Late last year, a Harris Poll, for the Financial Times, conducted a large survey on religious beliefs in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and the U.S. The U.S. was the most religious country, with 73 percent of respondents describing themselves as believers in "any form of God or any type of supreme being." (This figure is lower than many other surveys, but the totals include 6 percent who prefer not to say and 3 percent who don't know -- categories that other surveys often drop from their results.)
Italy wasn't far behind the U.S., with 62 percent believing in a god. In the other countries, believers in God are the minority: 48 percent of Spaniards, 41 percent of Germans, 35 percent of Britons and just 27 percent of the French believe in any form of a supreme being.
I don't think we need to make this a heated exchange. We should be the parent that calms the child down from an irrational temper tantrum with calm, reasonable words -- not by losing our own temper and bullying the fight out of them. The more rational thought we inspire into those that are already on the slippery slope, the more we are greasing up the slope.
Sam Harris has a new article in the LA Times today, in which he describes the spectrum of the religious as concentric circles of diminishing reasonableness. The moderate and liberal believers are the outer rings, and are standing between us and the maniacal fundamentalists and suicide bombers in the middle. Their existance protects and excuses the fundamentalists.
If we start with the moderates and liberals, even by ignoring the fundamentalists altogether, we are still eroding their support. The more religious liberals we get sliding down the slope, the more will deconvert into free thinkers. The stronger our numbers, the weaker theirs. Without the support of these liberals, and then the moderates, fundamentalists will eventually just go POOF in a cloud of logic.
I think this is a much more reasonable approach than going straight for the big fish. If we started with the fundamentalists, they would have a good chance of aligning all the fence-sitters against us. With a trickle-up approach, we can reduce their numbers first, and then tackle their strongest members with stronger numbers ourselves.