Nelson: Exactly what are you trying to do? A public discussion? Create a new philosophy or even a religion? Change existing belief systems into something better? Other?
Charles: I think that the opportunity is to create a common bond among all religions. It doesn't have to have all of the things you'd expect from a religion, such as hymns, prayers, priests, rites, etc. It just has to show that deep down inside, there are things upon which we can all agree. So we need a common foundation.
Nelson: Can humanity get along without the equivalent of religion? Some atheists seem to be able to do this... but other folks cannot even conceive of the idea of living without religion... or even removing bad teachings from their religions. It is going to take some research to answer this question... and I am already engaged in such an effort... with no break-through findings as yet.
Charles: In my opinion, we are all religious, whether we realize it or not. Atheists are just people who got disillusioned with existing religions. And rightfully so, because many religions that started out healthy enough have been twisted into scams that only serve the purpose of subjugating gullible people. But there is still value there. We know this, because religion can be used as a scam! If there wasn't any value there, it wouldn't work. So we have to go for that value (without the scam!). Can we have a religion that's just made of the good stuff?
Nelson: How do you intend to deal with fanatical opposition? I receive posts from Muslim Websites on a regular basis. Some are committed to changing the outlook of Islamic Peoples... others are pure propaganda sites that just pound on and on about how the only answer to the world's problems is to accept their version of Islam. One of these types criticizes the United States and the West constantly... while completely ignoring Islams biggest problem of all... and that is the killing off of individual freedom and initiative all over the Middle East by stifling everyone with distorted versions of the Muhammad's original Islam... which, for its time and place... appears to have been a lot more constructive in nature. Muhammad would turn over in his grave, if he could see what has been done to distort his original teachings! It all seems to have started with Umar the Conqueror... the 2nd Caliph of Islam... and Islam has never been the same since... with a couple of exceptions where some Islamic folks broke away from the main rule of Islam... such as in Muslim Spain.
Charles: Fanatics can never become convinced of anything. Fanaticism is a sickness, and trying to talk somebody out of it is like trying to argue with somebody who has a cold about how stupid it is to be sniffling and sneezing all of the time. So arguing with such people is pointless. The root causes of fanaticism are complex, but once present, cannot be removed with logical opposition. In the words of Wil Durant, "Hardship does not weaken religious faith — it strengthens it." Hence arguing with a fanatic just makes the fanatic better at arguing, and all of the more convinced that no argument can shake true faith.
Nelson: You may need to clearly identify the target, or targets, of your efforts. And you need to study your target(s) and see where they are vulnerable to change... and then "attack" at these vulnerable points in strength.
Charles: The "targets" should be people who already know that there are problems. If you want to sell a glass of water, and there are two people there, one who is thirsty and wants water, and the other, who is thirsty but is in denial about it, which one do you spend your time convincing? You can think of it as "vulnerability" if you want, but I prefer to think of it as satisfying a need. And let's suppose that we're not even selling the water — we're giving it away. That's not preying on people's vulnerability — that's just helping people. When they see that this is what we're about, they'll know to come to us first. Eventually, they'll come to distrust others who attempt to manipulate them. Can we have a religion that is based just on goodness? It won't be anything like most of the religions in the world. In fact, we have come to take for granted that religions are manipulative ploys, and if you start thinking about starting a religious movement, you instantly start thinking in terms of using all of the ploys that everybody else uses (except, of course, that you're using them for good instead of evil). But decent people don't need to be tricked into being decent, or falling in with other decent people, any more than a thirsty person needs to be tricked into having a glass of water. The only time people need to be tricked is when that ain't water! So the presence of a ploy is the proof that something is wrong.