There are some atheist blogs out there which treat religious readers and commenters with complete contempt.
I try to stay away from that — and it’s always nice reading comments by atheists on this site that show religious people some kindness and empathy — but no doubt it seeps in from time to time.
Greta Christina believes that when religious people visit atheist websites (or read skeptical magazines or atheist books), they are making their first steps toward atheism whether they know it or not. And we ought to help them with that journey.
… They’re proto-atheists. Any formerly-religious atheist knows that these kinds of doubts and questions and investigations are the first cracks in the foundation of faith. These folks — some of them, anyway, maybe a lot of them — are taking their first steps to atheism.
So what does this mean for atheists?
I think it means we have to be patient.
Patience doesn’t mean letting ourselves be kicked around. What it means is remembering that we’re talking to human beings, and treating them as such. It means being rigorously careful about critiquing ideas and beliefs without insulting people… It means remembering that it’s not fair to treat people like they’re stupid just because they’re not familiar with the ideas we’re so intimately familiar with. It means keeping in mind how hard it can be to let go of religion. It means remembering that we’re asking people to abandon a form of comfort they’ve relied on for years… and are asking them to make themselves into one of the most hated groups in the world, and quite possibly to alienate their family and friends, while they’re at it.
Sometimes, treating religious people (and their beliefs) with anything but spite is unbelievably difficult. But it’s necessary if we want to persuade anyone to consider our views.
Greta wrote that after reading a posting by Sarah Braasch at Daylight Atheism — Both pieces are great reads and well worth a few minutes of your time.