Hmmm. I did make a sweeping generalisation of vocab when saying that ‘time did not exist before Big Bang’, but my point was that with ‘such people’, as that writer, it’s better to that we don’t start of with the spin of particles and debates about their existence because it will not go into their head. Without demeaning them, it’s better to give them in pretty simple terms that they are wrong (mostly that is, not opposed to them as in human beings). Many people with weaker backgrounds in science may read her comments, and think ‘oh yes, science is totally stupid, this little girl has proved it’. It’s necessary to point that out, maybe just politely saying that she may refer to this URL which will answer her query on quantum particles, whatever, is under discussion.
I do know of the fact what Sir Stephen says about our finite unbound universe. Maybe I slipped on my vocab again. BTW, you like Michio Kaku’s works? Even he’s awesome, but a bit more philosophical.
My point is, mails from theists are far more strongly-worded, and I’ve had many a delightful conversations with them which they peppered with words like ‘hell’, ‘eternal punishment’, and ‘we have overwhelming evidence’ (which, somehow, they’re generally not able to quote) etc. So if we people take a similar stance sometimes, I’ve found it works. At least, I have converted a few that way, and they’re very vocal atheists now. Sometime, it tests my patience, and the overt self-righteousness, especially Christianity displays on this topic (my poor tasteless joke – in other religions, they don’t leave you alive to protest).
I think what we have here is a difference in philosophy. Despite the joke on which this site’s home page is based, I do not make it a goal to convert people to atheism (and I don’t even like using the word “convert” in that context — it sounds too religious). Instead, my goal is to help people understand atheism and discuss religious issues in a calm, rational manner, and to examine their own beliefs to make sure they make sense.
For this reason, when someone spews hellfire at me, I don’t get defensive or start spewing reason back at them. Instead, I try to politely explain that I understand their position but disagree with it. Far more often than not in my experience, this turns a rant into a conversation.
Another think I try to keep in mind is that there are usually more than two people in any discussion. If someone is berating me for being an atheist, there are usually other people around who are interested to see what will happen next — be these other guests at a party or passersby on the street. Even if I can’t win over the person ranting, I can at least show those who might be listening that the atheist is behaving better and making more sense than the religious person. I think that this helps atheists everywhere, because it plays against stereotype and because the more people who think of atheists in a positive way, the more people might consider it as a possible philosophy.
I believe that there are some people who are going to be religious no matter how many reasons you can give them for being otherwise. It’s just a part of their makeup, and it’s possible that they are even better off than they would be as atheists. I’m not going to “convert” these people, but what I can do is try and make sure that they don’t see atheists as evil or immoral. I think that fighting this bias is even more important than trying to increase the number of atheists, because so long as that bias is there atheists will continue to be treated as second-class citizens by some, and biased people will be resistant to examining their faith because they are afraid of becoming “like those atheists.”
I have heard from atheist parents living in small communities whose children have nobody to play with because there are no other atheist children, and the religious parents won’t let their child associate with an atheist. I’d rather work on getting rid of that bias so that atheist and the theist children can play together than try to badger people out of their beliefs or look down on those who do not agree with me (not that I’m saying you do this).
I have so much confidence in my philosophy that I believe that once the biases against atheists and against self-examination are eliminated, atheism will spread itself.