The internet is playing an increasing role in converting people to atheism according to the Australian Atheist Foundation, writes Vanessa Schlenert.
Atheist forums are extremely popular online and are becoming a large factor in getting religious people to question their faith. The “deconverts” who are persuaded by atheist arguments are attracted to forums for their user-submitted posts and wide range of discussion.
“Atheist forums handle so many diverse topics and are dominated by so many intelligent people,” said David Nicholls, president of the Australian Atheist Foundation (AFA).
“It’s no wonder that their discussions are causing the religious to at least seriously question their faith.”
The AFA has one of the most active atheist forums on the web, with close to 300,000 posts by both Australian atheists and believers.
“The internet is the biggest educational tool in existence,” Nicholls said.
“Education tends to lead people towards atheism because it highlights the inconsistencies within religion and they become too much for people.”
The atheist forum on Reddit, the web’s largest social news site, has more than 775,000 members and gains thousands more each day. It frequently receives posts from the formerly-religious who claim it was responsible for their abandonment of religion.
“I was a devout fundamentalist until I started seeing atheist discussions on Reddit,” said Alex Ford, an atheist who abandoned Christianity after spending time on the atheist forum.
Discussions on the forums range from scientific theory to arguing why God does not exist and talking about the problems with organised religion.
“It started out as small doubts but they developed as I failed to find answers to the questions the atheists were bringing up,” explains Ford.
But Nicholls realises that however powerful the internet might be, it won’t convert everyone.
“Religion is not a rational thing. It is an emotional hold that people believe is innate… It’s a cultural thing and people do not break away from that easily.”