My Experience at a Christian Talk Show

On Tuesday, I was in Dallas taping a couple episodes of Life Today, a Christian talk show.

I was with my friend Jim Henderson. You can read his thoughts here.

My observations from the weekend:

  • When going out for lunch with Jim and the book’s publicist Joel Kneedler, I saw a store called Mardel Christian and Educational Supply. It was like an Office Depot… but for Christians. Their vision is “to see the product [sic] we sell and donate provide people with the hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.” I’m sure my new stapler will bring me closer to God.

  • Before the show’s taping began, there was a two hour getting-to-know-you dinner with the hosts, other guests, and the show’s producers. When I walked into the room, I saw two large framed pictures of George W. Bush. This would be my first warning for what I was about to get into.

  • Bush was a guest on the show back when he was the governor of Texas, and apparently, the show’s host James Robison is still in frequent contact with him. He made references to giving Bush a call soon. To pray with him. (I suppose that is among the better options we have in Iraq at this point…) Robison said we needed to praise Bush and added we shouldn’t have been in Iraq, but now that we’re there someone needed to help. And that someone included him, praying with Bush. Karl would be called, too. (Karl? we asked) Rove, he answered. Karl Rove. Meanwhile, I ate my bread and kept my mouth shut.

  • The Robisons (James and his wife/cohost Betty) had a conversation with the other guests first, before coming to me and Jim. During that other conversation, there was dialogue about how the “gay choice… and it is a choice!” was a problem that could be solved by a federal marriage amendment. In any other place, the argument would start here. I figured that would be a bad move right now as the interview had not happened… I ate more bread.

  • After hearing about the problems of gay marriage, the Robisons asked the other guests how their church/ministry is doing. The guests talked about how their church was trying to adopt public schools. Then they started to vent: Some group was fighting in the Supreme Court last week for standing to sue the government! Apparently, these people were against Faith-Based Initiatives! Robison added that these people just didn’t want to let Christians help others… I was still eating bread trying to decide whether I should say, “Those are my friends, Dan and Annie Laurie!” Meanwhile, Jim and Joel were stifling their laughter… they heard me talking about this case during lunch.

  • The other guests asked Robison who the Republican nominee for president should be… answer: Mike Huckabee. Though Robison added that was a long shot.

  • May I add how difficult it was to take notes on all this, since people were close together at the table, I was sitting right next to James Robison, and my notecards were in the next room? I was trying to write (without looking) on a piece of scrap paper, underneath the tablecloth… I don’t think anyone saw.

  • Before Robison started talking to me, he presented me with a gift. Had I heard of Ravi Zacharias? he asked. Yes, I said. (He’s a famous Christian Apologist and I’ve heard some of his lectures, read some of his books, etc.) Well, Robison responded, you may want to listen to these CDS [he presents me with a 4-CD collection of Zacharias' lectures]… You’ll like him a lot… He has the same background as you. And I’m thinking: Same background? I think he means we’re both brown.

  • After dinner ended, we were all told to pray. Everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes… which gave me a good opportunity to look around the room and see the other 10 people praying… and take in the fact that I have rarely been in a room surrounded by this many hard-core social conservatives. It also gave me a chance to check my notes that were hidden underneath the table.

  • Before we left dinner, Robison ran through a few questions he wanted to ask me during the interview. He just wanted to know if those questions were ok, and if there were any I wanted him to ask. Afterwards, he asked his wife if she had any questions. She said she wanted to ask where my morals came from. I know it’s a common question a lot of Christians have, but I’m still surprised when I hear it. Is it so shocking that I can be a good person without God?

  • The other guests had their interview first and I was in the Green Room watching the TV in there. The cameras panned through the audience, and I could see the backs of their heads. I knew some friends from a local college atheist group were coming, but I wasn’t sure where they were sitting… all of a sudden, sitting in the back row, I saw a mohawk. Bingo! That’s gotta be one of mine! Meanwhile, standing next to me, the jaw of a producer of the show fell to the ground.

  • It didn’t get on air, but all the college atheists were wearing their “Atheists and Freethinkers Society” shirts underneath their sweaters/hoodies/what-have-you. I was also wearing my t-shirt from the James Randi Amaz!ng Meeting 5 conference underneath my blue dressy shirt. Our little inside joke.

  • The interview went well, I think, and the hosts were very fair and gracious in promoting our books and asking us questions that let us explain what we were doing. It won’t air until around April 25th, so I’ll post a reminder in due time.

  • At one point, Robison picked up my book to hold to the camera. There’s a yellow banner at the top of the cover that reads “Foreword by Rob Bell, best-selling author of Velvet Elvis“… I guess Robison just saw certain words and announced to the cameras that his guest (me) was the “best-selling author of I Sold My Soul on eBay:) If he wants to say that, I won’t stop him!

  • During a short break from the interview, the Robisons, Jim, and I talked about the negative reaction that might come from viewers seeing an atheist on the show. They do a lot of good work sending food to Africa (without preaching the Gospel to them, they said) and they were (not seriously… but possibly) afraid donations might slow down after this airing. This led to a series of jokes (I was poking fun at it, too) on how I’m going to ruin the continent. In fact, I Doomed Africa will be the title to my next book.

  • It turned out that a number of audience members (about a third) were atheists. Besides the college group, there were also members of the local Metroplex Atheists group present! Among them were TXatheist and Meagan (thanks for coming!) who frequently comment here. Robison starting talking to audience members, and asking them if they felt he was fair to atheists during the interview (audience nodded in approval) and asked questions about atheism that we didn’t get to during the interview. I thought the students he spoke with were articulate and respectful in how they presented their answers. It was great to watch from my end. Talking to the students later, they said they had a surprisingly good time at the show.

  • One Christian audience member came up to me afterwards and said I had changed his views on atheists– we weren’t so bad after all– which was one of the nicest things I could’ve heard. That was sweet.
  • So long story short (and I say this after you’ve already read everything), I had my apprehensions, but it turned out to be a pretty nice experience. I can’t wait to see how the episodes turned out. (They ended up filming two shows with Jim and me, one focusing on my book, the other on his.)


    [tags]atheist, atheism, Life Today, Dallas, Texas, Christian, Christianity, Jim Henderson, Joel Kneedler, Mardel Christian and Educational Supply, Office Depot, Jesus Christ, God, George W. Bush, James Robison, Betty Robison, Iraq, Karl Rove, gay marriage, homosexuality, Tony Evans, Lois Evans, Freedom From Religion Foundation, FFRF, Supreme Court, Mike Huckabee, Ravi Zacharias, Republican, James Randi, Amaz!ng Meeting 5, Metroplex Atheists, Atheists and Freethinkers Society, University of Texas at Dallas, Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, I Sold My Soul on eBay[/tags]

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Hemant, I’m glad it was a good experience and that you got to meet TXatheist, Meagan and other atheists.

    I’ll be interested to hear whether your Christian stapler will staple your atheist paperwork or will refuse on principle ;-)

  • http://www.letstakeover.blogspot.com David Jackmanson

    Be careful with all those politeness-carbs!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    To address the politeness issue, I wasn’t keeping my mouth shut to be polite. For the gay marriage thing, nothing I said in a line or two was going to change their minds, and I didn’t want to start that debate during dinner. It would’ve been a different story had these topics come up during the interview itself– they did not. I did share certain opinions with the dinner group when I felt it was necessary. But they weren’t saying much more than what was written above. Just wanted to clarify.

  • TXatheist

    I did the same thing before the show when the stage hand named Tim came out and made some comments I really wanted to disagree with him on. I wish I had some bread to chew on. Hemant, the sense of humor you have with your browness makes me laugh, I love it.

  • Jim Henderson

    Beautiful detailed explainer of the event. I also shared Hemants political views but since no one asked me directly for mine I deferred which is good since we may not have made it to showtime if it got real.

    It was a very fun experience for 100 different reasons.

  • Anthony

    Your experiences inspire me to reach out! I have been brainstorming contacting local bible studies (including my former), and offering myself to attend and discuss atheism if they are interested in communicating with me.

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.agnosticatheism.com AgnosticAtheist

    Afterwards, he asked his wife if she had any questions. She said she wanted to ask where my morals came from. I know it’s a common question a lot of Christians have, but I’m still surprised when I hear it. Is it so shocking that I can be a good person without God?

    The interesting thing about this is that a Christian is many times good out of obligation or fear of punishment. There’s really not a true change of heart (as is evidence by many of the things done in the name of God). Making the choice to be kind and compassionate just because you want to be, is a much higher way of discovering morals (IMHO).

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    One Christian audience member came up to me afterwards and said I had changed his views on atheists– we weren’t so bad after all– which was one of the nicest things I could’ve heard. That was sweet.

    Well done! That’s what it’s all about, right?

    The Friendly Atheist strikes again! :)

  • Karen

    I was trying to write (without looking) on a piece of scrap paper, underneath the tablecloth… I don’t think anyone saw.

    LOL! Your writeup of the dinner sounds like something out of Borat – both ironic and hilarious. It would make a great movie scene, in fact, under the truth-stranger-than-fiction category. :-)

    TX, I’m glad you were able to stifle your inclination to challenge the stagehand. Next time, you’ll know to take along a nice chewy loaf of bread.

  • Karen

    Your experiences inspire me to reach out! I have been brainstorming contacting local bible studies (including my former), and offering myself to attend and discuss atheism if they are interested in communicating with me.

    That would be so cool. Please let us know if you wind up doing it. I can imagine your former bible study members might welcome you back, at least in part hoping that you’re a “backslider” looking for redemption. ;-)

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    I’d have an ulcer before dinner was over.

    Good for you. I have a hard time shutting up when people say things that get my goat.

  • http://blog.chrisbradleywriter.com Christopher Bradley

    Before Robison started talking to me, he presented me with a gift. Had I heard of Ravi Zacharias? he asked. Yes, I said. (He’s a famous Christian Apologist and I’ve heard some of his lectures, read some of his books, etc.) Well, Robison responded, you may want to listen to these CDS [he presents me with a 4-CD collection of Zacharias’ lectures]… You’ll like him a lot… He has the same background as you. And I’m thinking: Same background? I think he means we’re both brown.

    I am laughing aloud. Not LOLing, but really belly laughing.

    Don’t you know that all brown people share the same background?!

    Please tell me you can feel my sarcasm. :)

  • http://blog.chrisbradleywriter.com Christopher Bradley

    Your experiences inspire me to reach out! I have been brainstorming contacting local bible studies (including my former), and offering myself to attend and discuss atheism if they are interested in communicating with me.

    This is a good idea. I shall do it, myself.

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    I really appreciate the way you approach being an atheist. Too often us atheists are just as smug as the believers and “look down” upon them with no thought or caring as to why they believe. I learned long ago that name calling and yelling gets you nowhere but if people are willing to have an honest debate about the issue then even if nobody changes their mind at least something has been learned and a common understanding reached.

  • Logos

    I’ll be interested to hear whether your Christian stapler will staple your atheist paperwork or will refuse on principle ;-)

    Now that just silly!

  • http://www.whatbox.blogspot.com Jennifer

    Oh my goodness. This could be a scene in a movie!

    LOL Logos! One of the things that always drove me mad about the Christian world was the need to stamp literally everything with the Christian label, thereby making it okay to use. Staplers, coffee, bookmarks, coasters…. What exactly makes a perfume Christian anyway? Jesus was a homeless fisherman. I’m pretty sure he didn’t smell too good.

  • Devika

    That is a great account of your experience on the show! Thanks for giving us the insider scoop. I would have been chewing bread & antacids. I get a little freaked out by so many conservative Christians in one place.

    Just curious, were you the only brown person there?

  • http://inthenuts.blogspot.com King Aardvark

    According to the bible, Jesus was not a homeless fisherman; he merely hung out with a bunch of them, and thus probably smelled almost as bad. Personally, I question the morals of anyone who mooches off of poor fishermen. They have their own problems.

  • http://blogs.chicagoreader.com/daily-harold Harold

    Good job all around — better you than me — I think my bread would have come back up after a while…

  • HappyNat

    I got my morals on e-bay. Hey if you can sell a soul why not buy soime morals?

  • Stephan

    http://www.mardel.com/

    come on…it’s hardly a “Christian Staples”
    They have 98% Christian books and videos and a few stationary items.
    I don’t think they even carry staplers.

    Would an atheist shirt refuse to go on a Christian “on principle”
    Everyone likes stuff that has sayings on it your agree with. What’s the big deal?

  • Logos

    You’ll like him a lot… He has the same background as you.
    I am still cracking up over that one!

  • QrazyQat

    The conversation after you left: “He’s a bit brown, yes, but SO polite!”

    :)

  • Logos

    Stop yer killin me!!!

  • http://musings.meanderwithme.com Allison

    Ack…I’m just very, very glad that I skipped out on buying my fundie SIL a hobby store gift card for Christmas. I was consciously planning to get her one for Michael’s, just so she’d have to leave her own nest of security. My parents let it be known that she’d much rather have one for Hobby Lobby, since she likes to shop at their other store, Mardels. Yipe, yipe, yipe.

    In the end, I bought her a couple homeschooling books that were liberally-minded and NOT related to religion at all.

    Hemant, you rock. My husband mentioned offhand this weekend to my (also fundie) parents that he’s atheist, and they took it remarkably well, even complimenting him on his unwillingness to lie in order to become an Eagle Scout as a kid. Someday, I’ll suck it up and come out to them myself.

  • Stephan

    Ravi Is from India
    Hemant is from India

    Ravi used to be a memeber of an eastern religion.
    Hemant used to be a member of an eastern religion. (Janism right?)

    Why is it so hard to think Robinson was thinking Ravi might have some cultural insights and perspectives that “white-bread-american” wouldnt?

    Ravi is highly intellectual in his presentation
    Hemant…ok well I guess the similarities have to end somewhere.

    Robinson is HARDLY racist or ignorant of different cultures. The man has been in and out of the poorest villages of Africa longer than Hemant has been alive.

    Hemant, if you had any integrity whatsoever, you wouldnt make such careless cheap shots about people so obviously deserving of respect and who have shown you WAY more respect than well…than you deserve.

    I hope you realize that your comments are revealing you out to be the selfish opportunist that you obvoisly are. You said you wanted the opportunity to speak to pastors congregations, well let me ask you, what pastor in his right mind is going to invite you to speak (Risking intense backlash for doing so) if he knows you are going to just glibly rip him apart over stupid petty things as soon as you get back to your computer?
    Grow up.

  • Prokop

    From what I’ve read about Ravi, his parents were Indian, his parents tried raising him Anglican, but he was really an Atheist growing up, until he converted to Christianity.

    Really, the commonality between Hemant and Ravi is that they are both Indian.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Stephan said,

    Ravi Is from India
    Hemant is from India

    Ravi used to be a memeber of an eastern religion.
    Hemant used to be a member of an eastern religion. (Janism right?)

    Ravi is from India
    Hemant is from Chicago

    Ravi used to be a member of a western religion (Anglican household, but claims to have been an atheist until age 14)
    Hemant used to be a member of an eastern religion, Jainism.

    Why is it so hard to think Robinson was thinking Ravi might have some cultural insights and perspectives that “white-bread-american” wouldnt?

    He does have cultural insights and perspectives that americans don’t. But remember Hemant is an AMERICAN. He’s from Chicago, born and raised.

    But also recognize that Ravi Zacharias wasn’t Jain. He wasn’t Hindu. He was raised Anglican. I think the only thing Ravi and Hemant have in common is indian ancestry.

    Now Hemant knows Zacharias’ work, read his books, etc. Is it supposed to speak to some special Indian place in Hemants’ heart that folks of other races can’t reach?

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Ravi Zacharias, according to Wikipedia has ancestors and a family history that descends from Hindu monks.

    It’s a strange thing that with an arm-wave Hinduism and Jainism are given a false equivelency in the minds of westerners as “both eastern religions.” So what? Christianity and Islam are both Western Religions, are they equivelent enough that you’d tell a Christian, “You should talk to my friend Muhammad, he’s got your same background”?

  • Prokop

    Read the rest of the wikipedia article. While it says he has Hindu ancestry, he was raised Anglican.

  • Prokop

    sorry, disregard what I just wrote. I need to read several responses back before I post.

  • Will

    what pastor in his right mind is going to invite you to speak (Risking intense backlash for doing so)

    Hemant’s post hardly constitutes an “intense backlash.” He just made some good-natured jokes about what he observed. Nothing about this post seems mean-spirited to me. Hemant did say that the hosts were “very fair and gracious” and that he had a “pretty nice experience,” so obviously he is more respectful than you imply.

    Grow up.

    You implied that Hemant is stupid and lacks integrity, and called him a “selfish opportunist.” Name calling is obviously a sign of maturity. Maybe you should grow up.

    Hemant – I have re-read this post several times. Sounds like you had a fascinating experience. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Stephen, lighten up. These are all just good natured jokes.

    BTW, I am a pastor, I invited Hemant to our church, he spoke to us, we had a good dialogue. I would invite him again… oh, in fact I already did. Not to our church, but to a ministry conference for 200 other pastors and church leaders that I’m planning. And I don’t have any fears at all about any kind of backlash.

  • http://www.friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Just curious, were you the only brown person there?

    That evening, yes, as far as I knew. Though I’m sure other Indians have been on the show before.

    http://www.mardel.com/

    come on…it’s hardly a “Christian Staples”

    You’re not understanding my poor attempts at sarcasm, I say!

    My husband mentioned offhand this weekend to my (also fundie) parents that he’s atheist, and they took it remarkably well, even complimenting him on his unwillingness to lie in order to become an Eagle Scout as a kid. Someday, I’ll suck it up and come out to them myself.

    Allison, that’s incredible! Yay to your parents! And I hope you can work up that courage :)

    Ravi is highly intellectual in his presentation
    Hemant…ok well I guess the similarities have to end somewhere.

    Ouch… my feelings.

    As for James Robison, I disagree with many of his positions, but he was nothing but kind to me the whole way through. And I *never* said he was racist. I just thought it was a rash generalization to say me and Zacharias have the same background when the only major similarity I saw was skin color. Siamang beat me to explaining the differences and did a good job with it.

  • Joel Kneedler

    Hemant,
    It was great hanging out with you and Jim at the TV show. You were under a lot of pressure given the circumstances, and you handled it very well. (remember I gave you the opportunity to bolt as we made our way down the stairwell…and you declined!) It was great meeting the other folks in the audience as well.

    I DID see you trying to write on your lap and eat at the same time! There was a ton of information floating around that you were trying to record. I also thought to myself, “Hmm, he sure does like bread.”

    Looking forward to more adventures.
    Joel

  • Steve

    Hemant, as one of the staff on the show I am glad to hear that overall you found it to be a positive experience. We enjoyed your presence here as well and are excited about you and Jim being a part of the show. I particularly enjoyed our conversation on the phone prior to the taping and continue to find your comments regarding Christians and the church to be very thought-provoking.

    Additionally, I always find myself fascinated over how easily 2 different people with 2 different backgrounds and perspectives can go through the same experience and come out with 2 different interpretations. I was reminded of this as I read your blog and saw how easily I interpreted some of the same events and conversations in a very different way – as though we had actually been in 2 different rooms.

    Thus, as another person who was also present during the “getting-to-know-you dinner” I thought I would offer some of my perspective:

    • Yes, there are 2 framed pictures of George W Bush in the room, but you failed to note that these are shots of his actual appearance on the show and that there are equivalent framed pictures of guests such as John Tesh and Randy Travis. Downstairs in the lobby you will also find pictures of Robert Duvall and Deion Sanders. The ministry likes to feature those who might be considered by viewers to be “influential” guests and certainly you can’t deny that what is regarded by many to be one of the most “powerful men on earth” would fall into that category, regardless of political persuasion. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll feature you. ;-)

    • To say James said “we shouldn’t have been in Iraq” may be too simplistic of a summation. It is more complex than that. He actually said he didn’t know for certain it was the best approach. To say that he asks honest questions about it would probably be more accurate. From what I understood that night and from what I’ve heard him speak in many other settings is that the whole question of whether we should have gone to Iraq is legitimately debatable, but now that we are there the bigger question is what do we do?

    • I thought your summation of the “gay choice” discussion was also too simplistic, or at least I did not hear it in the same way you did. I heard our other guest say he was in support of a federal marriage amendment as a way of dealing specifically with the gay marriage issue, but I did not hear him say that it would solve the “gay choice problem.” I don’t remember all of the conversation but I do seem to recall that you did ask a question or 2 related to it – so you did take a break from the bread a little bit. Had you chosen to disagree publicly, I am confident you would have been treated with kindness and respect.

    • Having the day before been on the front end of the request to get you a copy of Ravi Zacharias’ lectures I can say confidently that the thinking was primarily because of Ravi’s connection with being a former skeptic and because you both approach things intellectually. While I cannot say that by “background” there was no thought at all to the fact you both have Indian ancestry, I can assure you he gave you the CD’s because Ravi is a philosopher who stimulates discussion, not because he is Indian (or “brown”). The subtle implication that James may be a racist shocked those of us who know him. Nothing could be further from the truth, as evidenced by a lifetime dedicated to helping people of all colors.

    • I’m not sure it’s a fair assessment to label all the others in the room as “hard-core” social conservatives. First, during all the time we were in there and even during our previous conversations, I don’t recall ever once voicing my own personal beliefs regarding these issues. The only thing you knew about me was that I was a Christian and that I worked for the ministry. While it is true that my faith and personal politics do in fact inform a belief system that would place me in the “social conservative” realm (and I do have a tendency to find myself in alignment with much of James’ public stances), I think it is no more fair to automatically label my positions without first hearing them out than for me to automatically label an atheist for all of his or her positions. Secondly, the term “hardcore” has the implication of “immovable” as though we are unwilling to listen and there is no flexibility on our positions. Yet with any group there is always a range of differences in terms of how individuals specifically believe on issues. While there are some specific beliefs (core doctrine) I strongly adhere to, there are some other “non-essentials of the faith” that don’t have the same significance as I’ve continued on my Christian journey. I also know that through my church and elsewhere I have constantly chosen to surround myself with Christians that cover the gambit of social and political beliefs. In short, be careful how you label others before you get to truly know them. No one likes to be stereotyped.

    • Also, regarding Betty’s question about where your morals come from, a point of clarification (though I think you meant this, it may not be completely clear the way you wrote it): she was stating a question that she wanted to ask later during the actual TV interview. In other words, she wanted to give you an opportunity to answer a question she knew many viewers might have. She was thinking on their behalf. The thought behind her question was not, “Is it possible for an atheist to have morals?” It was actually, “What is the source that helps determine the morals you choose to live by?” There is a difference.

    • Regarding the mohawk, I’m not sure which producer was standing next to you at the time but I can speak what I know concerning most of the staff I work with. It is not so much shock that someone would have a mohawk – or really even being disturbed by it. It is much more shock that someone like that would choose to come to our studio. Quite frankly it was kind of cool. I hope to see more of that in the future and more of the wonderful folks (such as those from the atheist groups) who graced our studios with their presence.

    One final word, as I know you are open to feedback since you yourself provide valuable feedback to others. The “get-to-know-you” dinner was, in a sense, a “closed door” meeting in which individuals trusted you with their thoughts and conversations, even knowing you come from a different belief system. In the future, if you intend for people’s thoughts and words to be “on the record” in these kinds of intimate settings, you should do the courtesy of making that known in advance. Individuals need to feel a sense of safety in what they say, not believing that every word they speak could be picked apart and put out for public display, especially without giving them a chance to clarify in case anything is misunderstood. By not being sensitive to that you may close the door to: A) groups inviting you to fairly private venues; or B) groups failing to be their true selves in front of you.

    Overall feedback is always welcome and valuable (and we certainly would have expected that based on what you do), but you would be better served in the future to do everything openly and “above the table” rather than “under the table,” if you know what I mean. If you are truly in pursuit of truth, which I believe you are, I recommend you take the above into serious consideration or responses like Stephan’s earlier will be typical and doors could be closed for you. With the exception of Stephan’s insults (for I do consider you to be very intellectual) his view seemed to express the sentiments of most around here who read your blog. James and everyone here were totally open with you (above the table) but it doesn’t necessarily feel it was the same from you. So I hope you understand why I felt it important to respond and share my thoughts.

    That’s it from me. Thanks for the opportunity to share my perspective. Regardless of the above differences, I truly do mean it when I say it was a pleasure meeting you and hearing your thoughts regarding the church. I can’t wait for the viewers to see the shows on Apr 30 and May 1 (the actual currently scheduled dates which are subject to change). These kinds of conversations are very valuable and I believe can make a difference.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Steve– Thanks for writing. Let me respond to some of your points:

    – The Bush pictures were of his appearances on the show; I was alluding to the fact that those pictures were the first ones I saw. Though, political differences aside, he is certainly influential.

    – I did hear the phrase “gay choice” and my recollection of it was that an amendment would help alleviate that. I would’ve loved to talk more about it, and you’re right I probably would have been treated with respect.

    – As for the Zacharias tapes (which I hope to listen to soon), trust me that I never implied that James was racist. I admire the work he’s been doing in other countries, too. James wasn’t the first person to have suggested listening to Zacharias, and in other instances, the Indian connection was the first one to jump out. Though if he did mean to imply the former skeptic/intellectual approach, I appreciate that sentiment :)

    – You’re right that I wrongly jumped to conclusions when labeling others as hard-core conservatives. In my mind, many of the voices I did hear were in support of Bush’s policies and were (obviously) Christian, and most people I have met who fit that description do fall in that category. And yes, the implication that those views are immovable is a wrong one. As an atheist who has spent a lot of the past several years looking for evidence of faith, I should’ve expected the same from others. That was my fault.

    – I didn’t realize the dinner was a closed door one; had I known that, I wouldn’t have commented on those parts of the evening.

    Let me reiterate that my time on the show was a wonderful experience. I thought the interviews went well, and my atheist friends in the audience also said that they appreciated James’ fairness and his questions.

    In fact, just yesterday, I received a really nice letter from James expressing his thanks for my being a guest on the show. It was a very kind gesture. I hope I didn’t take away from that.

    Thanks for writing :)

  • TXatheist

    I have had it with this one. Let me translate this Texas speak…it’s bullshxx. They will look you straight in the eye and say one thing but the reality is they are just ignorant hillbillies content with keeping things all fine and dandy for themselves without apologizing for their redneck mentality.
    George W is a hero in xian hillbilly land. In Austin, most Texans realize he’s a stupid xian that is where he is because he has money. The true problem of Texas is that one can become rich because they have no integrity. Preachers and oilmen tend to well since people are too stupid to know the bible is a fairytale and destroying our planet is bad. John Tesh is a washed up actor who sold out and became a xian singer. Randy Travis sells music to inbred rednecks who think the highlight of their life is getting a new pickup. Deion Sanders cheated on his wife and found religion because in Texas when you say you found Jesus people are dumb enough to believe it because they are just as dumb. Sanders is only a hero because in Texas football is like a religion, a whacky cult of people addicted to a sport that is more important to Texas colleges than actually learning. If Deion didn’t carry a football he’d be a nobody. Hemant’s picture will be up there the day he converts to xianity and not a day before. If that never happens his picture won’t go up on the bigot walls.
    It’s not debateable to whether we should be in Iraq. Bush completely screwed up and Bush supporters are too arrogant or dumb to admit they screwed up as usual. We leave Iraq. That is the plan a true Patriot is pushing for, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pilosi.
    Of course you xians are for banning gay marriage. You think you understand morality and that ignorance comes from that fairytale. Social conservatives in Texas have a big problem of thinking they know what’s best for minorities. All you have to do is tell people that the bible says something about a particular issue and that settles it. Unless someone stood up and clarified gay isn’t a choice then you are the typical ignorant Texan I thought you were. Those ignorant ideas are completely acceptable in your social conservative circles and they are perpetuated. Of course banning gay marriage won’t cure gayness, there is nothing wrong with being gay contrary to what your fairy tale says or the Sunday morning hillbilly perpetuates. I’m sure Hemant would have been treated kindly because anything less would have tarnished the image you are trying to portray in this propaganda of Life Today members.
    Hemant didn’t need a copy of Ravi’s material but it’s obvious you need some works by Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower. Two good Texans that realize what social conservatives are in Texas. Read their material until you become a liberal. It’s not about helping people of other colors. It’s about helping the ignorant white folks in Texas that think Mexicans are here to do the physical labor jobs, that Jesus is real, that unions are bad, that selling out Texas to corporations is good and don’t think the best thing that happened to the South was when the Yankees whooped your grandpappy’s butt in the Civil War. I’m sure the wide spectrum of your religious and political views is vast or else we both know the truth and you all pretty much fall in the same line.
    Hemant gets his morals from the same place we all do, our parents, not some 3500 year old fairy tale. If Betty think she gets her morals from the bible tell her to read Leviticus again. Your god is a sick and immoral in that archaic book.
    It was cool to see someone not fall in line with the social rules of Texas. I’d have loved to see someone make a typical ignorant comment like “who does your hair” or “why did you do that with your hair”. I’m sure you all prejudged him and you are in denial right now about doing that. More Texan speak as usual.
    Closed door meeting is code for we are going to be ourselves and not on TV where we plead for money so let’s say what we really think. Why are you concerned with what Hemant thought of your conversation? Oh yeah, you are ignorant xians behind closed doors but that’s not how you want to be portrayed to your audience. If your bigoted friends want to post here they can but I guarantee Hemant is way nicer than I would be with you hillbillies with your ill table manners.
    All the rest of this nonsense about trying to get Hemant to feel bad and how to act in these situations is your true problem. Hemant is open and honest and you money whores on Life Today are fake so you can rake in the cash from ignorant rednecks too dumb to realize the bible is a ancient book for ancient people. You wouldn’t know what pursuing truth is so don’t allow yourself to be put on a pedestal. You’re a corrupt Texas redneck taking money from people so they can think they are improving their odds of going to heaven by giving money.
    Hemant will be much kinder than me so allow me to say it was a pleasure to meet you Hemant and Jim but xians like Steve and James are what is wrong with America. Their crooks feeding on people’s ignorance and emotions.
    Steve, give the stage hand named Tim a message. Most scientists are not xians they are atheist. There are very few highly educated people that are xians. I bit my tongue when he said it but that is too much to let him be misquided on.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Steve, thanks for coming here and interacting… I’m just going to hit one point as most of your post has to do with the personal interaction between you and hemant.

    But you made this point:

    • Having the day before been on the front end of the request to get you a copy of Ravi Zacharias’ lectures I can say confidently that the thinking was primarily because of Ravi’s connection with being a former skeptic and because you both approach things intellectually.

    According to Wikipedia Ravi became a christian at age 17. So apparantly he had an atheist childhood. But would he say it was a skeptical childhood?

    To say someone has a skeptical background and an intellectual approach seems strange in a child. I can imagine an adult grasping the various skeptical arguments against supernatural belief, but was that Ravi as a child? Was he quoting Ingersoll and Thomas Huxley in grade-school?

    I’m sorry but I don’t buy the “former skeptic” connection over the brown-skin or indian-ancestry connection. Why not Josh McDowell or C.S. Lewis?

  • Karen

    The “get-to-know-you” dinner was, in a sense, a “closed door” meeting in which individuals trusted you with their thoughts and conversations, even knowing you come from a different belief system. In the future, if you intend for people’s thoughts and words to be “on the record” in these kinds of intimate settings, you should do the courtesy of making that known in advance.

    Steve, you guys are in television. You’re not unsophisticated people; I assume you’re professionals. As such, you should know that Hemant’s a well-known blogger and an author. If the dinner conversation was “off the record” it was up to you guys to notify Hemant of that distinction and then ask him to agree to that condition.

    If you didn’t make that clear right up front, it’s very unfair of you to come back after the fact and criticize him for blogging about his experience.

    Overall, I thought his assessment was positive and that he bent over backwards to make you all look good. He could certainly have been far more negative and critical – but then he wouldn’t be the Friendly Atheist.

  • J.K. Sanders

    Christians have Robert Tilton to make them look bad. Atheists have TXatheist. Proof that above all, people are people. No matter what they believe or what labels they wear, some try to do good things while others are rotten to the core.

  • txatheist

    J.K.,
    Thanks for acknowledging my post. What part am I bad about? Rotten to the core in? As someone who hasn’t ever seen you post here I welcome your thoughts.

  • txatheist

    J.K.,
    I found these books of interest. These are from Robert Titlon. I hope the atheists/regular xians enjoy the thought of me writing these books and titling them. It was actually this robert Titlon but I think they would make excellent material for satire/The Daily Show/The Colbert report.

    Bibliography books by Robert Tilton:

    How to Be Rich & Have Everything You Ever Wanted
    How to Pay Your Bills Supernaturally
    Strike It Rich
    Oh Lord I Pray, Send Now Prosperity
    How To Receive & Keep Your Healing
    God’s Miracle Plan For Man

  • http://mosaicwonderwoman Holly Anderson

    Well,
    I am new to this site. And though I was very encouraged and ready to post my thoughts, after reading txatheist, I am now very apprehensive. I guess according to her/him that I am an xian.
    For the record, I am a Christian. Steve and I have been friends for years. We are committed to the same community of people which we call church.

    Hermant, let me say that I so enjoyed the show. And I will buy your book – and after reading it, will add it to our new church library. (Which, by the way will not have ANY of the titles txathiest just listed, nor any like them.)

    I laughed and laughed about the “brown” comment. I have had students from all over the world. One of my students who is Chinese (by ancestry) made the comment one day that “you white people know nothing about rice.” We laughed because we knew him and knew it was not a racist comment. Another day he came into the room raging because someone had just told him that his “people make good donuts.” It WAS an ignorant statement, and one that was easily understood as racist. It seems to be about the speaker, and how well you know them.
    Hermant, I thought it was funny. And I don’t believe it was a negative remark about James. Nor do I believe that James was trying to be anything except kind. He is not a racist. If he was, he would not make the trips he makes around the world to help the children on SO MANY different continents.

    I guess I am frustrated by txathiest’s comments in part because it seems that she/he would rather see James NOT doing this job. And so many have been helped. Schools have been built. Well have been dug for fresh water. Children have been feed.
    Is it better for that NOT to be done? Or only done by the government with a huge increase in our federal tax dollars. Personally, I would rather see people be INVOLVED at any level as individuals rather than create even more HUGE government waste and bureaucracy.
    (For txathiest, this throws me into the hard-core-republican-social- conservative-camp.)

    Hermant, I do not know your friends in the court case. I do not know their motives. But I have been a public school teacher for fourteen years. And we are desperate for resources. I have students who cannot write complete sentences who have parents who are completely uninvolved. They need ANY quality, committed mentors we can find. I don’t care if they come from the local atheist community or the local church. But our children need to know that SOMEONE believes in them. And with an absence of parents, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach our kids. It was never easy. So I would love to talk with them and hear this from their perspective. And I will investigate this further.

    I will also continue to step in and read your blog. I will pass it on to some very specific friends some of whom are atheists with whom I have an honest dialog with and who have been to my church. We welcome them anytime. And we socialize together also. Conversion has really not been the point. The point is loving people and treating them with kindness and respect (which is what Jesus – or Ghandi for that matter) tried to do. It is what I aspire to do.

    And on that note, I want to say that THIS xian SUPPORTS gay marriage and the adoption of children by loving parents, gay or not. That statement throws me OUT of the hard-core-republican-social- conservative-camp.
    I didn’t come to that conclusion because of any intellectual argument, but rather out of the love i feel for my homosexual friends.

    So, txathiest, while you may want to label me, or Steve or James, you are the only one who made me not want to be at this site. And you are the one who tried to label me – and got it WAY wrong. I try stay away from the Christians who are like you.

    Siamang, I have worked with gifted kids for YEARS! And they COULD come to an intellectual, skeptical conclusion. I had a student with a 1300 on the SAT (the real deal) in the 7th grade. So . . . while I know NOTHING about Ravi, I will not say that a skeptical childhood was not possible.
    FWIW

  • txatheist

    What are you apprehensive about? That I said that oilmen and preachers are con-men? I am certainly entitled to that view and I think more people should be able to come out and say it if they want.
    The books I listed were from the guy I was compared to as satire. I wouldn’t write such books where I mislead people. I don’t doubt James helps people but the method of attracting money is what I find despicable. I’m certainly entitled to say that getting people to believe that god loves them and they should send money to a group that supports that idea is misleading people. You don’t have to agree, it’s ok, I realize in Texas we don’t say those things to xians, but I do. I still think James would do well to educate the people in Texas I mentioned. The anti-gay, gay is a choice, abortion is wrong and I should tell other people to not have one, that I should say people may burn in hell for not accepting JC and the like. Keep helping kids across the ocean but also help educate Texans about false ideas that are ignorant and unfounded. James can help but don’t do it based on the lie and deception. I realize you think government is incapable in helping people but religious groups do not help people anymore than secular groups. We wouldn’t have to raise your income tax if we’d tax churches and deny charitable gifts as tax exemptions. I’d rather not see James deceive people with the idea of a supernatural reward for giving money to his causes. It’s outright deception. I would have to say Hemant was correct in generally assessing people like you as conservative. The government is wasteful and privatization is better right? I realize you’ve been told that which is a conservative view. You want vouchers and to reduce state agencies. Gov. Perry is selling out to pro-voucher people and corporations. Bush sold out to religious organizations and Halliburton. All which are just as corrupt and doesn’t allow private entities to make some corrupt executive rich, Dick Cheney’s buddies at Halliburton. It may come as a surprise to you but it’s ok to pay an director of a secular organization say 50k a year but it’s not ok to fund KBR with government contracts and pay the executives 1 million a year. They are likely to turn around and make a donation to the presidential candidate that gave them the contract. That’s the corrupt part, funding a sellout xian President who rewards his corrupt buddies. Thanks for educating our kids but if you want to help stop getting religious organizations from arguing about evolution in our school text books. I’m glad you are indifferent to gay people and adoption. You’ve got one toe outside the box but I’ll keep listening. There are no xians like me that I know of. Every xian I know thinks god exists so there is a difference from the start. I also don’t try to stay clear of xians like the ones you mention. I confront them, willingly. It’s possible to have a skeptical childhood and no one denies that, just we don’t have a basis to say Ravi did yet. A 1300 on the SAT? Great job kid.

  • Holly Anderson

    Apprehensive because you automatically assume that I am ignorant because I believe in God. Apprehensive because you assume to know me because I believe in a “lie.” Apprehensive because you label me with people you are bigoted against. (And I can’t blame you. I know that many of these people you have named xians do not represent well.)

    I am certainly entitled to that view and I think more people should be able to come out and say it if they want.

    I agree.

    I’m certainly entitled to say that getting people to believe that god loves them and they should send money to a group that supports that idea is misleading people. You don’t have to agree, it’s ok, I realize in Texas we don’t say those things to xians, but I do.

    I agree again. I will say those things too. I don’t believe that James is doing anything wrong. Neither was Barak Obama when he went into a poor neighborhood recently to tell the people of the neighborhood that they could give five dollars to his campaign.

    I don’t believe that JC is lie. But that does not make me ignorant. I do not claim that giving money to any cause is going to save you from hell or grant you an eternal blessing. But I don’t think government will save us either.

    The government is wasteful and privatization is better right? I realize you’ve been told that which is a conservative view. You want vouchers and to reduce state agencies. Gov. Perry is selling out to pro-voucher people and corporations.

    I haven’t only been told that. I am not some bumpkin that buys the party line without thinking. Which is why I said I was apprehensive about posting here. You do not seem to want free thought or free expression of thought. Instead you label MY thought as an ignorant, deceptive lie.
    Government is not the best or only solution. Show me in history where government has stood the test of time AND solved the problem of human suffering. I do believe that INDIVIDUALS have addressed this problem time and time again (not solved it – but addressed it) more effectively than any governments.
    And for the record I do not want vouchers – as you ASSUME I do.

    It may come as a surprise to you but it’s ok to pay an director of a secular organization say 50k a year but it’s not ok to fund KBR with government contracts and pay the executives 1 million a year. They are likely to turn around and make a donation to the presidential candidate that gave them the contract. That’s the corrupt part, funding a sellout xian President who rewards his corrupt buddies.

    Why do think that this is a surprise to me? Because I live in Texas and don’t like government?
    And do you think that Bush is the ONLY president to do this? He invented corruption? No one is exempt from that. I did not vote for Perry. I can’t stand him.I think he is in bed with the drug companies and passed the HPV vaccine mandate because of it. But do you really think that Democrats or Libertarians or Green Party members would NOT do these kind of things? Get real! Corruption is EVERYWHERE! No one party has cornered the market on this. Which is why I really don’t want to be associated with any of them. I am increasingly discouraged by the state of governmental affairs.

    Thanks for educating our kids but if you want to help stop getting religious organizations from arguing about evolution in our school text books.

    Clearly you know very little about the problems facing public schools. If you think evolution and its teaching is our biggest problem, you our out of touch.
    I am in favor of teaching many thoughts including evolution. And I say that to lots of VERY conservative parents. I always tell them that the key is that they be involved with their child’s education. That is my opinion about EVERY parent and holds true for most of the topics we address in schools.

    ’m glad you are indifferent to gay people and adoption. You’ve got one toe outside the box but I’ll keep listening.

    Well thanks. That is mighty big you to keep listening to the likes of me.
    I appreciate it.
    Just so you know, I am NOT indifferent to gay people. I said that i came to the conclusion because of my love for my homosexual and lesbian friends. That is hardly indifference. And it can’t possibly count as a toe. I am too liberal to be conservative and too conservative to be liberal.

    The whole point here was to promote discussion and you seem to want to label and call names more than you want to discuss. You seem to abhor the idea of anyone assuming things about you. But you have no problem doing it to me or my “deceptive, lying, ignorant” friends.

    Why is it such a ridiculous idea that someone might want to give money to a man they believe to be sincere so that he and his team can go to Sudan to help the children there? If they believe the same “fairy tale” that he believes, isn’t it then between the two of them how they get to spend their money?
    And if he really is going to Sudan to help those children, why is that wrong?

    Should I feel better about the government doing it? Isn’t there waste and fraud in the government?

    But I am an ignorant xian. Not like you.
    No wonder I am apprehensive.

  • txatheist

    I don’t believe that James is doing anything wrong. Neither was Barak Obama when he went into a poor neighborhood recently to tell the people of the neighborhood that they could give five dollars to his campaign.

    Barack Obama trying to change the course of our nation and telling people that god wants them to give money are not even remotely the same. I guess that is a good reason you can’t see why James is doing something wrong.

    I don’t believe that JC is lie. But that does not make me ignorant. I do not claim that giving money to any cause is going to save you from hell or grant you an eternal blessing. But I don’t think government will save us either.

    So you believe that JC healed people by touch, died and rose 3 days later and is sitting next to god in heaven as literal? Ignorant in that understanding of biology and medicine yes. Government is a real thing, heaven/hell and god are not so my point remains as to which actually solves people’s problems. Real entities or false notions.

    I haven’t only been told that. I am not some bumpkin that buys the party line without thinking. Which is why I said I was apprehensive about posting here. You do not seem to want free thought or free expression of thought. Instead you label MY thought as an ignorant, deceptive lie.
    Government is not the best or only solution. Show me in history where government has stood the test of time AND solved the problem of human suffering. I do believe that INDIVIDUALS have addressed this problem time and time again (not solved it – but addressed it) more effectively than any governments.
    And for the record I do not want vouchers – as you ASSUME I do.

    Great. You are wrong on yourself making points. So far you have agreed with me and I with you on gays and schools. Yes, I do label heaven/hell and the xian god a lie, ignorant and deceptive but just as much as I do Zeus and Hercules. Show me where god did anything. Everytime it’s been humans. Education is what I do agree with. Telling people that some supernatural entity wants them to behave or believe a certain way doesn’t educate people with fact based ideas.

    Why do think that this is a surprise to me? Because I live in Texas and don’t like government?
    And do you think that Bush is the ONLY president to do this? He invented corruption? No one is exempt from that. I did not vote for Perry. I can’t stand him.I think he is in bed with the drug companies and passed the HPV vaccine mandate because of it. But do you really think that Democrats or Libertarians or Green Party members would NOT do these kind of things? Get real! Corruption is EVERYWHERE! No one party has cornered the market on this. Which is why I really don’t want to be associated with any of them. I am increasingly discouraged by the state of governmental affairs.

    Bush didn’t start it but he’s way ahead of the game for being a fundy and appointing fundies to the supreme court. Ok, I’ll get real, the Green party would not sell out to corporations. You not knowing that is the theme tells me how much you know about politics. I was discouraged with politics until last November but I’m still disappointed in Texas but I won’t give up.

    Clearly you know very little about the problems facing public schools. If you think evolution and its teaching is our biggest problem, you our out of touch.
    I am in favor of teaching many thoughts including evolution. And I say that to lots of VERY conservative parents. I always tell them that the key is that they be involved with their child’s education. That is my opinion about EVERY parent and holds true for most of the topics we address in schools.

    Oh, I don’t think that is our problem. The problem is the parents who disagree with evolution and can’t take the responsiblity to educate kids. Texas is at the bottom because ignorant rednecks breed. Teen pregancy rates are at the top because we think abstinence is a good idea, pushed by religious folks. You want me to thank you for not telling religious folks that mentality is for the stupid? Tell them, it’s ok. Many thoughts? Like evolution is a fact, the big bang is a fact, and the earth is millions of years old as well as the creation in the bible is just one of a thousand myths man made up. Those thoughts represented is what you meant by actually educating kids right? You are welcome for me giving you my attention. Geesh, it was light humor about the big toe. I’ve yet to know any liberals like yourself so we can disagree how unconversative you are. I am calling it like I see it. Do I think the bible is a fairytale and myth? Yes. Do I think people who perpetuate the bible as Truth and god as real and Jesus died for us as con-men? Yes. I also think psychics/palm readers are scamming people out of money.
    I’m all for Doctors without borders but they aren’t asking for donations and calling on a higher power to do it. I stand by the fact that you dangle the idea of heaven in front of donors as a tool to use an appeal to emotion. A false idea but that’s why we disagree. You don’t see it. You have lying, deceptive and ignorant friends when it comes to religion as I see it. I don’t think they are like that in everything. It sure is between them that they believe and it’s between the 3 of us for me to speak up and tell them my opinion and why his is false. That’s ok too right? The ends don’t justify the means. If I setup a lemonade stand and said buying this lemonade will get you a seat in heaven then I deceived people out of their money. You don’t have to see it that way. I’ll feel better about a secular government entity doing it or a secular organization because there is no carrot being dangled. You aren’t ignorant beyond your inability to realize your religion is just a story but I could be wrong.

  • Holly Anderson

    . You aren’t ignorant beyond your inability to realize your religion is just a story but I could be wrong.

    Well thank you for that tx.

    I hope to hear from others of you. And I hold out hope that other atheists will be able to dialog. I don’t think my belief in God makes me ignorant. Nor does it make you ignorant not to believe.

    I believe in science. I also believe that humankind does not understand or has not yet discovered everything science has to offer. And some of what we understand in science we accept by faith. I have a faith some people call a lie. And they have a different faith than I do. But it is faith none the less. Science hasn’t offered us ALL the answers. And religion doesn’t either. Where we have gaps – we have faith.

    An interesting point here is that in the late 1800′s a SCIENCE known as eugenics came into popularity. Hitler bought it, along with many here in America and in American government. All of us are capable of believing lies, even ones that have been propagated in the name of science OR religion.

    I appreciate your feedback txatheist. I think you and I will have to agree to disagree on some things.

    http://www.motherjones.com/arts/books/2003/09/ma_513_01.html

  • txatheist

    You are welcome. The compliments just keep coming. It’s light humor again. Thanks, I’m glad not believing in something that there is no evidence for is a good view. Science has a long way to go, a long way. They don’t have faith like you refer. They realize there are thing we don’t know but it’s not faith in science. I don’t have faith in the sense you wish to think I do. I have seen humans work together and find cures and I think that will continue, that’s just observation, not faith. Religion hasn’t provided answers. Atheists accept we don’t know everything, even me, (light humor) but we don’t use the god of the gaps and give credit to a myth. Hitler didn’t use science but hatred to push his agenda. He was a cruel dictator and don’t say atheist, please don’t go there. We can disagree and that’s fine. That is the goal of my dialogue as a atheist realizing you will remain a xian. I gotta run so I’ll look at motherjones later.

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    “We have . . . undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” -Adolf Hitler, 1933.

  • Holly Anderson

    Just as clarification, I was not indicting atheists by using Hitler. Christians for the most part did not try to stop him. Bonhoeffer was one of the few German Christians who did. The German church was complicit by its silence.

    My commentary here was on science. And it was NOT meant to vilify science. Instead, I meant to point out that science does not have all the answers any more than Christians do. (Any Christian who DOES claim to have all the answers is too darn proud.)

    In my opinion, we all have gaps.

    I have seen humans work together and find cures and I think that will continue

    The belief that we can find a cure, or that a cure (or fill in whatever other answer we are looking for) even exists and that we CAN find it – to me is faith. We hope to find something and pursue that something. We believe it is out there. Even though it may not be.
    My mom is diabetic. She takes insulin. I am grateful that scientist had the faith, belief, ingenuity, stick-with-it-ness, to KEEP looking for a cure.
    They found answers because they believed that they were out there.

    I call that faith.

    I don’t know everything.
    Txatheist said she/he doesn’t know everything.
    Science doesn’t know everything.
    Christians don’t know everything.

    There are gaps. I used eugenics as my stepping off point to say that we have gaps, and even science sometimes gets things wrong. Just like ALL of us sometimes get things wrong.

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    I call that faith.

    In this context, I think most atheists agree with you. I have “faith” that we will go to the moon again, that we will vaccinate against AIDS, that I will have a great day tomorrow.

    But faith, in this context, is probabilistic. The faith is based on my prior experiences. In other words, it is based on evidence and probabilities based on that evidence.

    The other type of faith.. is Faith. This faith is in the supernatural. That which cannot be observed by the empiricist. Here, atheists will not agree with you.

    Romans once called Christians atheos. They called them atheists! As a Christian, you know what is means to be an atheist – You are already an atheist for hundreds of gods, just as they were atheists with the Roman gods and goddesses. You know exactly what it is like to be atheist. Modern atheists, however, just go one god further than you.

  • txatheist

    Holly,
    It appears we pretty much agree. Hitler did get the support of the church. Hitler was not an atheist. Science has provided answers, xianity has not, it’s hindered them. Stem cell research is being hindered. The medical community measured your mom’s low blood-sugar and elevated that ratio. That wasn’t faith, it was understanding science. Cancer is be tested by science to determine why cells mutate. They aren’t just mixing chemicals in a test tube and hoping for a lucky batch.

    Last favor, next James or anyone says gay is a choice tell them the truth and be a good xian so you don’t get misrepresented as a typical Texas xian. You know what I mean when 2 years ago we voted here on gay marriage and it was struck down by 82% of the voters. Do you want me to pat that ignorant bigotry that comes from the churches on the back?

  • Holly Anderson

    Do you want me to pat that ignorant bigotry that comes from the churches on the back?

    No. I do not.
    What I wanted was for us all to enter into a discussion without condemnation and name calling. You cannot seem to do that any more than the ones you call xians.
    I don’t want to call you names tx. But that seems to be all you can offer. And I do not know how to have a discussion with someone who refuses to try to see any other point of view – whether that person calls herself a Christian or an atheist. You have already made up your mind. So with you, it is not a discussion.

  • Holly Anderson

    Thank you Anthony for you insight. I appreciate it.

    Modern atheists, however, just go one god further than you.

    I would like to know more about what you mean here.

  • txatheist

    Holly,
    What would you like me to call someone who says that gay is a choice? What would you like me to call the 82% of Texans that voted against gay marriage? What would you like for me to call someone that goes on tv and says god will reward them if they can find it in their heart to donate to help starving kids?

    No names just questions.

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    I would like to know more about what you mean here.

    You are an atheist for 999 gods.
    Atheists are atheistic for 1,000 gods.

    That’s what I meant by: “Modern atheists, however, just go one god further than you.”

    ie, 999 gods + 1 your god = my total number of atheistic beliefs :)

    And to share a bit of how I view the world – I do not distinguish between Zeus, Thor, the Abrahamic God, the elemental gods, nor the gods in fantasy roleplaying games and novels. These are all on the same level as fiction.

    I truly believe many Christians can understand the atheists point of view in this way: Imagine how you feel regarding the truth of Zeus, Thor, tribal elemental gods, and fantasy genre gods. That feeling you have is *exactly* the feeling I have about them too. I just have the same feeling about the Abrahamic God as well. That is our difference. Sometimes, when I think about it this way, it all seems so trivial. I cannot believe how something so simple causes such strife in the world.

    In this context, I think it is easy to see why many atheists are defensive and lash out at theists. Imagine your world with a majority of people believing in the gods in D&D roleplaying games. Imagine if you just didn’t buy the existence of Silvanus and Tempus. Imagine being in that world!!! Pretty strange, huh? Now imagine these D&D fantasy fans passing legislation, taking over the Presidency, having tax-free offices and buildings, and in some places, blowing themselves up. If you didn’t believe in hobbits, then you’d be branded as immoral and selfish.

    Whoa, what a whacko world that’d be. This is how many atheists feel. They see all this fiction, and all this behavior and legislation coming from the fiction, and they respond. Rightly so – they really should respond!

  • TXatheist

    Holly has disappeared? If Steve wouldn’t have come here and told Hemant how to do a write up I would have remained silent. In Texas there is a real problem of going with the status quo and towing the party line. Hemant did what I did the first time I got here. He spoke his mind without doing it the Texas way.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I truly believe many Christians can understand the atheists point of view in this way: Imagine how you feel regarding the truth of Zeus, Thor, tribal elemental gods, and fantasy genre gods. That feeling you have is *exactly* the feeling I have about them too. I just have the same feeling about the Abrahamic God as well. That is our difference. Sometimes, when I think about it this way, it all seems so trivial. I cannot believe how something so simple causes such strife in the world.

    Anthony, I know you hope that explaining things in this way will help Christians better understand the atheist point of view, and I really do appreciate the effort. Mutual understanding is a good thing. However, I’m afraid this approach is not likely to work. If you don’t mind, I’ll explain why.

    The difference is that philosophically speaking, Christians (and theists in general) do not define their God as being in the same category as these other gods. There is an ontological difference between the nature of the gods in the polytheistic pantheons and the nature of the One God of the monotheistic religions.

    The key difference is that monotheism believes it’s God to be eternally self-existent (i.e. not created, or brought into being by any other force), infinite in knowledge and power, and transcendent in relation to the rest of creation (i.e. God is the Creator of everything else that exists and thus in some sense is distinct from it). In contrast, the gods and goddesses of polytheism are limited beings (they have special powers, but are not all-powerful or all knowing), they have a set beginning when they themselves were created by some other force or being, and they exist as one more entity in the whole of creation, not as the Creators themselves. They are more like super-powered humans (or some powerful energy being from Star Trek) than like the limitless, eternal, transcendent Creator God that theists believe in. It’s a category mistake (a problem of trying to use the same word to describe two very different things) to think that “God” (limitless, transcendent, uncreated Creator) is in the same category as “the gods” (limited, non-transcendent, created beings).

    I know that to you this distinction is probably irrelevant, since you don’t believe in either type of god. However, you should understand that this is why your argument about simply believing in one less god doesn’t really make sense to theists. To them belief in Yahweh is not simply the same as belief in Zeus since Zeus and Yahweh are two radically different kinds of beings. (In Christian cosmology, Zeus is probably the rough equivalent of an angel, but again, belief in angels and belief in a transcendent Creator God who made the angels and humans and everything else, is not at all the same thing.)

    I hope that makes sense. I think if you really want to help Christians understand the atheist perspective, you should explain to them why you don’t believe in the kind of God they actually believe in themselves, not why you don’t believe in all these other kinds of gods that don’t bear much similarity to what Christians themselves believe in. In other words, explain why you don’t believe in monotheism, not why you don’t believe in polytheism, because, philosophically and theologically speaking, they’re not the same thing. Not really at all.

  • TXatheist

    Mike C,
    In that message to xians how does one make them understand that Zeus really is just as significant and powerful as Jehovah when it comes to mythological history?

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    you should explain to them why you don’t believe in the kind of God they actually believe in themselves,

    Truthfully, Mike, there are so many mythos, rules, legends, etc surrounding all these Gods, gods, goddesses, angels, etc, I just don’t know how I can learn them all and then relate to their believers.

    In my D&D roleplaying games example: there are deities in those games that are eternally self-existent, angels, lesser deities, etc. Each one has hundreds, if not thousands, of different elements to their mythology.

    It’s an extreme complication to study all these mythological differences so I can explain myself to one set of believers, then an opposing set of believers, then yet another opposing set of believers.

    So my example still holds as the only way I think I can communicate the atheist experience to the Faithful.

    How do the Abrahamic God followers feel towards the D&D roleplaying game’s self-existent all knowing monotheistic deity? That’s how I feel towards all deities. How do they feel about this D&D roleplaying game players passing legislation and judgment that hurts others in the name of their deity? That’s how I feel about theists.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    In that message to xians how does one make them understand that Zeus really is just as significant and powerful as Jehovah when it comes to mythological history?

    If Zeus really was a monotheistic deity with the same significance and power as Yahweh, then I wouldn’t see any effective difference between the two. I would conclude that Zeus was just another name for the same concept of a transcendent, all-powerful, Creator God.

    However, as a student of ancient history and mythologies, I’d probably disagree with you that Zeus was ever really thought of in this way (except by maybe a few of the more enlightened philosophers like Socrates or Aristotle). As far as I remember, Zeus was not all-powerful and was himself brought into existence by the Titan Kronos along with a whole pantheon of various gods who each had limited power over some aspect of the created order. That’s an entirely different thing than talking about a singular God who has existed eternally and created everything.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Truthfully, Mike, there are so many mythos, rules, legends, etc surrounding all these Gods, gods, goddesses, angels, etc, I just don’t know how I can learn them all and then relate to their believers.

    Yes, I realize that as an atheist you have no interest in the distinctions between various types of religious beliefs. However, they are significant differences, and debunking one type of belief does not automatically debunk the rest. You really do have to deal with each one on its own terms (that is, if you want to bother with debunking in the first place). I’d hate to see atheists get lazy in their debunking of religion. ;)

    If it helps, try to think of it not in terms of mythos but in terms of philosophy. You don’t really need to know the details of each particular religion. You just need to interact with the big categories of -theistic belief: e.g. monotheism, polytheism, pantheism, panentheism, deism, animism. Regardless of which specific mythos you’re dealing with, there is a basic worldview shared by all within each particular category. So all polytheists share the same basic worldview, as do all monotheists. If you give reasons for not believing in polytheism it should hold true regardless of whether you’re talking Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, etc. Similarly, if you have reasons against monotheistic belief, it will likely hold true regardless of whether you’re dealing with Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians, etc. In other words, deal with the philosophy, the worldview as a whole. Don’t get lost in the details.

    How do the Abrahamic God followers feel towards the D&D roleplaying game’s self-existent all knowing monotheistic deity? That’s how I feel towards all deities. How do they feel about this D&D roleplaying game players passing legislation and judgment that hurts others in the name of their deity? That’s how I feel about theists.

    Like I told TX, if that deity shares the same characteristics as Yahweh, then why not assume that it’s just another name for the same basic concept? You seem to assume that I would automatically disbelieve in the D&D God… but I think my reaction would be just to say “Huh, I guess they essentially believe in the same God I do, they just call him by a different name.”

    However, I don’t believe in any religion (or any other ideology) passing laws that oppress others in the name of their beliefs. I don’t know how many theists you know personally, but we’re not all like the fundamentalists. I tend to think that, no matter which belief you think is correct, it is always more important to be kind than to be right. Judging from some of the responses on the “Why I’m not an Angry Atheist” post, I’d say that’s a lesson even some of the atheists here could stand to learn.

  • txatheist

    Since Holly isn’t coming back I can’t share this with her. This is the religiously correct xian in Texas. Steve would have enjoyed it too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rd16lH0qea8#GU5U2spHI_4

    Mike,
    My point is the story tellers merely gave Yahweh more attributes but it’s still myth just like Zeus. An all-powerful god because the bible writers said so doesn’t make Jehovah any more true or believable unless you wish it to be. I disagree that it’s more important to be kind than right. I’ve tried that method and there’s a saying, that “kindness can be seen as weakness”. I’ve seen too many people atheist get walked on.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I disagree that it’s more important to be kind than right. I’ve tried that method and there’s a saying, that “kindness can be seen as weakness”. I’ve seen too many people atheist get walked on.

    Indeed, you will get walked on. That’s the true lunacy of Christianity – not belief in God per se – but belief in a God who said to love your enemies, turn the other cheek, do good to those who hate you, and who ultimately went to the cross to prove his unwillingness to fight hate with hate and violence with violence. No doubt that anyone who truly tries to follow this example is just dumb fucking nuts! :D ;)

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    I’d hate to see atheists get lazy in their debunking of religion

    hehe, I hear ya. That is a favorite pasttime of many atheists.

    For me, I just don’t see the reason to consider supernatural intelligence. Understanding the natural world seems taken care of by science. Emotions of awe, reverence, gratitude, inspiration, all seem to be handled well by their evolved mechanisms in my brain and my own use of self reflection. Morality seems well taken care of by evolved mechanisms mixed with valid reasoning. Any benefit to wellbeing brought about by ritual and social gathering seem to be met by simple efforts on my part.

    I just don’t see a need for a supernatural intelligence. I don’t see what I should read the Bible compared to reading Dr Seuss. I don’t see what it adds beyond aesthetics, but I am angry by what it takes away. See next…

    we’re not all like the fundamentalists.

    Very true. I don’t compare my grandmother to Fred Phelps. If I may bring up the tired gun saying… guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

    But I cannot express my righteous fury for those who use government to oppress others (gay marriage amendments), those who attempt to destroy one of the greatest achievements in the evolution the cosmos (scientific curiosity vs the christian right), and those that would harm my kin and I based on trivial prejudices (the 90% who would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist).

    And all these trespasses based on subjective interpretations of fiction. It’s just… so painful for me to swallow, Mike.

  • Holly Anderson

    I have gone back to work. I was on Spring Break last week, and do not chat at school. I am too busy trying to teach kids to READ to spend time chatting.

    So . . .

    Holly,
    What would you like me to call someone who says that gay is a choice? What would you like me to call the 82% of Texans that voted against gay marriage? What would you like for me to call someone that goes on tv and says god will reward them if they can find it in their heart to donate to help starving kids?

    No names just questions.

    I would like for people to NOT call ANYONE names.
    I understand Anthony. Your Zeus analogy is one I have considered many times.
    But I do not consider you ignorant for not believing in God.
    And I really do not understand people CALLING me ignorant for believing in God.
    I just don’t understand the mindset. I don’t understand it from Christians or Atheists.

    I DO want to understand.
    I do NOT want to be mocked.

    And in the grand scheme of things, I WOULD rather be kind than to be right. That is saying something. Because I like to be right. But in the end, people do not remember you for your rightness. They remember you for how you treated others and what you did to make the world a better place.
    I work with 8th graders. And one of the most important lesson I teach is that they need to treat people with kindness and respect – everyone!
    I work in a VERY racially mixed school, with ALL economic levels, and have had many students of many different faiths, agnostics, atheists, and sexual preferences. And I just want to teach kids that we can get along.

    I believe some people really want this.

    I see that many atheists have been treated horribly by Christians. For that I am terribly sorry.
    But I do not believe that labeling and judging me (or other Christians) based on your experiences does any good.It only seems to perpetuate the same tired problem that you all claim to want to get rid of in the world.

    What I can’t seem to understand is that you do NOT want anyone to make generalizations about atheists or believe bad things about you.

    But I cannot express my righteous fury for those who use government to oppress others (gay marriage amendments), those who attempt to destroy one of the greatest achievements in the evolution the cosmos (scientific curiosity vs the christian right), and those that would harm my kin and I based on trivial prejudices (the 90% who would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist).

    And yet you make these assumptions about who I am.
    It is okay for you to generalize about me – stereotype me, put me in a box, and call me names.
    Double standard.

    ?????

    And yes Tx. I watched the video.
    What did you want me to say to that? Did you want me to say that is a good example of who I am? Forget the fact that the closest I have ever come to a pig is the State Fair.

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    But I do not believe that labeling and judging me (or other Christians) based on your experiences does any good.

    Well I can’t speak for all atheists, but I don’t call Christians ‘ignorant’. My judgments of Christians are the same as your judgments of people who believe in D&D roleplaying game deities – just doesn’t make sense to me. However, I think it is my Enlightenment responsibility to tolerate and not promote conflict with those who believe in fiction.

    BUT… I think it is very responsible and reasonable for me to lash out against legislation that oppresses others and against cruel prejudices (see my above ‘fury’ paragraph). All the wrongs I described in that paragraph do not need to be an issue – the world can exist without their needing to take place.

  • txatheist

    Holly,
    Thanks for watching the video. My ultimate point is I was posting very rarely(I was reading and learning) and then when I saw Steve’s post I got really annoyed that he criticized Hemant for what I personally perceived as being completely honest of what he saw. If Steve hadn’t posted I wouldn’t have.
    Let me rephrase the questions.

    How do we get the 82% of Texans to realize gay marriage is ok? How do we get Texans to realize gay is not a choice?

    Oh, and you didn’t vote for Perry….Carol Keeten Strayhorn?

    As a side note I probably could agree(believe) on the God idea if it was the one our Founding Fathers believed in. Deists who saw god as the original cause and created nature and then did nothing else. Didn’t write/inspire any books like the koran or bible in other words, those books ruined any chance of me agreeing with theists.

  • txatheist

    Holly,
    Concerning the video on youtube. Does the guy that they interview seem more or less likely to be racist against Muslims?

  • Holly Anderson

    I will watch the video again. And let me get back to you.
    After watching it once, I would say that he just did not know anything about Muslims and their faith. But let me check it out again. I am sure that there is some racism there, or at least stereotyping and prejudice. But I was trying to decide why I was going to love this video?! So i was not watching and asking that question.

    And I voted for Chris Bell – I thought he put in too little, too late in the race.
    I thought he was the “smartest” of the candidates (had intelligent answers, etc)
    If any of the others wanted to defeat Perry, they should have dropped out of the race. There was no way any of the three of them were going to be able to overspend him or turn the Republican base against him. They needed to unite against him. And that pissed me off. I was REALLY mad the next day. I walked into work the next day and told my students that I was on the edge and would blow any moment.

    What do we do about Christians and the gay choice/birth issue?
    I don’t know the answer to that yet. I am still working on it.
    How do we battle racism? Many people were raised with it. So it takes time and energy devoted to conversation and the patient tolerance of people to hang in there and build relationships. Like a racist attitude, I don’t think this is going to change over night.
    Honestly, I was raised this way-to believe it was a choice. It has taken a lot of time and personal investment in relationships with people who I love who have walked through this with me. They have been very patient and let me ask a lot of questions and never doubted me or my love for them while I was asking the questions.

    And (even though you may hate hearing this) I spent a lot of time praying and wondering how Jesus would respond. In Christian tradition, Jesus ALWAYS reached out to the outcasts. Why would he treat homosexuals badly? They are the very ones that he would be reaching out to in my opinion – to be friends etc. So while this may be a fictional person, my faith brought me to this conclusion. I am not trying to win anyone over here – not preaching. Seriously!
    That is just an honest response.
    So why aren’t other Christians at this same place? I do not know that either.
    I do know SOME that are, and some that are moving there.
    I am working on it.
    But it is like dig a canal with a plastic spoon.

    Anyway, thank you for listening.
    And I appreciate the conversation.

    My judgments of Christians are the same as your judgments of people who believe in D&D roleplaying game deities – just doesn’t make sense to me. However, I think it is my Enlightenment responsibility to tolerate and not promote conflict with those who believe in fiction.

    I think this is fair. I can live with this if you can live with it from me.
    ??? Can we both be there and still be friends? (This is a theoretical question – the big we – Atheists and Christians)

  • Anthony Rasmussen

    Can we both be there and still be friends?

    In speaking anthropomorphically as Theists “you” and Atheists “me”….

    Yes, we can be good friends! Until one of us punches the other.

    And by ‘punch’, I mean uses force (government) to oppress the other. This is why America was founded on a secular constitution – its just not worth it being a religious document!

    Unfortunately, “you” (theists) have punched “me” (atheists). You punched with constitutional amendments, intelligent design, tax breaks, and stem cells. “You” punched “me” in the 50s with the editing of our Pledge and our coinage. “You” punched “me” by ignoring my merits and banning me from government solely because I am not “you” (ie, unelectability of atheists unless they pretend to be theists).

    I am not aware of “me” punching “you” beyond our original agreement (the secular Constitution).

    I think we can be friends again, too. I just need “you” to uphold your end of the agreement.

  • txatheist

    Thanks Holly for keeping an open mind and I’d hug you if you were here since you voted for Chris Bell.:) I got to talk with him and found him to be very intelligent and really wanted to make our schools better from what I heard.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    But I cannot express my righteous fury for those who use government to oppress others (gay marriage amendments), those who attempt to destroy one of the greatest achievements in the evolution the cosmos (scientific curiosity vs the christian right), and those that would harm my kin and I based on trivial prejudices (the 90% who would not vote for an otherwise qualified atheist).

    I’m totally with you there.

  • Keith

    Tx & Mike C.,
    Thanks for all that you guys posted. I benefit a lot from reading your thoughts and witnessing your interactions. I don’t have anything to add, just wanted you guys to know I was gratefully listening/reading.

    Jim & Tx, glad you guys got to meet face to face … must have been nice. Thank you all, as always.


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