Highlights from Harding University

I spent the day at Harding University (A Church of Christ affiliated school) in Searcy, Arkansas and gave a talk to the students/faculty in the evening about my book and atheism in general.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The students gave me a great opportunity to talk about my story on their “home turf,” and they asked fair questions afterwards. It was fun for me. I hope it was fun for them. (On a side note, I wish I could better answer the audience’s questions about Philosophy and Biology, but those aren’t my areas of expertise, and I can never give proper/satisfactory responses… I need to get better at that.)
  • Going to a coffee shop after the event with several Harding students and a couple fellow atheists gave us all a wonderful opportunity to talk about our beliefs in a non-threatening, really-fun, why-can’t-this-happen-more-often sort of way.
  • Conversion attempts = 0.

    I’m impressed.

  • In my on-campus hotel room last night, I realized that there was a filter blocking out certain websites… one guilty pleasure of mine is to read the Missed Connections section on Craigslist.

    It was blocked.

    Apparently, that’s a “dating/social” section of the site and is therefore not allowed. I wondered if that was the case everywhere on CL…

    What about Rants and Raves? Blocked. Same reason.

    Men seeking women? Blocked.

    Men seeking men? Really blocked.

    Casual Encounters? Surprisingly *not* blocked… (though as I write this, that has been changed. They must know I tried to click on it!)

    I wondered if other dating sites worked the same way…

    Match.com? Blocked.

    Jdate.com? Blocked.

    My beloved Shaadi.com? Blocked.

    Sean Hannity‘s conservative dating site, Hannidate? Not blocked.

    Hmm…

  • There were 2389233 people at the event, which was very exciting and a bit unnerving all at once:

    Harding_speech
  • You know that spinning globe that is part of the backdrop at Joel Osteen‘s Lakewood Church…?

    Globe_Lakewood

    The “old” globe now resides in the on-campus hotel’s foyer!

    Globe_Heritage

    It’s like Joel was speaking directly to me… Clearly, a sign of good things.

  • I had a chance to visit the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. First thing to note? No mention of Monica Lewinsky (that I saw…) and only a brief mention of his impeachment hearing.

    Second thing? This now-ironic note from Mother Teresa to Hillary Clinton:

    Teresa_Hillary

Good times.

Tomorrow, the Interfaith Youth Core conference.

For now, a short nap.

Thanks to Brett, Patrick, Tessa, Emily, Andrea, John, Jacob, Dr. Hopper, Professor Monte Cox, and the several others students and faculty members who helped make this event possible!

Update — Some people have posted their thoughts on the event:



[tags]atheist, atheism, Harding University[/tags]

  • grazatt

    Sounds like a good time was had by all!

  • Pingback: Hemant Mehta at Harding » Mark Elrod’s Lame-O Weblog

  • Travis McDermott

    Sean Hannity has a dating service? :shudder:

  • http://bdkeller.wordpress.com Brett

    Hemant,
    Thanks for stopping by, I think the event went over well. Here are some blog responses:
    Hemant Mehta at Harding
    Firewall vs. the Atheist
    Mommy, where do morals come from?
    Friendly Atheist

  • http://reasonableatheist.blogspot.com Bart

    I’d like to thank Hemant as always for putting forth the friendly face of atheism. It was really one of the best times I’ve had in a while speaking to him and the other Christians at the coffee shop. I wrote up a little about the experience here

  • http://thechrisberry.wordpress.com TheChrisBerry

    I am a student at Harding University, but was unable to attend your talk. My teacher for international relations mentioned your talk and we had a small discussion on this during class.

    After hearing the basic story of your selling of your “soul” on Ebay, I have one question for you: What is the Seattle minister’s cut from the book sales? Surely he gets something.

  • http://www.markelrodgmail.com ME

    Hemant: There is a brief (albeit short) mention of Monica Lewinski and the impeachment at the Clinton library. It’s there — but you gotta look for it.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    This now-ironic note from Mother Teresa to Hillary Clinton:

    Sorry, I don’t quite follow. Why is this ironic?

  • http://bdkeller.wordpress.com Brett

    Mike C,
    I think Hemant finds it ironic because of the last part (“listen to God in the silence of your heart”) given the recent book of her letters, released after her death by the Vatican, that shows she felt God was silent for the last decades of her life.

  • Maria

    I’m so glad it went well for you! I hope this happens more often!

  • Pingback: Hemant Mehta at Harding University » Mark Elrod’s Lame-O Weblog

  • Darryl

    Hemant, you’re becoming the international ambassador for atheism! Go Hemant, go Hemant, go Hemant, . . .

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    After hearing the basic story of your selling of your “soul” on Ebay, I have one question for you: What is the Seattle minister’s cut from the book sales? Surely he gets something.

    We both wrote our own books, so there isn’t any “profit-sharing” or anything like that. I think we were both able to make the best out of our shared experience and that dialogue is still continuing for both of us. It’s exciting that this story has allowed us both to pursue some of our shared goals.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    After hearing the basic story of your selling of your “soul” on Ebay, I have one question for you: What is the Seattle minister’s cut from the book sales? Surely he gets something.

    You might also notice that Hemant is kind enough to promote Jim’s book (“Jim & Casper Go to Church”) on his sidebar as well. Both books are excellent and you should definitely read them both. If nothing else, they demonstrate that no two atheists are alike and should not be stereotyped as a group.

  • http://miriamsdiary.blogspot.com Miriam

    Hehmant, thank you for your presentation at HU last night. I really enjoyed it and learned some very interesting things. (If you are interested you can read more on my blog). I know you were put on the spot a couple of times and I felt for you even though I agreed with where the questions were coming from. I am sure that if you put me in a room full of atheist asking me the hard questions I’d have a really hard time! I’d thought I’d ask some questions, maybe you have addressed them somewhere, or maybe you might think about addressing them, or directing me to where it is talked about. The last one is more a questions specifically for you and your experice going to Christian churches.
    1.What makes a human, human? What makes us different from other animals? Why do we hope, worry about love? Why do we care about stuff? Why are we so different from every other living being?
    2.What did you learn of new, did anything surprise you, strike you as odd and different from what you previously understood, about Jesus Christ?
    (Ok..you might send me to your book on that one!)
    Side note: About Mother Theresa, it actually encouraged me to find out that she struggled with the ‘dark nights of the soul,’ that faith and knowing, in our minds or in our hearts for sure, is not the same thing. I still hope to emulate her and knowing that she struggled with faith encourages me to carry on in spite of my doubts- and strangely it works against them without even trying.

  • Caleb

    On a slightly tangential note. A site you failed to check=
    Myspace.com – blocked

    I do find it hilarious that that Hannity’s site was not blocked.

  • Julie

    I’m just catching up and read your post about Shaadi.com. That was kinda’ interesting.

    I hope you find a nice atheist girl soon!

  • Aj

    From Miriam’s blog:

    Atheist and Christianity actually have many similarities in that they both are belief systems (Dr. Cox thanked him for acknowledging that- it makes dialogs easier when they admit that they “believe” there is NO God and that this belief affects most if not all of their lives in one way or another, just like my belief that there IS God, and one only, does).

    Hemant, did you actually say any of that? Miriam’s pretty adamant that atheists believe there is no God, through ignorance or delusion, but claiming you said so is a bit different.

  • Siamang

    Hi Miriam,

    I’m not hemant, but I’d like to take a wack at answering this from my perspective.

    1.What makes a human, human? What makes us different from other animals?

    I’d say that we aren’t very much different from other animals… just better at changing our environment and thinking about ourselves.. and communicating those thoughts.

    What makes a human human? Opposable thumbs, big brains and hands freed from walking on them.

    Of course, you’re asking the question from a decidedly human perspective. If you were an octopus, you might value different things, and ask the question this way:

    “Why are we cephalopods so obviously different from the lower animals? Why is it that we alone have the perfect number of arms, 8, while the lower animals struggle alone with only four? Why are we so much better at producing ink than anything else, and why our our beaks so masterful at eating crabs? Why are we so different from every other living being?”

    You’re asking the questions that you value, as well you should as you are a human. But you’re asking them from the perspective of a human, which means you’re slightly biased in what you consider to be important aspects of a valuable life.

    With that in mind, here are my answers.

    Why do we hope, worry about love?

    Because we are social creatures. Just like all other social animals, we bond emotionally to other members of our group.

    Why do we care about stuff?

    If you were the type of creature who didn’t care about stuff, you’d ask the opposite question: “Why are we so carefree?” Both questions are merely statements of things you like. I’m glad you “care about stuff”. So does my cat.

    Why are we so different from every other living being?

    Define “so different.” Biologically speaking, we really, really aren’t. Socially and emotionally we really, really aren’t. Anyone with a pet can tell you that animals have a tremendous capacity for love, just as humans do.

    There’s a lesson there.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    From Miriam’s blog:

    Atheist and Christianity actually have many similarities in that they both are belief systems (Dr. Cox thanked him for acknowledging that- it makes dialogs easier when they admit that they “believe” there is NO God and that this belief affects most if not all of their lives in one way or another, just like my belief that there IS God, and one only, does).

    Hemant, did you actually say any of that? Miriam’s pretty adamant that atheists believe there is no God, through ignorance or delusion, but claiming you said so is a bit different.

    I said that, as an atheist, I don’t believe in God. That is to say, I never said “there is no god.”

  • Brett

    Atheist and Christianity actually have many similarities in that they both are belief systems (Dr. Cox thanked him for acknowledging that- it makes dialogs easier when they admit that they “believe” there is NO God and that this belief affects most if not all of their lives in one way or another, just like my belief that there IS God, and one only, does).

    Yeah, Miriam is probably extrapolating here. Hemant did say atheism is a worldview. He did not say it was a religion per se, or that he “believes there is NO God,” both of which statements he’d probably disagree with.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Cut her some slack. Most people, Christian or otherwise, have never heard someone explain the difference between lack of belief in God and belief that there is no God. I know it’s a big deal to atheists, and it is an important distinction, but for someone whose time is not consumed with the kind of discussions we have here on this blog, it is a rather fine distinction, and not one that the uninitiated are likely to pick up on just listening to a presentation on stage.

  • http://miriamsdiary.blogspot.com Miriam

    I am sorry Hemant that I misrepresented what you said. I did edit my post. I did not know there was a difference between the two phrases (not believing in God vs believing there is no God). Mike C said it right about me: I am pretty ignorant about the atheist world view and what kind of nuances words have for them. It was perhaps the first time I really heard the point of view of an atheist about the very same topic. In fact I don’t get to speak very often to anyone who is atheist or even agnostic these days.

    Saimang, thanks for sharing your thoughts and answering my question. These last few days I have been getting plenty of comments to make my brain work hard!

  • Aj

    -Brett

    Hemant did say atheism is a worldview.

    Disappointing, a bit too friendly I think. I don’t think Hemant has ever said that on this blog. With good reason, we have the tar and feathers ready.

    It’s absurd to call atheism a world view. Afairism isn’t a world view and I’m as much lacking in belief of fairies as I am gods. Do you believe in teapots orbiting jupiter? The flying spaghetti monster? Are these absurd questions to you? They are absurd as the one about god to me.

    People understand the difference between lacking belief and unbelief. They may never have had it explained to them without taking a course on philosophy, but people already use the idea in their heads. I was an atheist before I had any concept of god. You don’t have to believe that leprechauns do not exist to not believe they do, a lack of belief is the default position when presented with no evidence either way.

    There are secular (without god) world views, some incompatible with most common definitions of gods, some with no say on the matter at all. Many atheists have been fighting a long time to stop christians from continuously misrepresenting our views on the subject by claiming atheism is a world view. We don’t think there should be a label “atheist”, there are no afairists because most people don’t believe in fairies.


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