Seeking Optimization of New Website "New Atheist Survival Kit," a go-to site for newly-made atheists

by Bound_up1 min read16th Aug 201611 comments

7

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I've put together a website, "New Atheist Survival Kit" at atheistkit.wordpress.com

 

The idea is to help new atheists come to terms with their change in belief, and also invite them to become more than atheists: rationalists.

 

And if it helps theists become atheists, too, and helps old atheists become rationalists, more the better.

 

The bare bones of it are all in place now. Once a few people have gone over it, for editing, and for advice about what to include, leave out, improve, re-organize, whatever, I'll ask a bunch of atheist and rationalist communities to write up their own blurb for us to include in a list of communities that we'll point people to in the "Atheist Communities" or "Thinker's Communities" sections on the main menu.

It includes my rough draft attempt to basically bring down the Metaethics sequence to a few thousand words and make it stylistically and conceptually accessible to a mass audience, which I could especially use some help with.

 

So, for now, I'm here to ask that anyone interested check it out, and message me any improvements they think worth making, from grammar and spelling all the way up to what content to include, or how to present things.

 

Thanks to all for any help.

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A nice website, but of course I am looking at it from a position of a LW fan; I don't know how it will seem to other people.

One part I didn't like was the rationalization video about "why death isn't so bad". (Spoilers: because if you know you will die, it motivates you to do important things faster.)

To illustrate why it is bad, imagine the reversal: if you would get immortality, would you rather trade it for mortality (defined as: you will die in a random moment during the following 100 years) as a cool way of Getting Things Done? I would think such decision is quite stupid for several reasons. First, the random moment may happen even today; I don't see how that helps you accomplish plans that take more than one day. Second, plans that require at least several decades of work become unlikely even if you work hard. Third, it limits the total number of plans you can accomplish.

Generally, the whole reasoning about the benefits of death is motivated thinking. We already know the bottom line (almost certainly we are going to die, probably quite soon); and the real reason is that our bodies are fragile, and it is extremely difficult to coordinate humanity on fixing this problem (all the necessary medical and technological research, plus the necessary economical and political background). That's it. It would be too much of a coincidence if this situation would also be somehow optimal.

(However, optimizing the website for me could make it less attractive to an average reader.)

EDIT: The quotations from "The Last Christmas" should be formatted differently than the surrounding text. For example use dark grey font, and a vertical line on the left (something like "font-color: #333; border-left: 2px solid #333;"). Don't separate different quotes by bullets, but enclose them in different "div" tags (with the vertical line it should be visible where the next "div" starts).

On the "Arguments" page, the different arguments should be probably formatted by headings ("h2"), not bullet points. I think in general that the bullet points look ugly, unless used for a list of short items.

Yes, I considered adding exactly that kind of status quo bias rebuttal to the note that some atheists argue that death isn't so bad.

But I didn't want to make it TOO LW-ey, and I'm hoping that by including that view, along with the views of the Methuselah people, and the cryonics people, that people would be able to take them all seriously without feeling like I was biased in my presentation

I'm open to adjusting that strategy, but that was my thinking behind it. Not to appear like an arguer, merely an unbiased presenter of information, who apparently took aging research and cryonics seriosuly enough to mention.

Thanks for the editing suggestions, I think you're right. I'll keep you in mind for other formatting points, if you don't mind

Some of the stuff about "street epistemology" -- not what you've written yourself, but e.g. those videos by Anthony Magnabosco -- strikes me as weird and creepy and manipulative in almost the same way as much Christian evangelism does. Don't get me wrong; if you're going to be manipulative at people in order to try to manoeuvre them nearer to your religious position, "street epistemology" is probably about the least odious of your options. But that isn't a high bar to clear.

I know that in his videos Magnabosco talks about treating your targets with respect, and really listening to them, and so on. I expect Boghossian's book is the same (but I don't know; I haven't read it). But this gives me much the same impression as I had back in my religious days listening to Christians talking about how you have to love people for themselves in order to Win Them For Christ. I mean, look at the title of Boghossian's book. "A Manual for Creating Atheists". The believers you're talking to, doing "street epistemology", are merely raw material for the creation of atheists.

If it strikes me this way, then I bet religious people encountering this material don't like it any better than I do, and the site is (secondarily) intended to be suitable for believers to read. You might want to consider toning down your praise of "street epistemology".

(Not necessarily. I think I am unusually annoyed by, and perhaps unusually sensitive to, attempts at psychological manipulation. Maybe other potential readers will react more positively.)

Have you looked on the web to see what other new-atheist-advice there is out there? In some cases you may be able to link or copy rather than creating afresh.

(I was sure I'd seen a new-atheists-start here site somewhere before, but can't find it without more time than I'm willing to put into it right now given that I'm at work and meant to be, er, working. I will have a more thorough look later and link if I find it.)

I looked, though not for long.

Didn't find anything useful. Just a "Survival Guide for Atheists" by a not-particularly-deep-thinking theist.

If you find one or remember that one you say, I'd love to look at it, though

I thought I remembered seeing it linked some years back from a friend's blog. The friend in question has moved his blog a couple of times, though, and after looking through all the atheism-related stuff in its current incarnation I didn't find the link. It's also always possible, of course, that I'm misremembering.

"Just a "Survival Guide for Atheists" "

Are you referring to the one by Hehmant Mehta?

"not-particularly-deep-thinking theist."

Typo?

Start page starts with: "1. New atheists (Not to be confused with “The New Atheists”)"

It's likely that your target audience doesn't understand who “The New Atheists” happen to be. I don't think it's a widely known term in general society.


I would add Daniels http://sevensecularsermons.org/ to the page on beauty.


I would expect that there are two many choices at the top of the page. The paradox of choice suggests that less choices might often be more effective.

It might be worthwhile to add a newsletter subscription button, if you want to have continuing effect on the people visiting your website. It could be very interesting to send people's polls to see how their transition goes.


It's likely worthwhile to get your own domain name instead of being at wordpress to signal that you are a serious website.

You might want to consider what the objective is, and whether you should have different resources for different objectives. Someone who's in a deeply religious community who would be ostracized if people found out they're an atheist would need different resources than someone in a more secular environment who simply wants to find other atheists to socialize with.

I think I should also mention your posting a URL but not making it clickable You should put anchors in your site. For instance, there should at the very least be anchors at "New atheists", "Theists", and "“Old” Atheists", and links to the anchors when you first list those three categories, if not an outline at the beginning and links to the parts. Organizationally, it's a bit of a mess; for instance, the "Communities of Atheists." heading isn't set out from the rest of the text at all.

I like your failed arguments section. IMO, frequent reminders about the phenomenon of using "arguments as soldiers" is one of the most straightforward and effective ways to encourage a higher levels of rationality in ourselves and others.

Thank you :)

If you can think of any others to add, I'm definitely looking for more content in that section, and in every other, really.

Ideally, that section would eventually become near-comprehensive, so much so that theists might use it as a resource to rebut atheists who are making bad arguments, and atheists might use it to learn which arguments to avoid.