I got inspired by Tonyjeffers' topic, but I consider this nearly a small essay good enough for a separate thread. I'm long overdue for one anyway.
(maybe I won't respond for a day or two, I'll be off)
The original non-state Christianity was more like an underground organization. Then the emperor Constantin came and made a state religion out of it, a tool of manipulation, the whole circus with church dignitaries, dogma enforcement and so on.
After Martin Luther reformed the crap out of it, Christianity broke loose of the Church authority. I believe it became pretty much a tribal culture.
Today, specially in USA it does not mean much to be a Christian. People wear the religion it as a mark of tribal allegiance, not as a sign of what they are or what they do. Usually it means a tribe of like-minded thinking, or better said, lack of thereof. People who can not think for themselves, ask questions and answer them use the Bible as their common ground. And what they do in the (mega)churches really resembles tribal rituals. They've got their chants, dances, shamans and downright magical rituals. The Pentecostal church is nothing short of dabbling in the occult. The Teens Encounter Christ practice is nothing short of tribal rites of passage into maturity.
Pharisees degenerated into Hottentots.
There is something really unsettling about it. What we see in American intolerance against atheists is not a thing of doctrine or dogma. It is a hostility of a tribe against outcasts or an enemy tribe. It is very typical for a tribe to consider members of other tribes wicked, immoral, evil, or not human at all! Doesn't that remind you of something? Head-hunter morality found its way to your neighbourhood...
When the humanists, rationals, brights and all other sorts of atheists attack Christian dogma, they attack the tribes, the tribal identity that defines people who have nothing else to define them, to give them purpose. This is why I am not really sure that what atheists do is the best thing. It's not bad, but we are not dealing just with bullshit here that can be destroyed by logic alone. We are dealing with tribalism. And my sociologic gut tells me there should be some other tactics for such a situation.
The problem with tribes is, that they are also expansive, aggressive units of power and that they seek power, that is, in politics for example. But you know that. Tribal people want their shamans to consecrate mundane objects (like the government) to reassure themselves.
I don't know what to do exactly. I just say you clever rational folks should go to some university and consult there some professor of antropology, sociology, ethnology, psychology and so on. (let the genetics and Darwinism alone Mr Dawkins, this is a job for the soft sciences!) Make a study of events when small tribes united into bigger ones or even whole nations. Or even when nations joined together. When people overcame their cultural, ethnical, national and ideologic differences. And most importantly, what causes led to such effects in the real world.
You American atheists are very poorly equipped in term of reassuring tribal structure, purpose-giving philosophy, sheeple herding skills and so on. You take more than you give, for good and bad. You're not yet well-organized. You don't have fellowships. You can not really compete with full-fledged tribes. Atheism is like a purity, like sterilizing a wound, but what you also need is a splint to fixate the people, to make them stand upright. Philosophicus said it right, most people do not care about truth and justice. Just ask them for a definition.
Most of people don't think for themselves, they didn't learn it, don't need it and it's not easy for them to start. It often takes many years of religious bullshit and lousy living to make them think. They actually benefit from the fairy tale stories, they skip the whole evidence and reality part and just sort of directly enjoy the moral metaphoric principle behind the story. They can't handle too many facts at once, their books contain very few facts per page, the rest is a verbal filling that engages their emotions. They are very emotional, sentimental and so on. The atheistic movement isn't very emotional. It doesn't push the right buttons.
I don't say that some atheists aren't on the right track, like portraying the Bible a bloody mess that it actually is, that's the emotional approach. Or popularizing Carl Sagan, maybe. But still, it's more taking than giving, more of a burning peroxid than splint on the soul. It won't win you a favor with people comfortable in their religion or afraid of losing it and getting nothing in return.
They desperately want someone to tell them what to do!!!
Maybe the best course is to invent some kind of official policy that will allow communication, diplomacy and negotiation between the Christian tribes and the Atheist people. Something that will not make the Christian tribes afraid, threatened, or thinking that it can attack you shamelessly. It is different from trying to disprove the articles of faith, that is, to desacrate the tribal god, which only makes the people defend their tribal honor. There are potential thinkers among them which you will win on your side, but it's not a solution to the problem.
So this is how I see it, with the help of my sociologic gut, from my religiously safe and distant position overseas in Europe. Discuss please, disagree if you see fit, but tell me why. My sociologist gut says that you're doing it wrong. If you agree, you might forward that to some atheist activists. Hell, maybe I'll record that somehow and make a Youtube video out of it.
(that is, if I get to jailbreak my cell phone and make a webcam out of it, I'm not gonna buy a webcam just for that. Or I just record the voice, that's it)
Beings who deserve worship don't demand it. Beings who demand worship don't deserve it.