This is the same argument some of my gay friends make:
“We need to dialogue with these people, we need to let them get to know us, when they see that we’re just like them,
they’ll stop hating us and they’ll come around.”
It’s a dubious argument at best. I respond to my friends roughly as follows:
“See, you’re operating from a totally different conceptual framework than they are. You think that if they get to know every other thing about you they will somehow
magically stop believing their little book of myths that tell them that you’re an abomination in the sight of their imaginary bedouin sky-god. They don’t care about
all the other, ‘normal’ things about you. They cannot see past the one thing about you that their god tells them matters more than all the other stuff that you seem
to think should matter to them. What is that one thing? That your’e homosexuals.”
I’d argue the same problem with non-overlapping conceptual frameworks is in play and inevitably must always be in play in any discussion between atheists and
hard-core believers. No matter what other good things we may bring to the table, they will not see past the one thing that their god tells them matters the most:
the fact that we don’t believe in him. We are damned to an eternity of hellfire because of our atheism, just like homosexuals are damned because of their homosexuality.
What can one of the damned possibly have to offer one of the saved?
I don’t care, even if you’re right most of the time, which I don’t think you are. You’re coming from a position of practically absolute non-Faith in all theists, whom you seem to have lumped together in a single package of untempered dogmatism. If you open yourself to dialogue, you may be disappointed in a great many of the theists you’ll encounter, so you don’t open yourself. That is a block to Faith that has crippled our movements. [See ]http://www.humanismtoday.org/vol13/chatlos.html.] You’ve pre-determined the outcome. You haven’t given them a chance. We can’t act like that and then expect the community to take us seriously when we say that each person should be treated as an individual and not judged on race, ethnic background, affiliation, etc. The broader community sees that and thinks we’re a group of cranky old cusses who want nothing to do with anyone because that’s how we behave. A classmate at the Humanist Institute called them OPOGs, Old Pissed-Off Guys. We can’t afford to do that to ourselves; if we do, we’re sealing our own doom. We have to keep trying even if we look a little silly coming back time after time to what seems like a hopeless cause. Eventually, if enough of us take a more open approach, the community will begin to see that. Then attitudes change toward us and toward what we believe. What I’m saying is: attitudes like the one you just presented are killing our movements.
Not every theist is absolutely dogmatic. I wasn’t. The only way to help them see their way out of whatever dogmatism and rigidity they may have is to take the chance. If Salk had taken your position, it is entirely possible that we still wouldn’t have a polio vaccine.
My way, you’re going to meet considerable resistance and experience many disappointments, but occasionally you’ll accomplish something; and if enough of us do it, we’ll accomplish a lot. Your way, you have the “satisfaction” of not being disappointed in anything particular because you’ve already written everyone off and taken satisfaction in that. You can’t accomplish anything like that.