My Upcoming Summer of Christ

After much discussion, it looks like there’s a green light on my summer o’ Christianity project… In short, I’ll be living with a Christian family for ten weeks, attending their church, meeting their friends, and perhaps branching out from there.

More on the details soon.

In the meantime, I’m trying to thing of some basic questions I’d like to explore while I’m a part of this Christian world. Understand that I’ve never been in this serious of a mainstream Christian environment, and not everyone who meets me will know I’m an atheist. I know some of these questions can be answered by readers and by Christians I know, but it would all be second-hand. I want to experience these things on my own.

Consider it a sociological experiment.

What would you like to find out? What are topics I should explore while I’m there?

A few questions that come to my mind:

  • Do Christians who condemn homosexuality treat gay people with respect and kindness?
  • Will Christians engage with me if they find out I’m not a Christian or that I don’t believe in God?
  • Will I be able to form as strong bonds with church members as I can with other atheists?
  • Is hypocrisy really a problem in the Christian church? In what ways?
  • Are they getting an accurate non-Christian viewpoint when it comes to the hot-button social issues like evolution and abortion?
  • How well do Christians understand atheists?

I would really appreciate your thoughts on other areas you’d like to see explored and questions you’d like to have answered. I also know this is a small sample size and it’d be foolish to extrapolate how all Christians act based on one family and one church, but I still think it’ll be a worthwhile examination.

  • http://www.tacomf.com JTorch

    Will you be writing a book based on the experience?

  • Dallas

    I’m just worried about you. I know how intolerant very religious people can be and how hostile they can act towards those who do not share their beliefs. I have some pretty scary examples in my own family.

    I’d be interested in knowing how “cafeteria Christians” defend cherry-picking the Bible.

    I am also very interested in what you learn about questions #5 and #6.

    Please take care of yourself.

  • petra

    Best of luck. I am a Bright in the military and trust me, you will be treated differently. But the best way to deal with it is to be honest, kind, hard-working, and just a good person. I’m looking forward to reading about your experience, and hope yours is better than mine has been! Keep up the great work!

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    I’m keen to learn what real Christians really believe, and how close that belief is to what is Christian doctrine.

    Do Christians have issues with aspects of their belief or doctrines?

    Are they interested to listening to atheists, to learn why they don’t believe, to see what knowledge can be gained by looking at alternative views on the world, ethics and morality?

    How do the Christians you meet rate themselves on the liberal – moderate – fundamentalist scale? How do they feel about Christians at the other end of the scale?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Will you be writing a book based on the experience?

    I don’t know yet, but we’ll see what happens.

  • SarahH

    *jaw drops*

    Wow, you’re brave :-) I guess I have no idea what you should be noting, since I grew up in a very religious home/church and so have a hard time distinguishing between what people without Christian backgrounds already know and what they don’t.

    Maybe pay attention to how thoroughly they indoctrinate their kids. Do they encourage their kids to question and explore or do they just tell them what to believe? Maybe you can also be part of an adult Sunday School program or Bible study.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    If you write it, I’ll buy it. My only real first hand experience of Christianity, is CofE, which is mild and moderate. My brother did go to a Toronto Blessing once, and told me they were barking like dogs, speaking in tongues, and falling over in the aisles. They hard a hard time keeping themselves from laughing their backs off. One of my brother’s friends did laugh a lot, but they thought the “spirit” had got to him!

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    This sounds like one of the coolest experiments ever. I notice someone mentioned a book, this is obviously book material. It would also be really conducive to production as a reality show or screenplay. I look forward to hearing more about this.

  • Chal

    I guess I’d want to know what they mean by this “real relationship” with Jesus. How much of what they think Jesus did influences their lives, and how consistent this is with other interpretations of Jesus.

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Please do write a book. I’ll gladly buy and promote it.

  • sdrDusty

    Wow. should be enlightening.

  • http://www.diggingthroughthedirt.blogspot.com Tracy

    Ok, I come at this blog from a different angle than most. I’d be interested (and I may already know the answer) in why, if someone is pro-life, they have no problem — and may even defend — the unnecessary murder of animals for food.

    They use the (false) argument that animal rights activists care about animals but not about unborn babies. Well, if these people are pro-life, shouldn’t they care about both? Especially since (in their view) God created animals.

    Also, why do they care so much about unborn fetuses but not about ensuring that those fetuses (should they be born) have access to good health care, etc.? They consider using taxpayer money for such things a form of socialism, which is an evil word to them.

    Finally, if God created this wonderful world full of trees and pristine water and clear skies, why don’t they support environmentalism? Why are they so quick to believe that climate change has nothing to do with humans?

    (Note: My use of “they” implies a very general view. I obviously don’t know the specific family personally and could be wrong about what they believe and support.)

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Hemant,

    I live with one foot (well one toe) in the Christian world through my wife with attending a Baptist bible study “small group”. I would encourage you to attend a “small group” with your new “family” as well. The “small group” is the best way to understand what Christians think.

    You would need to be up-front with them, though, about writing about your experiences. We have a saying in my small group that “What goes on in small group stays in small group”.

  • Siamang

    I’d be interested in knowing how fully they understand the arguments of other points of view.

    Like on that show where the atheist woman lived for 30 days with the Christian family, the dad seemed positively dumbstruck when she explained that she didn’t believe in anything supernatural at all.

    At least as presented on the show, it was as if he never ever had considered the idea that someone might not believe in ANYTHING supernatural.

    As I described it at the time, it wasn’t so much that he acted like he didn’t agree with someone on that side of the fence… it was that he seemed completely unaware that there WAS an other side of that fence, or that there was a fence there at all!

    In the Boing Boing “Big Tent Atheism” thread over on BB, there was a Christian there that I got the impression never heard or considered the idea that a skeptical person might need a different standard of evidence (let’s say eyewitness accounts) to establish the existence of a person than to establish the DIVINITY of a person.

    He acted like it was a very strange concept… he didn’t even get it while people explained it over multiple posts. To me it seems commonplace… extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. We use it every single day in our lives… except for some people when talking about Jesus, apparently.

    I asked him if this was the first time he had been exposed to that idea, but he hasn’t responded.

    So I’d really like to know if our ideas are getting through… things like ECREE. Or if all they get are Christian-invented atheist straw arguments like “nothing created something.”

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Is hypocrisy really a problem in the Christian church? In what ways?

    This reminds me of a T-shirt I saw a long time ago:

    “Drinking problem? I don’t have a drinking problem. I drink, I get drunk, I fall down… no problem.”

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I’d be worried about whether your host family will be respectful of your needs. Will they supply enough babies to keep you fed? Or is the idea that you would be living as a Christian and give up eating babies for the summer?

  • Todd

    I’m curious what type of Christian church you will be attending. Is affiliated with a denomination, or is it one of the many nameless nondenominational/evangelical cinder block churches that dominate small towns. It would be interesting if you could get a “What We Believe” document, that most churches have, and post it here before you start.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I hear Jainism is the best religion. Will you be working your way up to that?

  • Marsha

    Boy, you are a brave man! Good luck with this I look forward to reading about it.

  • sc0tt

    I’d like to know what your host family and their friends truly mean when they say things like they can “feel” the presence of God or Jesus.

    Or if they’ve had experiences like seeing angels for example; what did they really see and how much did they fill in with their interpretation?

    Probably not good topics for the first day. You’ll have to develop a trusting relationship first.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com/ IasonOuabache

    Is hypocrisy really a problem in the Christian church? In what ways?

    I know the answer to this one but it’s probably best if you experience it for yourself.

    Also, don’t let their brain worms affect you too much. I don’t want to come here and find the name of the blog changed to “Friendly Theist”.

  • Sondra

    Will we be receiving a day-to-day account, or will this mean a break from blogging?

  • Jasen777

    Christians are often capable of saying the nastiest things about “the gays” and then turning around and treating the one gay person the know with the utmost respect. I wouldn’t be surprised if you came across things like that.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Will we be receiving a day-to-day account, or will this mean a break from blogging?

    I don’t think I could leave for that long :) The plan for for updates often enough, but I’m not sure how often.

  • http://gaytheist.wordpress.com Reed Braden

    Do Christians eat babies in secret even though they hate us for eating them openly?

    AKA: Do Christians live their life as if there is no God (take medicines, buy insurance, think skeptically) even though they deride us for doing just that? Would you know they were Christians if they never mentioned Christ?

  • rollo

    I would ask why supernatural beliefs are so necessary to their religious beliefs? Is the fear of “eternal damnation” a necessary motivation for a person to lead a moral/ethical life or do they believe someone can come to it through a reasoned analysis?

    In connection with that, as a hypothetical, if the supernatural were stripped from their religion, could they see themselves coming together as a community to explore universal moral teachings and if so, why isn’t that enough?

  • beckster

    I will answer these from the view that you are staying with an evangelical family.

    Do Christians who condemn homosexuality treat gay people with respect and kindness? The evangelicals I know try really hard to be overly nice to gay people, but in a completely non-genuine way. You can tell they are uncomfortable, but that they are trying hard to not appear homophobic even though they are.

    Will Christians engage with me if they find out I’m not a Christian or that I don’t believe in God? -Yes. Evangelicals think it is their duty to convert you. Don’t expect them to listen for understanding to a word you say if they know you are an atheist, but they will talk your year off. Oh, and they won’t let their children near you :)

    Will I be able to form as strong bonds with church members as I can with other atheists? I am very close to an evangelical christian, but she is my sister so I don’t think that is a good example. That may be a hard gap to overcome.

    Is hypocrisy really a problem in the Christian church? In what ways? Yes. They say they believe in equality and want everyone to feel welcome, but then go out of their way to make people feel unworthy and unwelcome. They speak about equality a lot, but I don’t think it is practiced in the sense that a progressive person would practice it. For example, an evangelical will view homosexualtiy as a sin akin to stealing, something that a person does, not something that they are. Therefore they see no hypocrisy in saying they think everyone should be equal and then denying equal rights to gays and lesbians because they are not saying anything bad about the person, they are criticizing the “sin.” I think this applies to many things besides homosexuality, but I hope that is a pretty clear example.

    Are they getting an accurate non-Christian viewpoint when it comes to the hot-button social issues like evolution and abortion? No, because they do not listen for understanding. They are just waiting for their turn to speak again. The ones that I have argued with absolutely refuse to even read a book written about evolution that isn’t written by a christian apologist. As far as abortion goes, many have thought through their reasoning for being against abortion and have arguments that aren’t always theological. The problem is I think many of them completely miss the fact that their leaders’ opposition to abortion has less to do with saving babies and far more to do with controlling women. Once I convinced an evangelical to stop taking birth control because she “could” be aborting her unborn baby. That lasted about a month until she starting getting menstrual cramps. She now supports abortion rights for victims of rape and incest, so it is possible to change their minds a little at a time. I tihnk the key with abortion is showing the regular christians, not the leaders, that when abortion is safe and legal and when we have comprehensive sex ed and help for poor women, abortion rates drop and that’s a goal we can all agree on . . . right?

    How well do Christians understand atheists? They don’t. I think many of them seriously think that we believe in and worship satan instead of god. It is beyond their realm that someone doesn’t believe in anything supernatural. I have heard the phrase, “You have to believe in something.” My answer is simply, “I believe in mankind and our ability to improve the world for our children.”

    Of course, there are exceptions to my experiences, but these answers fairly reflect mine. I hope they are helpful and I am very interested in hearing about this experiment!

  • Mike McDonald

    One thing I am unclear about. If a child, let’s say 9-15, or younger, dies an athiest because the parents never taught religion, will that child go to hell? What about children in general: if I die at age 10, after being baptised, will my mind and body be that of a 10 year old for all of eternity? If a child can “grow up” in heaven, why subject children to evil/pain on earth for a child’s life span, only to have the child live as an adult in heaven, or a child in heaven forever? Doesn’t heaven then sound like wishfillment, recreating earthly life for eternity in heaven? Also let’s say a child is horribly abused/raped/tortured — will that child suffer those painful memories for all eternity?

  • Richard

    I am going to attempt to answer your questions as an Atheist who’s father is currently a practising pastor, and as a former Christian who attended religiously (ha) for upwards of 17 years of my life.

    Do Christians who condemn homosexuality treat gay people with respect and kindness?

    Mostly, yes. At least to their faces. It takes a special kind of extremist to go out and yell at someone to their face, and most Christians just arent that mean. Behind their backs is a different story, however. Think about it like you would treat a rude waitress at an Olive Garden; you wouldn’t tell them they are rude to their face, or berate them, or tell them what they are doing wrong, but you would leave a small tip or complain about them to your friends.

    Will Christians engage with me if they find out I’m not a Christian or that I don’t believe in God?

    Depends on the denomination. As a United Methodist, I commonly found myself sitting in the same building with Atheists, agnostics, and other denominations of Christians. The more midwestern protestants, as a general rule, are more accepting and less confrontational. There are always a few people that may give you trouble, and there may even be a few people willing to actually sit and debate about it with you, intelligently. However the majority of Christians will probably just say, “I will pray for you” and not talk to you again until you start wearing the cross necklaces.

    Will I be able to form as strong bonds with church members as I can with other atheists?

    Of course. Some of my best friends are still Christians, and their religon usually does not come into play in our friendship at all. if you are compatable with someone else, and neither of you are total fanatics, then you will probably have no trouble at all making friends.

    Obviously, having some common ground will help, but usually Christians dont ask, “are you Christian” as a precursor to friendship.

    However, some people that start to like you may be a little turned off when they find out that you are not Christian, and may make it their mission to convert you. This is when it is no longer fun, and starts getting scary.

    Is hypocrisy really a problem in the Christian church? In what ways?

    The majority of sermons, at least in the church that i went to, were about the hypocrisy in the Church itself. it is generally believed that Atheism is a direct result of Christians acting Un-Christ-like, and that if more Christians would just be more like (insert current denomination here) then Atheism wouldnt be a problem and more people would be saved. It could be argued that this very view itself is hypocritical, but that is an argument that you do not want to make.

    Also, to have any hypocrisy at all, there usually needs to be a consensus on what exactly you believe. The only requirement, it seems, in Christianity today is a belief in Christ, and some sort of loose affiliation with the Bible. Each Christian seems to have his own priorities, his own set of values, morals, and beliefs. It is difficult for any Christian to tell another Christian that they are doing it wrong, and so unless someone is violating a core tenant of Christianity, it is a general rule that no one is doing it wrong.

    Are they getting an accurate non-Christian viewpoint when it comes to the hot-button social issues like evolution and abortion?

    Once again, depends on the denomination. I was in a more liberal church, and thus, whenever we had discussions about politics and other hot-button topics like evolution and abortion, we tried our best to NOT tell people what to believe. However, there are a great number of Christians who believe, truly and honestly, that any abortion, for any reason, is bad and you will get sent to hell for it.

    so far as an accurate Non-Christian viewpoint on topics, i would say no. Most Christians don’t want to be challenged in their faith, in their politics, in their beliefs, and most Christians dont react well when they are challenged in their beliefs.

    The bible is very clear when it talkes about Women’s relationship with men, and it clearly says that once they are married they no longer have control over their bodies. What if Mary had the choice to Abort the baby Jesus? How horrible that would have been! That is why Joseph was visited by the angel Gabriel as well as Mary, so Joseph would know that Mary was supposed to have the kid, and he should make sure she does.

    and on evolution, again it depends. If the Christian believes in a strict interpretation on the bible, they will probably believe that the “7 days” thing either means literally 7 days and 6 nights, or 7 of “God’s days” which can mean anything, because there is no way we can actually understand how God experiences Time.

    Evolution is viewed as an ignorant human attempt to infringe on God’s territory, and thus is ignored in most churches. Supporters of Evolution are usually asked if we are related to monkeys, and “which primate gave birth to you”.

    How well do Christians understand atheists?

    If you are talking to someone willing to take you seriously, they may ask you questions that they know you have no answer to, such as “What created the universe?” or “What is our purpose on this earth” or something else abstract like that. They will take your inability to answer these questions as proof that their God is true, because their God can answer these questions.

    They may believe that you had a bad relationship with your parents, and that is why you are an Atheist. They may believe that you had some tragedy happen to you in the past, and that is the reason for your Atheism. They may believe that you secretly believe in God, but are simply angry at him. They may believe that you are simply refusing to believe in God so you can do things like have sex with your girlfriend out of wedlock, or do hard drugs, or whore yourself out for money, or other horribly immoral things. They may believe that you are out solely for monetary gain, and that you have no morals at all because you dont believe in God.

    Just imagine every horror story told by an Atheist on this Website, and others. Most of them are true, and i have personally experienced some of them.

    Friends that i knew from church refuse to talk to me since i “came out”.
    My Girlfriend and i need to be careful of where we go out on dates, because someone from my church may approach me and ask when the last time we had sex was. (we are both still virgins)

    Some Christians are not Christ like, and some are. some of them are good people, and act nicely and kindly and attribute that to God. But others are mean, and act meanly to people who dont agree with them because they believe God gives them that right. it just depends on who it is.

    I wish you luck on your journy into the unknown.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Based on the correspondence you posted on October, the family seems to be very much into the “not a religion, but a personal relationship with Jesus” thing. What’s the distinction, if any?

  • lurker111

    I’m not sure I could stand 10 weeks of this. Be sure you carry a bottle of Emetrol with you. Or maybe some Dramamine tabs if the first is too sweet for you.

    Sheesh. Good luck with the endeavor.

  • http://redheadedskeptic.com Laura

    In MY experience growing up in a conservative family in the Bible Belt for 23 years:

    1. Some do, some don’t. It depends on where they are and how liberal they are. I know Christians who don’t believe it is a sin at all. On the flip side, I’ve been to church events where you see the anti-gay activism rear its ugly head.
    2. Some will, some won’t.
    3. No. Or they will pretend to or think they are. Very hard to explain the differences in attitude, but I think mostly it has to do with evangelism. They may try to bond with you and get close to you either to hope to win you over to Christianity by example or pat themselves on the back for being so loving and tolerant. Very very very few actually will want to be friends with you solely because they like you–these people tend to not be extremely conservative or extremely religious.
    4. OMG YES. But you may or may not see it in 10 weeks. Some of it is VERY hidden. Growing up, I knew Christians had imperfections, but when I went into full time ministry in my early 20′s, I was SHOCKED by the behavior that went on behind the scenes. You don’t see that in the pews, though. It really made me think twice about religion and was definitely a huge factor in my de-conversion.
    5. No.
    6. *Snort.* Let’s just say the reaction I got from the first person I told I was an atheist was, “But you’re so sweet!” Later she said something very bizarre about me being a devil worshiper. She really wasn’t trying to be rude–she really did make an effort to understand and I think she came away from the experience with the stereotype completely shattered.

  • nowoo

    I’m curious about where this Christian family draws the line between accepting certain scientific discoveries and rejecting others. Do they accept courtroom DNA evidence that establishes paternity of a child but reject the same DNA evidence when it demonstrates common descent?

    How do they justify rejecting anecdotes from western-educated people who say that Sai Baba walks on water and raises the dead today, but still accept translations of translations of 2000 year old secondhand hearsay that says Jesus did the same things?

    What does this family say is the strongest evidence of God or the supernatural?

    If you can get the Christians to agree to read and discuss one atheist book with you, I recommend Letter to a Christian Nation. It’s so short that they are much more likely get through it than many other books, and Sam Harris hits a lot of the main points very clearly.

  • http://www.kaeldra.com Tracy

    I’m still convinced that my young earth creationist freshman year roommate was assigned by her bible study group to convert me. They were all stumped how I could be pretty much straight edge and not Christian. Got some bowling and donut nights out of it at least!

    At the beginning, it will feel like you’ll be there forever. Then suddenly, you’ll realize there’s only a week left. I notice a lot of the questions posted here have implicit (negative) assumptions, but it sounds like you’re going in with a good and inquisitive attitude. Looking forward to hearing your stories and what you learn!

  • Sandra

    One question I would like to have the answer to: If everything is a part of “Gods Plan” then why pray asking for personal favors (keep so-in-so safe on their travels, etc.)? For some reason I can’t get an answer to this one. :S

  • http://theisticevo.blogspot.com/ Angel

    I think this is a very interesting approach. I hope your time with this Christian family is a positive one. As a Christian I am biased in that area. Unfortunately I don’t have any questions for you that I wouldn’t already know the answer to. But it does make me wonder if any Christians would be willing to try something simular.

  • absent sway

    AMEN to the small group Bible study suggestion! This is where the real stuff goes on, seriously. Obviously, the answers to your questions depend on the denomination and on the individual. I speak from a Baptist and broad evangelical experience:

    1) This varies widely. Most likely you will encounter a generational divide.
    2) Yes, but not in the same way. You are likely to attract a lot of attention as a potential convert and many will be on their best behavior. I like the idea of you not letting on for a while to see if you notice a difference. And the ones who avoid you or are awkward might be so not because they think you are evil but because it hurts to be close to someone you think is doomed to hell and the dissonance of your coolness is a threat.
    3) You might be able to form some surprisingly strong bonds but you will likely relate to each other in different ways than shared worldviews.
    4) YES, let me count the ways. Many Christians are even open and/or bitter about this but they might be reluctant to air the dirty laundry to an unbeliever.
    5) Usually not unless they have close unbelieving friends or are well read (actually, there are a fair number of these people). Many self-censor their reading material.
    6) In general, not particularly well but not as badly as could be expected. They are likely to be a little suspicious of your motives and/or pity you because they can’t imagine being happy without God.

  • http://yangandcampion.googlepages.com Margaret Y.

    Oh, I hope this becomes a book. I sooooo want to read that!

  • SkepGeek

    I think something you should consider is even using the term “Christian” to describe a set of people is unhelpful. It is too diverse of a group, and you cannot meaningfully answer questions like “Will Christians engage with me if they find out I’m not a Christian or that I don’t believe in God?”. I don’t know of many stereotypes that can apply across such a diverse group, and I find that the culture changes drastically between individual congregations.

  • absent sway

    Another thing–take note of how people talk about their faith and values individually versus how it’s talked about in groups, and try to observe Sunday school, youth group, and other age-and-lifestyle-related groups, etc. if you get a good chance to. Also, it shouldn’t take long to figure out who has been attending and/or believing their whole lives and who the newcomers are. There are often significant differences between churchgoers in these different categories.

  • mvanstav

    I’m glad to hear that you’ll be doing this, and that you’ll be blogging about it. I’m agnostic, but I have a wide set of experiences with various religious types. I was raised among what I like to call “hobby Catholics”, people who do it because that’s what the family has done. On the other hand, my best friend is an incredibly intense Christian who wants nothing more than to devote her life to helping orphans in third world countries. I realized a long time ago that Christians aren’t all the same, and they aren’t at all simple. So many non-believers seem to have this idea that all Christians are the same: narrow-minded, stupid, and mean. Yes, those people exist, but those qualities can be found in any community. I hope you find and share a more in depth picture of a particular Christian family. Doesn’t have to be sugar coated, just has to be more real than how we non-believers so often let ourselves believe Christians are.

    As for what I’d like to learn from them, I’d like their take on what still counts as law in the Old Testament, and why. At least some brands of Christianity justify ignoring most of Leviticus/etc because Christ made the old testament law no longer valid, but I’ve never understood why some things got booted and others got left. If this family believes that, could you find out how they justify it?

  • Eliza

    It will probably go fine. You’re a friendly person, and they want to make a good impression, of course with a goal of “introducing” you to Jesus & helping you develop a “personal relationship” with him. (The long-term dating thing, like you quoted them as saying in the post last fall. Ugh.)

    I hope you’ve asked for the money up front :-) and wondered/asked (a) where this money is coming from, and (b) why they are willing to spend it to have an atheist (a published, blogging atheist) stay with them for a summer. (What can I say, I’m a skeptic.)

    Questions (ok, loaded questions) I might add to the list of suggestions, once you are settled into the household & have met the folks at their church:

    (1) Can they explain how this makes sense: God sends God down in human form to become a sacrifice to God, so that God will stop punishing the flawed creation that God made (& in His omniscience and timelessness presumably knew would be flawed & require this sacrifice of self). As long as the flawed created ones agree to believe that this all really happened.

    (2) If God exists (& has the characteristics Christians typically assign to God), why is there evil in the world? (alt: “why do bad things happen”). Meaning, things that humans haven’t directly caused, such as natural disasters, genetic defects, sick & dying babies. How do they picture heaven being different than “this world”? If “free will” is the explanation for evil existing, does that mean that there will be no “free will” in heaven?

    (3) How does one know if a prayer has been answered, & whether the outcome is any different than if the person hadn’t prayed? (Whether the answer is “yes”, “no”, “wait”, or whatever they think the range of possible answers is.) Why doesn’t God heal amputees? Why don’t Christians have better health, or win the lottery, more than non-Christians?

    (4) What do they see as the source of their morality? How do they explain the multitude of moral actions advised by the Bible which are now felt to be immoral? (Rules for enslaving people, keeping slaves, & punishing slaves. Killing people, including your own family members, for violating rules.) How do they explain the actions described as immoral in the Bible which are now practiced routinely by many Christians? (Not just eating seafood, but also divorcing your spouse, and loaning money for interest.) On what basis are they judging that some parts of the Bible have advice which is still current, & some have advice which may be freely discarded?

    (5) Why does Jesus stand so many people up, when they’d be open to having a long-term dating relationship with him, on the sole condition that he makes it clear that he really does exist? ;-)

  • http://kahomono.wordpress.com/ Kahomono

    Will Christians engage with me if [don't you mean when???--K] they find out I’m not a Christian or that I don’t believe in God?

    I don’t want to prejudice you, but I do offer a prediction: They will do so until their hope to convert you fades. Then it could turn ugly. I presume you get the money IFF you stay the whole term… which may or may not be possible, depending on how much passive-aggressive BS you can take toward the end.

    Is it at least in escrow?

    I am also curious who funded this and why so much for one person? OK, it’s YOU. But still. :)

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Is Hemant gay?

    He has an awful lot of posts about homosexual rights and that’s the first question listed in this post.

    I don’t really care either way, but I’m just curious.

  • Einmaliger

    Great news! This is gonna be interesting. I just hope for lots of blog posts about the experience during that time.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    I’d be interested in finding out how much common ground a conservative Christian shares with an atheist. I would assume that their assumption would be very little but I would expect this to change when they were exposed to the thoughts and opinions of non-believers.

  • Jason Sexton

    How well do Christians understand atheists?

    My wife can answer that. She was in a laundrymat yesterday. Waiting to finish the wash, a lady approached her (middle 30′s or so) and asked if she wanted something to read while waiting. My wife (already knowing) asked what she had. The lady produced the usual barrage of small bibles, pamphlets etc. and asked my wife if she believed if JC was her savior etc. My wife said that she was an atheist and didn’t believe in any of that due to the fact that there was no evidence, old written desert stories etc. The lady looked at her and said “You’re a what?” “What’s an Atheist?” My wife went on to explain again in simple terms and she said the lady just had a confused look when she walked off. So no, I don’t think that the average person even knows what an Atheist is.

    J

  • grazatt

    Will you really be getting all of that money? What will you do with it?

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    This is funny. I live with Christian family every day. Maybe I should write about it. I look forward to hearing your experiences since you’ve never been a Christian.

  • http://www.diggingthroughthedirt.blogspot.com TracyH

    No, Hemant isn’t gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

    I can’t speak for him, but I’m guessing he may write about that a lot because that’s a big issue in America right now. One could argue it’s the civil-rights issue of our time.

  • Eliza

    The Unbrainwashed asked,

    Is Hemant gay?

    He has an awful lot of posts about homosexual rights and that’s the first question listed in this post.

    I don’t really care either way, but I’m just curious.

    Nah, he’s not. It’s just that views on gay rights, & on gays, seem to be one of the major earthly ramifications of one’s belief or nonbelief in Christ. Funny how people tend to become more accepting of more people if/when they lose their belief in JC.

  • Steven

    I couldn’t help but notice that the first commenters to answer the “is Hemant gay?” query from “the Unbrainwashed” were ladies (I know that Tracy can be a guy’s name but it’s more often a woman).
    Do these ladies have, gasp, firsthand knowledge?
    Horrible puns aside I applaud any man who can use the words “yummy brown self” as Hemant did to describe himself after appearing in a calendar.
    I can be confidant that my wife married me for my sparkling personality – of course, I married her for the same reason and her looks are just a bonus.

  • http://www.diggingthroughthedirt.blogspot.com TracyH

    He-he. Not yet. :)

    By the way, how do you add a picture of yourself here?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Will you really be getting all of that money? What will you do with it?

    Yes. And I’m not sure. My first thought is that I’d feel weird keeping it (similar to when I got money on eBay for the soul thing). I want to find something awesome to do with it, but I haven’t figured out what that would be just yet…

  • Brooks

    If the family is pro-life, I’d ask them how do they reconcile their pro-life beliefs with the barbaric actions of God in the OT? And how do they justify God’s murdering of babies in the flood of Noah’s Ark and the murdering of the first born children in Egypt in Exodus? I’d also ask them if abortion is murder, if the mother loses her child to natural causes, did God murder the baby? For some reason, I can never get any answer to these questions.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Hemant,

    If the Christian family does succeed in converting you, can I have your friendlyatheist.com domain name? ;)

  • http://newref.blogspot.com/ James

    My question to moderate/mainstream Christians would be: What do you do with the Binny Hinn types of Christians? (In case you need an introduction to Benny Hinn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lvU-DislkI )

    These Christians who are “slain in the spirit” and have these charismatic encounters and speak in tongues – do you think they are more devout than you? That they have a closer relationship to God than you, or are more spiritual than you? If you say yes, then why are you not speaking in tongues and getting slain in the spirit as well? Do you not have enough faith?

    If you say no, or believe they are deceived, then how can you be certain of that? How do you know their faith and spiritually isn’t as real as yours? If can you dismiss these Christians’ faith and practice, then can you also see how atheists or other religions can dismiss yours?

  • Brooks

    Oh yeah, and if they claim to be the only true Christians, ask them if they’ve drank poison and survived like what Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18 yet.

    And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they[b] will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Oh yeah, and if they claim to be the only true Christians, ask them if they’ve drank poison and survived like what Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18 yet.

    Ever hear of snake handlers?

  • Pierre

    I’m not quite sure why you would want to do something like that; I certainly never would. But then again, I had to put up with 18 years of it, not ten weeks. And as a minor I couldn’t opt out of it whenever I wanted to, like you obviously could. I would think that having that option would alter the dynamics of the whole situation considerably. And of course one family, one church, and ten weeks isn’t going to give you a perfect idea of what it would be like to grow up that way, but it will probably give you some insight, though depending on the family you may walk away thinking either “oh, those Christians aren’t so bad” or “those people are totally crazy f%#ks!”

  • http://www.diggingthroughthedirt.blogspot.com TracyH

    that’s not a bad title:

    “One Family, One Church, Ten Weeks”

  • Shae

    Most of your questions have variable answers, of course.

    But as an ex-(very fundamentalist)Christian now atheist, I’d like to address these two:

    “Are they getting an accurate non-Christian viewpoint…”

    As someone else said, no way, because they actively do not want one. They feel their opinion is direct from God and not subject to challenge, so the approach is to speak louder, confuse the opponent, win at any cost. They will not read a book on the opposing viewpoint. When cornered they will repeat themselves.

    “How well do Christians understand atheists?”

    Not a bit. Some believe atheism doesn’t exist, because there is some bible verse that says something like God whispers the truth into every heart. So those who deny God are not merely people who don’t believe but people who are resisting the gentle and obvious whisper of God in their ear, probably because they are not yet done getting drunk and having premarital sex.

    Others do think that atheists worship the devil, and this is not exaggeration or shorthand. They believe you have two choices, God and the devil. If you don’t choose God you’ve chosen the devil.

    That doesn’t mean they think you wear black t-shirts with pentagrams on them while burning candles and listening to black sabbath and eating babies. But it DOES mean that they think you have understood the choice and made the conscious choice to side with evil.

    Another tack will be to claim that you are “mad at God” because you once asked him for a puppy or a sexy Asian wife and didn’t get it. Or because another Christian hurt your feelings or was caught being fallable.


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