Evangelical Atheism, with Russell Glasser, Vyckie Garrison, Jamila Bey, 12-2 pm CDT, Saturday

Blogging by Melanie

Russell Glasser (paraphrase mixed with exact wording):

Introductions, then starts with the Someone is wrong on the Internet XKCD cartoon.

Talks about how “evangelism” brings about unpleasant associations. Reads some bible verses that tell people to evangelize (first corinthians, matthew)

Preaching is not specific to Christianity. Koran has version, Dalwa (sp?), word for proselytizing, Scientology actively proselytizes. Has “principles and tech widely available to others so more people can benefit. Actively and vigorously promotes.”

Atheist audience here might be saying, so what?

These people are required to promote religions to be a good xian, muslim, mormon. Atheists aren’t required. Sleep in on Sundays. Nobody can make you do anything.

Payoff to being atheist evangelist doesn’t seem that great. See all these disciples and find them annoying. Don’t want to be like them. But there are different reasons to become a little evangelical.

All three panelists are in some capacity out there talking publicly about “spreading the good news of atheism” Not necessarily trying to win converts. Raising awareness of topic of atheism.

When you don’t talk about atheism, religious people get to do vast majority of shaping public perception. Doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe in something to be a good person. Not a strong enough group of voices responding to that.

Almost no public atheist politicians. People can lose custody battles because atheist. Harsher prison sentences. Judges feel at liberty to add church to community service as though this could actually make them better people.

Fighting this public perception should be major motivator for atheists able to be safely out to do for other people.

Jamila Bey: Disagree mildly, my perspective and MO is a little different. I am out. Can no more deny atheism, skepticism, and feminism than I can deny my blackness. They are what you see when you come upon me. I am not inclined to make you or anyone more comfortable with who I am. That said, not going to a friend’s church wedding and start saying, “You realize . . .”

I’m not rude or mean person without cause, but I do want people to convert, to see things my way. Not that they say, “I too am antitheist, evangelical atheist,” but “I too celebrate knowledge, celebrate fact over faith and belief.”

The test is this: If you believe that all you need is faith [Mustard seed digression–bible is doing it wrong–go to supermarket], when your house is on fire and your child is inside, pray in earnest. If you call people with truck and hoses, your faith is not all you need. If not going to rely on faith, why not rely on reason?

Same with libertarians. If you don’t believe in govt. regulation, well, here’s your formula for your child. Unregulated. Kills your child. Market makes that company go out of business. But you have a dead child.

So many policy makers determining how people live, how laws applied based on supernatural beliefs. I want to sway people to see that we can’t make decisions that way. Need to rely on knowledge and facts.

RG: Touches on broader point. Finding confidence to be more out and aggressive about what you do believe. Both worth it and fun.

VG: From perspective of very much fundamentalist, then having experience where I had a conversation with my atheist uncle, through email exchange, I ended up reaching the point of not believing anymore. So I like to be there as an out example. Yes, you can get through. It does happen. It’s not a waste of time.

RG: Need people out and aggressive because someone on brink of atheism won’t do it without a model.

VG: Exactly. Hear often, why not leave them to their religion? Providing comfort, support for them–why not live and let live? I can see that at the time I got “saved,” I needed saving, but there came a point where rather than christianity being helpful and positive, it became a drag for me and family, even though we appeared happy, good godly family to all outside. Inside, falling apart. Going crazy. The more we dug in to our beliefs, more fundamentalist, the crazier we got. From outside, beautiful happy family, leave them alone, they don’t need intervention, but you just don’t know what’s really going on. Important to have resources available for people struggling, searching.

You can be Googling and can come up with fantastic info that will challenge you.

JB asks VG: When you say crazier and crazier, can you give examples of what that meant?

VG: We were quiverful (though just considered ourselves biblical). Went further into the Bible. What was god’s purpose for creating women, for marriage? It all boiled down to biblical family values, ideals, being forcefully pushed in society at a political level. We started with fairly benign focus on family, marriage being one man, one woman. That’s the beginning. Started finding more and more resources that were biblical, as in literal. If in the bible, it was god’s revealed will for our family. This involved patriarchy. Woman submitting. Husband leading. That dynamic is so messed up. You can do that for a while, but you’re basically trying to conform individuals to fit a pattern that makes for an unhealthy, unsatisfactory relationship.

Considered ourselves radically pro-life. Not only against abortion but against birth control. Embraced all pregnancies. This destroyed my health. And it was not good for children to have so many so closely spaced. In a lot of ways, we got more isolationist, extreme. Everything chapter and verse, black and white. So disconnected from reality. Kept hitting brick wall. Not working. Couldn’t figure out why not. We were sincere, trying so hard, trying to dig into the Word about family, raising children.

The harder we tried, the more difficult our relationships became.

RG: Jamila, did you have a religious upbringing?

JB: Southern Baptist mom who converted to Catholic. Father a Muslim, but long stopped practicing when I was born. Went to school with Jewish kids and thought no one knew what they talked about. No place I saw that I had any power.

When 5 or 6, clearly and blatantly understood that girls were not valued anywhere religion touched my life.  I went to parochial school. Grew up in Pittsburgh, so when plant would close, mill would shut down, girls went to public when times got rough. Boys didn’t. You educate your boys. Scholars classes with public school kids. What, you can’t find any smart girl to send here? But religious people wouldn’t put girls up for scholars classes.

I had cousins not allowed to wear shorts, or not have birthday parties, but I could. Any exposure before 10 made me go, I don’t want to do that. This is just restriction. By high school, I started to see the disparity in treatment of girls staying out late kissing boys versus boys doing the same. You know what, this is stupid, but I didn’t really do what I wanted until college.

RG: My parents were both nonbelievers; three more generations of atheists on my father’s side. I’m the most privileged guy here. Not that hard except five years in Alabama, Kindergarten through fourth grade. But even that was not as hard as you might think. For kids, the idea of not believing in god is just weird. They haven’t internalized concept of atheist. I would go home, Dad, did the nothing make the world? Parents were both physicists.

My son is now 5th-gen. atheist, going to Camp Quest Texas. Great organization.

Having nonreligious upbringing makes it easy to do what I want to do. Could have believed in God because everyone else does, but I always find arguing fun.

How has your upbringing affected your desire and ability to be evangelize about atheism?

JB: I’m glad I’m on this panel and Vyckie is on this panel because the way boys and girls are socialized into religion is completely different. Also, the narrative is that African American culture is a religious one. Not true. There’s a long history of people saying get the blank out of here with that.

As an adult, in journalism, my job to get in people’s faces and say, I don’t believe you. Prove it. We should have a skeptical journalist panel.

I was able to argue because of my personality. I knew enough to not use the word “atheism” until sitting in the black student union at school. I was on the debate team. [High fives between RG and JB for Lincoln Douglas debating.]

I was really fortunate in that. I was a pariah for a number of reasons, so it didn’t matter that on top of it, I was a loud mouth girl with an opinion. Reveled in that, actually.

Asked questions in religion class that were too hard, so thrown in detention. “I’m going to keep asking questions because you don’t know what you’re talking about and you just got outsmarted by a fourteen-year-old.”

But kids that will be thrown out, beaten, their lives made hell can’t take these risks. Important that those who can model can help those who can’t act in the same way.

VG: Mother spiritual but not religious. Seeker. Into anything that sounded halfway spiritual. Lot of new age. Ouija boards. Séances. I had some encounters with Mormons, JWs, went to Assembly of God church vacation bible school. Catholic babysitter. Fairly unstable chaotic home, so by time 17, looking for stability, answers, something I could hold on to and say, this is true. I prayed. God, I know that all of these things can’t be true because some contradict each other. Show me real truth. I went to the bible because that’s our culture. I also started listening to Dr. Walter Martin, the Bible Answer Man, Christian apologetics. I didn’t know any Christians at the time, so through that radio show, I became a Christian. That apologetics start made me want to be very biblical, orthodox in my beliefs. Set the stage for my Christian experience. I went to bible college, read Christian apologetics, Robbie Zachariah and Josh Mcdowell. I wanted faith to make sense and be logical and consistent.

If you accept the bible as word of God, you can build from there, logically. It was all consistent and made sense but only as long as that premise remained true. When I got to the point of realizing I no longer believed in the bible, everything else crumbled, everything I’d built on that foundation.

Because of my evangelical Christiian background, when I came out as atheist, I was still the same person, so now I just keep right on.

RG: Back to why evangelize . . . On Atheist Experience, we get asked, why do you even bother having a show? You’re just out there telling people you don’t believe. No one is ever convinced by logical arguments because religion isn’t logical.

But we get emails all the time with thanks for helping people understand the world without god.

You’re not radically changing culture every time you talk but are influencing people one at a time. You don’t necessarily have to find someone like who Vyckie was and change her to who she is know, from cult to firebrand atheist.

Often the transition happens gradually, people getting less comfortable with where they were.

If you talk in a sensitive and intelligent way to fundamentalists and make them feel bad about fundamentalism, maybe they become more liberal Christian.

Then talk to liberal Christian–you know, the bible says horrible stuff. How can you support even a liberal version? And they say, yeah, I’m uncomfortable with that. They become more spiritual instead.

To spiritual person, I’m skeptical of this. No reason to believe in souls. They might say, I don’t believe in god and there is a problem with religion, and I’m going to go out and “preach the good word” of atheism.

Moving people along transition is just as good as converting someone. Makes atheists more comfortable expressing who they are and Christians less comfortable expressing nonsensical beliefs.

VG: In email with my uncle for over a year, in apologist mode, trying to explain, trying to filter through, How would that sound to someone who doesn’t accept premise that bible is inerrant word of God? Tried to say without relying on that premise. More I tried, more I realized it all hinged on that. Then realizing I didn’t believe the premise and suddenly everything flipped. Once the bible wasn’t authoritative, everything else did not make sense.

RG: Part of being effective evangelist is having a good sense of who the audience is. What works with liberal friends not the same as what will work with fundamentalists. Argumentation is part of a competitive game. I’m an online gamer. I like games.

Like game of chess, you marshal your best tactics, what works in particular situation. When arguing, you assess who you’re talking to. Will you do a broadcast to reach as wide an audience as possible? Or are you talking to an individual? Can you figure out how they think? Maybe they believe in hell but are uncomfortable with implications. Maybe vague religiosity but at least we both hate those asshole fundamentalists, right? Figure out who you’re talking to and what works best.

JB: At this point, we should consider some tactics. People may watch Hitchens takedown videos and get inspired to do that, but it doesn’t maybe go so well. Because it requires brain training. You gotta know your position.

RG: Like weightlifting. Can’t expect to be lifting it all right off.

JB: A lot of people arguing from a faith-based position can’t argue the other side. Once you can argue both sides . . . e.g., women must be silent–not a gender bias but the way the Lord constructed us–if you can get that, you’ve got their playbook.

Read some apologetics. Listen to Christian radio. It’s hard. I know. They scream a lot. Every time they say Jesus. But listen to where they backpedal. Your book says it’s okay to rape a girl as long as you give her father money. Why do you support rape? Fine, let’s not talk about rape, let’s talk about slavery [Hank Hill voice, per RG. JB has uncle who sounds like black Hank Hill.]

Once you know the claim you wish to make, that’s where you start. For example, religion is bad for women because of simply the curse of being born women, they are lesser, not equals of men. If you want to argue with a relative who won’t listen to women or let daughters wear pants. If he’s not listening to a woman who is knowledgeable, he is basing his decision solely on a book written by Bronze Age people.

The Bible never once says wash your hands. Come on, God. Everyone supports that.

Once you know what to say and to whom, you have to get out there.

I have knack for debate, but the first few times, I was slaughtered. I don’t know why. But I took it as challenge.

RG: Cried after my first LD debate.

JB: I just got enraged. Screw you, I’m coming back.

You have to work at it. You’re never the first person to come up with an argument. Read people who’ve argued it better. YouTube is good. Christian radio and TV–watch the nun who does the art. See what the opponent is arguing.

RG: For me, going to church is like going to a funny foreign culture.

[JB sings Oh Canada]

VG: I continued going to church for a while after getting out. Everything I believed suddenly sounded so crazy. I thought I must have missed something. How could anyone believe this? And yeah, they actually are saying this stuff. It was a way for me to process it.

The more I understood spiritual abuse, and my desire to be right with my maker, to be a good mroal person, to have that truth, I just wanted to know right from wrong, such a strong desire, so willing at whatever cost to me and my family. I was willing to be obedient. That was used against me to the detriment of my family. I started getting instant headaches and panic attacks at church, realizing they take it so seriously, and it started to offend me.

I don’t debate much, except on Twitter. I like Twitter drama. But on my blog, we’re more geared toward storytelling. We share our own experiences, especially how it affected our children. This is amazingly effective.

I am openly out, sometimes obnoxiously atheist, but the aim of No Longer Quivering is not atheist. But what happens is because we’re targeting fundamentalism, once we chip away at the foundation, frequently someone comments and defends and before long they are seeing it too and saying, yeah, I don’t believe this.

RG: You have to know your audience. The audience for your blog is people escaping from hardcore fundamentalist stuff. I’m all for shouting, Your belief is bullshit. Sometimes you win more points by being as broadly appealing as possible. Fundamentalists are low-hanging fruit. A lot of people hate fundamentalists even more than atheists. We can find common ground over that even with a person who diligently believes in god. Just bring up Phelps.

JB: Any woman tired of being told what she can and can’t have done by doctor’s prescription, esp. in Texas, etc., . . . you’ll find friendlies in various social and political causes. People angry when bishops are telling the nearest hospital what will happen if a pregnancy goes wrong. It doesn’t matter what the standard is medically. If this is the nearest hospital, a couple expecting a child might start to realize that religion is not the greatest.

You can find friendlies among LGBTQ people and those who care about those issues, as well as among issues of mass incarceration.

People say atheism is a philosophical position about god, that it’s mission drift to talk about social issues. But look at problems that perplex and confound that are dismissed with let’s pray, and you’ll find others who want to DO something, who can see that prayer isn’t working for breast cancer rates, etc.

Yeah, there’s a time and place for “how could you believe such foolishness?” but for me, anytime at a parenting event or anything, I’m probably wearing FSM on me or something that a friendly would recognize. If they don’t, they’ll remember it, and years later, when atheists, will recognize the emblem.

RG: The secret handshake can be a form of evangelizing too, letting people know you’ve got their backs.

JB: it’s your right to keep quiet, and some absolutely must keep quiet. Don’t destroy your livelihood. But those who can be wearing the pins and t-shirts should be doing more of that.

RG: I’m not saying you need to be out to coworkers or that teenagers have to be outspoken at the risk of being kicked out of the house. But if you can afford to be out, you help others who can’t by being there and supportive.

JB: It’s hard to hate people you know. That’s one reason I’m upset that travel has become a political liability for politicians. It’s hard to drop bombs after meeting people, seeing their beautiful music and art. Hard to do harm to folks who have been welcoming to you. I wish we would do more on-the-ground political ambassadorship, non-drone. Think more about that going out in the world as atheists. Anyone who meets me knows I am an atheist. I think I’m charming as crap, and fun to be around, and after rum and coke, I’m really fun to be around.

[Round of rum & coke. Discussion.]

People say let’s pray and I sit out, and they realize, she’s an atheist, but our kids have played together. We’ve been pleasant. Next time they hear about an atheist, maybe they don’t want to burn them with fire. “I don’t hate that one atheist, and boy she has a cute kid.”

RG: Still on the topic of knowing your audience. There’s a lot of people saying that atheists are dicks [interrupted by Candy Crush sound effects–ah ha ha!]. Phil Plait, now Lindy West. To be a dick or not to be a dick?

JB: I’m good at being a dick.

VG: Sometimes in your face and open is the way to go. Know your audience. I know mine, but if I came off as wanting to tear the bible out of their hands, that would not go over.

JB: However, for me, I think that being a dick is sort of my M.O. I pull no punches anywhere. I believe in agreeable disagreement but at the same time, if you come into my dojo and offer to fight me, I am going to fight you as hard as I can. I will not hit you with an implement, kidney punch you, do you harm, but in a fair manner, I’m going to come at you with my best. It dishonors you for me not to. I’m not talking about a child or someone grieving, but when I hear someone say God will never give you more than you can handle, what about suicide rates? What about toddlers being raped? Why does God think toddlers can handle rape? That people can handle job loss, foreclosure, esteem loss? I don’t follow you, reverend, please explain.

VG: That’s one of those thought-stopping phrases. I would think, God must have a lot of confidence in my strength that I can handle this. Like god working in mysterious ways. Often there is a thought-stopping mechanism that is a coping technique, but you can call them on that, ask what they mean by it.

RG: Not enough people are saying, that’s a bad thing to say. I’m going to make you feel bad about it. But preaching from what the bible says gets results.

JB: I hate “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Let’s talk about love. How do you actively show that sinner that you love him? You’re just worried about the immortal soul of Ru Paul. What have you done to show Ru Paul actual love before you start to condemn Ru Paul?

RG: I didn’t know Ru Paul was still around.

JB: Yes, baby, Ru Paul is still fierce. People saying, this is an abomination.

RG: Like the guy with the bible verse tattoo

JB: You know you have to do burnt offerings for this to work. Have you done the burnt offerings? People say you’re a dick, but . . .

RG: If you’re arguing with someone enough to change their mind, you should be making them uncomfortable. There’s a difference between being a dick, calling people names, and making people uncomfortable.

JB: The beauty of being an American (or Canadian)–[cuts out]

Some chat, then JB back.

JB: Technology. God didn’t want me to say that. Which god? Still trying to figure that out.

RG talks about games he likes, that all have element of strategy. Recommends Playing to Win for gamers, by David Surwitt (sp?). Talks of strategy of being aggressively focused on how to win. Arguing atheism as a game. Lot of people get involved in a game and are a scrub, a specific kind of novice [illustrated by penny arcade cartoon].

Scrub approaches gaming as any time they are losing, the opponent must be doing something unfair.

Chess analogy: A game of developing long-term strategy. But with fool’s mate, you can do a series of three sneaky moves at the beginning and beat your opponent right away. People who encounter fool’s mate will often get angry and say not fair, you’re playing chess wrong. Fool’s mate is not unbeatable if you’re aware of what the other person is doing. The right reaction is to figure out what I did wrong in that game. How can I do better in future.

That’s how we should approach online debates. JB and RG started out bad at debating, but you only get better through practice.

The reason to listen to radio preachers, maybe go to church, … your opponent always has something to teach you about how to play the game better. If they are good at emotional appeals, it may seem unfair, but if they beat you that way, you either realize that’s a good tactic, and you should do something similar next time to make the next person look bad, or you realize that like fool’s mate, it’s not a good strategy, so learn how to beat it next time.

JB: Absolutely right. One of the things I’d love to be able to do more of. Training people in debate techniques. Not everybody–Dillahunty doesn’t like to argue for points. Very formal. “You’ve had your five minutes” . . . I like that. But people need to figure out what their weaknesses are, then spend time there.

E.g.: Integration was less advantageous for African American-owned businesses. When black people could only shop at black-owned businesses, there was greater prosperity in black businesses. On its face, there’s truth, but that’s not the whole argument. There are social, legal, educational arguments to be made. You could argue only culture and never leave it on this topic. That’s a hard one for me because I recognize how entrenched all the “isms” are in that. It’s just an intellectual exercise that quickly humbles me.

If you come from a background where you like having more privilege, more gifts, or being the oldest child in a family that values oldest children, you need to be able to argue why that’s unjust to your younger siblings.

If you want to argue about the Duggars, that teaching only boys is wrong or that girls are only for raising children, you need to be able to argue why you should, so you won’t be surprised.

RG: Part of the reason why it’s important to pay attention to your opponent and understand their side is because, SHOCKER, some of the things you’re saying could be wrong. The only way you will learn this is if someone arguing you tells you you are full of crap and you go research and either come up with solid evidence-based arguments to make your case or you come up with nothing and realizing you should stop saying that dumb thing.

VG: I don’t have any problem being wrong. I was very wrong. Hard to actually make a statement that this is what I believe.

Actually listen to what the other person is saying. Rather than just immediately dismiss it (unless familiar enough with the argument, because I lived it). Progress the conversation by giving the argument consideration, sometimes slowing down, taking a minute to think, rather than pounce. Can be very effective because you are respecting the person enough to think through what they are saying rather than just always attacking, and they often respond well.

RG: You would want the same courtesy extended to you. And at least one person needs to learn something or there’s no point.

Three reasons to argue:

  1. to change their mind
  2. you want to learn something, shore up holes
  3. or talking to an audience

JB: That’s how people come together. We think alike–let’s form a group.

Lot of fun once your own research and reading pays off.

Someone arguing “Some animals are created more equal.” Ask, Are you talking about Orwell? OK, clearly you didn’t understand what you were reading.

Lot of people use talking points. When you understand beyond the talking points, it strengthens your argument.

You hear often in religion, Women must submit, love her husband, etc. Tell me more. What else does the scripture say? What is the context of that? Man should not lie with man. What else does the scripture say? Love your polycotton blend shirt, btw.

Know your stuff, your terms.

History, culture, religion touch so much of what we do that opportunities always arise. Know your stuff.

RG: Vyckie, you were going to talk about how to talk to fundamentalists

VG: How to talk to fundamentalists we’ve covered a bit. I was fundamentalist with my uncle. I tried to be scholarly, etc.

RG: Was there an Achilles heel that you had as a fundamentalist?

VG: Two things. My uncle mentioned early on that I seemed to have a lot of guilt. That really bugged me. I got defensive. That’s not me. I am forgiven by Jesus. For him to say that, I didn’t want him to think that about me. Trying to explain no guilt really showed that there was a lot of guilt. I was convinced by religion that I was lower than a worm, but I was not a bad person.

2: My uncle was a nice guy. I’d heard how all atheists are angry, immoral, care only about themselves, so when it became personal, and I was talking with a good, kind person, it messed my brain up. I could not process. I really had to think of him as a person, not The Atheist where I’d categorized him. I had to recategorize him as a person.


Q: I chicken out in discussion where I could gently insert comments. Have you ever tried to renew a conversation?

JB: All the time. I say, “Remember when we were talking about . . .” or “I can’t get that conversation out of my head, and I wanted to say . . .”

RG: Sometimes you’re going to lose. The only solution is do the research. In live conversation, you can’t always have all the answers at your fingertips.

Learning to be an effective arguer is a long-term process. No shame in giving up, then coming back to the same guy–“hey you made a good case other day, but I looked some stuff up and some of what you’re saying was factually wrong.” I’ve been known to take a month to respond to an email.

Q: Evangelizing to door to door evangelists–fair game? Have you experienced this?

JB: I now live in gated building, so no random whavkjobs. But they are fair game. They’ve intruded upon you. Let loose. They should expect it. I kind of miss that. I miss asking Jehovah’s Witnesses, haven’t you predicted the end of the world so many times and it hasn’t? Isn’t kingdom hall celebratory?

I believe in castle doctrine. If you intrude upon my castle, you better hope all I do is mess with your mind.

VB: I seem to always miss them. I’m kind of sad about that. As a Christian, I always argued with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Haven’t had a chance to do that. I was in Minneapolis for my daughter’s doctor appointment and it was in the same building as the Church of Scientology. Tempting. If they come to your door, why not, as long as you’re dressed.

JB: My uncle was the first atheist I knew. He’d say, let me go get my bible, and he’d come out naked. I come by it naturally, in my bloodline.

RG: if door-to-door religious salesman are not fair game, no one is. Who wouldn’t want a willing and enthusiastic gaming partner?

JB: Mormon missionaries, I ask them, Well, Warren Jeffs is more in line with original doctrine of your faith. He’s a fundamentalist, and they actually follow what Joseph Smith put forth. You gave up your doctrine so Utah could become a state and you call it true.

Arguing that my son is a curse, and native people a curse, it’s so easy. They say, That’s not what it means. That’s exactly what it means. And why can’t I have more than one husband?

RG: When Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door, they come back later with backup.

JB: On a bus with a couple missionaries and I explained I’d never heard anything about Mormons except you have a bunch of wives. I had watched all of Big Love, and I started singing the Book of Mormon song.

Q: I find that many atheist friends in their 20s see nonbelief as natural and don’t see harm in religious indoctrination at large. How do you get young adults interested in atheist evangelism?

RG: Like the what’s the harm question. We covered it right at the beginning. If you don’t speak up, the guys ordered by their holy book will be the only voices in the room and will make all the laws.

JB: Google Elizabeth Smart chewing gum. The girl kidnapped and made a second spiritual wife by her rapist. People asked her, You had freedom; why didn’t you run away? She said, I was that chewed-up piece of gum. I had no worth or value. Why would anyone want me after what had happened? When you tell girls they are only worth having babies for a man. when you say girls are just for sex, this is the harm.

The rates of STDs are high in most religious parts of the country. These people are taught that it’s worse to plan to sin, so they don’t carry condoms. Religion is given a pass that no other ideas are given. We can’t have a world of thoughtful people who turn off thought when religion comes into the equation. Many problems could be fixed if we stopped letting the religious have their way.

RG: To guys out there, if you live in a society where women are taught to embrace sexuality, you will get laid more often.

VG: Look at spiritual abuse survivor blogs on No Longer Quivering. All have stories of the harm that gets into your very being. Some very severe stories, the purity culture, girls denied opportunity to go to college or have even good high school education because they are raising younger siblings. Girls who were second moms. When older and having questions–Is this really right, really what god demands of me?–then their parents just shun them, kick them out. It’s a tragedy of having that relationship with younger siblings then being ripped out of that home because you’re a bad influence. Just heartbreaking. Also homeschoolers anonymous. Amazing bunch of young people who’ve had it, speaking out because kids are still in that. We want a place where kids can get some help.

Q: What does it mean to win an online debate?

JB: The debate is not won online when the other person just stops responding.

RG: Sometimes it is.

JB: No. It is not the last blow that breaks the stone, but the thousand that came before it. Platitudes. Feel like I need a mountain behind me.

When people are arguing that faith is superior and you post links of children who died because faith kept them from care, when you show evidence, it burrows into the brain of not just your opponent but bystanders. You’re winning with other people you don’t even know are attending. You do much work you’re not aware of.

Q: Any times you’ve been in danger of violence in ad hoc on-the-street conversations?

RG: No.

JB: No.

RG: Get over the fear of being beat up. Worst that could happen is embarrassment.

VG: I had an atheist A painted on my door with silly string.

Q: Is it important to speak to youth?

Yes, yes, yes all around.

JB: Get them young. That’s why we lose to religion. You’ve got a big boat and two of every creature. [other examples] Even little kids go, there’s a problem with that. Get them young. Teach them not to buy everything told. They’ll be less taken in by scams. They’ll be better consumers.

But don’t forget that more seasoned people can also see the error of their ways and improve.

RG: Learn from opponents. Christians are all about getting them young. Seems unfair and kind of is, but don’t be a scrub. Learn what works. Teach them to question everything. Hold nothing sacred.

OK. Wrap up. Last words.

VG: It’s not a lost cause. Not a waste of time. I have encountered so many people who’ve changed their minds. People say, don’t take that away from them, but I’ve not had anyone say later that they wish I hadn’t done that to them.