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Jacques Berlinerblau "How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom"

Some quotations from this book:

"[Atheists] wildly overestimate their numbers. They tend to overestimate the efficacy of their activism. They underestimate how disciplined and organized their adversaries in the religious right are, too. [...]
They fail to recognize that mocking religious people in public is entirely inimical to the goals they wish to achieve.”

“Secularism is not atheism. Its roots lie with religious thinkers — St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Locke, among them. They understood secularism as a political philosophy, which, at its core, is preoccupied with, and often deeply suspicious of, any and all relations between government and religion.”

“My guess is a good chunk of so-called nonbelievers are not haters, not radical anti-theists, and their worldview is characterized by tolerance towards nonbelief, [...] That’s the type of atheist I am reaching out to, and my anecdotal sense is there are more of those than we know.”

Matias 8 June 16

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Not at ALL certain I agree with the ''overstatement of their numbers'' statement. Every poll I've seen in the last few years shows a reduction of religious reports and an increase in ''no religion/atheist/agnostic'' reports.

You have to be careful with these polls. A recent scientific study showed that American “nones”—those who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular—are more religious than European nones. !!


At this point, my biggest problem with religion is indoctrination of children. I'm generally a live and let live type, but I have a huge problem with child indoctrination.

bingst Level 8 June 16, 2018

If you teach children a nice and mild version of Christianity - why is it called "indoctrination"?


This proves to me that having an opinion and writing a book about it is pretty much open to anyone.


To maintain hatred and disdain for the expression of any religious sentiment of any sort at all is not only lacking in efficacy, it borders on insanity. Many of the most brilliant geniuses down through history have been theists, and even today, approximately half of scientists believe in God.

A person’s opinion about theology is a trivial thing, and if the person is open minded that opinion tends to evolve. To cling doggedly to one opinion or the other, pro or con, and to make that narrow opinion your identity reflects irrationality IMO.


I do not respect religion. I do not respect anyone's right to believe. I merely tolerate both because it's required by the US Constitution.
There is a difference. I cannot "respect" that which is harmful and lacking in logic.

>Do you respect "money" ? Like all religious beliefs, money only exists in the mind of those who belief in it, it is illogical, any quite often it is harmful, because it gives people power who do deserve it and who cannot handle it...
So keep in mind when you argue against religion: God and money are in the same ontological category.

@Matias Money means very little to me. It's merely a tool, and I don't have much of it at all.
So money and religion can go hang.

@KKGator Money is running the world, if you like it or not. All I wanted to say: Something does not have to real in the scientific sense in order to have real consequences. and money and laws ... be to the same category: They are fictitious but have the power to change the world...

@Matias So do people. People are not fictious. People have the piwer to change the world, too.

@KKGator Sure, but people are parts of the physical world, but I was talking about cultural entities, like money, laws, nations or - gods, ancestors, human rights - they exist as long as countless people believe in them...

@Matias Yes, and as more people express their disbelief in those things, more will follow.


I fit the picture but do not agree with entire statement

Marine Level 8 June 16, 2018

I am more of an anti-theist and I'm passionate about it. I'm going to go ahead and cleverly mock any and all religions.

The question Berlinerblau raises is whether this is a good strategy if you want to change something in society. It is important to have allies among the moderates of your enemy in order to defeat the radicals. Mocking ALL religious people is NOT conducive to secularism

@Matias Admittedly I am terrible at strategy and I loathe religion. I don't see myself having allies among any of my enemies. I am simply too outspoken.

Though, I don't see the people, themselves, as my enemies. I see the lies and suffering caused by religion as my main problem. Therefore, I see religion as my enemy.

What I'm saying is, perhaps you have a point, but I do not subscribe to it. I cannot.
My personality and life experiences cause me to find religion, to any extent, unpalatable and insufferable.

I am certain that there are others like myself.
I'm also keen to point out that simply because I'm intolerant of religion does not mean that I am brash, loud, rude, or unkind to my fellow humans.

And you are right to do so! I would agree with the premis of the post if the theists were not trying to impose it on us like the fascists that they are.

@Gyanez I knew there were a few of us. 😉

@Donotbelieve OK - I see. If someone is the slave of her/his passions and gut feelings and prejudices ... and if s/he is even proud of this, there is no way out of it.
What I do not understand is when the same people, in different situation, are all in favor of science and reasoning and logic and so on...
Being in favor of science and reasoning EXCEPT when religion is the topic at hand, it that logical ?

@Matias I reject your proposed course of action, and I even explain why. I do so politely.
I am also not alone in my opinion. I explain that, while I refuse to adhere to your preferred method, I am not unkind, rude, or obnoxious.
Only to be met with beligerant words and rudeness from you.

This is how it works, even with the religious, I will not be rude in return. I will stick with facts and be as honest as I possibly can, whether you like it or not. Try to understand and not be impolite in return.

@Matias you are right that mockery is counterintuitive. But its so much fun

@Donotbelieve I hate religion due to persecution as a gay man. They broke my windshield and wrote fags burn in hell on my hood. This is only last week. Christian hypocrisy.

@Donotbelieve I checked my posts and there were no "beligerant words" ... I just pointed out that personal gut feelings are not scientific. You and other activist atheists keep extolling science (rightly so!) - but when it comes to religion they ditch the science and rely on their animosity - which might be an argument in an echo chamber (you said "I'm not alone" - as if it were an argument...) - but we should not confuse our preferred echo chamber with reality. - and the reality about religion is NOT black and white.

@Teslacoilsmith The question nis not if mockery is "counterintuitive" - but whether it is strategically useful. Berlinerblau's thesis is that those who fight for a secular world are acting not very wisely if they turn moderates into enemies by mocking them

@Matias it is quite rude to say that I am a slave to my passions, emotions, and prejudices.

You're also missing the bits where I explain that I am not inflammatory or unkind to the religious.

I am being honest and sincere in response to your initial post and you're going on and on about how wrong my approach is.

Accept that we don't all do it how you want us to and get over it.

@Donotbelieve It was David Hume, one of the top Enlightenment thinkers who said.- "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them"-
Therefore my comment can't be rude - or David Hume was rude to everybody.

BTW: I disagree with Hume when he claims that reason OUGHT to be the slave of passions. We all know that reason often enough is the slave of passions, but I think that is where science comes in in order to override (temporarily) the passions and biases and prejudices.
That is why I'm campaigning for a Science of religion: viewing religoin form a scientific point of view, even if we are tempted to loath it.

@Matias you don't agree with Hume, neither do I. I dislike being told passively that I am a slave to my emotions and proud of it.

If my passions ever get the better of me, it is deeply embarassing. Happily, that rarely occurs.

I remain strongly opposed to religion. I cannot give it a pass even in moderate form, because I see it as detrimental to humanity's well being.

I mock religion. I do not mock humans.
I am not a riotous, loud, unruly atheist. I am a thoughtful, intelligent, and factual person.

I do not think that you and I are communicating very well. I think you are getting the wrong idea of me. I do not like being misunderstood.

@Donotbelieve Your original post contained the following statement: "I loathe religion. I don't see myself having allies among any of my enemies"
To loathe is very strong. It is a passion. Moreover it makes you seeing enemies were maybe there are no enemies but people who just happen to have a different worldview than you.
To declare somebody an enemy who has done you no harm (actually who has done no harm to nobody!) is not very intelligent and kind. The rest is just plain old self-serving bias - nothing to be proud of.
As for me: I loathe the self- righteous attitude of many atheists who demonize people who have done no harm to nobody. And even if some religious people have hurt you, I'm pretty sure that some non-religious people have hurt you too. One should be able to differentiate and to see the complexity of the world of religion.

@Matias You're incorrect.
I'm finished discussing this, as you seem to enjoy being contentious.

@Donotbelieve I am not "contentious", I am trying to DISCUSS an important topic with you, since this forum is made for discussions. It is not a safe space where I have to issue a trigger warning when I want to cite David Hume's dictum about the passions and the reason...
I do not think that forums like this should be echo chambers where like-minded and self-righteous people assure each other of their moral superiority. This is just the old and tedious tribal thinking, which I loath.

@Matias The problem is that you keep passive aggressively being unkind and you don't listen to other people's opinions. You simply keep pushing your own.


"They fail to recognize that mocking religious people in public is entirely inimical to the goals they wish to achieve.”

Not sure I agree with this. Of course, context matters, but reminds me of Lindsay Ellis' anaylsis on why mockery of Hitler works better than dramatic portrayal of Nazism. Mockery of a given ideology can't be picked up by the adherent's of said ideology and incorporated to their, say, image banks. Images of American History X are loved by (real, explicit) nazis, whereas images of Chaplin's The Great Dictator or Mel Brooks' 'Springtime for Hitler' aren’t gonna fly.

I'd say: Make sure it is really a second Hitler you are mocking. A lot of atheists like to mock all religious people, but only a very small minority of them are "religious Hitlers" à la Bin Laden.
So if you mock your colleague only because he believes in God, it can turn him not into a Christian Hitler, but into your enemy. Better to mock only the true radicals!

I think there is a difference between mockery and satire.

Satire takes relevant elements of a person or ideology and exaggerates or distorts them to showcase a deficiency in a person or ideology using humor and wit.

Mockery is just making fun of a person for no other reason than to ridicule and insult them with no attempt at humor or wit.

For example, Chaplins and Brook's work were satire: they did not agree with their ideology and used comedy and wit to showcase the weakness' of each ideology.

But putting your finger up to your lip in imitation of hitlers mustache or calling trump Drumpf are mockery for they don't serve to make a larger point and just meant to insult the person.

As such, I firmly believe in the power of satire but strongly condemn the inefficacy of mockery.


I do not need a book or any authority figure to tell me what I already know is right and true for ME. Your mileage may vary of course.

Berlinerblau's perspective is not what is best for HIM, but what is best for a secular society. It is political, not a personal issue.


We Atheists shamed one living pope out of theocratic power and shame worked to drive out of decent society the xian KKK ....fear of muslims also is good to keep these murderous rapist Mohammedans out of USA power. long as xians refuse to repudiate their bibles that brand Atheists "fools" & "reprobates" we Atheists are most welcome to shame ignorant violent dangerous believers


I simply cannot respect religion when it is childish, stupid, and completely dangerous. But mocking them makes them double down in their ignorance.

Th question is whether ALL varieties of religion are childish, stupid, and completely dangerous.
I'd say: some of them are, others are not. Why not focus on the toxic varieties and join forces with the moderates to detoxify the dangerous types of religion.

There are - just one example - a lot of people in the Muslim world who hate the fanatics more than you hate them (because they suffer firsthand from them!). To agitate against Islam as such just alienates the moderates, and turns some of them into fanatics.

Their's or yours? 😮

After all, mockery doesn't demonstrate or require much intelligence on the part of the person doing the mockery, now does it? 😉

@Matias I can agree that it's the first step.


i take the view that i am an atheist, not an anti-theist. i think that i am right and they are wrong, but i doubt i can prove that, and, to be honest, any attempt to prove it is akin to religion.

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