From my series:
Before beginning this series, I want to repeat some of the basic positions which I have written before.
My starting points:
No need to De-Convert
I use to be a fervent Christian, and now, from a Christian perspective, I am certainly an Atheist. But I happen to think that, just like other religions, Christianity can offer a great deal of benefit to believers and others. I feel many people are actually better off being a believer than being an Atheist. So I am a pragmatist who understands that even false beliefs can serve us well. So often I feel there is no need for a Christian to de-convert.
However, I also believe that though a given faith may benefit a believer, on the other hand, it may be harmful to those around them. Likewise, some beliefs benefit the believer in the short run but often hurt them in the long run. For this reason, we all need to watch our beliefs and see how to improve them. Likewise, we can sometimes help others by moving them toward healthier beliefs.
Learning from a Christian
No one is perfectly healthy and we can all stand to learn from each other. Our first reflex should be to understand. That understanding may benefit us far more than anything we think we can offer the other person. The discipline to truly listen, reflect and act kindly is far undervalued.
De-Converting a Christian
There are a huge varieties of Christianity and I feel some are more healthy than others. In my post “My Favorite Type of Christian“, I have a table which lists some of the categories of Christian doctrines and state which forms of these doctrines (even though mistaken) are healthier than others. By “healthier” I mean positions which I feel are offer better long term benefits to BOTH the believer and others — a sort of utilitarian view.
So, I think challenging a Christian to move toward these other positions can often be more important than trying to convert a believer into an atheist.
Yes, to Christians, all the above is still offensively paternalistic. But in my model, a believer can lead a healthy, wonderful, full, meaningful life but in the eyes of many Christians, my live and the lives of other Atheists, are worthless unless we accept Jesus in our hearts or we will all burn forever in hell. So tell me, which view is more paternalistic?
But arguing dogma, doctrine, beliefs and the like are often not the only effective ways to change. In my next posts, I hope to illustrate the complexity of changing our ourselves and others.