At the American Atheists convention in Seattle earlier this month, I was surrounded by people who were presumably non-religious. But there was a small group (three people?) of Christians who came there as well. They weren’t there to stop the event or protest or anything. But they were questioning a number of people who attended and were willing to engage them. It was slightly annoying to many atheists, gauging from the reactions I saw, but the Christians didn’t seem to be crossing any lines. Still, atheists often go to conventions to get away from those discussions. We tend to have them in so many other areas of life that it’s nice to be free of that for a few days.
I just noticed this now (I’m a week off!), but there’s a writeup about the convention on a Christian website from the person I presume to be the leader of that group, Matt Slick.
You can read the writeup here.
The interaction with AA’s communications director Dave Silverman is worth reading (Dave handled himself well).
Slick also mentions the lack of Christians on a panel dealing with the topic “Does it Really Matter if the Public Doesn’t Like Atheists?” I was on that panel. While I normally advocate having Christians (and/or other religious faiths) represented on panel discussions about atheism, this topic in particular didn’t warrant that. It was a question for those of us who were atheists, about what we needed to do to improve our image (or if we needed to improve it at all). I think there was a strong understanding among those in the room that there are some Christians who aren’t out to condemn us (or “save” us). But there is a general idea about what atheists are like, based on what you hear in the media. And that’s the view that we were questioning. I’m not sure what a Christian could have added to that discussion, not knowing what it’s like to be an atheist in today’s world.
As Slick said, “I couldn’t help notice that there were no Christians on the panel to provide a fair and proper representation of the Christian faith that they were so frequently ridiculing and often misrepresenting.” I don’t recall there being any ridiculing of the Christian faith during that panel. And if we were misrepresenting the faith of the writer in particular, we certainly weren’t misrepresenting the view that is generally accepted by the public.
The most disturbing part of Slick’s writeup is the “Quotable quotes” section. Here are the six quotations as presented on the Christian site:
“Religious indoctrination of children is the cause of mental illness.”
“Supernaturalism leads to brain damage.”
“Christianity created the problem in order to provide the solution.”
“The atonement doctrine has nothing to do with justice.”
“If logic works, then everyone would be an atheist.”
“Atheism is the cure for Christianity the disease.”
Yes, those are disturbing. What is not mentioned on the site is the source of the quotations. Actually, Slick says these are quotations from “various speakers.” That’s not true. The ones in question all came from one man, who gave what many in the audience considered to be the worst presentation of the conference. I certainly thought it was (and not just because of the PowerPoint slides displaying long excerpts from his book– self-published, I think– which he read to us as if we were illiterate).
The presentation was scientifically inaccurate. There wasn’t good evidence to back up his claims. It was offensive to just about everyone. And not a single person I spoke to later on (and that’s a large number of people) agreed with the statements that particular speaker made. Most of us were wondering why he was invited to give a presentation in the first place. (Not to mention that same guy ran long during his talk and cut into my own speaking time… which is really his worst offense )
But you don’t see the audience members’ reactions in Slick’s writeup anywhere.
[tags]atheist, atheism, American Atheists, convention, Seattle, Christian, Matt Slick, Dave Silverman, Does it Really Matter if the Public Doesn’t Like Atheists?, Supernaturalism, PowerPoint[/tags]