Greta Christina – Why Are You Atheists So Angry?

May 14, 2012

Our guest this week is Greta Christina, a leading atheist blogger, speaker, and commentator, and a regular contributor to

Christina is author of the new ebook Why Are You Atheists So Angry?: 99 Things that Piss Off the Godless, which grows out of a 2007 blog post on the same topic. The book will also be out in print in June.

Greta Christina blogs at, and her writing has appeared, among other places, in Ms., Penthouse, Chicago Sun-Times, On Our Backs, and Skeptical Inquirer. She is editor of the “Best Erotic Comics” anthology series, and of “Paying For It: A Guide by Sex Workers for Their Clients.

This is point of inquiry for Monday, May 14th, 2012. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grassroots. This week, my guest is Grétar Christina. She’s a leading atheist, blogger, speaker and commentator and regular contributor to AlterNet and she’s author of the new e-book. Why Are You Atheists So Angry? Ninety Nine Things That Piss Off the Godless. Which is also coming out in print in June. And the book grew out of a highly trafficked, highly commented upon 2007 blog post on the same topic. 

That’s what we’re here to talk about today. So, Gretta, Christina, welcome to Point of Inquiry. 

Thank you so much for having me. 

You bet. I really enjoyed the book. And let me just say, I mean, you are a really powerful, emotional and witty writer. Can I just say that, you know, because I really enjoy. It’s really funny. Funny to read this book. 

Oh, of course you can see that. Thank you. And it’s great to have you on the show. We probably don’t agree about everything when it comes to, you know, how to get across the message of reason and rationality. I mean, I think we have the same cause. But, you know, some ways the details may be different, but that’s that’s what I want to get into. But I think you’ve really written a spirited and passionate book that captures the perspective that we’ve gotta sort of make the world a little bit more rational. 

And so let’s talk about how to do this and let’s talk about this theme of anger. You’ve written you call it, I think, a litany of rage. And there is a lot to be angry about. I mean, what what makes you you’re not angry at this present moment? 

I take know. Right. Right. Right now I’m in a pretty good mood. OK. 

What? What do you think? Is is is anger the chief emotion of the atheist or secular movement or leading emotion? 

I don’t think that there’s any one leading emotion of the atheist or secularist movement. I certainly think that anger is one of the emotions that many of us have in our human beings, of course. We have a wide range of emotional responses to our experience in the world, and anger is one of them. And certainly I think anger is what drives a lot of people to participate in the atheist movement and to to speak out about their Athie ism, to speak out against the harms that are done. Bairo by religion, to to organize, to do activism, to do visibility work. And so all you to create a community and so on. I think that anger is certainly one of the chief emotions that’s driving us. But I wouldn’t argue that it’s the primary one and all. 

And it’s a term that certainly has a negativity associated with that. I mean, that’s that’s stating the obvious. You feel that it’s productive. You don’t feel that. I mean, you don’t feel that it’s pejorative at all. 

Well, those are two different questions, whether it’s productive and whether it’s seen as negative. Those are two different questions. 

So the question of whether it’s seen as negative. Yes, it often is. And when you look at the history of other social change movements, you see a very similar pattern, that once the social change movement starts to get some real traction and some real power and some real visibility in the with the atheist movement has been doing in the last few years, the opponents of that movement start fear mongering about how angry they are. You saw that in history, the civil rights movement. You saw that in the history of the LGBT movement, the feminist movement, the labor movement and so on. Once these movements started to get some real power and some real visibility, opponents started fear mongering about, oh, my goodness, they’re so angry and they’re gonna turn into this uncontrolled, raging mob and tear up your city and so on. 

And so the fact that we that our anger is being used against us, that’s unsurprising. That’s a different question from the question of whether or not it’s productive. And I’m not going to say the anger is always universally, in every situation, productive. One of the things they said in the book is that, you know, anger is it’s a difficult tool. It could be a dangerous one. It can be one that works against us. But that on the whole, it is extremely powerful tool and it’s one that really knows social change movement in history, at least none that I’m aware of has ever been able to do without. 

Okay, well, let’s I agree. If people are I mean, I think it’s almost definitely true that if people are fired up, then they’re going to be more willing to try to affect change. Do you think and you give historical parallels? 

It is my perception and it is not based on anything other than a sense of things that atheists get labeled angry more than other movements. I mean, if you look at marriage equality right now, I don’t really see that adjective being thrown around the law. I mean, maybe I’m missing it, but it seems like atheists get it more. Do you think that that’s true? 

That’s a good question. And usually when I say that something is a good question, it means I don’t have already. And they’re off topic at home. 

And my off the top of my head answer would be. I think to some extent that’s true. And I think that to some extent it’s a result of how relatively new we are not obviously the racism has been around for a long time and even organization that’s been around for a long time. But we’re relatively new in terms of being a very visible, very vocal, very activist, you know, mobilized national and international movement. And I think that, again, like I was saying before, once that starts to happen, that’s when a movement starts to get started, get targeted as angry and the starts to get fear mongered about as angry. You know, I think that it’s true that the LGBT movement isn’t currently primarily stigmatized as being angry. We’re stigmatized in other ways, but we certainly were in the 1970s, especially the 1970s, and also in the days of the AIDS activist movement, there was a tremendous amount of stigmatization about, you know, those are those angry gays. What are they so angry about? Well, they were angry because, you know, the government and the medical establishment was ignoring the fact that they were dying by the thousands. That’s a pretty reasonable thing to be angry about. But again, back to your question. I think if it is the case that atheists are targeted as angry more than other social change movements, I think it’s because we’re relatively new to the table and people aren’t. People aren’t familiar with it. There was a comment or on daylight 8000 blog comments or Niebla Net who said this? I think really succinctly. She said people are so used to whispering around religion that in everyday voice sounds like a shout. And I think that’s a lot of what we’re seeing. There is so much religion gets so much protection. It gets treated with kid gloves. It gets, you know, just it’s tremendously sheltered from any kind of crisis. Some are questioning any sort of even just expressing the idea that I don’t agree with you and I don’t think you have any evidence to back up your position. That’s by itself seen as tremendously insulting and confrontational and bigoted and angry. And so I think that that’s one of the things is that we’re seen as angry because people are just not used to hearing their voices at all. 

Well, I think you agree. 

And you would say in the in the book that anger, it certainly has a downside in the sense that it is an emotion. Emotions, I mean, they bought if there’s one thing that biases reasoning, it’s emotions because they cloud things. 

So do I not agree with that even in the slightest? Emotion is absolutely essential for reason to function. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the book Descartes Error since the research that’s been done about this. But when people don’t have emotion, we actually lose our ability. 

Theresa. Emotion is what gives us the values to reason towards emotion is what helps us make decisions. Emotion is absolutely essential. Part of reason, I mean, obviously can go out of control. You know, it can be, you know, excessive. If we pay attention to our emotions too much, that’s a problem. 

But, you know, we we need emotion to you know, emotion is the most and like anger is a good example of that. 

You know, if we’re not angry when people are being harmed, then that that’s essentially complacency and that that we need to feel angry when we see terrible harm being done in the world in the same way that we need to be able to feel joy when there are wonderful things that are happening so that we can yet then use our reason to help us decide how can we create more joy and less harm. 

Well, so, yes, you’re right. All the research shows that there isn’t reasoning apart from emotion. There’s this thing that psychologists would call cold reasoning, which is the opposite of heart reasoning or emotional reasoning, which now they wonder if it even exists. So, yes, no, you’re you’re right about that. But there’s also motivated reasoning, which is, you know, when you come up with reasons to justify an emotion that got there before you actually were conscious. And so that is going on all the time. Everybody’s doing it in service of various emotions. So what I’m saying is anger could lead to a process motivated reasoning that isn’t necessarily as rational as we think it is. 

That’s that’s absolutely true. I wouldn’t deny that. I mean, you know, I I certainly wouldn’t argue that anger is. 

You know, always purely the single best driver of all thinking and reasoning, and it’s one of the things I said in the book is, you know, it can be a difficult tool is one that we need to be careful with. But again, I you know, when you look at the history of other social change movements, you also see that it’s a tool that’s absolutely essential. It’s something that does motivate people. 

It motivates people who are already more or less on your side to take action, people who have already more or less on your side. But, you know, they’re kind of feeling complacent or they have other things on their mind. Anger about an issue is what a big part of what motivates people to decide, hey, I really need to take action on this. This is important. There’s something that’s really profoundly not okay in the world and I need to change it. And anger also can be very effective in drawing attention to your cause or to your issues. What are the things that always makes me chuckle is if there’s some angry demonstration, if there’s Occupy Wall Street or an anti-war demonstration or something in the street and there’s news reporters out there saying, you know, I don’t understand why these people are so angry. What do they hope to accomplish by it? Well, part of what they hope to accomplish by it is getting you out there to cover them on the news. You know, anger can be very effective in drawing attention to a social change movement from people outside it who might not have been aware of it. And this is something that I’ve seen a lot as a writer. You know, I write for my own blog, Graddick Christina’s blog. And for that, that’s primarily atheists who read it. But I also write for AlterNet, which is a general interest of progressive political magazine around the Internet. And that’s primarily not an atheist readership. It’s a certain number of atheists, but primarily not atheist. And when I write for AlterNet, I write a lot about injustices within the atheist world, such things like that. Jessica Ahlquist saying the demon fouler thing, you know, in high school students being denied the right to organize student groups in their in their public high schools and so on. And when I write about that, that gets a lot of attention from people who aren’t familiar with Acey ism, who aren’t familiar with the community and who go, oh, this is really kind of not OK. You know, there’s this real hostility. There’s real bullying in the high schools is real discrimination against atheists. I wasn’t aware of that. And the fact that atheists are angry and are mobilizing around it is getting people’s attention. 

Well, we actually have in common a writing for AlterNet. I’ve been doing a lot of it lately myself. 

So it is it is a great, great way to get the word out. Nemos, as is give a plug in terms of, you know, a site where everybody is is actually incredibly fired up about injustice. I think that it is it is definitely that. And also, by the way, fired up and defensive reason. I mean, you know, I did this piece attacking Fox News. And, boy, they like that at all. 


Let me let me again remind our listeners that Grétar Christina’s new book, Why Are You Eigth You So Angry, is available through our Web site, point of inquiry dot org. It’s an e-book, but there is an actual physical book coming out in June. Now, let’s let’s talk about what we are, because you you know, you do a lot of I don’t know if you would call it organizing, but you go around giving talks and trying to get people to want to take action in defense of reason and secularism. So what is this what is this building towards? What is the what is the goal? I mean, because at one point in the book, you said you talk about whether it’s actually plausible or not to sort of want a world where there’s less religion. 

Well, I think that’s a good question. As you know, what is the goal of the atheist movement or what I would actually like to rephrase it is what are the goals of the atheist government and the secularist movement? Because I think that we have multiple goals and I don’t think we all have the same goal. 

There are a lot of people, probably most of us in the movement share the goal of better separation of church and state to government being out of, you know, rather religion being out of government. Definitely. 

You know, the no, you know, less or and ideally no bigotry against racism and atheists. You know, there’s, you know, things like, you know, atheist being denied custody of their children, you know, atheist students being denied the right to organize in high schools, that sort of thing. 

So I think that that’s those are the goals that most of us share. You know, religion out of government and an end to anti atheist bigotry. Some of us also share the goal of trying to persuade people out of religion. You know, we think religion is mistaken idea about the world. We think it’s that idea that on the whole does significantly more harm than good. And we want to persuade people out of it. And that’s a goal that some of us have and not all of us do. And I actually don’t have a problem if somebody says that’s not really my goal. I don’t want to try to persuade somebody that their religion is wrong. I just want them to not be bigoted against me. I don’t actually have a problem with that. I just. But I do think that my goal of trying to persuade people out of religion and create a world where religion. Doesn’t exist. I think it’s a valid goal, and I am troubled when people try to persuade me that that’s not a valid goal and I shouldn’t pursue it. 

And when you talk about valid, I mean, there’s one sense in which I would say it’s valid. 

There’s one sense in which I person would say this is valid in the sense that I think probably religion does a lot of harm in the world. And so I it’s valid in that sense. People would be happier if there were some other way of, you know, binding human beings together that gave them all the good things about the bad, the way in which I would say I would just I would just say, why do you think it’s going to work? Because I think human and we had Jonathan Hyde on the show, for example, a social psychologist and talking about eath. He makes the argument that human beings are basically evolved to be group ish. You know, they need to group together. They need something that binds them together, which is a shared understanding of the world. And, you know, religion fits real well. And so it always seems to pop up all around the world. And so in that sense, I mean, it’s human nature in a way. 

Well, I would disagree with that. I mean, certainly I don’t disagree that human beings are social animals. Obviously, we’re social animals who would be foolish to to try to deny that. But I do disagree that we need religion and that religion has to be the things that we organize around and that we share, that we share common values, that we build community around. And I think the best example of that is Europe. You know, we see in many countries in Europe, they’re really letting go of religion at an astonishing clip. There are many countries in Europe where more than half the population doesn’t believe in God and isn’t religious. And and they are doing fine. They’re actually doing and, you know, by many metrics better than we are the United States. And so I think it’s a mistake to say that humanity automatically needs religion. We can’t do without it. Then again, you look at the growing atheist community here in the United States. As you know, the number of people who are willing to say they don’t believe in God and who are willing to leave organized religion or never participate in the first place. 

It’s growing at a really astonishing clip. So I think that, you know, religion certainly is an easy thing for us to organize around and to build community around. But I don’t think it’s necessary. 

Well, let’s let’s say that as a premise with we both agree people need some kind of community. You know, societies need to bind people together. And it is unfortunate that often they bind people together around ideologies, often religious, that are actually kind of quite parochial and then people behave in a tribal way, OK? So we agree that that’s bad. Do you think that the world of ageism or Sarkozy is ready to offer an alternative kind of community? I mean, that’s what I wonder about a lot, because I think that there have been a lot of attempts, but I don’t know that I would say that I that you see. And maybe it’s also partly because I don’t think the community is made of people who need as much community, if you know what I mean. 

Well, that’s a real I think that’s a really interesting question. And again, what I would say is, you know, look at Europe. 

You know, Europe seems to be, you know, doing quite well, you know, building a society and, you know, perpetuating a society that’s largely secular. So I think there’s kind of two different questions here. There’s the question of whether atheists and Athie ism can provide an alternative community to religion. And then there’s a question of whether society can have secular communities that aren’t about 8000, but that aren’t about religion either, that are about art, that are about philosophy, that are about sports or fashion or bowling or whatever. You know, the kinds of things that people, you know, organize around and build communities around politics, other kinds of, you know, sets of shared values, other you know, that’s the things that they haven’t in common that I think are important. And, you know, you look at any major city, large city, you know, you see people building community around all kinds of things that aren’t religion and, you know, doing so fairly successfully. So. So they there’s sort of a separate question of whether atheists can build a substitute community for religion and whether society can build a secular community that’s not about religion with the thought about atheists. Now, to get to the topic of whether atheists can build community. I think that we are already beginning to do so. 

There is sort of that that the problem that you mentioned, which is that the atheists, at least people who are currently atheist and who are currently out atheist, tended to be non joiners, who only tend to be, you know, independent thinkers. They tend to not care that much what other people think of them. They’re not as necessarily as social as as other people. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that it’s so difficult to come out as an atheist. The fact that there is such a stigma against atheists and therefore the people who are comfortable coming out as atheists are people who are more strong minded, more. And it’s spirited, don’t care that much what society thinks of them and so on. But there’s also an increasing recognition with among atheists that there is a need for community, that there’s a need for community online, which we’ve already built, done tremendous job of building. And it is also a need for community in the flesh locally and that people are already beginning to build. I mean, I’ve done a lot of traveling around the country doing public speaking, mostly at student groups, but also for local community groups. And I’m seeing these communities already starting to happen. And it’s really kind of inspired to not kind of inspiring. It’s tremendously inspiring. And the communities are growing and they’re very much aware that people do get a lot of their community needs met through religion, even if they’re not religious. It’s one of the things that American atheist President David Silverman talks about a lot is the phenomenon of atheists in the pews. People who don’t believe in God, who don’t believe in religion, but they go to church or synagogue or temple or whatever anyway, because that’s what their friends are and that’s what their family is and that’s what’s expected of them. And the more we can do to provide the things that religion provides in terms of, you know, just, you know, a central place to meet your friends every week and people that you can look to for support if you’re having a hard time and, you know, an avenue to do to organize charitable work and an avenue to organize social justice work and so on, that the more we can do that, the stronger will be. And I’m seeing a lot of people in the community are talking about this. A lot of the people in the community are doing it and doing a better job of it everyday. 

Well, that raises I mean, another one of the key issues that you address in the book and in several chapters, in a way, I mean, the chapter is somewhat differently directed. But, I mean, it’s sort of ties them together is the, quote, the religious medal. Would he go? I mean, people that aren’t fundamentalists because, you know, when you talk about intolerance coming from religion, it’s generally, I think, coming from people who are fundamentalist. I mean, because because basically religion is is a vehicle of prejudice. And if you’re sure you’re right about the world, then you’re also sure the people different from you aren’t right about the world. And so then you get all kinds of problems. There’s there’s a different group who might be fans of teaching evolution, fans of embryonic stem cell research, a basically liberal religious folk. 

I mean, what is what is the approach to them? I think you say that eventually you want to you don’t want to criticize as much, but you do want to criticize them. 

Yeah. That’s the take that I. That that’s that’s my approach certainly is. You know, if all religion were progressive or moderate religion, I wouldn’t care about it as much. It’s certainly more that the majority of the harm that I see done by religion is done by the more extremist, the more fundamentalist varieties of it, but certainly not all of it. I mean, certainly there’s a lot of, you know, everyday garden variety Catholics who taught their gay kids that they were sinful. We’re going to burn in hell. Who taught there? You know, female children that, you know, they shouldn’t ever have sex with anybody until they got married and that, you know, the fact that they were girls meant that they were being punished by God because of the sin of even all that sort of stuff. 

You know, there’s a lot of harm that is being perpetuated by more moderate or mainstream religion. It’s not just the extremist righties that do harm. And I would also argue that even very liberal, very progressive religion, religion, where their values to a great extent line up with those of many people in secular community. You know, they’re pro-gay, they’re pro-choice, they’re pro separation of church and state. They’re, you know, not sexist and so on. 

Even those people are perpetuating the idea that faith is a good idea, that religious faith, you know, which essentially means believing things you have no good reason to think are true. They’re perpetuating the idea that this is a good idea. And that, I think, is an idea that in itself does harm. And it’s an idea that gives shelter to the more extremist varieties of religion. It gives, you know, if you believe that it’s you know, that faith is a good idea when you’re supporting P flag or something like that, it’s very difficult to argue with somebody who says, well, my faith tells me to go, you know, to try to ban same sex marriage. And, you know, because if you’re basing your ideas on faith, you don’t have any basis in evidence or reality for resolving your differences. And so essentially, where I stand on real progressive or moderate religion is I can work with these people. I can work in alliance with someone, issues we have in common. I can be friends with them and hang out at dinner with them and enjoy their company. And and so on. But I still disagree with them about religion, I still disagree with him about the idea of faith. And I’m not going to shut up about that. I’m not going to not discuss that in the public sphere. I won’t discuss around the dinner table properly, but I’m not going to stop discussing it in the marketplace of ideas just because they find the idea upsetting. 

Yeah, this is this is something that I don’t I don’t really see the same way because I guess I’ve done all this research on liberalism and conservatism as psychologically different. 

And if you look at that research and then you say, oh, some people are liberal, some conservative, it suffuses all their life. And conservatives want to be certain more than liberals do than what you actually get in a more liberal religion is just like what you get in liberal politics, which is people that are less certain. I mean, you know, that are more open to doubt, people that struggle with their faith rather than saying that, you know, oh, we’re absolutely sure. Like, when you when you talk about fundamentalism is all about giving people really clear ideas, they can fixate on them and not have to worry about it anymore, whereas people who are more open minded, more tolerant of doubt, will probably, if they if they stay religious, will probably go towards a more liberal and, you know, sort of splitting the difference kind of religiosity. So it’s not clear to me those people are cognitively or psychologically the same. I mean, you know, the word faith is still used. But I mean, I don’t think it’s the same kind of process. 

I’m not arguing that it’s the same. I’m arguing that it’s still problematic. 

Um, I do think liberal religion is different from conservative religion. But I still think that it’s problematic. I mean, it’s still for one thing, I still think it’s not true. 

And you know, that that for sure it’s not. 

It’s the you know, it’s. And you can argue for a long time about whether this whether religion is harmful or helpful. And I think it’s those are discussions that are worth having. But the core of it is it isn’t true. And therefore, just almost by definition, that makes it harmful. Because if you’re basing your life on an idea that isn’t true, you’re going to make bad decisions. And I do see this among liberal waste a lot of time. 

You know, I see I used that as an example. 

I think I get this in the book. I used to work at a birth control clinic and there was a woman who came into the clinic seeking a cervical cap for birth control. And I asked her, well, what method of birth control are you currently using? It’s something always we always ask people for, you know, record keeping and so on. And she said that the current method of birth control she was using was visualization, that her method of birth control was that she and her partner, when they had intercourse, visualized, i.e., imagined a shield of white light covering her cervix and protecting it from sperm so she wouldn’t get pregnant. And this is a very good example. I think of it as a very, you know, standard California liberal woman. But he had this very bad idea about how to prevent pregnancy. There was a religious idea. It was an idea that he was, you know, being possibly more flexible about than, you know, say, a hardcore fundamentalist might be. But he still was very attached to this idea. And the reason he’d come in for the cervical cap wasn’t that she thought, oh, gee, visualization is ridiculous now, but that she said, well, I’m I’m concerned that the visualization isn’t going to work because I unconsciously really want to get pregnant. And even though I’m making this conscious decision not to, I’m afraid that this unconscious desire to get pregnant and therefore the visualization is going to work. We’ll talk about it. Unfalsifiable hypothesis. You know, if she does get pregnant, it’s because he did it wrong. And if she doesn’t get pregnant. Hey, visualization works. And so and I see this kind of thinking, even among liberal and moderate believers a lot. It’s you know, the face may not be as rigid. In fact, what I find it in the case of liberal believers is often very slippery and it shifts around depending on what kind of questions are being asked. So it’s not as rigid as fundamentalist beliefs, but it still does harm. It still is a mistaken idea that leads people to make bad decisions. And that was certainly true of me when I was a spiritual believer. 

You know, I made a lot of really bad decisions based on my beliefs in a soul and, you know, reincarnation and tarot cards and astrology and all that stuff. I made some really bad decisions about my life based on based on those beliefs. 

And so that’s kind of what it comes down to is even if it is a less rigid ideology, it’s still not true. 

I want to remind our listeners again, the Grétar Christina’s new book, Why Are You Atheist So Angry, is available through our Web site, Point of inquiry dot org. Just to wrap up here, just a couple things. At the end of the book, you talk about essentially like stuff that works. I mean, in your experience, things that have gotten people to be open to atheists. And tell us a little bit about the. 

Sure. On my blog. Done a couple of times and it did this again recently. 

I’ve done a survey of my blog readers asking them if you’re currently an atheist and you used to be a religious believer. What changed your mind? What helped you change your mind? And I still I got deluged with responses. I’m still in process of collating them and and, you know, putting them together. And I really do. This is very unscientific. You know, it’s you know, people who read my blog is not exactly a scientifically selected sampling of the atheist community, you know? So it’s not a you know, I would mostly just trying to get an idea of what are some of the kinds of ideas that work. And I found some really interesting things. One is that there is no one answer. You know, I was really when I first did this this poll, I was really hoping to get there’d be like one if one idea that 75 percent of all atheists. This is what made them change their mind. 

Because then I would be OK. Well, that’s the idea I can keep hammering on about. And of course, it would turn out that that’s not the case, that the kinds of ideas that make people change your mind about religion are all over the map. It’s just a tremendous variety of ideas. Anything from you know, I was, you know, became very angry at what I saw as religious hypocrisy and no harm done in the name of religion. And that made me start questioning it. People say that they changed their mind because they read the Bible and they were like, hey, this this is kind of full of some really horrible stuff and stuff. That doesn’t make any sense. A lot of people did say that they changed their mind based on atheist ideas. You know, the name Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion came up over and over and over again as somebody who really change people’s minds about religion. So the first thing I found was there’s a tremendous right is not one idea that persuades people out of religion. The other thing is that a lot of times people said that even just for themselves. There was no one idea. There was no one process that helped change their mind, that what they found was that, you know, like they started the process by asking questions of their pastor and not getting satisfying answers. 

And then they started reading the Bible and that made them ask harder questions. And then they started talking to other atheists online and, you know, looking at atheist forums and blogs. And that moved their process along further. And then they read some books and that moved their process along further. There’s no and I think that that’s one of the things when we engage in debate with believers, it’s often very frustrating. 

You know, you expect them to change their mind overnight. You provoke present them with all these wonderful arguments and they don’t change their mind. And people therefore get frustrated and give up and say, we’ll see. Clearly arguing with religious believers doesn’t work. Well, what I found is that it does work. It just doesn’t work overnight. And you by yourself are not going to be able to make the difference. It’s more that you’re going to be able to sort of push people a little bit farther along the path and, you know, help them through their process. And ultimately, it’s a process. People need to go through on their own. You can just help provide them with the tools to do it. 

What I found striking about this list was that they were all arguments. I mean, I think, in other words, I didn’t see anybody in there saying, well, I met some atheists. They turned out to be really okay people. And they did me a kind turn. And I got more open to the fact that maybe, you know, atheists don’t have fangs. I mean, you know, I mean, they didn’t. 

Did anybody say that? Because I was surprised that they were that it was all so rational? 

Well, what the specific question I was asking was, what are the arguments that helped persuade you or what are the ideas that helped persuade you? OK. So so to some extent, that’s biased in that direction, because that’s the question I was asking, because what I was trying to find out was when we do craft our arguments, what kinds of what should we be addressing? 

But some people did talk about how some of what made the difference for them was seeing seeing atheists in the world, seeing atheists come out and seeing that atheists are are good people and that atheists that that the myths that they’d heard about atheists are not correct. So so I do think that that’s hugely important. I mean, that was, again, obviously very important for the LGBT community. You know, the thing that we found very consistently is that the thing that makes people change your mind about supporting gay rights is whether they know a gay person or rather whether they know that they know a gay person, because obviously they probably do. So I think that when it comes to combating bigotry about atheists and, you know, the myths and stigma about us coming out is absolutely the single most important thing that we can do. That’s something of a different question from the question of if we’re engaged in trying to persuade people out of religion, what kind of arguments to should we be making? 

Okay. Fair Ferna. Well, I mean, I think that’s really illuminate. I guess the only other point I would ask and then I think. We need to wrap up here. But the people who answered this are I mean, do you agree with me there a self selected group in the sense that they’re the people who found their way to atheists? I mean, it might be the case that there’s always a certain amount of people that find their way to Athie ism and the things that appeal to them are like this. But the rest of the world is is having a different reaction. 

No, I mean, again, I I’m aware that, you know, people who read my blog. That’s a very self-selecting you know, that’s a very self-selecting sampling. And again, I wasn’t trying in this. You know what I was doing the survey. I wasn’t really trying to get a statistically representative sampling of, you know, what changes people’s minds about religion. I was really just trying to get a sense of what are some of the arguments, not necessarily what is some of the arguments or ideas that are the most effective, but just what what are some of the just. 

I just wanted to know what the ideas were, not necessarily what the most common ideas were. So, no, and I do think that, you know, it’s one of the things that a lot of us have been seeing in this movement is we do need to do community building. We do need to do visibility. We do need to do, you know, to to let people know that Athie ism is is an okay way to be and that we’re happy and that we have meaning in our lives and that we’ll be there to help catch you when you’re having a hard time. And so on. That hugely important. I don’t think that that’s necessarily antithetical to, you know, making arguments and getting into debates in in the public square. 

I think we need to do both of those things and also that we know how to throw a good party. 

I mean, that’s definitely really not a throw. Good party. 

Well, Greta, Christina, thank you so much. Has been great to have you on point of inquiry and best of luck with the book. 

Oh, thank you so much. Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed it. 

I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry and to join the discussion about today’s show, you can visit us at point of inquiry dot org. 

You can send questions and comments to feedback at point of inquiry. Dot org were on Twitter at point of inquiry and on Facebook at slash point of inquiry. The views expressed on the show aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry or of its affiliated organizations. 

One of inquiry is produced by Adam, Isaac and amrs New York, and our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Waylan. Today’s intro featured Debbie Goddard and I’m your host Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney