Video from the Megachurch Service

That was quick! The video of the Oak Hills Church service in which I discussed (with Pastor Randy Frazee) atheism, doubt, and what Christians are doing right and wrong is now online:

Realization: If I had dropped down on my knees and accepted Christ as my Savior, this thing would be going *so* viral right now. Oh well.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Sven2547

    Realization: If I had dropped down on my knees and accepted Christ as my Savior, this thing would be going *so* viral right now. Oh well.

    Hindsight is always 20/20, haha

  • Tobias2772

    Man, that would have been hilarious. Maybe next time. I foresee a book tour and national exposure.

  • Donatello

    No problem, we can just hand over the video to Ray Comfort or Ben Stein and a few hours later we’ll have irrefutable evidence that you are now the world’s most devout Christian.

  • dubd

    Great stuff. The hater in me wanted to see an ideological beatdown of biblical proportions but this was just great! Good vibes all around. I’m curious what the audience thought.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Yeah…definitely got a little too culty at the end for me. I liked your answer to Pascal’s Wager but I’d even take it a step further…not only do I think if there was a God, he’d respect me more than atheists who never tried to accept his existence, but I think he’d respect me more than Christians who simply placed unwarranted authority upon other human beings to dictate to them who or what it is.

  • Gander

    Is it just me, or do others find the knee patting thing condescending and a little bit creepy?

    • flyb

      I thought the same thing. And notice how he also seems a little condescending to his congregation when he addresses them.

    • SGHeathen

      They always pat your shoulders or put their hands over you.

    • SGHeathen

      Persuasion technique

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      Creepy car salesmen techniques.
      It does seem creepy but I suspect that this is a personal space issue that Hemant has allowed over the course of their relationship. As SGHeathen points out it is a persuasion technique. Some, maybe even most, pastoral colleges deliberately teach persuasive proselytism techniques.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Do you mean to tell me that you did not sell your soul to the Devil for the chance to go viral? I don’t know whether to be disappointed or proud.

  • Ogre Magi

    Lay down with dogs,get up with fleas

  • cryofly

    I use expletives about 2-3 times a year. If you had fallen on your knees and accepted JC, I would have used up all the expletives for 1000s of years in about a millisecond. : )

  • Matt Potter

    I was expecting to see the video of the service I attended but forgot there were actually 5 of these done. It was roughly the same as I experienced with subtle differences mixed throughout. The end portion where just the Pastor was speaking did make me realize just how devoted the members of this church are towards their God. In a way it really frightened me because their devotion is so strong I could imagine them following ‘God’s word’ to really extreme positions.

    • Blacksheep

      “The end portion where just the Pastor was speaking did make me realize just how devoted the members of this church are towards their God.”

      Why are you surprised that we are devoted to our God? Most churches aren’t the way that FA would like to imagine them – dying, disfunctional, etc. Those are just the ones that get highlighted on FA! There are many vibrant, loving congregations of devoted followers of Christ. And if they follow Christ to His extreme positions, the result SHOULD be extreme love, extreme forgiveness, and extreme caring for others.

      • Matt Potter

        It’s not that I was surprised to see devotion but the level of devotion seemed to be cult like. I know ‘cult’ can be a divisive word so I’ll explain. Let’s say the pastor during the service either directly or indirectly mentioned that members should go and vote a certain way on a piece of legislation, this actually does happen so it’s also a real world example. Many of those members would go and vote that way simply because their religious leaders ‘said so’ and going against that is often times painted as being worldly and not conforming to God’s laws. Now picture in this blog or an atheist conference a speaker says that everyone should also vote a certain way. You can expect that in this example the speaker would clearly state their ‘opinion’, not God’s infallible word, and then outline the evidence and reasons for why they want others to do so. The difference between these two examples is on one hand you a religious leader using dogma and speaking for the ultimate authority and in a secular example they are trying to show people through only logic and reason that their position is correct. You did capitalize the word ‘should’ for good reason. Although you and your church might be doing ‘good’, many others do things you probably don’t feel are ‘good’ and yet they are reading the same verses you do. Secular humanism could easily be substituted for that extreme love, forgiveness, and caring and there is zero chance someone could use immoral verses from a holy text.

        Edited for grammar

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    I thought Hemant did good. I was not all that impressed with the pastor at the end after Hemant left. The pastor was basically equating doubt with being lost or troubled and his take-home message was that the church needs to have dialogs with their teenagers so the teenagers don’t walk away from the faith when they go through their biological troubled coming of age years. The whole “its a phase so accommodate it” thing. He really sold atheism short and totally ignored the fact that people can have doubts without really being troubled and also at other times in their life. In fact people can have doubts as a way of life all through their life and be totally happy with it. This outlook of having doubts is called skepticism. I think the pastor meant well but totally doesn’t get it.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      No, but Hemant did a great job. Now all those questioning kids know where to find him on youtube. Oops.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I’m offended that a bunch of Christians at a megachurch got to hear the news of your impending nuptials before we did! I get privacy, but if you can tell them, then, like, what, aren’t we like family?

    If you don’t give us a link to where you’re registered, then you’d better at least give us a special ink to FBB.

  • SGHeathen

    Hermant you said that you would be convinced if an ‘unexplained miracle’ happens. But an ‘unexplained’ phenomena may not be a miracle, let alone at the same time ‘explained’ by attributing it to a being.

  • Justin Miyundees

    Wonderfully done Hemant!!

    Just a retort to Mr. Frazee’s summing up (which I thought rather unfair and “spinny”, but it is his venue)
    On faith and reason: Faith is a deliberate suspension of one’s reason. It is wishful thinking to believe that the laws of nature have been, are being, or will be suspended to accommodate a group’s or an individual’s wants and needs. It’s clapping for Tinkerbell and it is infantile – only via intellectual compartmentalism can one, especially an astrophysicist, psychologically maintain both faith and reason. Faith and reason simply do not “come together” any more than oil and water. If you shake them up, momentarily they seem “together” but when reality settles in, they are segregate because they are profound contradictions. If they were not, there would not be a hospital on the face of the earth – they’d have no purpose.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      I’ve learned to be suspicious of the anecdote with no names or sources. Does he really have a neighbor that is looking for life on other planets whose daughter is a geneticist? I’m not claiming he does but I’d like to meet them because in my experience such people who make such convenient examples are simply made up.

      • Rain

        He dramatically emphasizes random words in every sentence for no apparent reason because it’s a speaking technique that means nothing but looks like it means something. He’s an actor doing a “cadence”.

    • Blacksheep

      Faith and reason come together beautifully for Christians, because we believe that the world was created by God. This allows for the acceptance of Scientific fact along with the miraculous.

      • Art_Vandelay

        So you believe that the universe is about 14 billion years old, 950 trillion light years big, and was created specifically for human beings?

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

    Barely into the video, while listening to the pastor’s introduction — Mehtadata, if you will — I was surprised to hear Hemant called an “Indian.” I realized that I’ve never given his ethnicity any thought at all. Then I thought about how nice it is to deal with a person as a person, rather than a “white” or “brown” or “black” person. Cool. Then I thought about all of the shit Atheism Plus people say about this sort of thing. I’m privileged, and thus my opinions on racism are disqualified. Now, back to the video..

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I didn’t ask, but I thought it may have been because I’m often mistaken for being Hispanic and San Antonio has a large Hispanic population, so it was an easy way to explain that.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        Good point. I never considered what Texans might think of you.

        Also, nicely done talking with Frazee.

    • Chas Swedberg

      I believe the issue that an opinion of an ingroup person being discounted is when that person attempts to speak for the outgroup and/or about the outgroup’s experience. That you haven’t thought of a person as an outgroup member is only a part of a much larger issue.

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

        I understand, and I agree. However, sometimes I get the sense that people who manage to transcend, for example, racist thinking are criticized by social justice warriors for not thinking enough about race.

        • Chas Swedberg

          I guess that might be based on how valuable transcended thinking is where inaction or lack of awareness may indirectly support a prejudicial environment.

  • Scott

    He gave you the Christian Side-Hug.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Nicely done, Hemant. When the subject comes up with people, whom I don’t know, I say, “I am not a person of faith.” I find that most religious people understand that much better than “atheist,” but if I get to know someone well enough to also know that person shares my definition of “atheist,” then I will use that.

  • Rain

    The bass player there at the beginning was hogging all the music attention. I love it when bass players do that and when their band lets them do that. I also love how all the guest people in the fancy intro had a product for sale (present company excepted of course.)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED IN AUGUST!

    Why is not a single other commenter so far saying anything about this? Is this old news? Did I not get the memo? Did I miss that post weeks ago? Am I the last to know?

    Will it be a small, private ceremony or a giant shindig where people from as far away as Southern California (ahem) can come to share in the joy?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Ah. I see you noticed it too. I’m also glad to know I’m not the only one to… Gee, maybe we’re the only ones who care…?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Ha — It’s a giant My-Big-Fat-Greek-Wedding-like shindig with my family and her family and 320423423 Indian people I’m sure I’ve met at least once in the past :)

      • flyb

        Congratulations!

      • DoctorDJ

        Congratulations!

        Three days of festivities? Henna and a white horse, I presume?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

          One night of festivities. Maybe a small family thing the night before. That’s IT! Not dragging this thing out :)

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        Congratulations! I hope it’s a happy time for both families. Sounds like a very complicated event. Let everyone else take the stress.

        Funny how we never see Joe Klein showing up to help at these huge Indian-American multicultural weddings.

        • Hat Stealer

          Funny how we never see Joe Klein showing up to help at these huge Indian-American multicultural weddings.

          This is going to be the inside joke of the century.

  • moother

    Couple of things:

    1) Congrats to Hemant and the lucky spouse.

    2) You’re a great speaker and you should get more gigs.

    3) Pastor probably is (or will soon be) a Clergy Project graduate.

    4) Where I come from (Spain) there aren’t even halls that big – let alone halls full of believers.

    5) Judging by the pic in the last post and the fact that you were dressed differently, you gave more than one talk on stage (yeah, you said you spent a few days there and converted more than 8000 people), you probably have the largest christian audience of all the famous atheists!

    u.w.i.n.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      There were four different services! They run an intense ship there.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    Did the congregation go away thinking Atheism was a part of the spiritual journey or did they go away thinking Atheism is a great example of doubt? I think those congregates left that church comparing themselves to Hemant. Possibly thinking thoughts like, “I don’t doubt my faith like that Atheist does.” or “My faith in XYZ is much stronger than that Atheist.” or worse, “If I have doubts will I become an Atheist?”

  • Chas Swedberg

    What’s up with the “self-professed atheist” label Frazee used in the very first minutes describing Hemant? It feels like an implying self-deception.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      “Self-proclaimed” in this case, but yeah, I hear “self-professed” a lot too. At least they’ve stopped saying, after much objection on our part, “admitted atheist,” as if it’s a shameful crime. Perhaps they think adding self-proclaimed or self-professed assures the listeners that nobody has unfairly accused their guest of being an atheist, that “No kidding, really, this guy actually calls himself an atheist, can you imagine that?”
      Ugh.

      • Anna

        Don’t forget “avowed atheist.” I still see that one a lot.

        Dangerous Talk thinks using “self-professed atheist” is a way of delegitimizing the person:

        Whenever an atheist is interviewed on the news or on some talk show, the host always makes a point to say that the atheist is “self-professed.” They never do this for Christians, Jews, Muslims, or any religious figure. They don’t say, “Here is self-professed Catholic priest…” Why not? I think when they add, “self-professed” in front of someone’s identification they are taking a shot at them. It is a way of delegitimizing them. A self-professed priest for example would mean that only that person recognizes his position and that everyone else thinks he is crazy. When they say that someone is a self-professed atheist, they are saying that they really believe we really believe. Some Christians have this thing where they believe that atheists secretly know God is real and that we are just “rebelling” against him. Or that we secretly know that God is real, but are agents of Satan trying to lead good Christians astray so that Satan can eat their souls or something.

        http://www.dangeroustalk.net/?p=2729

  • Matt

    Tried to watch. Made it about 22 seconds into the preacher’s introduction.

  • Brian

    Jeez, how many times did he have to say “so, is there ANYTHING, ANYTHING!! that will get you to change your mind? anything?”

    • allein

      Now I have that Dramarama song in my head…

  • Ron Godin

    Great job Hemant. This was the second video of an atheist speaking at a church. Check out godless in dixie blog for the other “interview”. I also was put off by the knee slapping the pastor did. If it was me I’d would of told him to cut it out!

    But again great job.

  • Rebecca A Alvarez

    I have never heard anyone speak before where I could hear capital letters and quotation marks throughout their speech. Very distracting and weird. I would be very put off by that as a member of the congregation if he always does that when he speaks.

  • Blacksheep

    “Realization: If I had dropped down on my knees and accepted Christ as my Savior, this thing would be going *so* viral right now. Oh well.”

    …If that ever does happen, it won’t be because of concrete evidence, it will be, as Pascal said, because “You have made us for yourself O LORD; and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

    Stranger things have happened!

    • ACN

      Right. He’ll have taken leave of his senses, and made an emotional decision that was independent from evidence, reason, or reality.

      And I’m also to believe that this is somehow a feature of your supernatural belief system?

    • Anna

      I can appreciate that, but I wish evangelicals would get on the same page here. They should just stop talking about proof and evidence entirely if the only thing needed for conversion is for their deity to work its magic on people’s hearts. They shouldn’t be pointing to the Bible or miracles as evidence if the only way for conversion to happen is for there to be some kind of emotional transformation that has nothing to do with logic or reason.

  • Area Man

    The video appears to be down. =/

  • Daniel

    “Sorry, the video at this URL has either been deleted or never existed in the first place.”

    WTF?

  • Joel Barnes

    Hemant, you did a fantastic job of getting up there and getting a digestable message across in a way that the audience could actually hear, which I commend. There’s just one talking point I think you should reconsider. You suggested that sufficiently unexplained and unexplainable phenomena might convince you of the truth of Christianity, but I doubt that is actually the case. You should specify that the nature of the event would have to specifically point to the god of the bible to be counted as evidence. The reason this might be problematic is that many Christians have either experienced, or internalized second-hand accounts of miraculous occurrences to such a high degree that when they hear you say that, they’re likely to think “Ah, if he only knew the things I know, he’d believe too.”

    Keep up the amazing work!

  • mb

    Very interesting video. Fascinating that the minister ended it with a lie. He equated Hemant’s requirement of an encounter with god with “faith.” Faith, as the Bible tells us and the good preacher no doubt knows, is the “evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen.” Doesn’t really sound like an “encounter” would require or involve “faith.” An encounter would be more of the “evidence” that the preacher says there is so much of for all the nonsense he believes.

    The Bible also tells us that Satan is the father of lies.

    Now I don’t know who to believe.

  • MSG

    Does anyone know the name of the song used in the beginning of the video?

  • JA

    At 22:45, that example, I’ve had that happen a couple times. Both times I’ve been met with awkward silence. It’s like my friends had never seen an atheist before…

  • Robyman4

    Nice work, Hemant. Given the fact that the pastor had the final word inside the church, I wonder how much your presence did to change people’s minds but I most certainly hope this kind of thing happens more and more…

  • 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


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