Understand this much about me, I am not a fan of the in your face approach to anything, arguments get me a little bummed out and I don’t believe that my opinion is any more important than anyone else, when I defend facts my aim is not to say that other people are less important or less intelligent because they think the opposite way, my aim is just to let people know that there are facts out there and if they are interested they might just listen, if not, they know my viewpoint and then we know where we stand, it’s not about confrontation.
For that reason I always find people like Richard Dawkins hard to watch. I know there are a lot of people who think the opposite is true but I really think that the aggressive approach to questioning beliefs is the wrong way to go about things. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, I’m sure that in some people it changed their lives but to me that’s a form of extremism that shouldn’t be as hailed as it is, in fact I like watching Dawkins when he’s fair about other peoples’ beliefs, but some of the assumptions these kind of people make are really as much of an assumption as many people of blind faith make. (edit: this was meant as a lot more specific than it may have come across, I refer here to Richard Dawkins’ explanations of what goes through a believer’s mind, something which when I hear him speak on makes me cringe, I share his world view or at least a large chunk of it but the way that he describes the thoughts of the believer in my experience is entirely unjustified and relies heavily on assumption, something that he and other like minded people promote the avoidance of, this is the reason I drew the comparison to blind faith in which assumption is the golden rule, I did not mean that his beliefs are as such (is it not clear what I believe by now? I mean I do one of these every pissing day) only that the way he presents the minds of those who do not share his world view. This does not make his opinion any less valid (isn’t that what this is about?) it just means that he did not use an evidence based approach in that assumption (as far as I can tell based on the believer I once was and those I have met and associate myself with, for all I know everyone around him of faith acts just as he described) and that in my opinion weakens his argument and increases the likelihood that atheism and associated belief systems are going to be further thought of as overly zealous). Hurrr, now we’ve got that out of the way…
Anyone can tell you that being preached to on the street is annoying, and equally being scalded for your faith is just as aggravating (a little experience talking here), if anything you’re going to put people off questioning their beliefs if you tell them everything they know is bollocks and that they’re an idiot for thinking that. that’s ridiculously insulting, and I have seen people do this.
If what you really want to do is get your viewpoint across and help people to understand where you’re coming from, explain yourself, if someone asks a question answer it fairly and you can plant a seed of doubt if that’s what you’re aiming for, but it is no-one’s personal duty, in my estimation to question someone else’s beliefs, if someone is going to make a decision that deep and personal, then it should be entirely on their own terms, and anything else is a little unethical in my view.
Think about how much of a paradigm shift losing a relative can be (this is going to be an incredibly extreme example), now imagine somebody telling you while this relative is alive over and over again that she’s going to be dead. You’re not going to like that person very much, and you shouldn’t, because not only is it upfront and in your face, it’s intrusive and insulting.
I know I may come across as somewhat of a winger at this but I really think there’s something to be said for respecting people enough to not shout their misapprehensions down their ears with a megaphone for a week.