Cafe Inquiry

Tuesday, July 22nd 2014 at 7:00 pm
Tuesday, July 22nd 2014 at 9:00 pm
Hill Center DC, 921 Pennsylvania Ave SE (Eastern Market Metro), Washington, DC 20003

This event occurs on the Fourth Tuesday of each month except December.

We will be in Walt Whitman Room. Entrance is on 9th St SE. Elevator access available. Overflow room available in case of higher turnout to ensure all attendees receive adequate opportunities to participate.

Cafe Inquiry is our monthly casual get-together to meet people and discuss topics of science and humanism.

This month's discussion: How (whether) to try to convert theists to atheists.

As atheist books proliferate, one has seemingly captured readers' imaginations. In Manual for Creating Atheists, philosopher Peter Boghossian condemns the approach of New Atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins as excessively passive. He encourages atheists to move beyond critique and to actively convert recruits among believers. Boghossian is not the only atheist experimenting with religious forms and practices. Humanist chaplains are multiplying on campus and in the military, while atheists seek fellowship at events such as Sunday Assembly. This month’s Cafe Inquiry explores the missionary impulse, posing the following questions:

  • Is it ethical, fruitful, and/or useful to attempt to convert theists/believers to atheism?
  • Does the Socratic method, as described by Boghossian, amount to a form of conversion?
  • Are faith and religion the problem? Is one worse than the other?
  • What role, if any, do science and rationality have in changing theists to atheists?
  • Should believers' experiences of religion, faith, and hope be disaggregated in order to discuss the problems of religion with them?
  • How is it best to engage with believers' emotional experiences regarding their religious beliefs?
  • Do people gain something from believing or participating in a religion that atheism may have a hard time providing?
  • Is a proselytizing atheist a contradiction in terms, or simply someone fighting fire with fire?
  • Is conversion an improvement over existing strategies, such as ridiculing theists and shaming them into more rational behavior?
  • Does the conversion impulse bespeak discomfort with pluralism on the part of atheists?No outside food or drink allowed. Free and open to the public.

We are also planning to go out for food and/or drinks afterwards. 

Interested in leading a discussion or have someone to recommend? Please contact us at dc[at]

The venue is wheelchair accessible. People with disabilities who anticipate needing accommodations or who have questions about physical access may email sdavis [at] centerforinquiry [dot] net in advance of the event.