Guest post by David Silverman: Preach. Proselytize. Convert.

President of American Atheists, David Silverman.

Preach. Proselytize. Convert.

These words all have associations with the religious world, eliciting visions of people in ties knocking on doors at 8am Sunday Morning, or adults preaching to other people’s children in the schools, or street pastors scaring passers by about such concepts as Hell (or in some cases, personal grooming).

It’s a good thing we atheists don’t do any of that. Or is it?

I’ve said before that atheism is perfect (as it contains no exceptions, fallacies, or lies), and we all know countless people who have recovered from their religion and now live freer and happier lives. Indeed, I can’t think of anyone who is not better off (in their own opinion) after leaving religion.

So why aren’t we converting theists? Why aren’t we preaching? If we are to accept that religion is a poison, and if we look at the anecdotal evidence of everyone we know being better off after dumping mythology, and we have a literally flawless philosophy, why aren’t atheists preaching atheism, actively and emphatically?

Because it looks like religion? Is that it? Because we don’t want ignorant theists accusing us of being like them, “just another religion”? Is that the only reason?

It seems distasteful, I know; it’s distasteful to me. But there is no doubt that if I ring your Christian neighbor’s doorbell on Sunday morning and convert the whole family to atheism, a good deed has been done, and the neighbors are better off. This is just one example of a myriad of efforts we as a movement and as individuals could be doing to help religionists trapped in their own mythos, but we don’t.

Environmentalism doesn’t become a religion when it recruits. Animal Rights doesn’t become a religion when its supporters canvass door to door asking for money or other support. Politics doesn’t become a religion when they emphatically push their agenda hoping for converts. Only atheism, the enemy of religion, is viewed unfavorably when we use methods that religious people (and many others) use. We are the only ones that aren’t supposed to do that, for, in my opinion, a very silly and short-sighted reason.

The revulsion against preaching atheism because it looks like religion also plays well into the scam of religion, stopping us from using this tool to preach a defensible position (the only defensible religious position). After all, we always say that education is the key to atheism, and we are good at educating, so we could have a very powerful tool to use to defeat religion on a micro level. But we treat doing such with a knee-jerk negative reaction, almost as if it’s been programmed into us, and it all benefits religion. Curious.

I don’t know what the right answer is here, but I do know that shutting the door on this concept robs us of a tool to defeat something very bad. From a Firebrand perspective, I want to use all the tools in my arsenal to defeat religion. Moreover, doing something uncomfortable and unpleasant to benefit victims sounds, well, downright humanistic to me.

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