Speed Atheisting

Here’s a novel approach to sharing the atheist viewpoint. It comes from the secular student group at The Ohio State University.

On Thursday, Students for Freethought plans to have brief, but worthwhile, conversations with religious people who pass them by (kind of like speed-dating without the dating):

We’ll have atheists manning tables and basically just being atheists. Then people can join them at their tables for for about ten minutes and ask questions, make statements, and ideally try to stump the atheist.

It’s a catchy and interesting way to begin a dialogue about religion.

I wonder how many of the religious groups’ members on campus would be willing to do the same thing — putting their beliefs out there to be directly challenged, welcoming the questions, and doing so in a way that won’t turn off the other person.

SFF will hopefully be writing a piece about how the event goes. I’ll link to it when it’s up.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Greg

    “I wonder how many of the religious groups’ members on campus would be willing to do the same thing”

    Heck, we’d love it. In fact, on my campus (U of I Urbana-Champaign) we did something very similar every day fro a week last semester.

  • http://psychodiva.blogspot.com psychodiva

    that sounds really good! I would love to be involved in something like that- good on them! and please get some feedback from the event if you can ?

  • http://www.evolvedrational.com Evolved

    “ideally try to stump the atheist”

    *snicker*

    Sounds like fun. I would love being able to make theistards stutter!

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I wonder how many of the religious groups’ members on campus would be willing to do the same thing

    So accosting passerby’s on the street and trying to corral them into a conversation about religion? Uh, Hemant, religious people have been doing this sort of thing for years. It’s called street evangelism and most people find it very annoying. I’m surprised to see an atheist group mimic this type of proselytism.

  • Claire

    accosting passerby’s on the street and trying to corral them

    How is this the same as people sitting at a table offering to be questioned, as described above? Seems completely different to me. Maybe if the religious types tried it that way instead of the way you described it, people wouldn’t dislike them so much. Then again, if they can’t see a difference between the two, maybe that’s the problem.

    It’s clear to me this isn’t about converting. It’s about not being invisible anymore. It’s about being regular, normal people you can talk to, instead of the lurking invisible enemy.

    I think it’s great, and I just hope they are actually allowed to do it.

  • Aj

    Sitting while being an atheist is now “accosting” passersby and trying to “corral” them. Damn atheists and their reality, damn them to hell.

  • Karen

    I wonder how many of the religious groups’ members on campus would be willing to do the same thing — putting their beliefs out there to be directly challenged, welcoming the questions, and doing so in a way that won’t turn off the other person.

    Members of my Intervarsity Christian Fellowship group in college would have loved the opportunity to do this. We called it “witnessing.” The difference is that we didn’t just sit at tables passively inviting questions. That wouldn’t have attracted enough attention! We passed out flyers, held up signs and staged mock funerals (complete with fiery hell depictions) to attract attention to our message!

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Members of my Intervarsity Christian Fellowship group in college would have loved the opportunity to do this. We called it “witnessing.”

    Yep, exactly my point.

    The difference is that we didn’t just sit at tables passively inviting questions.

    If that’s all it is, then great. I wonder though how they expect to attract enough people to come do this without calling out to them as they walk by. At my college most people just ignored the display tables various groups set up.

    And regardless, it’s still not much different than what Christians call “witnessing”.

  • cautious

    From the description, it sounded like the atheists would be sitting in a high-population area (such as a quad, or a populated walkway) and then trying to get conversations. That sounds like a bad idea, somewhat akin to the witnessing that a few above people were mentioning.

    But the event is happening at 7:30 PM, so, basically the on-campus freethought group is renting a room and encouraging conversation between theists and non-theists.

    IOW, “So accosting passerby’s on the street and trying to corral them into a conversation about religion?” is not what’s happening.

  • http://www.atheistspot.com/ Atheist

    This is such a good idea, if nothing else to help atheists develop their arguments and positions. I’m thinking of building something online to help atheists develop their debating skills.

  • Steven Carr

    How would atheists get attention?

    Surely people would notice the prescence of baby-eating individuals with horns , constantly blaspheming while taking part in orgies.

    Isn’t that what atheists do?

  • sabrina

    Surely people would notice the prescence of baby-eating individuals with horns , constantly blaspheming while taking part in orgies.

    Isn’t that what atheists do?

    I figured thats what everyone does when they get off work? What, people have different hobbies? Weird :)

  • Jason

    I see this running into trouble.
    “So, where did the universe come from / what did live come from / what about *claim X regarding biology, astronomy, geology, chemistry, or quantum physics*”?

    How the heck do you explain things like that in less than 10 minutes? For some reason, I see a lot of theists becoming intellectually fulfilled (to the level that Chinese food fulfills hunger XD) when they spend 8 minutes on simple questions, then finish up the session with one that’ll take a very, very long time to satisfactorily explain.

  • Erik

    I still see this as very similar to what I used to see at least once a week on my campus. Some religious group sets up a table in a high traffic area and tries to have conversations with people who pass them by.

    I mean, this is not new or novel, religious groups have been doing it as long as I can remember. I find it surprising because when religious groups do the same thing, the non-religious call it pushy.

    I understand that there is a difference between engaging in conversation and aggressively evangelizing, and I’m not comparing this endeavor to the Christian zealots preaching hellfire on campus. My point is that when religious groups hold similar events where they plan to intentionally invite people into a conversation they weren’t looking for, it’s called pushy.

  • Peter E Dant

    Claire needs to learn the use of the apostrophe and plural in the English Language.

    “Passers-by” would be the accepted usage.

    see
    http://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/

  • Aj

    Erik,

    Then they’re going to start throwing stones, which the non-religious consider “violent” when the religious do it.

    They say nothing of trying to have conversations as people pass them by, or that they’ll be trying to invite people into a conversation they weren’t looking for.

    How many non-religious people are going to complain that religious people are pushy because they’re sitting at tables in view of the public? None. That’s not “pushy”, that’s not aggressive, that’s about as passive as it gets.

  • Iztok

    I think there is a major difference here. Atheists are there “on display” in order for passer byes to question them and try to convince them vs. the other way around. Or am I seeing this wrong?

  • Erik

    I think maybe we need a little more clarification about what their plans are.

    Sitting at a table with a sign saying “Ask An Atheist” seems like a great idea, and if that’s what this is then I think it’s positive.

    If there’s an attempt to pull people into conversations that they didn’t seek out, then I think that’s no different than what most religious groups do with their street evangelism.

  • Alycia

    I work and go to grad school at OSU. Unfortunately, I won’t be around campus at that time to report back how it was done. I did, however, send an email asking if an old fogey like me can join the organization.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    We do this every summer in NYC. Like this:

    http://nyc-atheists.org/tabling.html

    Yes, we are passive. We just sit there waiting for people to come to us to talk, sign up, or pick up a newsletter. We don’t hand anything out to people or yell at anyone.

    You can find a few of my table reports on my blog under the ‘table’ tag. I couldn’t do it much last summer, but hopefully this summer I can do it more often. It is a lot of fun.

    However since it is NYC 9 out of 10 people are positive. In fact most of the angry people we get are actually angry “agnostics”. ;-)


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