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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Five Point Plan

As you are undoubtedly aware, the past decade or so has seen a lot of atheists taking a stand against religion.  We’ve seen a proliferation of high-selling anti-theism books like The God Delusion and The End of Faith.  We’ve seen the formation of groups such as the Secular Student Alliance, the Rational Response Squad, and TAM.  We’ve seen an explosion of atheistic internet content, from Facebook and Blogs to Reddit and YouTube.  And the vast majority of this content shares a common theme: Religions don’t make sense, and many of them are quite problematic and need to be eliminated.

Now there are also atheists out there who will naysay the war on religion.  A particularly common sentiment is the belief that many people are so deeply religious that it’s useless to try and deconvert them because it just isn’t going to work.  Never mind all the fundamentalists-turned-atheists who are often some of our most outspoken comrades.  Trying to deconvert highly religious people is incredibly difficult, and it often requires a lot of what feels like beating your head against a wall.  So many people get it into their heads that it just can’t be done, or that it isn’t reliable enough to be worth the effort.

The problem with these anti-activist atheists is that they misunderstand the end goal.  Deconverting fundamentalists is definitely nice, and it sure helps our cause, but ultimately such deconversions are merely one possible step towards the ultimate end-goal of the atheist movement.  The end goal isn’t to deconvert every or even almost every religious person in the world.  The end goal is to create a world where damn near every wildly irrational belief is recognized as ludicrous, obsolete, and more or less a sign of gullibility or stupidity.  A world where “Jesus is my savior!” evokes much the same response as “Elvis lives!”  Where “God’s will be done,” is indistinguishable from “By Thor’s Hammer.”  A world where homeopathy, faith healing, and magical potions are all seen in the same light.  A world where Christians have the same political might as Wiccans, and everybody is just a bit more thoughtful.

It is important to realize that this end goal does not strictly require any deconversions.  I’m not saying don’t even bother with deconverting people.  Deconversions certainly provide serious progress towards the end goal.  But they are not strictly necessary.  In principle, it is possible to go from our current state to a world where religions are relatively powerless without having to deconvert a single person.  Because there is an alternate (or rather complementary) way to reach the end goal.  Remember: If you fail to teach your religion to the next generation, your religion dies.

It is no coincidence that the atheist movement contains a very large number of young people.  The very presence of the atheist movement helps to insulate kids against their parents’ religion.  And that is the tactic that I am going to focus on here.  I am not trying to say that deconverting people is a bad thing, or even that it isn’t worth the effort.  It definitely is something we need to be striving towards on a regular basis.  But it is also the part of the movement that has traditionally received the most attention.  If you’re interested in that aspect of the movement, I suggest you take a trip around there blogoshere.  But as there is already plenty of material addressing the matter, I’m going to place my focus on the less-highlighted but plausibly more-important task of insulating the next generation.

I should point out that there is a good deal of overlap between the two initiatives.  Many of the best ways to increase deconversion rates will also insulate the next generation, and vice-versa.  So some of my recommendations are things that are already well-recognized both inside and outside the movement.  But while I may comment that these common techniques will help the deconversion side of things, I plan to focus on explaining how they affect the insulation side, and how to optimize or focus them towards that side.  I also plan on introducing some insulation endeavors that don’t really have anything to do with the deconversion aspect.

So if you are one of those atheists that doesn’t like the idea of being hyper confrontational, engaging in public debates or demonstrations, I ask you to pay close attention to the techniques I outline in this series, particular towards the end.  I have plenty of ideas that don’t require offensive (by which I mean “on the attack” instead of “insulting”) confrontation with religion.  And if you are one of those atheists who enjoys being confrontational, I hope that this series well help you shape your confrontation in a way that most benefits the next generation.

And so, without further ado, I present to you what I have termed the Five Point Plan: A strategy that focuses on maintaining skepticism’s strengths, targeting religion’s weaknesses, and undermining the defenses religion has erected around those weaknesses.  It is very much a multigenerational approach.  The goal is to eventually reach a state where theists’ beliefs are widely regarded as ridiculous, even if that goal may not be reached within my lifetime.  As expected, the Five Point Plan is built upon five main pillars which are each quite vital to the success of the atheist movement.  But instead of peppering you with more text, I’ll just give you this color-coded graphic.

Through the course of this series I will devote at least one post to each of these five pillars.  The posts will detail what I’m talking about when I mention the pillar, cite a few things the movement is already doing with regards to that pillar, and make suggestions on ways we can improve or increase our activity in the pillar, all while focusing on the notion of insulating the next generation.  As a brief introduction, I will note that I find that the Integrity pillar is mostly complementary to all the other activities, the Presence and Liberty pillars are mostly in need of focus, and the Community and Art pillars are quite woefully underdeveloped.  These ideas will of course be presented in more detail as each pillar receives its own focus.  Enjoy.

Author's Note:  I was going to make another post today, but I somewhat gutted it to make this one so I'll have to do some re-working before it goes up.  It could conceivably happen some time this week, but in all likelihood grad school will push it off until next week.

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, looks intriguing. But shouldn't the star be pointing downward? ;-)