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Atheists need to do more good deeds and should embrace religious humanism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/14/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 755 times Debate No: 73442
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
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I think using reason to convert people to atheism is not going to help when people sometimes use faith over reason. Making fun of religious people and threatening to burn Bibles is unnecessarily disrespectful. Choosing to get worked up over things like God being mentioned in the pledge of allegiance is not a battle worth having.

I would argue that the best things atheists can do to expand the membership base would be to do as much good deeds as religious people do on average. Win the argument that the non-religious can be just as moral as everyone else {which they can} and embrace and promote religious humanism and liberal Christianity. People may not like religion but even in a modern society there will be people drawn to it and it is not going away soon.

Round 1: Arguments.
Round 2: Rebuttals/more arguments.
Round 3: Closing statements.


Hello, there. I shall accept your challenge.

Firstly, I must clarify that atheism represents a lack or absence of belief in the existence of God, so one does not "convert" to atheism. Rather, one sheds and leaves behind their faith in God. While I fully agree with you that mocking and threatening are not the proper way to go about this, this is not how most atheist operate; the most controversial atheist and arguments are the ones that attract the most attention. In fact, I would argue that derogatory mocking and threatening is unreasonable; that not founded in reason, so these methods cannot be treated the same as using reason.

Atheism : Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. [1]

In an interview with notable atheist, Matt Dillahunty [2][3], he explains how he became an atheist, or lost his faith. The main point can be taken from his testimony is that this reflects that people do not become atheist because atheism is attractive. At best, such an idea as you have presented will make atheism seem more acceptable to society, but it will not "attract" people away from their religion. In order for people to leave their religious beliefs behind, they have to accept that those beliefs are false. Becoming atheist is merely a rejection of one's belief in God, it is not a decision to become atheist.

The conclusion of my initial argument is that, while I will agree that it would be good if atheist put forth effort to be more humanistic (that is true of any group), atheism does not attract new atheists by appealing to theists. This is not the best method of increasing their numbers; they still must be primarily reliant on getting theists to review their faith in an objective, rational way. Reason is the best tool in an atheist's arsenal.

[1] Oxford Dictionary -
[2] Wikipedia -
[3] Patheos -
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting the challenge.

I don't know how strong reason is going to be for many people that do not traditionally use reason to believe. Pew research showed that many religious people {at least in the survey} did not have that much basic knowledge about their religion like what was and was not a commandment for example. It also found that atheists tended to know more about religions. So they may not be too familiar with what they are defending or opposing as supporters of the Bible and so I don't know how much reason is going to be helpful for that crowd compared to people that are on the fence or questioning and looking at things more academically.

I often hear theists arguing that without God there is no strong moral foundation which is incorrect but for those that believe it that could be a big stumbling block for changing views. If you belief without God there is no morals and the world will fall into despair that may hinder letting go of a belief. I would also argue that it would probably be easier to argue that morality and good deeds can exist without God {through examples} then using reason and getting into the specifics about the accuracy of Biblical accounts of events thousands of years ago.

Currently religious people do {on average} donate more money to not for profits and volunteer more hours than the non- religious especially in the case of devout Mormons. Many charities and hospitals were created by religious people and the old argument about how many hospitals have atheists built is still around and could be destroyed. If atheists pledged to donate, volunteer and build hospitals at the same or higher rate and the infrastructure to foster that was there. The same way the church fosters giving and volunteerism. It would also strengthen the argument that atheists can be just as good as everyone else which they can.

Religious humanism and liberal Christianity should be promoted by atheism from a practical stand-point. Religion is here to stay and there are religions like Buddhism and Unitarianism that can exist without a belief in God and atheism does not automatically mean no religion. There has been a fall in church attendance {in some parts of the world and some churches} but many that do not go to church still actually belief in God and so belief is still alive and well.

The Clergy Project also talks about the pastors that have become atheists but are afraid to come-out for career or even safety reasons. So I think promoting liberal Christianity gives them a better place to be at. Religious humanism would give people a real tangible example of how religious beliefs and church attendance {and the social aspects of that} can exist without God and the supernatural.

Liberal Christianity shares a lot in common with critics of religion like not taking the Bible literally, supporting gay marriage, not being so dogmatic and this might be a good partner to have to help weaken the negative aspects of religion. It could also give people that can't bring themselves to jump from theism to atheism a place to be and brings people closer to atheistic type of views.


Strength of Reason
If a religious person is entrenched in their beliefs and supported by others, nothing will convince them to abandon their beliefs. Though they may be uneducated, they'll still hold firm to that which they believe and to that which they have been told by their trusted ministers. People often find comfort in ignorance, and happily accept being told what is right and wrong by someone they view as an authority.

The key is to educate them about their own religion before attacking it, which must be done through reason. In order for a theist to cast off his faith, he must see and understand what the atheist does. Many atheists who were former theists (such as Matt Dillahunty, cited before) ended up de-converting as a result of searching for answers in religion. This undermining must be done through reason.

Moral Arguments
At first glance, your proposal that atheists should demonstrate good will seems plausible. Unfortunately, their conclusions are a result of their own reasoning founded in their religious beliefs [1,2,3], so regardless of what is demonstrated by atheists, they will maintain their view.

Atheistic Label
Atheism doesn't function like this; you are treating atheism like it's a belief group. Religious communities band together under a the comradery of a common theistic belief and religious values. Atheism is the lack of a such belief; atheism doesn't define who a person is, but rather who they are *not*. The only thing that atheists universally have in common with each other is this lack of belief.

The reason that the current atheist community exists is because of the pressures of theism. For example, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster emerged in response to the efforts to get Intelligent Design taught in science classrooms. [4] Atheism only speaks against religious pressures and no other topic qualifies as atheism, by virtue of its definition, which explains why so many religious people view atheism as an enemy.

There are many secular (non-religion) charities in the world (i.e. Goodwill Industries, S.H.A.R.E. [Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort]) [5]. There is no reason to place an atheism label on secular humanist efforts, because it can easily be taken as an "anti-religious" declaration. If these secular groups start parading around an atheistic title, then it will be disdained by many for its apparent opposition to religion, which is contradictory to the ultimate goal.

The Clergy Project
Humanist efforts by atheists will not attract new members but rather, it will just make atheism more acceptable. The Clergy Project appeals to pastors who are secretly atheist; they are already members of atheism, regardless of whether they accept the title or not. These people are the most powerful atheist influences available: they are trusted by their people, so if there is anyone that can penetrate their fortress of faith with reason, it is them. This reinforces that reason is ultimately more useful than demonstrating good will.

Liberal Christianity
This is a function of compromise, which is founded in reason. This is most effectively accomplished by convincing a Christian why he should accept more tolerable positions, which is done by way of reasonably "attacking" and "devaluing" the more rigid viewpoints. I don't believe such efforts will affect extremists and biblical literalists; they have different branches of Christianity in the first place because they already did not agree with each other.

[1] Huffington Post -
[2] Charisma Magazine -
[3] Apologetic Press -
[4] The Church of the FSM -
[5] Freethoughtpedia -
Debate Round No. 2


I still argue that we sometimes put a bit too much "faith" in the power of reason. People have all sorts of irrational ideas on vaccines and are afraid to fly but okay to drive even though the latter is more dangerous and that is pointed out to them at least sometimes. If I have to convince someone not to believe man lived with dinosaurs despite the overwhelming evidence how good is education really going to be. Yes like you said some people will always hold-out no matter what approach is taken but is reason the best tact to take generally in this arena.

For example, If an atheist organization and I take your point that it is not like a belief group banning together under a common umbrella. If an atheist organization's aim is to bring people away from religion {to reduce the bad side of religion} then merely promoting the use of reason is not going to pick up a lot of people that don't use reason. Do we give up on them or think we can still shift them to a better position within religion and achieve the same aim or better because it might be easier to get bigger numbers shifting within the religion then leaving it. The extremists might not listen to anyone but who are they more likely to even consider talking to, a liberal Christian or atheist?

I take your point that the good deeds of atheists will not convince everyone that morality can exist without a God and that plugging secular groups as atheists could hurt rather than help and I was not suggesting they do it like that. I would argue that it would strengthen the moral arguments of atheists though rather than do nothing or make things worse. I would also say it would help with profile having more atheistic organizations getting out there and helping at disaster zones {or it could result in punch-ups which is not good}.

I think religious humanism might bring in some people that were on the fence but of course not everyone.

In the end I suppose I am arguing that more good deeds be done by atheists which will help rather than hurt the image of atheists and this might get more people viewing atheists in a better light. That in turn can mean being more open to talking with them and reading their works without the bias. Pew research found they are not held in very high regard and this might make it harder for people to say to their family I am atheist or I want to be an atheist.
I would say that religion is here to stay and more good could be done having a poster on a bus promoting liberal Christianity instead of say atheism. I think you can shift more people from Christianity {and theists that don't attend church} to liberal Christianity than shifting Christians to atheism or getting rid of religion completely which is not going to happen.


I will agree with your statement; we do sometimes put too much "faith" in the power of reason. Phobias are a good example because they are defined as irrational fears, so reason holds little or no weight in convincing something otherwise. This is similar to how some people irrationally cling to irrational beliefs; in these cases, reason will have very little impact. But then again, so will anything else, so I do not believe that this point places any doubt about reason being the best tool, in general.

Atheist Organizations
I will still argue that placing an "atheism" label upon any organization or effort is still a declaration of opposition to theism. The sole meaning of that label is to indicate a position that is opposed to theism, and the organization that accepts that label will inherit that image, despite what good it may do. At best, this may improve the image of atheism to make its existence more acceptable, but it will not make it "right" to theists.

You give an example of an atheist organization that *aims* to bring people out of religion. Such an organization will still be the perceived enemy of theism. If such an organization were to adopt religious humanism, it would likely have no bearing on convincing theists to abandon their beliefs. If a theists says something to the effect of "I might become an atheist if they weren't so evil", then that person is certainly NOT demonstrating the belief that his religion is correct; he is already an atheist. To suggest that changing your mind about what is true is possible by act of will, then one must not truly believe that the original belief was true.

The bottom line is that demonstrating that atheists can be good will only make it more acceptable for people to officially accept the title of atheist. This will have no bearing on influencing theists to drop their current beliefs.

Liberal Christianity
If individuals possess an irrational belief, it is not irrational to them. If reason will not work to alter their perspective and beliefs (let alone drop them all together), then promoting a more liberal outlook will have no real effect. Alternative, it may make stronger enemies out of the more rigid believers as the see atheism undermining the weakness (tolerance) of their religion. Tolerance does not coincide well with religion [1]. Of course, we know that the bible has several verses that denounce unbelievers [2]:

Revelation 21:8 "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

2 Corinthians 4:4 "In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

Romans 1:18 "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth."

In order for one to accept (and not just tolerate the existence of) atheism, one must be able to reject at least these portions of their beliefs and the bible. Demonstrating good works has no bearing on their beliefs.

Thank you for instigating this positively-aligned debate!

[1] Christ Answers Network -
[2] OpenBible.Info -
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by David12N 3 years ago
Hello Kate_snedeker,

Not all atheists make fun of religious people and say they are going to burn Bibles and I should have made that more clear in my opening statement.

I think we have to agree to disagree on the importance of removing God from the pledge. My argument is not about does God exist or not. It is more about of all of the current campaigns that atheists are involved in I think there are far more important ones than the pledge like fighting religious discrimination against gay and lesbians.

To go to court like some have because they find having to mention God's name wrong that seems a lot of effort. {Of all of the things to go to court about I don't see this one being in the top ten}. If the pledge was demanding that people convert I could understand the objection. I am more easy going. I view it as a word from a document written long ago and doing it does not have to mean anything. I found it interesting that a religious group has tried to get rid of the pledge itself but of course for different reasons.
Posted by Midnight1131 3 years ago
Yeah, GoOrDin is one of those people who spreads the notion that all religious people are backwards, intolerant cavemen who aren't open to any reasonable discussion. I know deeply religious folk can be good, but for some reason most of the ones I come across are like GoOrDin.
Posted by kate_snedeker 3 years ago
Your opening lines are ridicules "Making fun of religious people and threatening to burn Bibles is unnecessarily disrespectful. Choosing to get worked up over things like God being mentioned in the pledge of allegiance is not a battle worth having."

First off, you are being ridiculously close minded to the idea of atheism. A small amount of atheists "Make fun of religious people and threaten to burn Bibles". If you have a faith and you are happy, good for you. The times when atheists get upset is when you say things to purposely antagonize us.

Second of all, the pledge of allegiance battle is most certainly a battle worth having, the 'one nation under god' alienates so many groups of people, Hindus, Atheists, Buddhists, ect. If you are too scared that you would lose that battle and that is why you are too afraid to have it, that is fine, but you most certainly can not say it is not worth the battle because I damn sure think it is. Don't even try to talk about things you do not understand.
Posted by GoOrDin 3 years ago
Con says atheism does not attract theists.. that is a lie. indicating he is an idiot. adultery is used as a lure. He should smarten the fawk up
Posted by Chaosism 3 years ago
I think the instigator did a pretty good job of wording this debate; I don't see any inference that theists are better people than atheists; basically, that they should match the religious community in a symmetric, unified 'atheist' effort. The instigator is just arguing that being humanist and improving their "good" image is better for increasing their number than attacking religion.
Posted by gabep 3 years ago
I'm atheist and I'm considered by many of my religious peers to be a good person.
Posted by Mike_10-4 3 years ago
"Humanism," bingo! Our nemesis is understanding morality.

Objective Morality, traditional definition:

First paragraph in Stanford's Encyclopedia states it nicely.

A recent scientific view on morality:

Scientific American and Stanford's take on morality, relative to "non-human animals," are weak for they lack the Constructal Law connection.

Morality is an outgrowth of life's Unalienable Rights, which are an outgrowth of the Constructal Law, which is an outgrowth of the Laws of Thermodynamics, a part of the physical Laws of Nature; not metaphysical. Overview on "The Science of Rights"

When morally following the physical Laws of Nature, blossoms into the fruits of technology, food production, and medicine, the stables of human existence throughout the world today. A compelling example when our Unalienable Rights are free to morally operate within the awesome machinery of Nature (atheists) or God's Nature (people of faith).

On the other hand, man is known to be fallible, prudent caution is served when studying man's written scriptures about the Devine. One may misinterpret of what God wants; therefore, God gets--and, in some cases, God help us all (72 virgins killing infidels, etc.).

In contrast, atheists objective to replace God with science are just fooling themselves; for the empirical existence of individual philosophy dynamics may be a Law onto itself. Man cannot change a Law in Nature, he is trapped within its matrix; there are no exceptions.

Morality, a subject for a science class.
Posted by missmedic 3 years ago
The best things atheists can do is to use reason to show that gods are unnecessary and unremarkable.
Posted by TheSymbiote 3 years ago
I dont understand.
You are basically saying that Atheist are worse people or that they aren't as good as christians.
Posted by Himans45 3 years ago
Atheists do just as many good deeds as christians?
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