June open thread: deconversion tactics and a blog intro page

Sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately. I’ve gotten quite busy with other things, but I plan on forcing myself to blog more next week. Until then, here’s your June open thread. A couple topics I’d especially like to see people discuss:

  1. What tactics work best when you’re trying to deconvert someone? Arguments are important, but not all arguments are created equal, and the rational force an argument ought to have doesn’t correlate perfectly with its psychological force. A good example of the kind of thing I’d like to see here: getting people to actually read the Bible.
  2. I’m thinking of creating an intro page to this blog that would collect posts like my recent post on the definition of naturalism. The goal would not be to give visitors a full introduction to atheism, but give them the basic vocabulary and so on they need to understand a random post on this blog. If I did create such a page, what else would belong on it?
  • Pofarmer

    Here’s the deal. I’ve recently deconverted. My wife is a fundy Catholic to the point of it almost being obsessive compulsive. Most of her family on her side is also this way. They question nothing about the church. In fact, her attitude is what drove my conversion. So, surely there is someone out there experiencing something similar? What is the best I can expect here? I am going to ask her to watch “Accidental Atheist” on youtube today while I am gone with the older boys. We have 3 boys and they are “figuring it out” with minimal help from Dad. But, this thing is gonna get tense. I love my wife, but I can’t take the Catholic Church interfering with every aspect of my life any more.

    • MNb

      This sounds like a cause of divorce. My female counterpart is also religious – a muslima – but she accepts that her mosque doesn’t interfere with my life. This means for instance that I join her visiting the mosque when it suits me, which is only at Id-ul-Fitr.

      • Pofarmer

        The whole divorce thing is what seriously needs to be avoided. Unfortunately, I feel a need to be honest with myself and my family about what I believe. I wish I’d known how absolutely nuts some Catholics can be before we got married. But, it’s too late now.

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

          If you don’t mind my asking: why can’t you get divorced? Why is it too late now?

          • Pofarmer

            I absolutely unequivocally do not want to. For one thing, there are 3 kids involved, and I don’t want her to have free reign to further brainwash them. For another thing, I love her, and she really is a great woman, she has just become overly religious.

          • JohnH2

            Seriously? “brainwash”, “absolutely nuts”, “too late now”, “obsessive compulsive”, “interfering”, absolutely none of those are healthy attitudes in marriage, pretty much ever. At the very least you need marriage counselling, irregardless of actual religious tension.

            Given that you are talking about your wife as Catholic I am having a very hard time with seeing how that would interfere with every aspect of your life, maybe I have never met the right kind of Catholic, but I have known a very large number. I don’t think that even the most practising of Catholics have practices which should interfere with your life; You really need to see a marriage counsellor in order to work things out.

            If your wife is as Catholic as you say then she will likely not initiate a divorce. However, if you are expressing your true opinions about your wife here then your marriage is already in trouble and needs drastic help and quite a lot of effort (on your part probably as much as hers).

        • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

          P.S. Your initial response didn’t make me think “you need a divorce,” but your response to MNb DID. If your reason for not getting divorced was, “I love my wife and, okay, maybe I made it sound worse than it really is in my initial comment,” maybe I’d say you shouldn’t get divorced.

          But if your main reason for not getting divorced is, “it’s too late now,” that makes it sound like you really need to get divorced.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I can’t say that I’ve ever tried to deconvert anyone. The God I don’t believe in does not grant me bonus points towards the salvation I don’t believe in for saving souls I don’t believe in.
    I will counter bad arguments when I hear them.

  • Zak

    I have played a part in deconverting a dozen or so people, but I never went into any situation with that goal in mind. I believe in every single case, the person just wanted to talk (or sometimes argue/debate) about religion, and I just explain my views and the reasons for them. I try very hard not to let things get tense, and I always explain why I think they are wrong (which is often annoying).

    Then some time later, the person comes back, saying that they changed my mind. It wasn’t totally because of me, but I apparently have been the catalyst which causes the people to then really rethink their views. Here is a somewhat recent example of this happening: http://i.imgur.com/NT6xuXU.jpg

    Recently, I had quite long, serious discussions with two female friends (separately) about religion. I thought the discussions were very interesting, and didn’t think much else of them. Later, they both told me that they had never been so shaken in their beliefs before, and one said she went home and cried. With those cases, I actually felt bad. They are good friends, and I really don’t have any desire to mess with someone’s worldview. But it was sort of fun to learn that even though they seemed to unfazed by my opinions in person, that I did apparently make them really think.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

      Cool, thanks for sharing this.

  • MNb

    The tactic that works best imo is not trying to deconvert at all. It doesn’t really interest me to deconvert people. I’m not sure if it has any benefit and if it has if it is worth the effort. What’s more I suspect that the urge to deconvert is the mirror version of the christian duty to spread the Good Word. As such it deserves the highest skepticism.

    There is something more important: to make people accept the scientific method. Given the 40%+ creationists in the USA this is an urgent task. If this leads to atheism (and a former pupil of mine recently has deconverted, even if it never was my intention and I don’t know which role I played), fine. If not, fine too.

  • Slow Learner

    Ask questions; keep asking questions, until you get to one they can’t answer, either without contradicting something else, or at all.

    When you reach that point, withdraw and give them time to research the issue, or consider which of the contradictory items must be false.

    You’re asking questions, so you can guide the discussion to some extent, but your interlocutor can set the pace.

    This presumes, obviously, that you’re dealing with someone you have a personal connection with, one-on-one.

    If it’s someone getting up in your face about their beliefs, like Mormons coming to the door (I got actual real live USian Mormons at my front door in Britain! Never expected that…) I will actively seek out, and highlight, contradictions and moral failings in their doctrine, and possibly contrast with my own views, but by coming to me they’ve asked for it.

    • JohnH2

      “(I got actual real live USian Mormons at my front door in Britain! Never expected that…)”

      Really? Britain was one of the very first places that the church sent missionaries and has been doing so ever since such that their are wards in Britain that are older than the oldest in Utah.

      • Slow Learner

        Yes, but I only get Jehovah’s Witnesses every few years, and there are a lot more of them in this country than Mormons, at least going by presence of Kingdom Halls vis-a-vis LDS Temples. I knew a couple of Witnesses in school, I’d never met a Mormon.

        Besides which I would have expected a weird cultish American religion (as Mormonism is generally seen) to make more effort to seem normal by sending around locals to seek converts rather than Utahns.

        • JohnH2

          ~50% of any countries missionary force is local, and that is only when there are sufficient numbers of youth going on missions from that country. The USA numerically outputs the most number of missionaries. Even in countries where 50% is local that doesn’t mean that every companionship will be half local, half foreign (which doesn’t always mean USA), there may still be all foreign companionships and all local ones.

          Temples are totally not the thing to be looking at in regards to LDS: There are under 200 temples worldwide; meetinghouses are the equivalent to Kingdom Halls and there are quite a lot of those.

          • Slow Learner

            Interesting point re: missions – I didn’t know that.

            Also thanks for the vocab upgrade – I am sure I’ve seen the odd Meetinghouse here and there, but the word Temple was just stuck in my brain.

  • MNb

    @Pofarmer: “divorce needs to be avoided”
    Yes, I understand – problem is that I’m not sure if it can be avoided given the facts you present. That’s why I wrote cause and not reason. From my own experience a divorce is something I can’t recommend anyway, even now I’m on good terms with my ex and her second husband again.
    As you clearly don’t want to betray your (atheist) identity – and you shouldn’t – it all depends on your wife. She must accept that you don’t believe and that you reject the impact the church has on your life. Then it might be possible to find a compromise.
    I actually stimulate the religious activities of my female counterpart and are even proud that she has been a member of the board of the local mosque for several years. She wants to retire, but certainly not because of me. She also appreciates the advantages of my secular worldview, especially equal rights. We hardly ever debate; it helps that she is not interested at all in the theological and philosophical aspects. Her comment on my hobby to debate believers is brilliant: “so it’s all about having an answer to any comment”.
    As for my son – my ex-wife is also religous – he went three years to a catholic school, three years to a muslim one, has always known that I’m an atheist and has decided at his thirteenth to become an atheist as well. Only then he began to question me.
    The main problem is: is your wife willing to compromise? Will she allow you to be honest, especially towards your children?
    One important advise though. As proselytizing is such a widespread christian hobby it’s quite likely you will tend to try to deconvert. Don’t do that. Say honestly that you don’t believe, explain in a few words why and then shut up. Just shrug. See my comment towards CH. In your family you only will make enemies if you enter debates. You can even say that you’re not sure about god, ie present yourself as an agnost – from a philosophical that’s probably true and from a scientific point of view certainly.
    You can satisfy your desire to spread you newly find good atheist news on internet more than enough.
    As for the catholic nuttery – find comfort in the thought that atheist nuttery is none the better. Quite a few European atheists fell in awe for Stalin. Or check some admirers of Ayn Rand.

    • Pofarmer

      Thanks. We have done some marriage counseling, and that has helped. I suppose my problem is that I would like her to at least understand where I’m coming from, especially since her attitudes initially drove this whole journey. I started out searching for the “Truth” behind Catholicism, and wound up a little deeper in the weeds than I’d intended.

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