David Silverman’s talk was organised by the Council of Atheism UK. David is President of American Atheists and the recipient of the 2017 Richard Dawkins Award. He talked about his book ‘Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World’.
The talk was held at ConwayHall to a packed (78 attendees, plus we had to turn 3 more away even though they had tickets because they were late) Brockway Room on Monday 24th July 2017. Watch the 80-minute presentation below.
David Silverman’s Fighting God book is a firebrand manifesto. Silverman is a ‘walking, talking atheist billboard’! Dave’s original application for the licence plate ‘ATHE1ST’ was deemed offensive by the state … but has now been granted! In his book, he discusses the effectiveness, ethics and impact of the in-your-face-atheist who refuses to be silent.
Silverman argues that religion is more than just wrong: it is malevolent and does not deserve our respect. It is our duty to be outspoken and do what we can to bring religion down.
Examining the mentality, methods and issues facing the firebrand atheist, Silverman presents his argument for firebrand atheism:
- firebrand atheism is NOT about insulting, brow beating or indoctrinating people
- firebrand atheism is NOT about enforcing atheism on the population (as it was in China)
- critical thought, not dogma, is needed to understand atheism
- firebrand atheists tell the truth about religion, as often as possible
- religion is a lie, all of it
- gods are false, all of them
- respect is earned but religion doesn’t deserve respect
- don’t feign respect for religion – don’t lie
- religious privilege is unacceptable
- don’t let ‘I’m offended by your words’ stop you from telling the truth – and don’t say sorry when people are offended by your words
- don’t let the religious limit your freedom of expression
- religious laws have no authority over the non-religious
- American Atheists have a Draw Mohammed Day
Zero is Silverman’s favourite number and he’ll quit his job if any of these statements are untrue:
- the number of times an atheistic argument has been beaten by a theistic argument is zero
- ‘god did it’ has never been proven to be correct
- the number of ghosts, demons, psychics or spirits that have been proven real – is zero
- no miracle has ever been proven
- the amount of evidence that separates the myths of yesteryear and today’s respected religions is zero
- the sum total of scientifically valid proof for anything supernatural, ever found in world history, is zero
Atheism is the absence of belief in a deity, it’s not the denial that the deity can exist. There is zero evidence for the existence of deities. Atheism is the positive term, theism is the negative term. Atheism is like ‘I tell the truth’ or ‘I don’t lie’. Humanists, please note – ‘I treat people nicely’ does not answer the question ‘What is your religion?’ Humanism is not a theological position, it’s a philosophical position. It’s about how we treat each other. ‘What is your religion?’ requires an answer about whether or not you believe in god. The best and correct answer is atheism. Far fewer Americans define correctly that agnostics, the secular, humanists and freethinkers – are atheistic. David implores: please don’t use these euphemisms when you answer the question ‘What is your religion’ – even if there is more ‘stress’ using ‘atheist’.
American Atheists have spent $25,000 on one billboard. Why? To get press publicity for their messages. American Atheists launches billboard campaigns throughout the year to encourage atheists to “come out” and celebrate their atheism. American Atheists critique religious bigotry, the use of religion as a weapon by politicians, and the hypocrisy of all religions.
“American Atheists launches billboard campaigns throughout the year to encourage atheists to “come out” and celebrate their atheism. We critique religious bigotry, the use of religion as a weapon by politicians, and the hypocrisy of all religions. These billboards not only encourage atheists to stand up and be heard but also raise the profile of atheists and atheism in the media and public discourse.” Source: American Atheists
The Religious are Victims of a Scam and a Con
Open and harsh criticism of religion is good and necessary. Religious people are not stupid, they are injured. They believe a lie. They are wrong and they are victims of a con and a scam. Religion hurts people. It’s incumbent on us to help them. Silverman explains why calling yourself an atheist can be more humanistic than calling yourself a humanist.
Silverman gives Google Trend charts for ‘atheist’ Google searches between 2004 and 2012, explaining that spikes occur with atheism news items & billboard campaigns. The 2009 BHA organised Atheist Bus Campaign had a big impact in searches for ‘atheist’ in both the UK & USA.
Firebrand Atheism Summary
In summary, firebrand atheism is more effective than the ‘nice guy’ approach at causing movement on a nationwide level. It is also more effective at a personal level because it chips away at the privilege and the mythology. All religions are lies, all gods are false, all miracles are fake. Those who believe such things are real are victims of lies (they are not stupid or brain-dead), and it is a good and ethical thing, to help free these people, from that which is clearly and definitely wrong. This is even true for those who say ‘I’m offended by what you say’. Nothing beats facts and all of them are on our side. Use them and you will win arguments and create atheists who will do the same. Ignore the facts and teach atheism as dogma, and we become as weak as religion.
Dave Silverman: “Firebrand Atheism vs Islam in America”
David Silverman attended the International Conference on Free Expression and Conscience, London, 22-24 July 2017. Here is his 20-minute speech:
Fighting God book Quotes
Fighting God is a provocative, unapologetic book that takes religion to task and will give inspiration to non-believers and serve as the ultimate answer to apologists.
“David Silverman is the bad boy of atheism and we need people like him. There’s a tiresome breed of so-called atheists called the “I’m-an-atheist-BUT-heads.” They love to put the emphasis on the “but,” and go out of their way to emphasize how deeply they respect all faith although, with mawkish regret, they can’t actually share it. David Silverman is not of their number, and how refreshing it is to read a book that is not afraid to speak the truth, sans apology.” – – Richard Dawkins author of ‘The God Delusion’.
“David Silverman is an uncompromising hardliner with a deeply compassionate heart…his voice is clear, passionate, thoughtful, and funny.” – – Greta Christina, author of ‘Why Are You Atheists So Angry?
“An evangelical manifesto…. For the author, the ultimate arbiter is human rationality, which he holds supreme.” – – Kirkus
“A sometimes funny, always informative look into the mind behind America’s frontline of atheism. Dave reminds us that religion is everyone’s enemy.” – – Taslima Nasrin, International Freedom Fighter and author of ‘Shame and Revenge’.
About David Silverman
David Silverman is President of American Atheists and was the creator of the 2012 Reason Rally which drew that largest gathering of Atheists worldwide. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Brandeis University and his MBA in Marketing from Penn State. Dave served as a professional inventor at Bell Labs for 8 years (74 issued patents).
Dave has been an atheist since he was 6-years-old. With American Atheists, he became an atheist activist in 1996. In 2008 he was elected Vice President and in 2010 President of American Atheists. He has appeared on many major American news programs.
About American Atheists
David Silverman is President of American Atheists. His Firebrand Atheism (cited above) has notable differences to the section ‘About American Atheists’:
American Atheists envisions a world in which public policy is made using the best evidence we have rather than religious dogma and where religious beliefs are no longer seen as an excuse for bigotry or cause to receive special treatment from the government. We fight for religious equality for all Americans by protecting what Thomas Jefferson called the “wall of separation” between state and church created by the First Amendment.
We strive to create an environment where atheism and atheists are accepted as members of our nation’s communities and where casual bigotry against our community is seen as abhorrent and unacceptable. We promote understanding of atheists through education, outreach, and community building and work to end the stigma associated with being an atheist in America.
We aim to make the road to authenticity, openness, and honesty about the things we believe and don’t believe easier for the next person who travels it by being outspoken about our atheism and by ensuring that the voices of atheists are always heard in communities throughout the nation, in politics, and in the media.
By working with coalition partners within the atheist movement and across the political spectrum where can find common ground, American Atheists fights to improve public policy for all Americans, protect real religious freedom by defending the wall of separation between religion and government, and promote the acceptance and understanding of atheists.
By using every tool available to us, including our nation’s legal system, political advocacy, and outreach campaigns, American Atheists works to advance atheism in the United States and abroad.
Source: American Atheists Vision
American Atheists – What is Atheism?
Atheism is one thing: A lack of belief in gods.
Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.
Older dictionaries define atheism as “a belief that there is no God.” Clearly, theistic influence taints these definitions. The fact that dictionaries define Atheism as “there is no God” betrays the (mono)theistic influence. Without the (mono)theistic influence, the definition would at least read “there are no gods.”
Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion.
While there are some religions that are atheistic (certain sects of Buddhism, for example), that does not mean that atheism is a religion. To put it in a more humorous way: If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.
Despite the fact that atheism is not a religion, atheism is protected by many of the same Constitutional rights that protect religion. That, however, does not mean that atheism is itself a religion, only that our sincerely held (lack of) beliefs are protected in the same way as the religious beliefs of others. Similarly, many “interfaith” groups will include atheists. This, again, does not mean that atheism is a religious belief.
Some groups will use words like Agnostic, Humanist, Secular, Bright, Freethinker, or any number of other terms to self identify. Those words are perfectly fine as a self-identifier, but we strongly advocate using the word that people understand: Atheist. Don’t use those other terms to disguise your atheism or to shy away from a word that some think has a negative connotation. We should be using the terminology that is most accurate and that answers the question that is actually being asked. We should use the term that binds all of us together.
If you call yourself a humanist, a freethinker, a bright, or even a “cultural Catholic” and lack belief in a god, you are an atheist. Don’t shy away from the term. Embrace it.
Agnostic isn’t just a “weaker” version of being an atheist. It answers a different question. Atheism is about what you believe. Agnosticism is about what you know.
Not all non-religious people are atheists, but…
In recent surveys, the Pew Research Center has grouped atheists, agnostics, and the “unaffiliated” into one category. The so-called “Nones” are the fastest growing “religious” demographic in the United States. Pew separates out atheists from agnostics and the non-religious, but that is primarily a function of self-identification. Only about 5% of people call themselves atheists, but if you ask about belief in gods, 11% say they do not believe in gods. Those people are atheists, whether they choose to use the word or not.
A recent survey from University of Kentucky psychologists Will Gervais and Maxine Najle found that as many as 26% of Americans may be atheists. This study was designed to overcome the stigma associated with atheism and the potential for closeted atheists to abstain from “outing” themselves even when speaking anonymously to pollsters. The full study is awaiting publication in Social Psychological and Personality Science journal but a pre-print version is available here.
Even more people say that their definition of “god” is simply a unifying force between all people. Or that they aren’t sure what they believe. If you lack an active belief in gods, you are an atheist.
Being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re sure about every theological question, have answers to the way the world was created, or how evolution works. It just means that the assertion that gods exist has left you unconvinced.
Wishing that there was an afterlife, or a creator god, or a specific god doesn’t mean you’re not an atheist. Being an atheist is about what you believe and don’t believe, not about what you wish to be true or would find comforting.
All atheists are different
The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.
Atheists exist across the political spectrum. We are members of every race. We are members of the LGBTQ community. There are atheists in urban, suburban, and rural communities and in every state of the nation.