Over the Weekend, I Spoke at a Megachurch…

***Update***: A video of the service is now online!

I spent the past couple of days at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, talking to about 8,000 Christians about what they do right and wrong, at least when it comes to their interactions with atheists.

There aren’t a lot of megachurch pastors (or congregations) who would be okay with that sort of thing, so hats off to Pastor Randy Frazee and his staff for making it happen and making me feel really comfortable there. Video of the event will be available within a couple of days and I’ll post something when it’s up.

In the meantime, John Tedesco of the San Antonio Express-News was there for one of the services and his article accurately captures how things went:

Me with Pastor Randy Frazee (via San Antonio Express-News)

A few highlights from the piece:

At four church services over the weekend that attracted about 8,000 people, the preacher and the atheist casually talked and laughed on the brightly lit stage at Oak Hills. Online [live-streaming] videos of their talks were posted on the church’s website, which crashed Sunday morning from the demand of so many people trying to watch.

I can now say I brought down a megachurch. *Cue evil laugh*

On Sunday, a few members of the congregation at Oak Hills didn’t want to listen to a nonbeliever and they left before Mehta was introduced, Frazee said. But most of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “I think it was healthy,” said church member Jim Robbins. Mehta’s words struck a chord with him because one of Robbins’ sons had been an atheist for many years. “I don’t have a problem with people asking questions.”

I didn’t even know that happened. But we’re talking about a few people from a congregation of several thousands. Many of the church members spoke to me after each of the four services and they were courteous and sweet, thanking me for visiting and letting me know that they were praying for me as I walked down my path.

(I guess they missed the part about how I’ve already walked that path and decided God wasn’t at the end of the rainbow…)

Frazee encouraged his congregation to follow the friendly atheist’s inquisitive journey. It’s OK to doubt, he said. The deep questions Mehta wrestled with are the same questions many Christians are asking themselves privately — especially skeptical teenagers.

“They start asking questions,” Frazee said. “And if your home, or this church, is a place where we don’t allow that to happen, we’re going to lose our kids.”

That’s such a huge point and it’s one of the reasons I appreciated that the church put together this event. For so many people who have religious doubts, church is not a safe place for them to raise their concerns. They’re told to just have faith. They can’t tell their family members, either, out of fear that they’ll be disowned (or at least seen as a disappointment). So what do they do? Best case scenario, they realize they’re onto something with their doubts and end up discarding their faith altogether. Worst case scenario, they’re in for a long psychological battle, as if they’re somehow disappointing God for questioning His eternal wisdom.

If Christians are right, I would think they’d embrace those doubts and respond to them in kind. When they ignore or suppress the doubts, it’s all the more reason for people to give up the faith altogether.

I obviously don’t think churches have the ability to address those challenges as a satisfying way. The people at Oak Hills obviously think they do. For the sake of the people who are questioning their faith, though, both sides are better off if churches welcomed those doubts and attempted to engage the tough questions. The truth will hopefully win out.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Matt Potter

    I was fortunate to attend the last of the services. I hadn’t been inside a church for over 5 years until yesterday and it made me understand many of the draws such as the community and social aspects however, it also brought back many feelings of why I could never go back to believing. I want to comment on something Pastor Frazee said after you left the stage. The Pastor did indeed continue on stating that if anyone had doubts there were people from the church that were always available to share those doubts. He did reference Hemant’s personal experience of not feeling he could share doubts with his parents or at the temple, I think to show how far one might fall if they used the ‘evil’ internet or don’t go to the correct resources. Now I’m paraphrasing here but the Pastor held up his right hand in a fist and said ‘Here is reason and logic’ and then while lifting up his left fist said something like ‘But those can only take you so far and that’s why you need faith’. I’m sure someone around me had to notice me silently shaking my head in disagreement. The most head shaking moment I heard during the service was right after this. Pastor Frazee was making the point that there are many intellectual reasons to believe (in Christianity) and then started reciting parts of the bible beginning with the historicity of Jesus and through the resurrection. For each of the points about Jesus the Pastor would say something like ‘A 33 year old perfect person, Jesus, was the only perfect person to walk the earth. Historical fact.”, “Jesus was crucified and overcame death three days later. Historical fact.”, and “Hundreds of people personally saw the resurrected Christ and testified about it through the bible. Historical fact.”. I met many nice and caring people there yesterday but it only reinforced exactly why I could never go back.

    • Frazzah

      Clearly they have different definition of “fact”.
      Thanks for sitting through the rest of it and sharing that.

      • Stev84

        Christians give lots of common words completely different meanings. It’s what allows to them to say things and then do the exact opposite. Orwell would be proud of them.

        • gimpi1

          Other examples:
          Convicted, means to be convinced of something, especially that you are at fault in some way, as in, “I was convicted of my sin.”

          Defrauded, means for a woman to dress in a way men find attractive, thus tempting them into lustful thoughts. There is disagreement if men can tempt women in the same way.

          Know, means to believe. People often seem to believe their “knowing” something is true trumps someone else’s silly facts.

          Anyone have any other examples? We could put out an English/Christianese dictionary.

          • allein

            Do they really use “defrauded” that way? I never heard that one. “Convicted” and “know,” I certainly have.

            I do like this translation under the Urban Dictionary definition of “Christianese”:

            Christianese: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

            Translation: “I’m totally clueless.”

            There is also a Dictionary of Christianese out there…
            http://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/

    • Rain

      For each of the points about Jesus the Pastor would say something like ‘A 33 year old perfect person, Jesus, was the only perfect person to walk the earth. Historical fact.”

      Ah, so apparently the Pastor is either a liar or a “dumbass”. Color me surprised. All I can say is he does a good acting job on some of his videos. Just the right amount of “pretend-holiness”. Very well rehearsed robotic arm movements.

      • Stev84

        What else do you expect from a megchurch pastor? They are all conmen.

    • Art_Vandelay

      That’s awesome. I love how he encourages skepticism and then goes on to state things with absolute certainty that are completely unverifiable. He wouldn’t want anyone walking out there thinking that it’s okay to think for themselves. It’s tougher to control the mentally emancipated. Just reading this brings back the horrible memories.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Sounds like the Pastor was hoping to do some damage control with those in the audience who had seriously resonated to the idea of embracing and examining their doubts, and who really are attracted to reason and logic.

      Unfortunately for him, I think his chanting “historical fact” after each supernatural biblical claim would only magically make those claims seem “reasonable and logical” to people whose IQ is something less than 100. People of average or above intelligence would see through that, and will continue to be dissatisfied by such transparent pretense of reason logic by piling a claim of “historical fact” on top of another claim. So he’s inadvertently selecting for the dull ones to stay and the bright ones to leave.

      • Machintelligence

        But how much less than 100? By definition, half of the population has an IQ of less than 100 (if only by some microscopic amount.)

        Also, due to the Flynn effect (IQ scores increase about 3 points per decade if the tests are not re-normed) the average teenager will score almost 20 points higher than his grandparents would have at the same age. This may be part of the reason for the increased number of “nones” in younger generations.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Soooo part of the reason that churches are losing the younger generations is that they don’t know how to update their bad apologetics (oxymoron there) in a way that will trick media-savvy teens, who grew up after the old tricks had been exposed and shredded. Makes sense.

          • allein

            bad apologetics (oxymoron there)

            Not oxymoron…just redundant. ;)

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Gah! Thank you. That was dumb of me.

    • Sweetredtele

      Paul Bunyan made the mighty Mississip by dragging his axe. Historical fact.

      • The Other Weirdo

        I thought it was the Grand Canyon.

        • flyb

          The axe in his other hand..

        • Paul D.

          Heretic!

          • The Other Weirdo

            Shameful head hung in shame.

        • Sweetredtele

          The grand canyon was made by Pecos Bill riding a twister that tried to shake him off with enough force to create the chasm.

    • Frank Key

      Frazee was only doing what a trusted pastor is paid to do – think for those who are too lazy to think for themselves.

      • Sad

        No one in our church wants Randy there!! Dont understand why they dont boot him,he does more damage than good!

    • The Other Weirdo

      He keeps using the word ‘historical.’ I don’t think it means what he think it means.

      • Pepe

        He keeps using the word ‘fact’!

        • The Other Weirdo

          That, too.

    • Sven2547

      For each of the points about Jesus the Pastor would say something like ‘A 33 year old perfect person, Jesus, was the only perfect person to walk the earth. Historical fact.”, “Jesus was crucified and overcame death three days later. Historical fact.”, and “Hundreds of people personally saw the resurrected Christ and testified about it through the bible. Historical fact.”

      Ugh. I was just thinking about that phenomenon the other day. Religion basically gives people unlimited license to call myths and opinions “facts” with little-to-no reproach.

    • cipher

      A 33 year old perfect person, Jesus, was the only perfect person to walk the earth. Historical fact.

      I would have walked out then, if not earlier. I have NO patience for that sort of thing any more (not that I had all that much even when I was younger).

      I don’t know how Hemant could stand it. I simply can’t deal or be bothered with people that stupid and/or deluded any longer.

      But thank you for sitting through it and reporting on it.

  • Aggie L

    It’s too bad most people have not found a spiritual answer beyond religion. It’s almost like they think there are only two choices: God or no God. Our universe allows for so much more.

    • CultOfReason

      While the Universe is indeed vast and full of mysteries we have yet to discover or understand, I don’t understand your point about the God / No God choice. What other choice is there besides Exists / Doesn’t Exist? Doesn’t basic logic tell us it’s one or the other?

      • indorri

        Well, atheism specifically says “no gods”, so you can be a polytheist, or you can believe in Yaweh but not think he’s a transcendental, triadomni- being, or you can be a pantheist, or you can go into the “archetype theism” where gods are parts of your psyche that you can tap into through ritual, etc. etc.

        • thebigJ_A

          All of those you listed fall under “God” in the “God/no God” dichotomy.
          Either there is/are a god/gods/higher power, or not. Saying, “but I worship Pan!” doesn’t get you out of it.

          • TCC

            I really, really hope that you don’t think that pantheism means “the worship of Pan.”

          • indorri

            I viewed “God or no God” as with respect to the Abrahamic religions, because other religions don’t say “God” but “gods (of various names, etc).” I.e. “Both you and I are atheists, I just reject one more god than you do” implies “there are other religions whose gods you rejected”. Those would fall out of that dichotomy.

            That could just be me being pedantic, though.

      • Aggie L

        What I’m saying is that most people think one has to chose between the two, and mistake religion for spirituality. A good friend professed to be an atheist, and I asked him, when you were out on the ocean, in your little boat, and only the stars to guide you, what did you feel? He replied, ‘a part of the universe’. And I said, Yes. That is what God really is. The feeling of being a part of the universe; nothing more, nothing less.”

        • Dave

          That’s nice. I mean, it’s not very convincing, but it’s nice.

          • Aggie L

            Revel in the feeling that it could be true, my friend.

            • Matt D

              Nah, I prefer to keep my head below the clouds, and my ego in check.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              It would be irrelevant even if it were true. That’s the funny thing about the supernatural: it doesn’t really change any paradigms. If elves and vampires existed, life would be virtually indistinguishable from how it is now for almost everyone. If anyone’s god were real, the effect would be infinitely greater, because to say that a god is responsible for the universe we see, or even for just us, is to assign the quality of mundanity to that god.

        • RowanVT

          So…. God is nothing more than a subjective emotion with no power over the actual universe?

        • CultOfReason

          I agree with Dave. Nice (and poetic) but not very convincing. “God”, as is commonly understood (a supernatural entity) CAN be said to either exist or not exist. Conflating it with one’s emotions or with the universe (as is commonly done in pantheism) is not really helpful.

          While it’s certainly your prerogative to call what your friend’s experience “God”, I contend there are more appropriate words for it: Awe, Wonder, Inspirational, etc…

          By redefining the word “God” away from its common meaning and instead used as a substitute for the word “Universe” or for describing one’s emotions, then you have basically watered the word down to the point of making it rather useless, and confused people in the process since the word carries a bunch of undesirable baggage.

          • Aggie L

            What we commonly know as ‘God’ is religious; man made and faulty. I know what is my universe and totally enjoy it; good luck finding yours.

            • RowanVT

              So your entire universe is a subjective emotion?

              • Aggie L

                It’s all subjective for everyone. All you really have is your perception, so it cannot be objective.

    • Anna

      There are many people who are not members of traditional monotheistic religions, yet they believe in the supernatural. My area is simply brimming over with New Agers, Pagans, UUs, and other assorted “spiritual, but not religious” types.

      In any case, the concept of “spiritual” is so woo-ish to me that I avoid it entirely. I’m not looking for a “spiritual answer” because I don’t believe in supernatural things. It’s not just gods. It’s the whole package.

    • Dave The Sandman

      How?

      Either god/gods exist, or they do not.

      There is no other option.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Oh, there’s lots of supernatural beings that people worship/believe in/ask favors of that aren’t gods. Celtic fae like milk and bread left out for them. Russian house spirits require you to leave milk out as well (polevoi, I think they’re called), and bathhouse spirits (domovoi?) require you to be polite to everyone in the bathhouse or they curse you. Baba Yaga is not a god, but she’s a totally badass mostly evil immortal witch nonetheless. Shinto is full of gods and spirits, both of which are supernatural, and distinguished mostly by their power levels (kamis are just really powerful spirits). And so on.

        Now, there is definitely an argument that either supernatural stuff exists or it does not. God or no God is a very narrow view of a whole huge world of myths and legends, though.

  • Kat Dean

    This is HUGE! For many reasons, but greatest of all, I believe, is the example of tolerance and civility displayed on both sides. Humanity may never resolve it’s differences over religion, but being tolerant of each other is what will spur us on to be a greater race. What a shinning example to the younger generation that people coming from very different worldviews can agree to disagree and, better still, learn from each other. Hope there are many more opportunities like this for athiests in the future! Kudos!

  • Rain

    Yeah, keep pretending like you think the problem is that nobody reads the Bible enough, Pastor. It’s actually the biggest weakness of your religion. (And the bullshitters like you are its biggest strengths.)

    • Paul D.

      Telling Christians they don’t read the Bible enough is a wonderfully manipulative stratagem for pastors, because most Christians find the Bible dreadfully boring and will never read the whole thing no matter what they’re told. Then, whenever Christians are uncertain about something or are going through hardships, they blame themselves for not having read the Bible more, and put their trust in the Man-o-God who has.

  • Tainda

    Glad that they are trying but I honestly think we sound like Charlie Brown’s parents to them when we speak.

  • katiehippie

    “For so many people who have religious doubts, church is not a safe place for them to raise their concerns. They’re told to just have faith.
    They can’t tell their family members, either, out of fear that they’ll
    be disowned (or at least seen as a disappointment). So what do they do?
    Best case scenario, they realize they’re onto something with their
    doubts and end up discarding their faith altogether. Worst case
    scenario, they’re in for a long psychological battle, as if they’re
    somehow disappointing God for questioning His eternal wisdom”

    Thank you for this. I’ve been looking for these words (among others) to say how I feel.

  • rwlawoffice

    I attended the service Saturday night and unfortunately did not get an opportunity to meet you afterwards. I appreciated your points about how the church sometimes does not allow for discussions with those that are doubting their faith. I whole-heartily agree to these open discussions and would encourage them. In fact I have done so in my own home and it is encouraged in my church.

    Thanks for coming Hemant and I hope you enjoyed your time at the church and in San Antonio.

    • Jade

      Kudos for trying to open communications.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        And kudos to him for actually writing a post that didn’t contain lies and bigotry. Well, overt lies, since his history suggests that his “open discussions” involve him playing word games to intimidate doubters with false authority.

        • rwlawoffice

          You just can’t help yourself can you.

          • The Other Weirdo

            This would have been quite the poignant point if you didn’t then immediately rush off to tell us that:

            The truth of the Gospel has already won out.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              You got that impression about “Frank” also, eh? Of course, there’s been more than one Frank Sans Account, and the samples for comparison have been slim so far, so it’s too early.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Correct. Due to a combination of personal ethics, stubborness, and mild autism, I don’t abide liars well and often can’t help but call them out. It’s a flaw.

          • Matt D

            It’s your choice to visit this blog so you may deal with the consequences as a man, or a mouse.

    • Andrew L

      RWLaw, are you an attender of Oak Hill? I remember your responses on my report of attending an evangelism conference a year ago.

      • rwlawoffice

        I am not. I attend Bandera Road City Church

  • Jade

    At least they are opening up, it might not be perfect. They are trying. this is a BIG step!

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Clean-cut and courteous, Mehta could easily be mistaken for a church youth-group leader.

    You’re so good at faking non-atheist Hemant :-) You must have gone out for a big BBBQ afterwards.

    • CultOfReason

      But why must “Clean-cut and courteous” correlate to a church group leader. Is there an assumption that atheists can’t be or aren’t clean-cut and courteous.

      • discusted

        I wish we would boot Fraee,
        ,our church has not been the same since he came ,think elders should do something.If everyone that goes to Oak Hills would write a letter to the elders they would get rid if him.
        I dont think he is for this church!!!!

  • SJH

    Thanks for doing that. We should have more open dialogue like that. I commend both, you and the pastor for participating.

  • BobaFuct

    ““They start asking questions,” Frazee said. “And if your home, or this church, is a place where we don’t allow that to happen, we’re going to lose our kids.” That’s such a huge point and it’s one of the reasons I appreciated that the church put together this event.”

    I know you see this as somewhat positive, Hemant, but it’s still just as noxious as all the other fire and brimstone BS. I mean, the implication here is that once a person chooses something other than the church, they are lost, gone, persona non grata, dead to the world….so if your kids have doubts, you better set them straight or they’ll fall into the pit of non-belief and you’ll lose them forever. I’m sorry Christians, but your non-believer kid isn’t “lost”…they just don’t believe in the same things you do and that’s perfectly okay and normal.

    With the language the church uses, you’d think that the second a kid chooses to be an atheist, he starts taking drugs, stealing from grandma, and molesting children.

    • ZeldasCrown

      I think your last sentence is why this is so important-to demonstrate that we’re not just drug using, child molesting, thieves.

    • The Other Weirdo

      I disagree. He doesn’t need to start molesting children just to be an atheist. He could do that quite well–better even–as a believer, preferably a pastor of some sort.

    • Sad

      The church did not put this together Randy did and the elders were very mad over this!!!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Funny how you never see Joe Klein trying to make families safe places for young people to examine and express their doubts.

    • Trike Pilot

      I applaud you Richard for trying to keep the Joe Klein meme alive. I comment all over the place trying to do the same.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Thank you!

  • Skeptifilmmaker

    I also want to thank you for taking time out of what was an obviously hectic schedule to talk to the nones here in San Antonio. We look forward to bringing you back to speak in the future!~Donna

  • jferris

    I don’t think you should dismiss the prayers they offered you. Bear with a minute here. I don’t believe. But I still catch myself saying things like “Bless you” after someone sneezes. Is it because I am battling inner demons and god is trying to convert me? Nope. Just courtesy. A kind thought for a fellow human being. Sometimes, the words we use to wish someone well in their travels may be said with religious tones (and saying I pray for you is about as religious as you get, unless they state they are going home to sacrifice a goat on your behalf), it still doesn’t remove they are offering you a kindness. And in the big picture of the world, we humans are a little short on sharing our humanity with others. I get “I’ll pray for you” from people who find out I don’t believe. And I thank them for that. They are taking a moment to wish my life well. I am fully aware they wish for my life to meet their standards, but they are at least showing kindness. It sure beats the “hope you burn in hell” comments. When they tell me they will pray for me, they are at least trying to be more Christian than many who claim to be Christian. I thank them, then go on about my way. Surprisingly, they and I find the sun still rises the next day.

    • Tainda

      I find that more insulting than “hope you burn in hell” actually lol I see it as a thinly veiled way of saying “you live your life incorrectly and I pity you” or what they really mean “I’m far superior to you”.

      I say “Bless You My Child” after someone sneezes and if someone wants to pray because I am ill or hurt that is ok I suppose. But to just say they will pray for me because I do not believe what they do, that’s BS lol

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I agree with you. I usually follow up an “I’ll pray for you” with, “Please don’t, I don’t like enchantment spells/being mind-controlled/having my brain messed with”. Yeah, it’s kind of rude, but it gets the point across. Not always, of course- it’s context specific. But if we’ve just been talking about atheism or the like, I’d prefer an honest “fuck you, you make my head hurt” to an “I’ll pray my god(s) go and fiddle with your brain to make you believe”.

        • Skeptifilmmaker

          Understand that in Texas, Bless your heart or I’ll pray for you is Texan for “Die Heathen”

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Lol I know that. I live in the Dallas area :). I just like to call people on it.

    • mudskipper5

      Have to agree with Tainda on this one. “I will pray for you” suggests that I am in need of prayer in their eyes, meaning that something about me or my life or my choices needs help or correction. It is a statement of judgement and I find it condescending. It would be the equivalent of me telling them “It is my that hope you eventually figure out that this whole belief in a god thing is a bunch of nonsense”. None of my business what they choose to believe or not believe and I really wish they would grant me the same non-judgmental consideration.

    • amycas

      I stopped saying bless you after people sneeze. For a while I switched to “gazundheit” but then I realized that we don’t say anything after any other bodily function. So, I just don’t say anything other than maybe “need a tissue?” or, if it were a long string of sneezes “you ok?”

      • Sven2547

        An anecdote:
        Years ago, when I was an intern, my boss sneezed, and I said “Gesundheit“.
        “What the heck does that mean?”
        “It’s an old German expression. It means something like ‘here’s to your health’.”
        “Yeah, well I’m Italian. And when an Italian sneezes you say ‘God bless you’.”

        I got a laugh out of it.

        • allein

          Salute!

    • Tom

      I tend to interpret “I’ll pray for you” as “I’ll ask my supernatural friend to brainwash you.” Because, really, if you weren’t swayed by reason, then what else could a god do in response to their prayer at that point? Good thing it doesn’t work.

  • Anna

    Frazee encouraged his congregation to follow the friendly atheist’s inquisitive journey. It’s OK to doubt, he said. The deep questions Mehta wrestled with are the same questions many Christians are asking themselves privately — especially skeptical teenagers. “They start asking questions,” Frazee said. “And if your home, or this church, is a place where we don’t allow that to happen, we’re going to lose our kids.”

    I’d like to see this as a step forward, but these churches are so anti-doubt it’s hard to imagine that they would ever actually embrace and encourage serious, skeptical inquiry. Much of evangelical Christianity is centered around fighting doubt at every turn, building your faith, fellowshipping and praying with other believers to keep your faith strong, etc.

    The message usually isn’t that all doubt is bad. A lot of churches say they are on board with doubt, but their support is limited to a rather particular type. They want people to approach doubt in a specific manner, in a way that doesn’t threaten their foundational assumptions. As long as it’s the “right” kind of doubt, it’s supported. I don’t think there are evangelical churches that encourage their adherents to doubt the existence of the supernatural, the veracity of the Bible, the historicity or morality of the Jesus character, etc.

  • sam

    “For the sake of the people who are questioning their faith, though,
    both sides are better off if churches welcomed those doubts and
    attempted to engage the tough questions.”

    That’s true, but it’s very obvious that at least this pastor was not interested in honestly engaging doubts & questions, given his vacuous statements after you left. That is why I seriously question the value of these invited “dialogues”.

    When McDonalds or Philip-Morris initiates market research, their interests lie not in improving the health or value of their product, their intentions are to improve the _image_ of their product in order to sell more product. Put some apple slices & images of athletic children in the happy meals or include images of happy, young, healthy active smokers in the magazine ads.

    These fundy McChurches are afraid of losing their young people. They invited you the atheist to probe you for your likes & dislikes in order for them to better tailor their product to young atheists like yourself, not to encourage serious skepticism and/or revision of their dogmas.

    I respectfully do not see what we atheists get out of these exchanges.

    • Frank Key

      Excellent insights. Both sides leave the exchange thinking, “Gee. Am I glad I’m not like them.”

  • Jasper

    “letting me know that they were praying for me as I walked down my path.”

    Did you tell them in return that you’ll sacrifice a goat for them later?

    • http://www.thinkyhead.com/ Thinkyhead

      The correct response is “Ah, ah, ah! Remember what Jesus said about wordy prayers. You’re supposed to recite the Lord’s Prayer and nothing else, petitioning is ineffectual.”

  • LesterBallard

    Let me know when you speak at the one in Arizona from that previous post ;-).

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Wearing a mixed fiber kilt.

      • Artor

        The ones with poly in them keep their pleats better, but I’m going to go biblical and pass on the mixed fibers in my kilt.

  • dorcheat

    Hemant, I think I speak for all of us: San Antonio is a very fun place to visit. I hope you had ample time to take in many of the activities that San “Anton” has to offer.

    All of this provided for free with your expenses paid (I presume) from a megachurch. I bet it galls some of the church members that a portion of their donations are used to finance an atheist.

    You most certainly deserve a light working vacation!

    • The Other Weirdo

      I’ve been to San Antonio. Couldn’t get past the armoured houses.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        San Antonio is the only place I’ve ever seen a bona fide street preacher, hellfire, sign, Southern drawl and all. It was across from the Alamo; I wanted to go make fun of him, but my dad wouldn’t let me (I was, oh, 16 or 17 at the time).

  • The Other Weirdo

    Clean-cut and courteous, Mehta could easily be mistaken for a church youth-group leader.

    All I could think of when I read that was, “Yes, except not rapey.”

    The huge prejudice inherent in that paragraph is quite staggering, as is the automatic assumption that all church young-group leaders are clean-cut and courteous and atheists are not.

    Also, this:

    On Sunday, a few members of the congregation at Oak Hills didn’t want to listen to a nonbeliever and they left before Mehta was introduced, Frazee said.

    If you don’t even want to hear a contrary opinion, I’m afraid hope is lost.

  • Tobias2772

    I think that the best thing accomplished by such dialogues (thanks, Hemant) is that they show that atheists are not to be feared or distrusted. Hemant presented himself in as open and friendly a way as he could. Lots of christians had to leave that church saying to themselves that that atheist guy didn’t seem evil, or disturbing, or threatening. I wonder if they are all like that ? That’s a big deal and nothing but positive for us.
    On the other hand, we really can’t expect to walk into a temple of indoctrination and to logically or otherwise convince those people to change their entire viewpoint on life. And we really can’t expect them to abandon their mythological faith and actually start to openly apply logic, reason, and rules of evidence to the myths they have been building for so long – especially their minister of those myths. Christians are not suddenly going to say, “Wow, all these things trhat I’ve built my life around are illogical” anymore than they can expect us to suddenly hear one of their bible quotes and say, “Holy shit, I didn’t get until just now !”
    Some people who are questioning their faith got a little boost from the dialogue. Many more may see that we don’t eat babies. But they cannot afford to examine thier faith in the light of reason because it won’t stand up to that. These are little steps and they are good ones.

  • Frank

    The truth of the Gospel has already won out.

    • amycas

      I’m glad you came here to let us know. Now we can stop doing all this atheism nonsense. Did you hear the news Hemant? The truth of the gospel has already won out! You can shut down the blog now!

    • mudskipper5

      Let me guess… You aren’t from around these parts, are you? :-)

      Welcome.

      Now what do you mean by “truth”, what evidence do you have for that, and precisely what did the Gospel “win”?

      • Whirlwitch

        “[...] and precisely what did the Gospel “win”?”

        A five-piece dinette set, plus a deluxe juicer in the bonus round.

    • onamission5

      *citation needed

    • RowanVT

      Awesome! I guess all my problems with the inherent evilness of the deity in the bible have been resolved as well?

    • Makoto

      Which truth in which portion? I mean, let’s take the various cases of the empty tomb. Already with the contradictions. And that’s just off the top of my head. Shall we continue?

    • Sven2547

      The truth of the Gospel has already won out.

      You use the past tense, as if nobody questions the Gospels anymore, or as if the rapture already happened… in which case, why are you still here?

    • RobMcCune

      Everything in that sentence is wrong.

    • Matt D

      You may want to let the other religions know of this victory, before you start celebrating, mkay?

    • phantomreader42

      Frank, do you have the slightest speck of evidence to support that claim? Any evidence at all? Anything that even vaguely LOOKS like evidence? No? Then why should anyone believe a word of your idiotic dogma?

  • gimpi1

    I find it a bit pathetic that some people felt they had to walk out, rather than hear what someone with a differing viewpoint had to say. How insecure in your beliefs do you have to be, for simply being offered a chance to listen a discussion with different points of view to be threatening enough to make you run?

    That kind of fear and distaste gives “preaching to the choir” a whole new meaning.

  • Godless

    So where was the checkmate, Hemant? How did you prove to the Pastor that you were 100% right? What argument did you use as the fatal blow to all believers? What was your silver bullet? All I read is that you smiled a lot and that you were friendly in front of a Christian group….that was smart. VERY SMART…

    All this nonsense is PR bull. The good pastor profited by this circus event and so did you. “You scratch my back, I scratch your back.”

    • Dave

    • RowanVT

      Oh wow, you’re right! How could I have possibly missed that we have to be confrontational assholes ALL the time and ALWAYS talk to believers intending to ‘win’? No wonder so many christians blanche when I tell them I’m an atheist. No wonder so many christians think that atheists are evil and immoral. I have been failing to live up to the atheist stereotype. In fact, most of the time if someone says “God bless you” when I do an act of kindness, I say “Thanks, you too!” instead of “How dare you for I am the dreaded atheist!”

      Maybe I need to turn in my “I am an atheist” card and cancel my membership.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        I’m going to go to my place of business RIGHT NOW and start telling off all the Christians I work with that watch out for my health, cover for me when I’m in bad shape, and get soaked coming out to help me start my car in the rain when I didn’t even mention it to them.

    • mudskipper5

      Do you really think the goal of this event was to win? To deliver a “fatal blow” to religious belief? To convert the pastor? To have the entire audience suddenly have an “a-ha!” moment and realize that they were atheists too?

      Or perhaps it was an opportunity to let Christians listen to a well-spoken, congenial, obviously thoughtful person to learn that their preconceptions of atheists are wrong, that they aren’t the amoral, confrontational bogeymen they were led to believe they are? Perhaps it was an opportunity to open doors of communication?

    • Sven2547

      So where was the checkmate, Hemant? How did you prove to the Pastor that you were 100% right? What argument did you use as the fatal blow to all believers? What was your silver bullet?

      I’m unconvinced that you watched the video, and you should be embarrassed.

  • http://www.thinkyhead.com/ Thinkyhead

    I enjoyed your repartee very much, and found it gratifying at the end when the pastor almost suggested that maybe doubt is sometimes kind-of alright, so long as you remember the default position is to keep all that questioning under control. Keep up the good work!

    • allein

      You can doubt all you want, as long as you come to my conclusion in the end…?

  • Carl Wong

    I have edited the video of Hemant Mehta’s conversation with senior minister Randy Frazee at the
    church to exclude the promos at the beginning and the sermon at the end. The video is at: http://youtu.be/f9hCFaHaink

  • Can’thear

    Any chance of captions for these videos, or a transcript? My audio is broken. Thanks in advance.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’ve been doing Hemant’s other videos in my spare time (which isn’t much) but they’re on Youtube which makes it easy. I don’t know of a way of doing that with Vimeo (other than just typing a full transcript). This one is pretty long. I might be able to do it, but since the Church hosted it, maybe we should contact them. Or if I do it I’ll at least send it to them so maybe they’ll consider hosting it as well.

      Edit: Just noticed Carl Wong’s youtube link below. That would be the one to Caption. You still reading Carl? If I do a caption file can you add it to the youtube?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dion-Richardson/1201967847 Dion Richardson

    You may call yourself a “friendly” atheist, but many are not. They are adamant about any reference to God and any symbols that may cause someone to “think” about Him or find it “offensive”. If He does not exist, it should not be offensive no more than people dressing like Santa at Christmas. I love any dialogue with anyone who wants to have an intelligent conversation and not write me off because I am a man of faith.

    • Anna

      Atheists are generally not offended by private expressions of faith or religious references or symbols on private property. The problem comes when people insist on mixing religion with government.


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