I’ve got another guest post up at Daylight Atheism today about when, if ever, it’s worth it for atheists to take a mocking, contemptuous tone when trying to deconvert Christians. This essay was sparked by the many dissents to my last post at Daylight Atheism urging people to tone down the contempt for Harold Camping.
John Loftus and PZ Myers take an extremely confrontational, contemptuous tone towards Christians, and they’ve caught a lot of flack, both from accommodationists like Chris Mooney and more hard-line atheists. I’m skeptical about the efficacy of these tactics, but I’d love to hear from commenters like TommyP in more detail about how mockery and contempt helped them give up their old beliefs. Even if ridicule is helpful, and worth the danger of alienation and unwarranted pride, we should be careful of adopting condescension as a default approach if we truly want to convince people. Before you unleash your disdain, think about these factors.
Consider your audience
Assuming that mockery can work as a shock tactic, it still won’t do any good if you write a blog for a primarily atheist audience or if you’re joking around with non-believing friends. If your criticism isn’t accessible to the people you’re ostensibly trying to help, it’s hard to defend jeremiads as tactical rather than self-congratulatory. And I don’t think the Christian trolls who frequent atheist blogs promising hell are likely to be reachable enough to justify any rancor as public-spirited.