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Non-Believers and Anti-religious Activism
Posted: 17 December 2008 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The Atheist Activist, or
The Freethinkers Forum, or
The Humanists Hitlist                     12/25/2008

• Our brethren should never be involved in violence of any sort, and violence is not condoned here.  This is a list of suggestions that thoughtful nonbelievers can mull over, use if they like, modify and add to if they will, or simply ignore as they sit and drink eggnog around the fire with their religious friends this Christmas.  The majority of nonbelievers fear repercussions if they “come out of the closet”.  Jobs may be in jeopardy, political positions may be rejected, friends may leave for good, and society can turn nasty.

• Some nonbelievers understand that they have a responsibility to oppose believers for many clearly articulated reasons, among them, the future thinking of children, the continued abuse of children by religious communities and individuals, the continuous infusion of religious beliefs into decisions which affect all of us, willy-nilly, the affects of religious dogma on scientific advancements which will save lives - millions of lives, the affect of the ignorance of the faithful on the improvement of the many issues facing our planet, and demands by religious groups that everyone think as they do.

• These are some suggestions of what nonbelievers can do to act against the superstition and stupidity of religion.  Suggestions that offer nonbelievers the opportunity to show their opposition to religious action that, for thousands of years, has often gone unquestioned, and which, today, affects more people adversely than ever before.  Nonbelievers have, in the past, been isolated.  Individual nonbelievers have suffered badly at the hands of believers because of this.  Today, we have the opportunity to come together, to participate in clear and active opposition to religious action and thought. 

• These suggestions may help to bring some of us together as we consider where we stand and how we should act when threatened by religion or the negative and often dangerous actions stimulated by religion.  This list is not exhaustive.

I.  The Problem of Apathy:

Fence-sitting is the art of appearing to support both sides of a question.  Apathy is the child of fence-sitting, and process of not processing: seeing nothing, hearing nothing, watching nothing, not being involved in anything, not feeling threatened.  Apathy is a the kind of lazy indifference that expects others to it all.  Apathy is not a choice - it is a state-of-mind instilled over time and accepted as a way of life after one has persuaded oneself that one cannot do anything substantial, anyway, so why bother?  Most nonbelievers are apathetic.

II.  Beyond Apathy:

• Target conscience: focus on thoughts of right and wrong, of good and bad and where you might fit in doing the correct thing.  Read about others who have done the correct thing.
• Ask questions of yourself and others, and give honest answers.
• Define boundaries: how far might you go? Where will your opposition go?  Where are you never prepared to go?
• Consider what you think growth and expansion of your knowledge, understanding, opposition, and action might look like.
• Use concrete examples in your thinking: “What happened when….....” “What might happen if….......”  “What have people done…......”  “What happened when people did nothing…....”

III.  Action:

A. Know your subject intimately before you start - not only the things you object to, but their daily actions, where they go, when they go, why they go, and how they travel. 
B. Be prepared to challenge groups and individuals publicly and directly.
C. Does it work - yes, it makes the religious uncomfortable, they feel the necessity to warn their flocks, they respond in kind, and each time they respond we have made an impression.

1. Write letters to the media, to individuals and to groups such as the National Council of Bishops.
2. Organize sit-ins, opposition marches, or just stand with your opposition poster on a church steps in your community.
3. Go to a church during a service and stand up in the service and object vocally.
4. Send out e-mails by the dozens.
5. Join religious blogs and start arguments on the blogs.
6. Write positively to the scientists and support their work.
7. Talk with friends about the issues and encourage them to work with you.
8. If you have Catholic friends ask them how they can support this damaging stuff. Suggest that they talk to their priests. If they continue to insist that they support the stuff, go to the pub with them and call them on it in a loud voice during prime time and let the crowd get involved.
9. Bring up the issues with your doctor, your priest (if you have one or even if you know one) with your grocer and butcher, with your girlfriend, significant other, partner, wife or husband and ask all of them to discuss them with their contacts.
10. Get a crowd of friends together, call the local paper and tell them you want to make a public statement about the issues opposing the Church or whoever else is involved.
11. Call for the boycott of groups/stores/organizations involved in issues.
12. Public fasting: this takes courage and preparation including knowing exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  If you intend to do it for any length of time get your doctor involved.
13. Use silence: get a group together and sit in a public place silently and moving as little as possible.  People will want to know what is going on.
14. Picket churches, businesses, organizations, private homes.
15. Use loud noise to attract attention: drums, beating on tin cans, recorded noise, sound system feedback.
16. Interfere in/Harass groups involved in public displays such as religious processions.
17. Hold candlelight vigils.
18. Create signs and posters to be put up all over town.
19. Spread information and disinformation through handouts and on the internet.
20. Use Key Words in speeches, on posters, in handouts, and keep emphasizing them over and over again.
21. Use mass mailings.
22. Use Photography and Video, particularly on places like YouTube, but also to send in to local TV stations.  Post religiously offensive YouTube video references on their blogs.
23. Use High Holy Days as target times - the groups get together, they discuss items together, they are confused by numbers, they say things they don’t mean to say in a group to show others they are in control.
24. Use their own tactics against them - look for newspaper articles, TV appearances and respond, go to meetings and shout them down, always using words like “liars, lies and dishonesty”, join their blogs and overwhelm them with attack materials.
25.  If you have the means (money or a lawyer who will work pro bono) start law suites against the opposition - both for action they have taken and for action they might take.
26. File Amicus briefs to support other atheists or atheist groups in their suites.

[ Edited: 17 December 2008 08:20 PM by Fat Man ]
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Posted: 17 December 2008 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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You confuse activism with obnoxiousness and civility with apathy.

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Posted: 17 December 2008 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

3. Go to a church during a service and stand up in the service and object vocally.

Vocally? Boring! Bring an axe and chop down the altar, and scream: “Survival of the fittest, survival of the fittest!”

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Posted: 17 December 2008 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Same problems as before.

1. You’re focusing on their issue, playing the game on their turf. It won’t work. To succeed, we must show what a life without a god looks like.

2. You’re overlooking the essential requirement of picking your spots. I read your post quickly, but I don’t see any sense of context in it. So while one might conceivably do everything you mention (except 3, 14, 15, 16 and 24), context is critically important. Let the point come to you. If you push the point, you will lose the overwhelming majority of the battles.

3. Reading more carefully, your strategy isn’t just bad. It would be a disaster. I’m on your side regarding the harm done by theism. If you’re turning me off, you have no chance in the broader community. I would have to distance myself from you if you did some of these things.

[ Edited: 17 December 2008 10:00 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 17 December 2008 10:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Agreed with Chris and Paul. Those sorts of nasty tactics are just going to turn people against your cause. The main worry about the non-religious is that we are immoral or at least a-moral people. You’d just be playing to stereotype. Even Dawkins goes so far as to say that people who disagree with him needn’t read his books or go to his lectures.

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Posted: 17 December 2008 05:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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George - 17 December 2008 09:49 AM
Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

3. Go to a church during a service and stand up in the service and object vocally.

Vocally? Boring! Bring an axe and chop down the altar, and scream: “Survival of the fittest, survival of the fittest!”

Read again: no violence of any kind ever. 

Perhaps what you describe is what you would really like to do yourself.  Do you own an axe?

You should be careful, you never know what you might do in your darkest hours.

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Posted: 17 December 2008 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 05:44 PM

Do you own an axe?

I do. But don’t tell anyone! I live in Canada and axes are probably illegal here.

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Posted: 18 December 2008 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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In a training course linked to soft skills at work we once discussed ‘circles of influence’.

The idea being, behaving in a way in your human interactions to constantly enlarge the circle.  This was a non-violent and non-aggressive way to bring lasting change to any environment you are active in.

The goal being to take the role of a trusted advisor and/or coach without any formal authority.  This way people would accept the change as their own idea.

Some of the above points are ‘baseball bat’ diplomacy; highly inefficient and a waste of energy.

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Posted: 18 December 2008 04:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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TomTom - 18 December 2008 03:11 AM

In a training course linked to soft skills at work we once discussed ‘circles of influence’.

The idea being, behaving in a way in your human interactions to constantly enlarge the circle.  This was a non-violent and non-aggressive way to bring lasting change to any environment you are active in.

The goal being to take the role of a trusted advisor and/or coach without any formal authority.  This way people would accept the change as their own idea.

Some of the above points are ‘baseball bat’ diplomacy; highly inefficient and a waste of energy.

Trust is critically important. We’re struggling to be tolerated. Can you imagine the influence we could have if we were trusted!

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Posted: 18 December 2008 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

Our brethren should never be involved in violence of any sort, and violence is not condoned here.  This is a list of suggestions that thoughtful nonbelievers can mull over, use if they like, modify and add to if they will, or simply ignore as they sit and drink eggnog around the fire with their religious friends this Christmas.  The majority of nonbelievers fear repercussions if they “come out of the closet”.  Jobs may be in jeopardy, political positions may be rejected, friends may leave for good, and society can turn nasty.

Aside from the fact that you use the word “brethren” which smacks of religion or communism I read that as being, “be aware of why you’re an atheist”, discuss it with others and challenge what you believe. I don’t think jobs or political positions are in danger in the UK because of religious belief but in the US that might be so.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

Some nonbelievers understand that they have a responsibility to oppose believers for many clearly articulated reasons, among them, the future thinking of children, the continued abuse of children by religious communities and individuals, the continuous infusion of religious beliefs into decisions which affect all of us, willy-nilly, the affects of religious dogma on scientific advancements which will save lives - millions of lives, the affect of the ignorance of the faithful on the improvement of the many issues facing our planet, and demands by religious groups that everyone think as they do.

Agreed.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

These are some suggestions of what nonbelievers can do to act against the superstition and stupidity of religion.  Suggestions that offer nonbelievers the opportunity to show their opposition to religious action that, for thousands of years, has often gone unquestioned, and which, today, affects more people adversely than ever before.  Nonbelievers have, in the past, been isolated.  Individual nonbelievers have suffered badly at the hands of believers because of this.  Today, we have the opportunity to come together, to participate in clear and active opposition to religious action and thought.

It is true that the social climate today, especially in Europe and the US, allows for greater freedom of expression so in that sense now is the ideal time to speak out about things you are concerned about and religion would certainly be one of my concerns.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

The Problem of Apathy

I see this as more the Dawkinsian idea of raising consciousness ... people are apathetic about a great many things and the negative effects of religion is one of them but part of the reason is that they don’t understand how dangerous some religious beliefs can be.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

Beyond Apathy

I don’t have a problem with any of this section.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

Action

Agreed knowledge is a good thing and to be able/prepared to challenge others is also a good thing, I’d also say yes, taking a pro-active or more visible stance does work (and by that I mean raises consciousness).

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

1. Write letters to the media, to individuals and to groups such as the National Council of Bishops.

I already do this.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

Organize sit-ins, opposition marches, or just stand with your opposition poster on a church steps in your community.

Not against ordinary churches but when they have high profile ID/creationist speakers yes, I would.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

Go to a church during a service and stand up in the service and object vocally.

No, people have the right tyo spend their time in whatever club they wish. This kind of behaviour is only acceptable if the church in question is teaching things that are unacceptable (such as anti-gay rhetoric).

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

4. Send out e-mails by the dozens.

Possibly but I’d prefer a targetted campaign.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

5. Join religious blogs and start arguments on the blogs.

No because I wouldn’t want the converse happening in the secular/atheist forums I visit.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

6. Write positively to the scientists and support their work.

Support for science is never a bad thing.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

7. Talk with friends about the issues and encourage them to work with you.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

8. If you have Catholic friends ask them how they can support this damaging stuff. Suggest that they talk to their priests. If they continue to insist that they support the stuff, go to the pub with them and call them on it in a loud voice during prime time and let the crowd get involved.

Not only does this (the last part) sound like the wrong technique but it is worth pointing out that the Catholic Church is very active in science, particularly astronomy.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

9. Bring up the issues with your doctor, your priest (if you have one or even if you know one) with your grocer and butcher, with your girlfriend, significant other, partner, wife or husband and ask all of them to discuss them with their contacts.
10. Get a crowd of friends together, call the local paper and tell them you want to make a public statement about the issues opposing the Church or whoever else is involved.

These seem too invasive.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

11. Call for the boycott of groups/stores/organizations involved in issues.

For ordinary religious views no, for extreme ones perhaps.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

12. Public fasting: this takes courage and preparation including knowing exactly what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  If you intend to do it for any length of time get your doctor involved.
13. Use silence: get a group together and sit in a public place silently and moving as little as possible.  People will want to know what is going on.
14. Picket churches, businesses, organizations, private homes.
15. Use loud noise to attract attention: drums, beating on tin cans, recorded noise, sound system feedback.

Um, no. Far to too invasive IMO ... as far as I am aware religious people have rights too.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

16. Interfere in/Harass groups involved in public displays such as religious processions.

I have no issue with holding counter protests to religious protests since the religious ones seem to be usually in defence of something unacceptable (such as the recent UK one in defence of continuing to be homophobic).

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

17. Hold candlelight vigils.
18. Create signs and posters to be put up all over town.

Generally too invasive but I have no objection to peaceful activism.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

19. Spread information and disinformation through handouts and on the internet.

Integrity is all we have, it sums up the secular position completely IMO, so I strongly object to the idea of spreading disinformation.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

20. Use Key Words in speeches, on posters, in handouts, and keep emphasizing them over and over again.

To a degree yes but I’d prefer to play up the intelligence aspect rather than feed people propaganda (which is what this idea seems to centre around).

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

21. Use mass mailings.

Again I prefer targetted mailings.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

22. Use Photography and Video, particularly on places like YouTube, but also to send in to local TV stations.  Post religiously offensive YouTube video references on their blogs.

Why offensive? Again it comes back top the idea of integrity.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

23. Use High Holy Days as target times - the groups get together, they discuss items together, they are confused by numbers, they say things they don’t mean to say in a group to show others they are in control.

No, religious people have the right to believe as they wish ... unless the church in question is engaged in questionable activities I’d say this is wrong.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

24. Use their own tactics against them - look for newspaper articles, TV appearances and respond, go to meetings and shout them down, always using words like “liars, lies and dishonesty”, join their blogs and overwhelm them with attack materials.

Not sure about overwhelming them but I already do send e-mails to newspapers in response to overtly religious views and fundamentalist letters/articles.

Ecrasez l’infame! - 17 December 2008 08:13 AM

25.  If you have the means (money or a lawyer who will work pro bono) start law suites against the opposition - both for action they have taken and for action they might take.
26. File Amicus briefs to support other atheists or atheist groups in their suites.

Not sure about either of these ... generally I think no but yes if a case were extreme enough.

Kyu

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Posted: 18 December 2008 09:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I prefer to voice my opinions with a little more class and dignity. Appearing like an angry spoilt teenager is not very conducive to open discussion and progress.

I wouldn’t dream of disrupting the services of my dear religious friends. I accept that they were born into a certain culture, even if I do not agree with them, and welcome them to inquire about mine. I am happy to discuss religion or atheism over a friendly cup of coffee. I also find that posing polite, thought-provoking questions is much more effective at opening discussion than criticism.

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Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.    - Lex Luthor

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Posted: 18 December 2008 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame!, I’m getting tired of long articles you post as thread starters then offer rather non-responsive arguments to the posts members make.  I suggest that rather than posting these articles, you give a link for those of us who are interested, and a short summary of the ideas you want to discuss.  Otherwise, I think you’ll be the second member I put on Ignore.

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Posted: 18 December 2008 06:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I certainly don’t mind long opening statements in a topic—I’m guilty of that, too. The key problem, as you note, is not following through. There have been ten responses to the original post, and he has offered only one comment. Let’s hope, however, that this reflects a busy time in his life or perhaps a power failure that is preventing him from offering a proper response.

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Posted: 18 December 2008 07:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Kyu, thanks for the detailed response to my first post.  I didn’t suggest that all of it should be followed; you should select what you want to do, and when to do it as far as I’m concerned.  Also, I’m glad to see that someone is involved in at least writing letters although this can be frustrating and needs some tenacity to get things published. 

The success of activism is evinced by the example of Madalyn Murray O’Hair (biography: Ann Rowe Seaman, “America’s Most Hated Woman”.)  Without her prayer in schools would be simply an accepted procedure, among other things.  Along with Ingersoll, “In the presence of death I affirm and reaffirm the truth of all that I have said against the superstitions of the world. I would say that much on the subject with my last breath.”  I would guess that she did more for the Atheist movement than anyone, and although I wouldn’t use the kind of foul language and confrontational attitude she used, I think that her example suggests that those who simply sit and wait, attain very little (or those who suggest that their opinions are always worth a response or that the pain of illness should be ignored to respond.)

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Posted: 18 December 2008 10:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame! - 18 December 2008 07:32 PM

Kyu, thanks for the detailed response to my first post.  I didn’t suggest that all of it should be followed; you should select what you want to do, and when to do it as far as I’m concerned.  Also, I’m glad to see that someone is involved in at least writing letters although this can be frustrating and needs some tenacity to get things published. 

The success of activism is evinced by the example of Madalyn Murray O’Hair (biography: Ann Rowe Seaman, “America’s Most Hated Woman”.)  Without her prayer in schools would be simply an accepted procedure, among other things.  Along with Ingersoll, “In the presence of death I affirm and reaffirm the truth of all that I have said against the superstitions of the world. I would say that much on the subject with my last breath.”  I would guess that she did more for the Atheist movement than anyone, and although I wouldn’t use the kind of foul language and confrontational attitude she used, I think that her example suggests that those who simply sit and wait, attain very little (or those who suggest that their opinions are always worth a response or that the pain of illness should be ignored to respond.)

That’s not true. Ellery Schempp had at least as much to do with getting mandatory prayer out of the schools as O’Hair. Without O’Hair, Schempp would have accomplished the same result on his own and without saddling us with the angry atheist reputation. I know Ellery, and he’s not like that at all.

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Posted: 19 December 2008 09:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Ecrasez l’infame!: I’m ambivalent about your suggestions.  What I like is the idea of being somewhat more activist than I personally have been in the past, though by “activist” I may not mean the same thing as you or others.  In fact, I’m not really sure what I mean by “activist”, but what I’d like, essentially, is to do more to actively promote freethinking, skepticism, naturalism, and similar worldviews; I’d like to see more “non-believers” do more of these things.  I’m glad to see discussions about activism in some form, because I think it’ll encourage thinking and discussion that might help many of us arrive at a better idea of how we individually might be more involved and how we might collective pursue some common goals.  And I like the idea of To-Do lists that busy people can skim for ways they can do their part.

What I’m not so comfortable with is several of the particular tactics you’ve recommended.  Not only do several of them seem unlikely to be pursued by most “non-believers” (IMHO), but I’m not sure whether there’s EVIDENCE of these strategies’ being effective (perhaps due to my vast ignorance about such things).  Nevertheless, several of them seem worth considering for anyone who wants to think about what they’d like to accomplish, how this might be accomplished, and why certain strategies might be better than others.  Even some of your tactics I would never consider doing myself (and might discourage others from using) may be worth reflecting on, because they might guide us toward understanding WHY they’re not effective (or are counterproductive), which could help identify aspects of more effective tactics.  I’m also not entirely on board with the largely anti-religious goals you seem to be trying to attain, though I’m not sure exactly what these are; perhaps I should read more carefully.

Personally, I’d prefer to take a more scientific approach to activism, if that’s even feasible.  I’m not sure how to do this, and I don’t have time these days to spend as much time on it as I’d like.  But in an effort to do something rather than nothing I’ve started another thread on “evidence-based” activism where I hope—given sufficient time on my part and interest on others’ parts—to brainstorm about goals/aims and strategies.  It seems to me that a large community of people who value science and rational thought ought to be able to apply these powerful tools to identify and advance worthy causes.

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