A Christian’s Impression of the American Atheists Convention

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]

  • Bart Dorsey

    Did you happen to notice what any of the bumper stickers said that he was complaining about?

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

    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.

    But you don’t see the audience members’ reactions in Slick’s writeup anywhere.

    Your reaction to this is similar to how a lot of us Christians feel when atheists quote from some of the worst examples of Christians out there and take them to be representative of all of us. Sounds like this guy was like an atheist Jerry Falwell. :)

  • http://www.christianheretic.com The Christian Heretic

    I’ve long since stopped taking anything that Matt Slick says seriously. I personally credit Slick as being the person who finally convinced me that there’s no such thing as everlasting torment in hell thanks to his painful attempts to argue the opposite (very shortly thereafter he banned the subject of Universalism on his message board, humorously enough).

  • Logos

    Just who is this Matt Slick? And how Slick is he?

  • http://www.christianheretic.com The Christian Heretic

    Matt Slick is the president of Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.

  • rob kelley

    “What could a Christian add to an atheist conference?” Well, some Christians
    were atheists or agnostics at one time. They could remember their former
    worldview and speak from that. I was into Buddhism & drugs, so I would have some background from another worldview before knowing Christ & remind others that Christians aren’t born in cellophane wrappers!! :>).
    INrobCHRIST

  • Titto

    U guyz ever think of the fact that if what u say is right den dere is no probs for both of us,but if what we christians say is right then????? Why don’t u guyz try 2 discuss something like dat?

  • http://myspace.com/zachk06 Zach Kueker

    “…not knowing what it’s like to be an atheist in today’s world.”
    –C’mon, it’s not that bad being an atheist in today’s world. I’d say that it’s much more difficult to be a Christian in most parts of this nation and world. I’m in college and end up debating more than half of the students in just about every class. If you think about it, the majority of the schools in America are promoting their atheistic views and shunning the Christian views.

  • http://bjornisageek.blogspot.com Bjorn Watland

    When I was in school, I’d saw neither atheist or Christian views were pushed. If you call teaching evolution pushing atheism, then that may count. However, growing up in a Christian family, I was never raised with a young earth view point. No one in high school, or college tried to push the absence of god, or belief in the Abrahamic God. My story may be different then others, but I never got the impression that school was teaching me about religion, or teaching anti-religion.

    -Titto

    What you refer to is Pascal’s Wager and something most atheists are aware of. There is also a counter wager, called the Atheists Wager. From ErrorLevel

    … my wager is that if there is a god, and it is a just god, then living a just and moral life will be acknowledged regardless of ones beliefs. If there exists an unjust or immoral god, then I could never satisfy both my conscience and such a god. My wager is that if the Christians are right about god being just and all-knowing and all-loving, I will be rewarded if I act in morally sound, justified ways.

    I don’t know if there is a god. To me, the idea of a god, or even of an afterlife pales in importance to what we experience everyday. Life. Life is the only thing that I “know” I have and when that is gone, I doubt I’ll be around to care, however, others will. I must live my life as I please, and since I believe I will only ever get one chance at it, I want to live it in the best manner that I can and help others do the same.

    Regardless of whether a god exists, I or others will see the tangible benefits of moral and just actions. If a just god does exist, then acting in a moral and just fashion should be all that is needed for its approval. If tomorrow I was presented with irrefutable evidence as to the existence of a god, then I would gladly change my position. It would be the only conscionable thing I could do.

  • http://myspace.com/zachk06 Zach Kueker

    … my wager is that if there is a god, and it is a just god, then living a just and moral life will be acknowledged regardless of ones beliefs.…And what are the solid moral values of the atheist?… If there exists an unjust or immoral god, then I could never satisfy both my conscience and such a god.…lucky for you, that’s not the case… My wager is that if the Christians are right about god being just and all-knowing and all-loving, I will be rewarded if I act in morally sound, justified ways.…And how do you expect to be rewarded? It’s not about you, it’s about God. No matter what, you are still a sinner. Since your deeds are filthy as rags anyway (Isaiah 64:6), you do not deserve what you expect from God. If you have Jesus, you will be rewarded with eternal life because that is what Jesus earned…not you…

    I don’t know if there is a god.…Well, are you going to remain at that state of “I don’t know” for the rest of your life? There either IS a god, or there’s not… To me, the idea of a god, or even of an afterlife pales in importance to what we experience everyday. Life.…But you have to remember, the things of this world are not like the things of the next. There is more to this world than we both know. All you need is simple logic. Try to think back, as far as you can, to fathom how everything in existance came to being. Yes, there was an uncaused cause. It’s more logical than evolution or anything else that I can think of. Also, you have not examined all things of this world. The most intelligent human that ever lived on Earth has probably only understood maybe a tenth of all there is to know in this world alone. Besides, how do you explain all of the godly and/or demonic supernatural stuff?… Life is the only thing that I “know” I have and when that is gone, I doubt I’ll be around to care, however, others will.…How do you know? Also, if there is no afterlife, why be a ‘good’ person? Who cares, right?… I must live my life as I please, and since I believe I will only ever get one chance at it, I want to live it in the best manner that I can and help others do the same.…Why? Who cares where this miserable world ends up? We’re all going to die and get buried in this ground, which is connected to the Earth that will eventually fall, correct? Why help others do the same as you’re doing? Let them live their happy lives believing what they want to believe since we all only get one chance to be happy. You have put shields between you and God, and God has turned you over to your desires…

    Regardless of whether a god exists, I or others will see the tangible benefits of moral and just actions.…Which are? If a just god does exist, then acting in a moral and just fashion should be all that is needed for its approval.…What god are you talking about? The God of the Bible says that our works don’t get us salvation… If tomorrow I was presented with irrefutable evidence as to the existence of a god, then I would gladly change my position.…You have to open yourself up to Him. What would you consider ‘evidence’ for the existance of God?… It would be the only conscionable thing I could do.

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

    Here we go again…

  • http://carmstuff.blogspot.com Carmie

    Unfortunately, you were engaging Matt Slick, who is trying to flood the internet with Calvinist Matt Slick websites. Matt Slick was trained for the Presbyterian ministry but they stopped him from getting a ministry, apparently due to his Draconian Calvinist beliefs. Now Matt has pulled an “ordination” out of a Cracker-Jack box. It probably cost him ten bucks. Really, Calvinists will take anyone!

    Calvinism is some of the worst of the worst Christian doctrine. Calvin was a murderer who really didn’t care about the Christian faith or a loving God. Calvin needed a job, grabbed a pulpit, and ordered the murder of anyone who disagreed with him. Such is the mentor and spiritual advisor of Matt Slick.

    In Calvinism, God is split into three persons – this is called tri-unity and it is bunk, God predestines people to heaven or hell – no chance for anyone to amend their life then is there? In Calvinism, only the elect are saved, and the elect is anyone agreeing with Calvin – or in this case, a loyal adherent like Matt Slick.

    Calvinism is so far under Swedenborg’s doctrines as to be like spider’s eggs laid to ensnare the next generation. I should mention Swedenborg’s Universal Theology of the New Jerusalem, because it is not nice to debunk someone’s beliefs and not offer a replacement.

    Have a nice day all! Don’t worry about Slick, worry that you missed out on Swedenborg and his mind-expanding doctrines.

  • Barbara Edwards

    I do not believe there is a god as there is so much suffering in this world. I go by the rules in life and feel I am a very good person, always helping others and believe we should all help ALL living creatures including animals and gays ( I am NOT gay) I resent that religions seem to cause hate, they talk bad about gays and animals, all the evil and bad stuff that happens in this world has some religion behind it.
    Religions say that you can do any evil thing and be forgiven and I do not feel that way, if you hurt any living thing you should NEVER be forgiven. To me being kind and good to ALL LIVING CREATURES is what religion should be. I am not religious and I care about all living creatures and would never hurt anyone or anything and try to do right in this world. IF there is a god then he would understand how I feel.

  • John Augustine McCain

    Well I’m sure confused. Your name is Barbara and your making a point of saying that you are not gay. I’ll let you know that I’m a male and I’m not lesbian (I’m not gay either). I am definitely not an atheist. You all are toying with a wager with the highest risks possible. Don’t you get it!? What happens if you are wrong!? You will burn and be in excruciating pain forever! Better take the risk of wasting time believing in a god that may not exist rather than burning in hell for all eternity.

  • Matthew

    Well I’m sure confused. Your name is Barbara and your making a point of saying that you are not gay. I’ll let you know that I’m a male and I’m not lesbian (I’m not gay either). I am definitely not an atheist. You all are toying with a wager with the highest risks possible. Don’t you get it!? What happens if you are wrong!? You will burn and be in excruciating pain forever! Better take the risk of wasting time believing in a god that may not exist rather than burning in hell for all eternity.

    1. Appeal to force, so why should we listen to you anyways?
    2. If we choose the wrong god, we’ll burn in hell anyways (or the equivalent)
    3. Atheist’s Wager.

  • John Augustine McCain

    Hey! My names John Augustine McCain too! That’s so awesome that we have the same name and are soo not going to Hell for not taking the risk of “wasting time beleiving in God”. Honestly, how could beleiving in something waste that much time anyway? Sure, you can make up countless examples of how much of a waste of time it could be, but while your doing that, just remember how much time your wasting trying to support how something that is true is not true.