What Was It Like at a Megachurch?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: What was it like speaking at a megachurch?

(You can read more about my visit here and here.)

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

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.

  • pictor

    is the talk online at all? I know a lot of megachurches are set up to film everything…do they put it up on their website?

    • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

      Yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing that.

      • Mario Strada

        yes it is. It’s actually someplace on youtube but you can also find it by going back a bit in the posts.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    Pictor, follow the links Hemant included in his post where he says “(You can read more about my visit here and here.)”

  • Sk3ptec

    “I wish you well on your journey.” I think there’s a possibility you may have taken that wrong. Whenever I’ve heard that phrase, it’s usually been in the context of “life’s journey”, not “one day you’ll find God”. In other words, you’ve finished your journey when your dead.

    Just a thought.

    • Merry Knight

      I’ve been told this as a way of being told I would come around to God. My mother is actually fond of saying this, actually.

      • Sk3ptec

        Yeah, I can see that too.

    • Mario Strada

      In my experience, almost anything a Christian says to an Atheist has a strong evangelical undercurrent. “I’ll pray for you” either means :I hope you change your mind, soon” or “You are going to hell but I’ll pray for you anyway” or even “fuck you”. The latter is usually delivered in a certain tone of voice.

      Also, almost every time I was told I was not an atheist, even though I just declared myself one, and I was really only an “agnostic”. What that means is that by me being an Agnostic, their dissonance is eased a bit and in their mind I am closer to being a Christian in the religious spectrum. Because they see Atheists as being on one side, Christians on the other and Agnostic sort of in the middle.

      Of course all of that really means that I am lost anyway and there is almost always an undertone of pity and disapproval.

      • Sk3ptec

        “… and there is almost always an undertone of pity and disapproval.” I guess it depends on who is saying it. True, you can’t assume words spoken by strangers in a debate or argument setting are face-value true. Example: “I’ll pray for you” could easily be euphemism for “We are never going to agree, let’s just end the conversation.”

        But don’t you think your opinion would be different if/when it’s your close family or friends saying it though, people who really do care about you and have a personal connection? How could you be offended with these people, unless you live on the edge of offense anyway, looking for an excuse to go off on them?

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

          “I’ll pray for you” could be a euphemism for let’s end this, but … well, it just usually isn’t. Not here in Texas, anyways. It’s usually a “I’ll pray my god mind controls you” or “I’ll pray something bad happens to you and you ‘get God’ in your dire straits”. You can tell the difference. It’s not nice.

  • Octoberfurst

    I was impressed that a megachurch invited an atheist to speak. Especially a Southern megachurch since evangelicals there are noted for their fire & brimstone right-wing theology. Bravo Hemant! I am glad that it went so well. But, like you, I would be rather irritated with the “I will pray for you” comments from some of the parishioners. Even though they may mean well I find it condescending. I had an evangelical Facebook friend tell me that when I told him that I no longer believed in God. He didn’t ask my why I didn’t believe anymore he just wrote back–”I will pray for you.” Whatever dude.

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

      The megachurches tend not to use such a harsh tone. The churches where preachers yell and scream are shrinking (and they are baffled at their shrinkage) while the more feel-good versions of fundamentalism are booming. See: Joel Osteen or Rick Warren for examples.

    • LoganMaster

      You go to a Christian Church, with everyone there knowing your an atheist, and then you get irritated by someone saying they will pray for you? What do you really expect them to do, that is what they believe in and it should not surprise or irritate you. It is not like they are coming to your hose uninvited, now that is irritating. Dude, get real

      • Octoberfurst

        I still find it condescending. Its like they are saying “We will pray for you because you are a deluded moron who needs Jesus.” It would be equally offensive if I replied ,’”Don’t pray for me and I won’t think for you” because I don’t really believe they have thought their theology through.

  • Ryan Hite

    Mega churches are an interesting development in the landscape of Christianity. I suspect that this has set up the structure for how atheist “churches” will be run in transition. It is interesting that a church would invite such a person, but it is good to have different exposures.

    • Sk3ptec

      What do you mean by “…will be run in transition.”? That’s an interesting phrase.

      • Ryan Hite

        I guess I mean that the atheist churches will be run like mega churches (without god and religion of course) as opposed to the formal services in the older denominations.

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

          Blech. I would be interested in a community center with classes and events, but I have no interest in the emotional manipulation of the megachurch nonsense. (N.B.I didn’t say other people can’t do whatever they want. I have no power or ability to prevent such atheist churches.)

        • Mario Strada

          I’d be more interested in having seminars and holding them in museums than going to a megaNONchurch.
          Atheists are much more scattered than Christians (which is saying something) but we all tend to love science.
          Museum tours by university professors would be my preferred “church”.

        • McAtheist

          If we are going to have atheist churches (and I can’t help thinking that’s an oxymoron), can we make Monday our sabbath please?


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