Cafe Inquiry

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

This month's discussion topic: 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. Free and open to the public.

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.

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  • Ellie

    This was my first Cafe Inquiry, and it was impressive. The subject was controversial, but well controlled, the discussion was stimulating, and I walked away with some new ideas, which is the point! Thank you.

    3 · July 23

  • Christopher John D.

    A Manual For Creating Atheists (with Dr. Peter Boghossian):

    1 · July 22

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