Religious counter protesting
"I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous - if they assert that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men." - Robert G. Ingersoll
Each and every year, usually when there's a popular public festival, there's also a contingent of fundamental evangelical religious people there to scream and judge people according to their dogma. Many people ignore these public nuisances, others may squabble with them, but more and more people are choosing to counter-protest these obnoxious groups.
It's bad enough they believe what they believe, but many of us feel it crosses a line when they go public and start condemning others for not following their particular doctrine.
So what do you do in these situations? Ignore them? Argue with them?
We here at FreeThoughtPedia think one of the most effective ways to combat these self-righteous hypocrites is through public ridicule and mockery. They often can't be reasoned with. They subscribe to the idea that the more they're persecuted, the more righteous their cause is. Public embarrassment seems to make the most sense, as it addresses their own insecurities, inferiority complexes and places their propaganda within the proper public context. Plus it's fun and it deflates the otherwise vicious nature of their hateful fearmongering.
How to counter-protest religious groups
Some people like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church invite controversy and attention. So when people make a big stink about them, it plays into their hands. Some might argue it's best to ignore them. In some cases this is helpful, but while the Phelps clan is outrageous, there are many more evangelicals that aren't so provocative but are still preaching the same message. Ignoring many of these people just makes them scream louder. And contrary to what you think, there are ways to reach these people, indirectly.
Most of these guys cannot be easily reasoned with. Nonetheless, you can try if you're inclined. It can be fascinating sometimes to delve into the mindset of what would prompt someone to take to the streets and berate other people. Some of these guys are engaging and polite; some are downright hostile and won't touch "heathens" or anything they hand out. If you want to engage them, the best thing to do is argue their own doctrine against them:
- First pick up some tenet they're preaching, such as certain types of sins.. most of them are going to be old testament-based when they involve anti-homosexuality and other more liberal religious groups. Then play their own scripture against them. You can find some really good counter-passages at Bible rules. For example, if they're against homosexuality, you can ask them if they wear clothing of two or more fibers or eat shellfish, which are mentioned as abominations in the same section they cite to justify their homophobic crusade.
- Hit them philosophically - There are a number of loaded questions you can ask fundies that cause them to retreat into the special pleading fallacy:
- If god is all-knowing why did he create man knowing he would fall?
- If god gave man free will, why did he force him to choose between reward (heaven) and punishment (hell)? That's not much of a way to exercise freedom of choice.
- Tell them about natural selection and how evolution works
- Talk to them about the story of Abraham... Ask them if they heard a voice in their head telling them to murder their first-born son, would they do it? What kind of "all loving" god would demand something so sadistic from a loyal follower? These kinds of philosophical questions can tear at the root of a person's religious fabric. They won't acknowledge the moral dilemma in front of you, but you can plant a seed that will grow later.
One of the most effective methods of nullifying public religious propaganda is through the use of nonsensical confrontation. Here's a great example:
Here's a great example of musician Eric Schwartz protesting at the protesters at the American Atheists conference:
One of the best tactics is to use scripture against them, but not to them directly -- at them or at their audience.
Rather than confront these people directly, disrupt their ability to effectively preach. You can do this passively by handing out fliers or holding up signs where they're trying to influence others, or you can actively engage them. I saw a group that carried around their own bullhorn to combat the fundies yelling into their bullhorns. It's a bit crass, but it sends them the message that nobody appreciates their noise. When they're preaching fire and brimstone into an amplified device, they're invading other peoples' spaces and jamming the signal is an appropriate response.
Counter protest signs
Making up funny or thought-provoking signs is a very effective tactic. In addition to images and words making fun of them, a more-direct counter-attack is to go after the basis of their ideology with phrases like:
- "I gave up superstitious mumbo jumbo for Lent."
- "Christian Terrorists"
- "Jesus was a liberal socialist"
- "Worship me or I'll torture you forever - Love God"
- "Jesus Saves (you from thinking for yourself)"
- "The Spanish Inquisition - the original 'Faith-based initiative'"
- "Intelligent Design - Making stupid people feel smart since 1987"
- "If God wanted people to believe in him, then why did he invent logic?"
Using a simple word processor you can print out small signs and hold them up, or larger ones to make a strong point. They're very effective in belittling the religious protesters into wanting to pack up and move elsewhere.
The fundies have their "Chick Tracts" - what does a Freethinker have? We have our own hand-outs.
Here we will feature a number of pieces of counter-propaganda that we recommend passing out in places where the fundamentalists are preaching their gospel of intolerance.
- atheist/agnostic/anti-fundy pamphlet - This is our custom hand-out for Mardi Gras 2009, injecting both humor, ridicule and history and philosophy into a powerful pamphlet that counters the religious message.
- atheist pamphlet: "Why Believe In God?" - Created several years ago, this is a general-purpose, polite inquiry into religion, exposing many preconceived notions about the origin of morality and goodness.
Take these to your favorite copy center and print up a bunch of them and hand them out the next time the evangelicals raid your campus or public square. It's not enough to ignore them, not when they are preaching a philosophy of hatred and intolerance, and the basis for their moral superiority is questionable at best. The public needs to know the truth.
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