Christian Radio

I was on a Christian radio show this afternoon. It’s not the first time I’ve done a show like this. Some experiences are good (i.e. the Life Today TV show that will air in a couple weeks). Others, not so much (i.e. Kirk Cameron’s radio show).

Normally, in these situations, the hosts don’t have a chance to read the book. That’s to be expected. However, they do get the synopsis. And the back cover of the book doesn’t take very long to read… it’s usually enough to hold a conversation about the book. I mean, the host’s main job is to ask questions.

What bothered me in this case was that the host was more interested in how I could possibly be an atheist than what I actually wrote about in the book.

At this point, most of you are thinking this is obvious. I’m not so naïve that I didn’t think this would happen at all, but I had a glimmer of hope when I checked out the host’s website and saw that his past guests included a number of prominent scientists and atheists. So I figured there must be some real conversations occurring. Hell, a quick search of the host’s name on Google didn’t reveal anything too bad.

But I gave him too much credit.

I spent quite a bit of my 45 minutes on the air getting lectured about how the first and second laws of thermodynamics meant that there must be a God since they both violate Science-as-we-know-it. There are simple explanations for both of these supposed “violations,” but the point I want to make is that I wasn’t there to explain how the universe came into existence or how evolution works (the host also brought out the Watchmaker argument). If you want to have those conversations, then bring on a real scientist. I was there to talk about my church-going experiences; that aspect was almost entirely ignored.

I tried to hold my own and I think I did ok in that respect, but really, I just should’ve been more assertive up front about not getting into a technical scientific discussion. That’s not what I was there to talk about. This wasn’t an issue of me being “too friendly” to object– I just felt obligated to offer some explanations to what was being said, and in the process, I lost sight of why I was there. As a result, it was nearly the end of the show before we began to talk about the book itself.

One listener emailed me shortly after my appearance and had this to say:

Good job today… As you can tell [the host] loves to overplay his understanding of science and exaggerate his record of overcoming the explanations of those few qualified scientists he allows to share his air time. He had on Francis Collins, shortly after he was quoted in Time Magazine as saying the evidence for evolution was “utterly compelling.” Did they discuss [the host's] favorite topic, evolution? No. It’s was Collins’ transition to becoming a Believer, of course.

Maybe I shouldn’t feel too bad. But why is it so hard to find Christian talk show hosts that simply accept that I’m an atheist and want to have a normal discussion? It’s happened before. It happens on this blog fairly regularly. Why doesn’t it happen more often?

The whole thing ended with the host giving me his “evidence” that God exists: For so long he had an abnormal heart beat. Then, one day, his girlfriend (now his wife) prayed for him and instantly his heartbeat became normal. How did I explain that?

I tried explaining that there were a number of logical reasons for this (there could have been a biological explanation, it very well could have been a coincidence, etc.) but when it was clear he would have none of it, I just brought the conversation back to the book.

The whole experience was frustrating. I was all excited at first to have real dialogue with the Christian host, but he wanted something entirely different.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, Life Today, Kirk Cameron, Google, laws of thermodynamics, Francis Collins, Time Magazine[/tags]

  • Jim Henderson

    Maybe I shouldn’t feel too bad. But why is it so hard to find Christian talk show hosts that simply accept that I’m an atheist and want to have a normal discussion? It’s happened before. It happens on this blog fairly regularly. Why doesn’t it happen more often?

    Sorry Hemant but take heart Matt and I were also interviewed on a Christian station yesterday and he did exactly the same thing to us. Matt put it best “there’s no way this guy could be a follower of Jesus” –

    They have had years of hearing debates. Let me know when you have a good experience

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    I don’t know how you go about getting on a radio show, but if you want to have a “normal discussion” you might want to check out Drew Marshall’s program. I think you would be the type of guest that he would love to have on his show and I think you would enjoy talking to him, too.

  • Tina

    Do you have the audio?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Do you have the audio?

    Not yet. I should have it soon, though.

  • Siamang

    The perfect storm of Public Christian (someone with 100% certainty the creator of the universe is working through him), non face to face conversation, plus radio talk show host almost guarantee them being an asshole.

    We should be thankful for any that aren’t.

  • Karen

    Arghhh… that sounds so frustrating. Does the publisher provide you with any kind of media training before you go out to do these kinds of marketing events – it sounds like you’re completely left to your own devices (of course that shouldn’t surprise me, given the publishing industry these days!)

    One thing I’ve learned is that you definitely do not have the answer the questions that an interviewer poses. Some interviewees have the ability to continually bring the conversation back to the points THEY want to make, no matter how off-track the interviewer wants to take them. Of course, the most talented people manage to do that, while ALSO seeming to answer the questions that are being posed. AND they sound gracious at the same time!

    It’s a tough technique to master and I’m sure you’ll get better at it. At least next time you go on an “agenda” show, you’ll know to establish the guidelines up front and be aware that there may an ambush planned. Being prepared mentally will help a ton, I’m sure.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Karen– There is no media training through the publishers, but I’ve been involved with people who do that type of training stuff enough to know better. I’d like to get to the point where I can spin everything someone asks back to the points I want to make, and hopefully, I’ll get better in time. But it would be easier if the host didn’t have an agenda and was actually interested in what I had to say. It would also be helpful to know which shows had an agenda and which didn’t. Of course, I should be able to figure that out in most cases.

    Incidentally, today, I taped a show with Reverend Barry Lynn (http://www.cultureshocks.com/) and he was incredibly gracious and spent the entire time focused on the message of the book. I was very happy with how it went. It’ll air next week.

  • Karen

    Incidentally, today, I taped a show with Reverend Barry Lynn (http://www.cultureshocks.com/) and he was incredibly gracious and spent the entire time focused on the message of the book. I was very happy with how it went. It’ll air next week.

    Oh, he’s a wonderful guy. I’m so glad he interviewed you; I’m not surprised it went well. I hope you’ll post a link here when you get it. :-)

  • http://patrickimo.blogspot.com Patrick Craig

    I’m with Karen. Do the best you can to keep the interviewer “on-topic” with what you came to talk about, which is your book.

    Incidentally, I’m currently in contact with Kirk Cameron’s people via e-mail regarding another issue. In my last e-mail, I took them to task (respectfully, of course) over how he treated you when you appeared on his radio show. I’ll be happy to let you know what they say if they have any significant response on that subject.