Talk to an Atheist Now!

Here’s a nice service for anyone who has sincere questions about atheism or how to get through the day without a god — a site called Talkatheist.org:

With one click… you can get started. Just give us some basic information, before you know it, you’ll be connected with an atheist that can answer any questions that you have.

I tried it out and got connected to someone instantly. But even if no one’s there the moment you have a question, there is an IRC channel available as well as a service to leave a message so a moderator can get back to you. In time, there will hopefully be more moderators and a forum.

So if you are genuinely curious about some aspect of atheism, give it a shot. I think it’s far better to talk to someone one-on-one about these issues than to get all your information solely from a book or website.

Side note: If anyone is interested, there’s a similar service available via the Mormon church. I’m not advocating that anyone chat with them just to prove who’s right or to waste their time, but I’m curious how they would respond to actual questions about their beliefs.

(Thanks to Daniel for the link!)

  • http://yetanotheratheist.net Yet Another Atheist

    This is a great idea. I’m bookmarking it, so that the next time they’re accepting applicants, I can fill out a form. :)

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    Presumably the conversation would go something like:

    A: So… you lack belief in God?
    B: Yep.
    A: Ok.. cool.

    Unless, of course, there’s more to atheism that merely lacking belief in gods (as we are so often told)?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    After a month or two, I’m looking forward to them publishing some of more interesting/funny conversations…

  • Kristi

    I think this idea is great and I have an inkling feeling that this will be used by many closet thinkers. I hope it works out well. A great way to get answers and remain anonymous in case one is worried about anyone knowing about it.

  • Richard Wade

    This is a great idea. I have one hesitation:

    We atheists spend quite a lot of time disagreeing among ourselves on all sorts of things about who and what we are, what we value, and what we think, feel and do, including endless arguments simply over the definitions of the terms “atheist,” “agnostic,” “humanist,” freethinker, and many more, and combinations of those terms.

    For instance, if I answered the question, “Do you believe there is no god?” I would reply “No, I don’t believe there is no god, I have no belief there is a god.” This would probably then require 10 minutes of explanation of the difference, and why I think it’s an important distinction. Some other atheist answering their question might just reply “Yes.”

    So my question about this service is,

    Do the people answering questions carefully qualify their answers as representing their own views and not necessarily the views of all people who call themselves atheists, and do they take the time to briefly describe some of the views of other atheists who might respond differently to a given question?

  • http://atheistreadsbible.blogspot.com/ Jude

    I agree with Richard. All atheists are not alike.

  • David

    I must confess I had a momentary evil urge to hook the atheist and Mormon sites together and watch what happened.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    This sounds like a site with some good potential. I agree with Richard Wade that it’s important to qualify statements to make it clear that there are disagreements. (There is a disclaimer on the front page.) I’d love to read some of the transcripts of the conversations.

    I’m curious how they would respond to actual questions about their beliefs.

    JT Eberhard tried it out, with interesting results.

  • Joe

    Looks like they are having some problems with their internets.

    In chat: 84461904
    Waiting in line: 2
    4chan loves: mudkips
    Number of faked transcripts on 4chan thread: 4 so far
    Next in line has been waiting: 0 minute(s)!

  • Tony Boling

    Promptly hacked by 4chan it seems. Sounds like a few atheists didn’t take any security precautions when their site went live.

  • TSC

    …why is it that my first thought was that someone should get the atheist chat service talking to the Mormon one without either knowing that’s who they’re talking to?

  • http://www.aussieinengland.wordpress.com Lissa

    I just had a wonderful conversation with a man named ‘Seth’ about whether or not I should excommunicate myself from the Catholic Church, and how it may hurt some elderly strongly religious family members. He was very polite and very helpful.

  • Eli

    The mormon site has been trolled extensively, as evidenced here: http://artoftrolling.memebase.com/?s=mormon+chat

    While I don’t want these atheists’ time to be wasted, I think they’d get a pretty big kick out of it, and I’d LOVE to start reading some of the conversations…

  • http://talkatheist.org Peter Harkins

    Hi, I’m one of the administrators of the site.

    To address questions here:
    @Jeff P: We’re treating conversations as private. We don’t run the site to laugh at people.
    @Richard: Yes, we try to disclaim our personal opinions. I like to say that atheists are as varied as people who don’t believe in astrology.
    @Tony: Yep, we screwed up, they dropped our database. It was a lousy hour or two.
    @TSC: Everybody thinks that – I’ve seen it on several 4chan and reddit threads now. We’d probably figure it out within a few sentences without much excitement.
    @Eli: We’ve already had plenty of trolls of varying quality. Now that every operator has dealt with a couple dozen we spot them quickly and are pretty bored by them.

    And thanks, folks, for the kind words. We’re making this up as we go along and we’re glad people have already enjoyed it so much.

  • ACN

    Eli,

    Thank you so much.

  • An Op

    @ Richard: That is definitely important and emphasized to those helping run the site.

    As Sharmin said, there is a disclaimer saying:

    Disclaimer – The opinions expressed through the chat application on this site do not represent anyone or any group outside of the operator you talk with. Those opinions are neither official opinions of TalkAtheist, nor representive opinions of atheists.

    The operators have been great about reminding visitors that they can not speak for all atheists, seeing as there are different categories, and even disputes on if there should be categories or not. Time is certainly taken to explain the differences and varying opinions if the conversation calls for it.

    For future reference, here is a link to a suggestion page: http://getsatisfaction.com/talkatheist.

    Thank you all for your support!

  • Lauren

    I can see this as invaluable to young people beginning to question what they’ve been told. it is hard to find a place to talk about that stuff. the operator I talked to was very nice.

    It would be good to have training for the operators in case a young person abused by strict religious surroundings is depressed. not that they should be counselors, but to know who to refer them to and how to deal with it should it arise.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    someone should try talking to both the atheist and the mormon at the same time. Tell each one what the other says, and basically engage them in an argument with each other.

  • http://astrogaijinnews.wordpress.com Austin

    I’ve actually been on the Mormon site twice. The first time I had a real conversation with them for awhile, it was nice. The second time they kept “redirecting” me when ever I had questions aginst their faith, also the one time I actually talked to someone all he kept asking me is Igbo was going to their church that Sunday, or when I would go again to visit on of their services.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    The atheist one is so reluctant to explain things…

    I just went on there and intentionally misunderstood what the operator said, and all he replied with was
    23:28:05 Peter: You’re pretty determined to misinterpret what I say, huh?
    23:28:16 Peter: Have a good evening

    He never even tried to correct my misunderstanding. This chat app is going to be no use if the operators are unwilling to correct or explain a user’s misunderstandings. A lot of theists are going to have trouble understanding what an atheist believes, and if these operators are going to give up so easily without even attempting to explain things, it will only make us all look ignorant.

    I hope the other operators are better than Peter.

  • http://www.unequally-yoked.com Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    I did have a chat with someone at the Mormon site, and I was really surprised how weak their attempt at defense/conversion was. I still don’t know if this is their usual M.O. or what, but I don’t see how they win converts if it is.

    Here’s my sum-up + chat transcript: Unequally Yoked: Talking to a Mormon Missionary.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    I forgot to save the chatlog, but I wanted to go in there just to see how these atheist operators dealt with theists.

    I went in with the name LilaRose and asking
    “Why do babies have to be killed just because you don’t believe in God?”
    The first thing the operator said was something like
    “the whole “atheists eat babies” thing is just a running joke about athiests”
    I knew what he meant, but I figured I’d intentionally misinterpret this just to see if he would behave properly and explain things to me (since that is what this site is about right?)
    So I went on to say
    “What about abortion is “funny” ?!”
    he responded with
    “It’s not”
    then I replied
    “then why is it a joke about athiests? Jokes are funny. So explain what about abortion is funny”
    to which he replied
    “Nothing about abortion is funny. I didn’t say it was a joke”
    He didn’t even try to explain that I’m interpreting “eating babies” as “abortion” so I go further and say
    “you are blatantly lying. I have a chatlog right here and you just said it was a joke.”
    Yeah, I was being a jerk there, but I was pretending to be someone who was appalled with abortion and the thought of it being a joke, and wanting answers. He never once even tried to explain that it was all a misunderstanding or correct me. It was at this point he said
    23:28:05 Peter: You’re pretty determined to misinterpret what I say, huh?
    23:28:16 Peter: Have a good evening
    He then quickly left the conversation and didn’t come back.

    Could you imagine if this was a conversation with a real theist looking for answers? I know abortion has nothing to do with atheism, but pro-life has just about EVERYTHING to do with religion. If this is the way they treat theists with concerns who have trouble understanding atheists and their opposition to religious beliefs, it isn’t going to go down well. It’s just going to convince the theist that atheists are ignorant and uncooperative.

  • John Small Berries

    I had assumed the Mormon site was “staffed” by a chatbot, since pretty much every question I asked about their beliefs received a response like, “You can get the answer to that question on our website by clicking on this link: (url).”

  • Michael S

    @Lauren: I’m one of the operators and I wouldn’t dare try to counsel someone with a real condition, I would suggest they seek care from a professional.

    @Larry: You need to understand that we were insanely under siege from 4chan today and had to deal with as many people as we could. There were lots of serious and sincere people in the queue so Peter made an assumption that you were giving him a hard time instead of being genuine. I am sorry for that and if you visit in the future the odds of the same thing happening are very low as we do try to take everyone’s questions as seriously as possible.

    Within the mire of 4chan mess we had a lot of people from here and it was genuinely lovely to talk to many of you. Just from my experience taking questions on TalkAtheist it seems like you have a wonderful community here and I will refer people to you in the future (Already have to one person today).

    Regards,
    Michael

  • Aimee

    Aw someone already mentioned artoftrolling’s mormon chats.

    I wonder if these chat systems are ever actually useful since it seems like ultimate fuel for trolls. I like the ex-christian.net chatroom. Variety of people in there and rarely do we get trolls.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    I had a discussion with another operator of the site who claimed Peter dismissed me so quickly because the site was under siege from trolls of 4chan… The website at the time of my convo with peter only stated there were 2-4 people in chats. The new op excused this as saying they intentionally changed it as to not giving satisfaction to the trolls, and assured me that any thread on 4chan about the attack would surely be dead by now… Leaving me to only have faith that he was telling the truth and that Peter really wasn’t the ignorant dick he seemed to be.

  • Seth

    I’m the operator that spoke with Lissa earlier. [Thank you for your kind words. I hope everything works out. :)]

    I personally appreciate the fine folks at FriendlyAtheist for putting us on their front page and helping get out into the open a little bit more. Anyone who is interested in a chat, feel free to stop by anything, even if it’s only telling us what you think we’re doing wrong. :)

    I just wanted to reiterate for all concerned that the operators at TalkAtheist.org take every opportunity to address differences within the atheist/agnostic/free-thinking/etc. communities and to clearly state the difference between our personal opinions and those of others in the community-at-large.

    I can’t guarantee that we will always get every chat right, but I can tell you that experiences like the one Larry had are exceedingly rare. Even though I always make sure I only speak for myself, I’m always thinking about the worst way anything I’m saying can be misconstrued. I volunteer my time in the hopes that I’m being helpful, informative and a positive example of a thoughtful, sane (and somewhat boring) atheist.

    Thank you again for your support and I hope to see more of you in chat! :)

  • El Bastardo

    So, the mormon chat site is getting trolled by those folks at artoftrolling.memebase.com and it looks like this atheist site is being trolled by atheists pretending to be theists.

    A roaring success already I feel.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Be sure not to hold an interactive chat-room (that must give quick responses) to the same standards of a forum where the people have the luxury to spend time to carefully craft the responses.

  • OverlapingMagisteria

    Larry Meredith,

    Yea, I was gonna say that they probably assumed you were a troll after I read your conversation. You did seem to go a little too far out of your way to misinterpret; a bit past the point of believability.

    The site sounds great though! Any chance to get people to know who atheists really are is a good one!

  • http://push.cx Peter Harkins

    Hi Larry, I’m the operator Peter. I recognized you were a troll from the beginning of the conversation. After seeing a few dozen, y’all are easy to spot.

    I’m not sorry I didn’t play along. I had things to do and you were trying to waste my time. Go be a jackass somewhere else.

  • stogoe

    Larry,

    Peter made an assumption that you were giving him a hard time instead of being genuine.

    Hint, Larry: You were being an intentional troll. On purpose. If you’re going to act like a troll, you should be prepared to be treated as one. You troll.

  • Totentanz

    So… like, why is Larry upset now? He was trying troll the guy. Pretty sure the intent of the site is not to entertain trolls but to talk to people who genuinely have questions. Or maybe I totally misunderstood what that site is about.

  • McWaffle

    Can you imagine had I been a REAL troll? I don’t get your argument either Larry. You were in fact deliberately misinterpreting what he said, and whether you were doing so as a faux-troll or as a real life Christian troll, you were trolling and were treated appropriately.

  • Michael S

    Larry also doesn’t mention that I spent an hour talking to him later that night for him to say HAHAHA I TRICKED YOU I WAS A TROLL ALL ALONG. (Which was incredibly surprising after I’d already seen this thread and he used the same nickname /endsarcasm) I decided that he may genuinely be on friendly atheist to engage in discussion with atheists so I gave him the benefit of the doubt despite his arguments being quite over the top (Damn you Poe’s Law). To be honest, I don’t really mind, it was quiet and I was studying at the time. It just seems like he has taken quite an odd position as many of you have pointed out and I don’t really understand what he was trying to gain.
    Anyway, I just want to reiterate that my experience with FA people has been wonderful so far and it’s great having really interesting chats with some of you. As operators we get to learn a lot about ourselves and our own beliefs when we talk to interesting people so it’s great having you.

    Regards,
    Michael

  • Ubi Dubium

    So Michael, how do I sign up to be one of your operators? Your website didn’t have anything about that.

  • Michael S

    @Ubi Dubium: We’ve had a lot of offers to volunteer so we probably won’t need any for a while but the best thing to do is Email Daniel at dnroyston@gmail.com

    @Larry: During our chat you wanted ‘proof’ that 4chan were trolling us since you thought for some reason that I was making it up to defend Peter. Anyway, http://i.imgur.com/2bGLk.png

  • http://www.facebook.com/paul.hutch Paul Hutchinson

    was looking for a site like this… small moment of “yey it exists” before an epic fail of 404

  • Morgan

    The site has gone down, I have resurected the idea at http://talk-atheist.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1506611483 Barry McGowan

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