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4 years ago  ::  Mar 21, 2010 - 1:11PM #1
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206

When I was an LDS missionary, we used to call up a dial-a-prayer style phone line run by the American Atheists.  It was a routinely-updated message of atheism that was so over-the-top it made us howl.  As a person with growing doubts, I found it fun and appealing to "check the line" each week, but part of that fun was the rabid Hitchens-style delivery of the "voice of atheism."  A fair number of quiet Christians, people harboring their own doubts about the faith, remain where they are because atheists can come across as nuts.  I once met a disfigured porn salesman at a flea market whose indignation, followed by rapid-fire attacks on religion, left me laughing and departing in haste.  That, unfortunately, is the view so many people hold - that atheists are loner types who go off the deep end.


Terms like "fanatical atheism" and "atheist fundamentalists" are not just spin.  They reflect the views of a good many people.  Whenever it's pointed out that religion is intolerance built on nonsense, their best reply is to point out that at least it's not crazy ass atheism.


Which brings me to the point of this thread.  Would it not be fun and productive to make an atheist pamphlet that replies to religion without resorting to the style of discourse you'd expect from a Bond villain monologuing before he takes a fall?


What would such a pamphlet look like?  I'd like to collect cool atheist comments from famous atheists who addressed specific religious nonsense.  But here's the catch.  Such a pamphlet could not be 50 quotes to the effect that God does not exist.  A few would do.  After that, it would just be name-dropping and overkill.  It would also have to be in language that would not subject the person being quoted to the attack that he was a crazy, angry, atheist loner.  


There are atheists who have expressed their views extensively, but that's part of the problem.  The challenge is to collapse the arguments into something short enough to imitate the length of a religious pamphlet.  One reason not to read Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation is that it's boring and legalistic; one reason not to read Christopher Hitchens is that he makes more enemies than friends (I love Hitchens but handing him out to friends would be like handing out an expensive door stop).  One reason not to read Richard Dawkins is that he gives the impression that being an atheist is somehow the provenance of scientists - which makes him less accessible to people who feel threatened by science.  One reason not to read Bertrand Russell is that Russell is a philosopher, through and through, and the average person has neither the attention span nor the mental facility to read real philosophy.


The idea is to make it real but make it simple and make it readable.  What excerpts would you put into such a pamphlet?

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 21, 2010 - 1:39PM #2
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206

I just changed the title of this thread from "Atheist Pamphlet" to "Non-Religious Pamphlet."  There's a principled distinction between Atheism and Agnosticism, and perhaps even further principled distinctions involving Apatheists and Igtheists.  All of these are non-theists, which encompasses a wider tent full of people who have no compelling reason to believe in gods.


I retitled this thread to "Non-Religious Pamphlet" because it's the flip side of the religious pamphlet - and one's exact ideological GPS should not divide or diminish the thoughts of those who weigh in on the other side of faith.  It also makes for a better punchline.

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 21, 2010 - 3:54PM #3
Myownpath
Posts: 949

Hi,


I am a graphic artist. Though my area of specialty is more on the lines of textile design, I also have a knack for this kind of stuff. Here's my thought:


Short and sweet. Simple sells. Unless the person is headed towards atheism they will not unfold the pamphlet. Do you open or even accept a theist pamphlet? No! Even when I was a theist/deist I didn't read them. A pamphet says "believe me" now read all this. The billboard campaign "Don't believe in God?, You are not alone." is the best one I've seen yet.


My mother's neice (both deceased) was married to an atheist with OCD. He would send 6 page letters and  tons pamphlets to my mom. We thought he was crazy. Fortunately, the family down the road - officially agnostics, but we all assumed that they were atheists, set a good example. Better yet, my parents' view was that they were "good people." They were. They were intelligent, good kids, great neighbors, involved in the community, president of the PTA, educated, etc. I liked intelligent people and I liked this girl's mother.  I even recall my father (90) who is officially a theist but never went to church, one day off the cuff stated "God was manufactured by man." I think that though he is a theist, he is too rational to not have the agnosticism/doubts cross his mind. Whenever we would take drives in the country I recall him commenting how a rock formation was millions of years old. I never questioned evolution; it made sense from a theistic and non-theist perspective to me. Even a good co-worker is an atheist. she's been married for about 30 years, is highly intelligent, and unbelievably funny. Being an example is clearly the best way to get your message across.


Today, I went to a funeral for someone who was extremely popular, well-liked, and respected member of the Unity church I used to attend. It was jam-pack fill with probably 300 people. It was a good church with views that even Christians hated. There were tables set up with his T-shirt collection (he was a hippie) and one caught my eye "Every time someone masterbates, God kills a kitten." Depicted was a kitten with "Xed" eyes. I laughed and it goes to show you what type of church Unity is (ultraLiberal) or at least in Northern liberal land.


Personally I see buttons, t-shirts, billboards as a better route. Short and sweet. Ideas, of course I have ideas and they are good, so I don't give them away for free.Laughing If I ever become an atheist, I'll sell you one.

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 21, 2010 - 6:10PM #4
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206

Great post!


I'm not trying to save the world.  Most people don't choose their beliefs.  They merely though they did.  But the idea of handing a door-knocker a pamphlet to take home just makes me chuckle.  If it were actually well-designed, I'd chuckle twice as much.


I agree with the observation that nobody reads these things, which means I'm really just talking about killing some kittens (with x's on their eyes).  

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2010 - 3:38AM #5
Eudaimonist
Posts: 2,036

Mar 21, 2010 -- 3:54PM, Myownpath wrote:

The billboard campaign "Don't believe in God?, You are not alone." is the best one I've seen yet.



Yes, that is by far the best one.  It's compassionate, not looking to pick a fight (although certainly some theists will gripe and moan about it), and speaks directly to the emotions and experiences of people who might feel a little scared about their religious doubts.  Excellent all around.


 


eudaimonia,


Mark

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2010 - 4:17PM #6
voluptuary1
Posts: 32
I don't think the pamphlet needs to reply to religion, at all. How much time do religious people spend responding to atheism, particularly the sane, sensible, decent ones? Not much. They're spending too much time believing what they believe, making sense of themselves and the world. Maybe they're on to something.

A pamphlet could address any issue religion addresses--purpose, evil, mourning, the indifferent cosmos--from a nonreligious perspective. I wouldn't bother answering religion--atheists spend WAY too much time on that, I think--but instead communicating something that might help someone's world make a little more sense.

The billboard campaign "Don't believe in God?, You are not alone." is the best one I've seen yet.


Yes, that is by far the best one.  It's compassionate, not looking to pick a fight (although certainly some theists will gripe and moan about it), and speaks directly to the emotions and experiences of people who might feel a little scared about their religious doubts.  Excellent all around.


Agreed.

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2010 - 9:59PM #7
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206

Where's the fun in that?

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 23, 2010 - 3:51AM #8
Eudaimonist
Posts: 2,036

Mar 22, 2010 -- 4:17PM, voluptuary1 wrote:

I wouldn't bother answering religion--atheists spend WAY too much time on that, I think--but instead communicating something that might help someone's world make a little more sense.



Agreed.  It might not be "fun" for atheists who have a chip on their shoulders about religion, but it's much more likely to be effective.


 


eudaimonia,


Mark

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 23, 2010 - 6:31AM #9
Myownpath
Posts: 949

Fun stuff like the "God killing kittens" appeals to a particular group of people, but certainly not all. You need to ask what is your purpose? What outcome do you want to achieve? Who do you want to appeal to? What interests them? What's the best way to do this?


After the billboard campaign I went to the COR site and noticed that a few people did join the group because of "that" billboard. Maybe just a few in each city but so many saw the sign.

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 23, 2010 - 10:35AM #10
Jcarlinbn
Posts: 7,049

The most effective verbal response I have found, and one which might work well as a pamphlet is:




WHY SHOULD I CARE?


I AM NOT A SINNER.




The text could be something like


I am a highly evolved social animal and therefore treat all people as part of my family.  


I have no connection with a mythical original sinner and therefore need no savior.   


I have no need for a God to control my behavior,


I am the only one who can control my behavior, so I do.  


Thank you for your unnecessary concern.  

Jcarlinbn, community moderator
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