Have You Ever Been Duped After Agreeing to Speak on a Religion Panel?

I’ve been fortunate that when churches have invited me to speak with the pastor on stage, they’ve stuck to the script when it comes to the program. They talked about what they told me they wanted to talk about.

Atheist Jennifer wasn’t as lucky.

She was invited — along with her agnostic friend — to participate in a panel on religion for a Communicating Across Cultures class at her college. It wasn’t supposed to be complicated, she thought — she just had to be available for some Q & A.

All I was told is the class was discussing religious oppression on campus, and that needed a non-theist for a panel to answer questions from the audience. I said sure. I asked for more details about what specific questions were going to be asked, but they never replied. I shrugged it off, thinking it was just short notice, and along with my agnostic friend (who was the one who directed them to me), went to the panel this morning.

Unfortunately, I felt like I’d been duped.

You can check out her site to see why she feels that way.

It’s not certain whether this was done on purpose (Let’s shun the non-believers!) or whether it was just a lapse in communication (which would be very ironic indeed).

Have any of you ever been duped in a similar way after agreeing to do a talk or be part of a panel/debate about atheism?

Did you agree to discuss a certain topic only to have it change at the last second, leaving you unprepared?

What did you do in response?

(via Blag Hag)

  • grazatt

    She should have called the professor on what she did on the spot! She could have said “I was told this would be a simple Q&A, why was I not told I would need to prepare a speech and give an introduction to atheism? Did she confront the professor of the class about what was done?

  • http://foreverinhell.blogspot.com Personal Failure

    Absolutely. Anytime this happens in the future, to anyone, they should calmly state what they were told the discussion was going to be, say that they prepared for that discussion and only that discussion, and they cannot therefore participate in any other discussion.

  • http://www.rationalitynow.com Dan Gilbert

    I think she was in a lose-lose situation. By not saying anything, she felt as if she ended up looking bad and missing an opportunity. If she would have spoken up, it’s very likely she could have come across as the “atheist whiner baby” and given a bad impression, too.

    It’s a fine line… and a lousy situation. :-(

  • grazatt

    Do you think the teacher of the class set her and her friend up? Or was the teacher just stupid?

  • Luther Weeks

    Anytime this happens in the future, to anyone, they should calmly state what they were told the discussion was going to be, say that they prepared for that discussion

    The problem I see is that she really did not know of the setup until after the religious panelists spoke. At the time she spoke, for all she know they were equally unprepared.

    Yet, the problem could be addressed in the Q&A but it takes a bit of experience to handle such in a way that works. The kind I would expect a professor to have, but not most undergraduates…especially under the circumstances of being blindsided and having to deal with that upset, remain composed, and address the issue.

    It seems there are several issues:
    - not being notified there would be an opening statement (clearly somebody with a power point was given the opportunity to prepare)
    - the subject was supposed to be religious oppression, unrelated to the opening question
    - the imbalance in the panel
    - both the Atheist and the Agnostic going first when the topic is religious oppression.

  • llewelly

    The prepared, professional apologists had who knows how much time to prepare, and the atheist and agnostic had no warning a debate was taking place until after they made their opening statements. Furthermore, they were allowed no reply, and no clear chance to point out they had been ambushed.

  • http://www.tacomf.com JTorch

    If you had told me about this event without mentioning which religions were involved, I probably would have guessed that this was a Scientology tactic. That’s pretty bad.

  • Epistaxis

    I hate to say it, but she brought it on herself: she shouldn’t have participated without knowing the format and preparing some talking points. Being the center of attention for a large audience is not a passive activity; you can’t expect to just show up and improvise.

    It’s possible the believers weren’t any better informed about how the thing was supposed to work – maybe they just decided to take control.

  • http://www.myspace.com/deadjerusalem Brian’s A Wild Downer

    I hate to say it, but she brought it on herself: she shouldn’t have participated without knowing the format and preparing some talking points.

    That’s absurd. She WAS told the format and was lied to. My school has done several religion panels and guess what. They really are just Q&As.

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  • keddaw

    Harsh. Especially not being able to take up some of the points made by the religious people.

    I am torn between feeling sorry for her because of her age and the fact she was blindsided and feeling that she should have had a better understanding of what she believed (or didn’t) and why. “There is absolutely no evidence for ANY religion, let alone the one you think you believe in” would have been a good start.

    Public speaking is hard at the best of times, but to be told to justify a position you hold with no warning is difficult. I am guessing she would have been able to marshall her thoughts and debate the points better if she were given the opportunity to face off against the religious people.

    Still, the world is slowly turning in our favour and eventually the religious will look like loons.

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