmnr

    Do you know what I’d like to do? Read this site.

    I’m guessing these videos are popular, and I’m in the minority, but I skip them. Why? A couple of reasons. First, I look at blogs at work, and I don’t want to disturb others or take-up resources streaming videos; but mostly because I want to be able to dissect arguments, and that’s much more difficult with videos compared to the written word.

    Again, I realize I may be in the minority, but I’d like to see at least some of the original content of this blog in written form.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    which often turn out to be false

    “Often?” you can back that up with links, and examples- specific to the comments on this blog. just to be clear: “often” suggests regularity, or even a majority, of something. i defy you to back up your claim.

    or you can be yet another believer who makes a blanket statement without any proof, and continue to contribute to the atheist understanding of what believers really are- intellectually lazy cherry pickers who barely skim the factual information atheists and nonbelievers contribute to these discussions because they have no real intention of considering what we have to say, but instead only want to reinforce their own narrow worldview with opinion masquerading as fact.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i enjoy civil, rational discourse from any person who wants to make a claim, point out a fact, propose a theory… diversity keeps the intellect sharp and nimble.

    what i can’t stand are the truly trolly sort. i don’t spend time at very many blogs anymore, and one thing i hate about internet culture these days is people’s tolerance for the most juvenile, hateful, racist/sexist/homophobic garbage that gets spewed on so many sites.

    i used to be a Serious Blogger and at my old place we had a NO tolerance policy for that kind of stuff. make any argument you want, but the minute it becomes a personal or hateful attack that has no relevance to the conversation, we’d ban you. ymmv, but i’d like to see a lot more of that, today.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I skip most of them as well. When Hemant first started, I was transcribing them to fix the Youtube captions, but I don’t have the energy to keep up that endeavor. Youtube doesn’t do it for me as a way to disseminate information that doesn’t have a necessary video component.

  • Rationalist1

    I agree that debating with creationists is hardly worth the bother. There position is so far from reality that there no real hope (IMO) in any sort of even partial agreement. In theother hand I found the discussion Prof Dawkins had with Fr. George Coyne,S.J. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkS1B0huWX4) to be the goal of intelligent, respectful, civil and most importantly productive discussion.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    It was not my intent to suggest that those are the only types of religious people visiting this forum. But from what I’ve seen posted on most topics here, those two constitute the majority of them.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    Lol his name was Joseph Polanco, but he always put random and completely arbitrary Latin quotes on his posts, so that’s why the nickname Rich gave him.

  • A different take

    Hemant, I read your book and follow your site in kind of a “keep your friends close and your enemies closer” sort of a way. Not that I consider you or any atheist to be my enemy, but I am expecting increasing animosity as New Atheists become stronger and more explicit and militant in their calls for the abolishment of religion. So many posts seem sarcastic, divisive, hateful and profane! As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have known all my life (44 years) the Bible foretells the nations will completely devour man-made religion as a judgment from God for their involvement in secular affairs, support for warfare and violence, hypocritical greedy, pompous and immoral conduct, along with suppression of the truth in favor of God-dishonoring unbiblical teachings such as hellfire and the Trinity. You may consider this an unlikely event, but what was not even considered is now being discussed and hoped for in many forums such as this. Such will succeed beyond your wildest dreams! JWs will give a final message and a effort will be made to stomp out these annoying pacifists for good. We are bait though and our rescue will permanently settle the debate over whether God exists. I watch your site as one barometer of how close to that event we are getting. Thank you for strengthening my faith by reporting progress to that foretold outcome. As this is proved true, we are reassured the promises for mankind to fulfill its purpose on earth will also be fulfilled after

  • Neko

    Poe?

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    Nah, that’s pretty bog-standard JW stuff.

  • Neko

    I never get this kind of performance at the door!

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    LOL. They love the soft sell. They kinda have to, because the details are scary.

  • kickinitincrik

    I’m guessing you’re a zealot then.

  • allein (Vombatiformes)

    The videos are blocked at my work and I am rarely inclined to go back to a post later. Even when I’m home, unless it’s not more than a few minutes, I am unlikely to watch a video unless the topic really interests me. Though I can usually get the gist of these videos from reading the comments, and often the conversation is worth reading even if I haven’t seen the video.

  • Drakk

    You are a funny person.

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    I’m not religious.

  • Jo Child

    I mean, meetings and conferences. I’ve never felt the need to be in a group discussing atheism, it’s alien to me

  • Jo Child

    Yeah, I’ve seen that. So much for seperation of church and state :/

  • Jo Child

    I will not accept that atheism is a religion. I guess I’m so used to being on my own, to me atheism means independence but i also recognise that there is an inherent lazy way of being. You cant stop theist voices in govt if you don’t shout out and stop theists getting their way with legislation. About time i found an atheist political group.
    Thank you for helping me see the light :P

  • Drakk

    Do you feel the need, or even simply the desire, to meet with like-minded people to discuss topics of mutual interest?

    If so, why do you think atheism is an exception?

  • Jo Child

    If I meet people and they happen to be atheists, we may discuss it but there isn’t much to say, “I don’t believe in god.”
    “Neither do I.”
    Generally other topics gain attention.
    With most people I meet, religion just doesn’t come up unless an ad etc prompts it.
    It’s only online the subject comes up, regularly.

  • Sandrilene

    I agree.
    I skim the friendly atheist homepage looking for something that’s a blog post rather than a video.

  • Sandrilene

    Well, while you’re here, you can answer a question.
    Why the emphasis on ‘Jehovah’ as the name of God? Isn’t ‘Jehovah’ just a variant of ‘Yahweh’?
    Is God an Englishman?
    I thought all the names we have as a ‘j’ sound in English would actually have begun with a ‘y’ sound in Greek or Hebrew.

  • Drakk

    Really, I enjoy them simply for the discussion. Of people’s backgrounds and deconversion experiences (or lack thereof for the raised-godless), the harm being done by religion and how to counteract it, different people’s motivations and reasons for being atheist, etc, etc. I don’t see how you can meaningfully describe this as “theistic” without also describing every book club and sports team as theistic (although, some sports fans…)

    Perhaps all that is not accurately described as “discussing atheism”. But I would argue strongly that it is the discussion of things very closely related to atheism.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    “….but I am expecting increasing animosity as New Atheists become stronger and more explicit and militant in their calls for the abolishment of religion.”

    Abolishment of religion? I hear few to no atheists calling for that. My goal is that religion declines because people decide for themselves that they don’t need it or want it anymore. I think most atheists I know would agree on that point. I just encourage people to think clearly about what they believe, and to walk away from beliefs that are unsupported and don’t make sense.
    And so many theists call us “militant”. You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means. Militant refers to arming in militias and otherwise advocating violence. We’re noisy and we write books and post on blogs. That’s not in any way “militant”

  • Neko

    But aren’t you zealous for atheism?

  • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Not in the slightest. I don’t even identify with atheism, which is simply a natural consequence of my skepticism.

    What I’m passionate about (I wouldn’t use the term “zealous”, but I won’t make an issue of your using it) is teaching skepticism and critical thinking. What I’m passionate about is showing the harms of religion, and helping people free themselves from it and from faith. What I’m passionate about is showing the beauty of a universe that has no creator. What I’m passionate about is maintaining and advancing the separation of state and church.

    I don’t even have a sense of what it means to be zealous for atheism.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    It’s hard to make an exact comparison, since percentages tend to be quite sensitive to question wording. However, the polling data I turned up suggest that while the levels are slightly lower in the UK, and there may be a higher ratio of old-earth to young-earth types among UK creationists (compared to the US ratio), there’s still around 30% creationists in the UK (compared to circa 45% for the US).

    Which in politics is a minority large enough to be very relevant.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Picture a skeptic who uses atheism as a sibboleth test criterion.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    My suspicion is that the sorts of grouping you see are not so much theistic, as human social impulses even older than religion, which religion has since hijacked and become the most common means of expressing them.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Part of it may be that the atheists’ expressions of religiosity (in the sense of Dale Cannon’s “Six Ways”) are closer to yours than many of your nominal co-religionists.

  • A different take

    That’s the whole point. It doesn’t have to be scary.
    Everyday when I read the newspaper I look forward to the end of man’s inhumanity to man, the greedy commercial and political systems, the ruin of the environment and the senseless warfare.
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/l/r1/lp-e?q=Ps+37%3A10-11
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/l/r1/lp-e?q=Luke+21%3A26-28
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/l/r1/lp-e?q=zep+2%3A2-3
    http://www.jw.org/en/

  • A different take

    Check any dictionary. Jehovah has been the English version of the divine name for hundreds of years since the English language developed. We happen to be writing in English. If we were writing in Hebrew, Latin or other language we would use what is appropriate in the grammar of that language. The important thing is to use his name. It originally appears over 7,000 times in the Bible, but most versions remove it and replaced it with an impersonal “LORD.” Ex 6:3; Ps 83:18; Matt 6:9; Rom 10:13-14
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/l/r1/lp-e?q=mal+3%3A16-18

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    And so the Jews whose book this was before you borrowed it, their whole “perhaps using the Name of God isn’t a swell idea, because it’s always partially in vain” notion, useless?

    And you are aware that Jehovah/Yahweh are both epithets, not names, right? A circumlocution used to avoid saying the thing-that-should-not-be-said.

  • http://127.0.0.1 3lemenope

    The idea that some magical force is going to come and cleanse fix the Earth of all the Bad Stuff is scary in its implications. Primarily because it is used to justify not fixing it yourself.

  • A different take

    If God didn’t want people to use his name, he wouldn’t have to told it to them. Jews used it constantly for a 1,000 years even in a casual way such as Boaz greeting his harvesters with “Jehovah be with you.” Ruth 2:4

    Hebrew names starting with JEH or ending with JAH or IAH include the divine name (eg Elijah means “God is Jehovah.”) It was the overly-legalistic Pharisees whom Jesus condemned as “making the word of God invalid by their traditions” who prohibited it’s usage. God’s purposes have always included all mankind.

    “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:18)

    LORD/Adonai is the circumlocution for YHWH so YHWH cannot be a circumlocution as well.

  • A different take

    Man has already been given plenty of time to show whether they can administer the whole earth in a way beneficial to all. Numerous serious problems are coming together. Climate change alone is already causing devastating storms, droughts, fires, habitat loss, spread of disease from the tropics and melt of the world’s crucial glaciers. Do you really think nations will overcome their greedy, short-sighted actions in time? When God does step in it is likely to be obvious man would have been unable to continue otherwise.


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