Why do some Atheists think propaganda is okay?

I always get really frustrated with the B.S. pseudo-science pushed by intelligent design (see creationist) advocates and new age / post-modernist crap like “What the Bleep Do We Know?!.” But it’s struck me that many films, books and documentaries of late that are pro-Atheism (or at leas anti-theism) are very much failing to be anything other than low-brow propaganda that makes me cringe.

Take as examples, “The God Who Wasn’t There,” and “Religulous.” Both of these movies are very much low-brow (and often misleading) propaganda that are at times embarrassing for any prideful non-theist. Now I understand that not every argument can be laid out in full without it becoming completely inaccessible to the public at large, but the very premise / narrative structure of these movies are intellectually dishonest / callous (respectively.)

What is happening to the non-theist movement? When did it stop being about enlightening people and become about counter indoctrination? Why do so many agnostics and atheists seem okay with and even applaud this new more militant direction?

For the sake of full disclosure, I am agnostic.

Posted: March 31st 2009

George Ricker www

Now that atheists are speaking out more, we are hearing more of this sort of complaint.

But propaganda and polemics have their place in the public discourse. Religionists have long utilized such tools in promoting their respective faiths.

I suppose it would be lovely if everyone spoke in cultured, moderate tones and made only purely rational arguments and no one ever offended anyone, but such tactics don’t work and never have.

Let us have a public discussion of religions that is robust and wide-ranging. We atheists recognize no sacred cows and should make no apologies for speaking our minds.

Also in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I am the author of a book called Godless in America: conversations with an atheist, so I probably belong in the group of polemicists being taken to task.

Posted: April 1st 2009

See all questions answered by George Ricker


Your concerns are often brought up. The best handle I have in trying to present why a range of behaviors are important regarding the expression of atheism is the Overton Window.

Excerpted from the above link:

The Overton Window is a means of visualizing which ideas define that range of acceptance by where they fall in it, and adding new ideas that can push the old ideas towards acceptance merely by making the limits more extreme.

Behave the way that is best for you. But also realize that more extreme behaviors are making yours seem less so and more acceptable.

Posted: April 1st 2009

See all questions answered by logicel

SmartLX www

Propaganda is the dissemination of information aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviors of large numbers of people. There’s nothing wrong with it per se. If propaganda is dishonest or misleading, there is something wrong with that.

Not all atheists are going to go about defending atheism in the same way, or in the right way. I would argue that the two films you mention are outliers in quite a reasonable field of legitimate propaganda. Take as counter-examples Richard Dawkins’ BBC documentaries over the last few years, long-running Minnesota public access show The Atheist Experience and the new atheist bus campaigns worldwide.

I for one would rather atheists appeared to be the reasonable ones at all times. I know, sadly, that there are some who think people don’t listen to reason alone, and will try anything in addition.

Posted: March 31st 2009

See all questions answered by SmartLX


Well, to put it simply, being nice doesn’t work.

I was raised (as a theist) that religion was a personal thing, and you didn’t really talk about it. That’s where I was with atheism for quite a while. Live and let live.

But since I got out of college, I’ve seen a succession of both religious and political leaders mock my beliefs and question my patriotism. The barrier atheists face is that people don’t know that they know (and respect) people who don’t believe what they believe. This is the same barrier that gay people had, and just like it’s a lot harder to be anti-gay when you know gay people, it’s harder to be anti-atheist when you know atheists.

The other factor is that for years, being an “out” but genteel atheist was to be on the radical fringe, and it’s hard to be taken seriously. But with more radical and outspoken people out there, being a non-outspoken atheist is now a centrist view, and more acceptable.

The other obvious factor is that being genteel doesn’t sell books and get you appearances on national shows, and that’s where you get the opportunity to change things.

Or, to put it another way, do you think it’s okay that “atheist” is the only group that a majority of Americans would not consider as President?


Posted: March 31st 2009

See all questions answered by Eric_PK


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum