Is it enough to win the debate?

How do we attract average everyday people to secular and atheist causes? I think the first step to getting regular people to stand with atheists is to stop being known as "angry atheists".

For example, gays began to win when non-gays stood with them. Angry gays didn't make that happen. Who was the gay person that first connected with you on the issue of gay rights? Were they caustic, or respectful? Were they outrageous, or moderate? Did they beat you into agreement, or make their point by simply being a decent person you could identify with? Atheists face many of the same challenges, and if the gays pulled it off, we certainly can.

Speaking for myself, I don't go to war with people with a different ideology. If they are open to a respectful discussion, then it's worth my time to bring up a few points that seem useful, and underline where we agree. The conversation might actually get somewhere. If he's a jerk, I pass. I just have better things to do with my limited time than argue. And I'm not likely to changes his mind anyway, so what's the point? Our argument will reinforce the angry atheist stereotype in the minds of the bystanders.

Much of the world thinks we are all "angry atheists". Sadly, there are enough militant atheists to keep that image alive. What we need badly is to attract non-atheists to our ideas. There are enough people on the fence to make a big difference to public perception of atheism. I think we do that by being firm, non-aggressive and sensible.

Another example: The black minority faced an uphill battle winning the minds of non-blacks. Did angry blacks make that happen, or was it ordinary moderate blacks? Non-black people: did the hateful rhetoric of Malcolm X attract you to their plight? Some of his ideas were right, but his method was all wrong, (and he eventually admitted that.) Think of all the forgotten angry young black men that raged against injustice. But it's Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King that you remember. They changed a lot of minds by being firm, non-aggressive and sensible.

Atheists will begin to win when non-atheists stand with us. If an army of respectful atheists hit the streets tomorrow with the simple message, "I love people, and I'm good without gods", it would start something that could change the world.

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