"Atheists, please stop _____"



  Dear atheists of the Internet,
the following are things I think don't help your arguments and only serve to derail or degrade conversations with theists (or other atheists.)  This post isn't necessarily suggesting that these are common among the atheists of the Internet........... but some of them kinda are.  However, the spirit of these complaints apply towards theists as well, but I'll write the theist crowd specifically another time.  I understand that the topic of theology can evoke much passion from some individuals, but everyone should should put forth their arguments as honestly and consistently as possible.  
  This list isn't written in any particular order, just the practices themselves with no indication as to their perceived severity in comparison to one another.  I am also not writing any in-depth, nuanced expoundings here, just a few of my thoughts on things. 
  Some of these things are essentially "apply sound skepticism" but the main message is really to stop saying some of these things that just propogate progress-impeeding biases and/or make you sound doofy.  
                                    ~Nimbus


Claiming the atheist presence in the prison population is only around [crazy-low %]
"Who keeps bookmarking Ezekiel 23:20?"
  The American prison system is bonkers and filled with plenty of people who probably shouldn't be there.  It's a broken system employing broken methods pumping out broken people- not an ideal place for insight concerning such philosophical issues.  That's not to say that we can't learn interesting things about prisoners and the population as a whole, but many people who are incarcerated would rather not be and there's a lot of motivation to say/profess things that may potentially alleviate or reduce your time behind bars.
  There are many interesting metrics to gather about the world we live in, but getting them from prisoners inside awful environments is not the kind of data one should argue a point from.



Debating whether babies are/n't atheists
Now this baby is ready to draw some truth tables!
  What babies may or may not believe is irrelevant- they just started making use of their squishy brains.  Babies didn't make any informed decisions concerning religion/theism, they just want someone to keep them alive and comfy. 
  To the "if babies are atheists, are rocks atheists too?" folks (who think they're being clever) this isn't about the literal application of a label insomuch as it is about the useful application of a label.  I don't qualify "bachelor" with the dictionary description, I just say "bachelor" and you know I'm talking about people, not furniture (or *in annoying voice* rocks.)
  Are babies atheists?  Are babies theists?
  They aren't requiring either label, they're just dumb babies. 




  Treating fundamentalists/literalists as if they represent Christianity as a whole.
Hurricanes, earthquakes, and AIDS are just God reminding us he loves us!
  There is certainly no shortage of religious people with especially awful beliefs and means of expressing those beliefs.  However, to make the Westboro Baptist Church the representative of Christianity in your mind is to be ignorant of how most Christians actually are.  The Bible can be used to personally justify almost any stance or action, and that's exactly how most Christians treat it- as the Rorschach test for the morally inconsistent (I write as lovingly as possible.)
  Get twenty Christians in a room, talk to them long enough, and you'll likely be exposed to twenty different versions of Christianity/God with many of the professed beliefs being incompatible.  ISIS doesn't represent the Islamic community, WBC doesn't represent the Christian community, there's plenty of actual issues within the religions themselves to highlight without needing to immediately resort to such extreme examples.



Exclaiming religion is "like a virus."
It appears you have a bad case of arbitrary self-righteousness.
  I get the sentiment behind this one (and many of those sentiments hold at least somewhat true) but "religion is/spreads like a virus" is not only unhelpful, it's inflammatory and uncharitable.  There is a multitude of ways people become theists, just as there are multiple ways people become atheists.
  Many of the mechanisms within the sentiment of "virus" apply to a lot of other social ideas and movements- so unless you're ready to follow such loaded language with qualifiers it's probably best to just use a different word.  It fosters an incorrect "infected/uninfected" notion concerning how people develop opinions and it's less-than-generous towards any theist who is a part of the discussion.



Saying religious people are brainwashed/stupid.
Faith: one-size-fits-all
  While many people are religious as the result of indoctrination or being raised in a religious environment, some folks become theists later in life because they've been convinced to do so.  Saying they could only have that position because they were "brainwashed" or "stupid" is similar to the "virus" platitude above, inflammatory and uncharitable.  
  Some of the greatest minds in history were theists, there's no reason to assume someone is unintelligent or incapable of making their own decisions on the basis of their theism alone.  I think a lot of people are theists because they partition off their religious beliefs and don't open them up to nearly the same scrutiny and standards as other beliefs they may hold.  Confirmation bias, illusory correlations, misplaced confidence, sheltered lifestyles, bad reasoning is always a risk- regardless of your stance on the god hypothesis. 


Name-calling.
"Dumb noodleloaf!"      "Snot-nosed troll!"
  Making it personal, calling people awful things, abusive/bigoted/accusatory language, becoming emotional, these things can drag a convo downhill mighty quickly.  If you can't get a point across or not handle disagreement without making things ugly, you are a poor communicator and should focus more on arguing honestly and productively. 
  I'm not saying strong language and strong opinion don't have a place in a discussion.  However, if the aim is to correct a misunderstanding on your opponent's part, acting like a total bastard probably isn't a good way of going about such.  Argue points, not people. 



Those damn memes!
^click to see full-size^
  1)  No, they were not all atheists (several were theists, but in a manner that would totally piss off most Christians nowadays.)  Also, their being atheist is irrelevant.  Yes, plenty of great, influential people would identify themselves as atheist, agnostic, or an apatheist (sometimes by way of deism) and it's irrelevant as to the truthfulness of theism. 

  2)  There were scientific advancements in the feudal times and also this meme has no useful indicators of measurement or how it is arriving at such "figures."  There was indeed some scientific suppression, upset, and controversy from planet earth's blossoming religion, Christianity (still some of that today), but there were also institutions of learning and teaching that were funded by the church.
  Also, this meme ignores the fact that history was occurring outside of Europe back then.  For some cool reading, look up the "Islamic Golden Age" and see some of the amazing advancements that occurred while Europe was rediscovering how neat theatre is. 


  3)  Aside from this being a photoshopped image (and of incorrect era/nationality space hardware) this quote is disputed and was never verified by Yuri Gagarin. 

  4)  Zeitgeist... don't reference it.  That film (I'm not even aware of what the other movies talk about and I don't really care) has too much speculation and nonsense in it.  Friends don't let friends share Zeitgeist memes containing claims that are often dubious, at best. 
  (+ Yes, Jesus' story does indeed share a great many parallels with other figures from religions throughout history- but this particular meme is full of misleading/bad info) 

  5)  Plenty of productive scientists and lovers of science are theists.  Also, just mean

  6)  For the most part, I'm not a fan of memes that use pictures of starving, mutilated, and/or afflicted people to advance a point.  It's an attempt at emotional manipulation (even when accompanied with actual data) and, at the very least, potentially distasteful. 
  There are indeed times and places for shocking imagery and emotional appeals, but maybe consider them more for certain occasions and not something to plaster on everyone's feed. 

  My suggestions for making memes, should you ever feel inclined to introduce a new snack-sized opinion/fact to the Internet: 
  • When you can (and please, try your best) includewithin the image, references and sources if the meme is making a claim about history, science, a study, polls, ect...  Provide a means for people to hear/read/see the recording/quote/study for themselves. 
  • Always hesitate to assign intent, especially when details are speculative or inconclusive. 
  • Reconsider any inflammatory or strong language, evaluate how such wording could affect circulation and reception.  I'm not necessarily saying you should censor yourself, just that you should consider effectiveness when considering style

  

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