Preface: I wholeheartedly expect this post to be cast aside and ignored, but I want to put it out there, and if I get even one person looking inward, then it will have all been worth it.

I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and work at one of the few beacons for the non-Mormon/anti-Mormon counter-culture. A great deal of my coworkers are ex-Mormons that quickly dismiss anything LDS. They have good reason for this. Leaving the church was especially tumultuous for them, and I'm not going to say that I can even begin to understand what they went through with the mutual rejection of their parents and communities.
I'm also a new member of the Atheist Nexus. While I've only read one other blog post and the comments associated with it, it seems like there is similar distaste for religion and religious people represented on this site. Maybe there are similar stories about religious upbringing or maybe members of this site tend naturally to be vocal opponents of the status quo. Either way, I think there are more effective ways to advancing theological discourse than poking fun or bragging about debunking a theist or watching videos about how to shut a religious person down.
What I notice and bemoan is the tendency for atheists to scoff at practicing religious people as if they're wrong to believe what they do. This is not the attitude that will get people thinking about their actions, or their role in the world, and it won't change minds or even get people to listen. Having a respectful and grounded discussion will only come with mutual respect and understanding for other beliefs (I understand it's hard in the context of beliefs as diametrically opposed as theism and atheism).
It's common for people to belligerently defend what they believe in and this goes for both sides of the atheism/theism argument. I have been guilty of it. But after argument upon argument with religious people, I came to the conclusion that I'm not going to change their minds any more than they will change mine. It is a futile and ultimately fruitless endeavor to argue with someone about what they believe. Logic rarely plays into discussions of faith.
The true change will only come if people can understand one another and respectfully disagree with each other. There are a lot of people out there that desperately want life to mean something greater, and will hold on to false beliefs to find that meaning. It's a completely legitimate if not wholly fantastic desire.
Regardless of it's scientific legitimacy, belief in God(s) has the potential to help people be truly to good to one another. Imagine if everyone on the planet loved his or her neighbor and treated others the way they wanted to be treated. Aren't those lessons worth teaching; lessons you want everyone to learn, regardless of belief in the supernatural? Antagonizing someone for believing the earth is 6000 years old doesn't accomplish anything. I imagine a world where being wrong is OK and being right doesn't justify looking down your nose.
If someone asks me what I believe in, I wish in my head there was another word for atheist that wouldn't immediately lump me in with people angrily making fun of most of the country. I agree that the religious walk around with blinders on, but I think we need to start with the understanding that true belief in eternal life is a lot easier for them if they never have to open their eyes. If we meet that blindness with blindness of our own, it will eventually just be a cacophony of "God doesn't exist"'s and "you're going to hell"'s and atheists, agnostics and nontheists will be no better than bible beaters we share a planet/country/city/economy with.
We as atheists can be different. We already are. It's hard for me to imagine a conversation between two religious people regarding why they believe in God that doesn't involve canned affirmations from sermons they've heard throughout their lives. Agnostics, atheists and nontheists ask each other questions like 'why don't you believe in God?' all the time, and receive logical, legitimate answers unique to the person that gives them.
Let's open and listen to everyone, regardless of belief. We may learn something.

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Comment by Keith R Araneo on November 7, 2010 at 10:03am
@Ryan: In all seriousness, you're right. Religious people as well as atheists should be subject to criticism as well as critisium. The only point in my blog entry is that you'll make a lot more headway and they'll be much more likely to take that criticism and critisium to heart if the those criticizing/critisiumizing are calm, pragmatic, and respectful. Also, when atheists are assholes to other people when they're having theological discussion, they run the risk of having an argument that is only about religion in the most superficial sense and is really about them being an asshole. It's unproductive in my opinion and it runs the risk of attaching dangerous stigma to atheists. I don't like to tell people that I'm atheist because I'm worried about being labeled an asshole. I think I make that pretty clear in my entry and subsequent comments, but it doesn't seem like you really read either of those things or your own response which is a shame because it's really easy to dismiss spelling error-ridden comments from people who don't know what year it is. I'd get on top of those things before I went out to fight the good fight.
Comment by Keith R Araneo on November 7, 2010 at 12:00am
I don't think I'm going to go around calling people lairs. That just doesn't make sense.
Comment by Keith R Araneo on November 6, 2010 at 11:41pm
@Ryan: Please send me those hours.
Comment by Aaron S. (USA) on November 5, 2010 at 7:32pm
@Ryan:
I'll be sure to use that quote.
Comment by Ryan Lawrence on November 5, 2010 at 6:59pm
Ceasefire? WHY? Religion of any kind is useless to modren humans and, frankly, makes us look bad as a species. Religion of any kind has every bit of critisium comming and a lot more because people just no longer have an excuse to beleave in spirits or gods or the boogey man. We live in the the year 2000 and it's time we started acting like it. That means we stop waring with each other and hidding from the gray bearded old man in the sky that wants us to obey him or die. I could send hours pointing out the flaws in religion but that's what they all boil down to. To condone religious attidues and behaviors is to allow a blight on man kind to fester and I will not be apart of such things. Feal free to quote me on this "There is no god and anyone who says that there's even a chance that there is, especially educated people, is a bold faced lair."
Comment by Keith R Araneo on November 5, 2010 at 3:16pm
I'm sure it's very cold there, but it sounds lovely and not too much colder than Salt Lake. Maybe I'll see you there.
Comment by Glen Rosenberg on November 5, 2010 at 12:04pm
Keith, if it was a fight they'd stop it as I lie unconscious in a puddle of my own blood. You got a couple of people to look inward. Will you look outward? The winters are cold in Kharkov.
Peace.
Comment by Keith R Araneo on November 5, 2010 at 11:18am
Glen, I guess we just differ in our respective opinions of the severity of the situation. I wish you the best of luck in your fight.
Comment by Glen Rosenberg on November 5, 2010 at 8:07am
Keith, I am not embracing rude. I do not like it. However in the scheme of things it is superficial. On occasion I have gotten real when discussing religion. True injustice makes my girdle curdle. While you adressed it to Aaron I have to say that poor behavior is religious behavior. Indoctrinating and brainwashing babies; potential stars, potential asses. Why choose the latter are you madder than a hatter? Bombing abortion clinics . . . I feel a percolatin lava of mucous laden wrath. I stop this line now.
Oh yeah, one observation when nazis n religiorobots have the power ya only get one opportunity to be rude before they kill your ass.
Keith, your sense of self-worth and pride should be a result of living the good life-embracing rational values not post-modern caveman dogma. And then and this is more important than say-so What do you do sparky? As a Lawyer I did free work for poor robots who could not afford my already low fees. I have gone out of my way to help in other capacities. I am trying in my imperceptible way to change our fubar circumstances all the while recognizing the enormity and nile-like flow of history.
Plus, like you I dont see religion in individual tet a tet unless I see a gigantic blood curdlin cross or the robot delivers in the way the robot is programed to deliver.
Comment by Keith R Araneo on November 5, 2010 at 3:23am
@Aaron: You make am excellent point. Atheists haven't been any more or less rude than other people, but you must admit there are atheists out there that behave just as poorly as fundamentalist Christians and just because they are separate in ideology, doesn't mean we should treat their behavior any differently.
@Glen: Why should I not take my sense of self-worth from any group of people? I try to be a nice guy, and people like when I'm successful at that, atheists and theists alike. I don't see religion because it really doesn't come up if I don't want it to (and I don't). Where do you derive your sense of self worth?

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